Panepinto Proposes Mayoral “Input” As Opposed To Mayoral Control

It’s a drastic step that’s been considered in cities across Upstate New York but never followed through on.  With nagging questions over the leadership of the Buffalo Public School District a Buffalo-area State Senator has drafted legislation that would give the mayor “input.”

“I think it’s an effort to try and quell the animosities that exist under the present school board configuration,” said State Senator Marc Panepinto.

Four superintendents in five years have tried to turn around the Buffalo Public School District.  The most recent person to hold the position has lost the confidence of the board of education’s one-seat majority and leaves the post July 1st. 

Infighting among board members over how a new superintendent should be chosen led Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes to revive the idea of mayoral control.  Panepinto was sympathetic to the idea but felt a full takeover was too much.

“From the Assembly delegation that I talked to, from the Upstate Senators, Democratic and Republican that I spoke too, I didn’t really see that there was a stomach for total mayoral control,” he said.

Panepinto’s legislation would allow Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown to appoint two additional at-large board members to the nine-member school board.  The terms would last five years and would need to be confirmed by the Buffalo Common Council.

“I think the City of Buffalo funds the schools to the tune of ten to 15 percent depending on what the state allocation is, so I think it’s appropriate that the mayor have some input on the school board,” Panepinto said. 

For a majority member of the Buffalo Public School Board this proposal gives away all control.  It’s “wrestling it away,” as Carl Paladino put it, from the duly elected board.

“The intent is for the liberal group, connected to the board minority, to stop the implementation of the majority’s agenda.  Marc Panepinto is an elitist who thinks government control is the answer to every aspect of life,” Paladino said.

Allowing the Mayor to appoint two board members could certainly flip the one seat majority.  Either way Paladino believes it would create even more chaos.

“This effort to remove control from a duly elected board is sickening,” said Paladino.

Panepinto’s proposal doesn’t go as far as the full mayoral control bill Peoples-Stokes’ office said she’s still drafting.  Buffalo’s Common Council President isn’t ready to endorse either idea at this point. 

“I’m interested in seeing both plans and seeing possibly is there even some working together to bring both plans into fruition in which one gives a little and the other may take away,” Darius Pridgen said.

Mayoral control may be an idea whose time has come.  Governor Cuomo appears to be coming around, favoring a short-term extension to mayoral control in New York City.

Panepinto thinks his proposal should be a three-year trial.  Even if the idea goes nowhere he’s already accomplished part of his goal

“I wanted to put something forward to begin the dialogue,” Panepinto added.

Heastie: No Decision Made On MMA

Assembly Democrats emerged from a 90-minute meeting discussing mixed-martial arts legalization without coming to a decision on whether the bill should come to the floor for a vote.

Speaker Carl Heastie declined to say what concerns were raised by rank-and-file lawmakers in the closed-door meeting.

“I would say I don’t like speaking about what was spoken on in conference,” Heastie said. “We’ll come out with a final decision on where the conference is.”

Support for the bill is a given in the state Senate, where it has passed multiple times with backing of both Democratic and Republican lawmakers.

It faces an uncertain future in the Democratic-led Assembly, however, as some lawmakers have raised issues ranging from labor concerns to the sport’s violence.

MMA legalization is being pushed for by both Ultimate Fighting Championship as well as several business-backed organizations and the Association of Counties.

It is unclear whether or when the Assembly will make a determination on holding a vote for the bill.

“This might be round one, this might be round two. But there’s no final decision,” Heastie said.


Congratulations, Assemblywoman Didi Barrett, you broke the Albany Internet today.

It will cost $210,000 for would-be suppliers of medical marijuana to apply for a New York license, according to regulations released today. Only five suppliers will be selected.

Former Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver will be arraigned again tomorrow morning after a new indictment charged him with transferring his crime proceeds into investments not available to the general public.

The state health department is moving ahead with an ambitious, $6.4 billion reform of New York’s Medicaid delivery system despite a stern warning from the Federal Trade Commission that it might violate anti-trust law.

Assemblyman Richard Gottfried is introducing new legislation to hasten emergency access to the drug for patients who can’t wait for the program’s scheduled January 2016 start date.

Cuomo says New York will be the first state to offer English-language lessons to Spanish speakers over their mobile phones.

Just weeks after signing into law a tight deadline for school districts to overhaul their new teacher evaluation systems, Cuomo said giving them more time “sounds totally reasonable.”

Now that the Comcast deal is off, Charter Communications Inc. is laying the groundwork for a potential bid for Time Warner Cable Inc.

Rep. Elise Stefanik, the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, was bullied by a group of “mean girls” as a youngster.

The state Gaming Commission is issuing a $343,000 fine against harness trainer Lou Pena for 1,717 instances in which he violated equine rules by drugging horses with steroids and other hormones.

Hillary Clinton wrote an oped published in the Des Moines Register to thank and recognize the “great ideas” she got from her trip to the state earlier this month.

The mother of Eric Garner won’t be supporting Staten Island DA Daniel Donovan, who convened the grand jury that failed to indict anyone in her son’s police custody death, in his run for Congress. “He should run far away as possible,” she said.

The Rev. Al Sharpton is off to Baltimore, the scene of unrest after black man Freddie Gray died in police custody there this month.

A coalition of Queens pols wants to bring the “Move NY” congestion pricing plan to a standstill.

Ron Perlman said he wants to hire as many Central New Yorkers as possible to work for Wing and a Prayer Pictures, his film production company he’s planning to move here this year.

How Greg Biryla became the new head of Unshackle Upstate.

New York City has struggled for a decade to handle the half-million summonses issued each year for low-level offenses, which flood the court system and have been issued overwhelmingly to young men, according to a report released today.

Sen. David Carlucci wants the heroin overdose antidote naloxone available over the counter.

Now that Loretta Lynch has become the U.S. attorney general, sworn in by VP Joe Biden today, her top deputy in the Eastern District, Kelly Currie, has stepped up to take her place in Brooklyn.

CBS News anchor-reporter Jeff Glor has been in Buffalo to do interviews for a story that is primarily about Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula.

Assembly Approves Pay Equity Measure

The Democratic-led state Assembly unanimously approved a bill on Monday that would pay equity parameters for women in the workplace.

The measure, which was approved 119-0, was passed by the Republican-controlled Senate and now goes to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk, who is expected to sign it into law.

“All women deserve to receive a paycheck based on their position and job performance rather than their gender,” Cuomo said in a statement. “Today, with the Assembly’s passage of the fair pay provision of the Women’s Equality Act, the Empire State is taking a firm stand in support of equal pay for women in the workplace, and I look forward to signing this legislation as we continue to advance and ensure the rights of women across New York State.”

The measure is part of a five-bill package Assembly Democrats had planned to take up in today’s legislative session.

Republican lawmakers and business interests have raised concerns with a broader bill, the New York State Fair Pay Act, that would ban pay inequity based on gender, race or national origin.

The pay equity measure had received more support from lawmakers in both parties and some Republicans even included the issue in their campaign literature last year.

The pay equity bill had hit a legislative snag for the last several years, as it was part of the larger 10-point Women’s Equality Agenda. The state Senate had balked at taking up the full WEA over a provision that would have codified the Roe v. Wade ruling into state law.

Instead, Senate Republicans have held separate votes on bills contained in the WEA package.

The Senate had previously approved an anti-human trafficking provision in the WEA as well as the pay equity measure.

Democrats in the Assembly had long pushed to keep the WEA has a single piece of legislation, eve as it became clear the votes were not available for the abortion plank.

Senate Republicans won a slim majority last year after Cuomo and Democrats campaigned heavily on the issue.

But after Bronx Democrat Carl Heastie replaced Sheldon Silver as the chamber’s speaker, movement on individual bills in the Women’s Equality Agenda was seen: Votes on the human trafficking legislation was held, and the abortion provision was approved as a stand-alone bill.

Today, Heastie cited the push to close a wage gap between men and women workers a moral duty.

“The wage gap continues to rob millions of women of the earnings to which they are entitled,” Heastie said at a news conference. “As a matter of social and economic justice, we have a moral obligation to close the wage gap.”

Sen. Diane Savino, a Staten Island lawmaker and member of the Independent Democratic Conference member, hailed the passage of the bill she sponsored in her chamber.

“The sad thing was it was tied up in the bigger issue of the Women’s Equality Agenda. Real women in New York state could have been helped a year and a half ago,” she said. “But they’re going to be helped now.”

Senate Dems Push LLC Loophole Closure

Senate Democrats on Monday pushed for a vote in the Senate Elections Committee that would reclassify limited liability companies and limit their political giving.

Sen. Daniel Squadron, the bill’s main sponsor, used a parliamentary maneuver in order to have a measure put to a vote in a legislative committee.

The measure was approved, and is now before the Senate’s corporations committee.

At the moment, a single campaign donor can give unlimited contributions through a network of limited liability companies or LLCs.

“It seems like almost everyday new allegations of corruption and abuse of the public trust are leveled at state government,” said Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins at a news conference this morning.

“What does it say when the Senate Republicans are so opposed to ethics reforms that they have to be forced to even discuss these bills in committee?”

The nudging is subtle: Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos is under investigation by federal prosecutors, while the GOP’s deputy majority leader, Tom Libous, is under indictment for lying to the FBI.

More broadly, Democratic Assemblyman Sheldon Silver is under indictment for corruption charges and will be arraigned on a superseding indictment on Tuesday.

Good-government groups have long railed against the so-called LLC loophole, but for the moment the classification has been elusive in changing.

The state Board of Elections earlier this month had considered a change in the regulation, but the commissioners deadlocked in a vote.

Republican commissioners argued at the time it should up to the Legislature to change the regulation. The Board of Elections initially opened up the LLC giving based on a federal ruling that has since been overturned.

“The Board of Elections opened up this loophole through their own action,” Squadron said. “It was consistent At the time, the federal government quickly corrected that. The Board of Elections has failed to act. The New York State Legislature has failed to act. We’ve seen this loophole get bigger and bigger.”

Candidates on both sides of the political aisle have benefited from the arrangement, though Gov. Andrew Cuomo has raked in the lion’s share of the contributions.

Nevertheless, Cuomo himself has been pushing to have the loophole closed.

“The Governor supports and will continue to fight for closing the LLC loophole,” said spokesman Rich Azzopardi. “Today’s passage of legislation out the Senate Elections Committee that would accomplish this goal is a positive development and one that we hope ends with an actual vote and passage from the full Senate.”

Heastie: A ‘Macro Look’ At Testing In Schools

The response to the large number of students opting out of the most recent round of standardized tests be may be a “macro look” at the number of hours spent on examinations, Speaker Carl Heastie on Monday said.

“It is a concern for all of us with a huge number of students opting out,” Heastie told reporters.

The opt-out figures are estimated to be as high as 100,000.

In recent weeks, the movement had gained the support of the statewide teachers union, NYSUT, which encouraged parents to not have their children take the last two weeks’ worth of testing, which focused on English-language arts and math.

Heastie said the numbers will likely spur lawmakers in Albany to take a broader look at the issue of testing in the classroom.

“We do have to take a real macro look at this,” he said.

NYSUT’s leadership remains upset with the approved state budget’s teacher evaluation criteria as well as the weakening of teacher tenure laws.

State lawmakers have introduced some changes to the evaluation measures, such as exempting high-performing school districts.

At the same time, the Board of Regents is backing a deadline extension for school districts that must enact the new evaluation criteria.

Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch this month signaled support for moving the deadline from this November to September of next year for schools that demonstrate a “hardship.”

The move has been endorsed by the Assembly leadership.

“I think for us particularly in the Assembly we want to see the districts get the resources,” Heastie said. “We didn’t want to see any districts be punished or not get their resources if somehow that deadline wasn’t met. So I’m very happy the regents put that out there.”

.50 Caliber Ban To Get Senate Codes Committee Vote

Sen. Daniel Squadron has sent a memo to his fellow Codes Committee members, urging them to vote “yes” on his bill that would, with some “reasonable” exceptions, require registration for, and prohibit the sale and tranfer of, .50-caliber rifles in New York.

The measure, formally known as the “.50-Caliber Threat Reduction Act,” will be voted on when the committee meets tomorrow at 1 p.m.

“Before voting on this bill, please read the below fact-sheet and watch the attached video,” Sqaudron wrote. “I hope you will agree with me that a weapon with the capacity to kill a human from over a mile away, pierce body and vehicle armor, and destroy military and civilian infrastructure should not be available in New York State without registration and without even a permit. This legislation is necessary to protect communities and the law enforcement personnel who risk their lives to keep us safe.”

Squadron also urged his Codes Committee colleagues to watch a clip of former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly during a “60 Minutes” segment on .50-caliber rifles, during which the ex-NYC law enforcement official watches a demonstration of weapon’s ability to pierce steel plates on a firing range that is three football fields long. Kelly says during an interview that the are “clearly a weapon of war” that is “appropriate for the military” and could do “a lot” of damage in the hands of the wrong person.

Some, but not all, .50-caliber rifles are deemed assault weapons and therefore banned under the SAFE Act. But, Squadron said, a loophole in the law allows the rifles if they are not modified in a highly specific way.

The fact that the vote will take place at all is something of a victory for the Brooklyn Democrat senator, who is the ranking minority member on the Codes Committee and tried last year to compel a vote through a parliamentary maneuver also employed by Sen. Diane Savino, an IDC member, to circumvent the chamber’s leadership to get a vote on her medical marijuana legislation.

In order to avoid voting on a controversial gun bill during an election year – a move that no doubt would have further enraged their conservative allies who were still smarting over passage of the SAFE Act -the Senate Republicans moved the bill from the Codes Committee to the Rules Committee, which is controlled with an iron fist by the leadership. (Of course, at the time, power over the chamber was being shared by IDC Leader Jeff Klein and Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos. Now, thanks to the results of the 2014 elections, the Republicans have a clean majority).

There are 16 members of the Codes Committee, which is chaired by GOP Sen. Michael Nozzolio. Nine members are Republicans, six are Democrats and one (Savino) is an IDC member. Four of the Republicans – John Flanagan, Phil Boyle, Marty Golden, and Andrew Lanza – voted “yes” on the SAFE Act in January 2013.

Schneiderman Denies Interest In Running For Governor

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in a statement on Monday insisted he isn’t planning a run for governor in 2018.

At the same time, Schneiderman said he had “no interest” in challenging incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo and will run for re-election as attorney general instead.

“Being able take on powerful interests in order to protect New Yorkers is the greatest job I’ve ever had and my plan for 2018 is to run for re-election. I am not thinking about or planning to run for Governor, and I have no interest in challenging an incumbent Democratic governor who shares my views on virtually every issue.”

The statements comes the same day as The Daily News reported Schneiderman is considering running for governor when the office is open again in 2018.

Cuomo earlier today strongly suggested he would be seeking a third term as governor.

Cuomo and Schneiderman are said to have a frosty personal relationship at best and the two have tangled over a variety of issues, including the power to go after public corruption (Cuomo later gave Schneiderman a role in deputizing members of the Moreland Commission).

Schneiderman has taken a more assertive approach in dealing with Cuomo this year and nudged him both pushing for a stronger ethics package with the Legislature as well as suspending an email deletion program.

Schneiderman, a former state senator, was first elected attorney general in 2010 and defeated Republican John Cahill for re-election.

The attorney general remains popular with liberals and other left-leaning advocates. Cuomo, meanwhile, continues to be broadly popular, but faces skepticism from liberal advocacy organizations.

Cuomo: The Budget Was On Time

Time in Albany can be indeed seem like a flat circle.

But Gov. Andrew Cuomo insisted on Monday that the state budget was indeed “on time” despite passing hours after the midnight deadline in the Democratic-led Assembly.

The budget would be the fifth spending plan in a row approved before the start of the state’s fiscal year, which begins April 1.

This year, the Senate concluded work before the deadline, but the debate in the Assembly lasted through the wee hours of the morning.

Cuomo noted, however, that the passage of the budget this year was not marked by a prolonged, months-long fight over the spending plan.

“Well, look. You want to play technical games, count minutes. What on time means is you had years where the budget was months overdue,” Cuomo said. “The budget is due April 1. You’ve had years where they would be there June, July, August and it wouldn’t be done.”

Indeed, the year before Cuomo took office as governor, the budget was one of the latest approved in state history and was not finalized until August.

The budget was only finally finished until then-Gov. David Paterson used the power of the emergency extender to force through spending cuts he had been seeking. The Legislature chose to pass the budget rather than risk a government shutdown.

The action in many respects changed the dynamic of the budget process in Albany and, since then, on-time or timely budgets have been routine.

“When we see we’ve done five budgets in a row the way government’s supposed to function, that’s what we’re talking about,” Cuomo added.

DOH Releases Med Mar Applications

The Department of Health on Monday announced it was now accepting applications for those who are interested in getting in the medical marijuana business.

The application, posted here on the DOH website, must be returned to state officials by May 29.

Applicants are required to release specific business plans and operational procedures. A $10,000 non-refundable application fee is required, as is a $200,000 registration fee (the latter of which is refunded if state regulators decline to issue a license.

The state is requiring organizations to adhere to strict security and record-keeping requirements. At the same time, organizations registered in the program must contract with an independent laboratory in New York to test medical marijuana products.

“This represents an important step in implementing the medical marijuana program in New York State,” said acting State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. “We have laid out an ambitious timeline in getting the program up and running and we are meeting our goals. Once the applications are in, we can begin our review and move to the next step of selecting the registered organizations this summer.”

New York is award up to five businesses to grow, harvest and manufacture medical marijuana. Twenty dispensaries around the state will be licensed to sell the medical marijuana, which is being redistricted to patients will certain, severe illnesses.

The licenses will be awarded by July and the program is aimed to be up and running by early 2016.