Woerner: Return NYRA To Private Control

saratogaFrom the Morning Memo:

With the 2015 meet at Saratoga Race Course wrapping up, lawmakers from the Capital District are making a renewed push to return the New York Racing Association to private hands.

Business leaders and elected officials from Saratoga Springs and the surrounding area are pushing the Cuomo administration to end the state’s re-organization, which has seen some changes to racing in order to maximize revenue.

“As in any industry, government is really not in a position to effectively manage a business long term. That’s not the role of government,” said Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner, a Democrat who represents the Saratoga Springs area. More >

Morelle Hedges On WEP

morelleFrom the Morning Memo:

LG Kathy Hochul said this week that several hundred candidates running in local elections this fall want to appear on the Women’s Equality Party line, which was created by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his successful re-election bid last year.

According to Hochul and other WEP boosters, the new party, which has ballot access for four years, thanks to Cuomo, will play a key role in next year’s state legislative elections – particularly in the closely-divided state Senate, where Democrats will make yet another effort to win back the majority.

But not all Democrats are feeling quite so bullish about the WEP, which made a number of them fairly uncomfortable when it was created, and even caused some – including Sen. Liz Krueger – to suggest its existence would hurt, not help, the Senate Democrats’ cause in the 2014 elections.

Also, it was not lost on the Working Families Party (AKA the WFP), which wasn’t getting along terribly well with Cuomo last year, that the WEP had an acronym awfully similar to its own. Some political conspiracy theorists believed that was no accident, and, in fact, had been done specifically to confuse voters and keep the WFP’s own tally low. More >

Heastie: Support In Assembly For Privatizing NYRA

heastiehorseFrom the Morning Memo:

There’s “broad support” in the Democratic-led Assembly to return the New York Racing Association back to the private sector, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said on Wednesday during a stop in Rochester.

State as well as federal lawmakers from upstate New York have been eager to move NYRA out of state control and back into a non-profit entity that supports thoroughbred racing.

“There seems to be broad support within our house for NYRA to go back to being a privately run institution, particularly the member who represent the Saratoga region — Carrie Woerner — has been very outspoken on this,” Heastie said. “It’s a discussion we’re having.”

NYRA has been under state control since 2012, when then-CEO Charlie Hayward was ousted after it was revealed the public-benefit corporation had improperly collected more than $7 million fees from exotic bets. More >

Assembly Lawmaker Pushes Legionnaires Inspections

legionnairescoolingA Westchester County lawmaker is pushing a measure that would require the inspection and maintenance of heating and cooling systems in New York that have been blamed for the recent outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the Bronx and parts of the downstate downstate.

Assemblyman Tom Abinanti, a Democrat from Greenburgh, introduced the legislation following the discovery of legionella bacteria at a school in Yonkers and a case emerging in Rockland County.

The disease this month also sickened more than 100 and killed 12 people.

“Unfortunately, the reach of this potentially fatal disease is widespread,” said Abinanti in a statement. “We need a comprehensive, coordinated approach to prevent further outbreaks throughout the state.” More >

Mayoral Control Push Continues In Buffalo

From the Morning Memo:

Despite the fact that the troubled Buffalo school district finally has a new superintendent, Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes said she will continue to push her bill in the 2016 legislative session that would establish mayoral control in the Queen City.

“I do plan on moving ahead,” the Democratic assemblywoman said during a brief phone interview yesterday. “I don’t think the superintendent is the issue, I think the board is the issue.”

Peoples-Stokes said she has yet to meet the new superintendent, Kriner Cash, and is scheduled to do so sometime next week. She also said that while she believes Cash’s “skill set is what’s needed” to reform the district, “at the end of the day, his bosses are still the current board members.”

“I have no confidence in their ability to manage the district, and the community has no way to hold them accountable,” the assemblywoman said of the board members. More >

Empire State Pride Agenda Endorses In AD-128

espaThe Empire State Pride Agenda on Tuesday announced it had endorsed Syracuse Common Councilor Jean Kessner, a Democrat vying to replace Sam Roberts in the Syracuse-area 128th Assembly district.

“Working at HRC Health, formerly AIDS Community Resources, for 10 years I have witnessed firsthand the struggles and hard fought successes of the Empire State Pride Agenda,” Kessner said in a statement. “In my role as the Public Relations Director for ACR Health and the Q Center for LGBTQ youth, I have had the privilege of educating the wider community about LGBT advances for greater acceptance in daily life and within our health services networks. There is much work left to do before full equality is reached.”

The Kessner endorsement was among a slew of nods the LGBT rights organization announced in a news release for largely local or county-wide municipal elections. More >

Heastie Differs With Cuomo On Indian Point

HeastieschenectadyFrom the Morning Memo:

While Gov. Andrew Cuomo has supported closing the Indian Point nuclear power plant for years, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on Wednesday said he had an opposite view.

“I’m never really been one to have issue with nuclear plants,” Heastie said during a visit to Schenectady. “But the discussion really is to make sure — particularly because Indian Point does supply a lot of energy to New York City — we have to make sure all the lights come on in the city.”

Cuomo’s criticism of the plant, which generates about 2,000 megawatts of power for the New York City area, intensified in May after a transformer caught fire at the facility. More >

Heastie: Test Scores Show ‘We Still Have Work To Do’

HeastieschenectadyAssembly Speaker Carl Heastie on Wednesday didn’t close the door to yet another revision of the state’s teacher evaluation law, though nothing is in the works to do so at this point.

“In the last few years, we’ve always made adjustments to education policy,” he said. “We’re not looking at anything I’d say right now, but that opportunity is always there. If something arises, I think we would do that.”

Heastie was in Schenectady earlier today to tour General Electric Co., Proctors and the site of the proposed Rivers Resort and Casino as part of a broader upstate tour with members of his Democratic conference.

State lawmakers earlier this year agreed to a package of education policy changes that linked test scores to evaluations as well as in-classroom observation and made it more difficult for teachers to obtain tenure. More >

Heastie: Reform Takes Time

carlheastieFrom the Morning Memo:

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie rose to power earlier this year, in part by promising he would change the secretive top-down practices of his predecessor, former Speaker Sheldon Silver, providing more involvement to rank-and-file members and overhauling the way the chamber does business.

Members seem pleased this far with Heastie’s approach, saying he went out of his way to listen to their concerns and communicate them to the governor and the Senate during the budget and end-of-session negotiations.

Heastie also signed off on reforms to the notoriously loophole-ridden per diem system, which had been criminally abused by several now-former lawmakers. Receipts and proof of travel to Albany are now required in order for lawmakers to be reimbursed for their expenses. More >

Assembly Dem Conference Grows By 1

Assemblyman John Ceretto is a Democrat — again.

The western New York lawmaker is bolting from the Assembly Republican conference and joining the large Democratic majority, Speaker Carl Heastie on Tuesday announced.

“Like the members of our conference, John is committed to working families and helping people climb the ladder of economic opportunity,” Heastie said in a statement. I have spent the summer traveling throughout upstate New York and learning about the needs of the communities I have visited, and I am excited that Assemblyman Ceretto will be bringing his views and experiences as a lifelong resident of Western New York to the Majority Conference.”

With Ceretto’s defection, the Democratic majority is growing its already large advantage in the chamber to 105 members. More >