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Laying their cards on the table

State Sen. John Brooks (D-Seaford) on July 1,

State Sen. John Brooks (D-Seaford) on July 1, 2019 in Bellmore. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Daily Point

Show and tell

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo wants a new law that would make New York the first state to require state and local elected officials who earn more than $100,000 a year from taxpayers to share their tax returns with the public. It’s gotten a mixed reaction from lawmakers, although no one wants to openly say they oppose it.

This law would apply to every Assembly and Senate member, statewide elected officials (who currently release their returns voluntarily), county executives, mayors of large cities, supervisors of large towns and members of the New York City Council.

The Point reached out to the nine state senators who represent Long Island, often a swing caucus on contentious legislation, to see where they stand. 

The three Republicans, Minority Leader John Flanagan, Phil Boyle and Ken LaValle, who is retiring at the end of the year, did not respond to requests for comment.

The six Democrats in the Senate delegation did and all support Cuomo’s proposal to make the tax returns public. Several even said they’d be willing to share their returns with or without the law, though a few had more to say.

  • Anna Kaplan said she supports the measure but believes “that it’s more important to pass restrictions on outside income for lawmakers to eliminate the many perceived or actual conflicts of interest that can arise due to a legislator’s outside work.” She did not commit to sharing her returns if the law does not pass. 
  • John Brooks thinks the proposal also should include candidates seeking such offices, to level the playing field, and said he would release his returns without the law if his opponent would. 
  • James Gaughran will release his returns once the law, which he supports, is passed.
  • Monica Martinez said, “I don’t see why this bill wouldn’t pass unanimously if transparency is what we are aiming for. Once I vote ‘yay’ for the bill and it passes, I will release my taxes.” 
  • Kevin Thomas and Todd Kaminsky both said they would be willing to release their returns even if the law does not pass.

But don’t hold your breath. 

Cuomo’s proposal is a swipe at legislators who took a huge pay raise premised on an accompanying ban on outside income. A commission hiked the salary while also imposing a ban that was later struck down in a state trial court. Attorney General Tish James refused to appeal the ruling, leaving legislators with a large hike from their day job and no limits on what they can earn elsewhere.  

Cuomo’s bill seems like it would pass easily if you listen to those who’d have to vote on it. In Albany, though, that often only means that such a bill will never come to the floor at all.

—Lane Filler @lanefiller

Talking Point

Memories of the past

Campaign literature from a 1986 run for state attorney general. A copy of “Profiles in Courage” inscribed by JFK speechwriter Ted Sorensen. Remnants from some three decades of Long Island polling. These were among the items being perused on Friday by Rep. Pete King, who is starting the long work of cleaning out his district office. 

King announced in November that he wouldn’t be seeking reelection, meaning that his time in this Massapequa Park office is coming to an end. He has been at the location since the 1990s, so there’s plenty of material to go through, some of it likely destined to be archived at the University of Notre Dame, where King attended law school. 

Some of the papers are disposable — magazine article cutouts past their time. Some are more timeless, like documents from his role in the historic Irish peace process along with President Bill Clinton. 

Then there are photographs of regional history in action on the national stage.

That’s the still-in-process fight over funding for Gateway, a key infrastructure project involving the replacement of crumbling Hudson River train tunnels. 

King and other New York officials have urged President Donald Trump for years to move the project forward. King said he got imperiled funding restored during a St. Patrick’s Day lunch in 2018, where he and Trump “got into it over Gateway.” 

The Irish prime minister and ambassador were nearby, perhaps hoping to talk Brexit or tariffs with the leader of the free world, King said, but Trump and the Seaford Republican were talking Gateway.

In photos from the event, you can see Trump gesticulating at and focusing on King, rather than any of the other green-tie wearing guests of honor. 

See for yourself above.

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Pencil Point

Double standard

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Final Point

The rules of the game

The eyes of the nation’s election-obsessed will turn to Nevada Saturday for that state’s Democratic presidential caucus results, and they may well wonder, “Wait, how does this work?”

The process is similar, but not identical to, Iowa’s with the big wrinkle being early voting.

Here’s what you need to know: 

  • There are 2,097 precincts and, while only 1,736 contain a registered Democrat, all will offer a caucus because the state and party allow same-day registration. The caucuses will be held in about 250 locations, most of which will host more than one precinct.
  • Voters whose candidate gets 15% or more in their precinct in the first round are committed, while voters whose candidate did not hit that threshold can switch to one who did, try to band together with other supporters of non-viable candidates to get one over the hump in the second round, or not participate in the second round.
  • Absentee voters, of which there were about 70,000, were allowed to cast ballots from Feb. 14-18. That’s nearly as many people as participated in the process altogether in 2016, which suggests the possibility of record turnout. Those absentee voters chose, in order of preference, a minimum of three and a maximum of five candidates. Their ballots will be sent to the voters’ home precincts, and their first choices will be tallied along with the physical attendees in the first round. Then, if their first choice does not achieve viability in their precinct, their second-round vote will go to their highest choice that hits the 15% threshold in their precinct. Essentially, the piece of paper walks around the room to its next choice.
  • Viability is a big issue for every candidate but Bernie Sanders, who is polling around 30 percent. All the others are hovering at or below 15 percent, so much of the drama Saturday may mimic the drama of the larger national race: Will moderate voters whose candidates fade away join cause with other moderates to fight off Sanders?
  • Nevada awards 36 delegates of the 3,979 total party delegates available, or just less than 1%.

The Nevada Democratic Party is not using the software whose implosion was the story in Iowa but fears of tabulation problems still abound. The way absentee ballots are tallied is complex and confusing, and the program the party is using, basically a Google Docs spreadsheet in which local leaders will input data, certainly has the potential for problems.

—Lane Filler @lanefiller

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