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Setting the agenda in New York

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran on Feb. 7.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran on Feb. 7. Photo Credit: Yeong-Ung Yang

Daily Point

Campaign literature

So far, the battle over the reassessment process in Nassau County looks to be the focus of November’s legislative races, and county-funded mailings are flying out the door.

About six weeks ago, Democratic County Executive Laura Curran sent out a piece to all residents urging them to call county legislators and demand they pass the Taxpayer Protection Plan Albany authorized this year. That plan would phase in over five years the tax increases and decreases caused by returning property assessments to accurate values. Curran took action after her Republican predecessor reduced the values of almost all the hundreds of thousands of property owners who grieved.

Curran’s missive sparked 700 or 800 calls to the legislature from upset residents, and letters in response from at least two Republican legislators facing tough reelection battles, Steven Rhoads and William Gaylor. 

Both letters, similar but not identical, accused Curran of failing to be transparent, creating a roll riddled with inaccuracies and not living up to her promise to post updated tax-impact notices when she said she would, among other things.

At least one accusation, that wealthy property owners’ homes were overassessed and that when those values are corrected through grievances other homeowners will be penalized, isn’t factually accurate. 

And embedded in both letters is a new phrase Republicans are looking to make hay with: Curran’s “back-door reassessment tax.”

There is no new tax being passed, so what does that mean?

“If you’re one of those unlucky ones whose taxes are going up because you’ve been grieving and are underassessed, that is going to feel like a tax increase,” Rhoads told The Point Tuesday in a phone interview. “And honestly, if you are someone whose taxes are too high because you did not grieve and they’re going to go down over five years instead of immediately, that’s a tax in a way, too.”

Curran wants the phase-in passed so she and Democratic candidates don’t keep getting beaten up with the possibility of huge, sudden increases. Republicans have made it clear they won’t be giving up their cudgel before November.

Republicans have admitted they’ll need to pass Curran’s phase-in to keep their residents from seeing huge one-year increases, but they say they have until mid-2020, months after the election, to do so. So if you’re getting addicted to this drama and fear you’ll run out of episodes, no worries. Members of Curran’s administration say she is penning a response to the legislators’ response to her missive….to be circulated in a news release and online, not via the mail.

- Lane Filler @lanefiller

Talking Point

Putting the pieces in place

Members of the legislatively mandated Public Campaign Financing Commission are just getting their government email accounts and preparing schedules, with a possible four hearings around the state “likely” to start in mid to late September, state Democratic Party chair Jay Jacobs tells The Point. 

Jacobs is one of the nine commission members tasked with setting the parameters of a public campaign financing program, one of the quiet bombshell parts of the state budget deal. It’s a massive project and shift for New York, with the goal of setting up a system incentivizing politicians to solicit small contributions. 

It’s all an incredibly high-stakes political process that will determine how far New York goes with public campaign financing. Advocates hope a small-dollar-match system will encourage healthy competition, even as some incumbents fear the prospect of challenges. Then there’s the fact that the statute allows the unelected commission to reach deep into state election law, including “multiple party candidate nominations and/or designations.” That’s code for  fusion voting. New York is one of the few states that allow candidates to run on multiple lines. That is an existential power struggle among New York’s political parties, particularly for the Working Families and Conservative parties who filed lawsuits Monday challenging the commission’s authority. 

Another member tells The Point that advocates already are lobbying by email about the commission’s work. 

And the group hasn’t even met in person! 

All the commission members are equal as per the statute, but Jacobs appears to be doing some early organizational duties, reaching out to other members to ask for the dates they aren’t available. 

As for substance, Jacobs says, “I think we have a model in what the city of New York does,” referencing NYC’s small-dollar-match system as a starting point. 

After the questions of campaign finance, he envisions the commission picking up some of the “subsidiary issues” like fusion voting and who will enforce and oversee the new program. 

The clock’s ticking: the commission wraps up its work by Dec. 1.

- Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

Step right up

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Bonus Point

Mueller mania 

With former special counsel Robert Mueller testifying before Congress on Wednesday, here’s a quiz to see how well you know the players. Match the person who might be mentioned during the hearings with some lesser-known facts in their biographies.

People:

1. Don McGahn

2. Corey Lewandowski

3. Paul Manafort

4. Michael Flynn

5. Donald Trump Jr.

6. Jeff Sessions

7. James Comey

8. Michael Cohen

9. Hillary Clinton

Bios:

A. New York native was victim of a home invasion as a teenager. Received law degree from University of Chicago. Between government positions, was senior vice president and general counsel for Lockheed Martin. Was lead prosecutor in Martha Stewart securities fraud case.

B. Rhode Island-born, one of nine siblings. Earned the first of three master’s degrees from Golden Gate University, the last from the Naval War College. Registered Democrat advised at least five 2016 Republican presidential campaigns on national security issues before being hired by Trump.

C. Chicago native volunteered for Barry Goldwater’s campaign in 1964. Was president of a campus Young Republicans group in college, and was first student in history of the school to speak at commencement. Earned law degree from Yale University. 

D. Former White House official whose predecessor was Neil Eggleston. New Jersey native whose uncle was once sued by Donald Trump. Earned law degree from Widener University School of Law.

E. New York City native spent summers camping, fishing and hunting in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Earned a B.S. from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. Worked as a bartender before joining the family firm.

F. Ran unsuccessfully for Massachusetts House of Representatives and for town treasurer in Windham, New Hampshire. Got master’s degree in political science from American University, and once was arrested for bringing a loaded handgun in a laundry bag into the Longworth House Office Building in Washington.

G. Long Islander whose father was a Holocaust survivor. Earned law degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School. Once ran for New York City Council but was defeated by Success Academy Charter Schools founder Eva Moskowitz. Now disbarred.

H. Eagle Scout, in 1986 was only the second nominee in 48 years to the federal judiciary blocked by the Senate Judiciary Committee. A more recent Senate vote to silence Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s objections to his confirmation gave rise to the phrase, “Nevertheless, she persisted.” Is a Methodist Church Sunday school teacher.

I. Connecticut native whose father was indicted in a corruption scandal but not convicted. Received a law degree from Georgetown University but recently was disbarred. Advised on five presidential campaigns.

- Michael Dobie @mwdobie

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