Assembly

Heastie Talks End Of Session

The Democratic-led Assembly’s support for traditional public schools is rooted in bolstering individual schools in lawmakers’ districts, Speaker Carl Heastie said in a radio interview Tuesday.

Heastie was responding, in part, to a question on the support the Democratic conference in the Assembly has received from the state’s teachers union.

Speaking on WCNY’s The Capitol Pressroom, Heastie said the charge the United Federation of Teachers and the New York State United Teachers was having such a big say in the chamber’s formation of policy was baseless.

“Usually when you advocate for things, you advocate for things that appeal in your district,” Heastie said. “We all have public schools in our district and we advocate for those schools irregardless of support from the teachers union.”

Heastie noted Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, a staunch support of charter schools, does not have any in his district.

Heastie opposed efforts to expand and strengthen charter schools in New York City as a condition for extending mayoral control of schools. Ultimately, he was successful, though Mayor Bill de Blasio and Flanagan ultimately reached a side deal that addresses so-called “zombie” charters in an available pool.

“We weren’t going to engage in any horse trading involving charter schools,” Heastie said.

Meanwhile, Heastie also said it was appropriate to name the Tappan Zee Bridge in honor of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s late father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo. The Assembly initially did not pass a stand-alone bill naming the bridge after Mario Cuomo, which also named a park after Assemblyman Denny Farrell and a stretch of highway after Sen. Bill Larkin.

Ultimately, the Assembly backed an omnibus bill that included the bridge naming.

“I think any three term governor is deserving of something to be named after them,” Heastie said. “Mario Cuomo is of course a three-term governor. When everything kind of fell apart after session and we passed all the bills we needed to pass including rhe omnibus bill that had all the extenders of it, we as a conference didn’t have a discussion about it.”

Leadership Scales Back Outside Income

From the Morning Memo:

During their time in power, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver made thousands of dollars in outside income as attorneys.

But their clients remained a mystery. Financial disclosure statements from their successors in the Assembly and Senate made public late last week tell a different story.

“It makes sense to us that the legislative leaders with their enormous power would step back from making money on the side and we think it’s an indication — at least for now — that it’s going to be the practice in Albany,” said NYPIRG Legislative Director Blair Horner.

For the second straight year, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Majority Leader John Flanagan reported almost no outside income. Heastie, an accountant by training, has not received outside income since becoming speaker; Flanagan resigned from his law firm when he took the leadership post.

IDC Leader Jeff Klein in 2015 also has stepped down from his law firm. Still, most lawmakers do not continue to hold dual roles as legislator and taking in outside income.

Not everyone is an attorney. One lawmaker is a funeral home director. Another is a farmer. But Gov. Andrew Cuomo says it’s problematic for legislators to have legal or business clients while also deciding public policy.

“Maybe they come to you because you’re a senator and they have a bill that’s going to come up. So, it’s an inherent conflict of interest,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo has tried and failed to limit outside income for lawmakers, who earn a base $79,500 as elected officials. Some lawmakers point to the governor’s own outside income for the money he earned for a low-selling memoir. Cuomo sought and received approval for the income from ethics regulators.

At least one lawmaker, however, has started releasing the names of his clients.

Republican Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer’s 2016 disclosure includes a list of his law clients and the work he did for them.

Heastie Plans Regional Tour

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie will undertake another tour hitting New York’s various regions this summer, his office on Monday announced.

Heastie plans to make trips to Syracuse and central New York this week, with scheduled stops in Rochester, the North Country and western New York in the coming weeks.

He also plans to visit the Plattsburgh region, the Capital District, as well as the Mohawk Valley, Hudson Valley, Southern Tier and Long Island regions in the summer and fall.

Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, became speaker in 2015 and undertook a similar trip that year to travel to introduce himself to the state.

“Two years ago, when I first became Speaker, I made it a priority to visit regions outside of New York City so I could better understand the needs of the diverse communities in New York,” said Heastie in a statement. “It helped me gain a better perspective of how the actions we take in Albany affect different communities and we were able to take that knowledge and put it to practical use. We have so much in common and getting to know the state and its various needs helps us to shape our legislative agenda in Albany.”

Heastie Urges BOE To Not Cooperate With Federal Election Review

The state Board of Elections should not work with a federal commission that is investigating allegations of voter fraud in the 2016 presidential election, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie urged in a letter released on Friday.

The Presidential Advisory Commission on Elections is investigating claims initially made by President Donald Trump first made as a candidate that votes were cast illegally, which he later attributed to his loss in the popular vote tally.

“The request indicates that any voter registration documents submitted to the Commission, including identification information, political affiliation, voter history and citizenship status, will be made available to the public. This has justifiably resulted in serious concerns among New York’s registered voters and I share these concerns,” said Heastie.

“Rather than expend resources trying to disenfranchise registered voters, the Commission should instead focus their efforts on making the process more accessible and fair through the adoption of early voting practices and the elimination of special interests’ influence and dark money on elections.”

Heastie is the latest state official to urge New York rebuff the federal government’s request to comply by releasing information on voters. Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a statement earlier this month said the state would not participate by turning over information.

Some of the data the commission is seeking from the state is available to the general public through the state’s Freedom of Information Law.

Heastie’s letter, however, argues the law doesn’t provide for that data to be used for “non-election purposes.”

“The New York State Assembly Majority interprets that to mean their mission is not specific to any election and, therefore, New York’s voter registration data cannot be shared with the Commission,” the letter states.

Commision on Election Integrity by Nick Reisman on Scribd

Graf Files For District Court Judge Race

Assemblyman Al Graf is the latest member of the state Legislature to seek greener pastures.

Graf, a Republican from Suffolk County, filed papers with the Board of Elections this week to run of a district court judgeship.

Graf had previously sought this year to run for Suffolk County sheriff, but the endorsement for post among local party leaders went to another state lawmaker, Republican Sen. Phil Boyle.

State lawmakers from both chambers and sides of the aisle are seeking to run for local office in the off-year in which they do not have to run for re-election, keeping their seats safe if they lose and a potential salary increase if they win.

Sen. George Latimer is running for Westchester County executive; Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin is running for Rennselaer County executive.

In New York City, several lawmakers are seeking council posts, including Assemblyman Francisco Moya and Sen. Ruben Diaz.

Cuomo And Heastie: ‘Joint Effort’ For Full-Day Kindergarten

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced Wednesday he had secured a “joint effort” with Gov. Andrew Cuomo to provide for full-day kindergarten in next year’s budget that would benefit school districts that continue to maintain half-day programs.

In a statement, Heastie said Cuomo will back the funding effort with the Assembly for school districts, which predominantly would likely impact those in Rockland and Orange counties, where the issue has loomed especially large.

“Experience has shown that full-day kindergarten gives children a head start and allows them to grow and thrive in so many ways,” Heastie said. “I want to commend my colleagues in the Majority, especially Assemblymembers James Skoufis and Ken Zebrowski, who have sponsored legislation to help school districts transition to full-day kindergarten, for their hard work in helping to make this a reality.”

The development also comes after a special session in which Senate Republicans had pushed to expand and strengthen charter schools. While nothing official had been agreed to, Majority Leader John Flanagan and Mayor Bill de Blasio reportedly struck a side agreement to boost so-called “zombie” charters that have been closed, but their licenses do not return to a pool available to new applicants.

The full-day kindergarten issue has been especially acute for Assembly Democrats, who have drawn strong support for the state’s teachers unions.

“On this momentous occasion, our state is sending a clear, unmistakable message: every single child – regardless of zip code – deserves a comprehensive kindergarten education,” said Assemblyman James Skoufis.

“After years of Speaker Heastie and the Assembly leading on this issue, I am delighted we have come to an agreement with the governor to work towards funding full-day kindergarten in the remaining half-day districts, including Washingtonville and North Rockland. Ensuring all children receive the fundamental building blocks of an early education has been a top priority of mine and I am thrilled we are moving forward with this joint effort.”

State Officials Mourn Death Of NYPD Officer

State elected officials on Wednesday mourned the shooting death of NYPD Officer Miosotis Familia, who was assassinated ambush-style while sitting an mobile-command unit.

“Officer Miosotis Familia ‎spent 12 years protecting her community as a member of the NYPD and all New Yorkers share in the pain and heartbreak caused by her death,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “Law enforcement officers across New York put their lives on the line to protect and serve their communities. This horrific and senseless assassination is a devastating reminder of the risks these brave men and women face each day.”

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie in a statement noted Familia’s ties to the Bronx, saying the borough and “all of New York” are mourning her death.

“Officer Familia selflessly served her community for 12 years and died tragically in a senseless and cowardly act of violence,” Heastie said. “On behalf of the New York State Assembly Majority, I extend my condolences to her family, loved ones, and the brave men and women of the NYPD who put their lives on the line every day to make our communities safer.”

Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein in his statement praised the NYPD as well in addition to praising the work of Familia.

“New York City lost a brave woman who for 12-years as an NYPD officer put her life on the line to protect all of us and keep us safe from harm,” Klein said. “My deepest condolences go out to the family of Police Officer Miosotis Familia and her extended family in blue. This chilling, deliberate assassination of an officer on duty in The Bronx is a reminder of the risks our officers face every day while on the job.”

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan in a statement extended sympathies as well and praised her colleagues’ response to apprehend the alleged shooter.

“Shortly after this senseless shooting, her fellow officers took swift action and prevented the criminal responsible for her death from harming any other innocent New Yorkers,” Flanagan said. “We are incredibly fortunate to have such capable and brave members of law enforcement serving in our communities, always placing the well-being of others before their own, and I thank them all for their service.”

ECDC Lambastes Kearns For Not Voting During Extraordinary Session

The Erie County Democratic Committee is criticizing Assemblyman Mickey Kearns, D-Buffalo, for skipping the vote during this week’s extraordinary session. While Kearns was in Albany, he was marked absent as the Assembly approved an omnibus bill early Thursday morning.

The committee said missing the vote, which include a sales tax extender for counties, was reckless, despite the bill’s passage.

“It’s alarming that Mickey Kearns found the time to drive to Albany, but couldn’t find the time to cast a single vote to save Erie County’s residents from enduring a 102% increase in their property taxes,” Dem Chairman Jeremy Zellner said.

Kearns is a Democrat but is running for Erie County Clerk this fall on the Republican ticket. ECDC has endorsed former radio personality Steve Cichon.

Committee leaders said Kearns is a Democrat only in registration at this point and has missed at least 61 votes during his five years in Albany.

“This November, voters should keep Kearns work ethic in mind. We need a County Clerk who will get the job done,” Zellner said.

The assemblyman said the extraordinary session in Albany “covered nothing important” to Western New York.

“The Governor is willing to call Members back to rename a down-state bridge, but will not sign a bill on the WNY Psychiatric Center to save our children,” he said. “The process is pathetic and again showcases the dysfunction of Albany.”

Back in Buffalo by Thursday morning, Kearns participated in a ride-hailing press conference with other members of the Western New York delegation.

Details Emerge In Potential Deal

Details are starting to fall into place for a potential resolution to an extraordinary session called by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The state Senate has left for the day with plans to return Thursday, but Assembly Democrats are potentially working into the night. There was no indication the Senate, controlled by Republicans, would back the details or hold a vote.

Lawmakers say an agreement is in place for extending sales tax measures for county governments for three years and mayoral control of New York City schools for two years. At the same time, $55 million would be made available for flood relief for damage at Lake Ontario.

But Speaker Carl Heastie wasn’t ready to commit to those details.

“I just updated the conference on where things are,” Heastie said after a closed-door briefing with his conference. “I don’t have a final bill yet, so I can’t give you a final opinion. I have to wait until the bill comes up.”

Heastie added the Assembly could vote this evening if a bill is ready.

One lawmaker Tuesday night added the Assembly will vote for a bill that would re-name the Tappan Zee Bridge after Mario Cuomo, the late governor and the father of the current governor. The Senate previously approved that legislation.

‘It’s Like We Never Left’

Negotiations continued today at the Capitol as lawmakers convene for an extraordinary session of the Legislature on Tuesday as talks continue over a potential broader deal beyond the extension of mayoral control for New York City schools.

Lawmakers are also considering an extension of a tax break for lower Manhattan real-estate that is favored by the Real Estate Board of New York and a provision to bolster New York City police and firefighter pensions.

But some lawmakers say a bigger agreement in an omnibus bill that could include a variety of measures left unresolved.

“It’s like we never left,” said Jeff Klein, the leader of the Independent Democratic Conference in the state Senate.

Top lawmakers met privately with Gov. Andrew Cuomo to discuss a potential package of measures that could include a variety of issues, such as a new agreement on upstate flood relief.

“I think that’s the intent,” Klein said. “But what the governor wanted to do and I believe him is continue mayoral control which is such an important issue for the city of New York.”

At issue has primarily been extending mayoral control of New York City schools, but upstate lawmakers are increasingly concerned sales tax provisions for county governments won’t be re-approved — losing billions of dollars in the process.

“I’ve been here for 35 years. Sales tax has not been an issue,” said Sen. Jim Tedisco, a Republican from the Albany suburbs. “That’s been general. We know it mitigates the property taxes. Nobody should be holding up the upstate county sales taxes.”

Frustration, too, is bubbling over a bit as Tedisco complained of Cuomo, “It seems like he thinks there are three branches of government: Me, myself and I.”

The sales tax measures were approved in May by the Assembly, but packaged with an extension of mayoral control for two years. The state Senate approved the bills in a traditional fashion, but pushed to expand charter schools — a non-starter for the Assembly.

Klein confirmed Wednesday talks surrounding charter school expansion had fallen off the table.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said there were “productive discussions, but no resolution” in the sales tax talks.

Lawmakers are also considering measures for financial relief for the Vernon Downs racino in the Mohawk Valley, speed cameras for New York City. Of course, a deal could still apart.

“They’re trying to resolve issues on how to proceed,” said Sen. John Bonacic. “The short question is are we going to gavel out and do nothing.”

Lawmakers aren’t ruling out staying beyond today and some lawmakers are already planning to stay here until at least Friday.

“I think we’re going to be here as long as the speaker feels we’re having productive talks,” said Democratic Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle.

Lawmakers have planned for multiple stays in Albany, booking more than one night at hotels and bringing a change of clothes.

“I always bring at least three suits,” said Republican Sen. Rich Funke.