Cuomo Outlines Raise The Age Argument

In a Daily News op/ed published this morning, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called on state lawmakers to adopt a measure designed to raise the age of criminal responsibility — a push he has backed for more than a year.

Cuomo, in the piece, argues that the measure to make the reforms to the juvenile justice system has already been funded in the state budget agreement approved more than a month ago.

The governor late last year backed the changes first recommended by a panel he commissioned in 2014 to change the age of criminal responsibility for most crimes to 18.

The proposal would send 16- and 17-year-olds accused of a crime to family court while also separating them from the adult prison population.

“Based on the commission’s recommendations, we have proposed increasing the state’s age of criminal responsibility as an adult to 18 and providing more appropriate handling of young defendants’ criminal cases. A bill is now before the Legislature,” he wrote. “It is time to enact these reforms, which are already fully funded in the budget.”

Juvenile justice reform remains one of a handful of key priorities for Cuomo as Albany heads toward the final days of the 2015 legislative session, along with a push for curtailing rape and sexual assault on college campuses and the passage of the $150 million educatio investment tax credit.

It’s unclear whether the measure can be accomplished by June 17, the final scheduled day of the session as lawmakers seek to hash out expiring issues such as rent control and mayoral control for New York City schools.

Senate Dems: Rent Control Is A Statewide Issue

Senate Democrats unveiled their preferred vision for an extension and strengthening of rent control on Wednesday, saying the issue of affordable housing is a statewide one.

Rent control for New York City and the surrounding areas is due to expire next month and it is likely lawmakers will approve a “straight” extension with little to no changes to the regulations.

Democratic lawmakers in the mainline conference at a news conference said they would oppose efforts to extend rent control without strengthening the measures.

“To just get out of town and pass an extender as the laws are written now is unacceptable,” said Sen. Adriano Espaillat.

To that end, lawmakers introduced measures designed to end the practice of vacancy decontrol and place limits on improvements landlords can do to buildings they say lead to a hike in rent for a property.

“The core of this vacancy decontrol,” said Sen. Daniel Squadron, a Brooklyn Democrat. “It only exists because of the way Albany doesn’t work.”

Assembly Democrats last week approved their own version of a rent control measure, extending the laws to 2019 and ending vacancy decontrol as well.

Senate Republicans have shown little desire to strengthen the measures and are also negotiating the more nettlesome issue of the 421a tax abatement, a measure that has become a key concern in public corruption cases when it was last negotiated.

Senate Democrats for the moment are yet to take an official position on whether to back Mayor Bill de Blasio’s support for increasing the amount of affordable housing in the abatement extension or pushing for a prevailing wage measure as some housing advocates have sought.

“The conference realizes reforms need to be made,” Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said. “We will be conferencing that today and are expecting to meet with the mayor to hear his proposals.”

Meanwhile, Stewart-Cousins said both rent control and the state’s cap on property tax increases should be viewed as separate issues. The tax cap is not due to expire until next year, but is intertwined with the rent control measure (in essence, one cannot be re-approved without the other).

“I’m in Westchester, both of things are important,” Stewart-Cousins said, noting several suburban communities have rent-controlled properties. “I think each of us come with the view for the entire state. New Yorkers are obviously concerned about taxes and New Yorkers are obviously concerned about affordable housing.”

She added: “I don’t know the need to combine them because I think individually they both matter.”

Republican lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are pushing for a permanent extension of the cap.

Schneiderman Unveils Ethics Package

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman outlined a broad ethics and campaign finance overhaul proposal on Wednesday by introducing legislation that would change much of how the Legislature does business.

Schneiderman unveiled the omnibus package at the Tweed Courthouse in New York City — the same spot in which Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched his 2011 campaign for governor and promised to rid the Capitol of public corruption.

Since then, the parade of state lawmakers led out in handcuffs continues unabated.

Schneiderman’s omnibus package would:

  • Ban outside income of state lawmakers, save for payment from military service, royalties or pension income from previous employment
  • Ban per diem and switch to a reimbursement system
  • Give the attorney general’s office the jurisdiction to prosecute public corruption
  • Create new crime for undisclosed self-dealing such as using an official position to enrich oneself and strengthens anti-bribery laws
  • Shift the Legislature from a two-year term to a four-year term
  • Creates a 6-to-1 public donor matching system for political campaigns and caps matching funds for a candidate to receive in primary and general elections
  • Lowers political giving limits for candidates both in and out of the public financing system, with a statewide cap of $5,000 for the primary and general elections each.
  • Ends the practice of unlimited giving through limited liability companies and eliminates housekeeping or “soft money” accounts
  • Enacts lobbying reforms that would ban lobbyists from seeking donations for a public official or party and lowers the cap on personal contributions from a lobbyist to $250.
  • Adds clothing and tuition payments to the list of banned items that can be spent using campaign funds

Schneiderman had previously announced in an op/ed in The Times Union posted online Tuesday he would introduce the legislation this week.

At the moment, there appears to be very little appetite for passing new ethics legislation at the Capitol, despite the arrests of both legislative leaders this session in separate corruption cases (The arrest of now former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver did lead to new disclosure requirements for outside legal clients as well as curtailing some uses of campaign money).

Still, the measure is winning praise from good-government reform organizations upset that the needle does not seem to be moving much on ethics reform in the waning days of the session.

“The corruption we’re seeing in New York State government takes power from the hands of regular New Yorkers and taints the honorable work being done by the lion’s share of public officials. New Yorkers have had enough of so-called ethics reform that tinkers around the edges—what we need now is bold reform that gets to the root of corruption, equips law enforcement with the tools needed to fight it, and professionalizes our state legislature,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “It’s time to end the parade of prosecutions and restore people’s faith in their government.”

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.”