January 12, 2019

Meanwhile Back in Albany (v25)

Nathaniel Brooks/NY Times photo
New York is about to get a taste of the Democratic trifecta when the Legislature gets to work on Monday.

First up? Voting and campaign reforms, according to news reports. For example, here's how the NY Times set the stage:
For years, the ways in which voters in New York have been stymied by the state's antiquated voting laws have stood in start contrast to the state's liberal reputation...But with Democrats now in control of both chambers of the State Capitol and the governor's office, things are about to change.
And here's how the Tribune News Service  presented it:
The Legislature will look to hit the ground running beginning Monday with passage of a number of long-anticipated voting and campaign reforms, including the closure of a controversial loophole that allows companies to give virtually unlimited amounts of campaign cash.
The voting reform package will be the first major undertaking by the Assembly and Senate, which are now controlled for the first time in a decade by the Democrats. The package and a host of other issues set to be taken up in the next few weeks have all been routinely blocked in previous years by Republicans, who long controlled the Senate.  
Let's take a look at the plans.

On the voting side:
  • early voting
  • pre-registration of 16- and 17-year-olds
  • consolidation of the federal and state primaries
  • vote-by-mail and same-day registration (both of which require changes to the state's constitution, so these won't take effect for at least a couple of years)
The changes are pretty significant; here's NYPIRG's Blair Horner:
New York is moving from caboose to locomotive. New York has been in the obstacle-creating business, as opposed to the obstacle-smashing business when it comes to voting. 
And that's true - in 2018, NY was the only state to have separate federal and state primaries, and of course we know that the onerous rules here are so cumbersome even the 30-something Trump children were unable to vote for their father in the primary back in 2016.  As I noted in this post back then,
If these kids - one a Wharton School grad, the other a Georgetown alum - who have all possible benefits, knowledge and access, kids who are making it their mission to ensure there's a yuge pool of voters for their father across the country (and who apparently learned nothing from their father having exactly the same problem previously) can't figure it out, how the heck are we supposed to Make America Great Again?
Hopefully, if passed, these reforms will help give us a leg up on that...

I will note this article on mail-in voting in Colorado; an investigation discovered that dead people -- some of them long dead -- have been voting by mail. There are two contributors to this, first and foremost being the people filling out the ballots. Anyone found to have done this needs to be charged and convicted of voter fraud and punished to the fullest extent of the law.

The other side of this is horrible record keeping. Many states - not just Colorado - have issues with the voter rolls, including how long an inactive voter will be kept on the list, how hard it is to remove dead people, how well governmental agencies are cross-checking to remove duplicates and clear up discrepancies, and so on.

Another concern that's been raised, which also needs to be prominently addressed, is that proof of eligibility must be shown before we automatically register everyone who has contact with a governmental agency. I don't care how progressive we want to be, we must be absolutely certain that no one - illegal immigrants or anyone else - is voting who is not eligible.

The Dems would be smart to make sure they're addressing both of these issues. 

On the campaign finance reform side? Closing the LLC loophole, which has long benefited incumbents like our Sonofa Gov, who is supportive of this legislation, even though he's taken tons of LLC contributions. I've looked at this issue before (here and here, for example) and can't agree more with this.

This article from last year was a real eye-opener:
It's no secret that Cuomo happens to be the biggest beneficiary of  LLC donations. He has reported raising $16.54M from them since taking office in 2011. By comparison, his past three opponents - Republicans Carl Paladino and Rob Astorino and Democrat Zephyr Teachout - raised $8M from all of their contributors combined... 
Since Cuomo took office, 574 committees associated with candidates for one of the Legislature's 213 seats have received at least one donation from an LLC. Combined, those hundreds of individuals have reported raising $16.5M from LLCs, just slightly less than Cuomo's total.
And the Senate Republicans who bear the brunt of Cuomo's criticism? They've raised $6.4M from LLCs, or 39% of Cuomo's total. 
And that was before all of the 2018 campaign cash was counted...

All of this will change, finally, on Monday, when both houses of the Legislature approve a $5K limit on LLC contributions - and a requirement to disclose the 'beneficial ownership' of the LLC. This move for more transparency will help us understand who's using money to curry favor with our elected officials. And, hopefully, it will help reduce the amount of cash that's thrown at these candidates.

We'll look at more of the majority's agenda in future posts; we've also got the governor's State of the State/Budget address coming next week, so we'll have lots to talk about, I'm sure. 

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