Flanagan Credits Klein On Paid Family Leave

Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan credited the leader of the Independent Democratic Conference Jeff Klein on Tuesday for advancing the paid family leave issue in the Legislature.

“Jeff Klein was way ahead of the curve on this and has put out proposals for the last couple of years,” Flanagan told a group of reporters following a news conference on agriculture issues. “I know several of our members have a keen interest in it as well.”

Klein, a Bronx Democrat who has been aligned with Senate Republicans, introduced legislation this week that allow workers who have four or more weeks in a row at a location earn some of their wage while on leave to care for a relative or a child.

Klein’s bill, which has no same-as bill in the Assembly, would allow employees that have worked four or more consecutive weeks at a location to earn parts of their wages while on leave to care for a relative or a child with a serious health condition.

The program once fully phased in would allow employees to earn 80 percent of their average weekly wage. Mainline Senate Democrats, too, have backed paid-family leave legislation in the Senate.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s legislation would require a $1 deduction from an employee’s paycheck once fully phased in.

Flanagan indicated that he was open to a compromise on paid-family leave, saying the GOP conference is studying other states that have such programs in place.

“The fact that it’s an employee-based contribution is a significant change and there are a number of other states that have paid family leave,” he said. “We are in the throes of looking at other models if you will and seeing what’s going on in other states.”

Flanagan was not bullish using an expanded temporary disability insurance fund to pay for the measure, which is supported by Assembly Democrats.

“I’m amazed that has not gone up in decades, so what the cost factors would be in that,” he said. “I’m honestly not sure at this point.”

Flanagan Backs Keeping Indian Point Open

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan does not believe the Indian Point nuclear facility in Westchester County should be shuttered, a move that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has long called for.

“It should stay open,” said Flanagan, a Republican from Suffolk County.

Flanagan’s stance puts him closer to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who this past summer questioned whether the plant should be shut down as well.

“I’m never really been one to have issue with nuclear plants,” Heastie said during a visit to Schenectady. “But the discussion really is to make sure — particularly because Indian Point does supply a lot of energy to New York City — we have to make sure all the lights come on in the city.”

Cuomo has taken a hard line on Indian Point, which is operated by Entergy Corp., primarily because of the facility’s proximity to a densely populated area of the state. Cuomo and state officials have pushed to keep another nuclear plant open, the James FitzPatrick Nuclear Plant in Oswego County, from closing and impacting 500 jobs.

Cuomo this weekend raised concerns about a recent tritium leak at the facility, but Flanagan said he didn’t have enough information to comment extensively on the issue.

“I would think anyone would be concerned that something like that happened,” Flanagan said.

Nassau County PBA Backs McGrath In SD-9

The Nassau County Police Benevolent Association endorsed on Tuesday Republican Chris McGrath to take the Senate seat formerly held by disgraced ex-Majority Leader Dean Skelos.

Both McGrath and Democratic Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky are running for the Senate seat in Nassau County in an April 19 special election.

In a statement, McGrath cited his own pro bono work helping secure coverage for first responders with health complications stemming from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

“I am deeply honored and proud to receive the endorsement of the Nassau County PBA,” McGrath, an attorney and first-time candidate, said in a statement. “As someone who has worked closely with the brave men and women who put their life on the line by protecting us every day, and who worked tirelessly after the tragedy of 9/11, I am humbled by their endorsement and their confidence in me to represent our communities in the State Senate.”

The Nassau County PBA represents more than 5,000 active and retired members.

Christopher McGrath by Nick Reisman

Flanagan: Gibson ‘A Good Guy’

Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan on Tuesday called Rep. Chris Gibson a “good guy” but didn’t immediately endorse his potential run for governor in 2018.

Flanagan predicted the field for the race that’s more than two years away will be a “packed” one for the GOP.

“He’s a good guy,” Flanagan told a group of reporters in a question-and-answer session. “There’s a lot of good people out there. We’re going to have a packed field in 2018.”

Gibson on Monday formally filed paperwork to launch an exploratory committee in the lead up to a statewide campaign. A three-term congressman, Gibson is due to retire from Congress at the end of the year.

Gibson joins potential Republican candidates for governor that include Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, businessman Harry Wilson and 2010 nominee Carl Paladino.

In Letter, Faso Blasts Heaney For Super PAC Criticism

The race for the Republican nomination in the 19th congressional district grew more heated this week with John Faso’s campaign alleging in a letter to rival Andrew Heaney that he is illegally coordinating with a super PAC that is funding misleading advertisements.

An FEC complaint, filed last week, accuses Heaney of coordinating with New York Jobs Council, a political action committee Heaney contributed to before launching his bid for the Hudson Valley House seat (Filings with the FEC show Heaney is not the only contributor to the PAC).

The complaint stems from criticism by the PAC that he calls “false, defamatory and negative.”

“These ads are intended to mislead voters and since you created the Super PAC,” Faso wrote, “I hold you responsible for its smear tactics.”

The letter refers to TV commercials that have started airing in the district, linking Faso to his lobbying firm Manatt, Phelps and Phillips paying a fine as part of a settlement connected to the pay-to-play pension fund scandal.

Faso himself was never fined, nor was he accused of any wrongdoing at the firm where he was listed as a partner. Faso has also defended his link to the case, saying that he merely introduced someone to state officials.

“As an employee, I was not a party to any settlement and I never represented any client – paid or unpaid – before the state pension fund. Those are the facts. This entire matter was nothing more than Andrew Cuomo’s vindictive effort to smear my reputation; he did not succeed but now you, as a purported New York Republican candidate, attempt to revive the failed political smear of Democrat Andrew Cuomo,” Faso wrote in the letter.

“The truth, as you know full well, is that I have never been fined, sanctioned or penalized for violating any professional or ethical requirement. Yet you’ve attempted to mislead voters by repeating these malicious falsehoods in a recent radio interview and your Super PAC’s television ads.”

The letter also knocks the New York Jobs Council for using a sound bite in which Faso says he was “proud” to be a lobbyist, which edited it the clip so that it excluded the context: He was touting his work for the non-profit organization Autism Speaks.

Heaney’s campaign has sought to run an anti-establishment argument against Faso, forgoing the screening process in the district with Republican county committees ahead of the June primary.

“Andrew Heaney is a small business owner and a father of three young children who is dedicated to taking back Washington from the lobbyists and career politicians like John Faso who will say anything to distract voters from his terrible record on the 2nd Amendment and his political baggage. It’s not going to work,” said Heaney spokesman David Catalfamo.

Faso, in turn, has criticized Heaeny for contributing to President Obama in 2008 and recently moving to the district.

Faso himself has contributed to Manatt’s own political action committee that gave to the campaigns of Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and past opponent of Rep. Chris Gibson.

heaney letter 2.8.16 by Nick Reisman

Marchione Considering Hearings On Hoosick Falls Water

Sen. Kathy Marchione said Tuesday in radio interview she would consider holding hearings on the drinking contamination in Hoosick Falls.

The hearings could stem in part to determine how much state regulators knew about the contamination of drinking water of the chemical PFOA and when the state knew it.

“We will discuss that because whether the state didn’t move quick enough or whether they thought they moved fast enough,” Marchione said on WCNY’s The Capitol Pressroom. “Sometimes you have to hear from the other perspective why they moved slowly, when did they actually know?”

State officials have defended not taking action sooner in the area, which they learned about a possible contamination in December 2014, with more tests beginning in July 2015.

Last month, state and federal regulators warned residents not to use the water in the Rensselaer County community and the Department of Environmental Conservation has moved to make it a state Superfund site.

The contamination is believed to have come from Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics, a company that owns a nearby manufacturing plant, and is the focus of the source of the contamination.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday told reporters that while he understands the concerns of residents, he also insisted the state’s deliberate approach to the contamination wasn’t meant to be any less aggressive.

“Fear is powerful and fear of what if, what if, what if — that starts the cascade and that’s not especially helpful, so let’s get the facts first,” Cuomo told reporters.

Marchione, in the interview, partially agreed with Cuomo’s assessment that more information is needed.

“They’re worried about their children, they’re worried about their own health, I think their fears are real,” she said. “I also agree with the governor we need to do the analysis to determine what exactly we have here.”

Meanwhile, Marchione suggested a more comprehensive approach is needed for assessing the risks of chemicals like PFOA, which had not been restricted by the state until last month.

“I don’t think they knew what to do. When the state hasn’t regulated the chemical, how do you know what you do?” Marchione said. “If it’s not on the regulation list, how can you go forward and fix something that no one has told you is broken?”

Rubio Campaign Files For Ballot In New York

malliotakisrubioThe campaign of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio on Tuesday has formally filed for ballot access in New York’s presidential primary on April 19.

The paperwork was handed in by the chairwoman of Rubio’s New York campaign, Staten Island Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis.

Rubio is the fourth Republican candidate to file for the ballot in New York: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and New York businessman Donald Trump have all submitted paperwork.

A Siena College poll released on Monday found Trump leading the Republican primary pack in New York.

Trump, a real-estate developer and reality TV show host, received 34 percent of the vote among Republican voters. Rubio and Cruz each have 16 percent.

New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary is today.

Morelle: Assembly Open To Tax Cap Changes

From the Morning Memo:

Democratic lawmakers in the state Assembly would be open to potential changes in the tax cap as municipalities and school districts grapple this year with flat levy growth.

“I think we’re very much open to it,” said Majority Leader Joe Morelle after speaking to the New York Conference of Mayors on Monday. “We’ve had a lot of conversations in the last couple of weeks.”

The comments echo what Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie told reporters at a news conference last week, namely the tax cap this year is part of a growing concern local government leaders have shared with lawmakers and the Assembly is potentially supportive of making even broader changes than last year’s modifications.

Criticism of the cap has emerged this way: The cap is not really 2 percent cap as sold to the public, since it is also tied to the rate of the inflation. The cap levy increases has been under 2 percent since its approval in 2011 given the flat rate of inflation.

Now some lawmakers want to see the link between the cap and the rate of inflation tweaked in someway, either by doing away with it entirely or limiting increases to 1 percent when inflation growth is so low.

“It makes it very difficult if you have labor contracts, any increases in cost that are beyond your control, almost impossible to do it,” Morelle said. “I think the Assembly majority is willing to look at what index we use, are there things we should calculate outside of the cap or finally whether we should make it outside of the rate of inflation.”

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan on Monday threw cold water on potential changes to the cap this year, even as he acknowledged some members of his conference are split over the issue. A heavier lift would likely be to get any changes past Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has touted the cap as a top legislative achievement from his first term.

Cuomo on Monday insisted the cap remains flexible for local governments given the override feature.

“Politically they don’t want to override the 2 percent,” Cuomo said of local leaders. “It’s become a good housekeeping seal for budgetary diligence. If a locality wants to go beyond the cap, they can go beyond the cap.”

At the same time, the flat tax cap has led to renewed calls for increasing aid to municipalities, which has been flat in recent years. Morelle said the AIM funding should be “dynamic” source of funding for some communities that are struggling.

“I would certainly hope so. AIM has not gone up,” he said. “It doesn’t reflect any longer the individual challenges communities have. It ought to be a dynamic changing fund source that really helps those communities in need.”

Gibson: The More The Merrier

From the Morning Memo:

Generally speaking, elected officials and party leaders prefer to avoid primaries.

Even though they give lip service, (I’m looking at you, state GOP Chairman Ed Cox), about how great a little healthy competition can be in generating excitement among the grassroots and letting the best possible candidate emerge victorious, the reality is that most pols privately agree primaries tend to be unnecessarily expensive, divisive and often distracting.

But Rep. Chris Gibson, the NY-19 Republican who is forgoing a re-election bid this year to focus on a potential 2018 run for governor, insists the fact that there are at least three – if not more – others who might throw their respective hats into the ring does not bother him.

“Time Warner Cable did a story last week about the deep bench for the Republicans. When’s the last time we saw a story on that? That’s something to be proud of,” Gibson insisted.

To the list of potential GOP contenders that I ticked off – Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, who is mulling a second attempt at the governor’s office after losing to Cuomo in 2014; investment banker Harry Wilson, who lost a close race to Democratic state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli in 2010; and Carl Paladino, the 2010 GOP/Conservative gubernatorial candidate who failed to defeat then-AG Cuomo – Gibson added yet another name: Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinario, who he said “is going to make a great governor.”

“I think those folks you mentioned as strong leaders; I’m proud of them,” Gibson said. “I’m going to do my best to unite and rally folks.”

“I’m going to have a very positive vision…look to raise money, draw support, build out support, and ultimately to win in 2018, and then change this state, so that this can be the once Empire state, a place that’s flourishing, a place that’s safe and secure, a place that has educational policies that our parents and teachers are proud of.”

Gibson stressed, yet again, that though he has formed an exploratory committee to enable him to raise money for a possible run, he has not yet decided to formally declare his candidacy. He plans to see how his fundraising goes over the next year, explaining that any candidate who wants to be viable on the GOP side is going to have to be able to raise at least $20 million.

Nojay Supportive Of Gibson’s Bid For Governor

From the Morning Memo:

Republican Assemblyman Bill Nojay became the first state lawmaker on Monday to support the gubernatorial campaign-in-waiting for Rep. Chris Gibson.

Gibson formed an exploratory committee on Monday as he takes another step toward a full-blown campaign for governor in 2018.

“As New Yorkers are faced with a punishing economic climate fueled by Gov. Cuomo’s special interest donors and liberal career politicians, Congressman Gibson’s announcement of an exploratory committee for governor is a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Nojay, a conservative lawmaker from the Rochester area and a talk-radio host.

“For decades New Yorkers have suffered under an oppressive set of taxes, laws, and bureaucratic policies that have destroyed small businesses, forced large employers to relocate, and pushed residents out of state.”

Nojay is a staunch critic of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic incumbent who plans to seek a third term, especially when it comes to the passage of the gun control law known as the SAFE Act.

Nojay is also the Legislature’s prominent supporter of the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, the real-estate mogul from New York who some lawmakers in 2014 urged to run for governor against Cuomo (ultimately Trump declined).

Gibson has not been as enthusiastic about Trump, expressing concern about the businessman’s temperament in a radio interview.

“I have concerns about giving that guy an army,” Gibson, a retired Army colonel. “As someone who served for 29 years, I have concerns given what I’ve heard to date about what his temperament and the judgement he has.”

In his statement, Nojay pointed to Gibson’s stance on fiscal policy as aiding New York’s business environment.

“I am confident that Congressman Gibson would take a principled approach to fiscal policy that would cut taxes on employers and tackle the burdensome regulatory environment for businesses,” Nojay said. “A Governor Gibson would reestablish New York as the Empire State, a place where jobs will grow and families can thrive.”