Capitol Watch: Fusion Voting; Cuomo Talks Session Priorities
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — In New York government news, the liberal Working Families Party is fighting what it says is an effort by Democrats to weaken third parties in the state.
Top Democrats could soon consider a party resolution supporting the elimination of so-called fusion voting, an odd ballot rule that has allowed third parties to proliferate in the state.
Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is ticking off his priorities for the rest of the legislative session.
Here's a look at stories making news:
ATTACK ON THIRD PARTIES? The leaders of the state's Democratic Party will meet this week in Westchester and could vote on a resolution calling for an end to fusion voting — New York's odd practice of allowing third parties to cross-nominate candidates backed by the major parties.
Critics say it confuses voters, who see the same candidate's name listed under multiple parties, such as the Working Families Party, the Women's Equality Party and a long list of others. While the leaders of those parties say fusion voting is all about choices for voters, opponents complain that many third parties lack an actual grassroots membership and exist only as nomination organizations.
The Working Families Party, an influential liberal party that backed former "Sex and the City" star Cynthia Nixon's Democratic primary challenge to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, is one of the main targets of the new Democratic push to eliminate fusion voting. Bill Lipton, the Working Families Party's state director, denounced the Democratic Party's move.
"Make no mistake: This is a direct attack by Andrew Cuomo on the Working Families Party, our grassroots supporters, and progressive activists across New York in political retribution for the historic gains we've made together over the past year," Lipton wrote in an email to party supporters.
It would be up to the Legislature — now fully controlled by Democrats — to actually ban fusion voting. While some lawmakers such as Sen. Diane Savino have spoken out about their interest in doing so, no vote has been scheduled.
CUOMO ON REST OF SESSION: Cuomo and the Democrat-led Legislature have already accomplished several of their priorities for the year. A list of longtime priorities passed during the first two months of the session includes new gun-control measures, legislation codifying federal abortion rights in state law and the long-stalled Child Victims Act, which extends the statute of limitations on child molestation to give victims more time to sue or seek criminal charges.
But Cuomo's to-do list is long, and he ticked off several goals for the rest of the session during an interview last week on WAMC radio: marijuana legalization, the elimination of cash bail and other criminal justice changes, the extension of rent regulations in New York City and new congestion tolls in Manhattan.
Congestion tolls and marijuana look to be the toughest challenges for lawmakers. While there's broad agreement among many legislators about the need to legalize marijuana and impose new tolls on motorists entering central Manhattan, figuring out the details before the session ends in June will be difficult.
"It's easier said than done," Cuomo said of legalizing marijuana. Tax rates, rules for dispensaries and regulations for personal use must be set. Cuomo would like to see it done as part of the state budget before April 1, but top lawmakers have pushed back on that optimistic prediction.
Monday: Senate committees on banks and consumer protection hold a joint hearing on proposed student loan consumer assistance program, 11 a.m. in Albany.
Monday: Senate panel on Lyme Disease, 10:30 a.m., Albany.
Tuesday: New York Farm Bureau holds discussion of 2019 priorities and state of farm labor, 10 a.m., Albany.
April 1: Start of new fiscal year and deadline for new state budget.