Two percent or two-thirds? – POLITICO


With help from Shawn Ness

Backroom negotiations and gamesmanship are in full throttle as New York’s new congressional plan heads toward a vote in the state Legislature next week.

As the process moves ahead, keep two key numbers in mind: 2 percent and two-thirds.

2 percent: If the Legislature votes down the maps proposed by the redistricting commission, it will be able to draw its own. But a statute proposed by ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2012 as lawmakers debated the constitutional amendment that created the commission limits how much legislators can change the lines in this scenario.

Each district can only differ by 2 percent from the ones drawn by the commission. So if there are 777,000 people in a congressional district, 761,000 of them would need to be the same in any plan drawn by the Legislature.

That means any new maps wouldn’t be drastically different from the commission’s — perhaps Republican Rep. Mike Lawler’s seat could be transformed from a district where Joe Biden received 55.1 percent of the vote into one where Biden received 55.3 percent of the vote. Some legislators don’t think it’s worth going through the rigamarole of voting down the lines just to get these tweaks.

That means Democrats who want an overhaul are left with two options. They could simply ignore the law and argue the bill containing the new maps implicitly supersedes it, but that would come with risks.

“If they draw a map that exceeds a 2 percent population change in any single district, that could open the door for a voter in an affected district to go to court,” said New York Law School’s Jeff Wice.

There’s no way of knowing what a court would decide, but there’s a chance such a suit “could result in the 2022 court map remaining in place,” Wice said — meaning that even the modest gains for Democrats in the commission’s plan would be lost.

Or legislators could hurriedly enact a new law to undo the 2012 one before voting on the maps. But any Democrats who are already worried about the optics of voting against a bipartisan redistricting plan would then also need to directly vote to remove an anti-gerrymandering law from the books.

Two-thirds: The most common reading of the constitution is that the commission’s maps need to be approved by supermajorities in each chamber — 42 of 63 members in the Senate and 100 of 150 in the Assembly.

Two Democrats in the Senate — James Skoufis and Sean Ryan — quickly said they were voting no. Since their conference contains only 42 members, there’s now no path to getting the lines approved without at least some GOP support.

Republicans, like Democrats, are currently gaming out the new maps. There’s been movement toward support on the GOP side — party chair Ed Cox and former Rep. Lee Zeldin have embraced the lines — though there’s not yet a consensus that a yes vote would be better than voting no and throwing the maps back to the courts.

Yet there’s a chance the vote will turn into a highly unusual one in modern Albany, where Republican votes actually make a difference. If most Republicans wind up in favor of the plan, then the lines could pass even with nearly half of the Democrats opposing them.

But what happens if the lines are simply voted down? The 2012 amendment isn’t terribly clear.

“It does not say anything at that point about the two-thirds vote,” Wice said. “The constitution does not mention a vote requirement” in that situation, so “it’s possible that the Legislature’s own map could be passed on a simple majority.”

So there’s a scenario in which the commission’s maps receive 40 votes in the Senate and are thus voted down. And if the razor-thin supermajorities aren’t able to cohere around an alternative, a Democratic-drawn plan could then pass with only 32 votes.

At that point, it would be safe to assume the vagaries in the constitution would be clarified by the courts when the vote count becomes the basis for a new GOP lawsuit. — Bill Mahoney

NEW INVESTMENTS IN THE FINGER LAKES: Gov. Kathy Hochul wants to revitalize the Finger Lakes Region with over $130 million in investments.

Her announcement Tuesday includes $50 million in a one-time fund for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, $25 million for workforce development centers in the region, and money for 13 Finger Lake towns to reimagine their downtown areas.

“The Finger Lakes is a region with industry and creativity in its DNA, and we are shepherding it into a new era of possibility and opportunity,” Hochul said. “My commitment to Rochester and the Finger Lakes is steadfast, and through these investments in our communities, we’re building a brighter future for every New Yorker in the region.”

One Network for Regional Manufacturing Partnerships (ON-RAMP) is part of her goal to prepare New Yorkers for the “jobs of tomorrow,” according to a statement from Hochul’s office. The program will offer credentials and training on advanced manufacturing systems as well as provide opportunities for disadvantaged populations.

The Town of Waterloo will receive $10 million to revitalize its downtown area. Waterloo, Macedon and 13 others will get $4.5 million each to turn the towns into “pro-housing communities.” — Shawn Ness

CHIPS AHOY: Upstate New York’s economy has been moribund for decades. Hochul on Tuesday declared the region has “turned a corner” and it has high-tech chip manufacturing to thank.

At GlobalFoundries in Saratoga County, alongside Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Hochul touted the federal government’s $1.5 billion injection into the company. It’s the latest infusion of money for the company to expand its facility to manufacture chips to be used in consumer appliances.

State officials have long pointed to the impact of high-tech manufacturing as a solution to upstate New York’s economic troubles. For now, it’s been unevenly felt. Saratoga County has been a fast-growing area. But many areas of New York north of the immediate city suburbs have continued to struggle.

But more is coming, including the construction of a chip facility by Micron in the Syracuse area. It’s not yet clear if these major bets will work: Chip demand has fallen in the years since the pandemic.

Hochul, a Western New York native, pointed to the impact the loss of jobs can mean for a region. “Do you know what that does to the entire psyche of a community?” she said. “We were taking it on the chin for decades. We’re seizing the future in upstate New York.” Nick Reisman

SUNY STUDENTS CALLS FOR COMMUNITY COLLEGE FUNDING: The SUNY Student Assembly is calling for the state to up its share of funding for community colleges — from $525 million spent by counties and $428 million by the state, according to the group’s figures.

It is now calling on the state to match the local contribution.

“Investing in SUNY community colleges is not just an expenditure; it’s a strategic investment in the backbone of New York’s future workforce,” Alexander O. Ruiz, SUNY Student Assembly president, said in a statement. “With increased funding, we not only fulfill our fiduciary duty but also guarantee that every student gains access to the premier education and training needed to thrive in today’s dynamic society.”

Hochul is proposing to maintain the funding floor for community colleges, but shrinking enrollment and high operating costs are putting many institutions in financial distress. Clinton Community College, for instance, recently made the decision to shutter its campus and move to a rented space from SUNY Plattsburgh. Katelyn Cordero

MOCA-FALSE?: Mayor Eric Adams and his team hit back hard after the New York Post published a column yesterday bashing a $53 million city program giving pre-paid debit cards to migrants in partnership with the fintech firm MoCaFi. The newspaper’s contributor pulled no punches, calling the program a “boondoggle” with “the potential to become an open-ended, multibillion-dollar Bermuda Triangle of disappearing, untraceable cash, used for any purpose.”

City Hall wasn’t having it.

“Just to clarify, I think there are a lot of inaccuracies in the … opinion piece that was in The Post,” said First Deputy Mayor Sheena Wright. Deputy Mayor for Communications Fabien Levy said it wasn’t a Post story at all, but a column by the Manhattan Institute. (The columnist, Nicole Gelinas, is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a regular contributor to the Post.)

Prepared with a digital display, City Hall characterized the partnership instead as a “Cost-Effective Win-Win,” emphasizing that the prepaid cards could only be used for food and baby supplies and would save taxpayers over $600,000 per month and $7.2 million per year. Adams also stressed that the program is currently only in its pilot stage with 500 migrants, and that it was designed with three goals: decrease costs, eliminate food waste and re-invest in local businesses.

Wright emphasized that MoCaFi was evaluated using a “rigorous process” and that the program’s $53 million price tag would only be if it is adapted at full scale following the pilot. Of that number, Wright said, only $2 million would go to MoCaFi.

“There was so much information that was put out there. It gave the impression that the 50-something million was going to MoCaFi just for administrative costs,” Adams said. “That is just not true. It’s not true.”

It’s rare that Adams raises concerns with the right-leaning tabloid — a persistent and effective foe for Adams’ predecessor, Bill de Blasio. In fact, The Post has arguably been one of his most important defenders during the first half of his term in office.

Adams also slammed Gelinas’ suggestion that the firm’s founder, Wole Coaxum, “seems to have become part of the mayor’s orbit.” He said they had met during his 2021 campaign when Coaxum presented to him on MoCaFi. Adams said the presentation was “very good” and “went into my book of [things] we’ll revisit later.”

“There’s no relationship, we don’t hang out and go [to] the Hamptons together, we don’t go to the baseball game together,” Adams said. — Irie Sentner

ADAMS SUPPORTS BIDEN: President Joe Biden beat former President Donald Trump by over 20 points in New York state in 2020. Now, he’s leading him by 12 points, according to a new Sienna Poll — and that lead drops to 10 points when including independent candidates Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Cornell West.

Adams, who has been critical of Biden’s migrant policy, rushed to his defense Tuesday, lauding the president’s navigation through COVID, his economic plan and his “amazing” approach to public safety.

“As I’ve stated before, I’m a supporter of the president and I look forward to him leading for another four years,” Adams said.

Border policy was not on Adams’ list of compliments.

The mayor has repeatedly blasted Biden over the migrant crisis — at one point saying he “failed” the city on immigration. Again on Tuesday, Adams applauded how the city has responded “without the support we should get from the federal government.”

The barbs appear not to have gone unnoticed: Last year, Biden’s reelection campaign dropped Adams from the president’s National Advisory Board. — Irie Sentner

RENT LAWSUIT: The Supreme Court declined to hear two additional legal challenges aimed at upending the state’s rent-regulation system — after tossing a high-profile lawsuit from landlord advocates this past October. Nonetheless, in a statement on the denials, Justice Clarence Thomas suggested the issue is not settled. “The constitutionality of regimes like New York City’s is an important and pressing question,” he wrote.

Still, tenant advocates celebrated the decision. The Legal Aid Society, Legal Services NYC, and Selendy Gay, who intervened in the case in defense of New York’s rent laws, said in a joint statement that the court’s dismissal “puts an end to these cases attacking the legal protections depended upon by a million New York households amid an ongoing housing crisis.”

Landlord groups, meanwhile, said the outcome was expected. “This was not terribly surprising. We do expect there will be many more challenges to this law, which remains irrationally punitive,” two landlord groups — the Community Housing Improvement Program and the Rent Stabilization Association — said in a joint statement. — Janaki Chadha

STUDENT JOURNALISM RISE UP: State Senator Brian Kavanagh and Assemblymember Donna Lupardo are trying to drum up support for the Student Journalist Free Speech Act (A.1345/S.647).

The bill aims to protect student journalists’ free speech — not including those at the college level — unless that speech is libelous, invades someones privacy, or incites violence or violates school policies.

“The first amendment rights is just fundamental. So when we confront our school colleagues who are worried that this will somehow disrupt the order of the school,” Lupardo said. “We try to explain to them they should be so lucky to have students who are this committed to getting the story right to telling the truth with the accurate, accurate facts of the matter.”

The bill does not extend to the college level. Katina Paron, who works for New Voices New York, said that they have talked to administrators from various universities who have said they do not feel it is necessary to include higher education institutions in the bill.

Versions of the bill have been logjammed in committees over the past seven years. — Shawn Ness

Hochul’s approval ratings are dropping, according to a new poll from Siena College. Her approval rating and job approval both dropped eight points. (State of Politics)

Adams and Deputy Mayor Meera Joshi want regulations for e-bikes. There have been 18 deaths linked to accidents involving them. (Daily News)

Rising production costs have led to half of the state’s dairy farms to close. (Times Union)



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