DiNapoli: Landfills Cost Local Governments Big

Long-term costs for both active and closed landfills cost local governments in New York nearly $300 million, according to a report released Thursday by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

“Owning a landfill can generate significant revenues, but also carries a significant long-term price tag,” said DiNapoli. “Before landfills begin to reach capacity, it is critical that local governments plan for future costs that will be paid long after the revenue stream has ended.”

Outside of New York City, local governments spent even more on garbage and refuse-related needs, totaling $917 million.

But local landfills can be especially burdensome for local governments and public authorities that operate them. Eighty local governments have closure liabilities of $298 million they must pay over a 30-year period.

Some communities have relatively small post-closure costs, like Arietta in Hamilton County, which must pay $23,000. Other communities, however, like Brookhaven in Suffolk County have $34 million in landfill liabilities.

Local governments do have assistance in the form of grants from a DEC program, but it is funded at only $250,000 a year and has a long wait list, DiNapoli’s review found.

Assembly Open To Holding Sexual Harassment Hearings

From the Morning Memo:

Lawmakers in the state Assembly are open to holding public hearings to discuss sexual harassment in state government and how to develop policies that would address the issue, Speaker Carl Heastie told reporters on Wednesday.

“We’ve never closed the door to hearings,” Heastie said. “We have a new session coming in. We’ll speak about those things.”

Survivors and victims of harassment who have worked in state government have called for hearings on the issue in Albany after lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo agreed to a series of anti-harassment measures.

The Sexual Harassment Working Group has said the changes approved earlier this year have fallen short on several fronts, making hearings a preferred method of airing concerns.

Heastie added with reporters the Assembly’s staff had met with several victims in recent weeks to discuss the issue.

“Thank you @CarlHeastie for recognizing the need to open the door and shed light on the pervasiveness of sexual harassment- #MeTooPublicHearings is a crucial step we need to take,” the group wrote on Twitter on Wednesday evening in response to Heastie’s comments.

WNY Members Of Congress Applaud New Farm Bill

From the Morning Memo:

Both Democrats and Republicans from Western New York applauded Congress’ passage – after a long delay – of the Farm Bill.

The $867 billion dollar package received overwhelming support with a 386-47 vote. It passed the Senate earlier this week, and the president is expected to sign it into law soon.

Newly-minted Democratic Rep. Joe Morelle, elected in a special election last month to fill the vacancy left by the death of Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter, of Rochester, was among those who supported the bill.

“I am proud to cast my vote in favor of this bipartisan legislation which effectively and comprehensively addresses the needs of farmers, strengthens our rural communities, and ensures vulnerable families have access to critical SNAP benefits programs,” he said. “In addition, it takes important steps to support the long-term sustainability and competitiveness of our agriculture economy in the global marketplace.”

Rep. Chris Collins, a Republican who was re-elected to represent NY-27 in a narrow victory that came despite the federal charges he faces of insider trading and lying to the FBI, has said passing a Farm Bill was one of his main priorities after winning that close race. Congress had failed to pass it in September before the previous package expired.

Specifically, Collins said, the new legislation included important dairy policy that will strengthen the economy for WNY’s struggling farmers.

“The agriculture industry is the backbone of New York’s 27th district,” Collins said. “Protecting Western New York farmers will always be a priority of mine, and I’m committed to doing what is best to help them succeed. While we still have a lot of work to do to turn this industry around, H.R. 2 is a huge step in the right direction, and I’m pleased to see it pass today.”

Southern Tier Republican Rep. Tom Reed, who easily won re-election last month, also expressed the importance of the dairy policy for his district.

“This farm bill not only supports our hardworking farmers we care about, but also ensures our families are given a fair hand up when they fall upon hard times,” he said. “And as always, we are proud to continue our efforts to ensure increased funding and standards for rural broadband access.”

Reed said other important components included the legalization of production of hemp, funding for organic farmers and specialty crop research, and improvements to the crops insurance program.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany and New York City with no public events or appearances or interviews scheduled as of yet.

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence meet with governors-elect in the afternoon at the White House.

At 7:45 a.m., Melissa Mark-Viverito, former NYC Council speaker and current NYC public advocate candidate, greets commuters, at the 7, E, F, M, R subway station in Jackson Heights, (74th Avenue), Queens.

At 9 a.m., City & State hosts the Ethics and Accountability Summit, a full-day conference to explore how public officials, corporations, attorneys, lobbyists, nonprofits and the public can create effective policies to address government ethics and accountability, Museum of Jewish Heritage, 36 Battery Place, Manhattan.

At 9:30 a.m., the NYC Council Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises meets, Committee Room, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 10 a.m., the NYC Council Committee on Higher Education meets jointly with the Committee on Veterans, 250 Broadway, 14th floor, Committee Room, Manhattan.

Also at 10 a.m., “The Brian Lehrer Show” features NYC Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, WNYC.

At 10:30 a.m., the NYC Council Committee on Housing and Buildings meets, Council Chambers, City Hall, Manhattan.

Also at 10:30 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul delivers remarks at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Massachusetts Avenue Project Farmhouse and Community Training Center, 387 Massachusetts Ave., Buffalo.

Also at 10:30 p.m., the PSC will hold its next regular session, 4th Floor Board Room, 90 Church St., Manhattan.

At 11 a.m., CUNY students and staff rally to demand Cuomo sign the maintenance of effort bill to require the state to increase in public funding to keep pace with rising costs, 633 Third Ave., Manhattan.

At 11:30 a.m., the state Green Party announces its 2019 legislative agenda, LCA Press Room, Room 130, Legislative Office Building, Albany.

At noon, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. releases a new report, “The Preferential Rent Crisis in New York City,” and discusses policy proposals to address both tenant and landlord concerns surrounding the issue, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

Also at noon, the NYC Council Subcommittee on Landmarks, Public Siting and Maritime Uses meets, 250 Broadway, 16th floor, Committee Room, Manhattan.

At 1 p.m., the NYC Advisory Commission on Property Tax Reform holds a meeting, 250 Broadway, 14th floor, Committee Room, Manhattan.

Also at 1 p.m., the NYC Council Committee on Technology meets, Committee Room, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 5 p.m., “Driving Forces” with co-hosts Jeff Simmons and Celeste Katz features state Sen. Diane Savino on the legalization of recreational marijuana, WBAI, 99.5 FM.

At 6 p.m., NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo hold a District 35 town hall, Medgar Evers College, 1186 Carroll St., Brooklyn.

At 6:15 p.m., Hochul attends the NYS AFL-CIO 60th Anniversary Holiday Party, Sheraton Times Square, 811 7th Ave., Manhattan.

At 6:30 p.m., the Arena hosts a NYC public advocate candidate forum with 10 candidates, Wagner College, Spiro Hall, One Campus Road, Staten Island.

Also at 6:30 p.m., ARP NY holds telephone town hall with Rep.-elect Max Rose and members in NY-11 on Medicare, Social Security, prescription drug costs, health care, caregiving and financial security, via livestream at https://vekeo.com/event/aarpnewyork-43425/ or call-in at 866-495-1076.

At 7 p.m. – Diaz Jr. attends the AFL-CIO holiday party, Sheraton Times Square, 811 Seventh Ave., Manhattan.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray are hosting three holiday parties at Gracie Mansion on Manhattan’s Upper East Side – one for city leaders, another for partners from the business and philanthropic communities involved in the Mayor’s Fund, and a third for members of the NYPD Intelligence Division. All three of these events are closed to members of the media.

Headlines…

American Media Inc., the parent company of the National Enquirer, admitted that the tabloid paid former Playboy model Karen McDougal $150,000 for her story of an alleged affair with Trump and then declined to publish the article.

That leaves Trump in an increasingly isolated and legally precarious position, according to election law experts. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments made in 2016 to keep two women silent about alleged affairs are now firmly framed as illegal campaign contributions.

The news about the publisher, the parent company of The National Enquirer, came on the same day that Trump’s former personal lawyer MichaelCohen was sentenced to three years in prison in part for his involvement in the payments.

“I blame myself for the conduct which has brought me here today,” Cohen said in court, “and it was my own weakness and a blind loyalty to this man” — a reference to Trump – that led me to choose a path of darkness over light.”

Britain’s prime minister, Theresa May, survived the gravest threat yet to her embattled leadership winning a party confidence vote and averting a leadership battle that threatened to plunge the country into prolonged crisis, but the future of her stalled plan to leave the European Union looked bleaker than ever.

Tom Steyer, the Democratic billionaire who has paid for television ads calling for the impeachment of Trump, is also considering a run for president himself, staffing up a potential campaign for 2020 via an anonymous LinkedIn page.

Former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, ex-Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Obama, took the first steps toward a possible 2020 presidential run.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi agreed to term limits in a deal with rebel Democrats that paved the way for her to become House speaker in January. The longest the California Democrat, who is 78, could serve as speaker would be four more years.

After months of debate and negotiation, Congress voted final approval to a massive farm bill that will provide more than $400 billion for agriculture subsidies, conservation programs and food aid.

First Lady Melania Trump made history by flying in a V-22 Osprey aircraft and onto the deck of an aircraft carrier.

The panel investigating the Florida high school massacre in Parkland recommended that teachers who volunteer and undergo extensive background checks and training be allowed to carry concealed guns on campus to stop future shootings.

The Boy Scouts of America is considering filing for bankruptcy protection as it faces dwindling membership and escalating legal costs related to lawsuits over how it handled allegations of sex abuse.

Two Amazon executives faced jeers and pointed questions during three hours of testimony at a NYC Council hearing about the plan to build a new outpost in Queens.

Amazon does not need the Council’s approval to locate new offices in Long Island City, Queens. Still, the appearance marked the company’s first major foray into New York’s public spotlight since announcing the deal.

One of the strongest points of contention during the hearing was a benefit that the plastics company Plaxall will receive for one of its sites near the proposed campus.

“We have a crumbling subway system, record homelessness, public housing that is in crisis, overcrowded schools, sick people without health insurance and an escalating affordable crisis,” said NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson, a Democrat. “Is anyone asking if we should be giving nearly $3 billion in public money to the world’s richest company, valued at $1 trillion?”

Amazon executives sought to reassure its critics, saying it planned to hold recruiting events with the residents of the Queensbridge Houses, one of the largest public housing projects in the city.

The executives said Amazon zeroed in on New York City as a site for its second headquarters because of its deep talent pool, but the potential $3 billion in tax incentives and grants from the state and city sealed the deal.

Workers at the retail juggernaut’s new Staten Island warehouse are threatening to unionize in response to alleged harsh working conditions and shabby treatment by managers.

Trump is directing federal agencies and developers to rebuild distressed communities dubbed “opportunity zones” — including areas where his relatives own properties and the Queens neighborhood soon to host online retail giant Amazon.

Since it became well publicized last weekend, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio mostly kept silent about an episode last week in which law enforcement personnel at a Brooklyn government office ripped a 1-year-old boy from his mother’s arms and arrested her. Yesterday, he apologized to her on “behalf of all 8.6 million New Yorkers.”

The mayor defended NYPD cops involved in the Brooklyn fracas, saying the situation was “already out of hand” when they arrived on the scene, adding: “That was because of the mistaken actions, in my opinion, of the (Human Resources Administration) peace officers.”

Assembly Democrats are entertaining the possibility of take legislative action to overturn the limits on outside income that are set to go into effect in 2020.

More >

Heastie: ‘Technical Flaws’ In Pay Commission Report

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on Wednesday said there are “technical flaws” in the strings attached to the first legislative pay raise in 20 years by a compensation commission.

Assembly Democrats met for more than two hours in Albany to introduce new members, re-elect Heastie their leader for the new session and discuss the discontent surrounding the pay commission’s report.

Legislative pay will grow from $79,500 in base salary to $130,000 in the next several years, but the commission also determined it could end the stipend system for most leadership jobs, limit outside income and tie the phased-in salary hikes to the passage of budgets by the start of the state’s fiscal year.

“The technical problems that we’ve identified, our staff, our lawyers have identified that we believe we’re now going to have to fix,” Heastie told reporters after the meeting.

It’s not clear for now how lawmakers will tackle this, however. Heastie did not commit to the likely difficult job of holding a special session of both the Senate and Assembly before the end of the year to overturn the pay commission’s recommendations.

“The Legislature always has the ability to fix,” he said. “That’s why democracy is great. But those are things we have to decide. We haven’t decided any of that. This was just the first briefing for members to understand there were some deeply technical flaws in this report.”

Lawmakers also remain miffed by the commission backing a pay increase for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose own salary will grow to $250,000 and is not tied to similar restrictions, such as an outside income limit. Cuomo’s cabinet members, commissioners who head state departments, are also set to increase.

Cuomo’s pay raise is not tied to “performance” as well, such as the on-time budget, but kicks in with a joint resolution of the Senate and Assembly.

“They took all the stipulations off the governor and the commissioners,” Heastie said.

Extras

Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, was sentenced to three years in prison after saying he took “full responsibility” for his actions while at the same time blaming the president.

As members of Cohen’s family openly wept, U.S. District Judge William Pauley said that while Cohen’s willingness to plead guilty to a host of crimes in Manhattan, as well as to lying to Congress as part of Mueller’s investigation, and his contrition before the court were notable, they “did not wipe the slate clean.”

Trump’s personal lawyer, former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, was in Manama, Bahrain, yesterday, meeting with the king and the interior minister of an important United States ally in the Middle East.

American Media Inc., the parent company of the National Enquirer, has agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors in New York, the Department of Justice announced in a statement.

Sheldon Adelson wants to build a casino in New York City, and the corporation he runs is enlisting some of New York’s most prominent players – including a number who are close to Cuomo – in a campaign to win the close ally of Trump his prize.

More than 150 LGBT elected officials – including a few New Yorkers – penned a letter released this week calling on the incoming Congress to prioritize four LGBT equality initiatives.

Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez fired back at White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, who recently called the New York Democrat “a 29-year-old congresswoman who doesn’t seem to know much about anything,” saying Conway “has been engaged in a War on Facts since Inauguration Day.”

The House followed the Senate’s lead and passed an $867 billion farm bill that expands farm subsidies and includes language legalizing hemp production, sending the legislation to Trump for a signature.

Billionaire and liberal philanthropist George Soros has been telling his aides that he may not back a candidate during the 2020 Democratic presidential primary as the potentially large field sorts itself out.

Following her Oval Office meeting with Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi became a near-instant meme when she walked out of the White House wearing a burnt orange, high neck peacoat and a pair of sunglasses.

Insurance claims from last month’s California wildfires already are at $9 billion and expected to increase, the state’s insurance commissioner announced.

The NYC Council held its first in a series of planned hearings about Amazon’s HQ2 deal this morning – an event Speaker Corey Johnson called “atypical” in its nature given how little input he and his members had earlier in the process.

Protestors swarmed City Hall for the hearing, with many chanting “G-T-F-O Amazon has got to go” and “We need money for education, not for banks and corporations.

James Patchett, the president and CEO of the city’s Economic Development Corporation, said the Amazon project is “the single biggest job creation opportunity in New York’s history.”

Estée Lauder heir Robert Lauder donated $100,000 to a conservative super PAC that promoted Green Party candidate Steve Greenfield in the tight NY-19 race, ostensibly to peel votes away from Democratic Rep.-elect Antonio Delgado, who defeated Republican Rep. John Faso.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said the delay in getting the city’s $120,000-a-year parking summons advocate office up-and-running was because of the preparation needed to handle the expected influx of complaints.

The family of Amanda Rivenburg, 29, has put the state on notice. Lawyers submitted an intent to file a claim on behalf of Rivenburg, who was one of the 20 victims of October’s Schoharie limo crash.

The battles between so-called sanctuary cities and the Trump administration are increasingly moving to state courts, where lawyers for immigrants have started to convince judges that state laws prohibit local law enforcement from cooperating with federal immigration agents.

Bill Hammond: “The New York City Council’s vote of support on Tuesday for a statewide single-payer health plan showed curious timing from a fiscal point of view.”

State Attorney General-elect Letitia James said she plans to launch sweeping investigations into the president, his family and “anyone” in his circle who may have violated the law once she settles into her new job next month

Former top Cuomo aide and MTA board member Larry Schwartz broke down at an agency meeting this morning while revealing that he is suffering from a medical issue and is undergoing an unspecified “procedure.”

Emblem Health, which insures most of New York City’s municipal workers, has entered into a settlement with the state attorney general after being accused of denying sex change surgery coverage to transgender clients.

“Buffalo now is a hot spot year-round. The sports-loving city embraces cold with activities such as outdoor ice skating and curling, and it celebrates summer with unique boat-up recreation venues.”

A town court justice in Jefferson County has resigned as he was being investigated for allegedly making homophobic remarks and gestures to an attorney, according to the state Commission on Judicial Conduct. More here.

Quiet Outreach For A Special Session

Senate Republicans have started a quiet outreach to members to determine whether they would be available to return to Albany for a special session to potentially overturn the recommendations of a compensation commission, multiple sources on Wednesday told Zack Fink and Capital Tonight.

Holding such a session before 2019 begins would be close to impossible: The lawmakers who lost their seats this year would have little incentive to return and, with the holidays approaching, scheduling around vacations and family events would be difficult.

But the mere outreach itself is a sign of the dissatisfaction over the recommendations for a pay hike that also come with significant strings attached for the Legislature.

The commission in a report this week recommended increasing legislative pay over the next several years to $130,000 from the base pay of $79,500. The phased-in hikes would be tied to budgets approved before the state’s April 1 fiscal year.

The recommendations also backed a cap on outside pay at 15 percent of lawmakers’ legislative salaries and ended the stipend system for most leadership and committee posts.

The commission’s report has the force of law unless lawmakers act before the end of the year to overturn the recommendations.

The strings attached to the pay raise have angered some lawmakers, including John Flanagan, the Republican leader in the state Senate who remains the majority leader for the remainder of the month.

Flanagan in a statement on Tuesday blasted the pay commission’s report

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who in a statement said he wanted to maintain the independence of the legislative branch, will meet with his conference on Wednesday afternoon in Albany.

Legislature To Meet 61 Days In 2019

The Legislature will meet for 61 days in 2019, according to a schedule released on Wednesday by lawmakers.

The session will formally begin Jan. 9 and run through June 19.

Democrats will control both the state Senate and the Assembly for the first time in a decade over the next two terms.

2019 New York State Legislative Session Calendar by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Gianaris Wants To Avoid Other Amazon-Sized Deals

Incoming Deputy Majority Leader Mike Gianaris in a statement on Wednesday praised the New York City Council for holding a public hearing on the decision by Amazon to build a campus in Long Island City as the state provides billions of dollars in tax incentives in exchange for jobs.

“That is why I authored legislation to prohibit the use of secrecy agreements like the one imposed on the state and city by Amazon,” Gianaris said in a statement. “That is why I am taking on insider dealing in the real estate industry. The more we learn about this deal, the worse it gets, and I expect to come forward with even more proposals to prevent something like this from ever happening again.”

The agreement will provide for $3 billion in tax incentives for Amazon tied to the creation of up to 25,000 jobs at a site in Queens.

“Three billion dollars in taxpayer subsidies for a wealthy corporation like Amazon is offensive,” Gianaris.

“I am working with my colleagues in government and allies in the community to oppose this deal, especially at a time when there are real needs across New York. Affordable housing is sorely lacking, the subway is in crisis, our schools are overcrowded and we haven’t summoned the political will to fund these critical priorities, yet our governments bend over backward to provide billions in benefits for the one corporation that needs it the least. New Yorkers expect more and we demand better.”

A majority of voters in New York City approve of Amazon locating an office in Long Island City in Queens, but are split over the $3 billion in tax incentives, a Quinnipiac poll released last week found.

Assembly Democrats To Meet

From the Morning Memo:

Assembly Democrats are set to meet later Wednesday ahead of an especially active legislative session in 2019 that could see legislation the chamber has long approved pass in the state Senate.

The focus has been largely on the other side of the Capitol where the state Senate meets given the narrow divide between Republicans and Democrats, the push by liberals to help the party when majority control and the landslide loss of the GOP on Election Day.

Next year, with Democrats leading both chambers with large majorities, long-stalled legislation touching virtually every facet of life in New York, from health care, to how we vote, to education and campaign finance reform stands a real chance of being made law.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie is expected to once again lead a conference of more than 100 members in the 150-seat chamber. The Bronx Democrat who became speaker following the indictment of Sheldon Silver in 2015, Heastie remains popular with individual rank-and-file members given that he’s seen as a listener.

But there are challenges, not the least of which is the pay raise compromise presented to the Legislature, which boosts base salaries over three years to $130,000, but comes with strings attached: A cap on outside income, a virtual end to the stipend system for most leadership posts and the requirement that budgets pass by April 1, the start of the state’s fiscal year.

The conditions give Gov. Andrew Cuomo leverage in the budget talks while also potentially triggering retirements of lawmakers who would not be able to divest from their businesses.

The recommendations of the pay commission have the force of the law unless the Legislature rejects them by the end of the year. That speculation was stoked on Tuesday when soon-to-be Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan blasted the pay raise conditions. Flanagan remains majority leader through the end of the month.

For now, there appears to be little appetite in either chamber to force a return to Albany before the end of the year — a move that would be a logistical challenge given the holiday season and the likelihood of lame duck senators not wishing to return to Albany.

But stranger things in Albany have happened.

Either way, it’s clear Heastie is not pleased with the compensation commission’s recommendations. Heastie’s criticism was from an institutionalist’s perspective: The Legislature, a separate branch, should have some independence.