When Representative Lee Zeldin released his Top 10 complaints about Governor Kathy Hochul last month, unsurprisingly most of them were crime-related. This has been the main political element of his platform. He said he would replace the Manhattan District Attorney on “Day one“, when in reality it will be a little more complicated than that. And on other issues, such as abortion rights and congestion pricing, it’s unclear what he could accomplish alone as governor — given the hurdles within the US legislature. state, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the federal government and others.
Zeldin said he would appoint a pro-life health commissioner and end the congestion pricing plan in New York. None of these issues have been listed on Zeldin’s campaign website, and the Zeldin campaign did not respond to multiple requests for comment. If Zeldin is indeed elected governor, what can he actually do on these three key issues?
Be pro-life in a pro-choice state
Following the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson who ended nearly 50 years of federal abortion protections, it was one of the biggest issues in New York’s August special election for Congress and will be again mid- term, including running for governor. “I think this is a major concern for the Zeldin campaign. … He really can’t run away from the national dialogue on abortion rights,” said Javier Lacayo, political media strategist and senior vice president. from the SKDK, to City & State.
Zeldin has made his anti-abortion stance clear throughout his political career. He co-sponsored a bill that was introduced last year to implement a federal ban on abortions after 20 weeks. During a month of April virtual town hall With the New York State Right to Life Committee, Rep discussed having a state health commissioner who opposes abortion rights. “I think it would be a great benefit for New York State to have a health commissioner who is pro-life instead of what we’re used to,” Zeldin said.
Perhaps that is the extent of what he could accomplish. Legislatively, Zeldin could do little to weaken the set of abortion laws that Hochul enacted in the wake of the Dobbs decision that protects reproductive health care providers and makes the state a safe haven for those seeking an abortion. He also wouldn’t have much success in making changes to the landmark Reproductive Health Act, which enshrined the right to abortion in state law.
Zeldin has publicly stated that he has without intention to limit or restrict access to abortion by executive order and assured voters that he supports the checks and balances of the state legislature. But governors hold a lot of power over the state budget. Political observers have pointed to the possibility that Zeldin could restrict access to abortions by cutting state funding to reproductive health care providers and withholding Plan B funding. Still, he is expected to work with the government-controlled legislature. Democrats to pass these changes. “The budget is one of the greatest tools of the Legislative Assembly and the greatest sources of power in the state,” Lacayo said. “(Zeldin) would face major headwinds”.
Zeldin would need to decide what issues to fight with the legislature, and abortion would likely be a losing issue for him.
James Batista, a political science professor at the University at Buffalo, said if Zeldin won, the state legislature could decide to strip the governor of his powers. “It’s virtually certain that the Legislative Assembly and the current governor would act to shore up abortion rights and to take away the powers of the governor over things he could otherwise do by executive order,” Batista said. The left would pull a page out of the GOP’s playbook, as this strategy is more common when a Democrat wins the gubernatorial race in a state with a Republican-controlled legislature, such as Kentucky and Wisconsin.
State Senator Anna Kaplan, a member of the Women’s Issues Committee, said, “Zeldin wants to deprive women of their rights and their ability to make their own health decisions and access their own health care. reproductive. She pointed to the power of the state Legislature to vote on the state budget and said she would not simply allow a governor to attack abortion rights through the budget. . “We would have strong authority and let it be known that this is not the agenda we want and we cannot have it in the budget,” Kaplan said.
Kaplan also confirmed that she and her Albany colleagues are “working on other laws to see how (they) can protect women in New York State,” but did not confirm additional details. “We can’t overlook anything,” she said.
Criticisms of congestion pricing
After years of stalled progress in implementing congestion pricing in New York, the plan and the heated debate surrounding it have intensified in recent months.
With congestion pricing, drivers will be rang anywhere between $9 and $23 to enter Midtown Manhattan south of 60th Street. Tolls, by law, must bring in at least $1 billion in annual revenue to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to fund signal upgrades and repairs in the capital plan.
While Hochul has been on board with congestion pricing, there is still at least a year before the entry into force of the tolls. Zeldin called congestion pricing a “scam” and critical the transportation plan during the campaign in Rockland County earlier this month and on social networks.
“Congestion pricing is one of Albany’s worst ideas in a long time and that’s saying a lot. Kathy Hochul couldn’t be more wrong to peddle this massive new tax on cash-strapped NYers. Governor, I will do everything in my power to kill him! Zeldin wrote on Twitter.
Sam Schwartz, a transport analyst, said politicians are against congestion pricing to “score political points” with drivers who don’t want to pay extra tolls. “It’s dishonest for any politician to cling to this cloak of anti-congestion pricing,” Schwartz said of those taking a stand against the plan when there are currently tolls to get to Staten Island and for enter the city from New Jersey.
Asked about Zeldin’s criticisms of congestion pricing, MTA officials referenced a recent board meeting where the agency’s President and CEO, Janno Lieber, answered reporters’ questions about critics of congestion pricing. “Do these people really believe what is happening in New York? Did they go to New York? You know, we have a problem in our country, we have climate deniers, we have election deniers. It looks like we have Holocaust deniers now,” Lieber said.
Schwartz said Zeldin, if elected, would have the power to “thwart” congestion pricing. He pointed the 1970s when then-Mayor John Lindsay wanted to implement a version of congestion pricing that was approved by the federal government. Years later Mayor Abe Beame was elected and abolished the tolls.
As governor, Zeldin would have the power to appoint the MTA’s chairman and board members who would play a central role in implementing congestion pricing. “(Zeldin) will likely pick someone in line with him on congestion pricing, someone who would throw every hurdle in the way and not chase contracts to implement it,” Schwartz said.
Day one decision
Zeldin focused much of his campaign on crime and criticized Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and bail reform.
Like many Republicans, Zeldin blamed Bragg for the rise in crime and called on the governor to remove the district attorney. Although Hochul did not, Zeldin pledged to remove Bragg immediately upon his election.
“My first act on my first day in office is to tell Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg that he’s going to be fired,” Zeldin said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Richard Briffault, a professor at Columbia Law School, said the governor could have “ultimate authority” to remove or suspend a district attorney, but there would have to be grounds for the removal. “It’s unclear what ’cause’ they would have and the DA would definitely be in a good position to fight it,” Briffault said of Zeldin’s promise to remove Bragg. “It would be a major project to show that the governor’s action was justified.”
According to constitution of the statethe governor may remove a public officer during his term of office but must first “give that officer a copy of the charges against him and an opportunity to be heard in his defence”.
Below Section 34 of the State Public Officials Act, the governor has the power to remove public officials following an investigation of the charges. After the investigation, a hearing must be held by a Supreme Court judge, county judge or commissioner. The governor cannot remove a public officer without a hearing.
“No evidence gathered in any such investigation shall form the basis of a report to the Governor or the basis of any decision by the Governor unless such evidence is presented at the hearing provided for in this article,” according to state law.
If elected, Zeldin would have the power to review the charges against Bragg – but not immediately fire him on day one.
Asked about Zeldin’s vow to remove Bragg, the district attorney’s office pointed out a meeting Bragg did so on NY1 in June where he addressed criticism from Republican gubernatorial candidates of his policy of prosecuting nonviolent crimes.
“Well, I would ask them to look at the file. I have been a career prosecutor for over 20 years and we are delivering results. … Homicides (are) down. Shootouts (are) down – a lot more work to do. We’re going to focus on work, not politics,” Bragg said.