Assembly

Heastie: No Vote On Alcohol In Movie Theaters Bill

The Democratic-led Assembly won’t back a bill that would allow for the sale of alcohol in New York movie theaters.

“We’re not supportive of that,” Speaker Carl Heastie said on Monday. “We want people to be able to take their children to a movie theater and have to worry about the sobriety of the people sitting next to them.”

The opposition is unchanged from last year, when the measure died in the final days of the legislative session.

Supporters of the measure had sought to make the bill more amenable by allowing for local governments to approve individual licenses for establishments that wish to sell alcohol.

State Lawmakers Eye Greener Pastures

From the Morning Memo:

State lawmakers don’t have to run for re-election this year, but many elected officials in the Assembly and Senate are eyeing the exits, running for locally elected positions back in their home districts.

Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin is running for Rensselaer County executive. State Sen. George Latimer is running for Westchester County executive. State Sen. Phil Boyle seeks to become sheriff of Suffolk County, and several New York City lawmakers have launched campaigns for City Council, which is an increasingly popular destination for former state lawmakers.

Assemblyman Mickey Kearns is running for Erie County Clerk. A supporter of term limits for the Legislature, Kearns says it’s about finding a new challenge in a different public office.

“I think there should be a beginning and an end when it comes to Albany and I’m looking forward to new opportunities,” Kearns said.

There’s the travel factor. The trip from Western New York can be an especially long one and lawmakers spend up to six months traveling back and forth during the legislative session. Kearns says he’s made the trip for about 13 years.

Then there’s the desire to actually get something done — an attractive proposition for any legislator like McLaughlin who has toiled in the minority.

“It’s because with executive authority, you can get a lot of things done and you can help people on a direct day-to-day basis,” McLaughlin said.

“Being in the Legislature’s great, but you’re one of a body. You can’t come here in and say, ‘this is what we’re doing.’ You have to convince, in our case, 150 people.”

Then there is the fact lawmakers haven’t received a pay increase since 1999. Lawmakers earn a base salary of $79,500 and many of the local level positions pay more.

Glick Applauds CoA Nomination

Assemblywoman Deborah Glick praised on Friday the nomination of Judge Paul Feinman to the state’s highest court.

Feinman is poised to be the first openly gay person to serve on the Court of Appeals, pending confirmation by the state Senate.

“I thank Governor Cuomo for making this nomination to the New York State Court of Appeals. Having a jurist on the Court that is a member of the LGBTQ community has been long overdue and further shows the State’s commitment to ensuring all New Yorkers are represented,” Glick said in a statement. “The Court of Appeals has a storied history of thoughtful jurists who add their perspectives to the understanding of the law. I am pleased to see that Paul Feinman will fill this vacancy and give the Court of Appeals an added element of diversity.”

Glick is one of five openly LGBT members of the state Legislature, who had called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to nominate a gay judge to the court.

Feinman would replace Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam, who died in April.

Clock Ticking On Economic Development Reforms

From the Morning Memo:

While good-government groups and lawmakers push for more oversight and transparency of economic development spending in New York, legislative leaders in Albany still hope to strike a deal with Governor Andrew Cuomo on the issue.

“I’m still hoping to get a three-way agreement before we leave,” said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. “We’ll see what happens. We still have three more long days in Albany to try to get these things done even after today.”

But lawmakers who support increasing oversight for the governor’s pet projects like the START-UP NY program and the regional economic development councils in recent days have been more assertive, saying they can act on their own on the oversight issues, even with a potential veto by Cuomo.

“We’d like to get a three-way agreement,” said Assemblyman Robin Schimminger. “And if we don’t, keep in mind we can still make laws notwithstanding the second floor.”

For now, the bills are stuck in committee. They would return oversight power to Comptroller Tom DiNapoli to audit contracts and subject some economic development spending to the freedom of information law. The measures come after the arrests of prominent upstate developers and a former close aide to the governor.

“I think there is a real sense in our house among some members, many members, that now may be the time to show some real profiles in courage,” Schimminger said.

Overriding a gubernatorial veto is rare and it hasn’t happened since George Pataki’s administration. And it requires time — something lawmakers have little of at the Capitol.

“It seems to me that we should be passing bills earlier,” said Sen. John DeFrancisco, “and making certain there should be time to re-evaluate a bill the governor is vetoing that’s passing both houses overwhelmingly.”

Legislature Remains At Odds Over Kendra’s Law

From the Morning Memo:

With less than a week before the legislative session concludes, the Democratic-led Assembly and Republican controlled-Senate are at odds over how to extend a key mental health law.

Known as Kendra’s Law, on the books since 1999, requires mandatory mental health care for some patients, not including those who are on medication.

The Assembly approved a bill extending the measure another five years, until the end of June 2022. But Senate Republicans want the law made permanent.

In a statement, Speaker Carl Heastie said it was important to re-assess the law in the coming years.

“The Assembly Majority is aware of the importance of this legislation, as well as the importance of ensuring New Yorkers receive access to the mental health services they need,” Heastie said. “We also recognize that extending the legislation not only allows us, but compels us to reevaluate the program every few years to look for opportunities for improvement.”

The session is scheduled to conclude on Wednesday.

Schimminger Blames Cuomo’s Absence For Lack Of Reform Progress

The lack of progress on a package of measures designed to overhaul oversight and transparency of economic development spending has stalled in part due to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s physical absence from the Capitol, Assemblyman Robin Schimminger said on Wednesday in an interview.

“I think it’s opposition and absence. I haven’t seen him around town lately,” Schimminger, a western New York Democrat, said.

“It’s difficult on these significant bills — to the extent some people want a three-way agreement — it’s difficult to get that three-way agreement when one of the three legs on the stool just isn’t around. I think it’s just running out the clock. But certainly we’d like to get a three-way agreement, but certainly we can make laws on our own and override the second floor.”

Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi pointed to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s comments to reporters on Tuesday, in which he said Cuomo’s decision to largely stay away from the Capitol has not made for problems as the session comes to conclusion this month.

“I don’t think the governor’s not here and he’s around making announcements on the budget and the like and he’s up dealing with the flooding issues,” Heastie said.

Lawmakers are considering a range of bills as the sessions winds down that would, among other things, provide re-vamped oversight for the state comptroller for procurement spending, create a “database of deals” for contracting and reporting requirements for the START-UP NY program.

The measures have been long in the gestation process at the Capitol over the last several weeks, but are yet to be taken up for a full floor vote in either chamber.

Cuomo has opposed legislation that would restore procurement oversight powers to Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, saying he wants an inspector general appointed to oversee the spending.

For Now, June 21 Remains The Goal, Lawmakers Say

From the Morning Memo:

To say the mood at the Capitol is weary is something of an understatement.

State lawmakers are eager to leave Albany for good on the scheduled end date of the legislative session, June 21, and top officials insist they’ll be able to take care of issues like mayoral control of New York City schools before they expire at the end of this month.

“We haven’t started the lottery yet, but I’m going to buy a ticket that says June 21,” said Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle. “That’s the goal, and we’re working very hard to make that happen.”

The session is seen as an especially brutal one this year after the sprint to finish the budget by April 1 turned into a slog of a marathon, extending to April 10 and keeping the Legislature in the Capitol working over several weekends.

At the same time, a number of lawmakers are running for other jobs back home — be it county executive, the New York City Council, or even sheriff.

Still, mayoral control remains an increasingly thorny issue for the Legislature. Lawmakers must also come to agreements on same-as bills that re-extend local tax provisions for county governments, measures that had been included in an omnibus Assembly bill also extending mayoral control by two years.

“I don’t ask upstate Republican county executives to tell me what they are spending their 1 percent sales tax extender on before we pass it,” said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

As far as he’s concerned, not only are both issues the same — extending a provision that is a concern for a local government.

“I fell like for the local counties that have asked us for what they need, we passed that bill a month ago,” Heastie said. “We’re prepared to leave here on June 21.”

Assembly Approves ‘Boss Bill’

The state Assembly on Monday approved legislation that would bar an employer from discriminating against a worker based on their history of reproductive choices.

The measure, known as the “Boss Bill” would block employers from accessing personal health information of an employee or imposing requirements on a worker’s ability to gain access to reproductive services.

“This legislation guarantees New York women the freedom and fundamental right to make personal reproductive health care decisions without fear of reprisal from their employers,” said Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee.

“The Boss Bill continues New York’s long history of protecting individuals from discrimination in the workplace by strengthening and expanding state law to ensure that an employer cannot retaliate against an employee because the employee or their dependent accessed care related to pregnancy, family planning or any reproductive health service.”

Supporters of the bill say it’s is aimed at addressing ways of strengthening the Roe v. Wade decision. Opponents, however, such as religious organizations, argue it is unnecessary and can discriminate against an employer’s religious beliefs.

Heastie Won’t Deal On Charter Schools

Speaker Carl Heastie laid down the brightest marker yet on Monday he insisted to reporters the Democratic-led Assembly won’t strike an agreement on extending mayoral control in New York City that also strengthens charter schools.

“There’s never a sense that we won’t talk,” Heastie said. “If I’m told the only way we’re going to get mayoral control if we have to do something on charter schools, they’re the ones who don’t want to negotiate.”

The Republican-led Senate is approving a trio of bills that extend mayoral control and also seek to expand charter schools in New York at the same time.

“God bless them,” Heastie said. “We’re not doing them. We’re not doing those bills. Next question.”

Assembly Democrats have increasingly chaffed at any efforts to expand or enhance charter schools in the state — a policy that in general is also backed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. At the same time, Democratic allies of Heastie have pointed out he’s in a room negotiating with Republican Majority Leader John Flanagan and Cuomo — adding to a sense he’s being ganged up on when it comes to education issues.

The Assembly last month approved a bill that extended mayoral control for two years packaged with the extension of sales and other local taxes — many of which impact districts in upstate and suburban counties that are represented by Republicans in the Senate.

“We passed a bill that respected every locality’s request for an extender, including the city’s for mayoral control,” Heastie said. “We’re trying to treat every county with the same amount of respect and we hope the Senate Republicans do the same for mayoral control in New York City.”

Heastie Says Yates ‘Absolutely Qualified’ For JCOPE

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on Monday defended the appointment of former Assembly counsel Jim Yates to a post on the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, calling him “absolutely qualified” for the panel.

Yates served both Heastie and his predecessor, Speaker Sheldon Silver. During Silver’s time, Yates was involved in the decision to approved confidential settlement funds to women who had accused then-Assemblyman Vito Lopez of sexual harassment. The incident led to a scathing JCOPE report.

But Heastie pointed to Yates’s resume as a judge and time as a law professor.

“I think someone who was a Court of Claims judge, a Supreme Court judge and actually talk ethics at NYU Law School is absolutely qualified to sit on JCOPE,” he said.