Assembly

AD-65: Union Bigs Come Out For Niou

Prominent labor union leaders and elected officials in New York City will hold a fundraiser on Wednesday for Democratic Assembly candidate Yuh-Line Niou.

Tickets to event, to be held at Bobby Van’s Steakhouse, range from $500 to $4,400.

The event is set to include a range of key labor union officials, including Hector Figueroa of 32BJ, Paul Egan of the United Federation of Teachers, Stuart Applebaum of the RWDSU and Bill Lipton of the Working Families Party.

Hosting the event is New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer.

Niou is running for the lower Manhattan Assembly district currently led by Alice Cancel, who she defeated in a Democratic primary last month.

The seat was held by former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver until last year, when he was ousted following his conviction on corruption charges.

YLN Invite V3 by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Errigo: ‘They’re Telling Black People… Kill The Whites’

Republican former Assemblyman Joe Errigo in a radio interview on Thursday in Rochester accused President Obama of stoking the racial divide in the United States, saying the president has signaled to black people to “kill the whites.”

Errigo is running for the district represented by the late Republican Assemblyman Bill Nojay, who committed suicide last month.

In a joint radio interview with his Democratic opponent Barbara Baer on WXXI News, Errigo disagreed with the premise that white people are treated differently than black people in the U.S.

In the response, Errigo referenced the president’s former pastor, the controversial Rev. Jeremiah Wright, whose fiery sermons became a campaign issue for Obama in 2008.

“I think they take that attitude because it’s taken to them. When you hear the president’s minister say instead of God bless America, goddamn America, let them feel the pain. Now you’re bringing us back to slavery. I was not part of that. My parents weren’t part of that,” Errigo said. “We lost a lot of people over that fight. I think the president has done a disservice and I don’t condone. I hear the way he talks sometimes that just — they’re telling the black people, ‘Get out there, kill them. Kill the whites.'”

The comment came amid an extended discussion about economic inequality and the issues facing poor people.

Earlier, Errigo decried violence in cities.

“I know there are many, many good people. Hispanics, black people. I have friends, policemen, and they’re afraid to go out on the streets,” he said. “My parents were very poor and never did they tell me (to) disrespect a teacher.”

For her part, Baer contended people are treated differently because of their skin color.

“I think I would disagree with all that Joe has said,” she said.

Debate ‘No Show’ Irks Assembly Candidate

From the Morning Memo:

Democrat Steve Meyer is calling out his opponent, incumbent Republican Assemblyman Ray Walter, for skipping a debate in his own district.

Local candidates for the state Legislature were invited by the University at Buffalo Student’s Association to talk about topics like ethics, jobs and education.

But Meyer said only he and a fellow Democrat, state Senate candidate Amber Small, accepted the invitation. The 24-year-old Meyer, who’s challenging Walter for the second time, said the assemblyman had a responsibility to be there as it was the only scheduled event this fall at which key issues were on the table for discussion.

“We deserve someone who will always come to bat for our neighborhoods and our communities,” Meyer said. “Failing to show up to a community town hall forum is irresponsible to his own constituents.”

“The voters of our community deserve to know where Ray Walter stands on the issues. If our representatives can’t even come to a community debate, how do we expect them to debate for us on the floor in Albany?”

Walter won by about 15 percentage points in 2014. We reached out to his office for a response to Meyer’s complaints about the SA debate, but have not yet received a response.

GOP Goes All Out Against Former Republican Ceretto

From the Memo:

When Western New York Assemblyman John Ceretto decided to switch from the GOP to the Democratic Party last year, he ticked off a lot of local Republicans. Now up for re-election, Ceretto’s former allies haven’t forgotten the perceived betrayal.

Erie County Republican Committee Chairman Nick Langworthy made that much crystal clear.

“This was one of the great sellouts of all time,” the chairman said of Ceretto. “He was elected and re-elected and re-elected by Republicans and with a lot of help.”

“He is a very unremarkable legislator, which I said the day he switched parties. I kind of said what’s been on my mind here. This is a guy who really doesn’t have it between the ears to handle what the important issues that we needed in Western New York.”

The Democrats hold an overwhelming majority in the Assembly, and under normal circumstances, the 145th district race wouldn’t be that big of a deal, since it won’t influence the balance of power in the chamber. But Langworthy said this year is different.

This is about payback, and there’s also a candidate for the GOP to get behind, as former Niagara Falls City Judge Angelo Morinello is challenging Ceretto for the seat.

“There is massive investment at this point by the state Republican campaign committee for the Assembly,” Langworthy said. “That is an absolute – it’s the number one target opportunity in the state.”

Emails and calendar items are circulating to news organizations, including Capital Tonight, that Republicans say prove Ceretto played politics with state allocations and used government time and resources to campaign.

Though Ceretto has insisted he did nothing wrong, Langworthy said voters won’t tolerate even the perception of wrongdoing.

“We have learned things in the last two weeks about John Ceretto and the way he has run his office which I think will make this race one of the most competitive in the state of New York,” the chairman predicted.

Ceretto meanwhile, said he believes the attacks are clearly a result of sour grapes over his decision to change parties. He nevertheless maintains his switch was the best choice for his constituents and is standing by the decision.

Wal-Mart Heir Gives $500K To Education Reform Super PAC

One of the heirs to retail giant Wal-Mart on Thursday gave $500,000 to New Yorkers For A Balanced Albany, a group that is tied to the education reform group StudentsFirstNY.

A filing with the state Board of Elections on shows Jim Walton made the contribution to the group that has funded efforts aimed at backing candidates sympathetic to issues such as charter school support.

The contribution comes as education policy is once again expected to dominate the legislative session in 2017.

Meanwhile, two more donations were made to the independent expenditure committee supported by the Real Estate Board of New York.

Filings show Varego Holdings contributed $125,000 while Silverstein Properties gave $110,000.

Erie County GOP Calls For Assemblyman Ceretto To Resign

The Erie County Republican Committee is calling for Assemblyman John Ceretto, D-Lewiston, to resign. It said the assemblyman is playing politics with government funding.

The controversy surrounds official emails, obtained by the Buffalo News, between several of Ceretto’s staffers. In them, the staff members discuss what municipalities in the district should receive state allocations controlled by the assemblyman.

In one instance, political aide Robert Nichols, suggested it didn’t make sense to give money to the town of Wheatfield because the supervisor had slighted them at a community picnic. The story also cited a source saying Ceretto’s office used public time and resources for campaign-related activities.

“The Buffalo News today confirmed that dirty Albany politics are alive and well in John Ceretto’s office,” Erie County GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy said. “After getting caught playing cynical games with taxpayers’ money – and quite likely breaking state law – John Ceretto must resign as should his political henchman Rob Nichols.”

Last year, Ceretto switched allegiances from Republican to Democrat and as a result has become a target of the committee this fall. Former Niagara Falls City Judge Angelo Morinello is running against him in the 145th Assembly District.

Ceretto told the News he allocated state grants to worthy projects in his district.

Assembly Candidate Faults Opponent For Insufficiently Supporting Billy Joel

The Piano Man is an issue in a Long Island Assembly race.

Assembly hopeful Dean Hart on Thursday morning criticized his opponent, Republican incumbent Michael Montesano for not passing legislation in Albany that would name a portion of a state road after the beloved Long Island institution Billy Joel.

“My opponent is either impotent or is simply not trying, because everyone loves Bill Joel,” said Hart, who describes himself as a “long time fan” of Joel’s.

“No wonder Albany is a mess, our representative can’t do something as simple as renaming a small portion of a road in Billy Joel’s backyard, where there’s near universal support.”

Hart is putting his money where his mouth is. The Oyster Bay resident is pledging to spend up to $1 million to install what would be a “giant marble statue” of the singer at the newly refurbished Nassau Coliseum that is scheduled to open next spring.

“Next to Teddy Roosevelt, Long Island really doesn’t have a more famous or popular person than Billy Joel,” Hart said. “I can’t think of a better way to unite long Islanders than by erecting this marbled monument before Billy opens up the new Coliseum in April.”

Joel is a native Hicksville resident and has been close with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

In Letter, Heastie Makes Pay Raise Case

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie in a letter released on Wednesday called on a state panel to back a recommended pay increase for state lawmakers.

The letter comes as the commission on judicial and legislative compensation is contemplating the first increase in legislative pay since 1999, with one proposal hiking the base salary from $79,500 to $116,900.

“The evidence is overwhelming that a raise in compensation is warranted; indeed, it is long overdue,” said Heastie in a statement.

“Economic variables and public policy fully support a salary increase for statewide elected officials, executive officers, and legislators, just as these same considerations yielded an increase for the judiciary earlier this year. In order to maintain our constitutional framework of government and the appropriate balance among the branches and offices of government, it is important that the compensation of the offices under consideration be increased proportionally.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo — echoing comments made by his appointees on the commission — has called on lawmakers to “make the case” for a pay increase, a push they would have to make amid an election year. The pay raise itself would not be decided until after Election Day.

The panel is also due to determine a potential pay raise for Cuomo’s cabinet officials.

Heastie, however, maintains a safe seat in the Democratic-heavy Bronx and can make the argument without fear of political impact in his district. Indeed, Heastie’s popularity with some of his members — especially those in New York City where a pay raise is especially popular — likely welcome the letter.

Speaker Compensation Commission Letter by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Lawmakers Consider Oversight Options After Arrests

From the Morning Memo:

State lawmakers want to see more oversight of economic development spending after the arrests of nine people last week in an alleged widespread scheme involving bid rigging and bribery within key projects designed to spur job creation upstate.

“The problem is when public money is involved, there needs to be the highest degree of oversight over that public money,” said Assemblyman John McDonald, a Democrat who represents an Albany-area district.

Now lawmakers are considering reinstating the power of Comptroller Tom DiNapoli to review state spending under the umbrella of economic development. The comptroller’s office was stripped of that power in 2011, the first year Gov. Andrew Cuomo took office.

“What we might want to do is what any other entity is used to dealing with here in state government, which is admittedly an arduous process but reinstating the comptroller’s role and attorney general’s role in reviewing all these contracts,” McDonald said.

DiNapoli has signaled he would like to have that power to review the spending once again, and Speaker Carl Heastie has told lawmakers and legislative staff he would like new oversight options as well.

“The speaker’s given direction to examine every option, and an option might be to reinstate the comptroller and attorney general in the process right up front,” McDonald said.

Republican lawmakers, meanwhile, have their own ideas, which includes making it easier for any reform bill to come to the floor for a vote. One bill would allow for votes on bills, should a majority of the entire chamber–not just the party in power–agree to a vote.

“We have to get reform bills to the floor and we can’t let the powerful leaders hold up those bills,” said Assemblyman Jim Tedisco a Republican from the Albany suburbs. “They have to be leaders themselves, rank and file members.”

Tedisco, who is running for the Senate this year, adds new disclosure requirements for state contracts is also needed, enhancing the powers of the attorney general and restoring the power of the comptroller.

“He should have the ability to look at that type of spending and that’s why I think the Truth in Spending bill will help him do that type of audit,” said Tedisco.

Though they are all Democrats, both Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Comptroller Tom DiNapoli are considered to be political rivals to Cuomo.

Cuomo this week faulted the SUNY procurement process in the wake of the arrests, which included his former top aide Joe Percoco and SUNY Polytechnic leader Alain Kaloyeros. Cuomo has said he will introduce reforms to the procurement process in his State of the State address. 

Heastie: The Pay Raise Stands Alone

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie in a lengthy statement on Tuesday urged the proposed pay increase for state lawmakers under consideration by a state commission should stand alone for any ethics reform legislation.

The statement comes after Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in the wake of corruption charges being filed against his former top aide, the leader of the state’s nanotechnology development efforts and prominent developers, publicly suggested the commission may not approve a pay increase for the Assembly and Senate.

At the same time, a Cuomo administration source told The Daily News this week a pay increase may only come if lawmakers back more robust ethics laws changes in addition to what was agreed to earlier this year.

It’s also another sign of Heastie willing to break publicly with the governor, who he has been at odds with over a variety of issues, most recently this summer over his concerns the Assembly was being used in a tug of war in the feud between Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Making the pay raise commission’s decision on a pay hike — composed of gubernatorial and legislative appointees — subject to what amounts to horsetrading on a bill undermines the panel’s mission, Heastie said. The pay raise panel is also due to consider pay increases for members of the governor’s cabinet who lead state department and agencies.

“Last year, when judicial salaries were being considered, the decision to raise compensation was based primarily on economic factors and not by the testimony of judges or the number of judges who were represented during testimony,” Heastie said in a statement. “We should hold the Commission to that same standard in considering raises for statewide elected officials, commissioners, and legislators.”

But the pay raise issue has been a major sticking point for state lawmakers who have not received a salary hike from their base of $79,500 since 1999. Salary problems are particularly acute for lawmakers who live downstate, where the cost of living is generally higher.

“Given the recent investigations, it is understandable that there have been calls for stronger ethics laws in our state, but the issue of a pay increase should stand on its own merit and not be traded for any legislation,” Heastie said in the statement.

“In the Assembly, our door is always open to reforming government to be more open and transparent in order to restore faith to the people of New York. The work we do in the State Legislature is important – we have secured on time budgets, increased resources to education, helped low and middle income families climb the ladder of economic opportunity, and we are making the investments that are necessary to grow our economy.”