This year in albany 2019

A Message from CSEA President Danny Donohue

Brothers and sisters,

As all of you know by now, this will be my last letter to you as the President of CSEA.

Over my 26 years as President I have seen just about everything you can imagine in the legislative and political world. Good governors, bad governors, great friends in the legislature and others… not so much. As the leader of one of the biggest unions in the country, I’ve even dealt with one or two (or four) presidents.

I’ve participated in and led rallies that shut down the streets, huge lobby days, massive get-out-the-vote campaigns, and successful blitzes to keep this union strong. I’ve also attended one-on-one and small group meetings with CSEA members and elected officials where the power of this union was just as apparent.

I’ve seen great legislative victories, and some painful defeats. I’ve been at rowdy victory parties and seen the silent reflection in defeat.

Throughout all of this, one thing has always stood out to me.

Every day, the men and women represented by CSEA do amazing things. You make our communities, our state, and our country a better place to live, work, and play.

Whether fighting on behalf of legislation, trying to elect a candidate that shares our values, or just trying to make things a little bit better in your workplace, you are what makes this the best damn union in the country.

The legislative and political fights won’t stop or get easier once a new president takes office. They will need your help to make sure that the voice of this union continues to be heard in the halls of government across our state and in Washington.

I ask that you continue to do the good work that has taken us this far and will take us all to an even brighter future.

Thank you for being a CSEA member, and thank you for allowing me to serve as your President.

In solidarity,


Setting the Stage: 2018 Elections

From top left: Senator Fred Akshar, Congressman Anthony Brindisi, Congressman Antonio Delgado, Senator Daphne Jordan, Senator James Skoufis, Senator Rich Funke, Senator Jim Tedisco

The 2018 elections were one for the history books.

All 27 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, one U.S. Senate seat, the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, State Comptroller, and all 213 state legislative seats were on the ballot. Voter turnout and engagement was especially high during this cycle, and the elections would set the tone in Albany and Washington throughout 2019.

Statewide Offices

Andrew M. Cuomo was re-elected to serve his third term as Governor after a long and bitter primary battle against actress Cynthia Nixon and a General Election challenge from Dutchess County Executive Marcus Molinaro.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli was easily re-elected to a third term in 2018, securing more than twice as many votes as his Republican challenger Jonathan Trichter.

New York City Public Advocate Letitia James beat out three primary challengers to win the Democratic nomination for Attorney General. She then beat her Republican opponent handily in the general election to become the first woman and the first African-American to be elected Attorney General.


It was a dramatic start to the 2018 Congressional elections when Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez unseated incumbent Congressman and potential future Speaker of the House Joseph Crowley in one of the largest Primary upsets in modern memory in the 14th Congressional District.

Democratic success continued in the General Election when New York saw three of its red congressional seats turn blue, with Max Rose (CD11), Antonio Delgado (CD19), and Anthony Brindisi (CD22), all defeating Republican incumbents. Also of note, Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle (D-Rochester) left the Assembly to join Congress, representing the 25th Congressional District.

The progressive wave allowed Democrats to wrestle back control over the House of Representatives for the first time in eight years, while the Republicans held their control over the U.S. Senate. Nancy Pelosi (D-California) was elected for the second time in her career as Speaker of the House, and Kevin McCarthy (R-California) was elected as Minority Leader and leader of the Republican conference.

State Legislature

After nearly a decade of Republican control over the State Senate, the blue wave that swept across the nation was a tsunami in the New York State Legislature. The breadth of the change coming to Albany was seen in September, when seven sitting Democratic senators were defeated by Primary challengers attacking them from the left.

In the General Election, Democrats won eight seats previously held by Republicans on the road to the largest majority since 1912. Andrea Stewart-Cousins became the first black woman to serve as Senate Majority Leader, and the first woman to lead either legislative chamber in the state.

The last time the Democrats had control over the Senate, their majority was narrow and relatively short-lived. A decade after the political coup in 2009, many were still left with residual anxieties about how the 2019 legislative session was going to play out. It was an open question whether or not the Democrats, with a larger and significantly more liberal conference than seen before, could wield their power in a way that would be productive to their progressive agenda.

Federal Shutdown

Down in Washington, the 116th U.S. Congress was seated amidst a government that wasn’t even open for business.

The longest shutdown in U.S. history began on December 22, 2018, and carried on for a total of 35 days until January 25, 2019. The length of the shutdown created uncertainty over the reliability of federal funds heading into the 2019-20 State Fiscal Year, and raised concerns over the well-being of government employees and contractors that were not being paid.

The shutdown, caused in large part by a dispute over President Trump’s insistence on funding for the construction of a wall along the Mexican border, was eventually ended when Congress passed a spending bill and the President declared a national emergency at the border.

Year of the Progressive

Under the leadership of the new Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, the legislature wasted no time to prove that the 2019 legislative session would be different than the last time Democrats had full control. Big ticket issues that many of the new members campaigned on were tackled within the first few weeks of session.

These early Democratic priorities included:

The “Reproductive Health Act,” to codify abortion provisions in state law and move them out of the criminal code;

Election reforms, including:

  • Merging the local Primary with the federal non-Presidential Primary on the fourth Tuesday in June;
  • Allowing for the voter preregistration of 16 year olds;
  • Closing the “LLC loophole” for campaign contributions;
  • Providing for early voting beginning with the 2019 General Election; and
  • Allowing for same-day voter registration and no-excuse absentee voting (Constitutional amendments that can’t go into effect until after Election Day 2021 at the earliest).

The DREAM Act to allow undocumented residents that graduate from New York State high schools to access financial aid for college from the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and the Excelsior Scholarship;

The Gender Expression and Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), to prohibit discrimination based on gender identity or expression and add transgender New Yorkers to the protected classes of the state’s Hate Crimes Law;

New gun regulations including measures to ban bump stocks, prohibit non-security personnel from carrying guns in schools, and extending the waiting period for gun buyers who do not pass an instant background check; and

The Child Victims Act to allow child victims of sexual abuse to seek prosecution against their abusers until the age of 55 in civil cases. The bill also opened up a one-year window, which began in August, for victims of any age to come forward to pursue a civil suit.

Democrats had been advocating for many of these bills for years, and acted quickly to pass them once they were in power.

Amazon Debacle

The first couple months of session saw many growing pains within the legislature, but no one could foresee the loss of 25,000 to 40,000 potential jobs in New York City after Amazon decided to pull its plans for a new headquarters in Queens.

The decision came after concerted opposition from community groups and elected officials that were not in favor of the tax subsidies the company was promised. Governor Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio were strong supporters of the deal, while the opposition from elected leaders in the state Senate sharply increased existing tensions between the Senate majority and the Governor’s office.

The 2019-20 State Budget

While progressives were still riding high from their elective and early legislative victories, optimism for the 2019-20 state budget was tempered by an increasing state deficit made worse by a sharp decrease in state income tax collections.

CSEA actively worked on a multitude of issues throughout budget negotiations, and we were successful both in advancing good proposals and stopping bad ones.

The following is a brief summary of the important issues tackled during budget negotiations.

Continuing the Fight Against Janus

To combat the effects of the 2018 Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision, Governor Cuomo proposed several new protections for public employees. These provisions, which CSEA strongly supported, successfully made it into the enacted budget.

These protections:

  • Made it an improper practice for a public employer to disclose the home address, personal telephone number, cell phone number, or personal email address of a public employee; and
  • Required public employers to provide a list of the name, address, job title, employing agency or department, and work location of all employees of a bargaining unit on a quarterly basis at the request of a union.

Local Governments

Despite strong opposition from CSEA and municipal leaders, cuts to the Aid and Incentives to Municipalities (AIM) program were included in the final budget agreement. The potentially devastating impact of these cuts were supposedly blunted by a requirement for counties to cover the loss of AIM funding from increased sales tax collections that were anticipated following an expansion of sales tax collections, which was also included in the enacted budget.

The budget also made the property tax cap permanent and provided $200 million in local funding for “Raise the Age”

Prison Closures

The final budget gave the Executive authority to close up to three correctional facilities with only 90-days’ notice instead of legally required one-year notice. The closure plan proposed to eliminate approximately 1,200 vacant beds and give staff at the facilities the option to transfer to other prisons or state agencies. It was later announced that Lincoln Correctional Facility in New York City and Livingston Correctional Facility in the Finger Lakes Region would close.


The enacted budget increased Medicaid spending to $19.6 billion, an increase of $550 million. The budget also increased funding for enhanced safety-net hospitals from $50 million to $82 million, and required the state Department of Health to complete a study on how staffing enhancements can improve patient safety and the quality of care in hospitals and nursing homes. The report on this study is due by December 31, 2019.

CSEA successfully pushed back against the elimination of State support to the three SUNY hospitals. The enacted budget allowed the state to pay for SUNY hospital operating costs or the debt service payments for the hospitals and kept the hospitals financially whole.


CSEA successfully fought back proposed increases to retiree health care costs that would have limited the State’s reimbursement of Medicare Part B premiums to $135.50 per month, eliminated the State reimbursement of Medicare Income-Related Monthly Adjustment Amount (IRMAA), and created a sliding scale of what the state would contribute for retiree health insurance for new employees.

Election Reforms

Despite CSEA’s active lobbying against such a proposal, the enacted budget created a commission to study a system of public financing of political campaigns for legislative and statewide offices and the potential elimination of “fusion voting.”

The commission was given authority to develop a plan to spend up to $100 million annually in public funds to match private campaign contributions. New York City currently has a public financing system where each dollar in private contributions is matched with eight dollars in public funds, up to a certain limit. So, for example, if a private contributor gives $100 to a candidate it will be matched by $800 in public matching funds for a total contribution of $900. The Commission was tasked with creating a similar system for the rest of the state. The Commission has until December 1, 2019 to submit their report, which will be binding unless the legislature otherwise acts on it before December 22, 2019.

CSEA Issue Spotlight: Public Financing

“Fusion voting” refers to the current system in New York where multiple parties can endorse the same candidate in a race. The Commission was also given authority to examine this practice and determine whether such a system should be eliminated.

Additionally, the budget established an online voter registration system, required polls to be open from 6am-9pm for Primary Elections in every county, and allowed employees to take up to three hours off to vote.


The enacted budget included several provisions relating to revenue collection.

These included:

  • A five year extension of the “Millionaire’s Tax”;
  • Creating uniformity in the collections of sales taxes from online marketplaces;
  • A congestion pricing plan for the Central Business District in NYC to provide a dedicated funding stream for the MTA;
  • Additional real estate and “Mansion” taxes on homes worth over $2 million in New York City, also to fund the MTA;
  • A new 20% tax on the retail sale of vaping products; and
  • A tax on opioids.

Other major provisions

  • A ban on single-use plastic bags;
  • The elimination of cash bail for misdemeanors and non-violent felonies;
  • A 2% cost-of-living adjustment for not-for-profit direct care workers on January 1, 2020 and another 2% on April 1, 2020;
  • A $1 billion increase in education aid, with a requirement that aid be more focused to poorer schools;
  • A $27 million increase in child care subsidies; and
  • DOB “Superpowers” to make mid-year budget cuts if tax receipts or federal support is lower than expected.

Issues that Were Not Included in the Budget

CSEA was successful in stopping a proposal that would have allowed for the outsourcing of the maintenance and operations work of state employees working for the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).

CSEA also successfully pushed back against the expansion of design-build to additional agencies and projects.

Unfortunately, proposals to address work zone safety and transportation worker protections were left out of the final budget, despite CSEA’s advocacy.

A proposal to legalize the adult use of recreational marijuana was not included in the final budget.

Post-Budget Legislation

Pension Fund Divestment

The State Senate Committee on Finance held a public hearing on April 30, 2019 on the issue of divesting the NYS Common Retirement Fund from fossil fuels. CSEA submitted testimony in opposition to this idea.

While environmental advocates framed this issue as strictly a debate over environmental protections, CSEA recognized the broader issues with such a proposal.

CSEA argued that the New York State Comptroller has a fiduciary responsibility to the 1.1 million members of the New York State Common Retirement Fund. It is the Comptroller’s responsibility to invest and grow the Fund’s assets to ensure that the retirement benefits earned by its members are protected and available when they retire. Divestment mandates would make it more difficult for the Fund to make prudent investment decisions and would limit available growth opportunities to ensure the fund is solvent for current and future retirees.

Under the leadership of Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, New York has one of the best managed and best funded pension systems in the country. Opening up investment decisions to political trade winds runs the risk of jeopardizing the financial security of over one million current and future retirees.

Single Payer Health Care

One of the most ambitious ideas under consideration during the 2019 legislation session was a bill to establish a single-payer healthcare system in New York, known as the “New York Health Act.”

In May, the Senate and Assembly Health committees held a joint hearing on the bill. CSEA testified to express our concerns with the proposal.

CSEA has supported universal healthcare for decades and continues to believe that every person in our nation should have access to quality care without the fear of being denied critical services or going bankrupt. However, our testimony stressed that the proposed legislation left too many crucial questions unanswered.

First, the bill did not address what such a program would cost. Estimates ranged from $92 billion to $226 billion, and the bill did not provide any clarity.

Second, the bill would replace all employer-sponsored health insurance. CSEA members are covered by 1,100 contracts across the state, and all of the health care provisions negotiated in those contracts would be replaced with a single, uniform policy. Years of givebacks would be ignored and employees would be responsible for a 20% payroll tax (of an undetermined amount), which would be a large increase in costs for many.

Finally, the bill’s potential impact on retirees was very unclear, especially for those living out of state.

Because of the issues outlined in our testimony, CSEA opposed this legislation, and will continue to do so until clear answers can be provided to show that such a proposal would not harm CSEA members.

School Safety

In June, CSEA joined with the New York State United Teachers and the New York State AFL-CIO to rally for improved school safety and security. The rally was extremely successful, as three important pieces of legislation to address school safety would pass both houses of the legislature before the end of June. See the “Legislative Summary” section of this report for more details.

End of Session

During the final weeks of the legislative session, negotiations between the legislature and Executive continued on issues that were not included in the budget. The legislature continued to pass legislation as these negotiations were ongoing.

In light of the recent measles epidemic, the Assembly and Senate narrowly passed legislation to repeal exemptions for children whose parents have non-medical objections to immunizations, thereby requiring all children to be vaccinated in order to attend school or day care. The state will now only recognize exemptions where a physician certifies that immunizations would be detrimental to a child’s health. CSEA did not take a position on this legislation.

The state’s rent control laws were set to expire on June 15, 2019 and the legislature successfully reached an eleventh hour agreement to strengthen and make them permanent. Seeking to address concerns about housing costs that are driving the debate over inequality, the historic deal gave New York State tenants the strongest protections to date. This legislation made the rent regulation system permanent, allowed many municipalities across the state to opt into the system, and significantly increased tenant protections. CSEA was not involved in these negotiations.

The legislature also passed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act to require that statewide greenhouse gas emissions limits be regulated to reduce emissions by 85 percent by 2050, and a process be established to ensure that a minimum of 35 percent of investments from clean energy and energy efficient funds are invested in disadvantaged communities.

Further, the legislature passed additional funding for capital projects that were left out of the 2019-20 budget. This legislation included an additional $65 million for local roads and bridges through the CHIPS program for winter recovery, and an additional $20 million in library construction aid.

The legislature and executive could not reach an agreement on several issues, including legalizing recreational marijuana, expanding prevailing wage statutes, and priority CSEA bills including bills to improve work zone safety, establish caseload standards for child protective service workers, and bills to improve pension benefits. CSEA will continue to advocate for these bills and will re-up our efforts in 2020.

2019 Legislative Summary

The 2019 legislative session was an extremely productive one, both for CSEA and for the legislature. There were 935 bills passed by both houses in 2019, compared to only 606 during 2017, the first year of the previous session.

CSEA was successful in getting numerous pieces of legislation passed by both houses of the legislature and will now be lobbying the Governor to sign them into law.

The following is a summary of legislation that impacts CSEA members.

Bills signed into law

Farmworker Labor Protections

A.8419 (Nolan) / S.6578 (Ramos)

CSEA Position: Support

Chapter 105 of the Laws of 2019

This bill provides fair labor practices for farm workers including the right to collectively bargain, mandated rest time, overtime compensation, and unemployment insurance.

UCS-CSEA Contract

A.8189 (Dinowitz) / S.6385 (Hoylman)

CSEA Position: Support

Chapter 288 of the Lows of 2019

This legislation implements the collective bargaining agreement that was reached between the CSEA and the NYS Unified Court System.

Matt Howe Memorial Highway

S.4915A (Akshar) / A.7696A (Friend)

CSEA Position: Support

Chapter 158 of the Laws of 2019

This bill would name a portion of the state highway system as the "Dennis 'Matt' Howe Memorial Highway." Matt Howe was a CSEA-represented Department of Transportation (DOT) worker that lost his life from injuries sustained when a vehicle collided with a DOT truck in an active work zone. While this legislation can’t ease the pain of Matt’s loss to his family, loved ones, and co-workers, it provides recognition of his dedication to public service. It will help make sure that he is not forgotten, and help raise awareness of the need to protect all our transportation workers who put their lives at risk just by doing their jobs.

School Bus Cameras

A.4950B (Magnarelli) / S.4524B (Kennedy)

CSEA Position: Support

Chapter 145 of the Laws of 2019

This legislation allows a municipality (county, city, town, or village) to adopt a local law to establish a program for school bus cameras. The program would allow the municipality to install and operate either stationary cameras or cameras on buses. The cost of this program will be paid by the municipality. This legislation specifically states that the images captured by the cameras are inadmissible in any disciplinary proceeding of a school district employee or bus contractor. The violations for passing a school bus and being caught on camera are: 1st Offense - $250 / 2nd Offense (within 18 months) - $275 / 3rd Offense (within 18 months) - $300. 90% of the fines will be paid to the county in which the violation occurred and 10% to the city, town, or village where the violation occurred.

World Trade Center Pension

A.8278C (Weprin) / S.5898D (Gaughran)

CSEA Position: Support

Chapter 252 of the Laws of 2019

This legislation would grant a ¾ disability pension to any member of the State and Local Employee Retirement System or the Teachers’ Retirement System who becomes sick or disabled due to an illness connected with their work during the rescue, recovery, or cleanup at the World Trade Center site.

Emergency Hospital Charges Protections

A.264B (Cahill) / S.3171A (Krueger)

CSEA Position: Support

Chapter 375 of 2019

This legislation would establish consumer protections against excessive hospital emergency charges when a patient is in an out-of-network health care facility.

Bills awaiting action

Section 80 Rights

A.7248 (Abbate) / S.5291 (Gounardes)

CSEA Position: Support

This legislation would grant section 80 rights, relating to bumping, retreating, and recall rights after a job is abolished, to all non-competitive and labor class employees in the state. Currently, no labor class employees receive these rights unless it is dictated in statute. In addition, only state employees in the non-competitive class are entitled to these rights. This legislation creates a statewide uniform practice under section 80.

OPWDD Notice of Suspension

A.7199 (Gunther) / S.5315 (Carlucci)

CSEA Position: Support

Current law requires the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) to give 90 days’ notice prior to closing or transferring the operation of an Individualized Residential Alternative (IRA) to a not-for-profit. This legislation would require this notice also be given if they “suspend service” at an IRA.

Monthly OMH Reports

S.5941 (Carlucci) / A.7611 (Gunther)

CSEA Position: Support

This legislation would require the Office of Mental Health to provide the legislature and public a monthly report detailing inpatient hospital census information and any investments made into community based providers.

DMNA Disability Pension

A.4436 (Abbate) / S.3801 (Skoufis)

CSEA Position: Support

This legislation would grant firefighters employed by the Division of Military and Naval Affairs a 50% final average salary disability pension if they become physically or mentally incapacitated because of a disability that is sustained in the performance of duty.

Nassau County Fire Marshals

S.3813 (Kaplan) / A.5820 (Abbate)

CSEA Position: Support

This legislation would grant fire marshals employed by Nassau County a performance of duty disability benefit. The benefit would be 50% of an employees’ final average salary.

Nassau County Police Medics

S.5133 (Kaplan) / A.5324 (Abbate)

CSEA Position: Support

This legislation would grant ambulance medical technicians (now known as police medics) employed by Nassau County a performance of duty disability benefit. The benefit would be 50% of an employees’ final average salary.

School Safety Plans

S.5705 (Mayer) / A.7538A (Benedetto)

CSEA Position: Support

This bill would require school bus drivers and monitors to be included in district-wide and building-level school safety teams. This will help to ensure that school safety plans consider the expertise and experience of school bus personnel to provide a safer environment for students and staff.

Workplace Violence in Schools

S.1720 (Ramos) / A.6157 (Titus)

CSEA Position: Support

This bill would include public schools within the definition of employers required to develop and implement programs to prevent workplace violence. Currently, public schools are exempted from this requirement.

Comptroller Audit Powers

A.7476 (Magnarelli) / S.5445 (Skoufis)

CSEA Position: Support

This bill would expand the oversight authority of the Office of the State Comptroller to include private organizations controlled by local government entities. This would increase transparency and accountability for entities like local development corporations (LDCs) that local governments are increasingly using to finance their day-to-day operations.

Combat Veteran Paid Time Off

A.1093B (Paulin) / S.5285A (Brooks)

CSEA Position: Support

This bill would grant local government employees that are combat veterans with additional leave time for health services relating to their military service. State employees received this benefit in April 2019.

Retiree Earnings Cap

S.1866B (Breslin) / A.2858B (McDonald)

CSEA Position: Oppose

This legislation increases the amount that public sector retiree may earn in a public-sector job from $30,000 to $35,000. CSEA opposes this legislation because it eliminates promotional opportunities for less senior employees when more senior jobs are held by retirees. It also eliminates entry level jobs for new employees looking for a career because jobs can be filled by retirees.

Left Unfinished

New York Health Act

A.5248 (Gottfried) / S.3577 (Rivera)

CSEA Position: Oppose

Status: Assembly Committee on Health/ Senate Committee on Health

This legislation would create a single-payer health insurance system in New York. All residents would be covered by the same plan. Any current health plan you have negotiated in your collective bargaining agreement would be eliminated. CSEA had previously testified against this legislation and will continue to lobby against it.

DMNA 25 Year Pension

A.7615A (Abbate) / S.5286 (Skoufis)

CSEA Position: Support

Status: Assembly Floor / Passed Senate

This legislation would grant firefighters employed by the Division of Military and Naval Affairs a 50% final average salary pension after 25 years of work in that title.

Independent Hearing Officer

S.5205 (Gounardes) / A.7624 (Abbate)

CSEA Position: Support

Status: Senate Floor / Assembly Floor

Under a Section 75 disciplinary procedure, the employer picks who the hearing officer is. This legislation amends this law so that the hearing officer is independent from both the employer and employee.

Work Zone Safety

S.6094 (Kennedy) / A.8208 (Magnarelli)

CSEA Position: Support

Status: Senate Committee on Finance/Assembly Committee on Transportation

This bill would increase penalties for endangering a highway worker, promote work zone safety awareness, and create additional resources for work zone safety enforcement and enhancement.

CPS Caseloads

A.7581 (Jaffee) / S.5809 (Montgomery)

CSEA Position: Support

Status: Assembly Committee on Children & Families / Senate Committee on Children & Families

This legislation would institute a statewide cap on the number of cases that a child protective services employee may have at one time.

Teaching Assistants Disciplinary Rights

A.7245 (Abbate) / No Senate Sponsor

CSEA Position: Support

Status: Assembly Committee on Governmental Employees

This legislation would grant disciplinary rights, like those in section 75 of the Civil Service Law, to part-time teaching assistants. Currently, these employees are not afforded any statutory disciplinary rights.

Recreational Marijuana

A.1617B (Peoples-Stokes) / S.1527B (Krueger)

CSEA Position: No Position

Status: Assembly Committee on Codes/ Senate Committee on Finance

This legislation would legalize adult-use recreational marijuana.

Produced by CSEA's Legislative & Political Action Department, October 2019


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