Hochul: Plenty Of WEP Candidates Not Facing Legal Challenges

hochulFrom the Morning Memo:

While dozens of candidates running on the Women’s Equality Party ballot line have been tossed or denied access, there are some candidates not facing any legal challenges, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said on Monday in western New York.

“Actually, in many parts of the state, there are no challenges whatsoever,” Hochul said. “I think that’s the story that’s not being heard, that there are candidates who are eligible for this who will be on the ballot this November. There are a few cases in which there have been challenges and we’re waiting for the court process to work its way through and we’ll know very shortly.”

Hochul did not say how many candidates will retain ballot status this November, the first off-cycle election for the fledgling ballot line that was formed last year during Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s re-election campaign.

Local candidates running in elections have been denied ballot access for the WEP, which was created by Cuomo’s re-election effort in order to promote women’s issues in the election. More >

Lawmakers Hope For Second Look At Teacher Evaluations

testsFrom the Morning Memo:

As a task force created by Gov. Andrew Cuomo prepares to consider overhauling the state’s controversial Common Core standards, state lawmakers hope the latest teacher evaluation law will also be up for changes, too.

“We are seeing a reset button being hit in regards to Common Core, but it is going to have an impact on evaluations as well,” said Democratic Assemblyman John McDonald, who represents a Capital Region-area district.

Cuomo last week formed a new task force that will consider changes to the standards, which New York adopted in 2010, before he becamse governor. But Cuomo has felt the brunt of the opposition to the standards, with parents and teachers criticizing what they see as an over reliance on testing.

“The goal should be simple: The best education system for our children,” Cuomo said in a video released to promote the task force’s formation. “That’s it.”

Cuomo, too, signaled he was potentially open to considering changes to the evaluation system, which was updated with new criteria in the April state budget.

“No one wants an evaluation system that is inaccurate or unfair,” Cuomo said. More >

Civil Engineers Grade NY’s Infrastructure C Minus

minerPassing, but barely.

That was the conclusion of a report from the New York Council of the American Society of Civil Engineers, which graded the state’s infrastructure an average of “C-” finding that roads and bridges are in the categories with the most need for improvement.

The civil engineers handed the state’s roads a “D-” while the bridges received a “D+” due to an overall lack of improvement and deteriorating conditions.

The report card itself was released by the office of Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, who in recent months has emphasized a push for the state to kick in funding for repairs to her city’s streets and water and sewer system.

“A solid, sustainable, twenty first infrastructure is the level playing field we need to spur economic growth in cities across our state and country,” said Syracuse Mayor Stephanie A. Miner. “From water mains to roads and bridges to the next generation of broadband technology, these are the critical components needed to keep our communities growing in the right direction. I urge the State of New York to increase its investment in municipal infrastructure to help our cities thrive.”

The report found a variety of concerns with the state’s infrastructure, from airports to road conditions that have caused traffic delays. More >

Lawmakers Urge PSC To Speed Up Broadband Review

A coalition of state lawmakers from the Capital Region is urging regulators at the state Public Service Commission to speed up a review of expanding broadband access in under served areas or locations that have no access at all.

The letter — sent by Assemblywoman Pat Fahy, Assemblyman John McDonald and Sen. Neil Breslin — comes as Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration this week announced another step in the effort to expand rural and inner city broadband service.

In particular, the lawmakers point to providers like Time Warner Cable (the parent company of TWC News) having access to a market in which a competitor company like Verizon is yet to make a major push into, unlike downstate communities.

The lawmakers also raise the possibility of a municipal broadband network that the city of Albany is currently exploring. More >

Democratic Elections Commissioners: Ban LLC Contributions Entirely

moneyFrom the Morning Memo:

The two Democrats who sit on the state Board of Elections have filed a friend-of-the-court brief in a lawsuit the seeks to end the practice of allowing limited liability companies to donate unlimited funds to political campaigns.

In the brief — which just happens to be filed in a suit against the Board of Elections itself over the so-called “LLC loophole” in the state’s election law — Commissioners Douglas Kellner and Andrew Spano ask the court go further: Ban LLC contributions entirely.

Kellner and Spano point to a campaign finance law that restricts contributions from joint-stock associations and argue LLCs should be treated much the same.

“Given the comprehensive campaign finance scheme in statute, which favors both limits and transparency, it is a reasonable interpretation of the Election Law to conclude that the Legislature intended to treat LLCs like joint-stock associations and did not intend to allow LLCs to make political contributions at all,” the brief states. More >

Lawmakers Call For Universal Voter Registration

generalelexTwo state lawmakers on Wednesday called for universal voter registration that would automatically register every citizen through the Department of Motor Vehicles and other government agencies.

The measure, backed by Sen. Mike Gianaris of Queens and Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh of Manhattan would allow those to affirmatively opt out of voting.

If approved, the change would expand voter rolls by two million people.

The proposal comes on the heels of National Voter Registration Day — a drive to increase voter signs up across the country.

Lawmakers hope the automatic registration will lead to greater participation on Election Day.

“There is no good reason why our citizens are made to jump through hoops just to exercise their democratic rights,” Gianaris said. “We must do all we can to increase New York’s dismal voter participation rates and automatically registering eligible citizens to vote would be a great start.”

More >

SUNY Spokesman Out After 3 Months

Sherman Jewett, a longtime Democratic operative and former staffer for the Assembly majority, has resigned his post as chief spokesman for SUNY just three months after taking the job.

Both SUNY and Jewett confirmed the move, and said it had been Jewett’s decision to depart in recent weeks.

During a brief telephone interview, Jewett called the parting “amicable and mutual”, and said he had decided to leave “for personal reasons.” He does not yet have a new job.

Jewett, who spent almost 20 years working the Assembly Democrats in communications and information services and rose to serve as executive director of DACC, the majority’s political arm, departed that job to co-found a private political mail firm, Blue & Read, in 2010. More >

Business Group Sees ‘Value’ In Potential Minimum Wage Hike

fastfoodFrom the Morning Memo:

At least one business-backed group in Albany is supportive of a potential minimum wage increase.

The Retail Council Of New York State — whose members rely on an economy in which consumers have a little extra money in their pockets — in a statement released on Thursday signaled a minimum wage increase there was “value” in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed $15 minimum wage target.

“The proposal as we understand it provides a ramp for employers to prepare for the new wage,” said Retail Council President Ted Potrikus. “It looks to be a longer-term extrapolation of the proposals we have supported in the past, and we appreciate Governor Cuomo’s continued consideration of the need for a practical statewide legislative response to what can be a highly-charged issue. We see value in the Governor’s proposal and look forward to continuing our dialogue with him on this issue.”

This isn’t the first time the Retail Council has spoken favorably of a minimum wage increase, which has become part of an increasingly pitched debate at the Capitol.

In his statement, Potrikus acknowledged retailers will still have the concern of paying minimum wage employees far more than the $8.75 an hour they receive now. More >

Update: WNY Assemblywoman Turns Over Cell Phone And Computer Records As Part Of Sexual Harassment Probe

New details Thursday, in the sexual harassment and retaliation investigation of a Western New York Assemblywoman.  The attorney for Cheektowaga Republican Angela Wozniak says they have taken steps to cooperate with a preliminary investigation by the Assembly Ethics Committee.

Buffalo-based attorney Steven Cohen told Time Warner Cable News Reporter Ryan Whalen, who broke the story last week, that Wozniak has turned over her cell phone, email and copies of all her hard drives to the Ethics Committee.

“Assemblywoman Wozniak has said she’s got nothing to fear and she’s directed me just to cooperate in turning over all of the evidence so we did that today,” Cohen said.

The committee has assigned an independent law professor, Merrick Rossein from the City University of New York, to conduct the interviews in the investigation.  Cohen said Wozniak will be interviewed last, September 28th.

Assemblywoman Angela Wozniak, Former Wozniak Staffer Elias Farah

Assemblywoman Angela Wozniak, Former Wozniak Staffer Elias Farah

Cohen told several media sources that Wozniak’s former Legislative Director Elias Farah filed the complaint.  Farah, who declined comment, ran for Erie County Legislature in 2013.  Sources have told Time Warner Cable News that Wozniak and Farah did have a sexual relationship, although Cohen would not confirm that.

“I too find it hard to believe that any credible complaint could be made against this assemblywoman to be intimidating or harassing anyone,” said Cohen.  “She (Wozniak) and her husband are bearing under the embarrassment of these kinds of allegations but both of them are confident that they’re going to get through this,” said Cohen.

Cohen expressed frustration with the Ethics Committee’s process.  He said he was never given a copy of the complaint or even told initially who made it.

“I have represented members of the United States Congress, military commanders in ethics investigations and never before have I not been given the charges that have been placed against my client and never before have I been told that I’m not allowed to investigate it.” Cohen said.

Cohen has said repeatedly he’s not only working to clear Wozniak’s name but he’s also preserving evidence for a defamation suit against Farah.

“If it is determined that this was a complaint made with actual malice, we will seek to bring the complainant to justice through the courts,” said Cohen.

Wozniak has made no public appearances since allegations surfaced last month.  Cohen made it clear she is continuing to represent her district and will be addressing the allegations soon.

“Once the Assembly Investigation Committee, Ethics Committee, unties my hands we would look forward to a press conference and we would look forward to commenting on everything,” Cohen added.

Wozniak was elected in 2014 to the 143rd seat vacated by Democrat Dennis Gabryszak who retired.  Several of Gabryszak’s former staffers accused him of sexual harassment.

NYSUT Seeks Regents ‘No’ Vote For APPR

From the Morning Memo:

It’s no secret the statewide teachers union is not a fan of the teacher performance evaluation deal struck by the governor and legislative leaders this past session. Now NYSUT is urging the Board of Regents to reject the plan altogether and replace it with one the union has drafted.

“They can do that,” NYSUT President Karen Magee said during a CapTon interview last night. “That’s totally in their purview, to adopt a modification to the regulations.”

The Regents are scheduled to meet next week (Sept. 16-17) to, among other things, vote on the emergency regulations establishing the new evaluation system, which is largely (though not entirely) based on the results of Common Core tests from which a whopping 20 percent of students opted out this year – with NYSUT’s urging and support.

NYSUT has set up an email and fax campaign so its members can bombard the Regents with letters between now and next week, urging them to “do everything in your power to stop the over-testing of students and end the insane practice of evaluating educators based on a single standardized test.” More >