Business Write To Oppose Prevailing Wage

A coalition of business entities ranging from the Business Council to Unshackle Upstate are pushing back against an effort to include a prevailing wage component in the renewal of the 421a tax abatement.

In a letter being sent to state lawmakers this week, the groups write to specifically oppose the measures introduced by Republican Sen. Jack Martins and Assembly Housing Committee Chairman Keith Wright.

“Mandating prevailing wages on private housing projects that simply receive a tax abatement is a profoundly damaging precedent,” the groups write. “Prevailing wages are currently required only for public works projects such as those undertaken by the state or municipalities. If enacted, this bill would for the first time extend costly and administratively-complex wage mandates to privately-owned and developed projects.”

The letter is in many respects a follow up from a previous memo of opposition sent by many of the same pro-business organizations that opposed earlier prevailing wage components on the table.

The debate over the prevailing wage legislation, however, appeared to take a turn this week as Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday told reporters he is backing a straight extension of the abatement without any major changes.

On Thursday, Cuomo told reporters in New York City the extension of the abatement would likely be a short one.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has called for a plan that would extend the prevailing wage to service workers, not those in the construction industry — leading to an outcry from labor groups like the AFL-CIO.

203132629_1 by Nick Reisman

Griffo And Morelle Hold Out Hope For MMA

From the Morning Memo:

The Senate and Assembly sponsors to bills that would legalize mixed martial arts in New York say there is enough time to resolve the differences between the competing measures and reach an agreement by the end of the legislative session.

The lead Senate sponsor, Republican Joe Griffo, plans to add amendments to the existing MMA legislation based on some of the changes being sought by Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle.

“I think there will be an amendment of the current bill we put in and how ultimately it will look is being discussed at the current time,” Griffo said on Wednesday.

Morelle has introduced a revised version of a bill designed to legalize the sport, but is also aimed at strengthening insurance regulations for other combat sports regulated by the state government, such as boxing and wrestling.

The bill would create a $1 million accident insurance policy that’s meant to cover brain injury-related medical costs and empowers the state Athletic Commission to determine groups or organizations that oversee the currently unregulated amateur-level fights.

The bill also would increase the minimum amount needed for accident insurance in both boxing and mixed-martial arts fights to $50,000, up from the current $7,500 for boxing matches in New York.

Morelle introduced the modified version in order to win some support for the bill in the chamber, which has declined to take up the legislation in previous years.

In addition to issues raised by labor unions in a dispute with MMA promoter Ultimate Fighting Championship, some Democratic lawmakers have sought health and insurance protections for fighters.

“It adds significant protections to participates in what we call combative sports,” Morelle said of the new bill.

Griffo said he won’t introduce all of Morelle’s changes, but is nevertheless confident there’s enough time to sort out of the differences by next Wednesday, when lawmakers are scheduled to leave Albany for the year/

“We’ve discussed the original bill and some of the stuff that we’re looking to put in,” Griffo said. “There’s still some nuances and stuff to put in.”

Morelle, too, was confident there was still enough time on the clock. An MMA agreement between the two chambers would have to be in by Sunday in order to be voted on by Wednesday.

In an interview, Morelle raised the possibility of the session being extended beyond Wednesday as lawmakers debate a host of unresolved issues such as rent control regulations for New York City.

“Session could very well move into Thursday,” Morelle said. “I think we’ve got enough time, three or four days. I’m talking to a lot of colleagues. I think there’s renewed interests by some folks who had some concerns because of the protections for participants. Now it’s just a question of whether I can persuade them that we ought to regulate the sport.”

Agreement Nears On Campus Sexual Assault Bill

Assembly Higher Education Committee Chairwoman Deborah Glick on Wednesday said she was “confident” an agreement was close on a bill aimed at curtailing rape and sexual assault at private college campuses.

Glick, a Manhattan Democrat, said the measure will now likely include an appeals process, which was not in the initially proposal drafted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“That seemed a little problematic in that if one party wasn’t happy with a resolution there was no recourse,” she said in an interview. “That seemed to put all schools in the line of fire in terms of litigation and that didn’t seem appropriate. So we will have an appeals process.”

Glick has raised issues previously with the bill, especially over the adjudication process as well as shoring up protections for non-heterosexual encounters in the measure.

At the heart of the legislation is a provision that would create an affirmative consent requirement for sexual encounters on college campuses. SUNY campuses last year adopted the policy system-wide, and the bill now being discussed would bring the policy to private colleges.

“I’m totally confident that we will come to a full agreement,” Glick said.

Cuomo has made no secret of his desire to see the anti-rape bill approved before the June 17 deadline. Cuomo frequently notes when discussing the bill, dubbed the “Enough Is Enough” campaign, that he has two daughters in college, with a third on the way.

“It’s one of my top priorities,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “I would be very, very disappointed if we didn’t get it done.”

Cuomo also knocked those who downplay the problem of campus rape.

“Some people dismiss it,” he said. “I think that is arrogant and sexist.”

The End Of Session Dynamic Different Than Budget Squeeze

From the Morning Memo:

Assembly Democrats insist they won’t get squeezed like they were in the budget talks, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo was able to link an increase in school aid to education reform measures many lawmakers didn’t want to approve.

But as Cuomo finds ways to force state lawmakers into backing the education tax credit by a variety of linkages and packages, Democratic lawmakers say the dynamic is different.

“I think there’s an important distinction between the budget negotiations and what’s going on now,” said Assemblyman James Skoufis in a Capital Tonight interview.

The state’s executive holds increasing power over the budget process. Very late budgets — spending plans that have dragged on into the spring and summer with no deal in sight — haven’t been seen in Albany since the final year of Gov. David Paterson, when he used the power of the budget extenders to end the stalemate.

So far, Cuomo has used that power as a subtle threat: He was able to get largely what he wanted with a new teacher evaluation system and a weakening of teacher tenure in the budget by packaging those measures with school funding and ethics and disclosure reforms.

“We as a Legislature in the budget negotiations were up against a wall,” Skoufis said. “The option that could have taken place was, we pass everything the governor wants or we shut down the government. In this case, we don’t have that option, that sort of false dichotomy where we don’t want to choose either of them.”

Indeed, the power dynamic is a different one between lawmakers and the governor, which will make it difficult for Cuomo to get all that he wants as the session winds down on June 17.

Cuomo can still force lawmakers to stay at the Capitol, and he’s already said he will do that if they do not make a deal on extending rent control for the metropolitan area, which is due to lapse on Monday.

Skoufis said his colleagues are willing to stay to get rent control regulations done, but they won’t be forced this time around to accepting what they oppose.

“We’re not being forced into a corner to accept things we don’t want unlike the situation that presented itself during the budget negotiations,” he said.

Morelle Introduces Alternate MMA Bill

Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle on Tuesday introduced an alternative version of a bill designed to legalize mixed-martial arts in New York in an effort to pass the measure in the final days of the legislative session.

Morelle’s new bill would create a $1 million accident insurance policy that’s meant to cover brain injury-related medical costs and empowers the state Athletic Commission to determine groups or organizations that oversee the currently unregulated amateur-level fights.

The bill also would increase the minimum amount needed for accident insurance in both boxing and mixed-martial arts fights to $50,000, up from the current $7,500 for boxing matches in New York.

The bill’s introduction was first reported by Gannett’s Albany bureau.

Morelle, the Assembly’s main booster of the MMA legalization bill, had been seeking compromises on the legislation pertaining to insurance and health protections for MMA participants, which he said could alleviate some concerns raised by Democratic lawmakers in the chamber.

Any changes would have to impact the combat-style sports the state already regulates, like boxing.

The bill’s legislative memorandum frames the bill as an effort to update existing boxing regulations.

“The existing boxing law was codified in 1920. It requires modernization,” the bill memo states. “This legislation recognizes the evolution in sports that has occurred since the Prohibition Era. It provides essential increases in the insurance limits and financial guarantees required to protect boxers and mixed martial artists.”

An initial version of the MMA legalization bill has already been approved by the Republican-led Senate.

An effort to block the legislation in New York has been pushed in part by the Las Vegas culinary union, which is in a protracted dispute with Ultimate Fighting Championship, the sport’s prominent MMA organizer and promoter.

Assembly Republicans Push Original Pension Forfeiture Amendment

Assembly Republicans called on Tuesday for a vote on a constitutional amendment that would strip pension benefits from state officials convicted of corruption and called an alternative measure working its way through the chamber a “watered-down” measure.

The GOP minority leader, Brian Kolb, said the Democratic leadership was trying to block actual progress on the amendment.

“We have a bill. We had a bill that was agreed upon by the two majorities and the governor,” Kolb said at a news conference outside the Assembly chamber. “What’s the delay? Why are we doing reform light? It’s about scuttling.”

A version of the amendment was approved by the Republican-controlled Senate in March as part of a broader agreement over the state budget.

Assembly Democrats, however, did not take up that version of the amendment after some lawmakers and union leaders raised issues with the language of the measure, contending it was too broad.

The result was the introduction of an alternative measure that still impacts top state officials, both elected and appointed, convicted of a corruption-related felony.

Republicans argue those exemptions are too broad.

“What they’ve done is narrow the width of people that this bill would apply to,” Kolb said. “What we’re saying is any public employee that is receiving a salary from the taxpayer should not be left off the hook.”

It’s unlikely an agreement will be reached on the competing amendments before the end of the session.

Still, lawmakers do have time to sort out the changes: A constitutional amendment must be approved twice by separately elected legislatures before it goes before voters.

Lawmakers could still cast votes next year on a compromise bill.

But Kolb said that’s not enough, given the spate of corruption scandals at the Capitol that have led to the arrests of both legislative leaders in the Senate and Assembly.

“It’s a cloud that has hung over this Legislature way too long and I think the sooner we say enough is enough, this is what we’re going to do, these are the messages we’re going to send,” he said.

Lawmakers Find Linking Tax Credit To Rent ‘Apples And Oranges’

From the Morning Memo:

Assembly Housing Committee Chairman Keith Wright was not enthusiastic about the idea of linking the education investment tax credit to the extension of rent control laws in New York City and the surrounding area, calling the two issues “apples and oranges.

“There’s no reason in the world why something having to do with education should be linked with something effecting over two million people in the city of New York,” said Wright, a Manhattan Democrat.

More broadly, lawmakers appeared hesitant to endorse agreements on key issues as the legislative session winds down.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman John DeFrancisco attributed the lack of deal-making desire to the ongoing corruption cases in state government and the reticence of appearing to perform a quid pro quo.

Of course in Albany, nothing is linked until everything is at the end, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo may not want to end a tumultuous session that saw two of the state’s top legislative leaders in handcuffs end with a whimper.

And some measures are already being yoked together: A Senate Republican bill would extend mayoral control for one year and lift the statewide cap on charter schools by 100.

But Assembly Democrats, in particular, may be no in mood to be squeezed after the budget’s passage that saw a education policy changes linked to both school spending and an ethics reform package.

And the actual linkage of the tax credit to rent control may not help suburban Democrats who have few, if any, rent controlled units in their district, but a very active local teachers union opposed to the measure.

“We probably could resolve the rent situation, we probably could resolve 421a, we probably could resolve the education tax credit and charter schools, but to link them to each other — it’s just not good politics nor does it make good policy,” Wright said.

As for the controversial tax credit (a bill Cuomo and parochial school groups are pushing especially hard for) Wright said that bill, too, should stand on its own.

“We will vet it and we will pick it apart, but being linked to rent stabilization or rent control — something that effects millions of people in the city New York — doesn’t help,” he said.

Pro-EITC Mailer Gives A Supreme Court Example

The latest mailer from a group backing the passage of the education investment tax credit features Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor as an example of the type of person who could benefit from the measure being approved.

The mailer from the Coalition for Opportunity in Education, sent to Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle, has an English and Spanish-language version.

Sotomayor, a Bronx native, attended a now-closed parochial school while growing up. The mailer features a quote in 2013 from the Supreme Court justice on the impact of struggling inner city schools.

“The schools that suffer are the schools in poor neighborhoods,” she is quoted as saying. “And they’re the ones with the least resources to absorb the loss…. These are people who rely on institutions like this to give their kids an opportunity in life.”

The mailer is part of a broader campaign to pressure Assembly Democrats into supporting the legislation, which is aimed at spurring donations to public schools and scholarship programs benefiting private and parochial schools.

“All families deserve a choice when it comes to their child’s education,” the mailer states. “Unfortunately, many families across New York State are struggling financially to make that right choice.”

Tax credit supporters say support is growing in the Assembly for the measure, a version of which previously was approved in the Republican-led Senate.

Assemblyman Peter Abbate became the latest lawmaker in the Democratic conference to back the bill.

Nevertheless, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie says the measure remains a difficult one for the conference to approve and that he would only allow a vote if a majority of Democratic lawmakers are on board.

A counter campaign against the tax credit bill, meanwhile, is also being waged by the New York State United Teachers.

IIE1505 – Morelle English by Nick Reisman

Abbate Signals Support for EITC (Updated)

From the Morning Memo:

Assemblyman Peter Abbate, a Brooklyn Democrat with strong labor ties, recently signaled his full support of a controversial education tax credit measure, pledging to vote for it should it ever be allowed out of committee by Speaker Carl Heastie.

Abbate, who chairs the Committee on Governmental Employees and is also a member of the Labor Committee, expressed his support in a May 13 letter to the bishop of Brooklyn, Rev. Nicholas DiMarzio, who has been pushing for the tax credit for several years.

In the letter, Abbate cited his own parochial school roots as motivation for his position on this bill. (UPDATE: The letter appears below).

“As a product of Regina Pacis, Bishop Ford and St. Johns University, this bill is something that I have a personal understanding of and appreciation for,” the assemblyman wrote.

“I am sure you are aware of all I have done to support the parochial schools, senior centers and churches in my district. I am very proud to say that I do stand with all the families in my district, and have the record to prove it.”

Abbate, who is not a sponsor of the tax credit bill, also expressed his hope that he and the bishop can “get on the same page regarding this legislation,” and offered to assist the bishop in determining “more productive ways to channel your energies than lobbying for sponsorship.”

“I have many ideas to organize and assist you in getting this done,” Abbate concluded.

In a recent OpEd that ran in a local Brooklyn/Queens newspaper, DiMarzio singled out Heastie, Abbate and Assembly Education Committee Chair Cathy Nolan, (a Queens Democrat and another Catholic school graduate), saying they are “keeping parents from having reach school choices.”

“Why? Because of special interest teachers’ union leaders who don’t want parents to have a choice of which school their child attends,” the bishop wrote. “…Some lawmakers want to have it both ways – they say they are with us, but refuse to lift a finger. The time for action is now.”

A number of Assembly Democrats have been under fire for failing to support the education tax credit, which has been repackaged by Gov. Andrew Cuomo as the Parental Choice in Education Act, and is one of the governor’s top end-of-session priorities.

Some Democratic lawmakers have cried foul after being targeted by robocalls and mailers accusing them of putting themselves before New York schoolchildren by approving a legislative pay raise commission as part of the budget deal, but failing to back the governor’s tax credit proposal.

Lawmakers say the campaign trying to get them to move on this issue is having the opposite effect, causing support to erode in the conference.

Heastie used to sponsor tax credit legislation, but pulled his name from the measure – as he did with all bills – when he ascended to become speaker, replacing Assemblyman Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat who has been hit with federal corruption charges by US Attorney Preet Bharara.

Heastie has repeatedly insisted there is not sufficient support in his conference to move the tax credit legislation out onto the floor for a full house vote, where some backers believe it might have enough votes – between Democratic backers and Republican members – to pass.

In order to move the bill out of conference, 76 of the 150 Assembly Democrats have to be willing to vote “yes.”

Senate Republicans have already passed a version of the tax credit, and there is speculation that the issue could be linked by Cuomo to renewal and strengthening of the NYC rent laws – a significant end-of-session priority for the Assembly Democrats – in the so-called “Big Ugly,” the ball of deals on unrelated issues that is expected to come together before lawmakers leave Albany later this month.

Assemblyman Peter Abbate, Brooklyn Democrat, expresses support for EITC. by liz_benjamin6490

Bill Would Compel Governor To Call Special Elections Within A Week

From the Morning Memo:

A bill introduced this week by Queens Democratic Sen. Tony Avella would require the governor to call a special election to fill a vacant seat in the state Legislature within seven days.

The legislation would also take the nominations for special election candidates out of the hands of the local party apparatus and have candidates petition their way onto the ballot, similar to a general election.

The bill comes after Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been criticized for leaving multiple legislative seats open in 2014.

This year, Cuomo took weeks to set a date for a special election to replace resigned Rep. Michael Grimm (the bill would not cover congressional special elections) and did so after Karim Camara resigned his Assembly seat to join the administration.

At the start of last year, there were nine vacancies in the Legislature alone due to lawmakers either winning off-year elections to other offices or resigning in disgrace, a number that grew following additional arrests.

Charles Barron, a former city councilman who ran successfully for the Assembly seat that was left vacant for several months after his wife won a council election, has knocked Cuomo for leaving many of the districts unrepresented or understaffed, especially in poorer communities that need the services.

Cuomo has noted the cost of calling for special elections in the middle of a cycle and has often waited for the general election cycle or multiple vacancies to set a date in order to alleviate the amount spent by the Board of Elections.

The vacancy of the year was created in May, when Assemblyman Bill Scarborough resigned as part of a plea deal in his corruption case.