Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Sen. John Flanagan are at odds over opioids.

Opioids Create a Strange Alignment: Cuomo Agreeing with Democrats

In the closing days of the legislative session, the opioid crisis is turning into the latest flashpoint. State Senate Republicans passed a bill to make it easier for law enforcement to arrest drug dealers and impose longer sentences. Meanwhile, Gov. Cuomo has lined up with the Assembly Democrats in advocating for more treatment, including more insurance coverage for substance abuse counseling and rehabilitation.

The state legislative session ends next week, meaning that the “three men in a room” will need to agree to something over the next week in order to enact it into law.

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NYC Schools are currently run by the Mayor. Mayoral control could expire if the state legislature doesn't act.

Republicans Toy with de Blasio Over Mayoral Control

Mayoral control of New York City schools is set to expire, threatening to plunge the school system into chaos, unless the state legislature passes a law extending the program.

However, the Senate GOP threatens to continue mayoral control only if NYC allows more charter schools. They are also pushing to include a tax cut for rich New York City residents and a tax credit for private schools, too. Meanwhile their IDC allies offered another bill tinkering around the edges by letting neighborhood education councils choose superintendents.

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IDC Leader Jeff Klein and Republican Leader John Flanagan could be in trouble because of the Senate lulu scandal.

Why the Senate Lulu Scandal Might Be Trouble for Everyone

Right now, the top news in the New York politics is the story of the State Senate’s lulu payments, the extra money that legislators in leadership positions earn. A New York Times investigation discovered that seven Senators (three Independent Democrats and four Republicans) earned lulus for positions they did not hold. While the legal fallout is unclear, the consequences will reverberate throughout New York politics.

Thanks to his coalition with the eight-member Independent Democratic Conference, Republican Leader John Flanagan (Long Island) leads the Senate even though there are 32 Democrats and only 31 Republicans. To maintain support, he arranged for seven Republican and Independent Democratic Conference members to earn larger lulus by paying committee vice-chairs as if they chaired the committees. This continued a practice of his predecessor, Dean Skelos (since convicted for corruption). Flanagan must have figured no one would notice.

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Senate lulu payments are stoking controversy. Are they legal?

Who in the Senate Broke the Law?

Last week, we mentioned that the Independent Democrats in the State Senate are earning more money thanks to their alliance giving Republicans control. Turns out, there’s a lot more to the story of the Senate lulu payments.

Catch me up:

Even though there is a 32-31 majority of Democrats in the State Senate, nine of those Democrats support the Republican leadership, giving them control of the chamber. Those nine Democrats (eight members of the Independent Democratic Conference or the IDC and Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder) got leadership positions as the chairs or vice-chairs of committees.

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The three men in a room: Cuomo, Flanagan, and Heastie.

Three (or Four) Men in a Room and When It Breaks Down

New York State politics is often derided as “three men in a room” making a decision. Whatever is agreed upon by those three men–the Governor (Andrew Cuomo), State Senate leader (currently, Republican John Flanagan), and the Assembly speaker (currently, Democrat Carl Heastie)–becomes law. With the Independent Democratic Conference in the Senate, it’s now grown to four men (with Senator Jeff Klein).

But sometimes, it falls apart, and the budget doesn’t get passed by the April 1 deadline. In 2004, it took the three men in a room until August, 133 days past the deadline to reach an agreement; that’s 19 weeks, over a third of the year.

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Balancing or in Danger?

Immigrants in danger, Bill de Blasio balancing competing demands, Republicans balancing ideological purity while in danger of losing the State Senate, and more.

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Our Feature
Will New York Be a Sanctuary for Immigrants?

Attorney General Jeff Sessions threatened to take back $4 billion in federal aid to sanctuary cities, including New York City, Syracuse, Ithaca, and Rochester. Those cities have said they will not help Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) enforce federal immigration laws.

What does “sanctuary” mean?

Sanctuary cities refuse to use police in immigration raids, won’t allow federal immigration authorities to access school and other records to find undocumented immigrants, and won’t hold immigrants in jail for ICE to pick them up. However, if someone is already in prison, they will generally turn them over to ICE. They also generally won’t ask immigrants if they are documented.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Sen. John Flanagan are at odds over opioids.

Republicans Struggle to Maintain Their Grip on the State Senate

Republicans control the State Senate but it’s a tenuous hold. Even though there are 32 Democratic State Senators and 31 Republicans, Republicans hold power thanks to nine Democrats, mostly in the Independent Democratic Conference, who support them. Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-Long Island), a moderate in the Republican camp, has been able to work with Governor Andrew Cuomo and the nine Democrats who back the Republicans.

However, that moderation is rubbing some more conservative upstate Republicans the wrong way. Senator John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) is said to be arguing for a more confrontational approach. As one Republican described DeFrancisco: “He mentions the governor all the time: ‘Let’s take this guy on. He’s an SOB.’ When he speaks, people definitely listen and many agree with him.”

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