Heastie Says Procurement Bill Will Be Aired In Conference

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie called the effort to strengthen oversight of economic development programs “an admirable goal” but said a measure aimed at expanding the authority of Comptroller Tom DiNapoli will first be aired with his Democratic conference members.

“It’s something that I think we’ll have to talk about in conference,” Heastie told reporters on Tuesday in Albany. “You know me, I like to bring these things to the conference and see what they say. I guess in this day and age making sure that tax dollars are protected and spent correctly is an admirable goal.”

The Senate Finance Committee earlier in the day advanced a bill that would restore oversight powers over procurement and contracting to DiNapoli, a bill that comes after a bid rigging case ensnared top developers and a former close aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Deputy Senate Majority Leader John DeFrancisco, who backs the bill in his chamber, called the bill a needed reform to expand DiNapoli’s oversight powers following the arrests.

Heastie Opposes Charter School-Mayoral Control Link

As Senate Republicans signal they will link expanding the number of charter schools in New York to an extension of mayoral control of schools in New York City, Speaker Carl Heastie on Monday said in an interview he was opposed to the idea.

“I think mayoral control should be extended on its own merits,” Heastie said. “We’re not interested in adding any other criteria to extend the governance of schools.”

Mayoral control of New York City schools is due to expire in June after Mayor Bill de Blasio was granted a 12-month extension of the policy.

Republicans and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have been generally supportive of charter schools and have had a tense relationship with the liberal mayor.

Assembly Democrats, meanwhile, have sought more than a year’s extension of the program.

As for the remainder of the session, Heastie said he plans to focus on what his conference members want done. Cuomo this month said he got most of what he wanted in the budget, indicating it will be up to the Legislature to shape the remainder of the session.

“It will just be going through the members priorities,” Heastie said. “If we’re going to have a two-way discussion and if the governor says he’s going to be led by what the Legislature, we’ll see if we can move them on some of priorities. We’ll see what we can do.”

Stirpe Recovering From Surgery

Democratic Assemblyman Al Stirpe in a statement on Thursday said he may be taking a break from the legislative session as he recovers from a minor surgery needed to alleviate a hematoma.

In his statement, Stirpe said the subdural hematoma was brought on by a “bump to the head” that led to a persistent headache.

“My doctors have advised me to rest up for a bit, which really isn’t something I often do, but I’m taking advantage of the break in the Assembly session to follow doctor’s orders and should be back to full speed very soon,” Stirpe said.

“I may miss a few days in Albany when session starts back up, but I’ll be working the phones from here in Syracuse. There’s a lot of work left to be done in the final months of session, and I’m hopeful we can get traction on important issues like my bill to create a statewide paint stewardship program and ethics reform. And, of course, my office will remain fully open so that my staff and I can continue to address the needs of constituents in the district.”

Stirpe, a Syracuse-area lawamaker, has been in the Assembly since 2013.

Not All Water Issues Addressed In Budget Deal

From the Morning Memo:

Amid ongoing concerns over water quality and water infrastructure, state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo agreed to spend $2.5 billion aimed at improving drinking water needs in New York.

“It gets back to the basics, which is fix our pipes,” said Assemblyman John McDonald, a Democrat from the Albany area. “We don’t need to drive down any street during the springtime or the winter to see water mains are bursting all over the place.”

But the spending for some is also being seen as a downpayment — fixing a fraction of what is needed to upgrade the state’s water quality.

“It’s much more comprehensive,” McDonald said. “But, admittedly, it’s a $2.5 billion investment on what’s a $80 billion demand.”

The spending approved in the budget will go toward cesspool and septic replacement, controlling of non-source point pollution for things like road salt, and hundreds of millions of dollars for intermunicipal projects. But it may not be enough.

“It’s impractical to think that this money is going to be used to replace all the underground infrastructure because, honestly, not all of it needs to be addressed. But it is seed money,” McDonald said.

For environmental groups who are cheering the focus on water quality, the concern is what the spending doesn’t include: Testing for contamination in private wells.

“Private wells are a huge regulatory hole,” said Liz Moran, the water and resource associate at Environmental Advocates of New York. “There are hundreds, thousands of people, in the state that have private wells and for all they know they could have emerging contaminants in their water.”

Testing of wells could have helped residents in Hoosick Falls, where a PFOA contamination seeped into the municipal water supply and into some residential well water.

“In Hoosick Falls it wasn’t just the village supply of the water that was contaminated,” Moran said. “It was numerous private wells in the community. This was an area the governor promised at the water quality hearings he would get at.”

Next up, environmental groups will be watching for who is appointed to a council charged with improving water quality in New York.

Heastie’s California Swing

heastiejerrybrownAssembly Speaker Carl Heastie was in California for a fundraising trip benefiting both the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee and his own Friends of Carl E. Heastie campaign fund, said Heastie spokesman Mike Whyland.

Heastie’s Twitter feed on Monday stirred with photos of him in California — on the floor of the Golden State’s Assembly chamber and meeting with the state’s Democratic governor, Jerry Brown (as well as Brown’s Corgi).

“I was honored to be recognized this afternoon on the floor of the California Assembly by Speaker @Rendon63rd,” he posted on Twitter.

The fundraiser was hosted by Willie Brown, the former mayor of San Francisco and a longtime Democratic Party power broker.

“Willie Brown, who is the former California Assembly Speaker and Mayor of San Francisco, has long expressed a desire to help further the progressive values Speaker Heastie has championed and is sponsoring the event,” Whyland said, adding no taxpayer funds were used for the trip. The trip was paid for by Heastie’s campaign.

Skoufis Wants To Repeal Work Requirement In Tuition Plan

While Gov. Andrew Cuomo was taking a victory lap on Wednesday for the passage of his free tuition plan for public colleges in New York, Assemblyman James Skoufis has introduced a bill that would repeal a post-graduate in-state work requirement.

The provision requires those whose tuition is fully subsidized by the state for SUNY or CUNY degrees live and work in New York for up to four years. Exceptions are made for post-graduate education and hardship, while other programs that provide tuition or loan assistance also have in-state requirements.

Those who leave the state to work would have their grant converted into a loan.

“Let’s face it: there are many shortcomings and missed opportunities with the Excelsior Scholarship,” said Skoufis. “The in-state work requirement, however, is among the most egregious and punitive. We border five other states, for crying out loud, with countless taxpaying New Yorkers working in places like Northern New Jersey and Connecticut. This destructive provision needs to be quickly repealed.”

Skoufis was an initial sponsor of a free tuition program for SUNY schools.

The requirement was added in by Senate Republicans over concerns that young people are leaving the state.

Cuomo on Tuesday in Rochester defended the provision.

“We’re investing in students who are in New York and we’ll pay for your college education, but we want that asset to stay in New York,” Cuomo said. “We want that student to stay in New York and that’s why we’re educating that student.”

Charter School Issue Yet To Be Locked Down

The Democratic-led Assembly on Friday is wrapping up votes on printed budget bills, but still lack an agreement on charter school funding, Majority Leader Joe Morelle said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has proposed linking aid for traditional public schools to charter school money in order to solve a debate over the end of a “freeze” on tuition aid that would send per pupil costs skyrocketing to $1,500.

“The big issue is we continue to urge as much funding for traditional public schools and the Senate and governor is really anxious to address concerns with charter schools,” Morelle said. “We’re trying to balance that and that’s what it comes down to.”

Lawmakers increasingly appear run down in the Assembly, skipping morning gym routines, washing clothes at colleagues’ apartments and fighting colds with tea and cough drops.

“A lot of colleagues have been very kind, dropping cough drops off at my desk,” Morelle said.

“It’s natural some people planned timed with their families during the short break that we get,” he added. “But they know this is one of the most important things that we do, so while they may be personally some discomfort. Honestly, they’ve been troopers.”

The Republican conference in the Senate, meanwhile, discussed their next steps in a conference after the latest proposal was presented by Cuomo on Thursday for charter schools and raising the age of criminal responsibility in New York.

Republicans have left town for now, but Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said he would call members back if a deal was in hand.

Still In Search Of A Revenue Bill

State lawmakers on Wednesday are digging in for another long night as a remaining budget bill is elusive so far.

This revenue bill, being dubbed the budget’s “big ugly” for this year, is expected to include nearly every controversial issue in the budget, including a millionaires tax extension, ride hailing for upstate, the 421a real-estate abatement and raising the age of criminal responsibility.

“We’re working on it,” said Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle. “Obviously revenue is a significant bill. We continue to work on that. We continue to work on other appropriation bills and our charge is to do what we can do, let’s do what’s in front of us.”

Assembly Democrats exited a brief closed-door conference this morning not ruling out staying here until Friday.

Morelle said the Legislature remains in town to get the budget completed.

“I tell members they should plan on being here until we’re done, so whatever that takes they should plan on being here to continue to work,” he said.

The Assembly will be taking up the budget bills already approved by the Senate late last night; the Senate is in a holding pattern awaiting that final piece of legislation.

Lawmakers Question 8-Week Deadline

State lawmakers on Tuesday questioned the eight-week deadline until the state runs out of money again, saying it leaves too much uncertainty for school districts and local governments in need of state aid.

“It’s a major problem,” said Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi of Utica. “You have schools that have to adopt their budgets at the end of April.”

He pointed to the troubles of the Utica school district, which is awaiting a boost in state aid for the budget.

“That means a $1.5 million deficit,” he said. “That means layoffs, that means cuts in programming. We had hoped we were going to get that number above the governor’s number.”

For Assemblywoman Pat Fahy, an Albany Democrat, the concern is the city’s $12.5 million funding need, which was not included in the legislation approved on Monday.

“My message to members is let’s lock these doors, let’s get a budget done, let’s get a budget this week, let’s not leave town,” she said. “Because if we go home, we are home for a couple of weeks, that delays everything with Albany, and it puts a lot of things at risk.”

Lawmakers — and the legislative leadership — have said they aren’t motivated by the measure withholding their pay until a broader agreement on the budget is in place. Their concern, they say, is getting the state government a budget to keep everything functioning.

“I don’t think we should be leaving town until the budget is passed,” Fahy said.

Heastie Calls On Cuomo To Introduce Raise The Age, 421a Bill

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo in private and later in public to introduce legislation that would raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York to 18 and a measure that would restore the 421a real-estate tax abatement.

Heastie had made the request to Cuomo during a leaders meeting with the governor, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein.

“We may not have a total agreement on everything that everyone wants,” Heastie told reporters. “But send up the bills. The Assembly stands ready to pass them with a message.”

Heastie insisted, however, there was “substantial agreement” on the key piece of juvenile justice reform and 421a.

Heastie said the Assembly was prepared to stay until Friday to pass the legislation.

A spokesman for the Senate Republican conference said there is a “conceptual agreement” on the issue, but language would need to be reviewed.

However, an Assembly source also said Cuomo has been seeking a way to have New York City pick up the costs associated with raise age for the counties.

The latest developments come as Deputy Senate Majority Leader John DeFrancisco only moments before Heastie spoke suggested lawmakers remained apart on the raise the age issue.

DeFrancisco suggested there should be a public airing of differences on the issue.

“Why don’t we get a group of senators and members of the Assembly and explain in public why don’t we agree with this report, what do you believe should be included,” DeFrancisco said. “So there isn’t any concern they aren’t being truthful.”

Heastie dismissed this call, saying, “There are no differences.”