Biz Council Sees Gains In Past Session

The state Business Council on Monday presented a rosy picture of the 2013-14 legislative session, praising the Senate and Assembly for approving “pro-growth” measures ranging from tax reform to controlling state spending.

While the lobby group acknowledges more is to be done on energy and health care issues, the Business Council presented positive scores for not just the state Senate (under a coalition of Republicans and independent Democrats) but also Democrats in the Assembly, a conference not necessarily known for endearing itself to the business community.

“As in past years, the strongest support for our issues comes from the Senate and Assembly Republican conferences, with a high number of both scoring 80 percent or more, while members of the Independent Democratic Conference also achieved positive scores,” said Ken Pokalsky, vice president of government affairs for The Business Council. “With two-house passage of a number of Business Council priority bills, we also saw a sharp improvement in scores in the Assembly Democratic conference. Where just 25 Assembly Democrats topped 50 percent pro-business in 2012, in this two-year cycle, all but 14 members scored 50 percent or higher.”

Pokalsky is a guest on Capital Tonight this evening.

The scores for the Senate and Assembly can be found here.

The positive reaction comes as the Business Council is mulling whether to endorse Gov. Andrew Cuomo for a second term.

The group backed Cuomo’s election in 2010 over Republican businessman Carl Paladino (who notoriously got into a shouting match with The New York Post’s Fred Dicker at the group’s annual meeting in Bolton Landing).

Cuomo’s first term has been marked with holding spending increases at under 2 percent year over year, a cap on property tax increases and a general push toward making the state more business friendly.

But business groups gave pause in May when Cuomo was endorsed by the labor-backed Working Families Party, pledging to support a faster increase in the state’s minimum wage, local control for a minimum wage increase as well as a full takeover of the Senate by the Democratic conference.

Primary Day Primer

What was supposed to be a rather sleepy election year, with the exception of a few contested legislative races here and there, has turned into something worth watching, thanks to Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu.

When the duo of liberal law school professors launched their long shot challenge to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his running mate, ex-Rep. Kathy Hochul, they breathed some life into an otherwise ho-hum primary season, and also exposed the weakness on Cuomo’s left flank.

Just how significant that weakness is will be determined in part by the percentage of the vote Teachout manages to garner today.

The benchmark for a protest candidate that most people have been using is the 17 percent labor activist Jonathan Tasini received in his primary challenge to Hillary Clinton in 2006. I’ve heard predictions that Teachout receives as much as 40 percent of the vote today – though that seems incredibly high.

Much depends on the turnout – specifically where the bulk of voters show up at the polls. Generally speaking, anything under 20 percent of the vote will be considered under performing for Teachout, while closer to 30 – or higher – will be a significant blow to the governor.

But the mere fact that Cuomo is facing a challenge at all has been interpreted as a weakness by the national media, especially when it comes to 1) his usefulness to potential 2016 presidential contender Hillary Clinton in the brave new world of progressive-dominated Democratic politics, (NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is poised to rise even higher there), and 2) his own White House aspirations.

Tasini’s 17 percent was largely an anti-war vote. What’s going on with Cuomo is more complicated.

There are numerous groups upset with Cuomo and his fiscally conservative/socially liberal approach to governing the state: Public school teachers, unionized state workers, anti-fracking activists, good government advocates.

And then there are the self-described “progressives” who say Cuomo is to blame for the IDC-GOP power-sharing deal that kept the Democrats from assuming their rightful place in the Senate majority and prevented the passage of all manner of legislation – from the Women’s Equality Act to the DREAM Act to a public campaign finance system.

Teachout, who has received a handful of endorsements – including from PEF and NOW-NYS – is banking on these the upset of these disaffected Democrats and the power of the grassroots/social media to turn people out today.

Cuomo is going the more traditional route, relying on the well-oiled GOTV machines of unions like SEIU 1199 and HTC and the traditional Democratic Party apparatus to push him and Hochul over the finish line to victory.

The Hochul-Wu battle is a wild card, since both candidates are relative unknowns, though Hochul has a leg up on her opponent in WNY after serving as Erie County clerk and (albeit briefly) a congresswoman.

Hochul’s conservative views and votes – necessary for someone representing a GOP-dominated district – have become fodder for Wu, who has accused her of being too far to the right to lead a blue state like New York.

Wu has been endorsed by the New York Times, but, as CapTon Insider and election-data-crunching-guru Bruce Gyory notes, former NYC Council Speaker Chris Quinn got the Gray Lady’s nod in the 2013 mayor’s race (along with endorsements from the NY Daily News AND the Post), and she finished a weak third in the Democratic primary.

A win by Wu would stick Cuomo with a running mate he doesn’t want or like – a conundrum that occurred to his father and Al Del Bello back in 1982 – and also leave him unable to combine votes in the general election from the WFP and Independence Party lines (unless he can get Hochul off them and Wu on).

Unwilling to follow in his father’s footsteps on this one, Cuomo has been pulling out all the stops on Hochul’s behalf, urging voters to pick her based on her “experience” as an elected official, which he insists is necessary to serve as LG.

Other races we’re watching today:

- The IDCers. Bronx Sen. Jeff Klein vs. former NYC Councilman Oliver Koppell. This primary was supposed to melt away after Klein, as head of the IDC, agreed to a deal to make a deal to abandon his GOP allies and instead share power with his Democratic colleagues next year.

That agreement grew out of the WFP endorsement deal for Cuomo that was brokered by de Blasio – a point the Senate GOP is now using as a campaign platform.

Koppell refused to drop his challenge to Klein, however. He’s no longer supported by the WFP or any major labor unions and has trailed Klein in fundraising, but he has the backing of DailyKos and other liberal netroots types, along with the NYT endorsement.

Queens Sen. Tony Avella vs. former NYC Comptroller John Liu. This fight also survived the IDC deal, even though Avella is a member (the newest member) of the breakaway Democratic conference. Liu is trying to make a comeback after losing the NYC mayor’s race last year. He’s a prodigious fundraiser, which got people affiliated with him into some hot water with the feds.

This race has split labor and Democratic leaders, with some remaining loyal to Liu – including the Queens party organization. But the district is only 25 percent Asian, and Avella has a strong base of support, which means Liu has his work cut out for him. This could be a very tight contest that goes into overtime and comes down to paper ballots.

More >

Assembly Spends More On Outside Attorneys

Add another $58,000 to the Legislature’s legal costs.

The state Assembly was approved for a contract amendment with Whiteman Osterman and Hanna LLP for outside legal aid, according to the state comptroller’s office.

Meanwhile, the comptroller’s office approved $50,000 in payments to Rossein Associates for outside counsel relating to the Assembly’s sexual harassment investigations.

An additional $10,000 to Roemer Wallens Gold & Mineaux LLP was also approved in order to pay for outside investigations as part of the Assembly’s sexual harassment policy.

Both the Senate and Assembly have increasingly relied on the use of outside legal firms and counsel to handle either sexual harassment investigations, lawsuits and the probe from the Moreland Commission To Investigate Public Corruption as lawmakers sought to quash subpoenas from the anti-corruption panel.

In non-legal related spending, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office has also approved a $894,000 revenue contract with Swank Motions Pictures, Inc. in order to gain public performance licneses in order to show movies at the state’s correctional facilities.

The state also approved a $5.2 million payment for capital upgrades at Ralph Wilson Stadium, the home of the Buffalo Bills.

Rosa Resigns, Officially

Assemblywoman Gabriella Rosa formally resigned in a letter to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver dated June 30.

The letter, released Wednesday, comes after the Manhattan Democrat admitted to a “green card” marriage as well as making false statements during bankruptcy proceedings.

“Please know that I am very proud of the work we did together in the Assembly to make our state a more just place to live, work and do business,” Rosa wrote in the letter to Silver. “None of this could not be accomplished without your wise leadership. I thank you for your guidance and support.”

Rosa by Nick Reisman

Silver’s Outside Income Grows

Financial disclosure forms released on Wednesday show Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver reported earning between $650,000 and $750,000 in his role as “of counsel” at the Manhattan personal injury law firm Weitz & Luxenberg.

The pay is a jump from last year’s disclosure, which documented he earned between $350,000 and $450,000 in 2012 at the firm.

Silver earns $120,000 as speaker of the state Assembly, which includes $79,500 in base pay and $41,500 as a stipend for his job as speaker.

Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos, meanwhile, reported earning between $150,000 and $250,000 in 2013 at his law firm in Nassau County, where he is “of counsel” at Ruskin Moscou Faltischek.

The co-leader of the Senate, Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein, meanwhile, reported a relatively modest income at his Bronx law firm.

The filing shows Klein earned $75,000 to $100,000 in guaranteed pay and under $1,000 in interest. He also reported earning under $1,000 teaching at Mercy College. Legal work for catering companies earning him pay of between $5,000 and $20,000.

The 2011 ethics overhaul law required lawmakers to provide more specific brackets of their outside income.

Update: You can read the disclosures of state lawmakers here.

Assemblymember-silver s 2013 by Nick Reisman

Green Grades

From today’s Morning Memo:

The New York League of Conservation Voters will announce today that the state Legislature earned an overall grade of “B-” for its progress on sustainability issues for the 2014 session, which ended last month.

The NYLCV counts passage of the Community Risk and Resiliency Act as a major success this year, but is disappointed that lawmakers failed to act on the Child Safe Products Act, which would have regulated and phased out toxic chemicals in children’s products.

“The Assembly and Senate deserve credit for their work on the critical issue of climate change and adaptation,” said NYLCV President Marcia Bystryn.

“But it is truly disappointing that the Legislature could not reach consensus on efforts to get toxic chemicals out of children’s toys and products.”

“It is hard to imagine a more fundamental responsibility for our elected officials than protecting children’s health, and Albany’s inaction means our kids are still at risk.”

The Legislature didn’t fare quite so well when it came to the issue of public health, according to the NYLCV, which gave lawmakers an overall grade of “C+” in that particular sub-category.

It earned a “B” on sustainable economic development; “B” on climate change and resiliency and “B” on natural resource protection.

These grades, which are based on votes taken (or not) on bills identified as top priority by the organization at the beginning of the session, will be factored into the NYLCV’s upcoming endorsement and PAC funding decisions as the campaign season heats up.

Manhattan Assemblywoman to Resign after Pleading Guilty to Fraud

Manhattan Assemblywoman Gabriella Rosa pleaded guilty today in federal court to two counts of fraud. Rosa represents neighborhoods in the northern tip of Manhattan, though she will resign her seat as a result of these charges.

The charges include one count of lying to immigraton authorities about her marital relationship back in 2005. The 47 year-old lawmaker also pleaded guilty to making false statements to a federal bankruptcy court in 2009.

Rosa was a newcomer to the state Assembly, elected to her seat in 2012. Before that, she served as a staffer in both the Assembly and the New York City Council

Rosa faces 10 years in prison and sentencing has been scheduled for October 3.

1st Tier 6 Rollback On Tap

Among a handful of so-called “pension sweeteners” passed in the final days of the 2014 session by both houses of the Legislature was a bill that would be the first rollback of Tier 6 – a pension reform championed and touted by the Cuomo administration.

In a CapTon interview that will air this evening at 8 p.m. and 11:30 p.m., the Empire Center’s EJ McMahon flagged the bill and sounded a note of caution for the governor.

According to McMahon, one of the key reforms of Tier 6 was to end early retirement for public employees, in which workers could retire as young as 55 after 30 years on the job and not see a reduction in their pensions.

But this bill, sponsored by Republican Sen. Marty Golden, of Brooklyn, would restore the 55/30 standard for all unionized members of the unified court system, and also reduce the retirement age from 63 to 62.

This was a favor for the state’s 4,000 unionized court officers, who argued that they need early retirement because their job is uniquely stressful.

“That’s something everyone in every occupation would claim on a bad day,” McMahon noted, adding that if the governor signs this bill into law, it will set a bad precedent and endanger the modest reforms represented by Tier 6.

“Here’s the pattern of undoing previous so-called pension reforms going back 30 years,” McMahon said.

“One union starts the landslide. They get it undone – like the loose thread on a sweater. And then everybody comes up and says, ‘Well, they got this, we should have it, too. If the governor signs this, the other pieces will fall off in due order.”

McMahon also noted with distaste that this bill passed – as these things tend to do – “like greased lightning” on the session’s final scheduled day (June 19th) with no debate whatsoever.

Assembly Approves Medical Marijuana By A Wide Margin

The Democratic-led Assembly approved the legalization of medical marijuana in the early hours of Friday morning by a wide margin, 117-13.

Several Republicans voted in favor of the measure introduced Thursday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, including Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb.

The Assembly last month passed a different version of the bill then known as the Compassionate Care Act, 93-36.

The bill is expected to be considered by the state Senate today.

230574446 Assembly Medical Marijuana Vote by Nick Reisman

Camara: Patent Office Made The Right Move In Rejecting ‘Redskins’ Trademark

The sponsor of a resolution in the state Assembly calling on the Washington Redskins football team to change its name is happy to see the U.S. Patent Office reject the trademarking of the team’s name.

“The message that the Federal Government is sending is clear,” said Brooklyn Democratic Assemblyman Karim Camara. “The term ‘redsk*n’ is a racially derogatory, offensive term and it has no place in today’s society. Since football is a sport that has deep roots in American culture, allowing this slur to be used as a mascot sends the wrong message about who we are as a country.”

State lawmakers introduced the resolution earlier in the year, comparing the effort to change the team’s name to the NBA’s ouster of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling following racially charged comments.

Earlier in the day, the Oneida Indian Nation also released a statement celebrating the move.

Indian tribes, especially the Oneidas, and other groups have been pushing the team to change its name.

“The U.S. Patent Office has now restated the obvious truth that Native Americans, civil rights leaders, athletes, religious groups, state legislative bodies, Members of Congress and the president have all echoed: taxpayer resources cannot be used to help private companies profit off the promotion of dictionary defined racial slurs,” said Oneida Indian Nation Representative Ray Halbritter and NCAI Executive Director Jackie Pata in a joint statement. “If the most basic sense of morality, decency and civility has not yet convinced the Washington team and the NFL to stop using this hateful slur, then hopefully today’s patent ruling will, if only because it imperils the ability of the team’s billionaire owner to keep profiting off the denigration and dehumanization of Native Americans.”