In the latest from Albany and Washington …

Congress begins paging through the President’s proposed budget for the country while both legislative chambers in New York state plan to release their fiscal plans for the state this week. The state Assembly passed measures to raise the minimum age to purchase tobacco and vaping products, and passed a bill that updates storage requirements for gun-owners. Rep. Reed also scored a symbolic victory in Washington with his Problem Solvers Caucus’ House rules reforms coming into play for the first time on the chamber’s floor.

Rep. Tom Reed (23rd Congressional District)

The White House sent its Fiscal Year 2020 budget to Congress on Monday, allowing lawmakers to mill over the plan and, as is usually the case, rewrite most of it. One Capitol Hill adage on the budget goes, “the White House proposes and Congress disposes.” This year, with Democratic control over the House, President Trump’s budget will no doubt see a great deal of changes.

Rep. Tom Reed is remaining coy on the plan so far. “The president’s budget is just that. It’s the President’s vision as to where we need to go as a country under his proposed budget direction. Now Congress is going to weigh in,” Reed told The Hill on Monday.

The House passed the Democrats’ H.R. 1 last week, which would provide for electoral and voting reforms like publicly financed elections, would require presidential candidates to release their tax returns, a federal election day holiday and additional voting security provisions. The bill passed strictly along party lines with Reed voting against it. Republicans in the Senate have already expressed that the bill won’t be brought up in their chamber.

H.R. 1 did, however, give an opportunity to the Problem Solvers Caucus, which Reed co-chairs, to exercise some of the rules reforms they pushed for earlier this year. One of the new rules of the House requires any amendment to a bill with 20 Republican and 20 Democratic co-sponsors to be brought up on the floor. Under this rule, downstate NY Rep. Tom Suozzi brought up an amendment that would require the FEC to audit for foreign illicit campaign contributions. It was agreed to in the House by voice vote.

As a side note, Reed no longer has a district office in Ithaca. His office said they closed the Ithaca office at the beginning of the year and he is instead doing office hours at Ithaca City Hall twice a month. Reed will also host regular office hours in town halls in surrounding communities in Tompkins County. Reed will be hosting remote office hours from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, March 19 in the Pistachio Room at Ithaca City Hall, 108 E. Green St., Ithaca. For future office hours in Tompkins County, his office said to check his Facebook page for an updated schedule.

Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton (D-125th Assembly District)

Both the Assembly and state Senate are set to release their draft budgets for the 2019-20 fiscal year this week. While the budgets, of course, plan for and appropriate the state’s funds for a given year, they also now contain relatively unrelated legislative proposals. Last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo highlighted three main legislative measures that he wants to see included in the budgets: recreational marijuana legalization, a cap on the maximum raise a locality can make in property taxes each year, and congestion pricing on New York City taxi cabs.

Barbara Lifton

Neither Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins have revealed whether they will fall directly in-line with the Governor’s proposal in their own budgets. The three parties have until March 31 to hammer out a deal.

The Assembly also passed a bill that would raise the legal age to purchase tobacco products and vape pens to 21. It also passed legislation that would require gun owners store their firearms according to specific state regulations geared towards preventing accidental misuse by children. Lifton voted in favor of both bills. The Senate hasn’t picked up either at this point.

Related: Tompkins County raises tobacco purchase age to 21

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

Since Democrats now control the chamber, Senator Tom O’Mara may not have much sway in the budget negotiations, but he’s certainly unopposed to the Governor’s proposal to make property tax caps permanent.

“Make no mistake, the property tax cap has been successful and provided local property taxpayers with billions of dollars in savings over the past several years.  It should be made permanent,” O’Mara said in a January press release.

O’Mara rallied in Albany last week with some other upstate lawmakers as part of the “Local Roads Matter” coalition. He boasted $128 million in funding to repair local roads, including $950,000 which will come directly to Tompkins County.

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer & U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

The U.S. Senate, still in the hands of Republicans, spent last week churning out confirmations for the Trump administration including three circuit court judges and an Assistant Secretary of Commerce. Senator Gillibrand voted against all four of them. Schumer voted in favor of a nominee for the Commerce Department post and against the judicial nominees.

Since declaring her bid for the White House early this year, Senator Gillibrand has only missed three of 41 votes. It’s been over a month since she’s missed one.

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...