Capitol Notes

Upstate Assembly Dems schedule meeting with Speaker Heastie

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie is scheduled to meet remotely on Friday with upstate Democratic members, according to sources familiar with the plan.

The meeting is at the request of  the upstate Democratic members, who have assembled informally from time to time in recent years as an unrecognized, unofficial caucus in the chamber. Representative for the speaker did not respond to a request for comment on the meeting.

There has been growing frustration across upstate about the one-size-fits-all approach to most aspects of the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which comes in the wake of widespread displeasure of voters in the region with the criminal justice laws championed by New York City-area lawmakers that took effect in January.

One Democratic Assembly member, speaking on a condition of anonymity, said they’re looking for more regional flexibility with the process of re-opening aspects of life shut down by the response to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Upstate members aren’t the only lawmakers who are frustrated right now, as downstate progressive members of the state Senate and Assembly have expressed a growing anxiousness to return to Albany to pass legislation responding to the pandemic and to raise additional revenues to ward off the possibility of mid-year budget cuts.

The so-called upstate Democratic caucus began meeting informally after Heastie rose to power, with Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli, a Syracuse-area Democrat, serving as the group’s de facto leader. In 2017, Magnarelli told The Daily Star that the group was designed to highlight issues the upstate members cared about, such as growing the region’s economy.

A source familiar with the unofficial caucus said the group has never really been recognized by Heastie, although Friday’s meeting could suggest that may be changing.

As for the age-old question of where upstate begins, and by extension who is in the upstate caucus, the meeting is scheduled to include members representing areas north of Rockland County.

 

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