Nick Reisman

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Uber TV Ad Focuses On Long Island Approval

Uber Technologies on Monday released a TV ad that aims to push back against efforts to ban ride hailing in Nassau and Suffolk counties.

The ad comes as ride hailing outside of New York City will take effect in the next 10 days.

County governments can move to disallow ride hailing companies like Uber and Lyft from operating in their borders. The concern for Uber is Long Island is home to especially influential cab companies that could play a role in banning them from a large suburban market.

Local Control Provision Added To Alcohol In Movie Theaters Bill

A bill that would allow movie theaters to sell alcohol has been amended to allow for a degree of specified local control.

The amendment would require municipal governments to affirmatively indicate they support the issuance of a license to a movie theater before it is actually granted.

The new provision does not apply to movie theaters in New York City.

The effort to sell alcohol in movie theaters stalled at the end of the legislative session last year amid a successful push for a “brunch bill” to serve alcohol before noon in restaurants.

DFS Report Of DiNapoli’s Oversight Coming Soon

The Department of Financial Services will soon release a report that is expected to take a critical view of Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s oversight of legislative spending, according to sources familiar with the matter.

A source pointed to a possible focus in particular on the legal requirements in both the state constitution and the state finance law for the comptroller to audit and approve state spending — essentially suggesting the office isn’t simply a “pass through” entity for spending.

According to one lawyer who has reviewed the law and constitutional provision, the comptroller’s office “has an affirmative obligation and is legally required to conduct these audits.”

DiNapoli is a former member of the state Legislature, having been put into the post initially in 2007 by the Democratic-led Assembly.

“The law is clear — the comptroller has a fiduciary responsibility to audit and verify, but he’s said time and again that he’s been nothing but a rubber stamp for legislative payments since Shelly appointed him,” a source said. “He has a real problem on his hands.”

The comptroller’s office sees things a lot differently.

Since the time he took office, DiNapoli’s office has sought to shine a light on legislative spending by posting contracts entered into by both the Senate and Assembly. A monthly press release, also, is issued directing the public to contracting and spending that’s been approved.

At the same time, the comptroller’s office has disclosed legislative per diems online that is updated quarterly.

A wealth of this information is found on the comptroller’s Open Book website.

The comptroller’s office also points to its own auditing functions that oversee tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of daily transactions. The comptroller’s office uses a method of accounting typically deployed by large entities — think the 10 largest corporations — through an analytical approach that flags high-risk transactions.

The comptroller’s office also argues payments are routinely halted when a red flag goes up, in addition to an annual financial audit.

The DFS audit would come amid increasing tensions between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and DiNapoli, two longtime rivals in state government. It also would not be the first time DFS has released a critical review of DiNapoli’s handling of his duties. The agency in December issued a report that took a critical view of fees paid out to hedge funds that provided relatively poor returns on the investment — an assessment that DiNapoli vehemently disagreed with when it was released.

Meanwhile, a controversy erupted last month over the practice of the Senate arranging for stipends to those lawmakers who hold vice committee chair posts and receiving payments normally reserved for committee chairs. DiNapoli’s office was involved in approving those payments to the Senate.

The comptroller is seeking a bill that would re-instate his oversight power for procurement and state contracting at entities affiliated with SUNY and CUNY — a measure that’s being sought in the final days of the legislative session, due to end on Wednesday.

NYSAC Raises Alarm Over Sales Tax Extensions

The New York State Association of Counties is raising an alarm on Monday over the need to extend sales tax provisions for county governments as the legislative session winds down this week.

The tax measures are currently part of the broader fight over extending mayoral control of New York City schools after the Assembly packaged the extenders with a 2-year continuation of mayoral control.

With Senate Republicans pushing for a provision that would strengthen charter schools in the state, the issue has come to a logjam in Albany — with the usually mundane task of sales tax extenders a potential casualty.

In a statement, NYSAC President William Cherry said the lack of action could result in a property tax hike for local governments.

“In one fell swoop State Leaders could undo everything that has been done in the past ten years to curtail property tax increases,” said Cherry, the Schoharie County Treasurer. “We could be looking at property tax increases equaling $1.8 billion just to keep programs and services operating locally.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week raised the possibility of lawmakers not being able to accomplish anything of significance this week and returning later in the year.

But that could lead to a degree of unwanted uncertainty on the local government level.

“We need lawmakers to act before the end of this week. If they do not, then program cuts, staff layoffs, and property tax increases are a direct result of their inaction,” Cherry said.

Broad Coalition Forms To Fight Con Con

A broad and disparate coalition of more than 100 organizations ranging from statewide and local unions, abortion and LGBT-rights groups and supporters of the Second Amendment, has formed to oppose holding a constitutional convention.

Whether to hold a convention is a question being put to voters later this year in a November referendum.

The coalition known as New Yorkers Against Corruption includes a variety of organizations normally at odds with one another or usually with little reason to be affiliated, representing a who’s who of establishment interest groups.

Signing on to the effort includes the New York State Conservative Party, the state AFL-CIO as well as CSEA, the Rifle and Pistol Association, Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts, Environmental Advocates of New York and the New York Civil Liberties Union, among others.

Additional organizations include the Adirondack Council, the Council of Churches, the Working Families Party, the Nw York State United Teachers union as well as the UFT, Right To Life and the LGBT Network.

“The prospect of a constitutional convention touted by idealists is a complete fraud. We know nothing about the framework of a convention – How much will it cost? What are the rules to run as delegates? Which issues will be considered? How will Albany insiders ensure transparency? There is a total lack of information,” said Jordan Marks, Campaign Manager for NYAC.

“That is why over 100 organizations – representing millions of people from throughout New York – formed NYAC. We, the people of New York, have zero interest in writing a blank check for corrupt Albany insiders to throw themselves a multi-year party.”

In some ways, the range of groups involved in opposing a constitutional convention underscores the degree to which holding one could gore multiple oxen. Environmental groups fear an end to regulations that, for example, have preserved the “forever wild” stipulation in the Adirondacks. Unions fear the roll back of hard-won labor rights. Still others are concerned over the potential cost of holding a convention or the influence of wealthy interests.

Still, academics that support a con con are less than fearful about the prospect, noting its a process that’s fully controlled by voters, including whether any alterations are made to the constitution or if a new document is drafted entirely.

Klein Introduces Procurement Reform Bill

From the Morning Memo:

Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein on Sunday evening introduced a bill that would create a chief procurement officer to oversee state contracting and procurement at SUNY and CUNY entities.

The proposal largely mirrors what Gov. Andrew Cuomo had initially proposed and continues to back in the closing days of the legislative session, as state lawmakers have pushed legislation that would re-empower the state comptroller’s office to review spending related to major economic development projects.

As backed by Klein and Cuomo, the bill would create the procurement officer post, with the person being nominated by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate.

“The importance of creating a new independent officer tasked with reviewing all state procurement and disbursements, instead of taking advantage of current safeguards, is that this officer will be in the best position to spot patterns of corruption, or have an inkling of what types of contracts or procurements are likely to be abused, since that is the officer’s one and only duty,” the bill’s memorandum in support states.

However, Klein’s bill does have differences from what Cuomo initially proposed, including additional language that would allow oversight of procurements for state affiliated non-profits so there would be oversight of money spent by SUNY and CUNY research foundations.

And the Senate would have the power to confirm the nominee for the post, something the governor’s plan did not initially include.

Additional language would be aimed preventing favoritism in contracting by having the chief procurement officer review and examine policies of state agencies and non-profit entities in order to recommend changes.

The bill comes as lawmakers seek to address transparency and oversight in state economic development spending months after the arrests of prominent development executives, a former close aide to Cuomo and the ex-president of SUNY Polytechnic, accused of bid rigging and fraud.

In the Legislature, Deputy Senate Majority Leader John DeFrancisco is pushing for a vote on a bill that would re-instate Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s power to oversee procurement, which had been removed early in Cuomo’s first term.

DiNapoli, good-government advocates and lawmakers supportive of procurement reform have called for oversight independent of the governor’s office.

CPO LBD-2 by Nick Reisman on Scribd

State Lawmakers Eye Greener Pastures

From the Morning Memo:

State lawmakers don’t have to run for re-election this year, but many elected officials in the Assembly and Senate are eyeing the exits, running for locally elected positions back in their home districts.

Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin is running for Rensselaer County executive. State Sen. George Latimer is running for Westchester County executive. State Sen. Phil Boyle seeks to become sheriff of Suffolk County, and several New York City lawmakers have launched campaigns for City Council, which is an increasingly popular destination for former state lawmakers.

Assemblyman Mickey Kearns is running for Erie County Clerk. A supporter of term limits for the Legislature, Kearns says it’s about finding a new challenge in a different public office.

“I think there should be a beginning and an end when it comes to Albany and I’m looking forward to new opportunities,” Kearns said.

There’s the travel factor. The trip from Western New York can be an especially long one and lawmakers spend up to six months traveling back and forth during the legislative session. Kearns says he’s made the trip for about 13 years.

Then there’s the desire to actually get something done — an attractive proposition for any legislator like McLaughlin who has toiled in the minority.

“It’s because with executive authority, you can get a lot of things done and you can help people on a direct day-to-day basis,” McLaughlin said.

“Being in the Legislature’s great, but you’re one of a body. You can’t come here in and say, ‘this is what we’re doing.’ You have to convince, in our case, 150 people.”

Then there is the fact lawmakers haven’t received a pay increase since 1999. Lawmakers earn a base salary of $79,500 and many of the local level positions pay more.

Flanagan: No Longterm Mayoral Control Extension Without Charters

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan in a statement Sunday said he would not support a “long-term” extension of mayoral control of New York City schools without a provision that also seeks to expand charter school growth in New York.

“There’s no denying that charter schools have become a fundamental part of the overall success of New York City public schools, especially in those areas where moms and dads are looking to get their kids out of a failing school so they can have a fresh start on the future of their dreams,” Flanagan said in the statement.

“Denying charters the ability to grow and preventing parents’ ability to choose would shut the door on 20 years of proven gains in academic achievement. We can not allow that to happen, and will not grant a long-term extension of mayoral control without first ensuring that all students have opportunities.”

It’s not clear what a long-term extension could entail, though Senate Republicans for the last several years have not been inclined to grant more than a 12 month expiration date as they remain at odds with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has said he would not back an extension of the program that includes measures aimed at bolstering charter schools.

Last month, the Assembly passed an omnibus bill that extends mayoral control for two years and included a package of sales tax extenders that impact upstate and suburban counties.

Senate Republicans, meanwhile, have passed multiple mayoral control bills that all include provisions boosting charter schools.

The statement comes with three days to go in the legislative session and mayoral control due to expire at the end of the month.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday raised the possibility of nothing being accomplished this week in Albany and lawmakers returning to the Capitol for a special session to take up the issue.

Flanagan Says He Wants An Agreement On Mayoral Control

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan in a statement issued late Friday afternoon insisted he was still seeking an agreement for the extension of mayoral control of New York City schools.

The statement was issued hours after Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a conference call with reporters suggested the program could lapse this month and was pessimistic a deal could be reached before lawmakers leave Albany on Wednesday, the final scheduled day of the legislative session.

“With just one week left in the legislative session, I am committed to working with all parties to extend mayoral control and achieve common sense reforms that ensure every child receives the first-class education they deserve,” Flanagan said in the statement.

He added there is “no reason we can’t negotiate in good faith and come to a resolution on this issue before the Legislature adjourns next week.”

The Senate this month approved several mayoral control extender measures, all of which seek to expand charter schools in the state — a provision that Speaker Carl Heastie has said is a non-starter for his Democratic conference.

The Assembly in May approved a two-year extension of mayoral control that was packaged with extensions of local tax provisions.

Cuomo in his conference call on Friday suggested lawmakers could still return at some point this year in a special session to take up mayoral control as well as the sales tax and other tax measures that would need to re-approved by the end of the year.

Flanagan in his statement said he’s still willing to negotiate an agreement.

“We have given the Assembly and Mayor de Blasio three different options that would each extend mayoral control and ensure the continuity they crave, and we have even signaled our willingness to have further discussions about other options,” Flanagan said. “It’s time for everyone to get to the table and work in the best interest of the 1.1 million New York City schoolchildren and their families.”

Con Con Supporters: Don’t Fret Convention

Opponents of holding a constitutional convention have over the last several weeks geared up their opposition to the coming referendum, arguing it could scale back gains made by organized labor, wreck the environment in he Adirondacks and be dominated by monied interest groups.

On Friday, supporters of staging a “con con” fired back, arguing the convention isn’t something to be feared.

“The potential for change can often inspire fear, especially for those whose entrenched power may be affected by a reform-minded public,” wrote Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb in a legislative column. “Scare tactics by convention opponents portray it as a threat to many important policies and programs.”

For minority lawmakers, especially in the Democratic-dominated Assembly, a change in the state constitution, or a complete overhaul of the document, could lead to more equity in how things get done at the Capitol.

Kolb, in his column, noted voters will control the process.

“The structure of a Constitutional Convention allows for every part of the process to be dictated by the voting public,” Kolb wrote. “New Yorkers – not elected officials, not lobbyists, not special interest organizations – will decide by majority vote.”

A similar sentiment was aired in a blog post published Friday by the Rockefeller Institute of Government by Peter Galie and Christopher Bopst, essentially arguing that the concern of a convention dominated by “insiders” is a concern being raised by people who are “insiders” themselves.

They write the trick is to find the right kind of person to be a delegate to a potential convention.

“Such delegates are the best defense against the charge that a convention will open Pandora’s Box and threaten our constitutional values,” the wrote.