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Waiting to see what comes next

New York state Senate members meet in the

New York state Senate members meet in the Senate Chamber on the opening day of the legislative session at the state Capitol in Albany on Jan. 8. Credit: AP/Hans Pennink

Daily Point

New Yorkers may see more voting changes

The Democratic-controlled State Senate was a hotbed of pent-up election reform last year, and the continuing focus in the next session may turn to the structure of county election boards.

State Sen. Zellnor Myrie, chair of the elections committee, told The Point that the potential legislative landscape next year could include a "serious effort to consider a constitutional amendment to remove that partisan requirement," referring to the current two-party-run setup that puts power mostly in the hands of political parties.

This is typically not a popular idea among political leaders around the state who guard their fiefdoms, and the Brooklyn Democrat acknowledges it would be an uphill battle, including because it would take a long time to go into effect. So he is interested in other ways to add professionalization to the boards without going the constitutional amendment route.

One possible avenue might be a bill from Manhattan State Sen. Liz Krueger that alters the leadership structure of the New York City Board of Elections.

Myrie says reform of the election system is tricky, however, given the possibility that getting rid of one problem creates another. Supporters of the partisan system note that states that run election boards differently also have their issues — consider the messy Georgia gubernatorial election of 2018 when Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp was essentially charged with overseeing his own election against Democrat Stacey Abrams.

Myrie says he anticipates having hearings on election board operations, sure to be a hot issue in Albany.

"It’s very clear further reform is needed," said Myrie.

—Mark Chiusano @mjchiusano

Talking Point

Will Biden be a boon for the MTA?

Could "Amtrak Joe" bring good news to the region’s commuters and travelers?

Public transit officials certainly hope so.

What the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey need more than anything, of course, is billions of dollars in COVID-19 stimulus relief. But that they can only get from Congress.

Still, when he takes office in January, President-elect Joe Biden can make moves big and small that would help the region’s transportation network significantly.

Biden’s "Amtrak Joe" nickname comes from his days as a daily commuter between Delaware and the Capitol via Amtrak so he could be with his children every night.

And MTA officials know it. One MTA source told The Point that the authority already is in contact with the Biden transition team "on issues important to the MTA’s recovery, and the recovery of New York City and the national economy."

Biden could start by restoring the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s reimbursement of personal protective equipment, disinfecting agents, and more associated with the coronavirus pandemic, sources told The Point.

Then there are the bigger needs. One of the MTA’s largest undertakings – the effort to toll Manhattan’s central business district – requires federal guidance on what type of environmental review is required. The authority has been waiting since April 2019 for feedback, so it can move forward with the right review process.

A Biden administration could evaluate the project, provide the guidance, and allow the MTA to move forward with the tolling effort, which ultimately would provide the MTA with a new source of funding, and, perhaps, help bring more customers back to the subways and buses.

Biden can also push for and support necessary funding on big capital projects, like the future expansion of the Second Avenue Subway.

All of that, of course, would mean little if the MTA doesn’t get the federal stimulus funds it needs. On that, a Biden White House could help – but it wouldn’t be enough to break the logjam created in part by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The Port Authority, too, is waiting for hoped-for federal funds to help its capital work move forward, including work on the LaGuardia AirTrain, which is part of the project to remake LaGuardia Airport, an airport Biden himself once said looked like it belonged in a "third world country."

But for the Port Authority, and Biden’s beloved Amtrak, there’s another big move Biden could make: Restoring a plan first established in the Obama-Biden administration to fund the Gateway project, the effort to build new tunnels below the Hudson River. The Trump administration has refused to acknowledge and move forward on Gateway.

"Amtrak Joe" is expected to make that happen.

"There’s reason to be optimistic," said one source connected to the Gateway project.

Of course, some of the region’s future transit support will be dictated by who fills key federal roles in a Biden administration. Among the names being bandied about for heading the Department of Transportation: Sarah Feinberg, who currently heads New York City Transit and previously served as the administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration under former President Barack Obama.

Now, that’s a move that could put the region’s transit system right at the top of the Biden administration’s to-do list.

—Randi F. Marshall @RandiMarshall

Pencil Point

Three more months

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Quick Points

  • Governing as a reality TV star, President Donald Trump never really lived up to the image he presented in "The Art of the Deal." Perhaps Joe Biden will be able to do that by governing like the host of the game show he channels: "Let’s Make a Deal."
  • Six White House staffers, including chief of staff Mark Meadows, HUD Secretary Ben Carson and a Trump campaign adviser have tested positive for COVID-19. Add that to President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump, a half-dozen other presidential aides and five aides to Vice President Mike Pence and it’s clear this White House has the whole coronavirus transmission thing down pretty pat.
  • Trump ally and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, responding to President Donald Trump’s baseless charges about election fraud, said, "We cannot permit inflammation without information." Wait, now he says that?!?!
  • Multiple-choice quiz on which presidential transition norm President Donald Trump is least likely to observe: 1) inviting Joe Biden to the White House for a post-election meeting; 2) leaving a letter for Biden in the Oval Office; 3) attending Biden’s inauguration. You can choose all three.
  • As Democrats fight amid post-election fallout, moderates say the progressives cost them numerous congressional seats with their defund-the-police movement, while progressives counter that their energy helped deliver the presidency to Joe Biden. How do you stop a war when both parties are right?
  • As the Trump campaign takes to the courts to press its case that the president won the election, one campaign adviser told Axios that they are "using the legal process … to make sure that the president is re-elected." Because the voting process sure didn’t work out.
  • On the day Joe Biden was declared president-elect, the most important number of the day might not have been 270, the Electoral College threshold he passed. The most important number might have been 126,156, the number of new COVID-19 cases reported that day, or perhaps 1,013, the number of deaths.
  • As President Donald Trump continues to claim massive voter fraud in the election, remember one thing: If you’re serious about this, you don’t send Rudy Giuliani to make your case.
  • Online oddsmakers are taking bets on an interesting proposition: What will come first, a concession from President Donald Trump or a win by the New York Jets? The odds favor the Jets. So does reality.
  • He offered answers but always knew all the questions and educated us along the way with grace and wit. RIP, Alex Trebek.

—Michael Dobie @mwdobie

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