Cuomo Expects Lawmakers Will Back Down On Amendments

Gov. Andrew Cuomo does not expect a legal challenge to his 30-day budget amendments, which Senate Republicans so far have not introduced in the Legislature.

Cuomo’s budget amendments this year tie spending to his ethics proposals, which include new disclosure requirements for state lawmakers as well as controls over travel reimbursements.

The amendments also yoked the DREAM Act and the education tax credit — a bill seen as benefiting private schools — to funding for the Tuition Assistance Program.

Senate Republicans have quietly discussed their legal options, including challenging Cuomo’s authority to tie policy to spending measures.

Cuomo in Syracuse today, however, said he is doubtful it will come to that.

“I will wager you there is no lawsuit,” Cuomo said. “We have different points of view and we’re arguing it and working it through.”

Cuomo added that he’s been able to work with the Legislature despite differences on key issues in the budget.

“In Albany, we’ve had differences, but we’ve been able to reconcile and compromise,” Cuomo said. “We will reconcile and we will compromise and we will move forward.”

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, meanwhile, was more pointed when asked about the amendments not being introduced.

“They have a responsibility to introduce the amendments,” Hochul said. “We expect it will happen in a timely fashion. The people of New York deserve an on-time budget.”

Cuomo has secured budget agreements before the March 31 deadline for the last four years, reversing a trend of increasingly late spending plans.

The on-time budget passage has been a hallmark of Cuomo success in Albany during his first term.

But this year, Cuomo has said he would hold up a budget agreement if lawmakers do not approve what he considers meaningful ethics reform in the wake of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s arrest on corruption charges.

“By and large a lot of the governor’s proposals I agree with wholeheartedly,” said Sen. Jeff Klein, the leader of the five-member Independent Democratic Conference. “But sometimes tying things together really prevents meaningful negotiations for everyone to get on the same page. I’m confident if we break apart some of the governor’s 30-day amendments, I think we can come up with an agreement on a lot of those issues.”

Sen. John Flanagan, a Republican from Long Island, told reporters a legal challenge to the governor’s amendments would be a “last resort” and that he hoped the concerns they’re raising would ultimately be deemed moot in the wake of a compromise.

In tying the non-budgetary policy to spending, Cuomo is hinging his authority on Silver v. Pataki, a Court of Appeals ruling that granted the governor wide authority over the budget-making process.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, meanwhile, downplayed the significance of the amendments not being introduced, an unusual step in Albany’s budgetary tradition.

“There were so many different arrows that the governor drew, we’re trying to figure them out, so we can have an appropriate legislative response,” he said.

Asked if he believed there would be an on-time budget, Skelos said, “Oh, yeah.”

Assembly Dems Share ‘Troubling’ NYC Charter Data With Heastie

As a throng of charter school students, advocates and parents hold a rally at the Capitol on Wednesday, Assembly Democrats are raising concerns with Speaker Carl Heastie on the alternative public schools.

In letter sent by Assemblyman Walter Mosley and backed by nearly two dozen of his fellow Democratic conference members, lawmakers write that “it is clear that many of the charter schools in New York City are serving much lower proportions of high need students than public schools within the same communities.”

In particular, the lawmakers point to the “free space” provided to charters in public school buildings, a practice known as co-location.

Meanwhile, the lawmakers write they are “deeply concerned” that charter schools in the city have student discipline guidelines that are inconsistent with legal protections and policies for regular city schools.

Charter schools, they write, have suspended over 10 percent of their students in 2011-12, compared to an average of 1 percent suspension rate in traditional public schools.

The letter comes as Gov. Andrew Cuomo seeks to raise the cap on charter schools statewide and provide more per pupil tuition assistance in his $142 billion budget proposal.

Cuomo has spoken of the effort to end the “public monopoly” of public education in the state through a strengthening of charter schools in the state budget.

Assembly Dems letter on charters by liz_benjamin6490

Chris Moss Files Campaign Committee With Statewide Bent

Republican Chemung County Sheriff Chris Moss on Wednesday launched a new campaign committee that will face a statewide focus.

Moss, who ran for lieutenant governor on Rob Astorino’s gubernatorial ticket last year, has made little secret of his desire to run for statewide office again.

The formation of a new committee also coincides with the launching of a website for Moss.

Moss made history in 2014, being the first African-American to run statewide on a GOP ticket.

The new committee, Sheriff Moss for New York, will back candidates “who are interested in reducing taxes, creating jobs by producing a friendlier business atmosphere, opposing infringements on our 2nd Amendment rights, as well as bringing meaningful ethics reform to Albany.”

Astorino is expected to make a second run for governor in 2018, while GOP Rep. Chris Gibson, who retires at the end of his current term, has said he is interested in running for an unspecified statewide office as well.

In Rochester, Cuomo Talks Of Minimum Wage ‘Crusade’

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in Rochester this morning called the latest effort to hike the state’s minimum wage a “crusade” that will help stimulate the state’s economy.

“Our definition of success is different,” Cuomo said at a rally, the first of two he plans today. “We believe it has to work for all New Yorkers or no New Yorkers.”

Cuomo kicked off his minimum wage campaign in Buffalo earlier this week, and he plans to hold another rally in the Syracuse area later today.

Cuomo’s own minimum wage posture this year is different than in previous years.

In the past, Cuomo embraced a minimum wage increase that had been first proposed in the Legislature.

This year, Cuomo, re-elected to a second term last year, has been more assertive in his own wage hike plan, which would provide for a $11.50 minimum wage in New York City and $10.50 wage elsewhere.

The minimum wage is due to increase from $8.75 to $9 an hour by the end of this year if lawmakers do nothing.

Cuomo today, however, called that previous wage deal not enough.

“What I’m saying to the Legislature is $9 is not enough,” Cuomo said. “Yes, we raised it, but the economy has come roaring back.”

Poverty advocates have been critical of the minimum wage law now in effect, which they contend moves too slowly and included detrimental tax breaks for businesses.

Republicans, too, are skeptical of having a second wage hike since 2013.

Cuomo on Tuesday indicated he’d be willing to compromise with lawmakers on the bill, and even deal with the measure outside of the budget.

Onondaga County GOP Chairman Tom Dadey criticized Cuomo’s minimum wage tour.

“Instead of a taxpayer-funded rally to call for a minimum wage increase when one is already being phased-in, the Governor should concentrate more on winning passage of initiatives that will create new jobs in Syracuse and Central New York and help revitalize our struggling economy,” Dadey said.

Astorino: Senate’s Term-Limit Bill A ‘Half-Measure’

Rob Astorino, the Westchester County executive who challenged Gov. Andrew Cuomo last year in his bid for re-election, called the bill limiting the terms of legislative leaders and committee chairs a good first step.

But he criticized the bill, which passed the Senate this week, for not going far enough. Namely, Astorino believes all 213 legislative seats in both the Republican-led Senate and Democratic-controlled Assembly should be term limited, as well as the statewide offices.

“Senator Dean Skelos and his conference are to be commended for passing a term limit bill for legislative leaders,” Astorino said in a statement. “It is a move in the right direction, but ultimately a half measure. The culture of corruption in Albany is seated in the coziness between elected officials and monied interests that longevity in office invariably brings. Term limits empower the little guy — the voter — by reducing the grip of special interests on legislators.”

Astorino clashed with Senate Republicans during the gubernatorial campaign last year, with the top of the GOP ticket calling for sweeping ethics reform in Albany and knocking the majority conference in the Senate as being part of the problem in state government.

Advocate to Senate: No Stand-Alone DREAM Act, Please

Generally speaking neither side of the DREAM Act/Education Investment Tax Credit debate is terribly thrilled to have been linked together in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive budget and then seen that questionable marriage further cemented by being tied to TAP funding in the 30-day amendments.

Some advocates on both sides have been calling for the two issues to be uncoupled, even though doing do would almost certainly weaken the chances of either passing before the 2015 session ends, thanks to the Senate GOP’s staunch opposition to the DREAM Act and the Assembly Democrats’ general dislike (following the teachers unions’s lead) of the tax credit.

Last week, the Assembly Democrats again passed a stand-alone version of the DREAM Act, and Speaker Carl Heastie said in no uncertain terms that he does not believe these two otherwise unrelated issues should be linked.

“That was the governor’s choice,” said Heastie, who was a past co-sponsor of the tax credit bill, but – as with all other bills – has removed his name from the measure since he rose to the speaker’s post. “The governor did that. We’re moving forward today with the Dream Act, and we hope that it will passed on its own merits in the State Senate.”

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos has called the DREAM Act a nonstarter in his house, and with good reason – politically speaking – considering the fact that a number of his new members actively campaigned against the measure during the 2014 elections and were successful at the ballot box as a result of their opposition.

Skelos, too, wants the DREAM Act and tax credit uncoupled, arguing that the tax credit, which matters a lot to a number of his members and their conservative constituencies, should be allowed to rise or fall on its own merits.

As for the DREAM Act, no matter how much supporters would like to see a “clean” bill pass, at least one member of the immigrant advocacy community recognizes the reality of the situation, which is that letting the measure come up for a vote in the Senate is likely a recipe for disaster – an all-but certain repeat of the bill’s 2014 failure.

Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, said last night on CapTon that while he did not disagree with the Assembly’s action on the DREAM Act, he doesn’t want the Senate to follow suit.

“Do I think it’s a good idea that it gets introduced in the Senate? I’ll be honest, No,” Choi said. “I think passing it in the Assembly was enough of a way to say: Look, we are dug in on this. It’s an important issue for us. I think it’s important as a signal to send out before the budget battle begins.”

Choi said the DREAM Act community is counting on the governor to deliver on his promise that the DREAM Act will become a reality this year, and will be deeply disappointed if that does not occur.

“Folks really lined up behind the governor,” in the 2014 election, Choi said. “Our message to him has been: Stay on target. Don’t deviate off course.”

Who Blinks First?

Today is March 4. Gov. Andrew Cuomo released his 30-day budget amendments, which jammed the Legislature by stuffing ever more policy (particularly ethics reforms) into appropriations bills, on Feb. 21 – almost two weeks ago.

So far, neither the Senate nor the Assembly has introduced Cuomo’s amendments – a move required before they can be formally considered by state lawmakers.

As Newsday’s Mike Gormley reported, the Assembly issued a statement Sunday night pledging to get the introduction process started, but gave no timeline for doing so. And, as of last night, the chamber still had yet to take action.

In a statement given to Gormley over the weekend and re-issued to me last night, Mike Whyland, spokesman for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, said the amendments would “of course” be printed “because the Constitution requires us to act on them as submitted.”

“We are reviewing them with members,” Whyland continued, “and we continue to negotiate in good faith on all of the issues – including the ethics reform package. We will be meeting with the governor to further discuss the budget this week.”

Sources familiar with the Senate Republicans’ thinking say they are holding back on introductions because they’re reviewing “all options” in response to the governor’s hardball budget tactics – including a possible lawsuit revisiting the landmark 2004 Court of Appeals decision on the division of budget power between the executive and legislative branches.

That decision is commonly referred to in Albany as “Silver v. Pataki,” and it’s actually the result of two separate cases brought against then-Gov. George Pataki by the Assembly, which believed he was overstepping his executive powers by inserting policy into appropriations bills, over which the Legislature has very little control.

I wrote about this issue for Capital NY a few weeks back, speaking to a number of key players in the Silver v. Pataki cases – including former Judge Robert Smith, who wrote the plurality opinion under which the Capitol is currently operating.

Most legal experts and Capitol observers agree the decision is ripe for revisitation, especially since the judges determined there is indeed a line over which the governor might step when it comes to using the budget as a policy-making vehicle. The trouble is, the court declined to define where that line is.

Most agree that the governor’s insertion of ethics reform – specifically tying per diem changes and disclosure requirements to the state comptroller’s budget – is a stretch of even the limited boundaries defined in Silver v. Pataki.

Just today, Daily News columnist Bill Hammond wrote of the “dangerous precedent” being set by Cuomo’s use of his sweeping budgetary authority, raising concerns that future governors could “easily” abuse this power.

The problem is, challenging the governor’s ethics reform push in court would be terrible for the Legislature from an optics standpoint.

The scandal-weary public is highly unlikely to understand the esoteric argument about restoring a balance of power in Albany – especially when that involves giving more of a say to the Legislature, of which most New Yorkers don’t have the highest opinion these days.

Cuomo is well aware of this, and he also believes he’s on sound legal footing, having consulted with a number of attorneys – including Pataki’s former counsel, Jim McGuire, who is widely acknowledged as the architect behind the then-governor’s winning strategy in Pataki v. Silver.

The Assembly is no happier than the Senate with Cuomo’s budget bullying, but seems a bit less anxious to challenge his authority here – perhaps due to the fact that it is still reeling from the change in leadership and trying to get its sea legs under the new speaker, Carl Heastie.

Generally speaking, lawmakers are trying to determine whether it’s worth going to war with Cuomo now, or waiting to see if he’s really serious about being willing to risk a late budget – and a government shutdown – to get what he wants in ethics reform.

In the past, Cuomo has been willing to make deals, calling half a loaf a victory. But if he deviates from his track record this time and refuses to submit new, re-negotiated budget bills before the April 1 deadline, the Legislature could be in trouble.

WFP Gains Gala Support (Updated)

Fresh off a win in its multi-year legal battle with a special prosecutor, the Working Families Party is attracting some big-name support for its 17th annual gala, which will be held in June.

Over 100 politicians, labor leaders, progressives and celebrities – from hip hop mogul/activist Russell Simmons and Planned Parenthood Federation President Cecile Richards to Fordham Law Professor and 2014 gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout and WFP co-counder Bertha Lewis – have signed on as members of the gala host committee.

Also on the host committee list: US Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, who are new additions to the event since last year.

NYS Working Families Party Director Bill Lipton said he is “thrilled” about the host committee, which is the “most impressive…we’ve ever had.”

The renewed interest in the WFP could be seen as a testament to the labor-backed party’s success in rebuilding its political brand. That’s thanks not only to the end of the legal cloud that has hung over the WFP’s head since the 2009 NYC elections; but also to the success of its longtime ally, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, and renewed national focus on its top agenda item: Bridging the income equality gap.

The WFP is also poised for another potential victory: Electing the first-ever WFP-only member of the state Legislature.

Thanks to a paperwork problem, there is no Democratic candidate in the four-way May 5 special election battle for former Assemblyman Karim Camara’s Brooklyn seat. The WFP is backing community board member Diana Richardson, who is gaining support in the race.

UPDATE: Here’s a copy of the gala invite:

WFP Gala invite by liz_benjamin6490

Catsimatidis, Tabloid King?

From the Morning Memo:

During an appearance on NY1’s “Wise Guys” segment last night, supermarket mogul, campaign contributor and sometime candidate John Catsimatidis confirmed his interest in adding one more title to that list: Newspaper owner.

Asked about reports that he is in talks with Daily News owner Mort Zuckerman to purchase the NYC tab, Catsimatidis replied:

“There’s many people that are interested in buying, I think. It’s a New York institution that deserves to live. And I don’t think anybody could buy it unless they have a vision for 21-sf Century newspapers, and that’s what you need.”

“What is the newspaper of 2030 going to look like? We have some ideas. If all the dominoes fall in the right direction, we have definite interest.”

Pushed on what those “dominoes” might be, Catsimatidis mentioned the need to make deals with the “unions”, adding: “I’ve dealt with unions all my life, and we’ve always made satisfactory deals with unions.”

He also spoke of the necessity of convincing the reporting and editorial staff that he could run the day-to-ay operation of a daily newspaper, and noted that the DN has a sizable printing operation.

Though the paper is losing money – reportedly around $20 million a year – Catsimatidis seemed bullish about the idea that there’s a “home run for all” to be had here.

One thing Catsimatidis would not do is dish on who approached whom and whether the DN had been on the market before he expressed interest in potentially purchasing it.

“I really can’t comment on that,” he said. “Mort is a fine gentleman, and I’m sure he wants the newspaper to go…to good hands where it’s going to survive and prosper.”

Catsimatidis is not a newspaper man, though he has dabbled in politics for some time. The Democrat-turned-Republican ran an unsuccessful campaign for NYC mayor in 2013, losing the GOP primary to Joe Lhota, who, in turn, lost to Democrat Bill de Blasio.

As recently as this past January, Catsimatidis was saying he wouldn’t rule out another run in 2017. Catsimatidis is reportedly not the only rich guy interested in adding the DN to his portfolio. Other potential buyers mentioned include Cablevision’s James Dolan and former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

Here and Now

Thousands of charter school advocates, parents, teachers and students – mostly from the Eva Moskowitz’s NYC-based Success Academy schools, which closed their doors for the day – will be in Albany today for a massive rally.

LG Kathy Hochul is scheduled to speak to the group at 11:30 a.m. Lisa Leslie, the former Women’s National Basketball Association star and Olympic gold medalist will also be on hand, and Grammy nominee Janelle Monae is scheduled to perform.

This rally is going to seriously complicate traffic in downtown Albany, with a number of streets either restricted or closed altogether in order to accommodate all the buses.

Last year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo made a surprise appearance at a similar rally, which took place at the Capitol as NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio held a competing event up the street in favor of his pre-K proposal. This year, the governor’s attention is elsewhere for the day – namely on continuing his very public push for the minimum wage boot he has included in his budget.

Cuomo will be attending “Fight for Fair Pay Campaign” rallies in Monroe and Onondaga counties today. The first is at 10 a.m. at the Workers United Rochester Regional Joint Board., 750 East Ave., Rochester. The second is at noon at the Solvay Geddes Community Youth Center, 1010 Woods Rd., Syracuse.

While the charter school folks are doing their thing outside the Capitol, a smaller group of NYSUT and UFT leaders and their members will be inside pressing their case against Cuomo’s education reforms with lawmakers. Thanks to the governor’s support for charters and reform crusade – specifically targeting teachers – and the loss of their biggest defender in Albany, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, the unions are in the underdog position when it comes to this year’s budget battle.

The rest of today’s calendar of events appears at the end of this post. Here are the headlines…

Chris Smith says today’s charter school rally “won’t have the immediate substantive impact that last year’s did; but its aftermath will provide an insight into whether a new era really is beginning in Albany.”

As Cuomo heads into a month of tense negotiations to hammer out a state budget, he is facing off with an emboldened Legislature. After four years of general goodwill between the Democratic governor and legislators, state lawmakers—frustrated by his ethics proposals and provoked by his budget threats—have in recent weeks introduced measures aimed at disrupting his agenda.

JCOPE has reportedly launched a probe into whether state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman illegally solicited campaign contributions from Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and her husband while investigating The Donald’s for-profit school.

Crusading US Attorney Preet Bharara, who has been investigating the Cuomo administration, is set to address a conference on corruption that the governor’s Democratic primary foe, Fordham Law Prof. Zephyr Teachout, helped organize.

No fewer than four very rich men are reportedly interested in buying the money-losing Daily News.

Cuomo’s minimum wage hike proposal concerns Chautauqua County Executive Vince Horrigan.

During an appearance in Buffalo, governor acknowledged the Senate Republicans aren’t supportive at this moment of another minimum wage increase, but said: “At the end of the day, we’ve been able to reconcile our differences and reach compromises. I think we’re going to be able to do that again.”

“We will review the proposal while keeping in mind that the governor, Senate and Assembly recently enacted a minimum wage increase that is still being phased in,” said Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif.

When the State Department produced thousands of pages in documents in response to a 2012 request from congressional investigators probing the attack on the US diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, it did not search the email account of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton because she had maintained a private account, which shielded it from such searches.

Upstate business leaders are calling on Cuomo and the state Legislature to increase his $1.5 billion proposal for an upstate economic development competition to $2.5 billion, saying the area needs the greater infusion of cash.

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