Mar 5th - 3:11 pm
Lobbyists may be prohibited from buying lawmakers’ drinks, but apparently what goes underneath those drinks is fair game.
A reader forwarded this photo of a coaster that has been popping up in bars all over Albany, compliments of the state’s libraries.
The coaster is simple, direct and memorable way for libraries to urge legislators to fully fund their state aid at $102 million, as stiuplated in state Education Law. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2014-15 budget included a 4.7 percent cut to library aid, providing just $81.6 million — the same amount that libraries and library systems received 16 years ago in 1997.
The coasters have been making appearances at establishments frequented by both legislators and legislative aids. This photo was taken at Pinto & Hobbs Tavern on Washington Avenue, but the coasters have also been spotted at Center Square Pub and LAX Lounge, and anecdotal reports place them at McGeary’s and The Victory Cafe, too.
So far, no one I’ve spoken to can recall ever seeing this tried before.
UPDATE: Mike Neppl, director of government affairs for the New York Library Association, sent me the following explanation of this initiative:
“NYLA is a statewide organization with 4000 active members, but we have a small staff. I needed a time and cost efficient way to get our message to policymakers that funding should reflect what New Yorkers have long recognized – libraries are a core component of our state’s educational infrastructure on which our children, families and seniors rely.”
“Having worked in government, I know that breaking through the wall of noise is difficult. So, why not get our message in people’s hands after-hours when they’re a bit more relaxed and might be more receptive? They’ve been in action for a week or so, and have gotten a great reception from members and staffers. Plus, they’re different. NYLA brought me on to ramp up our advocacy efforts and do things differently.”
Feb 17th - 10:31 am
ICYMI from today’s Morning Memo:
A whopping eighty-eight percent of New York voters support the legalization of marijuana for medical use, with only nine percent opposed, a new Quinnipiac Poll out this morning found.
A majority of state residents – 57 percent – also back the idea of legalizing small amounts of pot for recreational use. There’s a gender gap and generation gap when it comes to this question, however, with support stronger among younger voters and men.
Fifty-two percent say pot is not a so-called “gateway,” and doesn’t lead to the use of other drugs, while 45 percent believe marijuana and alcohol are equally dangerous. New Yorkers are not eager to share details of their own pot use, with 46 percent saying they’ve tried it, and 51 percent denying that they ever have.
This poll could breathe new life into the med-mar debate, which has been on the back burner since Cuomo announced in his State of the State address that he planned to circumvent the Legislature on this issue and use his executive power to launch a limited hospital-based program to let seriously ill New Yorkers legally access pot.
This plan has been hotly debated – especially by Sen. Diane Savino and Assemblyman Dick Gottfried, who have been carrying med-mar bills for several years now and say the governor’s proposal is clunky and unworkable. Also, Sen. Liz Krueger has introduced a full legalization bill, which the Cuomo administration has flatly rejected as a non-starter.
Feb 14th - 2:50 pm
Advocates pushing for reform of the state’s Scaffold Law have launched a radio ad to coincide with caucus weekend, making the case that this is a minority rights issue because the law is making it too expensive for developers to build and create jobs.
Interestingly, opponents of Scaffold Law reform are also playing the minority rights card, insisting that to make the changes the industry is seeking will endanger construction workers, who are predominantly black and Latino.
The ad, paid for by the Alliance for Minority and Women Construction Businesses, started running on Albany and New York City airwaves this past Tuesday and will remain there through Saturday morning. The spot features the Rev. Jacques Degraff, who co-chairs the alliance and will also be appearing on Capital Tonight at 8 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. this evening.
Here’s the script:
“This is black and Latino caucus weekend in Albany. We’re coming because it’s time for a change. We can’t have business as usual, and they can’t have their usual party.”
“Our businesses are in a crisis. The Scaffold Law is killing jobs we so badly need, and killing businesses that create those jobs in our community. It’s hurting our brothers and sisters, robbing them of the opportunity to get good paying construction jobs. This is an emergency, and we’re demanding change now.”
“The caucus holds the key, and we’re demanding that they deliver. New York is the only state in the union with this law. It’s hurting our children, too. Schools aren’t being built. Our neighborhoods desperately need new schools and jobs.”
“It’s time to wake up the caucus and stop the party. I’m Rev. Jacques Degraff, co-chairman of the Alliance for Minority and Women Construction Business, and we want jobs, safety and justice. Fix the Scaffold Law now.”
Feb 11th - 4:17 pm
In case you missed this morning’s first show, here is State of Politics Live, coming to you from the Time Warner Cable News bureau at the Capitol.
For our first show, we looked at Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos’ opposition to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s tax hike, Education Commissioner John King’s take on the Common Core implementation and former Rep. Nan Hayworth launching a rematch campaign against Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney.
Daily News bureau chief Ken Lovett talked the potential for a Donald Trump candidacy as well as a new push for increasing the minimum wage on the local level.
Watch it here; no need to be a TWC subscriber.
Jan 30th - 3:37 pm
A caucus of 33 lawmakers has been formed to back progressive environmental goals, the group announced on Thursday.
The New York State Caucus of Environmental Legislators is billed as a “non-partisan” forum to consider measures aimed at protecting both the environment and public health.
The group was organized by Manhattan Democratic Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, who will chair the caucus. More leadership is expected to be announced.
The group also includes Buffalo Republican Sen. Mark Grisanti and Long Island Democratic Assemblyman Bob Sweeney, both of whom chair their respective Environmental Conservation committees in the Senate and Assembly.
“I am confident that NYSCEL will be a powerful resource for legislators who are committed to environmental preservation and the well being of our communities,” Kavanagh siad in a statement. “By bringing together legislators from across the state with a variety of expertise, we will deepen our common understanding of the environmental challenges we face and our commitment to addressing them.”
Jan 20th - 2:26 pm
The labor-aligned advocacy group Citizen Action of New York last year retained Mercury Public Affairs to help lobbying for publicly financed campaigns, records filed with the Joint Commission on Public Ethics show.
The consultant firm is being retained by the organization for $3,500 a month, with a consulting services agreement having started Nov. 1 of last year.
Citizen Action so far has paid Mercury $7,000, according to the bimonthly report filed with JCOPE.
The contract ends Jan. 31, but can be extended on a month-by-month basis.
Citizen Action last year reported $192,968 in funding from the pro-public financing group Friends of Democracy, the group co-founded by Jonathan Soros.
While the documents filed with JCOPE do not specify what the group is being retained to do, Mercury Public Affairs spokesman Michael McKeon confirmed it was to lobbying specifically on “the Fair Elections issue.”
McKeon, a former aide to Gov. George Pataki, was part of the Republicans for Cuomo effort in 2010.
McKeon also served as a spokesman for the business-backed and now-defunct Committee to Save New York.
Cuomo is expected to include financing for publicly funded campaigns in his budget proposal on Tuesday.
Jan 20th - 12:17 pm
The New York State Museum has posted an online exhibition of a rare recording of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking in 1962 commemorating the anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s preliminary proclamation.
The recording of speech, given in New York City at a dinner arranged by Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, was discovered recently in the state archives, and the state museum has re-produced the audio recording digitally.
The recording, along with a transcript of the speech plus the state’s copy of the preliminary emancipation document is available here.
“This is a remarkable treasure,” Chancellor Merryl H. Tisch said in a statement. “More than 50 years later, Dr. King’s voice has come back to life. The Board of Regents and the State Museum are honored to present this unique online exhibition to the public. It’s a rare and special opportunity to once more hear the power of Dr. King’s words. Every New Yorker and every American should take the opportunity to listen to this speech.”
Jan 16th - 4:10 pm
The various parties challenging the Moreland Commission on Public Ethics will submit separate briefs to quash subpoenas issued by the panel, court records posted this week show.
Attorneys for the Senate Republicans, Independent Democratic Conference, and the Democratic-led Assembly along with law firms and other private employers agreed to combine their challenge to the commission’s power to investigate the Legislature and obtain non-public information about outside income of legislators.
But in court filings, the lawyers challenging the commission will submit separate briefs arguing against the subpoenas.
Lawyers for the commission have argued that Attorney General Eric Schneiderman bestowing the power of deputy attorneys general on commission members gives them the authority to investigate the separate branch of government.
The commission submitted its own brief last week backing its subpoenas, writing that the outside employment “risks criminal behavior.”
Jan 15th - 10:00 am
Call it old fashioned chutzpah or business as usual, but Sen. Malcolm Smith on Tuesday released a fundraising appeal to supporters as he faces federal charges in connection to a bribery scheme.
“The New Year is here and for me this is an election year that will be one of my toughest since being in office,” Smith wrote in the email. “As you know I have worked very hard and will continue with your help to improve our community, city and state. It has been a total honor serving our community as State Senator and with your help I will continue to be a strong voice and staunch advocate on issues that matter most to our neighborhood in Albany.”
Smith this week reported having $23,000 in cash on hand, having raised $20,500 in the most recent filing period. He has continued his practice of using campaign money to pay for vehicle expenses and also made 13 payments to a lease management company in Florida.
Smith, a Queens Democrat, is accused of attempting to bribe county Republican leaders in effort to purchase a Wilson-Pakula waiver in order to run on the GOP line for mayor of New York City.
Smith and several other officials were arrested last year by federal law enforcement in connection with the scheme. The allegations, jaw-dropping even by Albany standards, were the start of a trio of corruption cases to hit the Legislature last year that also saw the arrests of Assemblyman Eric Stevenson and Sen. John Sampson.
Stevenson was convicted this week in connection to accepting bribes for writing favorable legislation. Sampson is accused of siphoning funds from an escrow account he controlled. Sampson and Smith, both former Democratic leaders, were booted from the Democratic and independent Democratic conferences respectively after their arrests.
He remains in office, however, and has even drawn a primary challenger.
Jan 13th - 5:40 pm
After less than two hours of deliberating, a jury convicted Assemblyman Eric Stevenson of all federal corruption charges Monday afternoon.
Stevenson was accused of accepting bribes in exchange for writing favorable legislation of adult day homes.
The verdict under a felony conviction forces the Bronx Democrat from the Assembly.
With Sunday’s resignation of Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak following a series of sexual harassment allegations leveled against him, there are now 11 vacancies in the state Legislature and nine alone in the Assembly.
The Stevenson case first surfaced in April, part of a spate of unrelated scandals to hit Albany.
In a twist, the case also involved then-Assemblyman Nelson Castro, who had been charged with election fraud in his district.
It was revealed that Castro’s entire time in office was as a cooperating witness for federal prosecutors, and the lawmaker secretly wore a recording device to help cooperate in the corruption probe.
“As a unanimous jury swiftly found, Assemblyman Stevenson brazenly betrayed the public that elected him,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara “Graft and greed are intolerable in Albany, and we will go to trial as often as we have to until government in New York is cleaned up.”