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Hammering away at the opposition

The New York State Capitol in Albany.

The New York State Capitol in Albany. Credit: Getty Images / aimintang

Daily Point

How good is the "Good Cause Eviction" bill?

On Tuesday afternoon, State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins tweeted that after meeting with fellow Democrats, she determined that “We have support for all nine priority housing bills.”

So, does that mean the package of rent reforms Albany is considering is a done deal?

Not quite.

The most controversial of the nine bills is the “good cause eviction” bill, which would prohibit eviction except in specific, limited circumstances. It also, in effect, would limit the rent increases a landlord could institute to no more than 1.5 times the rate of inflation.

Local builders and other experts say the bill could discourage attempts to build rental units on Long Island – particularly the more moderately priced apartments the region needs.

Shortly after Stewart-Cousins’ tweet, Sen. Jim Gaughran reached out to The Point to indicate that the support wasn’t quite as universal as Stewart-Cousins made it seem.

“I am opposed to the so-called good cause bill because I believe it would be very harmful to Long Island,” Gaughran said. “It will disincentivize all efforts that are being made right now to try to provide rental housing particularly for our young people.”

The Point then reached out to the five other Long Island senators in the majority. Not one of them supports the bill as written. All said that they hear from far more constituents about the need for affordable housing than they do about eviction for no reason, or bad reasons. And all said they thought the bill would damage the Island’s ability to build the apartments the region needs.

“I have very serious concerns about what the good cause bill in its current form would do to developing affordable housing on Long Island,” Sen. Todd Kaminsky said.

They also criticized the bill’s one-size-fits-all approach.

“Sometimes, on these bills, we need to realize that circumstances from one area to the next are dramatically different,” said Sen. John Brooks.

Sen. Kevin Thomas noted that he didn’t think all landlords should be treated with the same broad brush.

“There are some really bad landlords, but we shouldn’t punish all landlords in a blanket way for something that only these deadbeat landlords do,” said Thomas.

Added Sen. Monica Martinez: “The way the bill stands right now, it may hurt more tenants than it would help.”

Sources told The Point that Stewart-Cousins' tweets might be a negotiating strategy, as conversations are ongoing about what the final package of rent laws might look like. But there isn’t much time to turn negotiations into a final product. Existing rent regulations, which some of the bills change, extend or protect, are due to expire June 15.

But Long Island senators hope there’s time to make some changes -- particularly when it comes to the good cause bill.

“I have a lot of problems with the bill and concerns about how it affects Long Island,” Sen. Anna Kaplan told The Point. “I’m waiting for some clarification to see what the bill ends up being.”

- Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Talking Point

Going on the attack

The Albany legislative session is heading down to the wire with some of the more controversial issues still to be addressed, like driver’s licenses for those who are in the country illegally, climate control measures and the commercial sale of marijuana still to be addressed. For Republican strategists seeking to regain control of the State Senate in 2020, the “Big Ugly” that will emerge in the next few weeks is likely to be a buffet of opposition opportunities to use against the Democrats.  

Even without the core social issues to hammer, Sen. John Flanagan, the minority leader, is testing the GOP’s strategy of attacking big spending with a new mailer about how the Democrats are raiding the pockets of those in his Suffolk County district. “Bad for our Taxpayers” is the opening headline, and the flip side reads: “New York must become more affordable.” The mailer gets a little murky on exactly what it is Democrats did that hurts Flanagan’s constituents.

Here’s a list of the GOP grievances listed under a column headlined “Senator Flanagan Voted No:

1).  A new tax on grocery bags: This refers to the ban on single-use plastic bags that allows a municipality to charge 5 cents for a paper bag. However, the fee was already the law in Suffolk County.

2).  A new tax on internet purchases: Giant third-party sites like Amazon and eBay must now collect taxes on purchases from retailers hosted on their sites; a portion of the tax is going to Suffolk County.

3).  A new commuter tax: The charged phrase “commuter tax”  is not the return of an NYC income tax on Long Islanders who work there. It’s an attempt to label as a tax the congestion pricing fees for entering Manhattan south of 60th Street. Those fees, in part, will fund the LIRR.

4).  A new energy tax: Admittedly, this was tough to decode. The GOP is highlighting the expiration of an exemption from local sales tax for commercial customers who buy electric power and natural gas from a retail energy company, not a utility. The cost of the tax is not likely to be passed along to Flanagan’s voters and this revenue will go to local municipalities.

5).  A new tax on prescription drugs: This tax on pharmaceutical companies that make or sell prescription opioid drugs will be used to fund treatment programs. In 2017, when Flanagan was the majority leader, the Senate approved a similar charge on the companies that a judge later ruled as unconstitutional because it barred the cost of the tax from being passed on to consumers. To fix the legal flaw, the new law does not contain the no-pass-through ban, which allows the GOP to recast it as a tax.

The mailer was not sent by Long Island's two other GOP senators, according to a spokesman for the GOP delegation, and it’s unlikely to send suburban voters to the ramparts next year.

What is clear, however, is that the state GOP plans to swing at every pitch.

- Rita Ciolli @RitaCiolli

Pencil Point

Can't help it

For more cartoons, visit www.newsday.com/opinion

Final Point

Looking out for challengers

Is New York City’s entrenched Democratic congressional delegation vulnerable to primaries?

That question was taken up last week in a newsletter by Kyle Kondik, managing editor of the handicapper Sabato’s Crystal Ball.

“Any discussion of Democratic primary challenges in the 2020 cycle must include the New York City area, scene of the Ocasio-Cortez insurrection in 2018,” Kondik wrote. That’s because Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won her primary, Rep. Yvette Clarke nearly lost hers, and long-serving Rep. Carolyn Maloney also faced a relatively stiff challenge.

The Point asked Kondik why he thought challenges from the left are worth watching this election cycle. Given the 2018 hits against Crowley, Maloney, and Clarke, Kondik emailed that “some of these challengers smell blood in the water, and there's a lot of primary activity bubbling up against several NYC incumbents.”

Indeed, Erica Vladimer, the former State Senate staffer who accused Jeff Klein of an unwanted forcible kiss, announced plans on Monday to run against Maloney.

Kondik noted that some of the “particulars of life in NYC may give a little more oxygen to primary challengers.” A more diverse city may contribute to calls for more non-white candidates. And city residents may be “likelier to look for stronger governmental intervention in the economy, given the city's high cost of living and the pervasiveness of income inequality,” Kondik said.

It’s still an uphill road for challengers. Kondik notes that the renomination rate for incumbent House members in the postwar era is more than 98 percent. And NYC went for Hillary Clinton over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in 2016: “one would hardly interpret that as an unabashed cry for maximally left policies,” Kondik said.

“Chances are, most of these challenges will fail,” he wrote. “But history also suggests that some could succeed. So these NYC members need to tread carefully and treat these challenges seriously.”

Political consultants, start your engines.

- Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

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