Extras

Asked by a reporter about Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s budget leadership, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver politely declined to comment.

The U.S. Attorney’s office filed an application in district court to further place under protective order some assets that may be connected to Silver’s alleged bribery and kickback scheme.

The Cuomo administration has defied its self-imposed timeline for meeting with other state officials to devise a new email-retention policy after facing sharp criticism for having implemented a mandatory 90-day message purge for state workers.

McDonald’s Corp. plans to raise pay by more than 10 percent and add benefits like paid vacation for workers at U.S. restaurants it operates. Starting July 1, McDonald’s will pay at least $1 per hour more than the local legal minimum wage for employees at the roughly 1,500 restaurants across the nation.

In a letter sent to city principals, NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña asked school leaders to discourage parents from opting out of state standardized exams later this month.

In support of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s travel ban, Binghamton University men’s basketball coaches will not travel to Indiana for the Final Four this week because of the controversy over the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Stony Brook University won’t be sending its coaches, either.

Hillary Clinton took to Twitter to urge Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson to veto a religious freedom bill, saying it would permit discrimination against gays and lesbians.

…Hutchinson said he won’t sign the bill unless it’s changed so as not to permit discrimination against LGBT indivdiuals.

Cuomo’s proposal to require state approval of any industrial development agency incentives that included state sales tax breaks failed to make it into this year’s budget.

Developers behind the 13 losing casino projects last year paid the state a total of $13 million in application fees. Of that total, the state returned 60 percent — about $7.8 million.

Bill Hammond: “Gov. Cuomo’s fifth budget feels like a letdown, and he has only himself to blame.”

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton flat-out denied a NY Post report that he stormed out of a City Hall meeting and vowed to go around NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio to secure 1,000 new cops.

Letchworth State Park in the Finger Lakes beat out Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park for the top honors in the USA TODAY 10 Best Readers’ Choice award for Best State Park.

GOP NY-11 candidate and Staten Island DA Dan Donovan said the GOP-controlled Senate to confirm Loretta Lynch—now U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York – as U.S. attorney general.

UAlbany President Robert Jones says the university faces a “significant financial threat” due to declining enrollment.

They’re still fed up, but undocumented college students who spent a week on hunger strike over the New York DREAM Act are eating again.

Cuomo says he understands the trepidation of teachers who don’t like having their professional performance evaluated because he doesn’t like being evaluated by the voters during elections.

The Hedge Clippers identified seven wealthy hedge fund contributors to Cuomo and the Senate GOP who will benefit from the new yacht/private plane sales tax exemption.

The New York moratorium on hydraulic fracturing doesn’t allow energy companies to extend leases with landowners beyond the expiration dates in their contracts, the state’s highest court ruled.

Smithtown Highway Superintendent Glenn Jorgensen was arraigned in First District Court in Central Islip on four felonies and one misdemeanor for falsifying and filing documents related to a paving project in November.

Pay Raise Commission Wouldn’t Have To Act Until After Election Day

Any approval for a salary increase for state lawmakers and other elected officials would be released by Nov. 15 of next year, after the next Election Day, according to legislation approved by state lawmakers during Tuesday’s budget vote.

Once believed to be dead and gone from the state budget negotiations, a pay raise commission for state elected officials was resurrected and approved by the Senate and Assembly on Tuesday night.

The commission was included in a massive “clean up” budget bill that wasn’t printed and distributed on lawmakers desks until Tuesday night (Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on Sunday had confirmed the pay raise commission was included in the budget agreement on Sunday).

The new panel is actually being rolled into the commission created in 2011 that determines whether state judges should receive a boost in pay.

Historically, judicial pay was tied to pay increases for state lawmakers, who have not received a salary bump of their own since 1999.

Four years ago, the decision was made to decouple the politics surrounding the lawmaker pay raises from judicial salaries through the commission.

Now, those politics appear to be back, at least as far as this commission is concerned.

The legislation also spells out what the commission should consider when determining where salaries should be increased, including:

— Overall economic climate
— Rate of inflation
— Public-sector spending changes
— Current benefits and compensation from executive and legislative branch officials in other states and federal government
— Benefits received by government professionals, non-profits, academia and the private sector
— State government’s ability to to afford to the pay raises

The commission will include seven members: Three appointed by the governor, one appointed by the Senate and Assembly each and two appointed by the chief judge of the Court of Appeals. The judicial appointee shall be a non-voting chair of the panel.

In addition to state legislative and judicial pay raises, the panel will determine pay increases for commissioners in the governor’s cabinet as well as the attorney general and comptroller.

There’s no prohibition against elected officials from sitting on the panel itself and the commission must hold at least one public hearing in which the public can weigh in.

The commission itself is due to form by June 1.

Any pay raise for the Senate and Assembly would not take effect until the next session of the Legislature is seated, or Jan 1, 2017.

Lawmakers currently earn $79,500, but many earn more through per diem expenses and stipends for leadership and committee chair titles.

Legislative Majorities, Regardless Of Party, Back Education Bill

The education and labor budget bill approved by state lawmakers on Tuesday night broke down along party lines in the Senate and Assembly.

Only, Republicans and Democrats voted for the bill if they were in power in the chamber.

It’s not uncommon for minority conferences — be it Democrats in the Senate or Republicans in the Assembly — to question, criticize and vote against the bills they had little to no hand in developing during negotiations.

Similarly, the burden of power comes the requirement that sometimes — as so many lawmakers said last night — perfect can’t be the enemy of the good.

The measure includes a new teacher evaluation criteria and makes it harder for teachers to obtain tenure and easier for districts to fire teachers, regardless of tenure.

The bill was coupled with a $1.3 billion boost in school aid, but districts must approve the new evaluation criteria before receiving the increase in aid by November.

But the vote breakdown when it came to the education reforms was stark. Democrats overwhelming backed the education bill, or ELFA, in the Assembly, where it passed 92-54. Assemblyman Phil Steck did not support the legislation.

Updated: Democrats Kevin Cahill, Steve Englebright, Phil Goldfeder, Dov Hikind, Angelo Santabarbara, James Skoufis, Fred Thiele and Carrie Woerner also voted against the bill.

Republican Assemblyman Michael Fitzpatrick voted yes and enthusiastically praised Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the process.

In the Republican controlled Senate, virtually all GOP lawmakers present voted for the bill while only one Democrat, maverick Sen. Ruben Diaz, back it. Independent Democratic Conference members Tony Avella, David Valesky and David Carlucci voted in favor of the measure as well.

ELFA passed the Senate, 36-26.

2015 Budget Final by Nick Reisman

DiNapoli: A ‘Timely Budget’ That Lacked Transparency

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli in a statement on Wednesday complimented Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature for approving a “timely budget” but also chided the process for lacking openness.

The budget wasn’t necessarily “on time” given that the remaining bills were approved after the midnight deadline for the start of the new fiscal year.

DiNapoli in the statement added this office is reviewing the $143 billion spending plan with an eye toward the state’s debt and finances in future fiscal years.

Here’s the statement:

“Governor Cuomo and the Legislature deserve credit for adopting a timely budget. Still, it is unfortunate that this year’s budget process was not more transparent. My office will analyze and report on the enacted budget in detail, including its impact on the state’s debt and out-year finances.”

Cuomo: ‘A Better System For The Children’

The changes to the state’s education policy and teacher tenure laws will make for a stronger education system, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday in a radio interview.

“This will be a better system for the children,” Cuomo said. “I know it will be disruptive to the bureaucracy. But it will be better for the children.”

Cuomo added the reforms approved last night will be “one of the greatest legacies for me and this state when all is said and done.”

Cuomo in the interview defended standardized tests while also knocking the state’s teachers unions for using them as a “political tactic.”

“Don’t confuse a political tactic of the opponents to excite the parents with the truth,” Cuomo said in a radio interview on WCNY’s The Capitol Pressroom.

State lawmakers on Tuesday put the finishing touches on the 2015-16 state budget. The $143 billion spending plan boosts education aid by $1.3 billion and contains a package of education reform measures staunchly opposed by the state’s teachers unions.

The approved teacher evaluation criteria will include at least one state-based test, plus an extra test from the state if local bargaining units support adding it to the performance review. Classroom observations from a principal and independent observer are also included in the criteria.

The state Department of Education will determine how much weight will be given to tests versus observations.

Meanwhile, it will take longer for teachers to obtain tenure and teachers who perform poorly on evaluations over several years could face termination, regardless of their tenure status.

The education bill, which was rolled into a larger labor and ethics omnibus package, faced its steepest hurdle in the Democratic-led Assembly and the bill was approved late Tuesday night following a six-hour debate.

The fallout from the education vote could be severe in Albany.

Assembly Democrats reluctantly voted to approve the bill, with many railing against the education changes and criticizing Cuomo for pushing them in the spending plan.

The teachers union is most politically potent in the Assembly and a broader debate over opting out on state tests could rise during the post-budget session.

Cuomo knocked the teachers unions for raising concerns about standardized testing in classrooms, saying that it was a distraction from a larger issue of increasing performance in schools.

“That’s not true,” Cuomo said of over testing. “It was politically useful to get parents excited, but it’s not true.”

Cuomo said that he wants to reduce the number of tests students in New York schools take, but at the same time called using such metrics valuable for understanding classroom progress.

“The tests are the only standard objective,” Cuomo said. “You want to compare Buffalo to Manhattan. This could tell you what schools are doing better, what schools are doing worse.”

The governor railed, also, against the unions that opposed the changes, saying in the interview they are one of the most politically potent forces in state government.

Still, Cuomo has received donations from the wealthy backers of charter schools, and both the United Federation of Teachers and the New York State United Teachers have accused him of pushing the policy changes as a result of those contributions.

“The teachers union is a very powerful political force in Albany,” Cuomo said. “I think charter schools are relatively new. The teachers union has birthed this system and cultivated it for many years.”

April 1 Or Not, Assembly Dates Bills For March 31

Time is all relative, anyway.

Both the capital projects spending bill as well as a massive “clean up” bill that includes a two-year extension of the design-build method of contracting were recorded as having passed the Assembly on March 31, despite being voted on and approved after midnight.

Technically speaking, the Democratic-led Assembly approved the final budget bills on April 1, making for an hours-late state budget.

In practical terms, having the final budget bills means little to the actual funding and functioning of state government: The major appropriations for state government were previously approved and place.

And while Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s streak of four on-time budgets seemed to near an end, the Assembly is dating those remaining bills as having passed on March 31, as opposed to April 1.

In previous years, state lawmakers sought to avoid having a late budget by actually stopping the clock in the chambers in order to approve the measures before the state of the new fiscal year.

At the same time, state legislative leaders never formally ended their Tuesday session, meaning the date stayed the same on the electronic voting board.

“Until we gavel out,” Speaker Carl Heastie told Newsday, “it’s still Tuesday.”

NYSCOPBA Begins Post-Session Staffing Push

From the Morning Memo:

The union that represents corrections officers this week is starting a new paid media campaign highlighting assaults against those who work in prisons in effort to call for new staffing.

The campaign will include a $200,000 radio ad buy, along with a digital campaign on Facebook and Twitter.

The union, the New York State Correctional Officers & Police Benevolent Association, is pointing to assaults on staff growing by 50 percent since 2010, while parolee staff assaults and contraband are on pace to reach a five-year high as well.

“Violence in New York State prisons is on pace for record-breaking heights this year. It’s time for a real plan to invest in staffing and resources to help protect our law enforcement officers and keep our prisons safe,” said NYSCOPBA President Mike Powers.

Powers, in a statement, pointed to New York City proposing an additional 2,000 new corrections officers, saying Albany should fulfill its own commitment to fully staff prisons.

“There is no doubt that more dangerous situations will unfold in our prisons if we don’t adequately staff these facilities,” Powers said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has made a point of trying to close and consolidate state prison facilities during his time in office.

His efforts to reform the juvenile justice system by raising the age of criminal responsibility led to $25 million being included in the state budget for the reforms, but the policy itself will be hashed out in June, when the session is due to end.

What’s a Few Hours Among Friends?

From the Morning Memo:

Welcome to the first day of the 2015-16 state fiscal year!

The Senate passed the budget deal before the midnight deadline and were invited to the governor’s mansion for a post-budget party, where Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos predicted there would be “libations” consumed.

The Assembly did not make the midnight deadline, wrapping things up just before 3 a.m., thanks in part to a Republican conference on capital spending that was called off the floor at about 10 minutes to midnight.

“If they had these bills in print three days ago, all of us would be home by now,” said Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, whose members reportedly rejected an in-person briefing on the ELFA bill by none other than Gov. Andrew Cuomo himself.

But that is apparently being viewed as a mere technicality, for no one is calling this budget late. Some Assembly Democrats even argued that since the bills authorizing spending for the continuing of state operations were passed before midnight, the deadline had actually been met.

At 12:15 a.m., a statement from Cuomo landed in my in-box announcing that both houses of the Legislature had “successfully passed the 2015-16 Budget spending plan to allow for the continued operation of government.”

“This is a plan that keeps spending under two percent, reforms New York’s education bureaucracy, implements the nation’s strongest and most comprehensive disclosure laws for public officials and makes the largest investment in the Upstate economy in a generation,” the governor continued.

“This is a Budget that every New Yorker can be proud of, and I look forward to continuing to work to move New York forward this legislative session and beyond.”

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s statement on his first-ever budget deal as leader of the Democratic conference arrived shortly thereafter (12:18 a.m.), even though debate in his chamber wasn’t yet complete.

“Until we gavel out, it’s still Tuesday,” Heastie told Newsday early this morning.

The speaker again used the $1.6 billion figure when discussing the increase in education aid, even though the generally accepted number ifs $1.4 billion.

Heastie also touted $435 million to combat homelessness and the more than $14 million for additional child care subsidies and continuing support for child care programs at CUNY and SUNY in the budget, “so that parents can rest assured that their children are in safe and nurturing hands while they work to advance their education.”

“As I have said before, the priorities of New York’s families are the priorities of the People’s House,” Heastie concluded. “While we have delivered a fiscally responsible budget to the people of this state, we will also continue to fight for the reforms and investments that will strengthen our families and uplift all New Yorkers.”

Most of the Assembly Democrats, under pressure from NYSUT to vote “no” on the education portion of the budget, and called upon by the WFP and progressive groups to delay in order to renegotiate a better deal, ended up voting in favor of the measure after expressing their unhappiness about doing so.

The Assembly passed the “ELFA” bill, 92-54, shortly before midnight.

The Daily News’ Glenn Blain reports that while NYSUT President Karen Magee urged lawmakers to reject the education reform measures, NYC lawmakers said they were told by representatives of Mike Mulgrew, president of the downstate teachers union UFT, that voting for the package would not be held against them.

Mulgrew said his union’s campaign against the governor’s education reform agenda – even the portions that made it into the final budget deal – will continue.

“Things got pushed out because of what we did, but in the end, because of the power that the governor has during the budget process in our state, we knew things were going to get through,” he told the New York Times.

In the end, lawmakers really didn’t want to reject $1.4 billion in additional state aid for public schools, even though they didn’t love many of the reforms the bill contained. Several rationalized their “yes” votes by saying the final product was far less onerous than what Cuomo had originally proposed.

Also, they didn’t want to be seen voting against the ethics reform plan that was inserted into the ELFA bill – even Assemblyman Sheldon Silver, now a rank-and-file member, voted “yes” on the proposal, which was pushed by the governor in the wake of Silver’s federal corruption case.

The ethics reform approved last night/early this morning is far from perfect, however, according to disappointed good government groups, who had hoped for much more. There are many loopholes and caveats in the new disclosure regulations, and advocates were unhappy that the bill language for the ethics deal did not appear in print until just a few hours before lawmakers started voting.

It has become something of a tradition for Cuomo to take a post-budget victory lap around the state – or, at the very least, hold a Red Room press conference touting his success at wrangling yet another on-time spending plan out of the Legislature.

Last year, he employed a baseball theme when he signed his fourth on-time budget into law, calling it a “grand slam” and handing out commemorative balls to legislative leaders, (Sen. Kemp Hannon accepted the token on behalf of Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos, who couldn’t make it).

We have no public schedule form Cuomo’s press office as of yet, so it’s unclear where he’ll be today.

So much of the policy Cuomo included in his executive budget proposal back in January fell off the negotiating table in recent weeks – from minimum wage and raise the age to property tax relief, the DREAM Act, EITC, raising the charter school cap and NYC mayoral control – that the post-budget session promises to be very busy, and also very contentious.

For the moment, however, lawmakers will take a break to observe the Passover and Easter holidays. They’re not due back at the Capitol until April 21.

Here and Now – The Budget Battle Is Over Edition

Welcome to the first day of the 2015-16 state fiscal year!

The Senate passed the budget deal before the midnight deadline and were invited to the governor’s mansion for a post-budget party, where Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos predicted there would be “libations” consumed.

The Assembly did not make the midnight deadline, wrapping things up just before 3 a.m., thanks in part to a Republican conference on capital spending that was called off the floor at about 10 minutes to midnight.

“If they had these bills in print three days ago, all of us would be home by now,” said Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, whose members reportedly rejected an in-person briefing on the ELFA bill by none other than Gov. Andrew Cuomo himself.

But that is apparently being viewed as a mere technicality, for no one is calling this budget late. Some Assembly Democrats even argued that since the bills authorizing spending for the continuing of state operations were passed before midnight, the deadline had actually been met.

At 12:15 a.m., a statement from Cuomo landed in my in-box announcing that both houses of the Legislature had “successfully passed the 2015-16 Budget spending plan to allow for the continued operation of government.”

“This is a plan that keeps spending under two percent, reforms New York’s education bureaucracy, implements the nation’s strongest and most comprehensive disclosure laws for public officials and makes the largest investment in the Upstate economy in a generation,” the governor continued.

“This is a Budget that every New Yorker can be proud of, and I look forward to continuing to work to move New York forward this legislative session and beyond.”

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s statement on his first-ever budget deal as leader of the Democratic conference arrived shortly thereafter (12:18 a.m.), even though debate in his chamber wasn’t yet complete. “Until we gavel out, it’s still Tuesday,” Heastie told Newsday (early on Wednesday morning).

The speaker again used the $1.6 billion figure when discussing the increase in education aid, even though the generally accepted number ifs $1.4 billion.

Heastie also touted $435 million to combat homelessness and the more than $14 million for additional child care subsidies and continuing support for child care programs at CUNY and SUNY in the budget, “so that parents can rest assured that their children are in safe and nurturing hands while they work to advance their education.”

“As I have said before, the priorities of New York’s families are the priorities of the People’s House,” Heastie concluded. “While we have delivered a fiscally responsible budget to the people of this state, we will also continue to fight for the reforms and investments that will strengthen our families and uplift all New Yorkers.”

Most of the Assembly Democrats, under pressure from NYSUT to vote “no” on the education portion of the budget, and called upon by the WFP and progressive groups to delay in order to renegotiate a better deal, ended up voting in favor of the measure after expressing their unhappiness about doing so. The Assembly passed the “ELFA” bill, 92-54, shortly before midnight.

The Daily News’ Glenn Blain reports that while NYSUT President Karen Magee urged lawmakers to reject the education reform measures, NYC lawmakers said they were told by representatives of Mike Mulgrew, president of the downstate teachers union UFT, that voting for the package would not be held against them.

Mulgrew said his union’s campaign against the governor’s education reform agenda – even the portions that made it into the final budget deal – will continue.

“Things got pushed out because of what we did, but in the end, because of the power that the governor has during the budget process in our state, we knew things were going to get through,” he told the New York Times.

In the end, lawmakers really didn’t want to reject $1.4 billion in additional state aid for public schools, even though they didn’t love many of the reforms the bill contained. Several rationalized their “yes” votes by saying the final product was far less onerous than what Cuomo had originally proposed.

Also, they didn’t want to be seen voting against the ethics reform plan that was inserted into the ELFA bill – even Assemblyman Sheldon Silver, now a rank-and-file member, voted “yes” on the proposal, which was pushed by the governor in the wake of Silver’s federal corruption case.

The ethics reform approved last night/early this morning is far from perfect, however, according to disappointed good government groups, who had hoped for much more. There are many loopholes and caveats in the new disclosure regulations, and advocates were unhappy that the bill language for the ethics deal did not appear in print until just a few hours before lawmakers started voting.

It has become something of a tradition for Cuomo to take a post-budget victory lap around the state – or, at the very least, hold a Red Room press conference touting his success at wrangling yet another on-time spending plan out of the Legislature.

Last year, he employed a baseball theme when he signed his fourth on-time budget into law, calling it a “grand slam” and handing out commemorative balls to legislative leaders, (Sen. Kemp Hannon accepted the token on behalf of Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos, who couldn’t make it).

We have no public schedule form Cuomo’s press office as of yet, so it’s unclear where he’ll be today.

So much of the policy Cuomo included in his executive budget proposal back in January fell off the negotiating table in recent weeks – from minimum wage and raise the age to property tax relief, the DREAM Act, EITC, raising the charter school cap and NYC mayoral control – that the post-budget session promises to be very busy, and also very contentious.

For the moment, however, lawmakers will take a break to observe the Passover and Easter holidays. They’re not due back at the Capitol until April 21.

Some (mostly) non-budget news did occur yesterday, for example…

More >

Budget Passes Midnight Deadline

Full passage of the $142 billion state budget did not meet the midnight deadline on Tuesday night as the debate in the state Assembly dragged into the early morning hours of April 1.

A debate over a massive education, labor and ethics bill lasted for more than six hours in the chamber on Tuesday and Assembly Republicans called a conference on a capital projects spending bill at 10 minutes to midnight.

In the end, Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared the budget on time, based on the passage of major appropriations bills that keep state government funded into the new fiscal year.

“Tonight, both houses of the Legislature have successfully passed the 2015-16 Budget spending plan to allow for the continued operation of government. This is a plan that keeps spending under two percent, reforms New York’s education bureaucracy, implements the nation’s strongest and most comprehensive disclosure laws for public officials and makes the largest investment in the Upstate economy in a generation.

Cuomo had touted the passage of four on time budgets during his first term as governor, a record that hadn’t been seen since the era of Nelson Rockefeller. But in recent weeks, Cuomo had said he would sacrifice the passage of an on-time budget if it meant the inclusion of ethics legislation (new disclosure requirements, per diem and campaign finance reforms were included).

Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a veteran of late budgets himself, is watching the process unfold as a rank-and-file lawmaker this year as he faces corruption charges. He downplayed the budget votes running past midnight.

“I don’t give it as much weight as I do a substantive budget that people of the state need,” he said.

Silver also noted a number of non-spending measures will be considered by the Assembly. As an example, Silver pointed to a constitutional amendment lawmakers will vote on that would strip public officials of their pensions upon conviction.

Negotiations over the budget measures, meanwhile, had also went right up to the voting, with the governor issuing messages waiving the three-day aging process.

“If they had these bills in print three days ago, all of use would be home by now,” Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb said.

Kolb pointed out the state Senate finished up its own work on the budget with more than an hour to go before midnight.

“What I would say to you is the Senate has completed the work, so they’re all done. We’re going to finish this budget, however long the debate takes. Are you really going nitpick two hours or an hour and a half or whatever it’s going to be? I think it’s a silly question.”

He added: “Is this going to effect one New Yorker, one family, because it’s done an hour after midnight? I don’t think so,”