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Special session update
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is increasing public pressure on State Senate Republicans to return to Albany for a special session by highlighting that just one vote from the GOP conference is needed to better protect abortion rights in New York if Roe v. Wade is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.
A Monday news release — including quotes from all 31 Democratic state senators in a six-page statement — pointed out that all 31 support “codifying” Roe.
The release never mentioned the Reproductive Health Act, an actual expansion of Roe protections, that Cuomo has supported and that the Assembly has passed several times but that the State Senate has never approved. Cuomo also did not mention the RHA in an op-ed with Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins posted Sunday on Newsday.com.
And there’s a strategic reason for that. Knowing that the GOP strongly opposes the RHA, which includes such pro-choice provisions as allowing non-doctors to oversee abortions, Cuomo now advocates for a much smaller change to get the GOP to Albany. To do so, the governor convinced Planned Parenthood and other pro-choice groups to accept the incremental approach they previously had rejected.
Cuomo’s new proposal would add a phrase to state law that covers a small number of abortions. State law criminalizes abortion after 24 weeks, but would allow the procedure if the woman’s life is at risk. The new law would add “health” of the mother to cover problems arising later in a pregnancy that are permitted in a series of post-Roe Supreme Court rulings.
Democrats hope that change will make it easier to convince the GOP to return for a special session. In such a scenario, the GOP conference could say it opposes abortion, but that it will allow members to vote their conscience. And Cuomo’s pitch to Republicans: By allowing some of the pro-choice members in their conference, such as Elaine Phillips, to cast that vote, the GOP is more likely to defuse the abortion issue for state lawmakers in this fall’s election, when Republicans are at serious risk of losing the State Senate.
Coming to a county near you
Could a convention center be coming to Suffolk County?
A cryptic Sunday night tweet from Jason Elan, spokesman for Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, suggested the possibility. And engineer John Cameron, who is part of the development team planning the redevelopment of the Islip Town side of the Ronkonkoma Hub, confirmed the idea is being considered.
“We are currently evaluating the viability of a convention center,” Cameron told The Point, noting that the development team, headed by Jones Lang LaSalle, meets regularly to discuss the project.
Plans for the part of the Ronkonkoma Hub south of the LIRR tracks hadn’t included such a space, instead centering around a 17,000-seat arena, along with a hotel, sports medicine facility, and some retail.
But, Cameron added: “The plan can morph one way or the other.”
The notion of a convention center emerged after Elan retweeted a comment from Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, who posted photos of Nashville’s Music City Center, calling it a “BIG, beautiful Convention Center.”
“Maybe we will bring one to Suffolk,” Elan wrote.
The Music City Center is a 2.1 million-square-foot facility built for $623 million in 2013.
As it turns out, Elan, along with Suffolk Deputy County Executive Jon Kaiman, toured the site late last week, while in Nashville for the National Association of Counties conference. In an experience not dissimilar to one imagined for Ronkonkoma, the group walked to the convention center from their hotel and then had lunch at a nearby restaurant.
In previous discussions about the Ronkonkoma Hub, county officials had suggested that the hotel or arena could feature some convention space. But that’s a far cry from a venue as large as the Music City Center.
Elan said the center’s modern architecture, use of space, and significant security measures impressed him — and left him thinking about what could be possible in Suffolk.
“I went in there thinking, ‘How cool could a convention center really be?’ ” Elan said. “I left there being pretty amazed.”
Randi F. Marshall
The divisible left
In an interesting fault line for left-leaning Democrats in New York, two Indivisible-affiliated progressive groups in Brooklyn have endorsed Zephyr Teachout for state attorney general, rather than fellow Brooklyn progressive Tish James, the city’s fiery public advocate.
The enthusiasm gap was pretty clear last week when James and Teachout spoke to one of the groups, Indivisible Nation BK, in the crowded backroom of an Atlantic Avenue coffee shop. Even Teachout’s introduction was repeatedly interrupted by applause on Wednesday, before she took the mic and started talking about ethics and the rule of law.
It has become standard for Democratic candidates for the office to highlight how they will use the position to constrain President Donald Trump. Both candidates have done so. But law professor Teachout’s commitment to not take corporate or LLC donations went over particularly well in the room of activists who in response to the 2016 election came together around the online “Indivisible” guide, a model for civic influence.
James did not commit to limits on her fundraising despite a question on the issue.
The veteran politician, a mainstay at rallies for progressive issues around the city, already has a long list of endorsements from local Democratic political clubs. But losing the Brooklyn Indivisible endorsements might indicate some wariness from the newer grassroots progressive movement. James hasn’t been helped by her spurning (for now) of the Working Families Party’s ballot line, particularly after that minor party split over opposition to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
The Indivisible crowd on Wednesday was not particularly pro-Cuomo, either. They sharply questioned Sarah Paden, a Cuomo campaign representative sent to talk to the group, who was bombarded with angry inquiries about the MTA, special elections, Trump donations, and other issues that have city leftists riled up this election cycle.