Apr 1st - 5:50 am
Welcome to the first day of the 2015-16 state fiscal year!
The Senate passed the budget deal before the midnight deadline and were invited to the governor’s mansion for a post-budget party, where Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos predicted there would be “libations” consumed.
The Assembly did not make the midnight deadline, wrapping things up just before 3 a.m., thanks in part to a Republican conference on capital spending that was called off the floor at about 10 minutes to midnight.
“If they had these bills in print three days ago, all of us would be home by now,” said Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, whose members reportedly rejected an in-person briefing on the ELFA bill by none other than Gov. Andrew Cuomo himself.
But that is apparently being viewed as a mere technicality, for no one is calling this budget late. Some Assembly Democrats even argued that since the bills authorizing spending for the continuing of state operations were passed before midnight, the deadline had actually been met.
At 12:15 a.m., a statement from Cuomo landed in my in-box announcing that both houses of the Legislature had “successfully passed the 2015-16 Budget spending plan to allow for the continued operation of government.”
“This is a Budget that every New Yorker can be proud of, and I look forward to continuing to work to move New York forward this legislative session and beyond.”
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s statement on his first-ever budget deal as leader of the Democratic conference arrived shortly thereafter (12:18 a.m.), even though debate in his chamber wasn’t yet complete. “Until we gavel out, it’s still Tuesday,” Heastie told Newsday (early on Wednesday morning).
The speaker again used the $1.6 billion figure when discussing the increase in education aid, even though the generally accepted number ifs $1.4 billion.
Heastie also touted $435 million to combat homelessness and the more than $14 million for additional child care subsidies and continuing support for child care programs at CUNY and SUNY in the budget, “so that parents can rest assured that their children are in safe and nurturing hands while they work to advance their education.”
“As I have said before, the priorities of New York’s families are the priorities of the People’s House,” Heastie concluded. “While we have delivered a fiscally responsible budget to the people of this state, we will also continue to fight for the reforms and investments that will strengthen our families and uplift all New Yorkers.”
Most of the Assembly Democrats, under pressure from NYSUT to vote “no” on the education portion of the budget, and called upon by the WFP and progressive groups to delay in order to renegotiate a better deal, ended up voting in favor of the measure after expressing their unhappiness about doing so. The Assembly passed the “ELFA” bill, 92-54, shortly before midnight.
The Daily News’ Glenn Blain reports that while NYSUT President Karen Magee urged lawmakers to reject the education reform measures, NYC lawmakers said they were told by representatives of Mike Mulgrew, president of the downstate teachers union UFT, that voting for the package would not be held against them.
Mulgrew said his union’s campaign against the governor’s education reform agenda – even the portions that made it into the final budget deal – will continue.
“Things got pushed out because of what we did, but in the end, because of the power that the governor has during the budget process in our state, we knew things were going to get through,” he told the New York Times.
In the end, lawmakers really didn’t want to reject $1.4 billion in additional state aid for public schools, even though they didn’t love many of the reforms the bill contained. Several rationalized their “yes” votes by saying the final product was far less onerous than what Cuomo had originally proposed.
Also, they didn’t want to be seen voting against the ethics reform plan that was inserted into the ELFA bill – even Assemblyman Sheldon Silver, now a rank-and-file member, voted “yes” on the proposal, which was pushed by the governor in the wake of Silver’s federal corruption case.
The ethics reform approved last night/early this morning is far from perfect, however, according to disappointed good government groups, who had hoped for much more. There are many loopholes and caveats in the new disclosure regulations, and advocates were unhappy that the bill language for the ethics deal did not appear in print until just a few hours before lawmakers started voting.
It has become something of a tradition for Cuomo to take a post-budget victory lap around the state – or, at the very least, hold a Red Room press conference touting his success at wrangling yet another on-time spending plan out of the Legislature.
Last year, he employed a baseball theme when he signed his fourth on-time budget into law, calling it a “grand slam” and handing out commemorative balls to legislative leaders, (Sen. Kemp Hannon accepted the token on behalf of Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos, who couldn’t make it).
We have no public schedule form Cuomo’s press office as of yet, so it’s unclear where he’ll be today.
So much of the policy Cuomo included in his executive budget proposal back in January fell off the negotiating table in recent weeks – from minimum wage and raise the age to property tax relief, the DREAM Act, EITC, raising the charter school cap and NYC mayoral control – that the post-budget session promises to be very busy, and also very contentious.
For the moment, however, lawmakers will take a break to observe the Passover and Easter holidays. They’re not due back at the Capitol until April 21.
Some (mostly) non-budget news did occur yesterday, for example…
Apr 1st - 12:33 am
Full passage of the $142 billion state budget did not meet the midnight deadline on Tuesday night as the debate in the state Assembly dragged into the early morning hours of April 1.
A debate over a massive education, labor and ethics bill lasted for more than six hours in the chamber on Tuesday and Assembly Republicans called a conference on a capital projects spending bill at 10 minutes to midnight.
In the end, Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared the budget on time, based on the passage of major appropriations bills that keep state government funded into the new fiscal year.
“Tonight, both houses of the Legislature have successfully passed the 2015-16 Budget spending plan to allow for the continued operation of government. This is a plan that keeps spending under two percent, reforms New York’s education bureaucracy, implements the nation’s strongest and most comprehensive disclosure laws for public officials and makes the largest investment in the Upstate economy in a generation.
Cuomo had touted the passage of four on time budgets during his first term as governor, a record that hadn’t been seen since the era of Nelson Rockefeller. But in recent weeks, Cuomo had said he would sacrifice the passage of an on-time budget if it meant the inclusion of ethics legislation (new disclosure requirements, per diem and campaign finance reforms were included).
Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a veteran of late budgets himself, is watching the process unfold as a rank-and-file lawmaker this year as he faces corruption charges. He downplayed the budget votes running past midnight.
“I don’t give it as much weight as I do a substantive budget that people of the state need,” he said.
Silver also noted a number of non-spending measures will be considered by the Assembly. As an example, Silver pointed to a constitutional amendment lawmakers will vote on that would strip public officials of their pensions upon conviction.
Negotiations over the budget measures, meanwhile, had also went right up to the voting, with the governor issuing messages waiving the three-day aging process.
“If they had these bills in print three days ago, all of use would be home by now,” Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb said.
Kolb pointed out the state Senate finished up its own work on the budget with more than an hour to go before midnight.
“What I would say to you is the Senate has completed the work, so they’re all done. We’re going to finish this budget, however long the debate takes. Are you really going nitpick two hours or an hour and a half or whatever it’s going to be? I think it’s a silly question.”
He added: “Is this going to effect one New Yorker, one family, because it’s done an hour after midnight? I don’t think so,”
Mar 31st - 11:30 pm
Lawmakers in the Democratic-led Assembly late Tuesday night reluctantly approved a massive education spending bill as part of the budget, 92-54, following a marathon, six-hour debate.
The state Senate had approved the bill earlier in the evening, 36 to 26.
But the education reform legislation as proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo was always considered to be a heavier lift in the Assembly, where the state’s teachers’ unions are especially close with lawmakers.
The legislation includes changes to the state’s teacher evaluation law, which will rely on a mix of state testing and in-classroom observation. Tenure will take longer for teachers to obtain and poor-performing teachers can be fired, even those with tenure.
Struggling schools deemed to be “failing” will have a year to reverse their problems are face a state receivership administered by the Department of Education.
The measures are staunchly opposed by the teachers unions, who spent the last several weeks trying to weaken Cuomo’s education proposals.
Both the United Federation of Teachers and the New York State United Teachers blasted Cuomo for what they saw as his demonizing of teachers and dogged his events around the state in protest.
Still, even as a number of other measures melted away from the budget talks, Cuomo stuck with including education reforms, as well as ethics legislation, in the final budget agreement.
Enacting the evaluation measures by November will give school districts a planned boost in education aid.
Democratic lawmakers expressed disapproval for the education reform measures included in the spending plan, which boosts school aid by $1.3 billion over last year.
Indeed, the added spending in the budget bill was what spurred many lawmakers to approve the measure.
Lawmakers touted the negotiations with Cuomo and Senate Republicans that ultimately included more school aid than the $1.1 billion that was initially proposed in the executive budget in January.
In the end, lawmakers insisted they couldn’t vote against a spending plan for schools, even if it did include a number of measures that they opposed.
“It’s much better than it was a few days ago,” said Bronx Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, citing the added school aid.
“I feel there are too many good things in this bill,” said Westchester County Assemblywoman Amy Paulin.
But lawmakers, even voting for the bill, bashed it at the same time during the debate.
“Attacking our school districts, attacking our teachers is not real reform,” said Assemblyman Harry Bronson.
Republican Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick, in a rare show of support for Cuomo on the floor, thanked him for taking aim at the “entrenched” teachers union.
The measure, known as the Education, Labor and Family Assistance budget bill, included a suite of ethics reform legislation that address client disclosure for state lawmakers who are attorneys as well as per diem and campaign finance reform.
Some Republicans attacked the packaging of the two issues.
Republican Assemblyman Bill Nojay said ethics and education were “mashed together for the oldest political reasons.”
But there was also a sense among lawmakers that the education reform measures approved in the budget will not just have wide-reaching effects for schools and politics, but will likely be before them again next year.
“We will be back here again revisiting this issue,” said Assemblyman Fred Thiele. “I feel like we are rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.”
Mar 31st - 7:44 pm
If you work up here in Albany, you’ve probably heard it a million times, “The City is a creature of The State.”Albany giveth, and Albany taketh away. The State of New York could govern the city of New York if it chose to do so, and arguably did during the financial crisis in the 1970’s with the financial control board.
But that doesn’t mean the city has to like it. Sometimes the city stomps it’s feet and holds it’s breath and it STILL doesn’t get what it wants from Albany. See the West Side Stadium, and congestion pricing to name just a few. Then there is the dynamic between our current Mayor, Bill de Blasio, and our current Governor Andrew Cuomo. This has truly taken the constant back and forth between the city and state to new comedic heights.
Let’s circle back to that New York City Housing Authority money you likely first read about here. The State has agreed to give NYCHA $100 million in the upcoming fiscal year budget for repairs and improvements. There is broad agreement that the money is needed, but there was much dispute over how it should be administered and distributed. Much to the de Blasio Administration’s chagrin, the state will provide the funding, but not through a direct appropriation to NYCHA. Instead, all the money will be overseen by the state through DHCR which will strictly control which projects get approved and how each and every penny gets spent. Needless to say this did not go over well with the de Blasio Administration which argued NYCHA knows what it’s needs are and how better to repair the buildings it is currently charged with maintaining. No dice. The money is controlled by the state.
Well now, there is yet another layer to this. According to the just released bill language, the New York City Comptroller is mandated to conduct an audit of the management processes and procedures of NYCHA. So, in other words, the de Blasio Administration gets the money, but not without their sometimes other rival Scott Stringer poking around and looking for problems.
The bill reads (SIC),
“…and provided further that the comptroller of the city of new york shall immediately commence an audit of the new york city housing authority management and contracting process for repairs and maintenance and make recommendation on how to improve the process.”
According to sources, Governor Cuomo read this story in the Daily News about NYCHA not always having the best track record when it comes to spending money, and insisted strong controls be instilled in any appropriation that goes out the Capitol door to the city of New York for NYCHA. I’m sure it has nothing to do with poking de Blasio in the belly with a sharp stick. And frankly, I’m disgusted that you would even ask such a thing.
***Update*** IDC leader Jeff Klein, who fought to get the $100 million into the budget issued a statement through spox Candice Giove which reads,
“Senator Klein is proud that he delivered $100 million in funding to make critical repairs to NYCHA buildings. Equally important to the Senator is oversight of the state’s investment to ensure fiscal responsibility.”
Mar 31st - 5:51 pm
With the budget deadline looming, good government groups criticized Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders for reaching a deal on ethics reform without having bill printed.
Here’s a helpful Q-and-A on how the new teacher performance evaluation system will work.
The Assembly Republicans declined Cuomo’s offer for a personal briefing on what’s in the budget bills that lawmakers will take up tonight.
The New York Times expressed its disapproval that the DREAM Act, minimum wage, NYC mayoral control and campaign finance reform are missing from the budget deal.
EJ McMahon notes the governor’s plan, (with which he does not agree), for spending the $5.4 billion settlement windfall remains largely in tact in the final budget, and “shortchanges basica transportation and municipal infrastructure needs.”
Sen. Joseph Griffo introduced a bill that would require the governor to tell each school district how much state funding they would receive as part of the governor’s annual budget proposal.
SUNY chancellor Nancy Zimpher is happy with the support SUNY was given in the budget, even though the university system will have to pick up the tab for mandatory cost increases required by collectively bargained contracts.
Several large donors to Cuomo and the Senate Republicans stand to benefit from the tax breaks on yachts and private jets that were included in his budget, according to the Hedge Clippers.
New York State Republican Party Chairman Ed Cox dismissed Cuomo’s move and noted that the Democratic governor plans a visit next month to Cuba, a country where he said “political dissidents are imprisoned and tortured.”
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s margins are down in matchups with possible 2016 GOP presidential candidates in three critical swing states, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, and in no state do voters say she’s honest and trustworthy, a new Q poll found.
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio excoriated a controversial Indiana religious freedom law, calling it “deeply disturbing” and “doomed to failure.” He followed Cuomo’s lead and banned non-essential city travel to the Hoosier State.
The New York State Court of Appeals granted a motion to delay next month’s implementation of the city’s plan to standardize yellow cabs
The NYC agency created to increase oversight of the NYPD referred more than half of the complaints it received last year to the NYPD’s internal investigative body, causing some to question its independence and effectiveness.
Tucker Carlson, the founder and editor-in-chief of The Daily Caller, refused to criticize his brother, Buckley, for the vulgar email he sent to a de Blasio spokeswoman.
The NYC Council passed legislation to beef up the city’s Human Rights Commission, which critics complain has been weak in its enforcement of anti-discrimination laws.
Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy said it was “stupid” of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to sign a state law that critics say would allow businesses to deny service to gay people.
A number of likely Republican presidential candidates have come out in support of the controversial Indiana legislation.
Cuomo appointed Linda Dobmeier, vice president of Dobmeier Janitor Supply Inc. and a past chairwoman of the Buffalo State College Foundation, chairwoman of the Buffalo State College Council.
Republican Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino has appointed Ron Tocci, a former Democratic assemblyman, as the county’s new director of the Veterans Service Agency.
Cuomo struck a deal with lawmakers to include a $100 million venture capital fund – double the initial request – in the final budget. It will be used to help businesses engaged in biotechnology and advanced materials take their work into the marketplace.
Mar 31st - 5:19 pm
State lawmakers are digging in at the state Capitol for the final passage of the 2015-16 state budget, with just hours to go before the dawn of the new fiscal year.
In addition to massive budget bills that total hundreds of pages and contain changes to education policy in the state, lawmakers are also due to consider a constitutional amendment for having officials convicted of corruption lose their pensions.
In short, the budget may not meet its midnight deadline, making for the first late spending plan since 2010.
The Republican-led Senate is in session at this point, but the Democratic-controlled Assembly is where Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s education reforms are the most contentious.
The budget includes a new teacher evaluation system, makes it harder for teachers to obtain tenure and reforms the process for removing teachers from the classroom, essentially making it easier to fire poor-performing teachers, regardless of tenure.
The reforms are staunchly opposed by the state’s teachers union, which is urging legislators to vote against them.
“I think judging from some of the phone calls and emails we’re getting in our offices right now, I think there’s a lot of anger and frustration about the process and what’s in the bill,” said Utica Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, a Democrat.
“We’re digesting and we’re going to make a decision what we’re going to do,” he added.
It’s expected to be a long night. As of 5 p.m., the Assembly was yet to enter its session.
“We’re just going through it, going through bill copy,” Majority Leader Joe Morelle said. “There’s a lot of mechanics on the last day.”
Enacting the new evaluation criteria by November will be tied to a boost in education aid for school districts, and lawmakers are raising concerns with the effort re-negotiate contracts.
“I think it certainly scales back some of the collective bargaining rights teachers have negotiated, Brindisi said. “These are due process rights teachers have negotiated over a number of years.”
Lawmakers also have little time to consider the measures, contained in a 311-page education, labor and family assistance package that also has ethics and disclosure reforms tied to it.
“I would say many of my colleagues are very unsettled,” Assemblywoman Pat Fahy of Albany said. “It’s a lot to try to read today.”
Adding to the headaches for Democratic lawmakers in the Assembly, the education details were negotiated up until Monday, despite a framework agreed to on Sunday.
Those adjustments came after the United Federation of Teachers touted their efforts to have the evaluation legislation changed as initially proposed by Cuomo.
“There’s been a lot to absorb and just today,” Fahy said. “We thought were in one place on Sunday and then we backpedaled a little bit given the fallout evidently over some of the comments in the press about victories and what have you. So there was a long night yesterday trying to put things back together.”
Mar 31st - 3:51 pm
The final ethics legislation to be voted on by state lawmakers includes disclosure requirements for those who work in the legal or consulting professions, but only for those with new business being taken on in 2016.
Client disclosure won’t be made public until June 2017, according to the law.
The bill language was released this afternoon and is expected to be voted on after lawmakers conference the massive education, labor and family assistance budget bill.
At the same time, there are allowances built into the legislation that would prevent client disclosure when it comes to the “invasion of privacy” for a client or “undue harm.”
Both the Joint Commission on Public Ethics and the Office of Court Administration will have the power to redact clients names based on that criteria and other exemptions, such as divorce proceedings, estate plannings and cases involving children.
When it comes to clients who are dealing with initial public offerings, where confidentiality is agreed to by federal law, names and other client information will be put into a “locked box” that is held by the Office of Court Administration to be opened at a later date.
JCOPE itself is due to receive a funding increase of $2.4 million, with half of that earmarked for the disclosure requirements being put into effect.
Moving forward, lawmakers with clients will need to detail what work they’ve done on their behalf and provide descriptions for a variety of sample services such as preparing “certified architectural or engineering renderings.”
Personal use of same campaign funds will be restricted, such as country club membership, rent and other dues.
But elected officials will still be allowed to use campaign money for attorney representation and other legal fees.
Mar 31st - 2:26 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a ban Tuesday on non-essential state-funded travel to Indiana as the debate rages over the state’s religious freedom law.
The ban is in effect immediately, Cuomo said in a statement.
“Today, I direct all agencies, departments, boards and commissions to immediately review all requests for state funded or state sponsored travel to the State of Indiana and to bar any such publicly funded travel that is not essential to the enforcement of state law or public health and safety,” Cuomo said.
LGBT state lawmakers in the Assembly — Deborah Glick, Matt Titone, Danny O’Donnell and Harry Bronson — and Sen. Brad Hoylman asked for Cuomo to issue the ban earlier this morning.
“Employees of the State of New York should not be placed in a situation where they are required to travel to a state where they face legalized discrimination,” the lawmakers said. “Likewise, New York State taxpayers should not be footing the bill for such travel.”
The ban comes as the state’s Republican governor, potential presidential candidate Mike Pence, has stood by the law, which says the government is prohibited from creating a substantial “burden” on the ability for a person to follow their religious beliefs.
Opponents of the measure say it allows businesses to legally discriminate against the LGBT community, while supporters say it merely ensures protections for those want to practice their religious beliefs.
Cuomo, of course, helped push through New York’s 2011 same-sex marriage legalization measure.
“New York State has been, and will continue to be, a leader in ensuring that all LGBT persons enjoy full and equal civil rights,” Cuomo said. “With this action, we stand by our LBGT family members, friends and colleagues to ensure that their rights are respected.”
Cuomo is traveling to Cuba in April as part of a trade mission as the U.S. normalizes relations with the country. Cuba has a decidedly mixed history on gay rights, though its laws have liberalized in recent years.
Updated: Republican Chairman Ed Cox in a statement takes note of Cuba’s human rights record in response to the Indiana travel ban.
“Now that Andrew Cuomo has banned travel to Indiana, he can cancel his upcoming trip to Cuba, where gay marriage is illegal, political dissidents are imprisoned and tortured, and the Castro regime is on the US State Sponsors of Terrorism list. Or he can admit that both moves are political stunts meant to bolster his national profile with no grounding in reality or substance.”
Mar 31st - 1:42 pm
Assembly Speaker Carl Heasite this afternoon acknowledged the education reform measure in the 2015-16 state budget are difficult for his members to accept, but the legislation will pass his chamber at some point in the next few hours.
“It’s not an ideal world, it’s not an ideal situation, but the people of this state want an on-time budget,” Heastie told reporters.
The bill, being printed now, will be voted on as soon as its ready, Heastie said.
The vote comes despite a last-minute push from labor-backed groups like the Working Families Party and the Alliance for Quality Education to not consider the bill today and insert potential changes.
Heastie had still been negotiating the education policy in the budget that Gov. Andrew Cuomo pursued this year, which includes a new teacher evaluation criteria and tenure requirements as well as a reform to the so-called 3020A process that makes it easier for low-performing teachers to be fired, regardless of tenure.
The state’s teachers’ union remains staunchly opposed to the evaluation, tenure and 3020A changes, and rank-and-file Democrats, too, have been critical of the reform polices.
Both the New York State United Teachers union and their city affiliate, the United Federation of Teachers, have urged lawmakers to oppose the legislation.
But voting against the legislation will likely be difficult for Assembly Democrats: The package includes ethics reform legislation the conference previously signed on to earlier this month, which include new disclosure requirements for legal clients of state lawmakers, travel per diem reforms and campaign finance measures.
“We will pass the bill. Members raised a lot of I’d say issues of concern about implementation,” Heastie said. “You make these kinds of changes, members have questions.”
Teachers unions had called the changes a threat to collective bargaining, and local contracts will have to change in order to reflect the law’s changes. But they measures won’t be subject to negotiation on the local level themselves.
“I wouldn’t say it was undermining the bargaining units,” Heastie said.
Implementing the teacher evaluations is tied to a boost in school aid for districts, with a November deadline to do so. The Department of Education will be tasked with setting the weighted percentages for state tests and classroom observation.
Though a framework for the state budget was announced on Sunday by state lawmakers, the education reform measures were still being sorted out as late as Monday.
“There were a lot of open issues up until yesterday,” Heastie said, “and this was one of them.”
Mar 31st - 1:04 pm
As the budget clock ticks down, a host of progressive/left-leaning organizations and the labor-backed Working Families Party is making what amounts to a Hail Mary attempt to stop the Legislature from passing the education portion of the budget deal.
The WFP issued a joint statement with its allies – the Alliance for Quality Education, Citizen Action of New York, Make the Road Action Fund, and New York Communities for Change – saying the Senate and Assembly should “hit the pause button on the education budget bill and get things right before voting.”
“Over 2.7 million public school students are counting on the Senate and Assembly to do their homework when it comes to education – not cram for the exam,” the statement continues. “We are asking the Senate and Assembly leadership to renegotiate the education budget bill before they bring it to a vote.”
“At a time when Governor Cuomo is making and breaking promises at lightning speed, it’s imperative that legislators demand the time to negotiate, clarify, and listen to the parents, teachers, and students they’re here to serve. Full funding for a sound basic education is a CFE mandate, not a bargaining chip.”
“…”So, let’s slow down and get this right. There’s no extra credit for rushing through bills that legislators haven’t even had time to read for the sake of a bad but on-time budget. That’s especially true for bills that impede our obligation to provide all of our students with a high-quality public education.”
This comes on the heels of a memo circulated yesterday by the state’s largest teachers union, NYSUT, that called on legislators to reject major provisions of the education reform proposals that are in the spending plan’s framework. The biggest sticking points for the union: Changes to the teacher evaluation system, tenure and the 3020A proceedings which make it easier for districts to fire poorly performing teachers.
And THAT memo came after NYSUT President Karen Magee issued a call for parents to opt their kids out of state tests, which, of course could – assuming enough people heed that call – undermine the results on which the teacher performance evaluation system is based.
It does not appear at this moment that the efforts to halt the budget proceedings will bear fruit. The education bill – known as ELFA – is in print. School aid runs are out. And lawmakers are moving forward with plans to start voting on the remaining budget bills later today in hopes of coming close to meeting the midnight deadline.