Reports: Skelos And Son Face Arrest Next Week

The arrest of Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his adult son on federal corruption charges could come as early as Monday, according to reports posted online Friday evening.

Both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal are reporting that Skelos, the highest elected Republican official in the state, could be the latest Albany figure to be arrested by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office.

The pending arrest of Skelos adds even more uncertainty to the remainder of the legislative session, which is scheduled to conclude June 17.

It is unknown if Skelos would continue on as the leader of the Senate Republicans, a post he has held since 2008, following the retirement of Sen. Joseph Bruno.

A successor to the GOP lawmaker remains unclear.

Replacements for Skelos that have been floated include Sen. John DeFrancisco of Syracuse, Sen. Cathy Young of Olean and Sen. John Flanagan of Suffolk County.

Complicating matters further for Senate Republicans is the condition of their deputy majority leader, Tom Libous: The Binghamton Republican, already undergoing treatments for terminal cancer, faces a charge of lying to the FBI in case revolving around his son’s employment at a politically connected law firm.

Nevertheless, Senate Republicans interviewed in last several weeks publicly backed Skelos, noting that charges were yet to materialize despite the reported investigation.

The arrest of Skelos would make him the second of the state’s trio of high-ranking officials to be charged with corruption this year — an unprecedented situation for a Capitol already reeling from a spate of high-proifle corruption cases.

Manhattan Democratic Assemblyman Sheldon Silver was arrested in January and later charged with fraud and extortion stemming from what investigators say were bribes that had been masked as legal referrals.

Silver was ousted as the speaker of the Assembly, a position he had held since 1994.

Federal prosecutors have reportedly been investigating Skelos and his 32-year-old son for their ties to an Arizona-based company, AbTech, and its sewer project contract with Nassau County.

Skelos confirmed in a statement that he was cooperating with the federal government’s inquiry.

Eight of the nine Republican senators who represent Long Island have received subpoenas in the case, with prosecutors seeking a range of information, including documentation on the state budget.

If arrested, Skelos would be the latest in a line of Senate majority leaders ranging from Bruno, to Sens. Pedro Espada, John Sampson and Malcolm Smith to face corruption charges.

Extras

Baltimore’s chief prosecutor charged six police officers on Friday with crimes including murder and manslaughter in the arrest and fatal injury of Freddie Gray.

Former Port Authority official and high school pal of NJ Gov. Chris Christie David Wildstein pled guilty to federal charges of conspiracy to commit fraud and conspiracy against civil rights in connection with the so-called “Bridgegate” scandal.

Wildstein admitted in federal court that he conspired with two other allies of Christie to close lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge. His plea sets up a much larger case that threatens to undermine Christie’s presidential aspirations in 2016.

No, Kirstie Alley is not involved with politically motivated lane closures in New Jersey.

Federal investigators reportedly have begun wiretapping a new set of potential targets as a result of the probe that led to the indictment off former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Rep. Louise Slaughter unveiled her portrait as former House Rules Committee chair. She was the first woman to hold the post back in 2007.

“There is no need for a summit since we already preserve emails and the Governor is free to modify his retention policy,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s spokesman Mike Whyland said.

…the Senate Republicans won’t be attending the May 22 summit, either.

Rep. John Katko broke ranks with House Republicans on two votes Thursday night, rejecting his party’s 2016 federal budget and a GOP effort to strike down a reproductive rights law in the District of Coumbia.

Transit advocates are asking Cuomo to “hop out of his muscle car and ride the subway with them to experience the MTA’s needs first-hand.”

The Schoharie County GOP Lincoln Day dinner will feature 2014 AG candidate John Cahill as a guest speaker on May 14.

President Obama will be in New York City Monday. He speak at an event at Lehman College launching the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, a new non-profit organization, and will also attend DNC events.

New York City is expected to spend parts of a $447 million settlement it is set to receive from French bank BNP Paribas on initiatives for its criminal justice system.

A new art exhibition in Albany will feature the work of a long-time watercolor artist who specializes in paintings inspired by countrysides and depicted with “rich browns, yellows and golds.” This artist’s day job: SUNY chancellor.

Hillary Clinton is stepping up her race for campaign money, holding three invitation-only events in the nation’s capital Thursday ahead of a fundraising swing next week through California.

Clinton will not be providing a rebuttal at this year’s LCA show.

A Colorado-based energy company is asking New York’s top court to re-hear a case that freed Tioga County landowners from their oil-and-gas leases.

A new report from the NYC Voter Assistance Advisory Committee shows an inverse relationship between advances in technology and the proportion of citizens who get involved in elections.

Six agencies, including four police departments and a probation department, are getting new body armor paid for by funds from the Oneida Nation tax settlement.

At a Brooklyn Democratic Party dinner last night, Cuomo praised Hillary Clinton’s choice to locate her campaign headquarters in the borough, calling Brooklyn “the heart and soul of the Democratic party.”

Senate GOP, Assembly Dems To Skip Email Conference

The majority conferences in the Senate and Assembly are not planning to attend Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed summit on transparency and open government.

Senate Republican spokesman Scott Reif confirmed in an email the conference won’t send an emissary to the meeting, scheduled for May 22.

“We will not be attending,” Reif wrote in the email.

Michael Whyland, a spokesman for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, meanwhile, noted to The Times Union there was no need to attend the meeting given the conference already has an email retention policy.

Updated: Whyland sent this statement over.

“There is no need for a summit since we already preserve emails and the Governor is free to modify his retention policy,” he said.

Cuomo also invited Senate Democrats and the Assembly GOP conference, as well as Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman for the meeting, whose location is yet to be determined.

The meeting was initially announced in March as Cuomo came under criticism for an email retention policy that deletes messages after 90 days unless they are saved.

At the time the meeting was announced, the state Democratic Committee Chairman David Paterson, a Cuomo ally, criticized lawmakers for knocking Cuomo over the email policy and called on them to no longer be exempt from the state’s Freedom of Information Law.

Cuomo And Lopez Meet, Briefly

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and one-time power broker Vito Lopez briefly interacted at a Brooklyn Democratic event on Thursday night.

Cuomo, glad handing the crowd, was spotted by NY1’s camera shaking hands and meeting with Democratic officials.

Off to the side stood Lopez, a former assemblyman who resigned in 2013 following a scathing report that he sexually harassed and abused legislative aides.

Cuomo, doing a double take, steered clear of the toxic former pol and moved on, seemingly without shaking his hand.

The interaction left Lopez staring straight ahead.

Open Government Summit Proposed For May 22

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office is scheduling a summit on open government laws for May 22, according to a letter sent today to legislative conference leaders and statewide elected officials.

The meeting was initially to be scheduled within 90 days after March 16, when the Cuomo administration announced it would review its email retention policy, which had come under criticism from open government advocates as well as state lawmakers.

Cuomo reversed course on the email policy just hours after Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office announced it was suspending the automatic deletion of emails that are not saved.

The letter was first reported this morning by Capital New York.

The meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m., with a location to be sorted out.

“The location is to be determined and will be at a place that is most convenient for the attendees,” Cuomo counsel Alphonso David wrote in the letter.

In addition to reviewing open government laws, the meeting could result in having the state Legislature be subjected to the state’s Freedom of Information laws.

The deletion policy is one that Cuomo has insisted he inherited from Eliot Spitzer’s administration, though former aides from that era have maintained the documents were saved in some form.

The policy itself was expanded in 2013 to include all state employees and was implemented in February.

20150501103803457 by Nick Reisman

Cuomo: Gentile Will Be ‘A Great Asset’ In Congress

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday night told reporters at a reception for Brooklyn Democrats that 11th congressional district candidate Vinnie Gentile will be “a great asset” if elected to the House of Representatives.

“I think he would be a great asset to Congress. I think he represents the values that are important to this state,” Cuomo said, adding, “I hope succeeds.:

Cuomo endorsed Gentile in a news release from the state Democratic Committee on Thursday, after initially saying last month he would steer clear of the race.

As to what changed, the governor framed the initial question about whether he would endorse Gentile as being what level of involvement he would have in the race.

Even still, Cuomo suggested he won’t be heavily invested in the effort to elect Gentile, who faces Republican Dan Donovan in Tuesday’s special election replace Republican Michael Grimm.

“The question was more how active do you get? We’re in the middle of a legislative session, I’m doing my job as governor as the state of New York,” Cuomo said. “It’s a little hard to campaign on Staten Island when you’re governor of New York, but I support Mr. Gentile.”

Cuomo, meanwhile, said he wouldn’t “second guess” the New York City Police Department for its handling of protesters in the past week.

Demonstrations in the city have led to more than 100 arrests as protesters held solidarity events following the death of Freddie Gray in Balitmore, who died in police custody.

“I have no reason to second guess the police on the job they did. These are very difficult situations here in New York, they’re difficult situations nationwide,” Cuomo said. “I believe our police department is one of the best in the country in dealing with it, so I have no reason to second guess it.”

Cuomo at the event also briefly came into contact with disgraced former Assemblyman Vito Lopez, who resigned his seat in the Legislature following a sexual harassment scandal.

Video of the event shows Lopez seemingly attempting to talk to the governor, and Cuomo avoiding him.

Assembly Dems Introduce Minimum Wage Hike Measure

From the Morning Memo:

Assembly Democrats this week introduced a bill that would incrementally hike the minimum wage in New York City and the surrounding counties to $15 by the end of 2018.

Elsewhere in the state, the minimum wage would increase $12.60 within the next three years. The bill would set future increases to the rate of inflation and provide for a minimum wage increase for tipped workers as well, reaching $12.50 in the metropolitan area by 2018.

The impacted counties outside of the five boroughs include Nassau and Suffolk on Long Island and Westchester County.

The measure comes after Assembly Democrats included the minimum wage increase for New York City and the surrounding counties in their one-house budget resolution.

“This bill ensures that the state’s minimum wage will keep pace with inflation and also recognizes that the state is diverse, with the cost of living varying by region,” the bill memo states. “Providing for a higher minimum wage in areas of the state with a higher cost of living will enable residents in all regions of the State to make a livable wage that is commensurate with their needs.”

The bill is broader than what Gov. Andrew Cuomo sought earlier this year: A $11.50 wage for New York City and a $10.50 wage elsewhere in the state. Cuomo’s proposal did not impact suburban counties, where wage advocates say the cost of living is just as high as New York City, and set aside indexing future hikes to inflation.

Currently, the state’s minimum wage is $9.

Senate Republicans have been reluctant to approve another minimum wage increase this year after approving the last one in 2013.

Meanwhile, there is still a push from some lawmakers to back a local control component to the minimum wage as initially sought by Mayor Bill de Blasio in New York City.

Bill Would Restrict Messages Of Necessity To Emergencies

From the Morning Memo:

Two freshman Senate Republicans this week introduced a measure that would restrict the governor’s use of the message of necessity power that speeds legislation through the Legislature.

The bill, backed by Sens. Sue Serino and Terrence Murphy, would formally limit messages of necessity to being issued in response to a state of emergency, according to the bill text.

Right now, governors can waive the required three-day “aging” process for bills by issuing the message and have them voted on immediately.

“The three day aging process is in place to give members of the State Legislature ample time to review bills under consideration,” the bill memo states. “In addition, the three days allows the general public the opportunity to voice their concerns and comments on legislation before the Senate and the Assembly.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office has pointed out that he has actually issued fewer messages than previous governors. Messages, too, have to be requested by the Legislature.

At the same time, the messages have been used in order to achieve the passage of a the state budget by or on the April 1 deadline.

Nevertheless, Cuomo has used the mechanism on consequential pieces of legislation that could unravel over multiple days of debate and outside advocacy.

Conservatives have criticized Cuomo’s use of messages of necessity on issues ranging from gun control, same-sex marriage and the passage of the state budget.

Complex legislation, too, such as the Tier VI measure of 2013 and the most recent education budget bill containing a package of policy changes, were put before lawmakers still hot from the printer.

Serino’s sponsorship comes as she has faced questions back in her Hudson Valley district over campaign pledges to repeal the Common Core education standards that have made for unrest among some constituents.

 

Panepinto: Cuomo’s Behind Buffalo Mayoral Control Push

From the Morning Memo:

Sen. Marc Panepinto, who is no fan of the push for mayoral control over the troubled Buffalo public school district, suggested during a CapTon interview last night that there are forces bigger than a certain local assemblywoman behind the effort.

“My feeling is it’s the governor, or people on the governor’s behalf, who are driving mayoral control for the city of Buffalo,” the freshman Democratic lawmaker said.

“…Obviously, the governor has had issues on the education front, as we saw played out during the budget, and I think he believes he’s got good institutional support from the assemblywoman (Crystal Peoples-Stokes) and the mayor (Byron Brown). So, if he wants to do a test case for upstate mayoral control, Buffalo is the place to do it.”

Peoples-Stokes, who is drafting mayoral control legislation for Buffalo that is expected to be released this coming Monday, served as Cuomo’s campaign co-chair last fall.

Brown has long been viewed as a Cuomo loyalist, and was twice rumored to be under consideration to serve as the governor’s LG running mate. But he was never selected, passed over in 2010 for then-Rochester Mayor Bob Duffy, and in 2014 for a fellow Buffalonian, former Rep. (and now LG) Kathy Hochul.

It’s also worth noting here that Cuomo didn’t endorse Panepinto’s 2014 campaign.

The Democrat ran against former GOP Sen. Mark Grisanti, who was the last of the Republicans who voted “yes” on same-sex marriage during Cuomo’s first term, earning the governor’s support and gratitude.

Grisanti ended up losing a GOP primary and running in the general election on the Independence Party line. Panepinto won – with a heavy assist from NYSUT – and was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal showing by the Democrats last fall.

After months of speculation, Grisanti has been nominated by Cuomo for a Court of Claims judgeship. The Senate Judiciary Committee will be taking up his nomination next Tuesday.

The Cuomo administration did raise the question of expanding mayoral control outside New York City before this year’s legislative session even got underway.

Back in December 2014, a top aide to the governor, Jim Malatras, broached the subject in a letter to the regents chancellor and then-state education commissioner that was widely seen as the first salvo in what would be a protracted battle over reform.

There have been discussions about mayoral control in several upstate cities – including Rochester and Albany – over the years, but they have never gone anywhere.

Former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg had to push hard to gain control over the downstate school system, but the Legislature has refused to make that system permanent, forcing the mayor – whoever he or she may be – to repeatedly return to Albany to get the power renewed.

Mayoral control in NYC expires in June, and a battle is brewing in the Senate over whether to extend it. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio make enemies in the GOP conference, thanks to his failed effort to help the Senate Democrats take the majority in the 2014 elections.

Senate Education Committee Chairman John Flanagan suggested this week that extension of NYC mayoral control is not a sure thing, and also said the Republicans are unlikely to sign off on the program again without making changes to it.

As for mayoral control in Buffalo, Panepinto has proposed a compromise bill that would give the mayor “input” through the appointment of two additional school board members.

“I don’t think that pushing (for mayoral control) in the last eight weeks of session, disenfranchising the voters of the city of Buffalo, and disempowering nine elected members of the board makes sense,” the senator said, adding that he hoped an additional two board members selected by the mayor would “help to reduce the acrimony” among existing members.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with no public schedule.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will meet with senators and assembly members, labor leaders and housing advocates for a strategic session on renewing and strengthening rent regulations this legislative session in Albany. This meeting is closed press.

NYSUT has kicked off its weekend-long 43rd Representative Assembly, featuring AFT President Randi Weingarten and state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli as speakers, Buffalo Niagara Convention Center, 153 Franklin St., Buffalo

At 8 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul speaks at Erie Community College’s Annual Advisory Council Partner and Community Appreciation Breakfast, Erie Community College, North Campus, Spring Student Center Café (near Wehrle Drive entrance), 6205 Main St., Williamsville.

At 8:15 a.m., CityLaw holds a breakfast with a talk featuring Corporation Counsels who served during the past two decades, New York Law School, 185 W Broadway, Manhattan.

At 9:30 a.m., NYC Public Advocate Tish James holds a press conference regarding the regulation of nail salons in New York City, steps of City Hall, Manhattan.

Also at 9:30 a.m., Hochul speaks at the Western New York Network for Women Leaders in Higher Education Annual Conference, University at Buffalo Center for Tomorrow, North Campus, Amherst.

At 10:30 a.m., Sens. Rich Funke and Joe Robach, Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks, Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, and George Romell, president & CEO of the YMCA of Greater Rochester, hold a press conference on childcare funding in the new state budget, Carlson MetroCenter YMCA, 444 E Main St., Rochester.

At 11 a.m., Staten Island DA and NY-11 GOP candidate Dan Donovan will greet voters at the JCC Senior Center, 1466 Manor Rd., Staten Island.

Also at 11 a.m., IDC Leader Jeff Klein, NYC DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, Assemblyman Michael Benedetto and NYC Councilman James Vacca announce $1 million in state funding for the new NYC DOT preliminary design study to reduce congestion at the Hutch Metro Center, Hutchinson Metro Center lobby, Tower 1, 1250 Waters Pl., the Bronx.

At 4:15 p.m., US Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand hosts a roundtable discussion on sexual assault, Nott Memorial, Union College, 807 Union St., Schenectady.

At 5:30 p.m., NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray delivers remarks at the Gracie Mansion Spring Kick-Off, 88th Street and East End Avenue, Manhattan.

At 7 p.m., Donovan will visit the Staten Island Hindu Temple, 1318 Victory Blvd., Staten Island.

At 7:30 p.m., Donovan will attend the Staten Island Conservative Dinner, Excelsior Grand, 2380 Hylan Blvd., Staten Island.

Headlines…

The Cuomo administration has set a date of May 23 for a summit to discuss email policy – four weeks after it said it would convene statewide elected officials and leaders of the state Legislature to develop uniform standards for retention and deletion.

State education officials will soon adopt regulations finalizing a new teacher evaluation system, but because of a statutory deadline imposed by Cuomo and the Legislature, they’ll do so without the formal public comment period that’s typically required by law.

Former Sen. Mark Grisanti has been nominated by Cuomo for a State Court of Claims judgeship. The Buffalo Republican’s name is on a list of 14 nominees who will be considered by the Senate Standing Committee on the Judiciary when it meets Tuesday in Albany.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, drawing praise from some of his critics and rebukes from his political base, defended the NYPD’s handling of a Baltimore-related protest that turned into a melee Wednesday night as dozens of people were arrested.

De Blasio met with the Rev. Al Sharpton, who criticized the heavy-handed police response to the protests, and – according to a Sharpton spokesman – the mayor “submitted” to getting answers.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he has “no reason to second guess” the NYPD following the controversial arrests of more than 140 anti-police brutality protesters.

A group of more than 100 protesters that marched yesterday from Syracuse University to Clinton Square and back did not have permission to do so. Bill Ryan, Mayor Stephanie Miner’s chief of staff, said the protesters organized the march through the city without obtaining permits.

If US Attorney Preet Bharara’s insistence that he’s not interested in seeking elected office turns out not to be true, he might have some trouble, thanks to “a spate of recent judicial challenges, rulings, and setbacks that have many questioning whether he has veered into overly aggressive behavior.”

Advice former federal prosecutor-turned-Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky has given his colleagues: “Look, if someone offers you a bag of money, don’t take it.”

Few outsiders knew anything about Karen Magee before the head of the state teachers union ousted a predecessor considered too willing to compromise and immediately escalated the public war against Cuomo and state lawmakers. She has raised NYSUT’s public profile and the level of confrontation, blazing an assertive public awareness campaign spanning all mediums, from television ads to social media.

It appears that James G. Weimer Jr. no longer wishes to be the board majority’s handpicked choice for superintendent of the Buffalo Public Schools. His change of heart comes after an angry and contentious meeting Wednesday night, where parents, teachers and community members hurled insults at him, board members and at each other.

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