Feb 12th - 8:51 am
Overtime at state agencies grew by $55 million in 2015 to a record $716 million, according to a report issued on Friday by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.
The report found the largest spike in overtime was with the State Police, which last year was part of the sweeping, month-long effort in June to re-capture two escaped killers from Clinton Correctional Facility in the North Country region.
“State employees worked 16.8 million overtime hours last year, at a record cost of $716 million,” DiNapoli said. “New York’s state agencies need to ensure that overtime use is justified, while ensuring that work is done safely and effectively.”
The largest overtime share among state agencies were the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision and the Office of Mental Health.
Combined, the three agencies made up 65.3 percent of all overtime hours and nearly 63 percent of the overtime costs, some $450.3 million.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration defended the use of overtime, pointing to the overall state workforce under executive control has decreased from 127,392 in January 2011 to 118,311 at the end of the current fiscal year, March 31.
At the same time, overall personnel costs, which includes overtime, is down by $136 million compared to the previous administration.
“Overtime is used carefully and only when needed,” said Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi. “The alternative would be a larger, more bloated, and more expensive state bureaucracy that New York taxpayers simply can’t afford.”
Feb 12th - 6:28 am
From the Morning Memo:
Former Gov. George Pataki isn’t pleased that Donald Trump’s name continues to grace signs off the Taconic State Parkway for a state park that has gone largely undeveloped in the last decade.
Pataki was governor 10 years ago when Trump donated the acreage in Yorktown and Putnam Valley to the state after an effort to develop the property into a golf course failed.
Pataki, along with Trump, appeared together to commemorate the land donation in Westchester County. Later, signs for “Donald J. Trump State Park” later appeared.
The park itself has been closed since 2010 following state budget cuts and has gone largely undeveloped.
Pataki, who tangled with Trump during his campaign for president, said in an interview on Capital Tonight that he wishes Turmp’s name wasn’t on the sign.
But at the same time, he didn’t take a position on whether the park should be developed and eventually named after another New Yorker (some have called for the park to be named in honor of the late Hudson Valley folksinger Pete Seeger).
“I am very unhappy it is there,” Pataki said. “I don’t know that you go back and change it, but he donated I think it was like 140 acres in Westchester County. It’s great for the taxpayers and grew that it’s a park. I wish it didn’t have it’s name on it.”
Pataki ended his presidential bid in December and this month endorsed Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
During and since the campaign, Pataki was a staunch critic of Trump and his rhetoric aimed at immigrants and Muslims.
In the interview, he was also critical of another New Yorker in the race, Democrat Hillary Clinton, and the ongoing saga of her use of a private email server.
“I think Donald Trump is not qualified or fit to be president of the United States and I say that as a lifelong Republican,” Pataki said, “but I don’t think Hillary Clinton is either.”
Feb 12th - 5:24 am
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with no public schedule.
The 45th annual legislative conference hosted by the Assocition of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators, AKA caucus weekend, is kicking off in Albany today. Here’s a schedule of events.
At 9 a.m., state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli hosts the state pension fund’s 9th annual Emerging Manager and Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise Conference, Hilton Albany, 40 Lodge St., Albany.
At 9:30 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul discusses economic development with General Mills plant leaders, 54 South Michigan Ave., Buffalo. (This event is closed to reporters, but Hochul will hold a media availability outside the gate after her meeting).
At 10 a.m., Upstate Revitalization Initiative Director Rich Tobe outlines Cuomo’s 2016 State of the State agenda, Town of Tonawanda Municipal Building, 2919 Delaware Ave., Kenmore.
At 10:30 a.m., Deputy Secretary of State for Economic Opportunity Jorge Montalvo outlines Cuomo’s 2016 State of the State agenda, Mosholu Montefiore Community Center, 3450 Dekalb Ave., the Bronx.
Also at 10:30 a.m., Sen. James Sanders Jr. holds a veterans Valentine visit, New York State Veterans Home at St. Albans, 178-50 Linden Blvd., Queens.
Also at 10:30 a.m., Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz hosts a senior issues town hall, Riverdale YM-YWHA, 5625 Arlington Ave., the Bronx.
Also at 10:30 a.m., the Assembly Committee on Cities holds a public meeting on infrastructure needs relating to cities, Lubin Dining Hall, Harold and Muriel Block Building, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, 1300 Morris Park Ave., Bronx.
At 11 a.m., NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray will visit P.S. 253 and share lunch with students as part of “Respect for All Week” and “No One Eats Alone” day, The Magnet School of Multicultural Humanities, 601 Oceanview Ave., Brooklyn.
Also at 11 a.m., Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. hosts 9th Annual Bronx Sweetheart Luncheon honoring couples married 50 years or more, Villa Barone Manor, 737 Throggs Neck Expwy., the Bronx.
Also at 11 a.m., OGS Commissioner RoAnn Destito outlines Cuomo’s 2016 State of the State agenda, Common Council Chambers at City Hall, 198 N. Washington St., Rome.
Also at 11 a.m., Hochul promotes services to help animals at the at Erie County SPCA, 205 Ensminger Rd., Tonawanda.
At noon, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will host a press conference to make an announcement, 356 East 8th St., Manhattan.
Also at noon, DOT Commissioner Matt Driscoll outlines Cuomo’s 2016 State of the State agenda, Syracuse Rotary, Justin’s Grill, 6400 Yorktown Circle, East Syracuse.
Also at noon, state Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon outlines Cuomo’s 2016 State of the State agenda, Rogers Island Visitor Center, 11 Rogers Island Dr., Fort Edward.
At 1 p.m., JCOPE hosts an “informal roundtable discussion” on proposed guidelines regarding requiring PR specialists to register as lobbyists, 25 Beaver St., Manhattan.
Also at 1 p.m., PSC Chair Audrey Ziebelman outlines Cuomo’s 2016 State of the State agenda, The NYIT Old Westbury Student Government Association, Room 135, Harry Schure Hall, Northern Boulevard at Valentines Lane, Old Westbury.
At 3 p.m., Hochul highlights state investment in Buffalo’s East Side at the Varsity Theatre grand opening, 3165 Bailey Ave., Buffalo.
At 6 p.m., the chair’s reception kicks off caucus weekend, Empire State Convention Center, Albany.
At 10 p.m., a “black networking party” will be held as part of caucus weekend, Hilton Albany ballroom, 40 Lodge St., Albany.
Just as investors are expressing a major lack of confidence in alternative energy companies, Gov. Andrew Cuomo defended New York State’s $750 million investment in Buffalo’s new SolarCity plant during a Western New York swing. In fact, he took the long view on a variety of subjects.
New York will spend $200 million to build a pharmaceutical factory in Chautauqua County, Cuomo said, a move he said will create 1,400 jobs in the cities of Buffalo and Dunkirk.
Peter Liang — the NYPD officer who in 2014 shot blindly into a darkened public housing stairwell in Brooklyn where Akai Gurley was standing, striking and killing him — was found guilty of 2nd degree manslaughter and other charges.
“This bad verdict will have a chilling effect on police officers across the city because it criminalizes a tragic accident,” said PBA President Patrick Lynch.
KeyBank said it would work with Cuomo to address his concerns about its purchase of First Niagara Financial Group, a day after the governor said he opposed the merger and was lobbying to kill it.
Alec Brook-Krasny, a former Brooklyn assemblyman who resigned eight months ago, is still cruising around town in vehicles bearing official legislative license plates that most traffic agents won’t ticket. He blamed his inaction in changing the plates on “long lines” at the DMV.
The Buffalo school district has filed a lawsuit against LPCiminelli, alleging that the company that managed the district’s massive school renovation project withheld financial information as part of “a scheme to conceal the excessive profits it was pocketing.”
Two days ahead of the holiday, Cuomo sent the City of Albany a particularly welcome budgetary Valentine: $12.5 million that Mayor Kathy Sheehan will use to plug a yawning deficit.
Even as the Buffalo Teachers Federation and its statewide parent union challenge the governor’s school receivership law in court, Cuomo said he believes the statute will survive the court challenge.
A state Supreme Court judge has granted permission for Staten Island Borough President James Oddo to bestow unflattering street names spelling out greed and deceit on a private development he fought on the former Mt. Manresa site.
A judge plans to unseal secret papers related to former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s corruption case.
Erie County won’t immediately enforce its ban on microbeads – one of the country’s toughest – as it’s own attorney warned the measure might not stand up in court.
Sources tell the NY Post that Democratic City Councilman Vincent Gentile of Bay Ridge has begun pestering NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio for a judgeship or job within the administration.
State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker has declared the flu to be “prevalent” which means that health care workers need to have been vaccinated or wear protective masks when coming in contact with patients. This has been the case for more than two years now.
U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer jointly announced that the U.S. Department of Labor has approved Trade Adjustment Assistance certification for laid-off workers of Alcoa. The decision will allow up to 205 workers, including those laid off in prior rounds of Alcoa cutbacks in Massena, to receive a number of program benefits.
Danny Donohue has been re-elected to a seventh term as head of the Civil Service Employees Association. He had faced a challenge from Kathy Garrison, who is the union’s Capital Region president.
Feb 11th - 5:15 pm
The fierce contest for the Republican presidential nomination has claimed its latest casualty: Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s back tooth, which he cracked while snacking on a Twix bar.
Ken Langone, the billionaire co-founder of Home Depot who was a leading supporter of Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, has thrown his support behind Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, the Kasich campaign said.
SolarCity Corp.’s stock has lost more than 60 percent of its value since the start of the year, and shares continued to dive today – two days after the Northern California solar company reported disappointing fourth-quarter results.
The Congressional Black Caucus PAC announced its endorsement of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, a move that is being widely interpreted as a sign of her deep support from the African American community.
Covert cellphone tracking devices, which have proliferated in law enforcement agencies across the nation, have been used by the NYPD on at least 1,000 occasions since 2008 in the course of investigating rapes, murders and other crimes as well as searching for missing people, according to documents obtained by the NYCLU.
Steve Wells, a Cazenovia businessman who runs one of the nation’s fastest-growing food service companies, will challenge Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney for the GOP nod to run for retiring Rep. Richard Hanna’s seat in NY-22. There are now three declared Republicans and one Democrat in the race.
President Barack Obama will nominate Dr. John B. King Jr., former state education commissioner in New York, to serve as Education Department secretary after receiving commitments from lawmakers to give his nomination speedy consideration, the White House said.
AG Eric Schneiderman joined members of the state and federal working group he co-chairs to announce a $3.2 billion settlement with Morgan Stanley over the bank’s deceptive practices leading up to the financial crisis.
Five people were indicted, with four of them facing second-degree manslaughter charges, following the March 2015 building explosion in Manhattan’s East Village that authorities called “a deadly inferno fueled by an illegal gas-delivery system.”
Calling it a “game-changer for Dunkirk,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo formally announced the state’s plans to spend $200 million to build a high-tech drug manufacturing center in the depressed Chautauqua County community.
Motorists who drive with snow on their cars could be fined if state lawmakers pass proposed laws.
Cuomo recognized that the state’s slow moving medical marijuana program is not “perfect,” but said he’d rather err on the side of caution than move it along too quickly.
The DEC has identified Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics and Honeywell International as “parties responsible” for groundwater pollution in Hoosick Falls.
In her annual State of the City address, NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito called for an inspector general for the city Department of Correction, a reformed warrant system for petty crimes and a community-based criminal justice system — all with an eye toward shutting Rikers Island.
NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer poked a little fun at NYS Comptroller Tom DiNapoli while wishing him a happy birthday on Twitter.
James L. Dolson, the former heroin dealer who became locally famous as Niagara Falls recycling mascot Totes McGoats, was continued on probation after completing a court-supervised drug treatment program.
Likening America to a “burning” country in turmoil, activist investor Bill Ackman urged former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg to run for president in a Financial Times op-ed.
The Bethlehem Town Board voted to oppose the planned Northeast Energy Direct natural gas pipeline that would pass through southern portions of Albany and Rensselaer counties to bring natural gas from Pennsylvania to metropolitan Boston.
A Capital Region attorney is in court over what he says are unreasonable delays from the state Economic Development Corp. in responding to his FOIL requests about plans to expand broadband service across the state.
Feb 11th - 4:58 pm
Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky pledged on Wednesday to push through a plan that would ban outside income of state legislators on “day one” in the Senate.
Kaminsky, the Democrat running for the seat vacated in December by Republican Sen. Dean Skelos in Nassau County, is a former federal prosecutor who has led cases against ex-state lawmakers convicted of corruption, including former Sen. Pedro Espada, former Assemblyman William Boyland and ex-Assemblyman Jimmy Meng.
“As a former corruption prosecutor, I worked day and night to convict crooked politicians who used the obsolete outside income rules to ‘serve two masters’–the people of the State of New York and their private business interests,” Kaminsky said.
“Now, once and for all, it’s time for Albany to put the public’s interest first, and that starts with banning outside income. I promise Long Islanders that on my first day in the Senate, I will introduce legislation to do so and give my full support to existing legislation to swiftly enact these urgent reforms.”
Kaminksy faces Republican Chris McGrath, a Nassau County attorney.
McGrath has said he won’t be giving up his law practice if elected to the Senate.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo backs a measure that would limit outside income of state lawmakers to 15 percent of their base pay, currently $79,500.
Feb 11th - 4:34 pm
The abortion-rights group NARAL Pro-Choice New York has ended its affiliation with NARAL Pro-Choice America and will become an independent entity, the organization said in a statement on Thursday.
The group called it a “natural evolution” for its sister organization, the National Institute for Reproductive Health, and is largely reflective of an “internal” restructuring.
“We are grateful to have been part of the NARAL family for so many years, and excited and proud to be entering this new phase as a fully independent and integrated organization informing and supporting advocacy in New York and dozens of other states and localities,” said Andrea Miller, president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health and its new action fund.
“With critical decisions about reproductive health, rights, and justice increasingly made at the state and local levels, now is the right time for the National Institute to unify, expand, and amplify the network we’ve been building across the country for nearly a decade.”
At the same time, the group insisted the change won’t impact its legislative and political work. It will continue under the banner of the Campaign for a Pro-Choice New York and is considered a “project” of the National Institute for Reproductive Health Action Fund.
The electoral work will also continue with its political action committee and the current staff and leadership won’t change.
Abortion issues have in recent years taken center stage in Albany policy battles, especially in 2013 and 2014, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushed a package of measures aimed at women’s rights. The bill included a provision that would have strengthened abortion rights and codified Roe v. Wade in state law, a measure that failed to the pass the GOP-led state Senate.
Feb 11th - 4:16 pm
Longtime Civil Service Employees Association President Danny Donohue was re-elected to a seventh term as the leader of the state’s largest public workers union.
The union announced Donohue had won the vote, via mail ballot, on Thursday afternoon.
The new term officially begins on March 1.
“These are challenging times as CSEA members and other working people continue to be squeezed and undercut by the manipulation of our economy to benefit the greedy few,” Donohue said in a statement. “My priority is a stronger union that can better stand up and push back.”
Donohue has guided the labor group through some complicated budget years, including a tough contract in 2011, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo threatened mass layoffs unless public-sector workers agreed to less generous contracts.
Donohue and CSEA have since patched things up with Cuomo in recent years, though the labor group withheld its endorsement in the race for governor in 2014, as they did in 2010.
Donohue has also been staunchly critical of Cuomo, once calling him a “monkey” and “a moron” and was deeply opposed to the governor’s successful push for the Tier Six pension reform measure.
Feb 11th - 4:16 pm
A new bill could speed up the pay raise schedule for management and confidential employees from a salary increase over three years to just one year.
The bill was introduced Wednesday by Senate Finance Chairperson Cathy Young. Its companion bill in the Assembly was introduced last year by Ways and Means Chairman Herman (Denny) Farrell.
Salary increases were withheld from management and confidential employees – who do not have collective bargaining rights – in 2009 and 2010. Last year’s budget agreement allocated a seven percent increase for M/C employees by 2018, starting with a two percent increase in 2015, a two percent increase in both 2016 and 2017, and a one percent increase in 2018.
This legislation would increase salaries by five percent this year following a resolution in the state budget, which OMCE – the non-union organization that advocates for M/C employees – called for ahead this session. With the two percent increase already enacted in 2015, this would complete the seven percent phase-in two years early.
Farrell actually introduced the bill last year following the initial increase for M/C employees, but the Senate had not signed on to the legislation at that time.
The bill follows a lawsuit against the state by a group of Thruway employees, who alleged the withheld pay increases in 2009 and 2010 violated terms that were previously agreed to within the agency. There has been no resolution in that case, but previous legal challenges from M/C employees have failed in court.
Feb 11th - 3:03 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo was in western New York on Thrusday to tout a $200 million expansion of the drug manufacturer Athenex, which is expected to bring 900 jobs within the next five years.
There’s just one catch: The money isn’t actually approved yet.
To that end, Cuomo pledged that he wouldn’t “sign” the budget without the money being in there for the project.
In his remarks in Dunkirk, Cuomo references his recent hand injury, which resulted in surgery and the wearing of a rather large bandage.
“It should be done by April 1,” Cuomo said of the budget before referencing the hand he needed surgery on last year. “But coincidentally, I have a broken hand, at the time. My right hand was broken. I sign with my right hand. My right hand is so broken that if the budget does not have $200 million in it, I cannot sign that budget, period. So we’re going to have the $200 million in the budget.”
The governor doesn’t actually sign the budget once it is approved by the state Legislature. Once it’s approved, Cuomo can line item veto the budget, but does not sign off on it.
Cuomo has used the term before to describe various budget ultimatums in the past, which has been taken to mean he wouldn’t agree with state lawmakers on the spending plan unless a specific item is in the final deal. Last year, Cuomo pushed for his preferred education policies — including a new teacher evaluation plan linked to test results — that was tied to a boost in education spending.
Cuomo announced the plan alongside two Republican lawmakers: Assemblyman Andy Goodell and Sen. Cathy Young, the chairwoman of the Senate Finance Committee. Both pledged to back the proposal.
Feb 11th - 2:02 pm
State environmental regulators on Thursday identified two companies as the legally responsible parties for the contamination of water in Hoosick Falls.
Both Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics and Honeywell International were identified as having contaminated groundwater at the McCaffrey Street site where both companies have used the chemical Perfluorooctanoic acid for the last several decades.
The Department of Environmental Conservation has not ruled out identifying other companies responsible for the water contamination.
The state last month declared the area a Superfund site due to the PFOA contamination.
“First and foremost, under Governor Cuomo’s direction, our priority is to provide safe and clean drinking water to the people of Hoosick Falls,” DEC Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos said in a statement. “We will hold all companies responsible for groundwater contamination and make sure they pay all costs associated with the investigation and remediation of the source of the problem as well as assuring a usable drinking water source.”
The agency at the same time sent letters to both Saint-Gobain and Honeywell demanding they enter into a consent order that would initiate an investigation and remediation of the contaminated sites. The move is a preliminary step to having the companies pay for the investigations and cleanup of PFOA contamination.
If the companies don’t comply with the order, the state plans to use its “full authority under the law to pursue all available legal remedies against the companies,” the DEC said in a statement.
The contamination of groundwater in Hoosick Falls was initially identified in December 2014 and further tests confirmed the chemical had leaked into the water in July 2015.
State officials have defended New York’s response to the contamination, insisting they moved quickly once it was determined the water should not be consumed by people in the village.