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Cuomo takes the reins on MTA plan approval

New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo in

New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo in Queens on May 6, 2019. Credit: Charles Eckert

Daily Point

Missing stamp of approval

As of now, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is not planning to appoint two of the recommended members to the Capital Program Review Board, potentially leaving the door open for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s capital plan to be approved by just two people — one of whom is the governor himself.

The Point has learned that Cuomo doesn’t want to approve State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins’ recommendation, State Sen. John Liu, because of Cuomo’s concern that Liu will not protect the Long Island Rail Road. Our sources also said that Mayor Bill de Blasio’s selection, Sherif Soliman, the senior adviser to the first deputy mayor, will languish as well. 

Cuomo had said he’d rather that the principals themselves serve, rather than make alternative appointments, and has said he will serve as his own representative. The last voting spot on the board, State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s pick, Michael Benedetto, is a carry-over who has served on the CPRB.

If Cuomo were to approve Stewart-Cousins and de Blasio’s picks, three of the four CPRB seats would be filled by New York City-based representatives. 

The MTA sent its 2020-2024 capital plan to the review board on Oct. 1, starting a 90-day window for approval. But what happens if the board only has two voting members — Cuomo and Benedetto?

State law seems to suggest that the board must unanimously approve the plan within the 90-day window, or any one member could issue a veto in writing within that same period. If that period passes without a veto, however, state law says, “the plan shall be deemed to have been approved.” State law on the CPRB doesn’t seem to include any language regarding a necessary quorum, just detailing how the board’s four voting members are to be selected. 

So, could Cuomo and Benedetto approve the MTA capital plan on their own? Or could a board made up of Cuomo and Benedetto let the 90-day clock run out, then consider the plan approved?

The governor’s office seems to think there’s a way forward without Cuomo making any additional appointments.

The clock is ticking.

—Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Talking Point

Intelligence, impeachment & in the money

Long Island Democrats being asked to attend a Nov. 3 fundraiser for Rep. Adam Schiff in Sands Point might legitimately wonder why former representative Steve Israel is asking them to pony up cash. Schiff, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, had $6 million in campaign cash at the end of June and won his 2018 race in his Los Angeles district for a ninth term by a staggering 56 percentage points.

But of course, there’s no such thing as enough money in Washington. Talk has swirled around Schiff as a potential successor to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and one way party leaders consolidate power is by using their clout to garner campaign contributions they can then dole out to more vulnerable candidates as down payments on future loyalty.

But Israel, who came to Congress in the same freshman class as Schiff and counts him among his closest friends, says Schiff feels he’s legitimately going to need the bankroll for the next go-round, and the longer he’s tied down by the impeachment process, the harder it’s going to be to raise funds.

“The Republicans are going to try to bury him with dark outside money,” Israel told The Point Tuesday. “Even if it seems like they can’t beat him they can keep him busy with attacks and distract him. They’re already raising a ton of anti-Schiff money through digital campaigns, and in California, with the jungle primary, if the Republicans can depress Adam’s support and squeeze him between a GOP challenger and a more liberal Democrat, he could have a problem.”

Israel said the fund-raising event, co-hosted by labor negotiator Martin Scheinman and his wife, Democratic activist Laurie Scheinman, at their celebrated Sands Point home, along with their family, Tim Bishop, Tim Gomes, Jay Jacobs, Sandra and Eric Krasnoff and Roger Tilles, is one of three Schiff will do that week. Schiff will also attend a fundraiser in New York City and a non-partisan event on Long Island for Israel’s Cornell Institute of Politics and Global Affairs. 

Contributors are asked for $5,000 to be deemed “co-hosts” and $2,000 for “supporters.”

And regardless of how he uses the money, Schiff will work toward something crucial for any Democrat looking to play on the national stage: popularity among New York’s power players.

—Lane Filler @lanefiller

Pencil Point

Under the bus

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Final Point

Beto book a lot like Beto

Presidential hopeful and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke heads into Tuesday night’s debate having made waves with a policy idea few other peers support. In this case, it was the constitutionally questionable proposal of denying tax-exempt status to religious organizations that oppose marriage equality.

It reminded The Point of his 2011 book “Dealing Death and Drugs: The Big Business of Dope in the U.S. and Mexico.”

Like many aspects of O’Rourke’s campaign style, the book is not the traditional choice. Rather than a memoir about O’Rourke’s life, it’s “an argument to end the prohibition of marijuana.”

The book is co-written with Susie Byrd, who served with O’Rourke on the El Paso City Council in 2009 when O’Rourke introduced a resolution to encourage “an honest, open, national debate on ending the prohibition of narcotics.” 

His effort drew national headlines at the time because legalization was far from the norm among many in the political class. The mayor vetoed it. 

But O’Rourke and his colleague doubled down in book form to argue that marijuana legalization would prevent violence along the border, save money, and help right inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. 

The 120-page polemic is too short to deal fully with all the complexities of legalization and has some classic hip Beto flourishes: a line about visitors to Juarez who want to “get their rocks off,” plus drug-pricing estimates from an incarcerated “cartel source.”

But it’s the kind of book that shows what some Democrats loved about Beto dating to his Senate run in Texas. It’s a clear and relatively bold stance along the lines of him saying, “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15s” at a debate this summer. That policy proposal was a reaction to an emotional tragedy in his hometown: violence on the border and the August mass shooting targeting Hispanics in El Paso. 

But with lots of young people with Bernie Sanders, and Beto muddling on in single digits toward 2020, O’Rourke has had to resort to outside-the-box ideas like church taxes or meeting with San Quentin prisoners. The bold ideas on drugs and guns bring the spotlight back to him, but can it remain?

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Debate prep

The 4th Democratic presidential debate is 8pm Tuesday. As a Point subscriber, you'll be able to join with the Newsday editorial board and rate the candidates live during the event here. Subscriber ratings as well as the editorial board's final ratings and takeaways will be posted here.