Hopelessly Liberal’s November 23rd post offered some shelter from the coming storm, in state governments’ ability to advance progressive programs while we “figure out what the hell is going on” in Washington.¹
By virtue of its major nation-sized economy and progressive leadership, California is best situated to help hold things together. But New York, encompassing the world’s capital, is not merely chopped liver. Your blogger had two substantial tours in its government, his window faces the Chrysler Building and HL will from time to time chronicle whether and how New York acquits itself in this regard during the next four years – but sticks with its prediction that Trump will be knocked out no later than the third round. HL 12/12/16.
At the end of 2016 Governor Andrew Cuomo gave some indication of whether he will see and seize the opportunities for state leadership of elements on the national agenda – as occurred in his father’s administration and that of then New York A.G. Bob Abrams during the Reagan years.
A few things that occurred in New York government’s post-election activity provided mixed but generally positive signals. On the plus side was New York’s 12/31/16 progress toward a $15 per hour minimum wage. This is the clearest case where states are exercising leadership on a matter of vital national concern. Leadership is being ceded to the states by Trump and his Labor Secretary designee, Andrew Puzder, who both advocate abolishing the federal minimum currently set at $7.25. That is below a living wage in every part of the country. States like Georgia, whose minimum wage is a shameful $5.15 are betting they win a race to the bottom, but HL predicts, and history will prove them wrong.
Unfortunately, Cuomo appears to want to pay New York’s legislators the minimum wage, having blocked a proposed pay increase that would have been their first in 18 years. He did that by tying a pay increase to enactment of another round of ethics reform – following his termination of an ethics commission that got too close to exposing ethical lapses in his campaign and administration. A war between the legislature and governor will severely limit the state’s ability to enact progressive legislation.
Another bad year end sign was the Governor’s New Year’s Eve veto of a bipartisan bill that would have provided minimally adequate criminal representation for poor people in the state. On the plus side, on New Year’s Day, a new law went into effect funding a very progressive program for dealing with the catastrophic increase of opioid and other substance abuse and for treatment and recovery programs.
Picking up on one of Bernie Sanders signature initiatives, Cuomo has proposed major steps toward making public college tuition free once again, for poor and middle class students. Once again, because it once was free or virtually so in New York for all public college students, and not so very long ago.
Finally, for those who have followed Andrew’s career, the most stunning and wonderful end of year act was his commutation of the 75 years to life sentence being served by Judith Clark for being an accomplice to the felony murder of three law enforcers during the October 20, 1981 Brinks Robbery. Clark has served 35 years, mostly filled with acts of contrition and loving kindness, while maintaining a relationship with a daughter who was 11 months old the day Clark wittingly drove the robbery getaway car.
The safe thing for a governor seeking reelection and higher office would have been to just say “no” as his predecessor had. Cuomo’s action and his clearly expressed explanation were courageous and bode well for his future and that of the people he will serve.
¹All unattributed quotes in this and future posts are Donald Trump’s.