Where’s Kathy?

Last updated on June 7, 2024

With help from Shawn Ness

Gov. Kathy Hochul has not made a public appearance since she announced she was suspending her congestion pricing plan.

THEY DON’T HAVE THE VOTES: Gov. Kathy Hochul is still MIA since her last-minute decision to suspend congestion pricing Wednesday morning via video message. And a legislative leader’s transatlantic vacation threatens to ensure New Yorkers are left without a solution to the $1 billion hole for the country’s largest transit system as legislators head home for the year.

Lawmakers continue to scramble in Albany during the final hours of this year’s legislative session after the governor’s congestion pricing reversal forced them to find $1 billion worth of the revenue they have lost from the nixed toll plan.

The problem is that they have just hours — not days — to resolve this funding emergency. And an even bigger problem is that many of them don’t want to.

“The governor is pointing an unloaded gun at us and asking us to give her the ammunition to shoot us and our constituents,” state Sen. Julia Salazar said in a statement.

At least two solutions to fix the funding gap have already failed to meet the mark so far. An eleventh-hour plan to increase a tax on New York City businesses died Thursday after lawmakers immediately nixed it. Another proposal was panned this morning after it became clear there wasn’t enough support. Prominent Democrats, including Manhattan Sen. Andrew Gounardes and Queens Sen. Jessica Ramos, said they would not vote for the second idea of dipping into the state’s general fund to provide $1 billion a year as a guarantee against a bond.

Now Democratic legislative leaders are trying to devise a third solution they can gin up support for before heading home. Legislators are firm on leaving Albany by sunup tomorrow — and they’re not coming back up until January. (Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie is said to have booked a ticket on a jet plane to Europe tomorrow.)

When asked repeatedly about his trip abroad — which makes it all but certain that the lower chamber won’t have any time tomorrow to fix the issue — Heastie didn’t deny his trip to reporters. He then turned to your Playbook reporter and snapped, “Where are you going tomorrow?”

And in the midst of it all, the governor has sequestered herself behind closed doors — declining to answer questions or face the public after making one of the most consequential policy decisions of her tenure.

But she can’t hide forever. She’s scheduled to make a fundraising appearance at a brunch sponsored by the Saratoga County Democrats on Saturday ahead of the Belmont Stakes.

“She’s wrong to not take questions,” Ramos said. “It’d be really disappointing if she’s avoiding the public unless people are donating.”

Another lawmaker offered a similar take: “If [Hochul] actually believed her congestion pricing betrayal was popular, you’d think she’d be out there bragging about it. Instead she’s hiding,” Assemblymember Emily Gallagher posted on X.

Hochul’s political and government communications teams did not respond to Playbook’s requests for comment.  — Jason Beeferman

Assemblymember Kenneth Zebrowski wants to pass a bill that would ban the devocalization of dogs and pets before the end of session today.

A PURRFECT END TO SESSION? Both houses of the Legislature are advancing a bill to ban the surgical devocalization of cats and dogs.

“It is a horrific practice to literally rip the vocal cords out of an animal because you don’t like the sound they make,” Senate sponsor Mike Gianaris said. “Anyone who’s willing to do that to their pets doesn’t deserve to have a pet.”

The bill passed the Senate this afternoon. A version in the Assembly sponsored by Ken Zebrowski has been moving through committee in recent days; Zebrowski says he “hopes to get it done” before the chamber wraps up in the coming hours.

“Devocalization is a convenience surgery that can cause long-term harm to the animals affected by it, and it doesn’t address the root cause of the barking,” said the Humane Society of the United States’ Brian Shapiro. “It’s an animal in distress, and this type of convenience surgery is not in the best interest of the animal.” — Bill Mahoney

— FOLLOW THE UNEXPECTED LEADER: State legislators want to import drugs from Canada in bulk, a move that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis implemented in his home state earlier this year. The state is looking to import drugs to treat diseases like HIV and AIDS, various mental illnesses and prostate cancer. (POLITICO Pro)

— NY HEAT ON ICE?: Lawmakers in the Assembly are still looking to pass the NY HEAT Act, which could wind up in a “Big Ugly” omnibus bill. Many lawmakers are cautiously optimistic that the bill will pass but have come to terms that it will be nowhere close to what it looked like when originally proposed. (State of Politics)

— TRACKING AMMO: Keeping up with Hochul’s emphasis on public safety, lawmakers are looking to advance a bill that would allow credit card companies to track gun and ammunition purchases. But it is still unclear if Hochul will sign the bill if it passes the Assembly today. (Times Union)