Trump’s impeachment advances and changes on the way for campaign finance

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie in Albany.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie in Albany.
Mike Groll
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie in Albany.

Trump’s impeachment advances and changes on the way for campaign finance

Rounding up the week’s political news.
December 6, 2019

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg had a pointed response this week to his fellow candidates who criticize his use of his personal wealth: they could have tried to become billionaires like him, but simply did not. And like every rich person who has used his money to buy his way into an election, he said it makes him totally independent of the whims of donors. Oh, and apparently no one in the 12 years he spent as mayor of New York bothered to ask him about stop-and-frisk. According to Bloomberg, no one raised the issue of the controversial and judicially determined racist practice that became a defining factor of his mayoralty until he decided to run for president. Which is, of course, patently false.

Trump’s impeachment advances

Rep. Jerrold Nadler stepped back into the national spotlight by leading the House Judiciary Committee’s first public hearing on the impeachment of President Donald Trump. Before the hearing, the committee chairman told fellow members during a prep meeting that he wouldn’t “take any shit.” And he followed through, keeping the hearing orderly and successfully quashing Republican attempts to derail it. The day after that hearing, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that the chamber would begin drafting articles of impeachment. Nadler also scheduled the Judiciary Committee’s next hearing for Monday, Dec. 9.

Changes on the way for campaign finance

The state Campaign Finance Reform Commission, tasked with creating a statewide public campaign finance system, released its final report with a list of binding recommendations. They include somewhat lower (but still high) contribution limits for all candidates and a public matching fund system for candidates that opt in, including a tiered matching system for legislative candidates. The proposal also increases the number of votes required for third parties to retain their place on the ballot. The report was derided by Democrats and Republicans alike, but after Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said he “wasn’t alarmed” by the changes, it appears unlikely that the Legislature will return this month for a special session to reject the proposals. If so, they will automatically go into effect on Jan. 1 – unless the commission itself is declared unlawful in a lawsuit brought by the state Conservative Party.

TWU contract deal reached

After months of heated negotiations between the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and its biggest union – the Transport Workers Union Local 100 – the two parties reached a tentative contract agreement. The four-year deal includes about a 10% pay raise for members over the course of the contract, as well as an agreement from the MTA that it would not lay off any station or train car cleaners after concerns were raised over the agency hiring outside, nonunion companies for certain cleaning services earlier this year.

Newark sues New York

The mayor of Newark, New Jersey, is taking New York City to court over its Special One-Time Assistance program, through which New York City pays one year of rent for approved applicants living in homeless shelters, generally in other cities. Newark is one of the most frequent destinations that New York City sends program participants, but the new lawsuit claims those people live in often squalid conditions with abusive landlords and that New York City is pressuring people to live in such substandard housing. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio defended the program, while acknowledging it had made some mistakes, and expressed surprise over the lawsuit. His comments came after the release of a report from the New York City Department of Investigation that found the city had sent people to live in poor conditions.

Heastie weighs in on JCOPE

In the latest state Joint Commission on Public Ethics scandal, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie admitted to speaking with one of his appointees soon after a conversation with Gov. Andrew Cuomo about the ethics commission. The scandal began when another commissioner alleged that Heastie’s counsel called to inform her that Cuomo expressed anger to Heastie about how the commissioner had voted on a recent matter. The timing suggests that matter was about governor’s former top aide, Joseph Percoco. The complaint raised the concern that someone had illegally leaked information to the governor about how the commissioners voted during what was supposed to be a closed-door meeting. Heastie would not say what prompted him to call his appointee, simply saying that they spoke often. He also said the Assembly counsel would investigate why his own staffer called a JCOPE commissioner.

Senate Republicans jump ship

Within a week, three more Republican state senators announced they would not seek reelection. State Sen. George Amedore, who represents the Hudson Valley, said his party’s new minority status did not impact his decision. Amedore’s retirement puts his seat into play for Democrats – Michelle Hinchey, the daughter of the late Rep. Maurice Hinchey, was already running. GOP state Sen. Betty Little, a 79-year-old lawmaker from the North Country, announced her retirement days later. Unlike Amedore’s swing district, Little’s upstate district is likely to remain a safe Republican seat. The last decision of the bunch came from Buffalo-area state Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer, who said that he wants to spend more time with his family and that his minority status did not play a role.

Rebecca C. Lewis
is a staff reporter at City & State.