Assembly DFS Bill Now In Committee

From the Morning Memo:

The Assembly’s proposal to regulate daily fantasy sports in New York would create a multi-tiered system for contests both big and small.

The bill, introduced Friday night, is expected to be considered as part of the Assembly Racing and Wagering Committee’s agenda this week, according to the panel’s chairman and sponsor, Democrat Gary Pretlow of Mount Vernon.

Lawmakers had vowed to consider legislation that would regulate fantasy sports betting in New York after a legal challenge last year was filed by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman against the major operators, alleging their business was essentially a game of chance outlawed by the state’s constitution.

In the end, fantasy sports companies agreed to suspend operations while state lawmakers weighed regulations for fantasy sports.

Lawmakers sought in part to introduce a bill that would prevent some players from taking advantage of the system through multiple accounts and address the traditional concerns over gambling.

“Bearing in mind that interactive fantasy sports contests of any variety have the potential to produce unfair advantages for certain players, target minors, and increase problem gambling, this bill seeks to regulate all forms of interactive fantasy sports – paid and free, and daily and season-long,” the bill’s memo states.

“This bill offers important consumer protections to ensure that all contests are safe and fair.”

The bill would provide for three-year licenses of daily fantasy sports companies based on revenue — a move designed to include smaller operators of daily fantasy sports betting, not just the large firms like DraftKings and FanDuel.

Initial registration fees would range from $25,000 to $100,000, with renewal fees as low as $5,000.

Those under 18 would be prohibited from playing daily fantasy sports. Similarly, fantasy betting could not take place for sporting events on the high school or collegiate level.

Players would be limited to one active account and they would be limited to the number of entries they can make per each contest.

For the moment, there does not appear to be a smae-as version of the bill, which is expected to be introduced by Sen. John Bonacic.

Assembly Approves Expanded Med Mar Legislation

The Democratic-led Assembly on Wednesday backed a pair of bills that would expand access under the state’s fledgling medical marijuana program.

For the sponsors, including Assembly Health Committee Chairman Richard Gottfried, the measures take the existing system and “bring the law closer to the original bill as passed by the Assembly and supported by patients and their doctors.”

One bill would allow nurse practitioners and physician assistants to certify patients in the medical marijuana program and prescribe drugs manufactured with cannabis.

“Patients in need should not be denied access to critical medication just because they are treated by a PA or NP,” Gottfriend said.

A second bill passed by the Assembly would create a public list of the 600 or so physicians who are registered to certify patients in the medical marijuana program. Lawmakers say medical marijuana-eligible patients have taken to cold calling doctors in the hopes of finding one who can prescribe the drug.

The medical marijuana program was created after the passage of a 2014 law that provides for a tightly regulated program and limits the number of patients eligible to those with terminal illnesses or severe cognitive issues. Lawmakers have in previously expansion efforts to sought to include more illnesses under the medical marijuana program.

Time Running Short For Any Ethics Deal

From the Morning Memo:

The clock on the legislative session is winding down, and yet there’s been little to no public progress made on ethics or campaign finance reform in Albany. Lawmakers say it’s getting late in the year to reach a deal.

“I would say right now my optimism is low because we’ve had the entire session here to do something specific,” said Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb.

Time is running short in Albany, with 9 legislative session days to go before lawmakers leave the Capitol for the rest of the year and focus, in most cases, on running for re-election.

But signs of any agreement on ethics reform, at least for now, appear elusive.

In the state Senate, lawmakers are at odds over proposals to ban unlimited donations from limited liability companies. A bill that would have done so was bottled up in a committee earlier in May.

“I never say never, otherwise why would I get up in the morning and come back here so, there’s always room for hope and a chance,” said state Sen. Liz Krueger, a Democrat from Manhattan. “I’ve continuously said all year why are we wasting the crisis of corruption? Why aren’t we fixing ourselves?”

In the Assembly, meanwhile, a constitutional amendment to strip corrupt officials of their pensions was approved last year, but that version differs from what was passed by the Senate. Lawmakers there are growing frustrated the amendment will ever pass.

“There’s several version of pension forfeiture bills out there,” said Assemblyman Dan Stec, a Republican from Queensbury. “I’m at the point now where any of them is better than doing none of them. It may be one that is yet to be even drafted.”

For his part, Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans a roll out of ethics reform bills over the next several days. He released eight different versions of a bill to close the LLC loophole on Tuesday.

“We’ll talk about income limits. We’ll talk independence,” Cuomo said. “Then we’ll talk about term limits, but we have a full agenda.”

Assembly Seeks New Oversight For Buffalo Billion Spending

The Assembly Democratic conference was able to gain new oversight requirements for spending under the Buffalo Billion economic development project.

Some of the new requirements were spelled out by the Democratic conference’s proxy at the Public Authorities Control Board meeting on Wednesday afternoon following the approval of $485.5 million in spending for a key project in the program, which is under federal investigation.

That oversight includes a review by a third party, said to be Bart Schwartz, the independent investigator hired by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.

A proxy for the Assembly Democratic representative on the board, Fiscal Studies Deputy Director Ashley Ryle, laid out the conference’s concerns with the spending:

“We are being called upon to authorize a substantial sum for a project that has generated a great deal of public interest, and its success is integral to providing economic opportunity in Western New York, and the state as a whole,” she said, according to prepared remarks.

“Therefore, as a condition to our approval, the Assembly requests that FSMC and/or the beneficiary company provide updates to the ESD Board on a monthly basis, regarding the overall progress being made on the project, and adherence to the terms and conditions that are stipulated in the funding overview. ESD shall monitor all approved and disapproved expenses. Extending this further, we request that PACB be updated monthly on similar terms, to ensure the public has faith in–and the appropriate level of information on–this critical project.”

The Assembly is seeking clarified meeting materials to more accurately reflect the agreement and limit the expenditure of public funding to the SolarCity project at RiverBend with not additional beneficiaries without PACB approval.

At the same time, the conference wants a clearer articulation for the consequences for failing to meet jobs and investment goals under the program.

Assembly Dem Women Take Over New York

… At least in their rebuttal video for last night’s LCA Show.

Here it is, featuring upstate Democratic women in the Assembly (and Capital Tonight’s Liz Benjamin in a cameo):

PACB Spending Likely To Be Approved

From the Morning Memo:

With more than $485 million in spending for a key economic development project on the line in western New York, the Public Authorities Control Board is likely to approve today the funding, despite concerns over investigations into the Buffalo Billion and SUNY Polytechnic.

Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb on Tuesday became the latest elected official to raise issues with the spending proposal, which was due to be voted on last week by the board, but the meeting was rescheduled to today after “scheduling” issues arose, according to the Division of Budget.

In letter to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, Kolb urged the board’s members — composed of the Assembly, Senate and budget office representatives — take their time and assess the status of the project.

“Before spending nearly half-a-billion dollars of the public’s money, legislators should be provided a comprehensive status report on the current progress, future expectations, and possible concerns relating to the project,” Kolb wrote in the letter.

“At the request of the Assembly, Empire State Development Corporation held an informational briefing on Monday. However, agency representatives could not answer several questions posed by staff, and the meeting ended abruptly with promises that follow-up information would be provided.”

The money is to be disbursed to an arm of SUNY Polytechnic, which is being investigated by the state attorney general’s office over bid rigging. The money itself is budgeted for the RiverBend site, home to the SolarCity project, a key component of the Buffalo Billion economic development program, which is being investigated by the U.S. attorney’s office.

Lawmakers in recent days have called the funding vital for the continuation of the project in western New York. Both legislative leaders on Tuesday indicated support for the spending.

“There’s a general belief that it’s a worthwhile project,” Heastie said. “There are a series of questions that we put forward and we’re just waiting to get those answers back and then I think everything will be fine.”

Senate Republicans, also, had requested more information and seemed to come away satisfied.

“It’s critical to economic development in the state of New York,” Flanagan said, “It’s critical to western New York.”

Nojay Facing GOP Primary

He was rated the most conservative member of the New York State Legislature by the State Conservative Party in a conservative Assembly district, but that ranking isn’t shielding Bill Nojay from a Republican Primary challenge.

Last week, Honeoye Falls Mayor Rick Milne announced he was seeking the 133rd Assembly seat through a social media post.

“It is my belief, that the residents of the 133rd Assembly District deserve representation that will actively serve all the communities within the district and strive to support all the communities in a positive way,” Milne wrote.

Milne was elected mayor in 2005 and noted he served as president of the New York State Conference of Mayors in 2015 in his announcement.

When reached by phone Tuesday night, Nojay touted his opposition to Governor Cuomo’s policies on gun control and the minimum wage, which earned him that conservative ranking.

“If he’s suggesting he’d vote differently then let’s talk about the issues,” Nojay said. “If he has a substantive problem with any vote I’ve taken I’d love to hear from him.”

This primary challenge came just days before the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported he had consulted on Lovely Warren’s Democratic primary challenge of Rochester Mayor Tom Richards in 2013, a report Nojay described as old news.

“It was not at all a secret.  It was widely known in political circles in Rochester,” he said.

Nojay said he voiced his support for Warren on his radio talk show because there was no Republican in the race for Rochester mayor.  Nojay explained a mutual friend then got him involved with Warren.

“In 2013 the choice was between an incumbent Mayor who had no vision for the city and a young vibrant candidate.  (Assemblyman) David Gantt asked me to help out and I did,” said Nojay.

Despite follow up reports on his ethics filings, Nojay insisted he had nothing to hide and chalked up the examination of three-year-old information to this upcoming election cycle.

The 133rd Assembly district includes Livingston, and parts of Steuben and Monroe counties.  Nojay has already received the endorsement of the Livingston and Steuben Republican Parties.

The Monroe County GOP will hold its nominating convention Wednesday night.


Legislative Leaders Indicate Support For PACB Spending

The top legislative leaders in the Democratic-led Assembly and GOP-controlled Senate on Tuesday indicated they support approving $485.5 million in spending for a subsidiary of the under-investigation SUNY Polytechnic, saying the money is vital for the continuation of the economic development program in western New York.

“There’s a general belief that it’s a worthwhile project,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said. “There are a series of questions that we put forward and we’re just waiting to get those answers back and then I think everything will be fine.”

Added Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan: “It’s critical to economic development in the state of New York, it’s critical to western New York.”

The vote for the Public Authorities Control Board is scheduled for Wednesday after it was delayed a week due to scheduling issues, according to the state Division of Budget.

The money is set to go toward an entity formed by SUNY Poly, which is being investigated for bid rigging by the state attorney general’s office. The money is part of a broader spending effort to the RiverBend project, the site of a SolarCity factory in western New York.

The project is a component of the Buffalo Billion program, an economic development effort that is being investigated by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office.

Both the Assembly and Senate have votes to approve the spending, as does the Division of Budget, which is part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration.

Still, lawmakers have questioned the spending, while Cuomo himself has said the funding is to be reviewed by the independent investigator his office hired, Bart Schwartz.

“There are a lot of vehicles for oversight which should take place,” Flanagan said. “But I don’t think that should be an excuse for not moving ahead and making sure we approve jobs for the economy.”

Heastie: Ride Share Bill Avoids NYC

A ride sharing measure under consideration by the Democratic-led Assembly would not cover New York City, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on Tuesday said in an interview.

Lawmakers in the Democratic conference discussed last night a draft of a proposal from Assembly Insurance Committee Chairman Kevin Cahill that would provide for an insurance structure for companies like Uber and Lyft to operate outside of New York City.

The bill would not cover ride sharing where it is currently allowed in New York City.

“This would really be dealing with insurance outside of the city of New York,” Heastie said.

As for ride sharing in New York City, Heastie indicated the measure would keep the current regulatory system from the Taxi and Livery Commission in place.

“That’s regulated by TLC and we’ll leave the jurisdiction to the city,” he said.

The bill avoids setting Albany in opposition to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration over ride sharing. Initially, state officials, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, had suggested a statewide framework could be development that would have jurisdiction over ride sharing in the state, including New York City.

As for the bill’s chances of passage before the end of the legislative session next month, Heastie was non-committal.

“It was a draft that Assemblyman Cahill came up with, put it out there for comments,” he said. “We’ll put it out there and see what happens.”

Assembly Dems Discuss Insurance Options For Ride Sharing

From the Morning Memo:

Assembly Democrats late Monday afternoon conferenced potential legislation for ride sharing — an issue that is expected to be among a handful of high-profile issues to be debated as the legislative session winds down.

And while lawmakers initially considered a statewide regulatory system for services like Uber and Lyft, bills under consideration could simply allow ride share companies to purchase insurance in order to operate in communities outside of New York City.

“While a statewide comprehensive regulatory framework is best for New Yorkers who are demanding ridesharing,” said Uber spokeswoman Alix Anfang, “allowing ridesharing activity to be covered by insurance policies that are up to ten times higher than local cab companies would allow communities to start welcoming flexible economic opportunities and better transportation options.”

Such a move would give local governments room to allow ride sharing should they want the service, and potentially allow for a statewide measure in subsequent legislative sessions.

Upstate lawmakers have in recent weeks indeed talked of taking a regional approach on broader transportation issues in order to get cab companies on board with the stiff competition they would likely face with the legalization of a ride sharing insurance plan.