The Women’s Agenda, In Piecemeal Form

From the Morning Memo:

The Democratic-led Assembly approved yet another stand-alone version of the 10-point women’s agenda on Monday, backing a measure that would set new pay equity measures for women.

The measure was approved 119-0.

The passage of the bill marked yet another instance in which Assembly Democrats have moved away from the omnibus Women’s Equality Agenda, and taken up a bill already approved by the Republican-controlled Senate.

The Senate earlier this year took up the agenda as separate items, save for the plank aimed at strengthening abortion rights through the codification of Roe v. Wade.

Strategically, the move was a wise one: It removed the issue of passing the bills for the Republican conference, while retaining the earlier pledge to not back the abortion measure.

“The first piece of business taken up by the full Senate this session was legislation comprising the Women’s Equality Agenda, including equal pay for equal work,” Majority Leader Dean Skelos said in a statement. “By doing so, we very clearly stated our priorities and sent an unmistakable message that these bills were far too important to let languish for another day.”

(Never mind that Republicans had previously opposed some of the measures beyond the abortion provision, including the pay equity legislation).

Democrats, not the least of which was Gov. Andrew Cuomo, campaign heavily last year on the Women’s Equality Agenda. Cuomo went as far as to create a new ballot line, the Women’s Equality Party.

After Carl Heastie assumed the speakership from Sheldon Silver earlier this year, a measure aimed at combating human trafficking was approved, which matched a Senate version.

Cuomo on Monday said he was fine with the process of passing the measures one at a time.

“You don’t have to pass all 10 items as 10 items. You want to pass one at a time, one a day, one a week,” Cuomo told reporters. “I don’t care how you do it. It’s about establishing those rights for women.”

Cuomo is expected to sign the pay equity measure into law.

Coalition Pushes To Renew Raise The Age Debate

From the Morning Memo:

A massive of coalition of groups in a letter to be released on Tuesday is urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders to restart the discussion of raising the age of criminal responsibility.

Signing on to the letter are a host of labor and advocacy organizations that are part of the “Raise the Age” coalition.

The effort is meant to reform how the criminal justice system handles 16- and 17-year-old offenders and find alternatives to incarceration.

As the coalition notes in the letter, the approved 2016-17 state budget set aside $135 million for the criminal justice changes with the expectation the policy would follow by the end of the legislative session in June.

Cuomo last year embraced the findings of a commission that he empaneled last year to study juvenile justice reform in New York.

The state remains the last of two states that treats 16 and 17-year-old offenders as adults.

“This system does not meet our public safety needs,” the letter states.

RTA Re-launch Letter by Nick Reisman

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany with no public schedule. The Senate is in session at 3 p.m.; the Assembly at 1 p.m.

It’s ESPA’s annual lobby day at the state Capitol. In Washington, D.C., the US Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments on same-sex marriage cases.

At 7:25 a.m., Staten Island DA and NY-11 GOP candidate Dan Donovan will be a guest on AM970 The Answer with host Joe Piscopo.

At 7:30 a.m., approximately 50 AARP members from Harlem board a bus for Albany to lobby Assembly to pass CARE Act, 2401 Adam Clayton Powell Blvd. (corner of 140th St.), Harlem. (The CARE Act has passed the Senate and is on the Assembly Health Committee agenda today).

At 8 a.m., NYC Councilman Jumaane Williams, Brooklyn BP Eric Adams and anti-gun violence activists stand together after a fatal gunfight last night, in front of the Emmanuel Church of God, 1365 Flatbush Ave., Brooklyn.

At 8:30 a.m., Donovan will be a guest on Fox 5’s “Good Day New York”

At 10 a.m., former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver will be arraigned again on additional federal corruption charges, Judge Caproni’s Courtroom, Room 443, 40 Foley, Manhattan.

Also at 10 a.m., Rep. Chris Gibson meets with constituents, educators and employers at a Workforce New York Career Fair, Columbia-Greene Community College, Greenport.

At 10:30 a.m., JCOPE meets, 540 Broadway, Albany.

Also at 10:30 a.m., Donovan will greet seniors at the Mount Loretto Friendship Club, 6581 Hylan Blvd., Staten Island.

At 11 a.m., formerly incarcerated youth, family members, and Raise the Age advocates call for elected officials to raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York before the end of the legislative session in June, LCA Pressroom, (130), Legislative Office Building, Albany.

Also at 11 a.m., the Drug Policy Alliance announces new legislation to create an emergency access medical marijuana program for patients with the most urgent needs, Speaker’s Conference Room 342, state Capitol, Albany. (Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, Assembly Minority Leader Briand Kolb, who are sponsoring the bill, will attend).

Also at 11 a.m., New York Press Photographers Association Inc. President Bruce Cotler and Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez outline a legislative proposal that would require city officials to resume issuing parking placards for press vehicles; steps, City Hal, Manhattan.

At 11:45 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul and Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy tour downtown Schenectady small businesses to highlight state investment and revitalization efforts, Transfinder, 440 State St., Schenectady.

At 1 p.m., advocates and elected officials will call on de Blasio to allocate more NYCHA public housing units to help reduce record homelessness in the city and move more families out of the shelter system, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

Also at 1 p.m., New Yorkers from across the state call for mandatory labeling of food products derived from genetically engineered crops (AKA “GMOs”), Million Dollar Staircase, state Capitol, Albany.

Also at 1 p.m., NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray participates in a roundtable discussion with school mental health providers, P.S. 146, 2nd Floor Library, 421 East 106th St., Manhattan.

At 1:15 p.m., EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy promotes the agency’s pollution reduction and public health initiatives while delivering a keynote speech to open an event presented by Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy; rotunda, Low Library, use College Walk entrance near 116th Street between Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway, Manhattan.

At 1:30 p.m., former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg recognizes nine teams selected to receive $100,000 as part of a “Genesis Generation Challenge” competition for international humanitarian initiatives guided by Jewish values; 25 E. 78th St., Manhattan.

At 4 p.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio holds public hearings on and signs Intro. 727, in relation to limiting property tax increases for Sandy-damaged property, and Intro. 747, in relation to submission of the Executive Budget, Blue Room, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 6 p.m., Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle attend a Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee fundraiser, the Hilton Albany, State and Lodge streets, Albany.

At 7 p.m., de Blasio appears in a pre-taped interview on NY1’s “Inside City Hall” with Errol Louis.

At 8 p.m., NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer speaks at the Barack Obama Democratic Club of Northern Manhattan, Church of the Intercession, 550 W. 155th St., Manhattan.

Headlines…

Gov. Andrew Cuomo opened the door to seeking a third term in 2018, saying he’ll “stay as long as the people have me.”

The state Assembly voted unanimously to close loopholes in the law guaranteeing equal pay for women, which Cuomo said he’ll sign. The Senate passed the measure, which used to be part of Cuomo’s 10-point Women’s Equality Act, in January.

Senate Democrats pushed for legislative action on a bill that would close a loophole that allows limited liability companies to make political donations as if they were individual entities and not the tentacles of larger organizations.

The teachers union ally AQE is targeting Long Island and upstate GOP senators with attack ads on social media in an attempt to block $25 million in state aid to charter schools – mostly in New York City.

A top official at the MTA warned board members that they may need to raise fares and tolls by 15 percent if state lawmakers do not provide funding for the agency’s five-year capital plan.

New statistics show Brooklyn is the only borough that’s seen a decline in murders, shootings and shooting victims this year.

Six people were shot, two fatally, as gunfire erupted outside a Brooklyn church after a crowded funeral last night.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio says the city doesn’t need 1,000 new cops, but his bean-counters still deem it a “potential expense” and predict it would cost more than $90 million a year, according to internal documents obtained by The NY Post.

Luis “Lou” Pena, a well-known trainer, has been hit with what officials believe is a record $343,400 fine and a three-year ban following charges that he illegally drugged his harness horses on hundreds of occasions between 2010 and 2012.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the leader of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, conferred a rare papal knighthood on Rabbi Arthur Schneier, citing “the good works that he’s done” to promote religious freedom and international peace. Schneier, a Holocaust survivor, is the senior rabbi of Park East Synagogue on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

De Blasio swore in 28 new judges to criminal, civil and family courts, saying some were rushed through the process so quickly, it was like “speed dating.”

A proposal to let cities in New York set their own minimum wages was shelved by lawmakers in the state Senate, dealing a setback to de Blasio and others who want the state to relinquish its total control of the wage.

More >

Panepinto Proposes Mayoral ‘Input’, Not Full Control

It’s a drastic step that has been successfully implemented in New York City and intermittently considered – but never fully embraced – in cities across upstate: Mayoral control of the public schools. 

With nagging questions over the leadership of the Buffalo Public School District, and some suggesting full mayoral control is the answer, a Buffalo-area state senator has drafted compromise legislation that would give the mayor “input.”

“I think it’s an effort to try and quell the animosities that exist under the present school board configuration,” said Sen. Marc Panepinto.

Four superintendents in five years have tried to turn around the Buffalo Public School District. The most recent person to hold the position, interim Superintendent Donald Ogilvie, has lost the confidence of the board of education’s one-seat majority and leaves the post July 1st. 

Infighting among board members over how a new superintendent should be chosen spurred Buffalo Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes to revive the idea of mayoral control. Panepinto said he was sympathetic to the idea put forward by his fellow Democrat, but feels a full takeover is a step too far.

“From the Assembly delegation that I talked to, from the Upstate Senators, Democratic and Republican that I spoke too, I didn’t really see that there was a stomach for total mayoral control,” he said.

Panepinto’s legislation would allow Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown to appoint two additional at-large board members to the nine-member school board.  The terms would last five years and would need to be confirmed by the Buffalo Common Council.

“I think the City of Buffalo funds the schools to the tune of ten to 15 percent depending on what the state allocation is, so I think it’s appropriate that the mayor have some input on the school board,” the senator said. 

For a majority member of the Buffalo Public School Board, however, this proposal gives away all control. 

“The intent is for the liberal group, connected to the board minority, to stop the implementation of the majority’s agenda,” said Carl Paladino. “Marc Panepinto is an elitist who thinks government control is the answer to every aspect of life.”

Allowing the mayor to appoint two board members could certainly flip the one seat majority. Either way, Paladino believes it would create even more chaos.

“This effort to remove control from a duly elected board is sickening,” he said.

Panepinto’s proposal doesn’t go as far as the full mayoral control bill Peoples-Stokes’ office has said she’s still drafting – an effort that faces an uphill climb in Albany. Buffalo’s Common Council President isn’t ready to endorse either idea at this point. 

“I’m interested in seeing both plans and seeing possibly is there even some working together to bring both plans into fruition in which one gives a little and the other may take away,” Darius Pridgen said.

But mayoral control may be an idea whose time has come, though the New York City measure sunsets in Albany in June, and the Senate Republicans don’t appear inclined to provide any assistance to Mayor Bill de Blasio, who would like to see it made permanent. De Blasio unsuccessfully tried to help the Senate Democrats re-take the majority in the 2014 elections, making an enemy of the GOP conference.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he favors a three-year extension of New York City’s mayoral control law, while the Assembly Democrats pushed during the budget battle for seven years. The matter was pushed off into the post-budget session.

As for his proposal, Panepinto thinks it should get a three-year trial, and he says he feels he has already accomplished part of his goal even if the idea goes nowhere in the end.

“I wanted to put something forward to begin the dialogue,” the senator said.

Heastie: No Decision Made On MMA

Assembly Democrats emerged from a 90-minute meeting discussing mixed-martial arts legalization without coming to a decision on whether the bill should come to the floor for a vote.

Speaker Carl Heastie declined to say what concerns were raised by rank-and-file lawmakers in the closed-door meeting.

“I would say I don’t like speaking about what was spoken on in conference,” Heastie said. “We’ll come out with a final decision on where the conference is.”

Support for the bill is a given in the state Senate, where it has passed multiple times with backing of both Democratic and Republican lawmakers.

It faces an uncertain future in the Democratic-led Assembly, however, as some lawmakers have raised issues ranging from labor concerns to the sport’s violence.

MMA legalization is being pushed for by both Ultimate Fighting Championship as well as several business-backed organizations and the Association of Counties.

It is unclear whether or when the Assembly will make a determination on holding a vote for the bill.

“This might be round one, this might be round two. But there’s no final decision,” Heastie said.

Extras

Congratulations, Assemblywoman Didi Barrett, you broke the Albany Internet today.

It will cost $210,000 for would-be suppliers of medical marijuana to apply for a New York license, according to regulations released today. Only five suppliers will be selected.

Former Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver will be arraigned again tomorrow morning after a new indictment charged him with transferring his crime proceeds into investments not available to the general public.

The state health department is moving ahead with an ambitious, $6.4 billion reform of New York’s Medicaid delivery system despite a stern warning from the Federal Trade Commission that it might violate anti-trust law.

Assemblyman Richard Gottfried is introducing new legislation to hasten emergency access to the drug for patients who can’t wait for the program’s scheduled January 2016 start date.

Cuomo says New York will be the first state to offer English-language lessons to Spanish speakers over their mobile phones.

Just weeks after signing into law a tight deadline for school districts to overhaul their new teacher evaluation systems, Cuomo said giving them more time “sounds totally reasonable.”

Now that the Comcast deal is off, Charter Communications Inc. is laying the groundwork for a potential bid for Time Warner Cable Inc.

Rep. Elise Stefanik, the youngest woman ever elected to Congress, was bullied by a group of “mean girls” as a youngster.

The state Gaming Commission is issuing a $343,000 fine against harness trainer Lou Pena for 1,717 instances in which he violated equine rules by drugging horses with steroids and other hormones.

Hillary Clinton wrote an oped published in the Des Moines Register to thank and recognize the “great ideas” she got from her trip to the state earlier this month.

The mother of Eric Garner won’t be supporting Staten Island DA Daniel Donovan, who convened the grand jury that failed to indict anyone in her son’s police custody death, in his run for Congress. “He should run far away as possible,” she said.

The Rev. Al Sharpton is off to Baltimore, the scene of unrest after black man Freddie Gray died in police custody there this month.

A coalition of Queens pols wants to bring the “Move NY” congestion pricing plan to a standstill.

Ron Perlman said he wants to hire as many Central New Yorkers as possible to work for Wing and a Prayer Pictures, his film production company he’s planning to move here this year.

How Greg Biryla became the new head of Unshackle Upstate.

New York City has struggled for a decade to handle the half-million summonses issued each year for low-level offenses, which flood the court system and have been issued overwhelmingly to young men, according to a report released today.

Sen. David Carlucci wants the heroin overdose antidote naloxone available over the counter.

Now that Loretta Lynch has become the U.S. attorney general, sworn in by VP Joe Biden today, her top deputy in the Eastern District, Kelly Currie, has stepped up to take her place in Brooklyn.

CBS News anchor-reporter Jeff Glor has been in Buffalo to do interviews for a story that is primarily about Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula.

Assembly Approves Pay Equity Measure

The Democratic-led state Assembly unanimously approved a bill on Monday that would pay equity parameters for women in the workplace.

The measure, which was approved 119-0, was passed by the Republican-controlled Senate and now goes to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk, who is expected to sign it into law.

“All women deserve to receive a paycheck based on their position and job performance rather than their gender,” Cuomo said in a statement. “Today, with the Assembly’s passage of the fair pay provision of the Women’s Equality Act, the Empire State is taking a firm stand in support of equal pay for women in the workplace, and I look forward to signing this legislation as we continue to advance and ensure the rights of women across New York State.”

The measure is part of a five-bill package Assembly Democrats had planned to take up in today’s legislative session.

Republican lawmakers and business interests have raised concerns with a broader bill, the New York State Fair Pay Act, that would ban pay inequity based on gender, race or national origin.

The pay equity measure had received more support from lawmakers in both parties and some Republicans even included the issue in their campaign literature last year.

The pay equity bill had hit a legislative snag for the last several years, as it was part of the larger 10-point Women’s Equality Agenda. The state Senate had balked at taking up the full WEA over a provision that would have codified the Roe v. Wade ruling into state law.

Instead, Senate Republicans have held separate votes on bills contained in the WEA package.

The Senate had previously approved an anti-human trafficking provision in the WEA as well as the pay equity measure.

Democrats in the Assembly had long pushed to keep the WEA has a single piece of legislation, eve as it became clear the votes were not available for the abortion plank.

Senate Republicans won a slim majority last year after Cuomo and Democrats campaigned heavily on the issue.

But after Bronx Democrat Carl Heastie replaced Sheldon Silver as the chamber’s speaker, movement on individual bills in the Women’s Equality Agenda was seen: Votes on the human trafficking legislation was held, and the abortion provision was approved as a stand-alone bill.

Today, Heastie cited the push to close a wage gap between men and women workers a moral duty.

“The wage gap continues to rob millions of women of the earnings to which they are entitled,” Heastie said at a news conference. “As a matter of social and economic justice, we have a moral obligation to close the wage gap.”

Sen. Diane Savino, a Staten Island lawmaker and member of the Independent Democratic Conference member, hailed the passage of the bill she sponsored in her chamber.

“The sad thing was it was tied up in the bigger issue of the Women’s Equality Agenda. Real women in New York state could have been helped a year and a half ago,” she said. “But they’re going to be helped now.”

Senate Dems Push LLC Loophole Closure

Senate Democrats on Monday pushed for a vote in the Senate Elections Committee that would reclassify limited liability companies and limit their political giving.

Sen. Daniel Squadron, the bill’s main sponsor, used a parliamentary maneuver in order to have a measure put to a vote in a legislative committee.

The measure was approved, and is now before the Senate’s corporations committee.

At the moment, a single campaign donor can give unlimited contributions through a network of limited liability companies or LLCs.

“It seems like almost everyday new allegations of corruption and abuse of the public trust are leveled at state government,” said Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins at a news conference this morning.

“What does it say when the Senate Republicans are so opposed to ethics reforms that they have to be forced to even discuss these bills in committee?”

The nudging is subtle: Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos is under investigation by federal prosecutors, while the GOP’s deputy majority leader, Tom Libous, is under indictment for lying to the FBI.

More broadly, Democratic Assemblyman Sheldon Silver is under indictment for corruption charges and will be arraigned on a superseding indictment on Tuesday.

Good-government groups have long railed against the so-called LLC loophole, but for the moment the classification has been elusive in changing.

The state Board of Elections earlier this month had considered a change in the regulation, but the commissioners deadlocked in a vote.

Republican commissioners argued at the time it should up to the Legislature to change the regulation. The Board of Elections initially opened up the LLC giving based on a federal ruling that has since been overturned.

“The Board of Elections opened up this loophole through their own action,” Squadron said. “It was consistent At the time, the federal government quickly corrected that. The Board of Elections has failed to act. The New York State Legislature has failed to act. We’ve seen this loophole get bigger and bigger.”

Candidates on both sides of the political aisle have benefited from the arrangement, though Gov. Andrew Cuomo has raked in the lion’s share of the contributions.

Nevertheless, Cuomo himself has been pushing to have the loophole closed.

“The Governor supports and will continue to fight for closing the LLC loophole,” said spokesman Rich Azzopardi. “Today’s passage of legislation out the Senate Elections Committee that would accomplish this goal is a positive development and one that we hope ends with an actual vote and passage from the full Senate.”

Heastie: A ‘Macro Look’ At Testing In Schools

The response to the large number of students opting out of the most recent round of standardized tests be may be a “macro look” at the number of hours spent on examinations, Speaker Carl Heastie on Monday said.

“It is a concern for all of us with a huge number of students opting out,” Heastie told reporters.

The opt-out figures are estimated to be as high as 100,000.

In recent weeks, the movement had gained the support of the statewide teachers union, NYSUT, which encouraged parents to not have their children take the last two weeks’ worth of testing, which focused on English-language arts and math.

Heastie said the numbers will likely spur lawmakers in Albany to take a broader look at the issue of testing in the classroom.

“We do have to take a real macro look at this,” he said.

NYSUT’s leadership remains upset with the approved state budget’s teacher evaluation criteria as well as the weakening of teacher tenure laws.

State lawmakers have introduced some changes to the evaluation measures, such as exempting high-performing school districts.

At the same time, the Board of Regents is backing a deadline extension for school districts that must enact the new evaluation criteria.

Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch this month signaled support for moving the deadline from this November to September of next year for schools that demonstrate a “hardship.”

The move has been endorsed by the Assembly leadership.

“I think for us particularly in the Assembly we want to see the districts get the resources,” Heastie said. “We didn’t want to see any districts be punished or not get their resources if somehow that deadline wasn’t met. So I’m very happy the regents put that out there.”

.50 Caliber Ban To Get Senate Codes Committee Vote

Sen. Daniel Squadron has sent a memo to his fellow Codes Committee members, urging them to vote “yes” on his bill that would, with some “reasonable” exceptions, require registration for, and prohibit the sale and tranfer of, .50-caliber rifles in New York.

The measure, formally known as the “.50-Caliber Threat Reduction Act,” will be voted on when the committee meets tomorrow at 1 p.m.

“Before voting on this bill, please read the below fact-sheet and watch the attached video,” Sqaudron wrote. “I hope you will agree with me that a weapon with the capacity to kill a human from over a mile away, pierce body and vehicle armor, and destroy military and civilian infrastructure should not be available in New York State without registration and without even a permit. This legislation is necessary to protect communities and the law enforcement personnel who risk their lives to keep us safe.”

Squadron also urged his Codes Committee colleagues to watch a clip of former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly during a “60 Minutes” segment on .50-caliber rifles, during which the ex-NYC law enforcement official watches a demonstration of weapon’s ability to pierce steel plates on a firing range that is three football fields long. Kelly says during an interview that the are “clearly a weapon of war” that is “appropriate for the military” and could do “a lot” of damage in the hands of the wrong person.

Some, but not all, .50-caliber rifles are deemed assault weapons and therefore banned under the SAFE Act. But, Squadron said, a loophole in the law allows the rifles if they are not modified in a highly specific way.

The fact that the vote will take place at all is something of a victory for the Brooklyn Democrat senator, who is the ranking minority member on the Codes Committee and tried last year to compel a vote through a parliamentary maneuver also employed by Sen. Diane Savino, an IDC member, to circumvent the chamber’s leadership to get a vote on her medical marijuana legislation.

In order to avoid voting on a controversial gun bill during an election year – a move that no doubt would have further enraged their conservative allies who were still smarting over passage of the SAFE Act -the Senate Republicans moved the bill from the Codes Committee to the Rules Committee, which is controlled with an iron fist by the leadership. (Of course, at the time, power over the chamber was being shared by IDC Leader Jeff Klein and Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos. Now, thanks to the results of the 2014 elections, the Republicans have a clean majority).

There are 16 members of the Codes Committee, which is chaired by GOP Sen. Michael Nozzolio. Nine members are Republicans, six are Democrats and one (Savino) is an IDC member. Four of the Republicans – John Flanagan, Phil Boyle, Marty Golden, and Andrew Lanza – voted “yes” on the SAFE Act in January 2013.