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Grassroots Bulletin

December Grassroots Newsletter - End of Year Wrap-Up

 2012 Election Review - Update on New York State’s Legislative Elections

President Obama won New York State easily in the recent election, and his strong showing helped Democrats gain a number of seats in the state Legislature.

The Democrats in the Assembly picked up seven seats, giving them a 107-43 majority in 2013.

Control of the Senate is not as certain. Since 2008, the State Senate has shifted back and forth from Republican to Democratic control. Senate Republicans may have just barely maintained their slim majority in this year’s elections.  Two Senate Democratic challengers defeated Republican incumbents and won an open seat in the Rochester area.  The outcome of the race to fill a newly-created Senate seat in the Capital Region remains uncertain with the Republican candidate up by just over 40 votes.

It appears the Republicans will maintain some control over the upper House regardless of the outcome in the newly-created Senate district. Shortly after Election Day, Senator-elect Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn) announced that he will support current Senate Majority Leader Senator Dean Skelos (R-Long Island), rather than current Senate Minority Leader Senator John Sampson (D-Brooklyn) in the upcoming legislative session. 

Additionally, Senator Jeff Klein (D-Bronx), the leader of a faction of Democrats called the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), recently joined with Senator Skelos in announcing an unprecedented bi-partisan power-sharing agreement. The Senate’s leadership will be called the Senate Majority Coalition.  Under the terms of their agreement, the title of temporary president of the Senate will rotate between Senators Skelos and Klein every two weeks, and decisions regarding legislation will be made jointly.



Federal Elections Results

One of the most significant surprises of President Obama’s reelection was that the president won every key swing state except North Carolina. While the vote was close in all these states, the end result was the same. Although the president’s win may not have provided him with a clear policy mandate, it has changed the tone of Congress, particularly as it tries to navigate the fiscal cliff.
U.S. Senate
Democrats managed to retained control of the Senate and even pick up additional seats.  The Democrats entered this cycle needing to defend 23 of 33 seats.  The Senate’s composition is now 53 Democrats, 45 Republicans and two Independents.   

Key Races:
    •      Elizabeth Warren (D) defeated Senator Scott Brown (R) in Massachusetts
    •      Tim Kaine (D) defeated George Allen (R) in Virginia
    •      Congressman Jeff Flake (R) won in Arizona
    •      Congressman Chris Murphy (D) defeated Linda McMahon (R) in Connecticut
    •      Congressman Joe Donnelly (D) defeated Richard Murdoch (R) in Indiana
    •      Dean Heller (R) defeated Congresswoman Shelly Berkley (D) in Nevada
    •      Angus King (I) won in Maine and will likely caucus with Democrats
U.S. House
Although Republicans retained control of the House, it is with a slightly smaller margin.  Going into the election, Republicans held a 240-190 advantage over Democrats, with five seats vacant. Democrats would have needed a net pick up of 25 seats to take control.  After all of the races were officially decided, Republicans won 234 seats and Democrats 201.
Republicans sustained disproportional losses in the Northeast, losing two members in New Hampshire, and two in New York.  In the South, Republicans consolidated gains from 2010.
The Republican caucus also lost several female members of congress, including two from New York. The three New York incumbents that lost were:
    •      Nan Hayworth (R)
    •      Kathy Hochul (D)
    •      Ann Marie Burkle (R)

The newest members in Con Edison's service territory are outlined below:

Steve Israel (D) New York-3
Chris Gibson (R) New York-19          
Bill Pascrell (D) New Jersey-08
Grace Meng (D) New York-6
Hakeem Jeffries (D) New York-8 
Sean Patrick Maloney (D) New York-18

 The Fiscal Cliff

The term “fiscal cliff” was coined by Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, to warn of the dangerous but avoidable pitfall in the country’s financial path.  The term refers to the more than $600 billion in tax increases and across-the-board spending cuts scheduled to go into effect after January 1, 2013, unless a deal can be reached.  With less than two weeks before the end of the year, many Congressional Democrats are now using the term “fiscal slope” to soften the blow of possible inaction.

If the current tax provisions scheduled to expire by 2013 go into effect, the impact on the economy could be dramatic. While the combination of higher taxes (including a higher tax rate on dividend income) and spending cuts would reduce the deficit by an estimated $560 billion, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that the policies set to go into effect would cut gross domestic product (GDP) by four percentage points in 2013, sending the economy into a recession.  At the same time, CBO predicts unemployment would rise by almost a full percentage point, with a loss of about two million jobs.

Prior to the election, Congress was at a standstill as Democrats and Republicans waited to see who would win the White House.  Since Election Day, high-level talks have taken place between President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) and House Speaker Boehner (R-OH), but no legislation has been drafted.  Although several lawmakers and various caucuses have shared ideas for resolution in the press, in the end, Speaker Boehner and President Obama are ultimately responsible for hammering out an agreement.

Optimists see the framework for a deal and willingness to compromise on both sides.  Pessimists hear the rhetoric and see little opportunity for success.  While the situation is very fluid, the most likely outcome is a partial solution enacted late in December that extends some tax cuts, limits the spending cuts and sets a time frame for consideration of substantial tax reform. 

A Discussion with New York State Assembly Republican Leader Brian M. Kolb


What do you foresee being the most pressing energy-related issue of the 2013 legislative session?
Several energy-related issues will need consideration during the 2013 Session.  First and foremost, we must do something about New York’s energy taxes which are too high.  As a former manufacturer, Ranking Republican Member for the Assembly Energy Committee, and Chair of the Assembly Republican Conference’s Manufacturing Task Force, I am well aware of the negative impact that energy taxes – and rising energy costs – impose on businesses in New York State. 
My plan to lower energy costs for businesses is to cut taxes, fees and assessments and remove regulatory roadblocks.  I co-sponsor legislation (Assembly Bill A.1202-A) to eliminate the 18-A assessment on utility companies that is ultimately handed to down to businesses and residential customers.  My Assembly Republican colleagues and I offered this as a smart solution to the 2012-13 State Budget, but unfortunately, it was rejected.  I have spoken out publicly and repeatedly in calling for elimination of the 18-A assessment and will continue doing so during the 2013 Legislative Session.
Second, we should build on the successes of our 2011 and 2012 sessions (when we made the Power for Jobs program, aka "Recharge NY" permanent) by ensuring all businesses have access to affordable, reliable power so they can grow, hire more New Yorkers and get our economy moving again. 
Third, we need to make overdue improvements to Article VII, which governs the siting of major utility transmission facilities – and relates to Governor Cuomo’s State of the State proposal to create an “energy highway” here in New York State.  I introduced legislation (Assembly Bill A.4804) that would make necessary improvements to Article VII, including establishing a procedure for the approval of increasing transfer capabilities of existing electric transmission lines. 
Fourth, the State will need to come to a resolution regarding the future of Indian Point and prepare a detailed contingency if the power it supplies – 25 to 30 percent of the electricity used daily by New York City and Westchester County – is taken off the grid.
Fifth and finally, the question of whether New York moves forward with natural gas exploration and extraction will continue to be a major energy issue, as will rising gasoline prices and their negative financial impact on families and businesses.
What do you foresee being the most pressing legislative issue of this legislative session?
Without question, the most pressing legislative issue this session can be summed up in three words: jobs, jobs, jobs.  My top priorities are growing private sector jobs, making New York’s economy more competitive with the other 49 states and getting nearly 850,000 unemployed New Yorkers back to work.  Ensuring that job creators continue having access to reliable, affordable energy is an important part of that equation.  Job creation, economic development and making our state a more affordable place for families and job creators is my primary focus.  We must get state government back on the taxpayers’ side.           
Partisan politics have dominated our national and state legislative landscape in recent years.  Can you comment on the current situation between the parties in Albany and add your views on how our leaders and elected officials can better work together?

I appreciate this question and think it touches on one of the most important issues that must be discussed: the need for elected officials to set aside partisan politics and ideological labels and work for the good of all New Yorkers.  In 2011 and again in 2012, our tremendous legislative successes – such as making the Power for Jobs program permanent – showed that when Albany moves beyond Albany’s the partisan-driven “blame game” and gets serious about finding real solutions, progress is possible.  This will require an open and honest dialog between the Legislative Conferences, as well as the legislative and executive branches.  We need to have a free exchange of ideas without assigning blame or worrying about who gets the credit. 
Solving New York’s chronically high unemployment, fixing our economy and reducing the crushing costs Albany imposes on families and job creators, are not Republican or Democratic issues; they are universal challenges confronting our entire state.  We will meet and overcome these challenges together – not as Republicans or Democrats, but as New Yorkers.  My focus as a Legislative Leader – and as an Assemblyman – has not been about partisan politics or advancing any ideological agenda.  My focus has been on finding practical, positive real solutions for more jobs, a stronger economy and a more affordable New York.  After the most expensive – and longest – Presidential election cycle in our nation’s history, I think putting partisan politics on the back burner would be a welcome development!

New York City's 2013 Election Landscape 

Now that the state and federal elections are over, we turn our attention toward the 2013 New York City election cycle. On the electoral front, 20 current members of the City Council must leave office because of term limits. In addition to the large turnover in City Council members, the 2013 mayoral race is highly anticipated.

The current list of acknowledged candidates for mayor include: City Comptroller John C. Liu; former City Comptroller William C. Thompson; Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio; and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Recently, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer declared his candidancy for city comptroller. Other names that have also been floated are MTA chairman Joseph Lhota and even current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

While some believe Quinn to be the current favorite in the mayoral race, Public Advocate DeBlasio has been very active and quick to challenge her at every opportunity.  His most recent challenge has been on the issue of living wage legislation. Speaker Quinn has been steadfast in her view that such legislation would be a jobs killer for NYC even as public advocate DeBlasio continues to call for the issue to be put to a vote in front of the full City Council as soon as possible.

Mayoral candidates have been attending various forums around New York City offering their opinions and setting up their platform.  Topics most often highlighted include education policy, police tactics, paid sick leave and most recently storm preparation and city government’s response to Superstorm Sandy.  Next year promises to be an interesting time for New York City government. 

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