Nick Reisman

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Senate Once Again Backs Term Limits For Leadership Posts

The Republican-controlled Senate on Tuesday passed a bill that would enshrine its term limits rule in state law for leadership posts in the Legislature.

The bill would require eight-year caps on leadership posts in the Assembly and Senate — applying to the temporary president of the Senate, speaker of the Assembly and the minority leaders of both houses.

“For years the Senate has adopted voluntary term limits for leaders and committee chairs because it is an important government reform that promotes accountability and stability,” said Majority Leader John Flanagan. “I am hopeful that the Assembly will join us in enacting this measure into law.”

The Assembly has been generally opposed to term limits, a stance Speaker Carl Heastie has taken for both leadership jobs as well as for all elected officials.

An amendment proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last year that would term limit all state elected officials has so far fallen flat in the Legislature.

Heastie Says Procurement Bill Will Be Aired In Conference

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie called the effort to strengthen oversight of economic development programs “an admirable goal” but said a measure aimed at expanding the authority of Comptroller Tom DiNapoli will first be aired with his Democratic conference members.

“It’s something that I think we’ll have to talk about in conference,” Heastie told reporters on Tuesday in Albany. “You know me, I like to bring these things to the conference and see what they say. I guess in this day and age making sure that tax dollars are protected and spent correctly is an admirable goal.”

The Senate Finance Committee earlier in the day advanced a bill that would restore oversight powers over procurement and contracting to DiNapoli, a bill that comes after a bid rigging case ensnared top developers and a former close aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Deputy Senate Majority Leader John DeFrancisco, who backs the bill in his chamber, called the bill a needed reform to expand DiNapoli’s oversight powers following the arrests.

Repeatedly, Stewart-Cousins Says She’s Not Running For County Exec

Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins repeatedly insisted on Tuesday she is not running for Westchester County executive, though she answered each time in the present tense.

As in, she’s not running.

“I’m here,” she said at a news conference. “We’re here. We’re doing this.”

Asked again, she repeated: “I’m not running. I’m not running for county executive. I’m not running for county executive. I’m not running, I’m not running and I’m not running.”

And when the question came back again — interpreted as being less than Shermanesque — she once again insisted she’s not currently a candidate.

“I am saying that I am not running for county executive,” she said. “I can say that again. I am saying that I am not running for county executive because I am not running for county executive.”

The question was raised in part because of the significant rumor mill that has started over her potential candidacy.

The Yonkers Democrat would likely shake up the race for the Democratic nomination in part because one of her conference members is already a declared candidate: Sen. George Latimer, a Rye lawmaker.

In addition to Latimer, Assemblyman Tom Abinanti and Ken Jenkins, a county legislator, are also seeking the nomination.

The race has potential statewide implications considering Republican Rob Astorino is running for a third term and is likely to be a candidate again for governor in 2018.

Stewart-Cousins has been the leader of the Senate Democrats since 2012 and is the first woman to lead a legislative conference in the state Legislature.

Senate Dems: Bill Would Weaken Raise The Age Deal

Not everyone was pleased with the agreement in the budget to raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York.

But on Tuesday, Democrats in the mainline conference are raising concerns with a bill they say could weaken the compromise.

They pointed to legislation backed by Republican Sen. John DeFrancisco, the deputy majority leader, that would allow for the unsealing of juvenile offender records.

“Once again we see the real world consequences of what happens when Republicans are allowed to run the State Senate,” Senate Democratic Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said. “This action to weaken the already watered-down Raise The Age compromise is unacceptable. Clearly the Senate Republicans have not changed their views on the need to treat children like children, not hardened criminals.”

Democrats are backing an amendment to the bill that aimed at keeping youthful offender records sealed.

Biz Council Raises Concerns With Procurement Bill

The Business Council is seeking changes to a bill that would restore power to Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office in reviewing procurement and state contracting for economic development projects.

The bill, backed by Republican Sen. John DeFranciso, cleared the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday.

In a statement, a Business Council spokesman said some of the measures are “impractical and unnecessary.”

“We have highlighted several issues we have with the legislation and are in discussions with both the Senate sponsor and the Comptroller’s office,” said spokesman Zack Hutchins.

The bill is being pushed by lawmakers in the post-budget legislative session. It was initially proposed last year following the arrests of a half dozen developers and a former aide close to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo Appoints Ex-Christie Aide Chief Of Staff

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has appointed a former top aide to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to fill the post of chief of staff that has been vacated by the newly elevated Melissa DeRosa, his office confirmed on Tuesday.

Maria Comella was first brought into the administration to help craft the 2017 State of the State agenda, which included a mix of proposals such as raising the age of criminal responsibility in New York to 18 and a free college tuition program for students whose families earn less than $125,000.

Comella split with Christie when it came to endorse Republican Donald Trump’s presidential campaign; Christie had been an early and vocal supporter of Trump’s bid.

Comella also served as Christie’s chief messaging strategies during his ill-fated bid for the presidency.

“Right now it is important to be an active participant in our democratic process and political party matters less than the things we can accomplish when working together,” Comella said in a statement. “At a time of turmoil in Washington I believe the states can and will play an important role and Governor Cuomo has the ability to find common ground when it’s needed and get things done.”

DeRosa last week was appointed secretary to the governor, making her the top aide on Cuomo’s executive chamber staff. DeRosa brought Comella on Team Cuomo, having worked well with her while she was on Christie’s staff.

In the statement, Comella emphasized her New York roots.

“I was born and raised in upstate New York and the chance to work for a Governor I respect and to be part of his ambitious agenda to create upward economic mobility for the middle class and give voice to those who need it most matters more to me than partisan politics,” Comella said. “The fact Governor Cuomo is willing to listen to different viewpoints and work with people from the other side of the aisle is something we should welcome and quite frankly should want to see happen more often.”

She is not the first Republican to join the Cuomo administration. Cuomo has hired two former aides to Republicans in the state Senate, communications aide Kelly Cummings and his budget director, Robert Mujica.

Democrats Push Voting Reforms

Democratic lawmakers in the Senate and Assembly on Tuesday pushed for measures that would make it easier to vote in New York, bills that fell by the wayside during the budget talks.

The measures include early voting, automatic registration and electronic poll books.

“We are ready, willing and committed to get this done before June,” said Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh. “What we need is the Senate.”

Republicans in the Senate, who hold a narrow majority, have questioned the voting measures as backed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the budget.

But on Tuesday, Senate Democrats placed pressure on Cuomo and the eight-member Independent Democratic Conference to move the issue forward.

“Obviously we need the other conferences in the Senate to get with the program,” Kavanagh said at a news conference. “There is very much an appetite for doing this in Albany this year. We just need a portion of the Senate and the governor to work with us.”

Cuomo earlier this month told reporters he was skeptical measures such as voting and ethics reforms could pass in the Legislature, a position Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins rejected.

“I’ve heard the governor say there was no appetite in the past and we’ve pushed and we’ve gotten things done,” she said. “We can do it. The Senate Democrats have been pushing for this forever. People can step up.”

DiNapoli And Church Of England Pressure Exxon On Climate Change

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and the Church of England are teaming up to pressure ExxonMobil to reveal how it expects its business across the globe will be impacted by efforts to combat climate change.

DiNapoli is once again leveraging the state’s pension fund’s investment in a company to act as an activist investor in order to produce change in how a company functions.

“ExxonMobil has said it supports the Paris Agreement, but those are empty words unless the company backs them up with action,” DiNapoli said in a statement.

“Exxon’s business is extremely vulnerable to changes in climate regulation and consumer demand. Unlike its peers that have agreed to analyze how the effort to limit global warming impacts their portfolio and share those results with investors, Exxon refuses to account for the goals of the Paris Agreement. Irrespective of the current administration’s stance on climate change, countries around the world are moving ahead with policies that will limit greenhouse gas emissions and will likely impact the market for ExxonMobil’s products. ExxonMobil puts itself and its long-term investors at risk by failing to acknowledge this reality.”

DiNapoli’s office and the Church of England have co-filed the proposal with other company investors, including the New York City Retirement Systems and CalPERS.

DiNapoli is not the only state elected official to set Exxon in his sights. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has been embroiled in a legal battle over the company’s climate change claims and whether it understated its impact.

Senate Eyes Procurement Reform

From the Morning Memo:

The Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday will consider a bill that would re-establish power to Comptroller Tom DiNapoli to oversee procurement in certain economic development projects.

It’s a dry sounding topic, sure, but it carries implications for economic development oversight going forward and is indicative of the ongoing fallout from the contentious budget process in Albany that wrapped up 10 days into the state’s fiscal year.

The procurement measure comes after a half dozen prominent upstate developers, ex-SUNY Polytechnic President Alain Kaloyeros and former close gubernatorial aide Joe Percoco were charged in a bribery and bid-rigging case.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the aftermath proposed his own procurement changes to oversee contracting the established new posts, including a chief procurement officer.

But DiNapoli, a rival of the governor’s, had urged lawmakers to take up legislation that would re-authorize his office to have jurisdiction over contracting at SUNY construction projects — power that he was stripped of in 2011.

Deputy Senate Majority Leader John DeFrancisco, who had been sharply critical of Cuomo during the budget talks, said the bill being considered today by Finance Committee is a basic reform he says is needed.

“I think that’s a reform that’s important. I think it’s a reform because you have to have some type of oversight for that,” said DeFrancisco, a Republican from Syracuse. “I don’t think we’ve worked out all the details, but I’m looking forward to dealing with the Assembly.”

Good-government organizations are pushing the bill, too, after lawmakers and Cuomo did not agree to any ethics law changes in the state budget as initially proposed by the governor.

Cuomo said the Legislature didn’t have an appetite for the proposed changes, which included constitutional amendments for term limits, limiting private-sector income and bills aimed at making it easier to vote in New York.

Medical Society To Survey Aid In Dying

From the Morning Memo:

The Medical Society of the State of New York will survey its members to gage support for aid-in-dying legislation — a move that’s being praised by Compassion & Choices New York, the group backing the measure in the Legislature.

The survey authorized by the society will assess the views of physicians, medical residents and medical students on the proposal, which allows patients with terminal illnesses to put in motion an end to their life under prescribed conditions.

“On behalf of the millions of New Yorkers who support making medical aid in dying in New York legal, I want to thank the House of Delegates of the Medical Society of the State of New York and its leadership for the wise and inspired decision to survey physicians on medical aid in dying,” said the group’s director, Corinne Carey.

“MSSNY has taken a giant step forward with this vote and I am convinced that the results of this survey will mirror similar surveys of physicians nationally and in other states – including Maryland and Colorado – and demonstrate strong support among New York’s doctors.”

The legislation faces opposition from religious organizations, including the Catholic Church, and so far as stalled in the Legislature for the last several sessions.

So far, a half dozen states have backed legislation that authorize aid in dying for patients with terminal illnesses.