Apr 24th - 4:54 pm
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara says his corruption investigations will help to improve a “broken down” political system.
Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch says deadline extensions for school district to adopt new teacher evaluations will be taken on a case-by-case basis.
Gov. Cuomo declined to endorse Vinnie Gentile in the NY-11 on Staten Island.
Binghamton Sen. Tom Libous posted on Twitter that he’s looking forward to returning to Albany following another round of surgeries.
Remington Arms will return about 200 jobs to its upstate facility in Herkimer County following job cuts last year.
A $1 billion federal loan is expected to pay for MTA safety upgrades, including a positive safety control system.
Cuomo is expected to renominate Tom Prendergast to lead the MTA for the next six years.
MMA has not been legalized by the state Legislature, but already some New York arenas are lining up matches.
The final stages of the PCB dredging in the Hudson River present challenges for the cleanup.
The “I Lift NY” supercrane made its first lift at the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project.
Former lieutenant governor-turned-Rochester Business Alliance chief Bob Duffy is urging companies to hire the poor.
Albany remembers the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, whose body lay in state at the Capital city.
A herd of escaped buffalo were shot and killed after making there way over the state Thruway outside of Albany.
Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple was angered by what became something of a free-for-all in shooting the animals.
“America is once again the land where no buffalo roam.”
Comcast’s decision to walk away from its purchase of Time Warner Cable came amid looming federal action.
The Statue of Liberty was evacuated due to a bomb threat.
Way too many cats in Sullivan County.
Apr 24th - 3:50 pm
Ken Adams, the former CEO of the Empire State Development Corp., will be departing the Cuomo administration for an unspecified job in the private sector.
Adams was initially slated to become the next commissioner of the Department of Taxation and Finance.
Instead, the job will go to Jerry Boone, the president and commissioner of the Civil Service Commission, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office on Friday announced.
Adams had initially been announced as the replacement from Taxation and Finance Commissioner Tom Mattox. Adams had been with the Cuomo administration since the beginning, after serving as the president and CEO of The state Business Council (which issued its first endorsement in 2010 for governor, backing Cuomo over Republican Carl Paladino).
Boone has ties to the gaming industry: He has held a variety of positions at Caesars Entertainment, Inc./Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc., including legal counsel and head of gaming operations at a major subsidiary. He eventually became the corporate Senior Vice President and HR, Integration & Internal Communication Leader.
Boone has worked as the commissioner of the New Jersey Casino Reinvestment Development Authority and was solicitor general in the New York state Attorney General’s Office.
The Boone nomination, pending Senate confirmation, was announced as part of several appointments and nominations within the administration.
Apr 24th - 2:25 pm
Schedules released by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office on Friday show he huddled with Jay Z and singer-activist Harry Belafonte as criminal justice reforms were being considered.
Cuomo spoke on the phone with Shawn “Jay Z” Carter on Jan. 13. The following day, he met in person with Belafonte, records show.
Meanwhile, also on Jan. 13, Cuomo met in person with Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch as well Michael Palladino, the president of the Detectives’ Endowment Association.
The meetings came as the governor was considering proposals to reform the state’s criminal justice system in response to the death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who was killed in a police choke hold last year.
Ultimately, Cuomo proposed a seven-point package of reform measures which included a special monitor to review cases involving police-related deaths.
The Democratic-led Assembly is expected to hold a hearing next month on the reform proposals, as well as introduce some of their own post-arrest reform measures.
Meanwhile, the schedules show Cuomo spoke on the phone with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Jan. 16. Cuomo is planning a trade mission to Israel in the coming months, but the details of the phone call were not released.
Netanyahu has a truculent relationship with the Obama administration, but Cuomo met last year with the prime minister to affirm his support for Israel.
Apr 24th - 12:58 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the decision by Comcast Corp. to abandon a $45 billion merger with Time Warner Cable, Inc. a “market decision.”
“That’s their decision,” Cuomo said. “That’s a market decision they made and I’ll leave it to them.”
Time Warner Cable is the parent company of Time Warner Cable News and NY1.
The merger would have created the nation’s largest cable and Internet provider.
Federal regulators had raised concerns with the merger’s impact on the broadband market and innovation in Internet service. If approved, Comcast would have controlled 40 percent of broadband subscribers nationwide.
New York officials at the Public Service Commission had power to regulate the merger as well, but regulators declined to step in until the federal government had made a decision.
In contrast to Cuomo’s remarks, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio hailed the decision by Comcast to pull out of the agreement, calling it “good for the American consumer”
“I applaud both the Federal Communications Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice for their attention to the needs of the American people,” de Blasio said in a statement. “My administration was an early and vocal critic of the $45 billion deal because we need more Americans online – not fewer – to support opportunity and help eradicate income inequality. We need more competition to bring down prices and ensure a democratic internet for all. The merger would have further concentrated market power in the cable and broadband sectors and created even greater barriers to the City’s goals of universal, affordable high-speed Internet access. We value our relationship with Comcast and NBC Universal and we want more valuable partners on the long march to broadband for all.”
New York City Public Advocate Letitia James went further, calling for universal broadband access in the city as well broader authority to approve franchise deals on the local level.
“In addition, as we look towards the future, New York City must regain its power with regard to franchise agreements,” James said. “Currently, when a franchisee – such as Time Warner Cable – seeks to merge with another company, New York City is forced to rely on State or Federal authorities to approve or deny changes. Our City must restore its ability to protect its own interests where a franchisee seeks to merge through an exchange of shares between publicly traded companies.”
Apr 24th - 12:43 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo stressed to reporters on Friday that a deadline extension for teacher evaluations being adopted on the local level should be for hardship cases.
The Board of Regents is moving to adopt regulations for the evaluation criteria, with an eye toward having those ready by June 30.
School districts are required to adopt those regulations by Nov. 15 or lose out on a boost in school aid.
But Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch this week signaled she supported moving up that deadline to September 2016 in order to accommodate districts that are having trouble adopt the changes.
Cuomo to reporters after speaking at a breakfast reception of the Association For A Better New York said districts can apply for a waiver to extend the deadline, but the definition of “hardship” is up to SED.
“That is a waiver for hardship,” Cuomo said. “So in their regulations, they’re going to have to define what a hardship. It’s a waiver and a hardship and the exception and not the rule.”
The governor also shrugged off the high numbers of students opting out of the most recent round of state tests, saying there is no impact of the examinations on students’ grades, anyway.
“We passed a law that stops the use of the grades on the test for the student,” Cuomo said. “So, the grades are meaningless to the student.”
The opt-out effort, encouraged by the state’s teachers union, is believed to have included more than 100,000 students around the state.
Cuomo said the exemptions for students were done in reaction to what he said was a poor roll out of Common Core by the Department of Education.
“They can opt out if they want to, but on the other hand, if the child takes the test, it’s practice and the score doesn’t count anyway,” Cuomo said.
Apr 24th - 9:58 am
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday morning before a consortium of real-estate and business interests called for an extension of rent control in New York City and for the Legislature to enact a plan to combat rape and sexual assault on college campuses.
At the same time, he praised state lawmakers for taking a “gutsy vote” on education policies in the state budget that are staunchly opposed by the state teachers’ unions.
“Change is hard,” Cuomo said of the education measures in the budget, which include a new teacher evaluation system and make it harder for teachers to obtain tenure. “Things are the way the way because that’s the way people want them.”
The remarks on Friday at the Association For A Better New York’s breakfast reception were the most extensive on the passage of the 2015-16 state spending plan since it was approved three weeks ago.
But the fallout from the budget’s education measures which Cuomo pushed for continues in Albany: Lawmakers are considering a variety of means to reduce standardized testing in schools and the Board of Regents is pushing back a deadline for school districts to adopt the new teacher performance criteria for those demonstrating hardships.
Cuomo called the education measures “a very, very difficult challenge.”
“At the end of the day, we won,” he said.
He praised the Legislature for taking up the changes and reiterated his theory on how government should work.
“I believe government is a service bureau,” Cuomo said. “It is not a debating society.”
The budget linked a boost in school aid to the measures, which lawmakers reluctantly agreed to accept it in order to provide the $1.3 billion increase.
Nevertheless, the New York State United Teachers union and the United Federation of Teachers has taken out a $1 million advertising campaign opposing the changes, which include making it harder for teachers to obtain tenure.
Tenure is linked to teacher performance on the evaluations and low-scoring teachers could be fired regardless of tenure.
“You tell me one other profession where you get to have three bad years before anything happens,” Cuomo said. “If a teacher has three bad years, it’s in the teacher’s best interest and the students’ interest, to find that teacher something else to do.”
Meanwhile, Cuomo called for an extension of rent control regulations for New York City as well as the 421a real-estate tax abatement, which he called crucial to affordable housing.
Allowing rent control regulations to lapse “would be immediate mass mayhem,” he said.
“If we don’t extend rent, you would have chaos in the real estate market.”
Cuomo was skeptical, however, of whether 421a could be expanded, citing uncertainty at the Capitol.
The governor reiterated his support for extending mayoral control of city schools for up to three years, but framed Senate Republicans as opposing the measure, while Mayor Bill de Blasio has called for a permanent extension.
It’s likely that a lifting of the cap on charter schools will be tied to mayoral control.
“The Senate is basically zero,” Cuomo said of mayoral control. “There’s a big gap between zero and permanent.”
He added: “Charter cap is controversial. Mayoral control is going to be controversial.”
The governor’s top priority heading into the final two months of the legislative session will be to enact a package of measures aimed at combating sexual assault on private-college campuses.
The plan would place investigations of rape and assault into the hands of law enforcement and include the creation of an “affirmative consent” measure for sexual encounters. A similar plan was adopted last year by the state’s public university system.
“We have eight weeks left: Top priority for me is to combat sexual assault on college campuses,” Cuomo said, calling the number of assaults “staggering.” “Rape is rape and we have to protect our students on campuses.”
Apr 24th - 8:29 am
From the Morning Memo:
We’ve seen this movie before.
A legislative leader is indicted or arrested, and their colleagues express a measure of support, only to eventually have them removed or pressured to step down.
It happened just a few weeks ago with Sheldon Silver, who resigned as speaker following his arrest on fraud and bribery charges.
For Senate Democrats, their former leader John Sampson’s indictment on embezzlement charges led to his being booted from the mainline conference.
Sampson himself lost his leadership post to Andrea Stewart-Cousins prior to the charges, but was removed from the conference (not dissimilar to when the IDC booted one of their own, Malcolm Smith, following his arrest).
Both Sampson and Silver were cited by Democratic lawmakers this week when asked if the investigation hanging over Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos’ head will be a distraction for the remainder of the legislative session, which runs through June.
“Obviously we’ve gone through our challenge this year and we’ve transitioned our leadership incredibly well,” said Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle. “It’s been seamless. We’re continuing our work. We did a great job in the budget in my view.”
Added Queens Sen. Mike Gianaris: “Certainly the Senate Democrats have dealt swiftly and decisively when this has happened on our side.”
Both Sampson and Silver retained their seats in their respective chamber as they fight the charges.
Of course, Skelos has not been indicted or charged with anything in the investigation, which stems from his son’s job at an Arizona-based firm that received a water treatment contract in Nassau County.
Senate Republicans, too, have proven to be a cohesive bunch and an heir to Skelos’s post is not apparent (some have pointed to either Sen. Cathy Young or Sen. John Flanagan as the next majority leader).
“The real answer now is it depends,” Gianaris added. “We don’t know a lot of the facts, but if charges come down, it will be a distraction.”
Skelos himself emerged this week in public, but added little to the statement he gave last week, saying only that he’s cooperating with the investigation.
“We’ll continue to work and obviously the Senate will address their leadership issues, if there are any,” Morelle said.
Apr 24th - 8:16 am
From the Morning Memo:
Rep. Chris Gibson in an interview this week expressed his opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement, and insisted his position isn’t about staking out a broader campaign plank in 2018.
“When you look at this from a statewide perspective, it’s an important that we include Congress,” Gibson told TWC News’ Washington bureau in an interview. “Congress should play a role in this.”
But at the same time, Gibson also insisted he wasn’t posturing for a potential statewide run in 2018 on the free trade issue.
Gibson said he continues to focus on his district in the Hudson Valley which he retires from at the end of the current congressional session.
“My first responsibility is my service and that is my calling here — is to do what’s right for the people in my district — the 19th congressional district and the people of my state and my country,” Gibson said. “I feel very confident that I’m fighting for the people of my district and everything else takes a back seat to that.”
Gibson’s free trade stance could play well upstate, especially in cities that have been hit hard in the last decades by jobs sent overseas.
The GOP lawmaker has been staking out more moderate positions on social issues in recent months as he considers running statewide, while also criticizing Albany for the spate of corruption arrests.
For now, Gibson is believed to be most interested in running for governor. Democratic incumbent Andrew Cuomo has not said whether he will seek a third term, though a former top aide expects he will run again.
Apr 24th - 8:14 am
From the Morning Memo:
The settlement brokered by the US and Britain with Deutsche Bank for $2.5 billion will result in an additional $600 million for New York’s coffers, bringing the total financial settlement windfall to just a hair under $6 billion, according to Department of Financial Service Superintendent Ben Lawsky.
And more free money might be on the way.
“We have more cases,” Lawsky said during a CapTon interview last night. “We have more LIBOR cases, but we also have a whole series of foreign exchange currency rate manipulation cases. We’re investigating about 12 different banks there.”
“I don’t know that all of them will result in settlements, but some of them probably will. We’re pretty far along already on a couple of them. So, we have a significant pipeline of additional cases.”
The Deutsche Bank fine is the largest of any of the LIBOR cases to date, Lawsky said. (The previous deal with UBS was $1.5 billion).
In this case, the DFS superintendent explained, the size of the fine was dictated in part by the bank’s market share, and also merited by “pretty serious misconduct” by individuals who sought to manipulate international interest rates for their own personal gain.
More settlements will mean more money for state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, (who used to be Lawsky’s boss and created the DFS for him to run), to fight over spending.
Lawsky maintains he has no skin in the game when it comes to how the cash his department has wrested from big banks is spent.
“I’m the financial regulator; I stay in my lane,” he said. “We do the cases because they’re the right thing to do. We come up with fines because they’re appropriate and create deterrence. But what happens with that money once it comes in, goes into the general fund, that’s really for the governor and the Legislature to work out.”
“…I really don’t get involved in it, to be honest. I have enough worries and busyness from all the work I have to do…We used to say in the AG’s office: Know your role, do your job. I know my role, and I’m doing my job.”
Lawsky insisted he has no communication with the governor’s office over how the money gets spent, though he does give the second floor a heads up when a settlement is coming. He also said Cuomo does not exert any influence over how he does his job, or encourage him to negotiate big settlements to improve the state’s financial picture.
“The governor has a lot of confidence in DFS that we’re doing the right thing,” Lawsky said. “…You wouldn’t want a DFS that was busy trying to get more fines in order to help the budget process. That would be an inappropriate blurring of lines, and you wouldn’t want that.”
Lawsky was mum on his own personal future. Is has been widely reported that he would depart sometime this year for the private sector, but he said last night that he has no timeline to go anywhere.
“I love the job, obviously these jobs don’t last forever,” Lawsky said. “The good news, and I’ve said it to you before, is we’ve built a great team at DFS…we have a great team. It’s the governor’s team. It’s not just my team…at some point if I leave, I’m sure there will be another great superintendent, and I’m sure that the team that is there will continue to succeed.”
Apr 24th - 7:52 am
From the Morning Memo:
The DFS is working on legislation to address insurance concerns in the ride-sharing industry.
“I think potentially a statewide law is ultimately going to be necessary,” Lawsky said.
“The sharing economy is coming. I mean, it’s here,” he continued. “I bet you have Uber on your phone. I have it on my phone. Lots of people do…That is a market that people want.”
“The question is, our regs and our laws, most of them were written before there was even an Internet, let alone a sharing economy over the Internet. And we need to modernize those laws. Because while there are many benefits that the sharing economy brings, we also need a bunch of protections to be in place.”
Last summer Lawsky and his frenemy AG Eric Schneiderman filed a joint motion in state Supreme Court seeking a temporary restraining order against ride-sharing service Lyft for operating in “open defiance of state and local licensing and insurance laws designed to protect the lives and well-being of New Yorkers.”
At the time, Lyft announced that it would start operations in Brooklyn and Queens, despite not having approval from the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission. And the company, an Uber competitor, was also operating in Rochester and Buffalo.
In a cease-and-desist letter sent to Lyft by Lawsky in regards to its upstate service, the regulator said one of his main concerns was that the company had violated state insurance laws, shifting the costs of a commercial enterprise onto private citizen drivers and their insurers.
Since then, Democratic Assemblyman Kevin Cahill and Republican Sen. Jim Seward, who both chair their respective chamber’s insurance committees, have come up with a bill that would amend the state’s insurance laws to allow “transportation network companies,” such as Uber and Lyft, to pass along company insurance policies to their drivers.
The lawmakers said both Uber and Lyft, as well as the state’s major insurers, have had input into their measure. Lawsky said he’s still reviewing the bill, but thinks it has some “real issues.” As a result, his office is working on its own legislation.
“We’re busy talking a lot with the governor’s office about it,” Lawsky said. “We want to get that legislation into shape and then hopefully start talking with all the different stakeholders. If we can ultimately get to a bill that can bring everybody together that could be a really good thing for the state.”
It’s worth noting that Uber has hired a number of people with political connections – including Cuomo’s former press secretary Matt Wing; and also David Plouffe, the former campaign manager and chief political strategist for President Obama.
I asked Lawsky if he believes there might be action on this issue before this session ends. He said he didn’t know, due to the “interesting” nature of what’s going on at the Capitol these days.
I took that to be a reference to US Attorney Preet Bharara’s investigations, which have already resulted in a change in leadership in the Assembly Democratic conference, and could yet spur the same in the Senate majority.
Lawsky is in a bit of an awkward position here. He’s friends with Bharara and worked with him in US Sen. Chuck Schumer’s office, but now the US attorney is investigating issues related to his former boss, Cuomo, and the governor’s decision to shutter the anti-corruption Moreland Commission.
Asked if he had any further thoughts on the matter, Lawsky replied: “I don’t. I just think it’s interesting.”