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Assessing the Albany legislative session endgame

Daily Point

Getting down to the wire

It’s been a wild week in the Queens DA race. There were national endorsements for 31-year-old insurgent public defender Tiffany Cabán, and the last-minute dropout of Queens Councilman Rory Lancman, who rather than dilute the non-Cabán vote threw his support to Borough President Melinda Katz, now more than ever the choice of the Democratic establishment.

But if you think the battle between Democratic factions in NYC is fierce heading into Tuesday’s DA primary, just wait until next year.

Potential candidates are eye-bulging-eager to take on Democratic congressional mainstays and try to be the next Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

One candidate who’s likely to run is Adem Bunkeddeko, who almost joined AOC in 2018. He lost to long-serving Brooklyn Rep. Yvette Clarke by less than 2,000 votes in the June primary.

Bunkeddeko supports Cabán for DA, a race he says speaks to similar dynamics in Brooklyn -- a divide between the Democratic “machine” and “ordinary” people.

If Cabán wins, it’s a “step in the right direction,” Bunkeddeko told The Point.

Bunkeddeko can probably expect pushback from the establishment, and a City & State story notes one early example. It says Bunkeddeko got a call from Staten Island Rep. Max Rose, a freshman but ally of Brooklyn chieftain Rep. Hakeem Jeffries. The story frames the call as an attempt to dissuade Bunkeddeko from running again, though Rose disagrees.

Regardless, incumbents — including Rep. Jerry Nadler and Rep. Carolyn Maloney — are right to be concerned as more primary candidates pop. Earlier this week, Justice Democrats, a left-leaning group behind AOC’s rise, announced support for a primary challenger to Bronx Rep. Eliot Engel. That was Jamaal Bowman, a Bronx middle school principal who lives in Yonkers, as per his website. He’s only one of those seeking to oust Engel.

Some Democrats have policy issues with Engel, who voted for the Iraq war and leads the House Foreign Affairs Committee. But there’s also an element of demographic change to this and other potential races -- Bunkeddeko and Clarke are separated by 23 years -- a new generation looking for political power.

Engel is 72, a 30-year incumbent and former educator. Bowman is a current educator, and 43.

- Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Talking Point

Will prevailing wage ever prevail?

Now what?

That’s the question developers and labor leaders are asking after the legislative session ended in Albany without a deal on prevailing wage legislation, the higher hourly rate usually negotiated in collective-bargaining agreements.

Long Island’s builders are breathing a sigh of relief because they were worried that a bill that would require the higher wages on projects that receive public funds would stifle development across the region. Labor leaders, meanwhile, consider the collapse of the deal – which seemed like it was nearly done as of Wednesday morning – a big loss.

Matthew Aracich, who heads the Building and Construction Trades Council of Nassau and Suffolk Counties, compared the last few days in Albany to being in a boxing ring.

“The next thing you know you wake up, and someone hit you with a punch that you didn’t see coming,” Aracich said. “When session ends like this … it’s as definite as death.”

But both sides said the end of the legislative session doesn’t mark the end to their talks, or their efforts to compromise. “We will not leave any stone unturned in order to secure more work for our members,” Aracich said. “We will work on every project we can get a hold of.”

And Mitch Pally, who heads the Long Island Builders Institute, said he plans to talk with Aracich soon to find ways that would encourage more local developers to use more unionized labor. Some builders, Pally said, are “more cooperative” in their efforts to negotiate with the unions than others.

Pally said he’s hoping such discussions could lead to a broader agreement -- without the State Legislature’s involvement, adding that there are similar discussions planned in New York City, too.“Most people would prefer to have a negotiated agreement between the parties than one imposed upon them by Albany,” Pally said.

Especially when Albany can’t do it.

- Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Pencil Point

Off we go!

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

Final Point

Not capping it off

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie clearly would rather roll the dice on 2020 and 2021 pay raises for his members than play it safe by passing a cap on outside income in the final days of the legislative session.

The failure to act on a cap is a disappointment to some Democratic strategists who felt that it would lead to the retirement of four or five Republican incumbents who have considerable income from other sources -- including Sen. George Amedore, a home builder from a district just outside Albany, and Sen. Tom O’Mara, a lawyer from Chemung County.

Democrats felt that if the GOP has to fight to keep a handful of open seats in its column, if would be harder for Republicans to mount serious challenges against freshman Democratic senators, including the four representing Long Island.The Democrats hold a 40-23 edge in the chamber.

But no one is really surprised that lawmakers, of both parties, have refused for years to pass ethics reforms that would rein in Albany’s pay-to-play culture, which is why a state commission attempted it last year as part of a package that would have made state legislators the highest paid in the nation.

But Heastie supported one of several lawsuits by Republicans challenging the income cap, and a recent ruling in one of the cases found that the cap was beyond the scope of power delegated to the commission. The ruling by an Albany State Supreme Court justice permitted the 2019 pay raises to continue, but it was unclear whether the pay hike for the other two years will take effect. The decision is being appealed and there is a good chance the income cap could be reinstated or the entire work of the commission thrown out -- cap as well as the pay raises.

Lawmakers may have been able to address the judge’s concerns by making it clear through a new law that they support a 15 percent cap on outside income. But it was too heavy a lift in the final two weeks of the session with Democrats from New York City confident they will keep a Senate majority because of the expected larger Democratic turnout in 2020, a presidential election year.

- Rita Ciolli @RitaCiolli

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