Jun 21st - 1:42 pm
A plurality of state lawmakers in the Democratic-led Assembly and Republican-controlled Senate have received “above average” distinctions from the gun control group, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence.
The group on Tuesday released its legislative score cards for the 213 members of the Legislature on Tuesday, using three measurements: Their vote on the 2013 SAFE Act, the unsuccessful effort in 2015 to repeal it in the Senate and whether the lawmaker is a sponsor of a safe-storage bill, known as Nicholas’s Law.
In the Assembly, 44 legislators were given “fail” grades; 20 given a news improvement and 78 were rated above average.
In the 63-member Senate, 23 lawmakers received a “fail” while nine were rated needs improvement. Two were rated average, while 27 were rated above average.
The full rankings can be found here.
“At the end of the 2016 legislative session and after last week’s massacre in Orlando, it is important that voters know where their legislators stand on gun safety. The 2013 SAFE Act strengthened New York’s gun laws by closing the private sale loophole and toughening the assault weapons ban. These are common sense laws that need to be passed by Congress if we are to begin to address our national epidemic of gun violence.”
The rankings come just over a week after a man who says he was inspired by the Islamic State shot 49 people to death at an Orlando night club.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has focused in recent months on pushing Congress to adopt tougher gun control laws, saying states with looser measures in place have resulted in illegal weapons coming into New York.
Jun 17th - 5:39 pm
A bill that limits the advertising of multi-family dwellings on Thursday was approved by both chambers of the state Legislature and will go to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk for his signature.
“Airbnb has flouted the laws that protect affordable housing and tenants with impunity for years,” said Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, the main sponsor of the bill in the Democratic-led Assembly.
“This bill, once it’s signed into law, will send a strong message that we prioritize hardworking New York families and affordable housing, and will give law enforcement the tools they need to crack down on illegal hotels that destabilize communities and deprive us of precious units of affordable housing. I commend my colleagues in both houses for voting against special interests and for hardworking New York families.”
The measure is aimed to curb what supporters contend are “illegal hotels” in New York City that are exploiting limited housing as well as the city’s booming real-estate market.
The bill is seen as a check on Airbnb, the popular person-to-person rental site.
The bill itself was backed by both the Real Estate Board of New York and the powerful Hotel Trades Council.
“Airbnb’s unchecked growth is depleting our affordable housing stock and driving up rent, while threatening good-paying middle class Union hotel jobs in New York City and around the country,” said HTC President Peter Ward. “This bill will go a long way toward better protecting tens of thousands of affordable housing units our members and their families rely on to remain in the neighborhoods they call home, and preserving the quality jobs and quality of life in our communities our members deserve.”
Jun 17th - 4:39 pm
A potential breakthrough has been reached on agreeing to an extension of mayoral control of New York City schools on Friday afternoon.
A source tells Zack Fink Mayor Bill de Blasio is not opposing a provision tucked into the one-year extension that would require new disclosure of school funding.
The mayor’s acceptance for the disclosure requirement is key, and potentially clears the way for broader agreements on other outstanding issues.
Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan as well as Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein earlier on Friday morning had indicated they were supportive of the disclosure requirement as part of the mayoral control agreement.
Lawmakers in the Assembly do not plan to return to Albany on Monday, they said after a closed-door conference, and plan to work through the evening.
Heastie has maintained he would not want to hold New York City schools to a different standard than other districts.
After leaving the closed-door conference, Heastie said he would be opposed to placing a “burden” on the district.
“As I’ve said before, I don’t want to do anything that’s going to put an onerous burden on the New York City school district,” he said. “That’s where were I am. We’re not going to do anything that makes New York City uncomfortable, something that’s an unfunded mandated.”
And as for returning on Monday?
“I don’t think we need to do that,” he said.
Jun 17th - 3:12 pm
The Democratic-led Assembly on Friday afternoon approved a bill that would allow daily fantasy sports betting in New York, but the fate of the measure in the GOP-controlled Senate is unclear.
The measure was approved in the Assembly after a brief debate, 91-22.
Fantasy sports operators in New York suspended operations after a legal battle with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was that initiated last year, who challenged the legality of the business on the grounds of the constitutional ban on gambling.
Lawmakers in recent days have agreed to provisions on regulating fantasy sports operations, approving revenue for education and requiring a fee for season-long fantasy sports.
But the bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate, where racino operators have been lobbying against the legislation. The state Conservative Party, a key supporter of Senate Republicans, has also opposed the bill.
“We are actually still discussing that in conference,” said Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan. “There’s a lot of moving parts. It’s the end of session, anything involving gaming seems to come up at the end.”
In the Assembly, one of the votes against the measure was Republican Assemblyman Andy Goodell, the cousin of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
The lawmaker acknowledged in his remarks he knows little about sports unlike his cousin, but remains uncomfortable with approving what he considered to be an expansion of gambling in the state.
The fantasy sports legislation is among a number of outstanding issues still facing lawmakers in Albany as the legislative session extends beyond the scheduled end date.
Jun 17th - 2:45 pm
Assemblyman David Buchwald has introduced another constitutional amendment aimed at stripping corrupt officials of their pensions as an impasse has once again set in over the proposal.
The latest iteration of the measure makes some tweaks to the initial Assembly proposal, which was approved by the chamber on Thursday night unanimously.
The measure makes clarifications when it comes to the connection of a felony and an individual’s public office, sets in place procedures that a judge must use in determining how much of a pension benefit an official can use and other provisions.
“It’s an attempt at reaching out to the Senate in the hopes they are as interested as we are to see a constitutional pension forfeiture amendment adopted before we leave,” Buchwald said in an interview.
Senate leadership of John Flanagan, the GOP majority leader, and IDC Leader Jeff Klein, said they continued to back the initial Senate measure that Assembly Democrats say is too broad and has been opposed by public employee labor unions.
Buchwald said the latest pension amendment resolution could be approved by his chamber as well.
“I do believe the state Assembly is prepared to move forward one way or the other,” he said.
Meanwhile, Buchwald said the ball, in essence, is in the Senate’s court after the first amendment was approved late last night.
“That resolution has gone over to their house,” he said. “That’s sitting on their table to take up if they so chose. That’s why we put this out so the public can take a look.”
Jun 17th - 10:02 am
Democratic Assemblyman Kevin Cahill on Thursday night released a lengthy statement on the state of his bill to allow ride-hailing apps to operate in upstate New York, accusing both Uber and Lyft of “posturing” when it comes to insurance details.
The bill’s demise is all-but-certain as lawmakers could not come to the terms of an agreement on ride-hailing and insurance for the businesses to operate north of New York City.
In his statement, Cahill takes particular umbrage at any inference groups representing trial lawyers sought had an impact in suffocating the bill.
“Instead, companies like Uber are used to bullying their way around state legislatures across the country, insisting on dangerously low insurance, limited or no regulation and nonexistent protection for drivers injured on the job. It was that tactic that failed here in New York,” Cahill said.
Cahill added the state Trial Lawyers’ Association issued a bill memo in opposition after key changes were made.
“Arguments that “trial lawyers” unduly influenced the decision to raise limits not only distort the position they took, but also require the suspension of reality to be accepted,” he said.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on Thursday morning said the bill was basically on “life support” while Sen. Jim Seward, the GOP backer of the legislation, all but confirmed his chamber may simply approved a one-house measure.
Jun 17th - 7:15 am
From the Morning Memo:
It’s not quite a deal at the Capitol as state lawmakers continue to haggle over the details surrounding mayoral control of New York City schools.
A one-year extension has been agreed to for the program, but Assembly Democrats say Senate Republicans are seeking a number of “concessions” at the 11th hour.
“Obviously for me I wanted a better package,” said Assembly Education Committee Chairwoman Cathy Nolan, a Democrat from Queens.
“It does gall me a group of Long Island Republican senators can have so much to say about the school children of the city of New York. But we have to be realistic as well as idealistic. They’re insisting on a number of concessions in a short period of time.”
At issue, in part, is a push to have New York City release the funding formulas for all schools in the district.
Assembly Democrats, including Speaker Carl Heastie, had called for a “straight” extension of the program without the “bells and whistles” being sought by Senate Republicans.
At the same time, lawmakers in the Assembly are insisting on fairness: New York City shouldn’t be treated differently.
Nolan said the push to have the information released was superfluous, given the data already available.
“There are dozens and dozens of reports online,” she said. “I certainly hope everyone will be treated equally and fairly. If there’s additional hopes they want to make the city jump through they make everyone jump through those hoops. But I don’t think it’s necessary. There’s a lot of good information out there now if they take the time to look.”
Jun 16th - 1:01 pm
The legalization of fantasy sports in New York remains the focus of some intense last-minute lobbying in both chambers of the state Legislature.
Racino operators have been pushing back against the bill, which was altered over night to include changes such as taxing season-long fantasy sports as well as sending revenue to education.
In the Democratic-led Assembly, Speaker Carl Heastie said the measure is being weighed from within the conference.
“We’re still polling to see if there’s enough votes on daily fantasy sports, so I’m not sure where that is,” he said. “If the votes are there, then we’ll do it.”
By all accounts, votes are still be counted in the Senate, where supporters of allowing fantasy sports to be regulated may have to rely on Democratic votes in the chamber to see the bill pass.
Fantasy sports has been sidelined after Attorney General Eric Schneiderman challenged the legality of operators FanDuel and DraftKings, arguing their business was a gambling-based model, which is outlawed by the state’s Constitution.
Lawmakers are wrapping up a range of issues on Thursday, the final scheduled day of the legislative session.
One measure unlikely to be accomplished is the legalization of ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft north of New York City. Heastie declared the bill all but dead.
“It’s on life support, doesn’t look to good,” he said.
Most of the policy facing lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo is wrapped up in a broader debate over extending mayoral control of New York City schools. The issue as of Thursday afternoon remains undecided.
“There’s discussions around mayoral control part of an overall conversation so we’ll see what happens,” Heastie said.
Jun 16th - 12:44 pm
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie insisted on Thursday his chamber will take up a constitutional amendment that would require public officials convicted of corruption to lose their pension benefits.
“Not can it,” Heastie said when asked if the chamber can back the measure. “It will. Pension forfeiture will be resolved.”
And if that wasn’t clear enough, he later added: “I clearly said we are not going to leave the session without pension forfeiture being resolved.”
The Assembly last year approved a different version of the pension forfeiture amendment after the Republican-led Senate backed an agreed-to version of the measure.
Ultimately the Democratic-controlled Assembly backed a more narrowly defined measure.
Heastie on Thursday indicated the concerns raised by the Assembly over the Senate-approved measure had been reconciled.
“We tried to let the world know there are problems with the Senate version,” he said.
One Assembly-backed amendment for pension forfeiture would require judicial discretion when hardship is pleaded in some corruption cases.
“The statute has due process written into it, but it’s not a constitutional due process,” Heastie said.
Today is the final day of the legislative session in Albany, and state lawmakers in both chambers have been under pressure to pass some version of ethics or anti-corruption reform measures in the wake of corruption scandals that have engulfed both chambers.
With the forfeiture amendment set to be considered, other reform proposals, such as preventing unlimited donations through limited liability companies, remain up in the air.
The speaker pointed to the Senate GOP’s opposition over closing the LLC loophole.
“We favor wholeheartedly closing the LLC loophole, but it’s a challenge on the other side,” Heastie said.
Jun 16th - 6:45 am
From the Morning Memo:
It’s the final scheduled day of the legislative session in Albany, and state lawmakers (as well as their staffs) have a very long day ahead of them.
Key issues remain unresolved, while agreed-to bills have aged and need to be voted on today.
Here are five things to watch for today:
1. What shape will mayoral control take?
It’s choose your own adventure time for mayoral control of New York City schools. Realistically, the program is almost certain to be re-approved before both chambers leave for the rest of the year. And the current options include a one-year straight extension, a three-year deadline without the “bells and whistles” of other proposals such as the education tax credit, and a the three-year straight extension as favored by Assembly Democrats and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Albany is waiting to see who blinks first on the issue. Senate Republicans have two bills for extending mayoral control — a 12-month extension, plus oversight from the governor’s office and a three-year measure that includes a range of education issues deemed non-starters from Democratic lawmakers.
Senate Republicans could very well try to jam the Assembly and pass both of their mayoral control bills and leave, forcing the other chamber to pick one.
Observers expect mayoral control debate goes right to midnight, with a message of necessity from Cuomo and a quick approval in the early hours of Friday morning.
2. What happens to pension forfeiture?
Do lawmakers have a deal on a constitutional amendment for pension forfeiture, or don’t they? What is considered low-hanging fruit by good-government advocates remains a heavy lift for the Legislature.
A meeting with the legislative leaders on Wednesday afternoon concluded with Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and Senate IDC Leader Jeff Klein hopeful the Assembly would pass a version similar to the Senate’s amendment that has languished over concerns the language was too broadly written. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie did not comment to reporters, exiting the meeting to say only there was no news.
Public-sector labor unions quickly went to work expressing anger over the potential agreement for the pension amendment on Wednesday evening.
Still, as one lawmaker pointed out, the unions could always have lobbied the Senate to back the more narrowly written Assembly version of the amendment.
Marginal lawmakers running tough re-election races this fall, however, are eager to see something, anything done on ethics and anti-corruption reform in Albany after the parade of high-profile arrests and convictions at the Capitol.
3. What gets linked?
Well, everything and nothing are linked on Planet Albany until it is all wrapped under one package.
There was some talk in the Assembly on Wednesday night the pension forfeiture amendment would be linked to a more Democratic-pleasing mayoral control measure. Not everyone was happy with that trade. Assembly Democrats haven’t been crazy, historically, about mayoral control, which began under Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
But as one lawmaker put it, there shouldn’t be linkage on an issue like ethics. “That’s what’s getting people in trouble here in the first place,” the lawmaker said.
4. Bet on fantasy sports?
It’s a game of skill to figure out where this one lands as an army of lobbyists from racinos (opposed) and retired quarterbacks (support) have been deployed to the Capitol to lobby on the issue of legalizing daily fantasy sports.
Lawmakers appeared edging toward a deal on Wednesday, with Senate Racing and Wagering Committee Chairman John Bonacic insisting there was a three-way deal after the Legislature accepted “technical” amendments recommended by the governor’s office for the bill, including applying a fee to year-round leagues.
One factor in the discussions has been concerns raised by labor unions, who fear the loss of jobs from casino-based businesses should fantasy sports be allowed.
5. Who can claim victories?
That’s always the trick in these days of the session and Cuomo has shown a willingness, if not a desire, to paint everyone as a winner. A budget that includes something for everyone. A post-budget session whose trade offs serve a variety of needs.
But with the issues so comparatively mundane (extending a program, the first passage of a constitutional amendment), lawmakers and Cuomo are in effect fighting over a shrinking pie.