Too Much Material For This Year’s LCA Show

This year’s show promises to be jammed pack, at least according to the official trailer for the event released today (and the very eventful legislative session).

The annual Legislative Correspondents Association Show skewering state politics and government will be held June 9 at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center. A cocktail reception begins at 7 p.m.

Rebuttals feature Senate Finance Chairman John DeFrancisco and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie after the traditional song-and-dance routines from the reporters who cover the Capitol.

A free dress rehearsal, sans rebuttals, will be held June 8, though guests are encouraged to bring a canned good or non-pershiable food item for donation.

The LCA Show is the oldest political gridiron event in the country.

For more information, contact Jean Gutbrodt in the LCA Room at 518-455-2388.

Senate Democrats To Push Rent Control Measures

From the Morning Memo:

Senate Democrats today will unveil a package of measures designed to renew and strengthen rent control regulations in New York City.

The bills, about a half dozen in all, will be unveiled at a news conference scheduled for 11:45 at the Capitol.

The proposals come as lawmakers debate an extension of rent control regulations in New York City and the surrounding area, which are due to expire next month.

The measures Senate Democrats are pushing later today will not include any recommendations in the contentious battle over the 421a tax abatement, which is now the subject of a TV ad campaign by the Real Estate Board of New York (Mayor Bill de Blasio and REBNY are both supportive of making changes to the abatement, which has put the mayor crossways with prevailing wage advocates).

Last week, the Democratic-led Assembly approved their own version of a rent control regulation extension, which also included an end to the practice of vacancy decontrol, a proposal that’s unlikely to find support among Senate Republicans.

The GOP conference in the Senate, meanwhile, has been pushing a permanent extension of the state’s cap on local property tax increases. The property tax cap is not due to expire until next year, but is linked to the extension of rent control since its approval in 2011.

De Blasio Returns To Albany With A Different Political Landscape

From the Morning Memo:

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio returns to Albany today with an altered political and power landscape.

Gone as majority leader is Dean Skelos, the Nassau County Republican who de Blasio made little secret of trying to oust from power in last year’s elections.

Skelos resigned this month from his leadership post and was replaced by John Flanagan, a Suffolk County lawmaker who has made conciliatory statements with regard to the liberal New York City mayor.

“He’s the mayor of the city of New York,” Flanagan said in a Capital Tonight interview after he was elected leader. “So he is a key player. He deserves fundamental respect for who he is, and more importantly, for the job that he has.”

The state Republican Committee is less welcoming.

In a statement due to be sent later this morning, state Republican spokesman David Laska fired a preemptive shot over the mayor’s bow, knocking his recent travels to midwestern states to push progressive measures (The New York Post has reported de Blasio is considering a bid for the White House; de Blasio allies and other political observers aren’t buying it).

“New York is learning what happens when the Mayor prioritizes his personal national ambitions over running New York: crime is on the rise, public schools are still failing our children, and Bill de Blasio’s signature initiative, Vision Zero, isn’t working,” Laska said in a statement.

De Blasio’s success in Albany, so far, has been something of a mixed bag.

Like his predecessors, he has sought more autonomy for New York City from the state, and has tangled with the Legislature on issues that range from changing the speed limit on certain city streets to winning a minimum wage increase for the five boroughs.

But now the stakes are different as Albany enters the final 12 days of the legislative session: Rent control is due to expire next month, as is 421a, a tax abatement he is seeking changes to.

Meanwhile, de Blasio is seeking an extension of mayoral control of city schools. The Democratic-led Assembly passed a measure for a three-year extension.

Senate Republicans have suggested they support extending it, but have not given timeline for how long it could be extended (One expectation is Senate Republicans could trade a raising of the state’s cap on charter schools for a mayoral control extension).

More broadly for de Blasio the question remains: How will Gov. Andrew Cuomo choose to engage the mayor this time?

Flanagan Makes Upstate Foray

From the Morning Memo:

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan is scheduled to attend an Onondaga County GOP event tomorrow in Syracuse – his first upstate trip since he ascended to replace his fellow Long Islander, Dean Skelos, as head of the GOP conference earlier this month.

It’s a safe bet that it’s no accident Flanagan’s inaugural visit north of Albany will be to the home turf of the man he defeated in the leadership battle: Senate Finance Committee Chairman John DeFrancisco.

Onondaga County GOP Chairman Tom Dadey, who was a big DeFrancisco boosted during the fight to succeed Skelos after he was arrested on federal corruption charges, issued an invite to Flanagan during a CapTon interview to attend the party’s annual clambake fundraiser.

The $150-per-person event is being held from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. tomorrow at Hinerwadel’s Grove, which, according to its website, has been hosting Central New York clambakes since 1914.

Dadey said it was DeFrancisco himself who followed up with Flanagan on the chairman’s invite.

“My guess is he realizes upstate is important, and out of respect for (DeFrancisco), decided to make Syracuse his first stop upstate as leader,” Dadey said of the majority leader’s impending visit.

DeFrancisco said during a CapTon interview following his loss that there are no hard feelings between himself and Flanagan, who work out regularly together at the Senate gym.

But some of DeFrancisco’s grassroots backers – particularly gun rights advocates who were not at all pleased by Flanagan’s “yes” vote on the SAFE Act – are still upset over the Syracuse senator’s loss.

They were eager to see the leadership post in the Senate go to a conservative upstater, and are now vowing to get their revenge by backing primary challengers against some of the more pragmatic GOP members in 2016.

Flanagan tried to smooth things over by including “common sense” reforms to the SAFE Act among his top end-of-sesison priorities this year, even though he would be the first to admit that’s more or less a non-starter with the Democrat-controlled Assembly and the governor.

Currying favor with Dadey, who also happens to hold the No. 2 post in the state GOP, might the first step for Flanagan on the road to making peace with upstate GOPers – both local party leaders and grassroots activists.

Unity in the party is going to be of the utmost importance if the GOP conference is to have any shot at retaining control in 2016 – an effort that’s already shaping up to be an uphill battle, thanks to the presidential contest that year that promises to boost Democratic turnout in this increasingly Democrat-dominated state.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany with no public schedule. The Legislature is back to work this afternoon, with 12 days – including today – remaining in the 2015 session.

At 8:30 a.m., NYCLASS and animal rights activists protest the horse carriage industry, outside of 55 Broad St., Manhattan.

At 9 a.m., Manhattan BP Gale Brewer welcomes participants at Samaritans of New York Suicide Prevention Workshop, P.S. 40 / Salk School of Science, E. 19th St. between First and Second avenues, Manhattan.

Also at 9 a.m., Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman will announce his proposal to reform New York’s sentencing laws, Ninth Floor, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, 524 West 59th St., between Tenth and Eleventh avenues, Manhattan.

9:30 a.m. – NYC Councilmembers Costa Constantinides and Ben Kallos announce legislation intended to encourage organ donation, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

At 10:30 a.m., newly appointed state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia will visit Pine Hills Elementary School, 41 N. Allen St., Albany.

At 11 a.m., AG Eric Schneiderman makes an announcement, steps of Tweed Courthouse, 52 Chambers St., Manhattan.

Also at 11 a.m., NYC Councilman Mark Levine, representatives of the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Citizens Committee for New York City, El Puente, New Yorkers for Parks, the NYLCV and other advocates and government officials attend a rally on budget proposals for city funding of green spaces and parks, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

Also at 11 a.m., budget watchdogs, good government and property tax reform groups are joining forces to urge state leaders to refocus their attention on providing “real” property tax relief, in the form of a circuit breaker, to struggling homeowners, LCA Press Room (130), LOB, 198 State St., Albany.

At 11:30 a.m., Binghamton University Junior Thomas Mastro, who was recently elected president of the SUNY Student Assembly by his peers, will be sworn in as a member of the SUNY Board of Trustees, Gallery – First Floor, SUNY Plaza, 353 Broadway, Albany. (SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher will participate).

At 11:45 a.m., a broad and diverse coalition will urge de Blasio to include universal free lunch for all public school children in the final city budget for 2016, Tweed Courthouse steps, 52 Chambers St., Manhattan.

At noon, Rep. Charles Rangel and his wife, Alma, attend the 92nd Street Y’s weekly Ballet for Older Dancers class to take part in the 22nd annual National Senior Health & Fitness Day, 92nd Street Y at 1395 Lexington Ave., Manhattan.

Also at noon, Sen. Marty Golden, chair of the State Senate Select Committee on Science, Technology, Incubation, and Entrepreneurship, will conduct a roundtable on online privacy and data breaches with members of the internet online industry, Room 711A, LOB, 198 State St., Albany.

From noon to 3 p.m., volunteers with the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association will gather at the Capitol for a Stroke Awareness Day.

From 1 p.m. to 6 p.m., 1199 SEIU workers hold an “informational picket,” MidHudson Regional Hospital, Front Entrance, 241 North Rd, Poughkeepsie.

At 2 p.m., Brooklyn BP Eric Adams will be joined by local entrepreneurs to launch the Brooklyn Nightlife and Restaurant Coalition, a group whose mission will be to improve relations and dialogue between industry stakeholders, community members, and NYC agencies, Brooklyn Borough Hall rotunda, 209 Joralemon St., Brooklyn.

From 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., Sen. Tom O’Mara and Assemblyman Phil Palmesano will host a second New York Wine Industry Association (NYWIA) “Sip and Sample” event featuring wines, cheeses and other foods from the Finger Lakes along with Central and Western New York, The Well, LOB, 198 State St., Albany.

At 6 p.m., the Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats (GLID) hosts its annual awards dinner honoring NYC Council Melissa Speaker Mark-Viverito and others, Churrascaria Plataforma, 316 W. 49th St., Manhattan.

Also at 6 p.m., Klein will be the special guest at a $500-a-head fundraiser for IDC member Tony Avella, TASTE, 45 Beaver St., Albany.

Headlines…

AG Eric Schneiderman will introduce a bill containing his proposals to clean up Albany’s endemic public corruption woes — including a ban on all outside income and a counterbalancing pay raise for what would become a full-time Legislature.

The AG debuted his End New York Corruption Now Act in a Times Union OpEd. He’ll make today’s announcement at the Tweed Courthouse in NYC – the same place Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched his 2010 run for governor, promising to clean up Albany.

Schneiderman’s proposals echo a speech he gave in March, as lawmakers were finalizing a suite of reforms pushed by Cuomo in response to the arrest of Assemblyman Sheldon Silver, a Democrat who was ousted as speaker of the state’s lower chamber.

IDC Leader Jeff Klein will introduce a bill to bring back a New York City property tax rebate program that disappeared five years ago. The measure would allow for a maximum $500 tax rebate a year for Big Apple home, co-op and condo owners, and would cover homeowners with incomes up to $500,000.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is playing it both ways on whether developers who get huge tax breaks through the 421a program to build affordable apartments in the city must pay workers prevailing wages. More here.

A coalition of activists pushing for stronger tenant protections will call on Cuomo today to return $1 million in donations – and refuse new ones – from Glenwood Management, an influential real estate company tied to recent Capitol corruption scandals.

With less than a month remaining on the legislative calendar and Cuomo faced with two untested newcomers at the negotiating table, the focus in Albany is on a range of prosaic, time-sensitive issues which nonetheless could affect millions of New Yorkers.

Cuomo’s approval rating has dropped to an all-time low, according to a new Siena poll.

The New York Times laid out an end-of-session to-do list for the governor and state lawmakers – it includes campaign finance reform, but not ethics reform.

Westchester County Executive and 2014 GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino is proposing four changes to a campus sexual assault bill introduced by Cuomo that is expected to be debated by the state Legislature before its session ends next month.

MaryEllen Elia, a former school superintendent in Florida with Western New York roots who led efforts to tie teacher evaluations and pay to student achievement and was fired after clashing with her board, was unanimously appointed state education commissioner by the Board of Regents.

More >

Schneiderman To Introduce Ethics Reform Package

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will introduce a package of ethics measures that range from lower caps on campaign contributions, lobbying restrictions and creates a full-time Legislature blocked from earning outside income.

Schneiderman laid out the legislative package in an op/ed to be published in The Times Union tomorrow and posted online late this afternoon.

The package, dubbed the End New York Corruption Now Act, comes after the legislative session in Albany has been rocked by the unprecedented arrests of both legislative leaders in the Democratic-led Assembly and Republican-controlled Senate.

Both Democrat Sheldon Silver and Republican Dean Skelos stepped down from their leadership posts following their arrests in separate corruption cases.

The omnibus package comes with only 12 legislative session days to go and with little stated desire from state lawmakers to take up a legislative response to the arrests.

“Remarkably, after the governor and the new leaders of the Legislature met May 13, it became clear that ethics and campaign finance reform are not even on the agenda as the legislative session draws to a close,” he wrote. “This glaring omission — if not corrected — would do a disservice to the lion’s share of elected officials who are honorable public servants, tainted by the misconduct of the few.”

In his op/ed, Schneiderman wrote “there is still time” to act on the measures.

“There are only two paths to meaningful change: fundamental reform of the system, or more investigations, arrests and prosecutions that further erode public confidence,” he wrote.

Schneiderman in March urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers to enact sweeping ethics reform in the state budget, a call that was made in the wake of Silver’s arrest on extortion and fraud charges, but before Skelos was charged with using his official position to aid his son’s business interests.

The move puts the ball in the court of Cuomo, who has in recent weeks focused on top priority issues such as curtailing rape and sexual assault on college campuses as well as the creation of a tax credit meant to spur donations to schools and scholarship programs.

The Legislature and Cuomo agreed on a budget that included new disclosure requirements for lawmakers with legal clients, which is due to take effect in 2017.

Schneiderman, however, indicated those changes don’t go far enough, writing “the parade of arrests will not stop until our leaders take bold steps toward comprehensive reforms.”

The legislative session is scheduled to end June 17.

Extras

Already, new state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia faces tumultuous times, as foreshadowed by her appointment, which came after a hastily-called Board of Regents meeting Tuesday where she was introduced for the first time to half of its members.

A federal appeals court dealt President Obama a defeat today as it declined to lift a judge’s order blocking his sweeping executive action on immigration.

AG Eric Schneiderman has hired Jonathan Werberg, former research director 1199 SEIU, as his office’s first data scientist – the first attorney general in the country to fill such a position.

A trio of art activists has filed a federal lawsuit against New York City claiming their First-Amendment rights were violated during a protest last year outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Lancaster School District postponed tomorrow’s student vote on a recommendation for a new mascot until June 2, school officials said.

The Independence Day fireworks show will return to Jones Beach this year after a five-year absence.

The Assembly is close to an agreement with Cuomo over his proposal to raise the age of criminal responsibility, but its prospects in the Senate remain uncertain.

Charter Communications CEO Tom Rutledge said he was “confident” on getting regulatory approval for the company’s two big planned deals for Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks.

Hillary Clinton’s online campaign merch includes a pantsuit t-shirt, a “woman’s place is in the White House” cross-stich pillow and a “shattered glass” pint glass.

Only women are invited to attend the fundraiser ex-Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s ex-wife, Silda Wall, is co-hosting for Clinton next month.

The Fix’s Philip Bump explains why the latest effort to draft former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg into the 2016 field is doomed.

Three Republican US senators – Iowa’s Joni Ernst, Florida’s Marco Rubio, and Mark Kirk, of Illinois – have introduced legislation that would limit a former president’s annual pension and allowance each to $200,000.

Three New Yorkers – Rep. Elise Stefanik, charter school official Eva Moskowitz and NYC Council President Melissa Mark-Viverito – made The Fix’s list of the 40 most Interesting Women in Politics.

Rep. Daniel Donovan, recently elected to represent Staten Island and part of Brooklyn, is looking to staff up. The Republican is asking the “best and brightest” in NY-11 to apply to be staffers in his district offices.

A reactor that was shut down during a transformer fire two weeks ago at the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Westchester County has returned to service.

Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny, the first Russian born-American to be elected to state office, is rumored to be stepping down for a position in the private sector. But that appears contingent on whether the Assembly’s Ethics Committee will allow him to take a second part-time job.

Members of the Buffalo teachers union picketed outside School Board member Carl Paladino’s house.

Rep. Peter King has been flirting with a run for president for nearly two years now, and he says he’ll decide in a month or so whether he’ll actually take the plunge in 2016.

Next Monday, the ballots for the PEF leadership vote will be sent out by the American Arbitration Association, the firm that administers the union’s elections.

Amtrak says it will install inward-facing cameras in the engines of all Northeast Regional trains running between Washington D.C. and Boston.

More and more over the last few months, Cuomo has used the word inarguable to argue for his side on debatable issues.

New York’s economic development office has followed through on its threat to revoke tax breaks for the Medley Centre, a dead mall owned by developer Scott Congel near Rochester.

The Wahlbergs are coming to New York and they’re looking for 75 employees to join them.

Bernie Sanders says he won’t condemn Hillary and Bill Clinton for earning millions of dollars from giving speeches, but believes “that type of wealth” can isolate people from the reality of the world.

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney’s reaction to the Syracuse Zoo’s new baby elephant: “Awwww.”

Board Of Regents Elect New Education Commissioner

The Board of Regents on Tuesday unanimously elected a former Florida schools superintendent the new commissioner for the state Department of Education.

MaryEllen Elia will take office as the next commissioner of education starting July 6. She will be paid $250,000.

Elia’s selection comes at a crucial time for education policy in New York: State lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo approved a new teacher evaluation measure in the 2015-16 state budget last month, a move that was deeply opposed by the state’s teachers unions for its weakening of tenure.

Though she spent 10 years at the Hillsborough School District in Florida as superintendent, Elia is a native western New Yorker.

She is supportive of the Common Core education standards, but at a news conference following her election as commissioner, Elia spoke in conciliatory terms when discussing teachers, whose statewide umbrella union has been especially restive over the changes.

“I’m very supportive of raising standards for students,” she said, adding, “I think it’s important for us to move forward in this nation, particularly in New York, on implementation. I think there needs to be feedback that we receive from people on the ground implementing the changes and we need to provide a lot of support for our teachers and our students.”

A former social studies teacher who taught in Amherst, Erie County, Elia said she is a former member of the teachers union in both New York and in Florida. Elia said she still considers herself a teacher.

New York education officials also continue to grapple with efforts to have students opt out of Common Core-based examinations, with districts recording high numbers during the April round of testing.

Elia said Hillsborough was a different case when it came to students opting out of the tests.

“We had very, very few opt outs, if any, in our district,” she said. “I think communication continues to be key why we have standards.”

Nevertheless, the teachers unions are far more powerful in New York than they are in Florida. Labor groups are pushing state lawmakers to adopt changes to the state’s teacher evaluation law that include slowing the implementation of the criteria.

Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said at today’s news conference she expects to meet the June 30 deadline for developing new regulations for the evaluations.

“If I were a betting person, I would bet that part of the regulatory language that we will put forward by June 30 will include a process by which we will have an ongoing conversation across this state about how to improve evaluation,” Tisch said. “We have always said public policy is not a static process.”

More challenging still, Elia faces a governor in Cuomo who has sought broader control over the state’s education policy. A proponent of charter schools, Cuomo is in a protracted battle with teachers unions over the direction of public education — as well as spending — in the state.

At the moment, the New York State United Teachers Union and other top officials in teacher labor groups spoke highly of Elia.

“As everyone knows, our union is opposed to high-stakes testing and value-added model, but even when MaryEllen applied it as required under Florida law, she made collaboration her mantra,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “And as a result, even when the going got tough in Florida, she was able to work with multiple stakeholders to do what was best for Hillsborough students.”

The education reform group StudentsFirstNY offered similar praise for Elia, calling her a “strong choice.”

“She is a nationally recognized leader in education, who has a record of accomplishment in helping boost the achievement for low-income children. As a former educator herself, she knows firsthand what it takes for schools to succeed. We believe MaryEllen Elia will lead the way to give all of New York’s students the schools they deserve,” said the group’s executive director Jenny Sedlis.

Elia left her superintendent post in January after she was fired by the district’s school board in a close vote, which ultimately proved to be a controversial decision. Her contract cancellation cost the district $1.1 million.

Elia blamed the episode in part on the changing school board in Hillsborough County.

“I’m moving forward now and I’m not really concentrating on the past,” she said. “I’m excited to be in New York. I’m coming home.”

Former Emergency Management Director Fine $4K

Steven Kuhr, the former director of the state Office of Emergency Management was fined $4,000 by ethics regulators after he diverted workers responding to Hurricane Sandy remove a tree that had fallen across his driveway.

The fine was formally announced on Tuesday by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics.

Kuhr was fired from his post by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in November 2012 after it was learned he had ordered recovery workers to remove the tree from his Suffolk County home.

The workers were initially sent into the field to clear trees from public roads that were blocking or delaying emergency response response efforts throughout Long Island, which had been especially hard hit during the storm.

“The days immediately following Superstorm Sandy saw an unprecedented crisis recovery effort and extraordinary dedication from countless public servants, and for one manager to divert precious resources for his own benefit is simply unacceptable,” said Joint Commission Executive Director Letizia Tagliafierro, “Public officials who put their own interests above the public they were meant to serve will be held accountable.”

The settlement reached with JCOPE includes Kuhr acknowledging that he violated the state’s ethics laws for misusing his official position by having the tree removed.

Kuhr Settlement – Executed by Nick Reisman

SED Poised To Name New Education Commissioner

The state Department of Education is poised to nominate a new education commissioner as the Board of Regents meets in executive session this afternoon.

Meanwhile, Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch is expected to hold a news conference at 2:30 in Albany.

The Buffalo News reported this morning that the Regents will nominate western New York native MaryEllen Elia, a Florida school official.

Elia would be the first woman to serve as the state’s top education official.

SED spokesman Tom Dunn confirmed the Board of Regents is meeting in an executive session to discuss a “personnel” issue.

“They are discussing a candidate,” he said.

The commissioner post at the Department of Education has been vacant since last year, when John King left to join the Obama administration at the end of last year.

Elia stirred controversy as the Hillsborough County superintendent, where the school board voted in January voted to terminate her contract over concerns, in part, that schools were not doing enough to help special needs children.

The new education commissioner will take office as New York faces its pending education questions. Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the budget pushed through changes to the state’s education policy that weaken teacher tenure as well as create a new teacher evaluation system.

The Board of Regents is being tasked with developing criteria for how much weight to give in-classroom observation and at least one standardized test in performance reviews.