Debate Continues Over Campus Sexual Assault Bill

From the Morning Memo:

A top priority for Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the post-budget legislative session has been an effort to curtail rape and sexual assault at private college campuses, but state lawmakers continue to have questions over the proposal’s potential consequences.

The measure would codify what has already been in place last year for the SUNY system and be expanded to impact private-college campuses and, supporters say, make New York one of the most stringent states when it comes to handling rape and assault at institutions of higher education.

Law enforcement, including the State Police, would have a greater role in investigating allegations of rape and assault.

But with 12 days to go in the legislative session, lawmakers continue to press their concerns over the details of the proposal first made by Cuomo at the beginning of the year.

“Definitions are very important,” said Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, the chairwoman of the Assembly Higher Education Committee. “If things are too vague and not specific enough, that certainly leaves things open for misunderstanding, miscommunication and perhaps litigation. So, some of the concerns are around definitions.”

At the heart of the measure is provision that would require affirmative consent in sexual encounters. In an interview, Glick said the definitions of sexual encounters and interactions needs to be made as concise as possible.

“We want to make certain it’s fully understood what that means,” she said.

Along with the education investment tax credit and a plan to increase the age of criminal responsbility, the Enough Is Enough campaign has been a top, end-of-session priority for the governor after the passage of the state budget.

But working through the legal particulars of the plan has been a complicated task for state lawmakers already swamped with a number of nettlesome end-of-session issues.

Then there are concerns over whether the legislation would protect encounters involving those who gay, lesbian and transgender (Cuomo, a father of three teenage daughters, has frequently cited them when discussing the topic).

“We have to think broadly enough,” Glick said. “We want to make certain that people understand it’s also applied even handily to people who are LGBT — especially transgender youngsters.”

And there’s the issue of involving law enforcement — a provision included in the legislation so that college officials aren’t the only redress.

“Not everybody wants to proceed with a criminal case and we certainly don’t want to have young people live and repeat their story many, many times,” Glick said.

After Capital Tonight contacted Cuomo’s office to discuss the issues being raised, special advisor to the governor Christine Quinn in a phone interview responded the concerns.

Quinn said in the interview that she agrees “100 percent” with the concerns that if the legislation isn’t frame properly, sexual assault and rape will continue to plague campuses.

That being said, Quinn insisted the language is written so it is “completely inclusive” for all involved, including members of the LGBT community.

“Every unwanted sexual encounter, as is the case at SUNY, is covered,” Quinn said. “There are not particular sex acts that are not covered and sex acts that are covered — that is not the legislative case at all.”

Meanwhile, involving law enforcement remains an option, just not for the college administration.

“It is a survivor’s choice to go to the police,” Quinn said. “It is never government’s choice to mandate that. That does not take the power or the voice away from survivors. They have the right if they so choose to go to college police, local police or the state police. That decision rests with them 100 percent.”

As for the definition of affirmative consent in the legislation, Quinn said the language, which was already in place at large university centers like SUNY Albany, have been effective.

“We have seen it be a much more effective set of definitions than other college campuses that we have seen at other college campuses,” she said.

Though time is short with the legislative session ending on June 17, Quinn said she is “extraordinarily optimistic” the bill will be approved.

“This will be the toughest rape and sexual assault campus law in the country,” she said. “When we do it, we’ll get the rest of the states in the union to do and bring a greater level of safety to our college campuses.”

An Open Government Meeting, Sparsely Attended

From the Morning Memo:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office today is moving forward with a meeting led by Counsel Alphonso David to discuss email and record retention policy as well as a review of open-government laws.

Only, attendance at the event, to be held at the governor’s Manhattan office at 10 a.m., will be sparsely attended.

Confirmed attendees include the attorney general’s office, the state comptroller’s office and an Assembly Republican lawmaker from western New York who is appear by video conference.

Cuomo’s office did invite the legislative leadership in both chambers to attend the event as well as Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. All declined (The Senate Democratic press office and the Cuomo press team had a lively back and forth over the Stewart-Cousins invite).

“We are disappointed the Senate and Assembly majorities, both with new leadership, have expressed no willingness to reform longstanding inequities in New York’s Freedom of Information laws, or adopt uniform email and document retention policies,” said Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi. “We are hopeful that they reconsider.”

Also not attending is the state’s foremost expert on open-government issues: Robert Freeman.

The executive director of the state’s Committee on Open Government who reporters and members of the public frequently turn to for his encyclopedic knowledge on freedom of information laws told the Capital Tonight team he’s on vacation.

Even if he wasn’t, Freeman said he did not receive an invitation for the event.

The event was first announced in March after Cuomo took criticism for the state moving forward with an email retention policy that deletes messages after 90-days that are not saved.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office had a similar policy in place, which he announced would go under review hours before Cuomo distanced himself from the retention policy.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with no public schedule.

At 8 a.m., more than than 100 community, law enforcement and religious officials participate in a “Cops, Community, Clergy” multi-faith prayer breakfast organized as part of efforts to improve community-police relations; Union Theological Seminary, 3041 Broadway, Manhattan.

At 9:30 a.m., Rep. Chris Gibson will make remarks at meet with cadets at the Marist College Army ROTC commissioning ceremony, Cornell Boathouse, Marist College, Poughkeepsie.

At 10 a.m., the Cuomo administration’s “summit” on transparency and email retention policy will take place, 633 Third Ave., 38th Floor, Manhattan.

Also at 10 a.m., Rep. Paul Tonko attends the Albany Post Office Memorial Day ceremony, 30 Karner Rd., Colonie.

At 10:30 a.m., NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray will be participating in a roundtable discussion with First Ladies from the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Marines, U.S. Army, and U.S. Air Force, Pier 92, 55th St. and Westside Highway, Manhattan.

At 11 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul joins local officials for a ribbon cutting or the first summer season at The Canals at Canalside on the City of Buffalo’s waterfront, Immigrant Steps, Canalside, Buffalo.

Also at 11 a.m., Buffalo faith leaders and advocates hold a press conference to urge the passage of Paid Family Leave legislation, Pilgrim-St. Luke’s and El Nuevo Camino United Church of Christ, 335 Richmond Ave., Buffalo.

Also at 11 a.m., Sen. Jose Peralta, Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas, and street safety advocates unveil a bill that would regulate motor-driven cycles for commercial purposes only, Dunningham Triangle, Elmhurst, Queens.

Also at 11 a.m., Tonko attends the Edison-Steinmetz Statuary project unveiling, intersection of Erie Blvd., and South Ferry St., Schenectady.

At noon, Sen. Tom Croci and Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky make an announcement on behalf of Sandy victims regarding the New York Rising Program and the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery, 230 Forest Rd. West, Mastic Beach Village, Hauppauge.

At 1:30 p.m., Sen. David Carlucci, Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski, Clarkstown Supervisor Alex Gromack, and Clarkstown residents are hosting a press conference to call for stricter laws against sex offenders, Nella Di Nuovo Daycare, 66 Lenox Ave., Congers.

At 2 p.m., Assemblyman Ron Kim announces the annual Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Celebration in Albany, the garden at Flushing Town Hall, 137-35 Northern Blvd., Flushing.

Also at 2 p.m.,Tonko attends a tour of Coeymans Industrial Park and port, 2170 Rt. 144, Coeymans.

At 2:30 p.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio hosts a press conference, Boardwalk and Beach 94th Street, Rockaway Beach, Far Rockaway.

Headlines…

For anyone accustomed to seeing New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo as a strictly hard-nosed political animal, this week offered a startling alternative: affectionate boyfriend. Sandra Lee’s team has been posting intimate photos of the governor and his girlfriend at the hospital where she’s recovering from breast cancer surgery.

Cuomo has reportedly been sleeping at the hospital with Lee.

After 18 months of pressure from environmental and community groups, state officials have reversed an earlier position, and will now require a full environmental review of a crude-heating facility that would allow tar sands oil to be shipped down the Hudson River.

A last-minute time change will prevent the lone legislative representative who was planning to attend Cuomo’s NYC transparency summit today – GOP Assemblyman Andy Goodell of Chautauqua County – from being there in person. Accommodations will be made for him to participate by phone.

As of 6 p.m. tonight, construction projects on New York state highways and bridges are being suspended for the Memorial Day holiday weekend to help motorists get where they are going without added delays. Work will resume at 6 a.m. Tuesday.

Heavily redacted portions of the 1975 state investigative report on the Attica riot, which has been locked up in a Buffalo state office building for decades, have been made public.

The release involved just 46 pages of new material out of 348 pages. The redactions — rendered in the released files as white blanks — make the material hard to follow at times: A section titled “The Factual Basis for the Conclusions” is thereafter blank for 47 pages.

Although state legislation authorizing mayoral control of the Buffalo Public Schools still lacks a Republican sponsor in the GOP-dominated Senate, that hasn’t stopped city power brokers from quietly plotting what a takeover of the troubled district would look like.

The State Education Department rejected 15 charter school applications for reasons of quality control and not politics, Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch insisted.

…but even some close allies of the teachers unions, which are generally foes of charter schools, questioned SED’s move.

The family of Akai Gurley, the unarmed man shot and killed in a Brooklyn housing-project stairwell by a police officer last year, has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against New York City.

After taking heat for traveling the country while making only two public appearances in Staten Island this year, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio headed there yesterday, filled a pothole, and got an earful from a local resident angry about speed cameras and property taxes. More here.

De Blasio hired a new press secretary – Karen Hinton, a former aide to Cuomo who is married to another ex-Cuomo aide, Howard Glaser – and one of her first acts was to delete her personal Twitter account.

More >

Extras

The president of the Boy Scouts of America called for an end to the group’s blanket ban on gay adult leaders.

Robert Zimmerman, a Democratic national committeeman and Long Island PR executive, was nominated by President Obama to be a member of the National Council on the Humanities.

Just hours after Letterman said farewell last night, Ed Sullivan Theater crews hauled off blocks of blue stage and hacked up pieces of the iconic New York City bridges that made up the set of the “Late Show.”

Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said the board is “tinkering” with how to weigh a new rating system for teacher ahead of a June 30 deadline for the board to have regulations in place.

Reclaim New York, a conservative nonprofit group tied to hedge funder Robert Mercer, is planning to expand next month.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio today echoed the frustrations of many an aggravated New York City driver stuck in traffic: the Cross Bronx Expressway is the worst.

Sandra Lee, still in the hospital recovering from her double mastectomy, is not feeling so great today. But she has reiceved a lot of (white) flowers.

In the face of a court challenge from a broad coalition of environmental and community groups and massive community opposition, the DEC today halted Global Companies’ proposed expansion of its massive Albany oil train facility to handle tar sands oil.

Hillary Clinton, the leading Democratic candidate for president, will attend a fundraiser at an unspecified location in Queens on June 1.

She’s also due for a $2,700 per person fundraiser on the same day in the Laurel Hollow home of Nassau Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs.

Protests at the Council testimony of NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton today grew so intense that police and building security ejected more than a dozen members of the public from the chambers. The commissioner called the demonstrators “selfish.”

Clinton has joined LinkedIn, the social network intended to help people expand their professional network, and, occasionally, get a job.

The State Department is expected to release the first batch of emails from Clinton’s private email address in the coming days. They will be drawn from some 55,000 pages and focused on Libya.

Rep. Louise Slaughter has revamped her congressional website.

For the first time in its history, Rochester does not rank among the 100 largest cities in the nation, according to new population estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Upcoming budget decisions by Congress – more than ISIS or China or any other international crisis – present the current No. 1 concern for the secretary of the U.S. Army, John McHugh.

RG&E is asking New York state regulators to approve rate changes that would cost consumers a net of about $10 million a year, in what would be the first rate hike for the company since 2012.

The Board of Regents that will choose the state’s next education commissioner is a lot different than the panel that was in place when the previous leader left last year.

LG Kathy Hochul penned an OpEd for the Syracuse Post-Standard in suppotr of the governor’s Parental Choice in Education Act.

Rep. John Katko took to the floor of the House to honor the life of the beloved Central New York radio host, Joe Galuski, who passed away last week following a battle with cancer.

New York State’s population increased by more than 50,000 in the year preceding July 2014, according to new estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Sen. Brad Hoylman recently introduced a bill banning “the importation, breeding or introduction into the wild of Chinese fire belly newts.”

After months of searching, Suffolk Republicans leaders finally screened three potential candidates willing to run against Democratic County Executive Steve Bellone in November.

IPPNY, a trade group of the state’s power generation plants, is hosting a fund-raiser for Sen. Joseph Griffo, chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Telecommunications.

PR consultant Lis Smith, and her live-in boyfriend, former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, adopted a kitten named Silk.

Golden Affirms Support For Mayoral Control In NYC (Updated X2)

Extending mayoral control of New York City schools picked up key Republican support on Thursday as Brooklyn Sen. Martin Golden announced support for keeping the arrangement in place.

Golden, in a statement, re-affirmed his support for mayoral control, though he did not say how long it should be extended.

Updated: Golden, on Twitter, says he endorses three or more years for extending mayoral control.

Updated X2: Golden’s office now says the number of years for the extension is still under mayoral control and the initial tweet was deleted.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio initially this year sought a permanent extension of mayoral control; the Assembly this week approved a bill that would have it expire after three years.

De Blasio, of course, has not necessarily seen eye to eye with Senate Republicans politically. The GOP conference did little to oppose efforts to give their political ally and major campaign contributor Michael Bloomberg a longer extension for mayoral control than what is being discussed for de Blasio.

“In my days in the New York City Council, I worked with students, teachers and families under a system governed by the Board of Education,” Golden said in a statement. “And now as a New York State Senator, I continue to address the needs of my schools and my students under a system of mayoral control. Confidently, I can tell you that the system has and continues to work better since mayoral control was enacted, and I am proud to support this renewal.”

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan in a statement released on Sunday indicated he backed unspecified reforms to mayoral control.

Flanagan has also said he’s turning to the Republican conference members who represent New York City to help him on the issue — that includes Golden, Staten Island Sen. Andrew Lanza and Simcha Felder, a Democrat from Brooklyn who sits with the GOP in the Senate.

Schneiderman’s Office Releases Unsealed Attica Documents

The state attorney general’s office on Thursday released the previously unseen portions of an investigative report on the 1971 uprising at the Attica Correctional Facility.

The initial report, dubbed the Meyer Report, had been released in December 1975 as a stand-alone volume. But volumes two and three, a total of 46 pages, had been sealed.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in 2013 requested a state court unseal the report in 2013, which was granted on conditions: References to relating to evidence, testimony and witness matters or those related to grand jury proceedings were redacted.

“Today, we are shining new light on one of the darkest chapters of our history,” said Marty Mack, Executive Deputy Attorney General for Regional Affairs. “We hope that, with the release of the Meyer Report, we can bring the families of Attica uprising victims closer to closure and help future generations of Americans learn from this tragic event.”

Files related to the Attica uprising not part of the grand jury proceeding will be sent to the New York State Archives for permanent preservation.

The uprising at the Wyoming County prison began with inmates at the facility seizing control and demanding better living conditions.

After four days of negotiations, then-Gov. Nelson Rockefeller ordered the State Police to retake the prison, resulting in the deaths of at least 43 people.

Meyer Report Vol 2 and 3 by Nick Reisman

NYC Republican Leaders Back Pataki For President

The five Republican borough leaders in New York City are backing George Pataki’s likely bid to run for president in a statement released on Thursday.

The statement from the Republican chairs of Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Staten Island and Queens was released by We The People, Not Washington, the super PAC formed by the former governor.

“After having served this great state as Governor for 12 years with honor and integrity, it is a privilege for us to enthusiastically encourage Governor George Pataki to enter the race to seek the Republican nomination for the Presidency of the United States of America,” the chairs said in a statement.

Pataki, a former three term governor from 1995 through 2007, is expected to make his presidential intentions official on May 28 in New Hampshire.

He will join a crowded field of Republican presidential candidates that is expected to grow to nearly 20 by this summer.

State Unemployment Rate Flat In April

The state’s unemployment rate was unchanged last month from 5.7 percent, according to new data released Thursday by the Department Labor.

New York added 18,300 private-sector jobs last month, a 0.2 percent increase.

“New York State’s economy has remained resilient, adding more than 125,000 private sector jobs over the past year. In addition, the state’s unemployment rate remained at its lowest level since August 2008,” said Bohdan M. Wynnyk, Deputy Director of the Division of Research and Statistics.

New York City’s unemployment, meanwhile, dipped from 6.6 percent to 6.5 percent. Unemployment outside of the city stands at 5.1 percent, the DOL said.

Nationally, the unemployment rate on average is lower, 5.4 percent in April.

Over the last year, the state has gained 126,200 private-sector jobs since April 2014, a 1.7 percent increase.

Minnesota Company Eyes Medical Marijuana Growth In New York

A company already in business under Minnesota’s strict medical marijuana regulations is eyeing New York’s nascent program as a chance to expand in Fulton County.

The company, Empire State Health Solutions, is one of several that are applying for a state license to manufacture medical marijuana, with the goal of setting up shop at the Tryon Technology Park and Incubator Center in Perth, Fulton County.

In pitching themselves to reporters at a news conference on Thursday, the company’s CEO and founder, Dr. Kyle Kingsley, said New York’s regulatory structure is one he’s comfortable with given that he has experience with Minnesota’s strict medical marijuana program.

“It’s our opinion that the New York law is likely the most sound from a medical and scientific stand point, but it does have a close cousin in Minnesota,” he said.

Indeed, the New York measures are similar to what is already in place for Minnesota, where medicinal marijuana cannot be smoked and the number of manufacturers are limited by regulators and where a sister company, Minnesota Medical Solutions LLC, has been operating for a number of years.

“All we know is strict oversight and regulation,” Kingsley said. “We get uncomfortable if we don’t have that.”

Kingsley, a medical doctor who has directed his professional focus on medical marijuana, said he is skeptical of expanding legalized marijuana for recreational use, adding that prescribed medical marijuana is “not a panacea” for all patients.

Still, the competition for the medical marijuana licenses — the state will award five in all — is believed to be especially intense.

“The thing I like about the New York law is this is going to require you to be a medical and scientific organization to have any chance of success,” Kingsley said. “Just the scientific and medical requirements are really going to bring the cream of the crop.”

The facility the company is proposing to use to manufacture medical marijuana, once used as a now-closed juvenile detention center, is within a START-UP NY economic development zone, said Fulton County Board of Supervisors Chairman Ralph Ottuso.

“It’s a huge impact on the area. They’re going to create starting up to 20 or 30 jobs, going up to 100.”

Ottuso the county itself hasn’t provided any tax incentives or benefits to the company to entice them to the area. Meanwhile, state regulators should take into consideration the economic struggles of areas when considering which licenses to grant, Ottuso said.

“This is a big kick start to that area,” he said. “They should look at the impact it’s going to have to on the areas — areas in need of economic growth. I believe Fulton County is one of those areas.”

Officials at the state Department of Health pushed back the deadline for accepting license applications has been pushed back to June 5 in order to handle the level of questions over the process. The DOH still expects to begin the program official by January.

The licensing process is underway as some state lawmakers push a measure that would set up a medical marijuana program on what amounts to an emergency basis in order to provide relief to patients, especially children, with severe epilepsy.

It’s unlikely such a measure, which would import medical marijuana from outside the state would be approved.

Even if it was, Kinglsey said there would be no impact on their business.

“It won’t be a large impact on us,” he said, “we are kind of going through the standard channel here in New York.”

Senate’s MMA Sponsor Open To Changes

From the Morning Memo:

Republican Sen. Joe Griffo, one of the main sponsors of a bill aimed at legalizing mixed-martial arts in the state, is open to making changes to the measure should it lead to its passage this year.

“In order to get something done this year, I’m open and willing to have those discussions and consider what’s being proposed,” Griffo said in an interview. “At this point in time I haven’t seen anything specifically.”

Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle is discussing potential amendments to the bill, such as adding a health-insurance provision for those who participate in MMA bouts.

Those potential changes were reported by The Daily News on Monday.

On Wednesday, Morelle said he continued to work to line up the votes in his chamber.

“We’re looking to see if we can find some amendments which would be appealing to the number of members who are concerned about the health and welfare of our participants,” Morelle said.

Assembly Democrats have previously discussed the bill in a closed-door conference this year, but emerged without a consensus on whether the bill comes to the floor for a vote.

Supporters have maintained that should the bill be voted on by the full chamber, it would likely pass.

“I think if a vote is allowed, it will pass,” Griffo said.

But concerns remain from MMA opponents who cite the sport’s violence. There is also labor opposition from the Las Vegas-based culinary union, which is in a dispute with Ultimate Fighting Championship, a top MMA promoter which is lobbying on behalf of the bill.

Still, Griffo added the UFC and other MMA event backers in the industry should be consulted before moving forward with changes.

“We treat our sports very similarly here and to do something different than what we already do in boxing and professional wrestling, I’d have to see what is being done and why,” he said.