Raise The Age Campaign To Advertise Law Enforcement Support

From the Morning Memo:

The campaign backing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s push to increase the age of criminal responsibility in New York is advertising its support from law enforcement officials.

An ad that will run in the weekly Legislative Gazette newspaper will highlight the support for the effort from county sheriffs and district attorneys.

The ad will be distributed as a flyer to state lawmakers as well.

Cuomo’s proposal to raise the age of criminal responsibility was proposed earlier in the year following a year-long commission studying the issue of juvenile justice reform. Senate Republicans are skeptical about the proposal, which would raise the age for juvenile jurisdiction to 18.

The New York City Bar Association, meanwhile, has also endorsed the push in a legislative memorandum.

The bar association writes that raising the age will have the effect of reducing recidivism and provide “alternatives to incarceration are a more effective and cost-efficient way to reduce youth recidivism than detention and incarceration.”

RTA-2015-0002_FINAL by Nick Reisman

State Lawmakers Rake In The Albany Green

An analysis from the New York Public Interest Research Group released this morning found state lawmakers are busy this legislative session not just crafting a budget, but raising campaign cash in the state’s Capital city.

The report from the good-government organization found that state lawmakers and the top leadership in the Senate and Assembly have scheduled at least 118 fundraisers between January and the end of this month.

The list isn’t exclusive to Albany venues: The Republican Assembly Campaign Committee held a fundraiser in Buffalo and Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans to hold an event in April in New York City.

Of course, the campaign activity is in full swing only months after state lawmakers faced re-election in November for another two-year term. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman this week called for four-year terms for legislators in order to space out running for re-election and the fundraising needed to do so in order to focus on governing.

Here’s the full list from NYPIRG:

St Patricks Albany Money Machine 2015 by Nick Reisman

Coalition of Groups Pushes Cuomo On Email Retention

As Gov. Andrew Cuomo begins to reassess his administration’s email retention, a coalition of organizations and lobbying entities is calling on him to adopt the federal standard: A seven-year minimum for keeping email and other electronic messages.

In a joint statement, the groups called on Cuomo to issue an executive order on transparency guidelines.

“We call on Governor Cuomo to issue this executive order regardless of what the state legislature does or does not do – Governor Cuomo has the unilateral authority to increase email transparency, and he should,” the organizations said.

After Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office on Thursday announced it would revise a 90-day email purge policy, Cuomo’s office made plans for an open government summit to review transparency measures for state government.

The measures recommended could include subjecting the Legislature to the state’s Freedom of Information Law.

“While our groups strongly support extending the state Freedom of Information Law to include the state legislature, we see no reason why Governor Cuomo cannot adopt a policy of saving state emails for 7 years regardless of what the legislature does,” the organizations said. “The issue here is increasing government transparency, and Governor Cuomo has the unilateral power to do that by matching the proposed federal policy of saving emails for 7 years.”

The groups include good-government entities like Citizens Union, Common Cause, the New York Public Interest Research Group and the League of Women Voters. But organizations not usually involved in open government and ethics issues, but may certainly have a stake in seeing records retained, also signed on, including the Environmental Advocates of New York and the Tri-State Transportation Committee.

Business Council Endorses MMA Legalization

The New York State Business Council has signed off on legislation that would legalize mixed-martial arts in the state — a move that’s being cheered by UFC Chairman and CEO Lorenzo Fertita.

“I want to thank the leadership of the Business Council for recognizing that legalizing MMA in New York – the last place in North America where professional MMA is illegal – would provide a new economic boost to New York,” Fertitta said. “As the Business Council recognizes in its memo, legalizing and regulating MMA in New York ‘will bring much needed economic activity to New York’s sports and entertainment venues, hospitality industry and generate additional revenues for the State and local governments.’

The bill, backed by Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle and Sen. Joe Griffo of the Utica-Rome area. Supporters of renewed hope of a vote for the bill in the Democratic-led Assembly, following MMA opponent Sheldon Silver losing the top post of speaker.

Still, opponents include women’s groups and labor unions who this year have formed a coalition opposing the bill, MMA Go Away.

In its bill memo backing the measure, the state’s top business lobby points to the potential economic benefit of legalizing the sport.

“Currently, New York is the only state in the U.S. where professional MMA is not allowed,” the memo states. “With Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) being one of the fastest growing and popular sports in the United States, this legislation would help will bring much needed economic activity to New York’s sports and entertainment venues, hospitality industry and generate additional revenues for the State and local governments. By some estimates, legalizing professional MMA will generate up to 950 jobs and $135 million in annual economic activity across the State of New York.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been non-committal on legalization mixed-martial arts. He’s noted the opposition finds the sport too violent, but did say he is interested in the economic development potential of MMA.

Buffalo Assemblywoman Enjoying New Found Influence

The replacement of a Board of Regents member isn’t exactly front page news but it’s a subtle signal the new Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has his own set of political allies.  There’s early indication Buffalo Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes is one of them and already has the new Speaker’s ear.

“I do have a very good relationship with him.  I have enormous respect for him.  He’s not served all that many years longer than I have so we’ve kind of come up together,” Peoples-Stokes said.

The Buffalo Democrat appeared to be flexing her new found influence when reports surfaced that longtime Board of Regents member Bob Bennett was being replaced.  Bennett told Time Warner Cable News, Sunday night, he took his name out of consideration after Peoples-Stokes told him she was recommending a different candidate to the Speaker.

“When the legislature’s in joint session, the Speaker really controls the entire thing,” said Bennett.

“Without any doubt Crystal Peoples-Stokes has reached a point of the most influence she’s had since she got there, absolutely,” Democratic political consultant Jack O’Donnell said.

Stokes has served in the Assembly since 2003.  Despite her tenure she’s had a hard time gaining the support of her own party with some Erie County Democrats, including Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and Democratic Chairman Jeremy Zellner, reportedly favoring her primary opponent last fall. 

Peoples-Stokes easily won the primary over former State Senator Antoine Thompson and her seventh term in the Assembly.  Some say she also proved she’s an emerging political power.

“There were a lot of big name (Erie County) Democrats behind him (Thompson). He had a lot of resources at his disposal and the fact that she did so well and was so well-respected in her district only strengthens her in Albany and in dealing with folks in the Assembly leadership,” said O’Donnell.

Peoples-Stokes relationship with Carl Heastie dates back to her work with the organization Grass Roots Buffalo. An organization Heastie reached out to for advice during his time as a Democratic leader in the Bronx.

“Crystal, (Buffalo Mayor) Byron (Brown) and Maurice Garner and Grassroots sort of was a template for how a young generation of African-American leaders took office. Unlike some of their predecessors who were challenging entrenched, often white, elected officials, Grassroots was basically a reaction to Art Eve and the Art Eve machine,” O’Donnell said

Eve, the well-known Buffalo Democrat, held that Assembly Seat before Peoples-Stokes. O’Donnell says she may have already eclipsed the former Deputy Speaker’s influence in the Assembly.

Peoples-Stokes has maintained her relationship with Heastie and if this recent move with the Board of Regents Seat is any indication she won’t be shy about taking advantage of it.

“The fact is that the Speaker cares what Crystal Peoples-Stokes thinks and I think her opinion carries a lot of weight, not just with the Speaker himself as it clearly does but Crystal’s become a real leader within the Women’s Conference in the Democratic Assembly and she’s also become a real leader in the Black and Puerto Rican Conference,” O’Donnell said.

“He’s a good guy. I’m grateful that I have a relationship with him. And I think the fact that I do have a good relationship with him, and have his ear, will bode well for Buffalo,” Peoples-Stokes added.


Following Egan’s Death, Dolan’s Trip To Albany Postponed

Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s planned trip to Albany to huddle with state officials on Monday has been cancelled following the death of his predecessor, Cardinal Edward Egan.

Dolan, along with the Bishops of New York State, had planned to travel to the Capitol next week to meet with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders to discuss the passage of the education tax credit.

The bill, which has been a long-sought goal for Catholic officials, is aimed at strengthening both public and private schools through private donations to scholarships and non-profits.

The bishops and Dolan had planned a legislative reception on Monday as well.

“They hope to find an appropriate opportunity to hold such meetings at a time and place to be determined,” the New York State Catholic Conference said in a statement.

Cuomo this year is tying the education tax credit to the DREAM Act, a measure that would provide tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants. Dolan and the state’s bishops back both measures.

Santorum To Keynote New Yorker’s Family Research Foundation In Albany

Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator who ran for president in 2012, will appear in Albany this month to keynote an evangelical group’s lobby day.

Santorum will be speaking at the New Yorker’s Family Research Foundation on March 17, with a speech at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center.

Santorum served in the U.S. Senate from 1995 through 2007.

The event is being held in conjunction with the group’s affiliate organization, New Yorkers For Constitutional Freedoms.

“Legislative Day 2015 gives NYFRF an opportunity to share information with our friends and supporters about key legislative issues of concern to the evangelical Christian community in New York,” said the group’s executive director, the Rev. Jason McGuire. “It also gives NYFRF the privilege of welcoming a nationally-known conservative political figure; former U.S. Senator and 2012 presidential candidate Rick Santorum (R-PA), a stalwart defender of human life and strong families, will serve as our keynote speaker.”

The event comes after Gov. Andrew Cuomo focused heavily on a 10-point package measures aimed at addressing women’s issues, including a codification of the Roe v. Wade decision in state law.

With Republicans holding a full majority in the Senate this year, it’s doubtful that abortion plank of the women’s agenda will pass this session.

Violating Albany’s Prime Directive

With apologies to the late Mr. Spock, an anonymous Cuomo administration official today violated Albany’s prime directive: The Bear Mountain Compact.

The so-called agreement for so-called gentlemen in Albany basically requires that anything that happens in Albany stays in Albany, be it extramarital affairs, debauchery, drunkenness, etc.

The staffer was reacting to a Republican-backed bill that appears to be a thinly veiled effort to troll Cuomo in his bedroom: The measure would require financial disclosure from non-relatives who live with state officials, i.e., the governor’s girlfriend, Sandra Lee.

A Cuomo administration official told myself and several others: “It’s an interesting concept – if the bill’s anonymous sponsor ever comes forward, we may suggest expanding it to include all girlfriends, even those of married members.”

The quote is a clever one, but it’s also something of a threat delivered with a clenched-teeth smile.

To be sure, a lot of bad behavior has occurred (and likely continues to) in Albany for decades. On the surface, there’s an effort on the part by lawmakers and their colleagues to keep it a secret (see Lopez, Vito and Silver, Sheldon).

The press, historically, helped play a role in keeping extramarital affairs a secret, most notably with Nelson Rockefeller’s dalliances.

Consider, however, that two state lawmakers in recent years sought to help federal prosecutors by wearing a wire in order to get the goods on their colleagues and obtain some leniency.

Consider how easy — through the recording of a bathroom-stall cell phone video, archived Google chats and a reputation for bullying behavior — a trio of now-former state lawmakers made it for their victims to make sexual harassment complaints.

Consider, too, how easy it is for any state lawmakers to say something blunt or innuendo-laden on social media.

In other words, Albany may be a town of secrets, but in this day and age it’s a lot easier for those secrets to get out.

Siena Poll: Voters Trust Local Governments Over State, Feds

A Siena College poll sponsored by local government advocates released Thursday morning found voters across the state trust their local government over Washington or Albany.

The poll found 28 percent of voters trust the federal or state government to do the right thing, while 43 percent back their local government most or all of the time.

Only 27 percent of voters support the federal government as having a positive job performance of either good or excellent, 30 percent give the state a positive job performance.
Forty-two percent of voters surveyed say local government, meanwhile, is doing a good or excellent job.

The poll was sponsored by the Conference of Mayors, Association of Counties and the Association of Towns.

“While trust in government at every level is near historic lows, significantly more New Yorkers trust their local government most or all of the time than trust those working on their behalf either in D.C. or Albany. And when it comes to assessing the job that they are doing, over four in ten give local government a thumbs up while a third call the federal performance poor and a quarter put that black mark on state government,” said Don Levy, Director of the Siena Research Institute.

Even with the sponsorship from those groups, the results aren’t necessarily surprising: Voters have more direct interaction with the Leslie Knopes of local government compared to, say, Andrew Cuomo.

NYSAC0215 Crosstabs by Nick Reisman

Housing Advocacy Group Backs Scaffold Law

An organization that supports affordable housing for the poor is joining a coalition that is pushing back against efforts to overhaul the state’s Scaffold Law.

Real Affordability for All is joining the larger Scaffold Safety Coalition, the groups will announce later today.

“We cannot build the housing New Yorkers need on the backs of injured workers,” said Maritza Silva-Farrell, spokesperson for RAFA. “The Scaffold Safety Law is an important protection that helps keep construction workers safe and out of harm’s way. We must not cut corners on safety and put workers lives at risk in order to provide quality, affordable housing for our city’s residents.”

Real Affordability for All is a coalition of smaller organizations itself, comprising more than 50 groups that seek to address homelessness, the New York City Housing Authority and preserving and developing affordable housing.

Adding to the coalition comes as business groups are mounting an effort to scale back the Scaffold Law, which those organizations contend makes it harder — and more expensive — to do business in New York.

With a housing groups joining the pro-Scaffold effort, the campaign is trying to push back against the claims that the law makes it more expensive for residents in the state.