To HRC, Cuomo Defines A ‘New York Value’

From the Morning Memo:

On Saturday night, Gov. Andrew Cuomo touted his executive order to block insurance coverage of conversion therapy of gays and lesbians, linking the effort to his signature push for the 2011 legalization of same-sex marriage.

Cuomo was speaking before a receptive and enthusiastic audience: The Human Rights Campaign, the national LGBT rights group that was a member organization of the coalition that successfully lobbied for the measure five years ago.

In his remarks given at the group’s gala, Cuomo took the national view of the same-sex marriage fight in New York, noting once again how the measure’s passage in the Legislature led to President Obama later altering his own view on the issue.

“When it happens in New York, every politician, the next day, gets the question. ‘What would you do about marriage equality?’ and ‘What would you do about marriage equality?’ and ‘What would you do, Mr. President, about marriage equality?'” Cuomo said in his remarks.

But he went further, tying the most recent efforts to strengthen LGBT rights — such as regulations that seek to address discrimination of transgender individuals — as well as the order to curtail conversion therapy as part of the overall agenda in the new year.

Cuomo has increasingly turned toward executive action when it comes to bills that have languished in the Legislature, and both limitations on conversion therapy and the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act fit that mold of blocked legislation.

Cuomo, however, was unapologetic in his effort to go around the Legislature, taking a veiled swipe at Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz’s recent disparaging of “New York values” in the process.

“That’s the power of New York and that’s why we’re going to do it and do it and do it and do it again. And that’s why we took executive action and said you cannot discriminate against transgender,” Cuomo said. “I don’t care if the legislature is not going to pass it, I’m going to do it, because it’s a New York value.”

LGBT rights aren’t the only measures Cuomo has sought to exert executive action: He’s raised the minimum wage for fast-food and state employees through his office’s powers as he seeks a broader minimum wage increase to $15 for all workers, that would be phased in over several years.

Cuomo indicated in his speech he wants the state to continue to be a national leader on these decidedly liberal issues, such as the $15 minimum wage (a figure that puts him more in line with the campaign platform of Bernie Sanders than his endorsed candidate, Hillary Clinton).

“That’s why we proposed $15 as the minimum wage, the highest in the United States – because everyone who works should have the dignity of work,” Cuomo said. “And that’s why today we rejected fundamentally the absurd notion that being gay is a psychiatric disorder and that they should be treated and we’ve ended conversion therapy in the state of New York, and I am proud to have done it.”

Preet’s Coming To Town

From the Morning Memo:

Every now and then, the planets align in Albany for a truly fascinating — and hectic — day.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara will make his first-ever public sojourn to the state’s capital city today, providing the keynote address to several hundred attendees of the New York Conference of Mayors’s winter meeting.

He’ll be speaking at a hotel just a stone’s throw down the hill on State Street from the Capitol building itself, where Bharara’s office has struck genuine fear with a series of blockbuster prosecutions.

Later, he’ll be attending the swearing-in of the state’s new chief judge, former Westchester District Attorney Janet DiFiore.

Also in attendance: Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose administration Bharara’s office recently cleared in the investigation into the handling of the anti-corruption Moreland Commission. Federal prosecutors are said to still be looking into the governor’s signature economic development program in western New York, the Buffalo Billion.

Later, Bharara will be taking part at a forum further uptown for the public radio station WAMC.

Amid all of this, Bharara’s immediate predecessor as the top prosecutor at the Southern District, Michael Garcia, will have his nomination for the Court of Appeals considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee and, likely, the full Senate.

Oh, and Bruce Springsteen is in town.

Just over a month ago, Bharara netted his biggest fish: Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and ex-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos were convicted in corruption cases brought by the Southern District.

Bharara’s presence may be unsettling to some state lawmakers, but his remarks at such events have in recent weeks been remarkably consistent.

Bharara preaches that good actors (be it lawmakers or Wall Street bankers) should help blow the whistle on bad actors. He likes to tell the tale of Adam Skelos grousing on wiretap that “f-ing Preet Bharara” is listening in on every call. And he likes to remind politicians that he’s merely doing his job in making cases and, instead of complaining about his methods, find ways of reforming their system.

The more fascinating moment will surely be to watch the body language and interaction (if any) between Cuomo and Bharara — the two heavyweights in the room at the Court of Appeals chamber today.

Albany is cramming a lot into one day (kind of like the budget!) and we’ll be here to follow as much of it as possible.

Siena Poll: Clinton And Trump Lead In New York

One was born and raised in New York, and came to exemplify the city’s intoxication with success and grandeur.

Another moved here to run for a U.S. Senate seat, settling in an affluent suburban neighborhood in Westchester County following a “listening tour” in upstate New York.

And now both Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Hillary Clinton hold double-digit leads over their respective rivals for the presidential nominating contest in New York, a Siena College poll released today finds.

Clinton, the former secretary of state who represented New York in the Senate from 2001 through 2008, leads Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, (who is Brooklyn born), 55 percent to 34 percent among Democratic voters.

Trump, a real-estate developer and reality TV show host, receives 34 percent of the vote among Republican voters. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz each have 16 percent.

Gov. Chris Christie of neighboring New Jersey received support from 11 percent of GOP voters, with all other candidates who are still in the running in the single digits.

New York’s presidential primary is scheduled for April 19. The state’s primary is usually so late in the calendar for presidential primaries that it rarely matters in the nominating process.

But with Republican candidates bunched up together in an effort to dislodge Trump, and Clinton fending off a surprisingly strong challenge from Sanders, it’s possible New York could still be in play by the start of the spring.

Despite the lead Trump holds here in his home state, he also polls with the highest unfavorable rating – 71 percent – of any of the presidential candidates.

At the same time, New York is not likely (for now) to turn a shade of red in the upcoming November general election. More than half of voters expect Clinton will be the next president, including two-thirds of Democratic voters.

Both Clinton and Sanders lead potential Republican challengers in a general election matchup by double digits, the poll shows.

Among the GOP candidates, Rubio and Christie come closest in running against Clinton and Sanders, but they’re still far behind in New York.

Clinton leads Rubio in a head-to-head duel by 17 percentage points, while she leads Christie by 19 percentage points. Sanders defeats Rubio, meanwhile, by 22 percentage points and Christie by 23 percentage points.

New York last voted for a Republican presidential candidate in 1984, when President Ronald Reagan was re-elected in a landslide.

When it comes to issues facing the country, New York voters list jobs and the economy at the top, along with keeping America safe.

At 72 percent, the issue of jobs beats security (51 percent) overall with most demographic groups save for Republican voters, the poll found.

The poll of 930 registered voters, including 434 Democrats and 235 Republicans, was conducted from Jan. 31 through Feb. 3. It has a margin of error 3.8 percent overall. For Democratic respondents, the margin of error is 7 percent. For GOP responders, it is 5.6 percent.

Sny0215 President Crosstabs by Nick Reisman

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany and New York City. US Attorney Preet Bharara is in Albany for the first time (ever, at least publicly). The two will appear at the same event (though not necessarily together) this afternoon, which reporters who cover the state Capitol are VERY much looking forward to.

Also, both houses of the Legislature will be in session. Another budget hearing will be taking place. The Senate Judiciary Committee will consider Cuomo’s nomination of Michael Garcia (a Republican) to the Court of Appeals.

So much is happening today that the schedule appears at the end of this post.


The Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl, 24-10 over the Carolina Panthers, giving Payton Manning, who, at 39, is the oldest starting quarterback in Super Bowl history, his second win in what might be the end of his football career.

The NRC is sending a radiation-protection specialist to New York this week to inspect the Indian Point nuclear power plant after state officials found evidence of a surge in radiation levels in groundwater there.

Entergy Corp. said elevated levels of radioactive material found in groundwater at the 2,000-megawatt Indian Point nuclear power facility north of New York City don’t pose a threat to public safety.

Disgraced former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver appears to still be pulling strings, controlling crucial votes in the contest to pick his successor. Alice Cancel, a Democratic district leader, emerged yesterday from the pack of hopefuls seeking a ballot spot in a Manhattan special election to replace Silver, who lost his seat due to a corruption conviction.

A day before the New Hampshire primary, Donald Trump has won the backing of a legendary New York Republican, former state GOP Chairman Bill Powers, who also blasted his own state party’s failure to rally behind the candidacy of its “favorite son” presidential hopeful.

Two days after a 38-year-old man was killed by a crawler crane that collapsed onto a Lower Manhattan street as workers tried to secure it against accelerating winds, Mayor Bill de Blasio said New York City was lowering the wind-speed threshold at which such equipment must be shut down.

Sergeants Benevolent Association President Ed Mullins criticized de Blasio’s plan to require that NYPD officers take “implicit bias” training starting this spring. ​

In the wake of a report showing the difficulties for average fans to buy concert and sports tickets at face value, two state senators – Bard Hoylman and Daniel Squadron – are calling for a legislative hearing into the matter.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s efforts to force corporations to disclose their political spending has resulted in a six-figure payout to one of his major campaign contributors, Manhattan law firm Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossman.

Bob McCarthy: After almost three years of tension between the Peace Bridge Authority’s Canadian and American delegations, the New Yorkers loyal to Cuomo may have now prevailed, thanks largely due to a change in command at the top in Canada.

But more than three years after Sandy, Hoboken, NJ is just as vulnerable to a deluge from the Hudson River and the plan to defend it with a sea wall is mired in controversy.

The Bloomberg-for-president speculation continues.

Flint, Michigan Mayor Karen Weaver thanked Hillary Clinton, saying the former secretary of state’s concern over the city’s water crisis helped spur government action for her constituents.

Clinton called the Flint water crisis “immoral,” and demanded that Congress approve $200 million in emergency aid to address the community’s battle with lead-contaminated water.

NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and a variety of fellow female New York Democratic elected officials campaigned for Clinton in New Hampshire this weekend ahead of tomorrow’s Granite State primary.

Clinton said that Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s attacks on her beliefs about abortion are “pathetic.”

State Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long says Rubio’s presidential bid has the support of many party leaders — though Donald Trump is still appealing to rank-and-file activists.

More >

The Weekend That Was

Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched a new public service announcement to educate New Yorkers about the disease of addiction and inform them that help is available. The 30-second PSA will debut during Super Bowl 50 on the Capital Region CBS affiliate, and will air statewide through TV and digital media starting Feb. 15.

The Donald’s brash New York persona is playing well in New Hampshire.

In advance of receiving an award from the Human Rights Campaign, Cuomo announced a series of measures intended to eliminate so-called conversion therapy, a practice that claims the ability to reverse same-sex attraction in some people but that has been widely discredited by scientists and criticized by gay-rights groups.

A couple who run a small urban farm said powerful Queens Sen. James Sanders, who is now running for Congress, offered them $1.7 million in taxpayer money to fund their operation — then demanded a $250,000 kickback. They have filed a report with US Attorney Preet Bharara’s office.

Rep. Chris Gibson, a Republican who is forgoing a re-election bid this year to prepare for a possible gubernatorial run in 2018, is filing paperwork tomorrow to establish an exploratory committee for that statewide bid.

New York will investigate the Indian Point Energy Center after Cuomo said he learned that “radioactive tritium-contaminated water” leaked into the groundwater at the nuclear facility in Westchester County.

Financial disclosures filed last year show just 24 state lawmakers – mostly lawyers – were making about as much or more in outside income as their $79,500 base annual pay from the state. Those 24 accounted for at least two-thirds of outside income reported for 2014, which ranged between $4.6 million and $7.1 million.

Every year, scores of New Yorkers are removed from their dwellings without ever facing trial or consulting a lawyer.

At least three investigators with the Suffolk district attorney’s office have been subpoenaed as a federal investigation has expanded into whether county investigators and prosecutors engaged in federal civil rights violations by illegally using a wiretap, sources tell Newsday.

John L. Tishman, who oversaw the construction of the twin towers of the World Trade Center, died Saturday at age 90.

Feminist icon Gloria Steinem says young women are supporting Democratic presidential candidate and Vermont senator Bernie Sanders for only one reason: To meet boys. The outspoken Hillary Clinton supporter made the eyebrow-raising remark in a Friday night appearance on “Real Time with Bill Maher.”

Fireworks flared at the the first head-to-head debate of the 2016 campaign season when Clinton accused Sanders of attacking her with an “artful smear.”

Cuomo Order Blocks Insurance Coverage Of ‘Conversion Therapy’

An executive order released on Saturday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo blocks insurance companies from covering so-called conversion therapy of gays and lesbians.

The move, announced ahead of the governor addressing the LGBT organization the Human Rights Campaign, was cheered by advocates for tackling an issue that has stalled in the state Legislature.

In a statement, Cuomo called conversion therapy — which gay, lesbian or transgender people are counseled to change their orientation or gender identity — a “hatefully and fundamentally flawed practice.”

“New York has been at the forefront of acceptance and equality for the LGBT community for decades – and today we are continuing that legacy and leading by example,” Cuomo said. “We will not allow the misguided and the intolerant to punish LGBT young people for simply being who they are.”

Attempts at conversion therapy have been increasingly criticized by medical organizations and has been attributed to depression and suicide in LGBT youth.

The executive order calls on a number of state agencies to issue regulations that would ban insurance companies from covering such therapies for those under the age of 18. The Department of Health will block Medicaid money be spent on conversion therapy, while the Office of Mental Health will issue regulations that would block facilities under their jurisdiction from providing the treatment to minors.

Counseling for minors who are transitioning or seeking to transition from one gender to another that “provides acceptance, support, and understanding of an individual or the facilitation of an individual’s coping, social support, and identity exploration and development” would not be banned under the executive order.

The order comes weeks after the administration issued regulations under the state’s human rights law that would prohibit discrimination in housing and the workplace of transgender individuals.

Both limits to conversion therapy as well as the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act have languished in the Legislature in recent years.

Cuomo’s executive order addressing conversion therapy was hailed by LGBT advocates.

“Governor Cuomo continues to cement his role as one of the LGBT community’s strongest allies by taking this enormous step to end a practice that is tantamount to child abuse,” said HRC President Chad Griffin. “No young person should be coerced or subjected to this dangerous so-called therapy, which has been linked to youth substance abuse, depression, homelessness, and even suicide.”

Manhattan Democratic Sen. Brad Hoylman, the Senate’s only openly gay member and sponsor of a bill aimed at banning conversion therapy, praised the effort to curtail one of “the biggest consumer frauds in history.”

“Being the prime sponsor of legislation to ban this practice and the only openly LGBT member of the State Senate,” Hoylman said, “I am extremely grateful to Governor Cuomo for using his executive authority to cut off state support and protect LGBT children from destructive and discredited sexual orientation change efforts.”

Silver Seat Race May Come Down to Deal

The Working Families Party has endorsed Yuh-Line Niou to fill the Assembly seat vacated by former Speaker Sheldon Silver who was convicted of federal corruption last year and forced to resign. In a statement, WFP’s Bill Lipton said,

Yuh-Line Niou’s story is the story of New York. While this was a tough decision, a majority of WFP leaders decided this morning that she is the right choice to provide the strong, progressive leadership the working families of the 65th district need. New Yorkers can count on Yuh-Line to be a strong advocate for affordable housing, for immigrants and seniors, and for efforts to clean up our corrupt campaign finance system.We proudly support her.

Tomorrow the 180 or so members of the New York County Democratic Committee for the 65th Assembly District  will gather on East Broadway to pick their candidate for the April 19 special election called by Governor Cuomo last Saturday.

That basically gave the interested candidates 8 days to run one of the shortest campaigns in recent memory to succeed Silver who held the seat since 1977. Not the most democratic of processes, most people would seem to agree. The main candidates are Niou who is Chief of Staff to Queens Assemblyman Ron Kim, District Leader Jenifer Rajkumar, Chair of Community Board 3 Gigi Lee, District Leader Paul Newell and Shelly hanger-on Alice Cancel.

Because the district is heavily Democratic, whoever gets selected by the Committee tomorrow is likely to win the special. However, there will be a normal September primary no matter what, which means Democrats who lose out tomorrow could get another crack at it in 7 months. According to one prominent Democrat,

The district has changed, but most of the County Committee hasn’t. WFP will be very important in September so their endorsement is crucial now.

This week, insiders began a whisper campaign that Alice Cancel had the most votes from the committee going into tomorrow’s (S)election process in which new votes are taken over and over again until a candidate reaches 50%. But it’s not one committee member one vote ( which would make too much sense ). The vote is weighted to favor Committee members who hail from Assembly Districts that had the highest vote turnout for Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2014 ( I’m actually not kidding ). So, Cancel was the choice of the vestiges of the old Shelly machine on the Lower East Side. People like Rosa Silver ( Shelly’s wife ) and Judy Rapfogel ( shelly’s former Chief of Staff ) still have votes, and more importantly, control votes within the Lower East Side portion of the district. The 65th also includes Chinatown, Battery Park and the Financial District.

So, a deal needed to be cut between the Shelly people and the current reform minded elected officials. The person they appear to have settled on is Niou, who lives in the Financial District, even though some say may have a residency issue. How anybody could want to deal with Silver’s faction at this point is anybody’s guess, but this is politics after all. And sometimes people hold their noses to make deals for what they consider the greater good. I should also note that the vote is still tomorrow, so nothing is final. I have covered enough of these (S)elections to know that anything can happen when the consummate back-room-deal-people all end up in the same room together. So, we shall see. The good news is that Yuh-Line does seem to be a solid candidate who is young, energetic and committed to moving a district forward that has been ruled by an iron fist for longer than she has been alive.


With just seven dissenters, NYC Council members today went above the recommendations of a salary commission to award themselves a 32 percent raise — from $112,500 to $148,500.

Rep. John Katko will deliver the weekly Republican address Saturday. It’s the first national role the freshman Central New York congressman has been asked to serve by House Republicans.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz thinks KeyCorp’s acquisition of First Niagara Financial Group would be a bad deal for the Buffalo Niagara region.

A 52-year-old Army veteran from Syracuse says he will launch a long-shot bid to challenge U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer in the November election. James P. LaSpino, a 1981 graduate of Nottingham High School in Syracuse, said he will file to run as an independent candidate.

Jennifer Cunningham, long one of the state’s most prominent strategic political consultants, has dipped her toe back into the lobbying world in light of new rules passed by the state’s lobbying regulator, JCOPE.

Assemblyman Robert Oaks said he’s seriously considering a run for the state Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Michael Nozzolio.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio says a multi-agency investigation is underway following a deadly crane collapse this morning at a construction site in Lower Manhattan.

Hillary Clinton’s daughter accidentally called Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, her mom’s rival in the Democratic race for the White House, “President Sanders.”

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown’s 10th State of the City address emphasized a stay-the-course approach, putting a freeze on property taxes for a fifth straight year and the goal of pushing the city’s economic development successes further into the East Side neighborhoods.

Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg need not bother with an independent bid for the White House, as far as DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz is concerned.

Assemblyman Fred Thiele is renewing a call for the governor and lawmakers to allocate money for another Long Island Rail Road track from Sayville to Montauk to deal with demand and reduce summer traffic.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is campaigning for Clinton in advance of the New Hampshire primary.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman today announced a $470 million joint state-federal settlement with mortgage lender and servicer HSBC to address mortgage origination, servicing, and foreclosure abuses.

A 1924 wooden carousel stored for decades in an Ohio warehouse will have a Buffalo waterfront spot to call home in the near future.

De Blasio’s aides struggled with when – and how – to tell him that two NYPD officers had been shot during his State of the State address.

Some 551 New Yorkers have been certified to obtain medical marijuana, nearly one month after the state’s program began.

Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, the longtime champion of medical marijuana in the state Legislature, has introduced a bill that would authorize five new manufacturers in the state by Jan. 1.

Three days after lohud Tax Watch columnist David McKay Wilson reported on problems with two tourism nonprofits run by Libby Pataki, the AG’s office has launched an investigation into both agencies.

Dean Wish and Dean’s Beans are fighting over who actually has the world’s strongest coffee.

JCOPE Releases FAQ On Grassroots Lobbying Regulation

Amid ongoing concerns being raised over an advisory opinion that would require consultants to inform lobbying regulators when they seek to influence an editorial board’s opinion, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics has released a set of frequently asked questions on the regulation.

The FAQ comes amid blowback from consultant firms — and editorial boards — over the advisory opinion that is aimed at having public relations consultants who engage in “grassroots” lobbying campaigns register as lobbyists with the state.

JCOPE has insisted the regulation is not aimed at having journalists register with the government or have PR representatives divulge conversations with reporters.

Rather, JCOPE’s advisory opinion is aimed having consultants reveal when their effort “controls the delivery” of a clients issue through an editorial board.

From the FAQ:

Does a consultant who communicates with the media have to register as a lobbyist?

Generally, no. However, if a paid consultant “controls the delivery” of a message by encouraging an editorial board to support a position on a specific government action favorable to a client, then the consultant may need to register with the Commission and disclose information about the underlying client relationship. Factual communications with reporters are not covered by this opinion.

The full FAQ on grassroots lobbying can be found here:

FAQsLobbying Advisory16-01_CONSULTANTS_GRASSROOTS.pdf by Nick Reisman

Teachout Prioritizes Infrastructure Issues in NY-19

Teachout and MaloneyCongressional hopeful and former gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout says she will focus on infrastructure and transportation issues in the Hudson Valley if elected to represent the 19th Congressional District.

Teachout made the remarks following an endorsement from Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who represents the 18th Congressional District to her south.

“I think there’s incredible possibility working with Congressman Maloney on transportation issues, infrastructure,” Teachout said. “He’s actually made infrastructure and transportation a focus and working across the aisle has produced real results for his district.”

Teachout said if she’s chosen by voters in November, she’s planning to work closely with Maloney to push for more infrastructure spending in the region.

“If we can work together on transportation and infrastructure projects that support the whole Hudson Valley,” Teachout said, “that more than doubles the power of New Yorkers in this region in Washington.”

The Democratic hopeful also said she remains committed to widespread campaign finance and ethics reforms, both in Albany and Washington. Those are issues she focused on in 2014 when she, and her runningmate Tim Wu, unsuccesfully sought the Democratic nominatinon for governor.

“The job is a different job and you can look at my record and see what I focused on in the past, which is big money in politics, and fighting to end corruption in Albany and fighting to end corruption in Washington,” Teachout said. “That’s something I’ve always cared about, something I’ve always done.”

Teachout faces at least one serious challenger on the Democratic side in Livingston Deputy Town Supervisor Will Yandik, who has received an endorsement from the Columbia County Democratic Committee. But results from the 2014 gubernatorial primary seem to show Teachout with good standing – she won 10 of the 11 counties that make up NY-19 over Governor Andrew Cuomo in that contest.

Teachout says part of that favorability comes from her strong ground game on the campaign trail.

“I’ve never been a political insider so for me the key is what’s happening at the ground level and the people who really believe it’s possible to get our democracy back,” Teachout said. “The highly local work that you can do in every corner of the district is the essence of the job of being a congressperson.”

So far, that message is paying off. Teachout says she has received over 4,000 contributions since she announced her candidacy more than a week ago with an average of $28 per contribution.

One thing working against Teachout: time. Her opponents on the other side of the aisle have been at work campaigning for months now with plenty of money on hand to show for it.