Heastie: Wright Bill A ‘Last Resort’

An eight-month extension of rent control for New York City would be a “last resort,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said Wednesday after meeting with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Rent control in New York City and the surrounding counties in the state expired at midnight on Monday, and lawmakers are yet to reach an agreement with Cuomo on extending the measures.

A potential compromise has been to extend rent control into next year for less than 12 months so that a broader agreement could be reached.

“That will probably be looked upon as a last resort to at least give some comfort to people who are sure what’s going to happen with their homes,” Heastie told reporters. “We’re talking 2 million people, but we’re still trying to get something done.”

Talks continue on extending rent control, but Heastie said that even if a break through is made today, the Assembly will stay in Albany beyond today, which is the final scheduled day of the session.

“I think we’re going to be here tomorrow no matter what happens today. Even in the best of circumstances, I think we’re still going to be here tomorrow,” Heastie said.

Both Heastie and his counterpart in the Senate, Majority Leader John Flanagan, met separately with Cuomo in his office earlier in the day.

“I do think the governor is trying to helpful and try to get somewhere on rent,” Heastie said. “We hope to not cause any stress with peoples’ families.”

Assembly One-House Extends Rent To February

As first reported by The Daily News this morning, Assembly House Committee Chairman Keith Wright late Tuesday introduced an eight-month extender for rent control laws, which expired this week.

The bill provides for the rent control talks to continue until February, but also would require a broader, more long-term agreement to be reached in an election year for all 213 seats in the Legislature.

Wright himself is running for the congressional seat being vacated by Rep. Charlie Rangel.

The Assembly in May backed a rent control package that extends rent control through 2019 and ends vacancy decontrol.

While the Assembly this week approved a two-day stop gap measure, Senate Republicans backed an eight-year extension that includes measures opposed by Democratic lawmakers such as income and primary residency verification.

The Wright bill isn’t a wholly surprising development: Word at the Capitol on Tuesday was lawmakers were considering a medium-term agreement during the rent control impasse.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie after leaving a leaders’ meeting Tuesday evening was non-committal on an extension of less than a year.

“I guess there’s always options, but at this point we’re still talking,” he said after the meeting.

‘Getting Nowhere Fast’

From the Morning Memo:

Today is, ostensibly, the final day of the legislative session, at least according to the calendar.

It appears likely, however, that lawmakers will remain at the Capitol through the week as key issues such as rent control regulations, mayoral control of New York City schools and the 421a tax abatement are yet to be locked down.

At the same time, issues with no expiration date are yet to be sorted out: The education tax credit remains in the talks, while some state lawmakers continue to hold out hope for a compromise on juvenile justice reform.

“I expect there will be continued discussions until we leave here. I don’t know if we’ll get there, but we’re trying very hard and some folks in the Senate are trying very hard,” Assemblyman Joe Lentol, a Brooklyn lawmaker, said of the juvenile justice talks.

But the pace of progress in talks with two rookie legislative leaders and a governor with waning popularity has been slow.

Assembly Housing Committee Chairman Keith Wright summed up the current state of the negotiations in a statement released at around 10:30 on Tuesday night, saying state officials are “getting nowhere fast” with the talks on rent control.

“I am disheartened, disappointed and supremely frustrated with the tone of current three-way conversations on important end-of-session business,” Wright said in the statement. “Rent laws have expired, tenants are living moment to moment waiting for action and quite frankly, we’re getting nowhere fast. Two million New Yorkers may soon hear news that greatly displeases them and hinders the well being of their families. If we’re disappointing two million New Yorkers, who exactly are we legislating for?”

That’s not say to some progress is being made in the final days.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state’s legislative leaders announced a pact on combating sexual assault and rape on college campuses. Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan told reporters following the Tuesday evening leaders’ meeting that an agreement would come soon for protections for nail salon workers.

Four years ago, rent control had lapsed and had to be extended with stop-gap measures as lawmakers and Cuomo haggled out the issue.

At the time, the negotiations were dominated by seemingly more pressing issues, such as a vote on same-sex marriage and a cap on property taxes.

Now, as Cuomo completes the first year of his second term, negotiating such a grand bargain package with major accomplishments is a distant memory.

But with rent control expired now for two days, some observers saw the posturing — from both sides — as being a little too late in the day.

Privately, Senate Republicans are grumbling about the rent control negotiations, which appear to be the dominate concern in the closed-door discussions, and whether the Assembly Democrats are budging from their positions on strengthening the regulations.

Flanagan, post-leaders meeting, stuck to his script as he had earlier in the day: The Senate was still pushing for income and residency verification in rent controlled units, provisions that Democrats have rejected.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie left the meeting to brief his conference, though he told reporters the discussions were yet to reach anything conclusive.

“There’s still so many unresolved issues,” Heastie said following the meeting. “I don’t think there’s any blueprint to how session is ended.”

Med-Mar Mix Up

From the Morning Memo:

Though the stalemate over the NYC rent laws has prevented lawmakers from reaching a so called “Big Ugly” deal at the Capitol, plenty of lower-level bills are getting passed – including a measure that would expedite access to medical marijuana for a select group of extremely sick children in New York.

But that bill was already in trouble before it even got anywhere near Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk.

The start of its problems: The need for a chapter amendment, which became clear not long after its passage by the Senate in a 50-12 vote this past Monday. (The Assembly had already acted).

Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo revealed this wrinkle during a CapTon interview last night, saying: “There might have been a mistake in the original drafting; it has to be taken back up.”

That could be a bit tricky, given how close we are to the end of session. Depending on the timing, the governor might have to issue a message of necessity on this fix, and it’s widely believed that his signature on the bill wasn’t a sure thing to begin with.

I reached Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, the chamber’s Health Committee chairman and longtime medical marijuana advocate, on the phone yesterday. He downplayed the chapter amendment, saying there is a “typo” in the bill that refers to a special certification under subdivision 6 of existing law, when it’s actually subdivision 9.

“If it becomes law as-is, there would be no harm,” Gottfried said. “Nevertheless, we printed a chapter. I don’t know if we have the time or need to do it. It’s really just fixing a typo.”

Advocates who have been pushing the Cuomo administration on this issue for some time, noted there’s no same-as bill in the Senate for the Assembly chapter amendment, which was quietly introduced not long after the original bill was passed by the upper house.

But they also insisted that the “technical error” in the bill is not the biggest hurdle it faces.

“While the governor is unlikely to sign, we have from now until Dec. 31 before he must take action, and the timeline could be shorter if the Assembly sends him the bill beforehand,” said Gabriel Sayegh of the Drug Policy Alliance.

“Any deaths of these kids during this period is on the governor, and that’s totally macabre and awful, and also true. We hope it doesn’t take another death to compel the governor to act.”

Sayegh said this emergency access bill would be “totally unnecessary” if Cuomo had used his discretionary authority to assist people in accessing med mar before the statewide program established under the Compassionate Care Act passed by the Legislature last year is expected to be up and running in early 2016.

Gottfried said the Cuomo administration has been assuring him it is moving as fast as possible on this issue.

But he is skeptical of that, noting that the governor – who has never been a big fan of medical marijuana, even though he signed the Compassionate Care Act into law – has never personally met with the families of kids suffering from seizure disorders who believe they would benefit from access to Cannabis oil.

Gottfried said he has “no idea” of how Cuomo intends to act on the expedited medical marijuana bill, which was opposed by one of the original sponsors of the Compassionate Care Act, Sen. Diane Savino, who characterized it as a vehicle for advocates seeking full legalization of pot in New York.

Cuomo’s office has already said its efforts to get permission from the federal government to import med mar from outside the state on an emergency basis before New York’s program is up and running has been denied.

Gottfriend believes the governor could use a 1980s-era law, which he briefly proposed reviving, that would allow the state Health Department to distribute marijuana to hospitals. Lupardo suggested that New York might also follow the “no harm, no foul” lead of other states, which don’t prosecute individuals who bring med mar across state lines.

But Gottfried rejected that suggestion, saying: “I would not expect the governor to be interested…his whole orientation on medical marijuana has been very different than that.”

Gottfried also said there have been no discussions of a possible override if Cuomo vetoes the expedite medical marijuana bill. Officially speaking, the governor’s press office response to the measure was:

“Our top priority has always been to deliver relief to those in pain. We will review the legislation in the context of implementing the Compassionate Care Act and complying with existing federal statutes.”

Nolan: Concerns Remain Over Education Tax Credit

Assembly Education Committee Chairwoman Cathy Nolan reiterated on Tuesday the Democratic conference remains opposed to the passage of an education tax credit, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo is linking the passage of stronger rent control laws.

In particular, Nolan pointed to what she said was unfair advantage in the proposed tax credit to the rich in making donations to preferred private schools.

“Many of us continue and I certainly continue to have concerns about a credit that would allow a very, very wealthy person to say I’m going to donate a million dollars to an alma mater in Massachusetts and then direct scholarship money out of state,” she said. “Obviously, there are a lot of concerns still about it.”

Nolan has introduced alternative bills in recent days that would provide for a deduction for middle-income families who send their children to primary and secondary schools.

Supporters note the tax credit bill doesn’t just help private and parochial schools, but is also designed to support donations directly to public schools as well as help teachers who use their own funds who purchase school supplies.

Assembly Democrats also remain opposed to the linkage of the tax credit to strong rent control regulations in New York City, which lapsed over midnight.

Senate Republicans are pushing for income and primary residency verification in a rent renewal and do not support changes to vacancy decontrol being sought by Cuomo and Assembly Democrats.

“I’m very happy that Speaker Heastie has been so strong in saying these things shouldn’t be linked and I support the speaker in that,” Nolan said.

Albany Bishop Pushes Tax Credit

From the Morning Memo:

The pressure on Assembly Democrats to back the education tax credit continues unabated.

The latest effort is from Albany Bishop Edward Scharfenberger, who sent a letter to Capital Region residents calling on them to push Assemblywoman Pat Fahy on the bill.

In the letter, Scharfenberger specifically mentions Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s rebranded version of the legislation, the Parental Choice in Education Act, which is aimed at spurring donations to public schools as well as scholarship programs that benefit private and parochial schools.

“It would also help generate for important programs in our public schools in Albany, Bethlehem and Guilderland and other surrounding districts,” the bishop wrote in the letter. “as well as help teachers who spend their personal funds on classroom supplies.”

Nevertheless, the tax credit is deeply opposed by the New York State United Teachers union, which draws support from the Democratic-led conference.

But the measure’s most prominent backer, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, this year once again personally traveled to Albany to lobbying lawmakers with Cuomo at the governor’s mansion on the issue as well.

The letter comes on top of an aggressive campaigned aimed at Democratic lawmakers in the Assembly to pass the tax credit legislation, which Cuomo is linking to the passage of rent control in New York City.

Lawmakers have not been pleased with the tone of some of the mailers or the robocalls. Some of the calls, in particular, have irked members as the caller ID displays the name of the lawmaker, leading some constituents to believe they are getting inundated with unwanted calls from their local legislator.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie told reporters on Monday prior to meeting with Cuomo that the tax credit legislation remains a “difficult” bill for his conference to approve.

Bishop Letter 1 by Nick Reisman

Tax Credit, For Now, Remains Standalone In Senate

Senate Education Committee Chairman Carl Marcellino told reporters following an afternoon conference there was “movement” being made on the education tax credit legislation.

“It’s my understanding that their people and our people are still talking and negotiating and I think it still looks real positive,” Marcellino said. “Our people told us they see movement.”

The measure remains staunchly opposed by the teachers unions and some Assembly Democrats, many of whom continue to be miffed by an aggressive campaign being waged on behalf of supporters of the tax credit, which is meant to spur donations to public schools and scholarship programs that support private and parochial schools.

Cuomo has been trying to leverage the passage of stronger rent control laws (which expire at midnight) to the tax credit. While Assembly Democrats have knocked such linkage, Senate Republicans didn’t completely rule it.

“We have a series of issues that have been introduced as standalone measures and that’s how they’ll remain for the time being,” said Sen. Cathy Young, a western New York Republican.

Cuomo, meanwhile, rolled out a $100 million fund for struggling schools (it’s ostensibly for “upstate” schools, a term that’s elastic enough to include the Yonkers school district).

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, meanwhile, did not believe the proposed fund was meant to spur movement on the tax credit.

“He says it’s not linked,” Heastie said of Cuomo.

As for the tax credit, Heastie said “nothing’s changed.”

“The conference — as I’ve said for months — it’s a difficult issue for the conference,” he said.

Heastie: Senate Rent Control Proposal ‘Unacceptable’

The Senate Republican proposal for extending rent control with income and residency verification is “unacceptable” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie told reporters on Sunday night.

At the same time, Heastie continued to reject the push by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to link a strengthening of rent control to the passage of an education tax credit.

“We believe that rent should be in the discussion with housing and not with other things,” Heastie said, adding, “Having this discussion on rent should be with other housing related issues.”

Rent control for New York City and the surrounding counties expires tonight at midnight.

Assembly Democrats today plan to approve a two-day stop gap bill to extend rent control through Wednesday. Even without Senate action on the legislation, a brief lapse in rent control is not expected to have a major impact and Cuomo has warned landlords to not take advantage of expired regulations.

Lawmakers are due to leave Albany for the remainder of the year on Wednesday, though more than a few expect to stay in town through the end of the week as a deal on rent control is still being sought.

There seemed to be little progress in the end-of-session talks over the weekend as posturing continues on key issues.

“I think when the governor and the Senate decide to start talking about things that really matter, we’ll start to move forward,” Heastie said.

As for the tax credit, a Democratic-backed bill in the Assembly would create an alternative for a deduction for families earning less than $120,000. The proposal is opposed by the coalition pushing the tax credit legislation.

Still, the bill could signal a potential compromise in the Legislature.

Heastie said the bill was aimed at offering “relief” to families with children in both public and private schools.

In Search Of A Deal

From the Morning Memo:

Assembly Democrats returned to the Capitol on Sunday night for a closed-door conference that seemed to touch on nearly every unresolved issue in the final days of the legislative session.

A broad agreement on expiring issues such as rent control for New York City and the surrounding area, as well as the 421a tax abatement, is yet to be reached.

The finish line for the end of the legislative session is Wednesday, though Gov. Andrew Cuomo has pledged to keep lawmakers in Albany beyond that scheduled end should an agreement on rent control not be reached.

With a few hours now before rent control lapses, lawmakers continued to posture on the issue.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan on Sunday night released a lengthy statement outlining the GOP conference’s stance on rent control and called for income and residency verification — two components unlikely to fly with Democratic lawmakers the governor.

And rank-and-file lawmakers were less-than-bullish on reaching a packaged deal like what was included in the budget, when they were forced to swallow a bitter pill on education reform in order to receive a boost in school aid.

“If you put mayoral control in there, if you put the lifting of the cap on charter schools, if you put the tax cap, if you put in 421a, if you put that in a Big Ugly mess, you’re not going to get anywhere,” said Assemblyman Charles Barron.

The Brooklyn lawmakers criticized Cuomo for linking the education tax credit, aimed at spurring donations to public and private schools, to a strengthening of rent control.

“The governor has a lot of nerve trying to attach the tax credit and a whole bunch of everythings to it,” he said.

Still, Albany has a way of working things out.

Assemblyman John McDonald, a Democrat who represents parts of Albany and the surrounding area, was forthcoming in a Sunday night statement on where he sees the rest of the session headed.

For now, McDonald said he expects there to be a two-week extension on rent control while a strengthening of the measures is worked out.

Those improvements could be tied to an upstate housing fund, he said.

“My guess is a two year straight extender which will not endear my downstate colleagues who want betterments to the bill,” McDonald said. “At the same time, if there are betterments, we in upstate are vying for $150 million in upstate housing support for the variety of programs that are in place already and others to help those of low income and middle income as well as the elderly and disabled.”

On the extension of 421a, McDonald predicted a deal “based on thresholds of projects that are subject to prevailing wage” that will be aimed at “allowing for low cost projects to continue with out PW.”

As for the education tax credit, McDonald sees the real linkage with potential changes to the implementation of the teacher evaluation system. McDonald backs moving those deadlines for evaluation adoption back.

“The ETC does enjoy more support in the Democratic Assembly than many believe but this also needs to be reviewed to ensure that the large donors do not consume the benefits,” he said.

As for mixed-martial arts legalization, McDonald predicted a “fight to the finish.”

Could The Tax Deduction Be The Key?

From the Morning Memo:

The education tax deduction introduced by Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan over the weekend caused a stir among education lobbyists on both sides of the tax credit issue as well as state lawmakers.

The bill is aimed at a deduction for those send their dependents to primary and secondary school and for those making $120,000 and less. The bill provides for a $3,000 deduction and is capped at $12,000.

For now, there’s no same-as in the Senate.

But what raised eyebrows for some was the bill’s sponsors: Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte and Assemblyman Sheldon Silver, the former speaker.

Silver remains a conduit for the Yeshivas, and his backing of the bill could be a tacit acknowledgement the Jewish parochial community may be on board with the bill.

At the same time, there’s Bichotte, a new lawmaker who the subject of an intense lobbying effort to support the tax credit legislation, backed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Senate Republicans.

“This particular bill is open to all parents,” Bichotte said of the tax deduction bill during a break of the Assembly Democratic conference on Sunday night. “I would guess that it’s something that’s more amenable to the public school parents.”

Assembly Democrats still have questions about the deduction, especially on the constitutional level and whether it would be passed at the expense of public schools.

Still, the bill was seen by some lawmakers as being more aimed at the middle class than the tax credit legislation.

Proponents of the education tax credit swiftly blasted the deduction bill over the weekend, and said it was less generous given the state’s top tax rate is 6.85 percent, resulting in a benefit of $205.

But Assembly Democrats were showing little signs on Sunday night of budging on the tax credit after many lawmakers were bruised by an aggressive pro-tax credit campaign that included mailers and robocalls in their districts.

Bichotte said constituents, too, were tired of the campaign.

“They’re very annoyed with the propaganda,” she said. “They know it’s propaganda.”