Nick Reisman

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Cuomo Grants Clemency To ‘Civic-Minded’ Ground Zero Worker

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday exercised his office’s clemency power for a Ground Zero worker who is being detained by federal immigration enforcement.

The clemency for Queens resident Carlos Cardona is being extended to a recovery worker at Ground Zero. He’s lived in the U.S. for more than 30 years.

“It is my hope this action will not only reunite Mr. Cardona with his wife and daughter, but also send a message about the values of fairness and equality that New York was founded upon,” Cuomo said in an email sent by his office.

“By granting clemency, there is no longer valid ground to deport Mr. Cardona. New Yorkers like you need to stand together and call for his release from custody.”

In the email, Cuomo urged New York residents to add their name to a petition seeking Cardona’s release.

5 End-Of-Session Takeaways

From the Morning Memo:

The legislative session is over, for now. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie is blaming the Senate for not delivering on mayoral control of New York City schools, calling it “unconscionable” they would leave Albany with taking care of the issue. Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, likewise, blamed the Democratic-led Assembly for not backing down when it comes to their opposition to expanding charter schools.

Here are five takeaways from the conclusion of the legislative session.

1. Mayoral control will have to wait: Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie was adamant on Wednesday night that he is not bringing his chamber back to Albany to take up an extension of mayoral control of New York City schools. For him, this has already been accomplishment with a bill passed in May, packaging together local sales tax and other municipal tax provisions. Senate Republicans were confident Heastie in the end would blink, of the interests of his upstate and suburban Democratic conference members. But Heastie’s support within his conference is strong; he’s a well liked speaker. Lawmakers, largely left in the dark during the final week of the session, said Heastie’s push back against charter schools was a principled and consistent stand.

2. The Senate is happy to come back. Soon after the Senate concluded its work around 11:30 Wednesday evening, Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco told reporters he expected both chambers would reconvene in relatively short order Albany to wrap up the unresolved issues. A similar prediction was made by Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein. The only issue is coming up with an agreement that would make a one-day session worthwhile and, with both sides dug in on charter schools, it’s a matter of who will blink first. Mayoral control lapses June 30, and it has expired before for a short period of time.

3. Where’s Cuomo? The governor stayed largely out of sight this week as the legislative session wound down. His prediction that relatively little of significance would be accomplished when it comes to mayoral control and the Child Victims Act proved to be correct. Cuomo did not speak with reporters this week, choosing to hold a bill signing ceremony for increasing the age of marriage to 17 behind closed doors. Cuomo did get a few personal wins this week, including the confirmation of the first openly gay judge on the state Court of Appeals as well as the last-minute and somewhat surprising approval of Joe Lhota as MTA chairman. Lhota’s return to the MTA comes as the governor has sought to exert more control than he already has over the transit authority amid ongoing troubles for the New York City subway. It’s also a stick in the eye to Mayor Bill de Blasio, who faced Lhota in the 2013 general election. Lhota has since been a persistent critic of the mayor.

4. The Assembly isn’t leaping for the governor. Cuomo’s relationship with Assembly Democrats has frayed. A bill that would re-name the Tappan Zee Bridge after his late father was quickly endorsed Wednesday night and — with a message of necessity! — sailed through the Senate. Not so in the Assembly, where lawmakers were caught off guard by the bill’s introduction. The measure also names a portion of the state highway after Sen. Bill Larkin and a park after Assemblyman Denny Ferrell. There had been rampant speculation the bridge — or at least its under-construction replacement — would be named in honor of the late former governor who died in 2015. But that measure at the very least will have to wait.

5. In the long run, this was a tough session. It kicked off in an unconventional way in January with Cuomo taking his State of the State agenda on the road in localized settings around New York and not delivering a traditional, all-encompassing address to a joint session of the Legislature. The budget was subsequently a long slog, leaving a bad taste in everyone’s mouth after it was approved 10 days in the state’s fiscal year. Cuomo later said he would let the Legislature take the lead on the rest of the session, given he got his marquee issues such as free college tuition at state and city institutions. Left for weeks in Albany with Cuomo out and about in the state, lawmakers couldn’t reach deals on extending mayoral control or a bill making it easier for sex abuse survivors to file lawsuits. Bills that aimed at providing oversight and transparency to economic development spending, too, fell flat.

Heastie Says He’s Not Bringing Assembly Back

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie flatly said Wednesday night he would not bring his chamber back into session to vote on another extension of mayoral control of New York City schools.

Heastie pointed to the omnibus bill approved by the Assembly in May, which included both mayoral control to local tax extenders for county governments.

“We have no intention of coming back,” Heastie said after concluding the Assembly session. “We passed a bill for every single locality’s concerns.”

The Senate had sought to link an extension of mayoral control to expanding charter schools, which Heastie rejected.

Heastie acknowledged he was frustrated with the end of the session and the push for charter schools in the negotiations.

“I think overall in the budget we still had the third highest increase in foundation aid, free college tuition, raise the age was near and dear to us,” he said. “It was successful, but sometimes the politics frustrates you, just like I’m frustrated today.

Legislative Session Closes Out, But Will Lawmakers Return?

Just before 11 p.m. on Wednesday evening, Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan called the question.

In a statement, Flanagan announced his chamber would adjourn the 2017 legislative session.

“Since we convened in January, our Senate Majority has always endeavored to do the people’s business,” he said. “I know we have succeeded.”

The 2017 legislative session saw the first budget to be approved after the start of the state’s fiscal year since 2010 and ended without an agreement on re-authorizing mayoral control of New York City schools.

Also left up in the air is the extension of sales tax provisions for county governments, which the Assembly had packaged with extending mayoral control in May.

The Senate had sought to extend mayoral control with an expansion of charter schools — a provision viewed as untenable for Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

Lawmakers did not rule out returning later this year — possibly in the summer — to take up both issues.

“I will continue to work to extend mayoral control because I believe very strongly in the accountability it provides, but I also believe that the 50,000 boys and girls in Harlem, Brooklyn and the Bronx who are now on waiting lists for a seat inside a charter school deserve the best possible education we can provide,” Flanagan said in the statement. “I will never stop fighting for those kids, and will not leave them without a voice.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who had indicated support for the Senate’s effort to expand charter schools, has not made a public appearance in Albany this week, remaining behind closed doors negotiating with lawmakers.

Cuomo, who had said in April he would let lawmakers guide the process of the post-budget legislative session, largely got what he wanted in a $163 billion budget agreement.

The budget also included a plan that would provide free tuition to students at state and city colleges and universities for families that earn less than $125,000 a year as well as billions of dollars for water infrastructure projects.

The budget also increased the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18 in New York — one of the last states to do so — after lawmakers settled differences over post-release supervision.

And the budget allowed for ride hailing apps like Uber and Lyft to operate outside of New York City, a provision that is due take effect on June 29.

In the post-budget session, lawmakers struck deals with Cuomo for a provision to expand the purchase of American-made steel and iron by New York state agencies. Lawmakers also agreed to a bill raising the age of marriage to 17.

On Wednesday, the state Senate confirmed Paul Feinman to the Court of Appeals, the first openly gay judge to serve on the state’s highest court.

But there was a lot that did not get done, fizzling out in the final days.

A bill that would make it easier for the survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file lawsuits through an extension of the statute of limitations fell out of the negotiations.

Efforts to add more transparency and oversight to procurement and economic development spending fell flat, marking no legislative response to the arrests of prominent upstate developers, the former president of SUNY Polytechnic and a former close aide to the governor.

Procurement reform in particular would have re-authorized Comptroller Tom DiNapoli to oversee spending for major economic development projects that use non-profit entities affiliated with SUNY as a pass through.

The session also saw an increase in the breakdown of the relationship between Cuomo and the Legislature. Feelings remain sore after a special session in December failed to coalesce, denying lawmakers their first pay raise since 1999.

Even if lawmakers wanted to return, a deal would still have to be reached on finalizing mayoral control, which expires June 30.

“I think one of the lessons of this session is you don’t always get what you want,” Heastie said in his closing remarks, “but we made some important victories.”

Bill Would Name TZB After Mario Cuomo

A bill introduced Wednesday evening in the state Senate would rename the Tappan Zee Bridge after the late former Gov. Mario Cuomo.

The bill was introduced by Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan at the request of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Mario Cuomo died on New’s Year Day 2015, the same day his son was sworn in for a second term.

The incumbent Cuomo pushed forward in his first term with a project to replace the aging bridge that spans the Hudson River, connect Westchester and Rockland counties. The completed bridge is expected to open to traffic next year.

It is not clear if the bill will be considered this evening, which was scheduled to be the final day of the legislative session.

The bill also names a portion of the state highway system after Republican Sen. Bill Larkin and Riverbank state park after Democratic Assemblyman Denny Farrell.

The Tappan Zee Bridge is currently designated the Malcolm Wilson Tappan Zee Bridge, named for the former governor and lieutenant governor under Nelson Rockefeller.

Lhota Eyed For MTA Return

Multiple sources on Wednesday said Joe Lhota will be nominated for the chairmanship of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

A source said Lhota’s nomination will be considered this evening by the state Senate.

Lhota served as the chairman of the MTA for most of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s first term, earning praise for his handling of Superstorm Sandy and its aftermath. He left the post to run for mayor in 2013, running as the Republican nominee against Democrat Bill de Blasio.

In backing Lhota, Cuomo is turning to a trusted hand to fix what has become an increasingly nightmarish situation for riders of the city’s subway system.

At the same time, Cuomo is tapping a chairman nominee who is known enough by Senate Republicans to help with a confirmation who also has little love lost for de Blasio and his administration.

Cuomo this week introduced legislation that would remake the MTA board’s leadership that would allow him to gain full control over the authority.

In a brief confirmation hearing on Wednesday evening with Senate lawmakers, Lhota said he would favor a state takeover of Penn Station. He added he would have an executive director running the authority on a day-to-day basis.

“I am as frustrated as everyone else is,” he said, “and more frustrated because I know the MTA can do so much better.”

Feinman Confirmed At Court Of Appeals

The state Senate on Wednesday confirmed Judge Paul Feinman to the state Court of Appeals, making him the first openly gay judge on the state’s highest court.

Feinman, an appellate judge, replaces Sheila Abdus-Salaam, who died in April in what authorities believe was a suicide.

“Paul Feinman’s confirmation as Associate Judge on the Court of Appeals is a major step forward for the state’s judicial system,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. “With decades of experience, Judge Feinman is a leader in his field and a trailblazer who joins the Court as its first openly gay judge. He has spent nearly his entire career serving New York courts and championing the principles of justice and fairness.”

His nomination, made Friday, was a relatively speedy process considering the winding down of the legislative session, with lawmakers scheduled to adjourn for the year today.

“Paul Feinman is an accomplished jurist who has spent his career serving others and the cause of justice,” said Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

“Not only is Justice Feinman an eminently qualified individual, but he also represents an amazing milestone for our state as the first open LGBT judge to ascend to the State’s highest court. Ensuring the Court of Appeals better represents New York’s diverse communities will help further its ability to protect and guarantee the rights of all New Yorkers.”

Senate Expects To Return Later This Year

Work is winding down in the state Senate on Wednesday as lawmakers take up a slew of confirmations and pass a flurry of bills.

Not done, however, is an agreement on extending mayoral control of New York City schools and extending sales tax provisions for county governments. At the same time, extending personal income taxes for New York City, which Senate Republicans linked to the creation of a tax cap, must also be taken care of before the end of the year.

One Senate lawmaker was optimistic they would be leaving the Capitol while the sun is still up. It is, however, the first day of summer and the longest day of the year.

Still, lawmakers in the Senate did not expect the mayoral control issue would be resolved and that they would back later on in the year to resolve the issue.

“I have no doubt that if too many more weeks go by that we’ll be back here to complete work on an additional package of bills that would include sales taxes for counties,” said Sen. James Seward. “I would predict that at some point in a few weeks we will return for a one-day session and resolve these issues once and for all.”

It’s not clear yet what the Assembly’s plan will be for the balance of the week. Initially officials had optimistically hoped for leaving by mid-afternoon. Some lawmakers privately bet by Friday.

Assembly Passes Bill Banning Employers From Seeking Pay History

The Democratic-led Assembly on Wednesday approved legislation that would ban employers from asking job applicants their salary history before receiving an interview.

The legislation is aimed at closing what is considered to be a top factor in the pay gap between women and men in the workplace.

“The Assembly majority is committed to closing the wage gap by ensuring all employers are supporting a fair and equitable work environment. It starts by removing unnecessary barriers like salary history requirements,” Heastie said. “Pay inequity disproportionately affects women and people of color; we have to be deliberate and proactive if we truly hope to close the gap.”

The New York City Council earlier this year passed a similar bill that was signed into law by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Prospective employees would not be prohibited from voluntarily disclosing wage history and an employer may only confirm past salaries after a salary negotiation has started.

Ortiz Bill Would Create Non-Binary Gender Designation On DMV Applications

Assemblyman Felix Ortiz announced Wednesday a bill that would create a third option for designating gender — an “X” — on a state driver’s license or learner’s permit.

“My bill makes an effort to respect and acknowledge individuals who do not identify in the stereotypical gender binary of male or female,” said Ortiz, a Brooklyn Democrat. “Our governmental agencies should reflect the society we live in. While this change may see small, it is a step forward to change the rigid mindset often faced by many today.”

The bill is being introduced after Oregon this month passed similar legislation for gender designation on a driver’s license.

LGBT advocates have pressed state elected officials to take up measures that would bolster rights for transgender New Yorkers, including the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act. The bill has stalled in the Republican-led Senate.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has introduced regulations that cover much of what GENDA would accomplish, but advocates and lawmakers who sponsor the bill say the rights also need the force of law.