Flanagan: Senate Looking For ‘Accurate’ Minimum Wage Data

From the Morning Memo:

Increasing the state’s minimum wage to $15 remains under review, with Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan insisting he’s trying to find “accurate information” to assess the proposal’s impact.

“One of the things we’ve grappled with is trying to get accurate information,” Flanagan told reporters after a press conference on Tuesday. “I don’t want to distort anything.”

The wage proposal is part of a key push by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Democratic state lawmakers and a coalition of unions and aligned groups in this legislative session.

Senate Republicans, who hold a narrow majority in the chamber, have not ruled a wage increase at some point in this legislative session, but at the same time are leery of the proposal’s impact on business.

GOP lawmakers have often counted the business community as their main allies in Albany, which has in turn pushed back against the $15 wage proposal, saying it could cost up to $15 billion once fully phased in.

Meanwhile, Flanagan pointed out varying groups have different figures: hospital associations peg the full cost at $2 billion, while 1199 SEIU believe it more closer to $1 billion.

“There’s a great dispartiy right there,” Flanagan said. “We’re in the process of trying to get that information.”

Republicans have questioned the wage hike in several legislative hearings, including discussions on the state budget.

Cuomo last year moved to increase the minimum wage — currently $9 in New York — for fast-food workers and state and SUNY employees to $15 over the next several years.

Morelle: Assembly Won’t Rollback SAFE Act

From the Morning Memo:

Don’t expect the Assembly Democrats to take up a rollback of the SAFE Act under a Republican governor.

That was the message from Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle on Tuesday night, who tweeted in response to Rep. Chris Gibson’s suggestion he could find common ground with Democratic lawmakers on education reform and Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature gun control law.

Gibson launched the exploratory phase of a potential gubernatorial campaign on Tuesday, arguing that he could find ways of working with a Democratic-dominated Assembly through compromise on key issue by linking reforms to Common Core with changes to the SAFE Act.

“If you have a leader, with a mandate, with a strong vote, you could package a bill that rolled back Common Core, that empowered local schools with resources and flexible policies and in the same bill, roll back the SAFE Act and include mental health and include provisions to crack down on gangs and narco traffickers,” Gibson said.

That’s unlikely to happen, Morelle said in a post on Twitter.

“Mr Gibson will learn that the @NYSA_Majority, like most NYers support the common sense gun control provisions in SAFE ACT,” Morelle said.

Morelle, a Rochester-area lawmaker, is the number two Democrat in the chamber behind Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. He’s also been a key political ally for Cuomo, who has said he plans to run for a third term in 2018.

Last year, Cuomo and Senate Republicans agreed to not enact a provision of the 2013 gun-control law: an ammunition database, which the State Police have struggled to develop. Cuomo has said the database would be in place once the technology is available.

Klein: Deal Possible On Paid Family Leave

From the Morning Memo:

As state lawmakers search for a compromise on creating a paid-family leave program in New York, Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein in an interview said Republican lawmakers in the Senate are supportive of the “concept” of the measure.

Klein, a Bronx Democrat, introduced a new iteration of the paid-family leave legislation in New York that he says won’t hurt businesses, provide a more generous benefit to workers once fully phased in and could find some support among GOP lawmakers.

“I think many of my Republican colleagues, including the majority leader John Flanagan, have been very, very supportive of the concept of paid family leave,” Klein said.

“I know they were very concerned of putting a burden on business. Clearly my legislation does not do that. So I’m hopeful we can come together and fashion a bill in the Senate and get agreement with the Assembly.”

Klein’s measure is designed to cost up to about 20 cents a week for a worker in order to pay for the program, which would provide up to 12 weeks of coverage.

The measure does not expand the temporary disability insurance fund, a method favored by Assembly Democrats in order to pay for their paid family leave bill, which the chamber has already approved.

Klein said he favors increasing the TDI, just not in conjunction with paid leave.

“It needs to be increased, but if we do that, it will be a burden and a pretty significant one on the employer,” Klein said. “So I think we need to take a balanced approach. I want to see paid family leave done this year and I’d like to see a time when we can revisit the TDI and increase those benefits as well.”

Here And Now

Good morning!

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City, with nothing public planned.

Mayor Bill de Blasio will hold a press conference at 2:30 with Commissioner Bill Bratton to announce an update on NYPD technology and CompStat 2.0.

Your schedule:

At 9:30 a.m., presidential candidate Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders will rally outside of Sylvia’s Restaurant with the Rev. Al Sharpton, 328 Malcolm X Blvd, New York

At 10:30 a.m., Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will outline the 2016 State of the State agenda at the Mid-Hudson Regional Economic Development Council Meeting, Marist College, Cornell Boathouse, 3399 North Road, Poughkeepsie.

At noon, New York State Environmental Facilities Corp. President and CEO Sabrina Ty will outline the 2016 State of the State, Hunter Mountain, 64 Klein Avenue, Hunter.

At 12:15, New York State Canal Corp. Director Brian Stratton will outline the 2016 State of the State, Baldwinsville Rotary
First United Methodist Church, 17 W. Genesee St. Baldwinsville.

At 2:30 p.m., Deputy Secretary of State for Local Government Deirdre Scozzafava Outlines Governor Cuomo’s 2016 State of the State Agenda, St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency, Conference Room, 19 Commerce Lane, Suite 1, Canton.

At 3 p.m., Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara will announce plans to hold a dodgeball tournament with the Empire State Sports Council and a number of Capital Region mascots, at the Schenectady Armory, 125 Washington Ave., Schenectady.

The press event is set for 3 p.m. Wednesday on the indoor turf at the Schenectady Armory, located at 125 Washington Ave.,

At 4 p.m., Assemblyman Luis Sepúlveda and Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. will rally with Parkchester owner-residents to continue their protest against management and the board’s plan to impose a 15 percent monthly increase in common charges assessed to Parkchester South condo owners, 2000 E Tremont Ave., the Bronx.

At 6 p.m., Office of Faith Based Community Development Services Executive Director Karim Camara will outline the 2016 State of the State, Jamaica Muslim Center, 85-37 168th Street, Jamaica.

Your headlines:

Sen. Bernie Sanders by a wide margin defeated Hillary Clinton in the New Hampshire primary, while Donald Trump easily won on the Republican side.

In keeping with their anti-establishment credentials, voters in New Hampshire rejected run-of-the-mill politicians in favor of insurgent outsiders.

The campaigns now look toward South Carolina.

Fresh off his New Hampshire win, Sanders will be at Sylvia’s in Harlem today, where he’ll be rallying with the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Security is being tightened at former Mayor Bloomberg’s Bahamas residence as he considers jumping into the race for the White House.

Long Island Republican Rep. Peter King in an interview said Bloomberg would be “an honest” president if elected.

The U.S. Supreme Court dealt a serious blow to President Obama’s efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

Rep. Chris Gibson kicked off the exploratory phase of his campaign for governor, pledging to rollback the SAFE Act and tackle Common Core if he is elected governor.

Pushing back against Gov. Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie took to Twitter to argue for a tax hike on the wealthy this year as rates are due to expire at the end of 2017.

Mayor de Blasio’s housing plan draws concern and support at a City Council hearing, as the city looks to require private developers to build affordable housing to meet the needs of the city’s lowest-income residents.

Prosecutors say a New York City police officer intentionally shot Akai Gurley and the shooting in a Brooklyn stairwell was not accidental.

Sources from various factions said Tuesday that they expect party leaders to endorse John J. Flynn Jr. for Erie County district attorney, succeeding Frank Sedita.

Gov. Cuomo on Thursday will visit Dunkirk to formally unveil the state’s plans to spend $200 million to build a high-tech drug manufacturing center there for a Buffalo biotech company.

Homeless people who take shelter in ATM vestibules or McDonald’s are not counted as homeless by New York City, the Post finds.

Prior to opening their books to state lawmakers, Airbnb dropped some 1,000 or so questionable bookings.

President Obama will huddle with top congressional Democrats in the Senate and House to talk about the federal budget, including Sen. Chuck Schumer and Rep. Steve Israel.

The Success Academy charter school network has been hit with another lawsuit over the now-famous “got to go” list of disruptive students kept at one Success school and exposed by the New York Times.

Gasoline in New York could average under $2 a gallon in 2016.

Democrats in North Hempstead voted to replace embattled former leader Gerard Terry after it was revealed he had multiple government jobs that paid him hundreds of thousands of dollars.

State lawmakers are weighing whether to back a measure that would allow for terminally ill patients to end their lives with doctor-prescribed medication.

A bill would provide for an increased supply of a heroin antidote in pharmacies across the state in order to combat the opioid epidemic.

Suburban Syracuse residents in Salina do not believe a government restructuring of merging Onondaga County with the city of Syracuse would be in their best interests.

Buffalo teachers are suing the state Education Department for giving the Buffalo superintendent unprecedented powers — including to override union agreements — under the state’s receivership law.

The Assembly GOP backed legislation that seeks to curb increasing student debt loads in New York.

The city’s franchise panel will consider the major telecommunications mergers by Charter Communications and Altice in March.

When it comes to two different environmental concerns — Hoosick Falls and Indian Point — Cuomo has struck varying degrees of urgency.

State officials are criticizing the Madison County school district for approving no-bid contracts.

Coldbrook businessman Patrick Vincent will challenge Marc Butler in the Republican primary for the 118th District seat in the Assembly.

Former Rockland County Executive Scott Vanderhoef, a one-time candidate for lieutenant governor, is vying for a seat on the Board of Regents.

Candidates for the open Board of Regents posts have shown a “broad range” of experience, lawmakers say.

While downstate New York has been slammed with snow this winter, upstate is passing through the cold-weather months relatively unscathed.

The president of a Cornell University has been released from jail after he was accused of attempting to rape and sexually abuse a female student.

The Baldwinsville school district has been given the go-ahead by voters for a $32.4 million upgrade.

GlobalFoundries and IBM will be moving forward with an Albany expansion.

An agreement between Nanuet schools and developers will bring some tax relief.

The city of Utica owes the school district and the county about $800,000 in past rental agreement payments.

Problems plagued voting at polling places in Albany, where voters were deciding whether to move forward with upgrades at Albany High School.

The famed Carnegie Deli in New York City is re-opening after shutting down for 10 months.

Saltshaker warnings in New York City restaurants are being challenged in court.


The results of today’s New Hampshire primary should winnow the crowded GOP field.

The 2000 Democratic VP nominee, former Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, says a big win for Donald Trump and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in New Hampshire could bring former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg into the race for president.

Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs is shepherding about 120 New York volunteers for Hillary Clinton in a get-out-the-vote effort in New Hampshire. They are focusing on coastal communities, especially Exeter.

The Buffalo Teachers Federation and NYSUT are suing the state Education Department for giving the the Buffalo superintendent unprecedented powers – including to override union agreements – under the state’s receivership law.

The Success Academy charter school network has been hit with another lawsuit over the now-famous “got to go” list of disruptive students kept at one Success school and exposed by the New York Times.

State Assemblyman Michael Kearns is asking Cuomo to consider “clawing back” tax incentives given to First Niagara Financial Group, with expected job cuts looming.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Clinton’s campaign and proposals are “more realistic” than what her primary rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, has put forward.

Newspaper giant Gannett Co. is exploring the parcel-delivery business as it examines how to make the most of its fleet of paper carriers and delivery trucks.

Wesstchester Magazine chronicles the rise and fall of ex-Sen. Nick Spano, who says he still misses being a state lawmaker.

Another Buffalo broadcast news veteran is moving into public relations. Joanna Pasceri, who said her farewells in December as co-anchor of WKBW-TV news, is joining the Erie County DA’s Office as public information officer.

Barbara A. Res, the woman for worked for The Donald overseeing construction of Trump Tower in the 1980s, writes: “Trump is not as bad as he sounds. But he’s a lot worse than he says.”

The College of Saint Rose has been in a cost-cutting and layoff mode due to what the school’s leadership says are budget shortfalls. Now, the faculty is poised to take a “no confidence” vote on tomorrow aimed at the school’s president Carolyn Stefanco.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and the Working Families Party are pushing back against Cuomo’s assertion that there’s “no reason or appetite” for a tax hike on the rich this year.

Bring first lady of NYC has not been everything Chirlane McCray expected or hoped.

The surprise battle between Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and the gun-control organization founded by former Bloomberg escalated today to include a full-page newspaper ad skewering the governor’s rationale for a gun deal with Republicans.

Ten months after being caught stealing gas for cooking, the Carnegie Deli, renowned for its massive meat sandwiches named for famous New Yorkers, reopened this morning.

The Catholic Diocese of Syracuse has closed its retirement home for priests after 59 years, citing financial concerns. The facility was home over the past 15 years to at least four priests against whom the diocese had found credible allegations of child-molesting.

The lack of a real winter has been hard on certain segments of the upstate economy.

Uptown Funke!

Senate Republicans Push Help For Farmers

A package of measures designed to boost the state’s agriculture sector was pushed for by Republicans in the Senate on Tuesday, with eye toward adding funding to support technological innovation and improve farmers’ bottom lines.

The measures include restore cuts proposed for 42 farm-related programs, which Senate lawmakers called the deepest cuts made to agriculture-related programs in the last five years.

At the same time, lawmakers are calling for increasing the phase-in timetable for overhauling the estate tax that was first enacted in 2014. The farmer personal income tax credit exemption, too, would be aimed at lowering taxes on family farmers by increasing the personal income tax exemption for small and mid-sized operations.

The package also calls for restoring spending cuts to programs that support Cornell University’s agriculture-related research as well as increase fund for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“New York farms—and New York farmers—are the backbone of our rural communities and economies,” said Sen. Patty Ritchie, the chairwoman of the chamber’s agriculture committee. “That’s why, once again, the Senate Majority Conference is making agriculture a top priority. We’re planting seeds to support the hard work of our farm families and grow the future of agriculture in New York State.”

In addition, the Senate Republicans are backing an effort to create new funding for a Cornell’s Small Farms Program that create five veteran-owned farms in a pilot program.

The proposals come as the state Farm Bureau is pushing back against a proposed increase in the state’s minimum wage to $15, which the organization says once fully phased in would cost billions in added expenses.

“The Farm Bureau has come up with some detailed information about what the effects would be,” said John Flanagan, the Senate majority leader. “Those are things we need to pay attention to.”

Lawmakers Push Aid-In-Dying Legislation

A pair of Assembly Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday pushed for legislation that would allow terminally ill patients to end their lives with prescribed medication.

The measure, which has the support of at least one Republican lawmaker in the Senate, would allow a doctor to prescribe end-of-life medication to an individual who has a life expectancy of six months or less.

The measure is backed by Assemblywoman Amy Paulin and Assemblyman Dick Gottfried and is sponsored in the Senate by Republican John Bonacic.

“Just like withdrawing food and withdrawing meds is a choice, this is a choice,” said Paulin, a Westchester County Democrat whose sister, while suffering from stage-four cancer, declined food and medication before dying last year.

“We are each responsible for our lives,” added Gottfried. “It seems to me that if you’re responsible for your life, you have the moral right to have control over your life.”

The aid-in-dying legislation was pushed for last year and is staunchly opposed by the Catholic Church as well as the Catholic Conference.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, also raised concerns with the proposal.

“My visceral reaction is I don’t like that for a variety of reasons,” he said. “This is an area where we need to be extraordinarily careful and circumspect. We are literally talking about life and death.”

Flanagan: Banning Outside Income Not A Priority For Voters

Banning or limiting outside income is not a top-shelf issue for constituents, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan on Tuesday said.

Flanagan disagreed with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s claim made on Monday that public pressure will lead to state lawmakers to backing new ethics legislation that includes limiting outside income to 15 percent of a legislator’s base salary, currently $79,500.

Flanagan, a Suffolk County Republican, said the real issue for most New Yorkers he has spoken to is jobs.

“The God’s honest truth is the most important thing I hear about from people is jobs,” Flanagan said. “They want economic development. They want the chance to have a good economic opportunity for them and their families, keep their kids here in the state of New York.”

As for limiting outside income?

“It is way at the bottom of the priority list,” Flanagan said. “Maybe other legislators are hearing it differently.”

A Siena College this week found most voters support curtailing outside income, 59 percent to 35 percent. But at the same time, most voters list pocketbook-related matters as top issues for state government: 44 percent believe education should be the top issue, followed by taxes at 39 percent and jobs at 31 percent.

As for applying public pressure, Flanagan shrugged that concern off.

“There are opportunities to get pressured on all kinds of issues,” Flanagan said. “If that’s going to come from public pressure, so be it. I think we have rational arguments why it’s not a good idea.”

Cuomo introduced the outside income measure in his State of the State last month after both legislative leaders were ousted from office following convictions on corruption charges.

Heastie: Time Is Now To Talk About Taxes

heastiefebWhile Gov. Andrew Cuomo sees “no appetite” for increasing tax rates on those earning $1 million and more, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on Tuesday said it’s time to get the conversation started.

Speaking with reporters at the Capitol, Heastie noted the Democratic conference last year pushed for a $15 minimum wage as well as a 12-week paid family leave program, versions of which Cuomo is making priorities this year.

The current tax rates are due to lapse at the end of 2017.

“We believe we put out good ideas. We championed the minimum wage last year,” Heastie. “There seems to be a real deep discussion around minimum wage. We championed paid family leave and there’s a real discussion on paid family leave. This conversation has to happen sooner or later. We hope sooner because it expires at the end of next year.”

The Assembly Democratic plan also expands an earned income tax credit, which Heastie said coupled with the minimum wage hike would help the poor in New York.

“We’re trying to tackle poverty and the two biggest ways to tackle poverty is to raise the minimum wage and also increase the investment in the earned income tax credit,” Heastie said. “That’s the way to do it.”

Cuomo was less enthused with the proposal when asked about it on Monday after swearing in the state’s new chief judge.

“I don’t believe there is any reason or appetite to take up taxes this year,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Working Families Party in a statement called the Assembly’s tax proposal “common sense.”

“New York’s tax system is upside down,” said WFP state director Bill Lipton, “and we need to turn it right-side up so it works for all of us.”

U.S. Labor Secretary To Visit Buffalo Next Month

U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez plans to visit Buffalo on March 8th. Congressman Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, announced the visit in a press release, Tuesday afternoon.

The office said details about what Perez will be doing and who he’ll be meeting while he’s in Western New York are still being finalized. Based on the release, it’s fair to expect he’ll be discussing the needs of low-income families in the area.

“The Secretary understands this community and can provide a very unique perspective on techniques for greater collaboration on critical issues of workforce opportunity and development,” Higgins said.

Perez was born and raised in Buffalo and his parents are from the Dominican Republic. He was nominated by President Obama in 2013.

Higgins reached out to the Secretary about the visit on behalf of two faith-based coalitions, VOICE Buffalo and NOAH.