Public Affairs Update | By Stephen W. Rice
The 2014 elections are history and the 2015 congressional and state legislative sessions are underway, launched by President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s combined State of the State message and 2015-16 state budget presentation, entitled the “2015 Opportunity Agenda.”
In Washington, Republicans enjoy their largest majority in the House of Representatives since the Hoover administration in the late 1920s, and now also control the U.S. Senate. This means that the GOP now controls both the House financial services and Senate banking committees.
In Albany, Republicans won outright control of the State Senate, obviating their reliance on their coalition with the breakaway Independent Democrats caucus that ruled the chamber the past two years. The coalition continues, but with significantly less influence for the IDC. The Assembly remains overwhelmingly Democratic, but with the resignation of Sheldon Silver there is now a new speaker, Carl Heastie (D-Bronx), for the first time since 1994.
For New York’s community banks, and for IBANYS, the new political landscape means renewed efforts to inform and educate our federal and state legislators and administration officials about the priorities and needs of our industry, and the importance of community banks to our local and state economies, customers and communities.
There are four new members of our New York Congressional Delegation: Lee Zeldin (R-Long Island), Kathleen Rice (D-Queens), Elise Stefanik (R-North Country) and John Katko (R-Central N.Y.). Stefanik is the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. A fifth new member will be added once a special election fills the seat of former Rep. Michael Grimm (R-Staten Island), who resigned.
Four New Yorkers serve on the key Financial Services Committee: Peter King (R-Long Island) and Greg Meeks (D-Queens), Nydia Velazquez (D-Queens) and Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan). Meanwhile, Charles Rangel (D-Harlem) and Joseph Crosley (D-Queens) serve on the powerful Ways & Means Committee. In the Senate, Chuck Schumer sits on the Finance and the Banking committees and is a key member of Senate Democratic leadership, and Kirstin Gillibrand serves on the Agriculture Committee.
In Albany, as the governor begins his second term, we have a number of new legislators, a new state tax commissioner, a new state budget director and many new senior administration officials.
The legislative agendas are now taking shape. In Albany, the governor proposed a $141.6 billion budget that would, among other things, provide property tax relief, small business tax cuts and raise the minimum wage. After a series of 11 legislative budget hearings, the budget process will work toward the April 1 deadline.
Meanwhile, IBANYS will represent the interests of our member banks on, among other things, issues related to taxes, powers, regulatory relief and opposing efforts to further empower tax-exempt credit unions creating an even more unfair playing field.
In Washington, ICBA has unveiled the 2015 “Plan for Prosperity” regulatory relief program for community banks. IBANYS will once again be working to support this important plan.
While the faces and names in power may change, IBANYS’ mission does not. We will work toward an environment that recognizes and supports the crucial contributions of New York community banks, provides them with what they need to survive and thrive, and reduces or removes restrictions and burdens that threaten their ability to serve our communities.
We invite you to join us in this cause, and in our legislative outreach efforts. Together, our voices will be heard loud and clear throughout the halls of Albany and Washington.■
Steve Rice coordinates government relations and communications for the Independent Bankers Association of New York State. He has worked in the New York banking industry and New York state government for more than three decades.