In the latest from Albany and Washington… New York Democrats push through the Child Victims Act and a set of firearms bills, O’Mara shoots back, Reed blasts Higgins over pre-existing conditions, Gillibrand backs the Green New Deal, and Schumer visits the Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport to push for a federal grant to help with the major redevelopment project underway.

Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton (125th Assembly District)

The Democratic-controlled legislature in Albany continues to churn out new legislation. Two weeks ago the chamber passed six bills tightening firearms restrictions across the state. Lifton voted in favor of all of them. The bills include a ban on bump stocks, a ban on teachers carrying firearms in school, set up a municipal gun buyback program and extend the background check period for initial denials.

That same week, the legislature passed the Child Victims Act, a piece of legislation, previously held up by Senate Republicans, that extends the statute of limitations on child sexual abuse and assault cases. Lifton was a cosponsor on the bill, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to sign into law this week.

Getting less attention than some of the other major legislative moves in Albany was a bill, cosponsored by Lifton that directs the governor and Department of Environmental Conservation not to approve any new offshore oil drilling sites. This comes after the Trump administration rescinded an Obama-era ban on offshore drilling.

State Senator Tom O’Mara (58th N.Y. Senate District)

Despite voicing his opposition to the bill in last year’s session as well as on the 2018 campaign trail, O’Mara voted with all other Senate Republicans in favor of the Child Victims Act on the floor two weeks ago.

O’Mara was less forgiving on democrats’ firearms reforms passing through the Senate Judiciary Committee. The ranking member was especially vocal about providing state-funded civil legal representation to defendants in cases brought up under the new law which would make it easier to remove firearms from high-risk individuals.

“You’re going to have to seek your own counsel if you’re going to lose your house. You’re going to have to seek your own counsel if you’re going to lose your gun,” explained Judiciary Chair Brad Hoylman.

“Not when you’re being precluded from exercising a fundamental right under the U.S. constitution- counsel is provided,” O’Mara fired back. “This legislation doesn’t provide for that does it?”

“No,” replied the bill’s sponsor, Manhattan Senator Brian Kavanagh. “It is just not the case that we routinely provide counsel to people in civil proceedings where core rights are at stake.”

O’Mara also opposed a bill from the Democrats’ criminal justice reforms package that allows for parolees and those who have served criminal sentences to serve on juries.

Rep. Tom Reed (23rd Congressional District)

Reed didn’t hesitate to blast back at Buffalo Democratic Rep. Brian Higgins, who accused all Republicans of opposing the Affordable Care Act provision protecting coverage of pre-existing conditions.

“With great respect to my colleague from New York, who just articulated one of the greatest falsehoods I’ve ever heard uttered in this chamber on the Ways and Means Committee,” Reed replied to Higgins.

He later continued, “I stand here to articulate as a Republican and as a member on this dais on the Republican side that we take yes for an answer. We support the provision.”

That same week, Reed voted against a symbolic resolution condemning government shutdowns. 21 Republicans voted in favor of the measure which Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., called “a glorified press release.” The final bill was amended to remove a line directly blaming President Trump for the shutdown.

Reed also voted against raising the pay for civilian federal employees in 2019. The bill still passed with the support of 29 Republicans.

U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

Gillibrand joined other progressive Democrats last week in announcing her support for the Green New Deal initiative, a policy with the goal of massively overhauling the U.S. economy to eliminate carbon emissions.

Gillibrand voted against S.1, Republicans’ big symbolic first bill of the session, which renewed alliances in the Middle East by extending an arms deal with Jordan and loan programs with Israel. Sen. Chuck Schumer voted in favor of this measure, which passed 77-23.

Also, just checking in, Senator Gillibrand hasn’t missed any senate floor votes since her Jan. 15 trip to Iowa to campaign for President.

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer

Senator Schumer visited Ithaca-Tompkins International Airport last week to announce he was working on securing a $10 million grant for modernization and expansion projects.

“A modernized and expanded airport will be a significant economic driver for Ithaca, Tompkins County and the Southern Tier,” Schumer noted in a press release about the event. “That’s why I am calling on the FAA to approve the airport’s application for a $10 million grant from the Airport Improvement Program, which will get the second phase of this much-needed project off the ground.”

Read more about the visit here.

Vaughn Golden

Vaughn Golden is a freelance radio and print reporter covering politics around the southern tier and central New York. He authors the weekly "Capitol Watch" watchdog report on Ithaca's representatives...