Dec 9th - 8:51 am
Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee became the latest national group to push Gov. Andrew Cuomo to unite his party and gain a governing majority in the state Senate.
“New Yorkers elected a Democratic majority to represent them in both chambers of the legislature, and Gov. Cuomo has an obligation to stand up and ensure that the will of the voters is respected in the New York Senate,” said the group’s executive director, Jessica Post.
“As head of the Party in the state, Gov. Cuomo needs to unify the Democratic caucus, and as a national Democratic leader, he needs to firmly establish the Democratic governing trifecta voters clearly wanted when they cast their ballots in November.”
The statement released Friday morning is the latest in an internecine battle over control of the chamber through a public pressure campaign of calling on Cuomo to broker unity among the fractious Democrats in the Senate.
Cuomo on Thursday in Albany indicated he had desire to get involved in the issue, pointing to the deep-seated personal issues between the Democratic lawmakers.
Mainline conference Democrats hope that with the potential addition of John Brooks in the still undecided 8th Senate district the party will have a 32-member majority in the 63-seat Senate.
But gaining control would require the defection of Democratic Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder, who sits with the Senate GOP and has indicated he will continue to do so. A separate peace would also have to be reached with the seven-member Independent Democratic Conference as well.
IDC Leader Jeff Klein on Thursday blasted the mainline conference’s attempts to involve Cuomo, saying the battle has descended into a “circus.”
But the DLCC, a Washington, D.C.-based group that backs Democratic candidates running in state legislative races, is the latest organization to throw its weight behind the Cuomo pressure campaign.
Earlier this week, the left-leaning Moveon.org pushed Cuomo on the issue as well.
At the heart of the argument is the success of President-elect Donald Trump and the continued GOP control of both houses of Congress come 2017.
“New York is in a position to be a leader in the fight against Trump’s dangerous and regressive agenda,” said Post of the DLCC, “and I hope Gov. Cuomo capitalizes on this opportunity to establish his state as a firewall against Trump’s extremist policies.”
Dec 9th - 6:00 am
From the Morning Memo:
In his first public appearance in Albany in weeks, Gov. Andrew Cuomo acknowledged he has spoken with federal prosecutors about the corruption case of his former top aide, Joe Percoco.
“It was in preparation for Joe’s case,” Cuomo told reporters on Thursday. “In preparation for the case they were indicting for the nine defendants. It was several months ago.”
Cuomo chief of staff Melissa DeRosa in a statement later said Cuomo spoke voluntarily with U.S. attorneys about the case. Percoco, ex-SUNY Polytechnic President Alain Kaloyeros and prominent upstate developers accused of bribery and bid-rigging.
Cuomo says it is also possible he could be called as a witness in the trial.
“I could be. I don’t envision it,” Cuomo said. “No one has suggested that. I think the question would be more it’s up to the nine defendants who they call in their defense.”
At the heart of the corruption case is upstate economic development spending. Though the spending has been under scrutiny by federal prosecutors, Cuomo has promised to double down on his support for it. Cuomo on Thursday was in Albany to announce the latest awards in the Regional Economic Development Council projects — touting an upstate economy he says has rebounded.
“Unemployment has dropped all across the state of New York,” Cuomo said. “As a matter of fact, most regions have seen a greater drop in unemployment than has happened in New York City.”
Cuomo has also insisted upstate New York is getting the economic attention from the state that it needs.
“It was hard for the upstate members to get that the kind of attention upstate needed,” Cuomo said. “So we changed that. We changed it 180 degrees.
Nevertheless, Cuomo is pushing lawmakers to back ethics legislation in a special session that could also result in the first legislative pay increase since 1998.
“My point is the issues have to be addressed,” Cuomo said. “The reform issue has to be addressed.”
Cuomo and top lawmakers have insisted none of these issues should be linked to a pay hike, but the governor indicated state lawmakers must show some progress.
“I think the the people of the state want to see performance for the raise because in their life it’s not enough to say I need a raise, I haven’t gotten one in a long time,” he said. “What are you doing for it? And what promise of performance do I have?”
Assembly Democrats have been told to standby for a potential return to Albany next week.
Dec 8th - 4:49 pm
After his top economic development czar made a lengthy joke about trying to catch an Uber in Albany, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday reaffirmed his support for expanding ride hailing services outside of New York City.
The issue was reignited in Albany as Empire State Development Corp. CEO Howard Zemsky opened his remarks at the annual Regional Economic Development awards presentation with a deadpan story about calling for an Uber in the state’s capital city, only for it to take 2-1/2 hours to arrive from New York City.
With Cuomo at the lectern, he gave a faux exasperated response, saying, “I support Uber, I guess.”
Later, speaking with reporters, Cuomo said he had backed an upstate ride-hailing effort earlier, only for the legislation to have fallen apart amid Senate and Assembly negotiations.
Still, Cuomo is unsure if he would include the measure in his budget presentation, where it would have a greater chance of being approved intact.
Opponents of ride hailing were quick to pounce, however.
“It would be irresponsible to let Uber expand upstate without requiring fingerprint background checks and other safety regulations it already follows in New York City,” said John Tomassi, president of the Upstate Transportation Association. “Upstate residents have a right to the same ridesharing experience as their downstate counterparts – and that includes fingerprinting for drivers. If state officials fail to make public safety a priority, violent criminals driving on the Uber platform could put millions of upstate riders at risk.”
Dec 8th - 4:21 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has no desire to become publicly involved in the battle over control of the state Senate, saying Thursday in Albany the fractious Democrats in the chamber need to sort their own issues out.
Cuomo’s comments come after several days of public pressure from mainline Democrats and left-leaning groups that have pushed him to broker an agreement that would see the seven-member Independent Democratic Conference and Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder break from an alliance with Republicans.
“I supported the Democrats for the Senate,” Cuomo said. “I worked very hard during the election year and supported Democrats for the Senate. That was obviously not successful.”
Senate Democrats have argued the potential victory in a Long Island Senate race will give them 32 enrolled party members in the chamber, or enough to form a working majority.
But Felder, a Brooklyn Democrat who has conferenced with Republicans since his election, has indicated he will stay within the GOP ranks.
More broadly, Cuomo indicated the divide within the Senate was too difficult on a personal level for him to bridge.
“They have tensions and personal animus and factions that pre-date my election that have nothing to do with me and they’re going to have to work that out themselves,” he said.
Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein earlier in the day in a statement blasted the efforts to have Cuomo intervene in the Senate’s leadership.
Cuomo has been accused by liberals of preferring a Republican-led Senate as a way of triangulating with Assembly Democrats when it comes legislation.
Cuomo repeatedly noted Thursday he campaign for a handful of Democrats in key Senate races in the New York City suburbs.
“The situation in that caucus — you have personal rifts, you have personal agendas — that have gone back for years,” he said. “That they’re going to have to work through if it’s going to be worked through. That I will leave to them. It’s not my place to get involved and I have no desire.”
Dec 8th - 3:17 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo was interviewed by federal prosecutors after one of his top former aides was charged along with seven others with bribery, fraud and bid rigging.
“I have talked to them about the case they brought,” Cuomo told reporters on Thursday.
Joe Percoco, a former confidant to the governor and a longtime aide, was charged along with prominent upstate developers and ex-president of SUNY Polytechnic, Alain Kaloyeros, in September. They were indicted by a grand jury last month.
Cuomo said the conversation, which he was not under oath for, came after the criminal complaint was filed in September.
“It was preparation for Joe’s case,” he said.
Cuomo said he is not a target in the case.
He is unsure, meanwhile, if he’ll be called as a witness in the case.
“I could be, I don’t envision it,” he said. “No one has suggested that.”
Updated: Cuomo spokeswoman Melissa DeRosa in a statement said the governor volunteered to speak with federal prosecutors.
“As part of our continuing cooperation, the Governor voluntarily made himself available and shared his knowledge of facts potentially relevant to the case,” she said. “Out of respect for the pending matter, we will have no further comment, and refer any additional questions to the Southern District.”
Dec 8th - 3:05 pm
As state lawmakers weigh whether to return to Albany in a special session of the Legislature this month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday said “certain issues” such as term limits and a ban on outside income must be addressed.
“My point is issues have to be addressed. Reform issues have to be addressed,” Cuomo told reporters during a question and answers session in Albany after an economic development awards ceremony. “The issue of outside income has to be addressed.”
Cuomo has said he wants lawmakers to back a pair of constitutional amendments that would set term limits for state elected officials and ban private-sector employment of lawmakers. Cuomo on Thursday pointed to the amendment creating a “full-time” Legislature, adding that a constitutional amendment “can take years.”
Cuomo did not mention the term limits proposal he unveiled last week.
Limiting how long lawmakers can serve is considered a non-starter for majority Democrats in the state Assembly, where members from the New York City area have been pushing for a pay increase, up from the current $79,500. Lawmakers last received a pay raise in 1998.
Lawmakers could return at some point this month to set the pay raise in motion by reauthorizing a pay commission to reconvene before the end of the year. There has been talk — seemingly since scuttled — that lawmakers could approve a salary increase straight up, challenging Cuomo whether to veto the bill.
Cuomo in his gaggle with reporters on Thursday hedged on whether lawmakers deserve a pay hike. Cuomo has previously said the Legislature is the best in the country, but since then it has been rocked by a series of corruption scandals, including the arrests and convictions of the top legislative leaders in the Senate and Assembly.
“I think there have been negatives and there have been scandals,” Cuomo said. “At the same time, you have six budgets passed in a row and you have economic development and this state moving in the right direction. These are fundamentally different parameters.”
Cuomo also wants lawmakers to take up funding for affordable housing and a hate crimes task force, in addition to the constitutional amendments.
“I think the people of the state want to see performance for their raise,” he said.
As for the progress of the talks with the Assembly and Senate, Cuomo said they are ongoing.
“We’re talking,” Cuomo said. “You keep talking and the question is whether you reach consensus on critical issues.”
Dec 7th - 6:15 am
From the Morning Memo:
At his birthday fundraiser before a production of “A Bronx Tale: The Musical” on Tuesday evening, Gov. Andrew Cuomo offered a diagnosis on the results of last month’s presidential election and the upset victory of Republican Donald Trump.
“There was a lesson for us,” Cuomo said during his 12-minute remarks before the performance.
“I don’t believe Trump won, I believe we lost that election. I think what it said to the Democratic Party is there is a middle class that we have not been attentive to and there is a middle class that has been suffering for a long time.”
Cuomo celebrated his 59th birthday at the Broadway theater last night along with actors Robert DeNiro and Chazz Palminteri (Introducing the legendary actor who helped bring Palminteri’s one-man show to the big screen in 1993, Cuomo razzed him with a brief Taxi Driver-inspired “you-talkin-to-me?” impression).
While Cuomo touted his own successes in New York — private sector job growth and gains on “social progress” like a $15 minimum wage and paid family leave — the election results were “devastating,” he said.
“Don’t underestimate how devastating this campaign was to this country,” he said. “It didn’t end on Election Day. It spread an anger and a fear and a hatred that is now resonating all across this country.”
The fundraiser was for Cuomo’s 2018 re-election bid as he seeks a third term. But he has been considered a potential candidate for the Democratic nomination in 2020, even has he insists he’s focused on remaining governor.
After initially suggesting Trump’s victory would be a “bonus” for New York given the president-elect’s desire to spend on infrastructure projects, Cuomo has railed against bias crimes and graffiti that have been under scrutiny following the election.
“When you sow fear you will then reap anger and hatred,” Cuomo said Tuesday night. “That’s exactly what’s happening after this campaign. New York’s role is going to be more important than ever before because we have to stand up against what we’re seeing and what we’re hearing.
There is a tide of negativity and we have to stand up and remind this nation what true values is all about.”
Dec 6th - 11:35 am
County government officials, along with a range of clergy and the state Conservative Party pushed on Tuesday for the approval of a bill that would have the state assume the cost of legal services for the poor.
The measure was approved by both chambers of the Legislature in June and is on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk.
The bill’s approval is backed by the Conservative Party, as well as the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus and the New York State Catholic Conference.
At its heart is a reaction to a ruling in a court case that allows county governments to have indigent legal services covered by the state.
“I am pleased to see such a diverse array of supporters for legislation drafted by my office to fulfill the spirit and the letter of the landmark Gideon v. Wainwright ruling,’” said Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy. “Together we are encouraging Governor Cuomo to sign this legislation into law and begin the work to restore the promise of equal representation under the law for all New Yorkers.”
McCoy helped draft the initial legislation, which was sponsored by Republican Sen. John DeFrancisco and Albany Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy, a Democrat.
“I’ve crisscrossed the state talking about this legislation,” said Stephen Button, St. Lawrence County Attorney and a former public defender. “I know from my own experience that without this bill, defenders just can’t provide their clients with the best defense possible. Governor Cuomo should sign this bill and ensure all New Yorkers, regardless of income, race or ethnicity, get a fair trial with an adequate defense.”
Dec 5th - 5:52 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo dipped his toe further into national waters with his election as the policy chair of the Democratic Governors Association.
Cuomo is joining the DGA’s leadership structure after dispiriting election year for Democrats at the federal and state levels.
After the 2016 elections, Democrats will control only 16 governors offices around the country.
Cuomo, however, is in line for a potential White House run in 2020, and has in recent weeks indicated New York will be a national leader in resisting any federal policies from the Trump administration deemed discriminatory.
“Progress at the state level is more important now than ever and with my fellow DGA members, we’re working to develop and advance an agenda that improves the lives of all Americans,” Cuomo said.
“From raising the minimum wage, to passing strong paid family leave, to making record investments in infrastructure and education, New York has been focused on delivering real results. I look forward to working with my fellow Democratic governors to enact meaningful change and work to unite a nation that has been divided for far too long. Only by standing together can we stand against the forces of intolerance and injustice.”
Cuomo is also joining the DGA ranks led by Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy. Then-Cuomo Secretary Steve Cohen infamously once told a Malloy aide the Cuomo administration has two speeds “get along” and “kill.”
Dec 5th - 1:25 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday called for an investigation by the MTA, state Police and the state Division of Human Rights after a uniformed off-duty transit worker was assaulted at Grand Central Terminal.
Cuomo in a statement said the worker, a Muslim woman, was assaulted by a male passenger at around 6:20 a.m. — allegedly calling the woman a “terrorist” and then pushing her down stairs.
“This is the great state of New York – we welcome people of all cultures, customs and creeds with open arms. We do not allow intolerance or fear to divide us because we know diversity is our strength and we are at our best when we stand united,” Cuomo said in a statement. “I have directed the MTA, State Police and Division of Human Rights to work with local law enforcement to investigate these matters. These acts of hate will be pursued and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, and those responsible will be held accountable.”
Cuomo in the last several weeks has sought to allay concerns in the wake of Donald Trump’s election in the presidential race, insisting New York officials won’t tolerate discrimination and bias crimes that may have been inspired by the rhetoric of the campaign.
“New York will continue to set the example for the nation – safeguarding our diversity and our differences, and rooting out bigotry and hatred wherever it exists,” Cuomo said. “The work of the Hate Crimes Task Force has never been more urgent and we will continue to crack down on this type of criminal behavior. I wish a speedy recovery for the victim, and want to let her know we are seeking justice for her and for all New Yorkers.”