Aug 26th - 4:11 pm
A rally for the Child Victims Act, a measure that is aimed at making it easier for the survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file lawsuits, will be held next week in the hometown of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The rally is scheduled to be held next Wednesday in Mount Kisco, the Westchester County suburb Cuomo calls him (there’s some disagreement, of course, that the governor lives in New Castle with his partner Sandra Lee).
The rally is being held at Mount Kisco’s City Hall, starting at 1 p.m.
The event itself is being hosted by Allison Boak, a supporter of the bill and a Democratic candidate for the state Senate. Boak is challenging Republican Sen. Terrence Murphy.
Also helping organize the rally is Gary Greenberg, an upstate businessman who is bankrolling a political action committee backing candidates who would support the bill if elected to the state Legislature.
Greenberg in an email on Friday afternoon said he invited Cuomo to attend the rally.
The Child Victims Act has languished in the state Legislature during the past legislative session.
Aug 25th - 2:54 pm
After good-government groups criticized the ethics legislation he signed into law this week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday acknowledged more work needed to be done the issue.
Speaking with reporters at the State Fairgrounds outside of Syracuse, Cuomo touted the new disclosure requirements in the measure as a major step forward in regulating shadowy money in politics.
But he also indicated he wanted to do more on the issue after approving the fourth ethics law in the more than five years he has been governor.
“The ethics bill is a major step forward,” Cuomo said. “Is it everything? No. Ethics in many ways is like other activities in life, right? That old line — you can never be too rich, you can never be too thin. Well, you can never be too ethical. So, you get everything done that you can get done. But you stay at it and you work at. More and more disclosure, more trust.”
Cuomo approved what was widely considered to be the ethics bill of the legislative session, a measure designed to address the Citizens United era of super PAC political spending, as well new requirements for lobbyists and consultants.
Good-government advocates have blasted the measure, saying it would unduly impact non-profit organizations who may have a difficult time complying with the law.
At the same time, the ethics watchdogs criticized Cuomo, who proposed the initial measure in June, for not going far enough on reform measures in Albany in the wake of a series of corruption scandals and arrests that have plagued the Legislature.
Both the former Assembly speaker and Senate majority leader were ousted in the last year following corruption convictions that rocked the Capitol.
“Albany certainly had a bad year in terms of trust,” Cuomo said. “They needed an ethics reform so people knew they could trust Albany and this is a great first step.”
Aug 25th - 12:00 pm
A legal challenge by the state’s Public Employees Federation challenging the legality of a fellowship program created Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration was rejected on Thursday by a state Supreme Court.
PEF, a labor groups of mostly white-collar workers, filed the legal challenge against the Empire Fellowship Program, a temporary 24-month program launched in 2015 that was aimed at bringing young people into government and introducing them to policy making.
But the union saw the fellowship program as a circumvention of the state’s civil service requirements that public workers must adhere to. The union filed an Article 78 challenge to the program, charging it discriminated against older and more experienced employees.
In the ruling by Supreme Court Justice Richard McNally tossing the suit, the challenge was deemed “arbitrary and capricious” while requiring a competitive civil service examination for the fellowship program was called impractical, given that it only lasts for two years.
Aug 24th - 4:22 pm
Seeking to address the political spending through super PACs in the wake of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday signed into law a bill that would require the disclosure for non-profit groups that engage in political activities.
The bill is also aimed at curbing the coordination between independent expenditure committees and a candidate’s campaign and require consultants and lobbyists who provide services to sitting elected officials or candidates.
Touted as the key ethics measure approved at the end of the legislative session in June, the bill has been opposed by good-government organizations for failing to address the root causes of corruption in state government and placing an overdue burden on non-profit entities.
Hours before Cuomo’s office announced he had signed the bill, a coalition of the state’s prominent ethics watchdogs called on him to veto the legislation — an unlikely move given the governor had proposed the bill. At the same time, the call to veto the legislation may have only emboldened Cuomo further, given the tensions between the governor and good-government groups in recent months.
Cuomo was pushed by ethics watchdogs this past legislative session to focus on government reform measures, many of which stood little chance of passing in the Assembly and Senate. Still, the groups insisted Cuomo could have thrown his weight behind such measures like closing the LLC loophole (Cuomo ultimately introduced multiple versions of the bill to address multiple public offices) as well as public financing of elections.
But Cuomo insists the bill is a major effort at rolling back the impact of the Citizens United decision and the influence of “dark money” in politics.
“New York is taking aggressive action to restore the people’s faith in government and increase accountability and transparency in the electoral process,” Cuomo said in a statement.
“These actions roll back the disastrous influence of Citizens United and prohibit coordination between candidates and independent expenditure committees. Through enhanced enforcement and increased penalties for political consultants who flout the law, this new legislation will root out bad actors and shine a spotlight on the sordid influence of dark money in politics. With this legislation, New York is raising the bar once again – and now it’s time for the rest of the nation to follow suit.”
The bill was proposed as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, whom Cuomo has had a hostile public relationship with over the last year, was benefiting from the non-profit Campaign for One New York. The non-profit, which backed the mayor’s agenda, had stirred controversy for de Blasio and was ultimately shuttered.
Cuomo, too, benefited from the Committee To Save New York, a group of business interests and private-sector unions that was aligned with the governor’s agenda in 2011 and 2012. The group closed down before a law that would have required its donors be disclosed took effect.
Aug 24th - 11:24 am
A coalition of good-government groups on Wednesday urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo to veto the ethics reform package of this year’s legislative session, arguing the measure aimed at requiring greater transparency for non-profit organizations goes too far and was poorly constructed.
A letter released by the groups — including Citizens Union, Common Cause New York, the League of Women Voters and the New York Public Interest Research Group — criticized the legislation Cuomo has described as a state-level response to the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which has ushered in a new era of campaign finance spending through super PACs.
Also signing on to the letter was the New York Immigration Coalition.
The bill, which Cuomo is expected to sign, is aimed at requiring new disclosure for lobbying by non-profit groups.
The groups take issue with the legislation, saying it could impact non-profit charities. The disclosure requirements would likely impact the good-government groups as well.
The groups also contended the legislation was written too hastily and without input from the public at large.
“While the independent expenditure spending aspect of the bill has been widely discussed across the nation and includes many recommendations that have been discussed for several years, including several provided to your administration by our organizations, little else in the bill addresses the strong public consensus that corruption is a serious problem in New York,” the letter states.
Cuomo had been sharply criticized by good-government organizations during the legislative session for not making a public push on ethics reform following the arrests and convictions of the top legislative leaders in the Assembly and Senate, Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos.
But the groups argue in their letter the legislation approved by state lawmakers in June doesn’t address the root cause of corruption in state government.
“With New York’s two previous legislative leaders convicted of corruption, and at least 33 legislators in the past 16 years having left office due to scandal, we know how bad the problem of corruption is and how poor our actions have been to combat it,” the letter states. “Yet the legislation does virtually nothing to respond to this unprecedented corruption.”
Cuomo proposed a series of campaign finance reform measures this year that have fallen flat with the Legislature, including an effort to curtail political giving through limited liability companies. Cuomo introduced a range of bills that would have addressed LLC donations for different elected offices, but lawmakers did not hold votes on any of those bills.
Aug 22nd - 5:54 pm
As a revival of the 421a real-estate tax abatement comes under fire for subsidizing union wages, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday defended the proposal.
Cuomo, who had pushed for the revival of 421a earlier in the day at a gathering of the AFL-CIO in New York City, said the now-lapsed program is one big subsidy to begin with when asked whether such a move would be unprecedented in its scope.
“An affordable housing program by definition requires subsidy,” Cuomo said. “Whether you subsidize wages, or you subsidize land, or you subsidize the construction, it doesn’t matter. It’s a subsidy. I was the housing secretary for the country. The housing programs are just a variety of subsidies.”
The 421a abatement expired at the beginning of the year after Cuomo and the Legislature kicked over the details of the extension to construction labor unions and real-estate developers, who failed to reach a long-term agreement on a prevailing wage.
The measure is meant to provide a certain amount of units in a development are set aside at below market rates as a means of preserving affordable housing in New York City.
Reviving 421a as proved to be especially contentious and the current iteration of a proposed revival of it may not pass muster.
Cuomo said the status of the talks is “not there yet” on re-approving it.
Aug 22nd - 3:01 pm
Speaking to the New York state AFL-CIO on Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo pushed for the renewal of the 421a real-estate abatement, saying it must include a prevailing wage provision in the “union town” that is New York City.
“The way the city proposed the law which came to Albany — the program does not pay union wages,” Cuomo said. “Why? Because the developers don’t want to be forced to use union labor. If they are left on their own, they want to use non-union labor. One time in this city you would not dream of using non-union labor.”
The abatement expired at the start of the year after developers and construction labor unions failed to reach an agreement on an extension and the details of a prevailing wage. The decision to throw the details and fate of the abatement was an end-of-session compromise between Cuomo and the Legislature in 2015.
Cuomo, who has been close to both real estate and the private-sector labor unions, in recent months has pushed for 421a’s return, which is aimed at encouraging affordable housing in New York City.
Speaking to the AFL-CIO on Monday, Cuomo insisted he won’t back a renewal of the program without a labor-backed provision.
“Now they want government to validate that decision by saying government will fund the program that pays non-union labor,” he said. “I want to pay more because I want us to have skilled labor on that job and build it right the first time so it can last.”
Cuomo in recent days has signaled plans to jump start efforts that would revive 421a that would include the requirement that developers set aside at least 25 percent of the units for below-market housing.
But at the same time, Cuomo has made clear he wants to encourage projects that hire union shops.
“This is a union town,” he said. “We have the highest number of unionized people in this state and I believe in the labor movement.”
But the proposal has been met with critics in the business community, which blasted Cuomo’s remarks on Monday as well as the push to have a wage subsidy in the plan.
“New York State taxpayers have enough problems, like crumbling roads and bridges and soaring taxes, without having to subsidize Cuomo’s political supporters who would rather be handed the work than learn to compete within the confines of public bidding law and an open market,” said Josh Reap, the government affairs director for Associated Builders & Contractors. “If they can’t compete fairly, taxpayers shouldn’t be left footing the bill for their poor decisions.”
In the same address, Cuomo struck a populist note to union members in New York City, diagnosing the tumultuous political debate in the country as stemming from those who feel economically left behind.
“The working men and women of this country have gotten screwed over the past 30 years,” he said. “That’s why there’s an anger.”
Aug 19th - 5:48 pm
A bill that would provide for centralized oversight of the Capital Region’s taxi businesses was approved on Friday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The measure is seen as one that could be potentially replicated among transportation authorities and the cab industry around the state.
The new law is aimed at streamlining the licensing process for taxis in the greater Albany area through the Capital District Transportation Authority, which oversees bus transit service.
The law would allow municipal governments within the CDTA service area to in various administrative actions for taxis and, for the bill’s sponsors, provide some consistency with the region’s service.
“Over the last two years we have worked closely with the tourism and business community, as well as the initial local governments that handle the bulk of the taxi service in our region,” said Assemblyman John McDonald, the Cohoes Democrat who backed the bill. “After listening to the concerns of both the municipalities and the taxi companies, it was apparent there is a disconnect and one that I am confident the CDTA can assist in.”
The law comes after lawmakers failed to reach an agreement that would have allowed ride-hailing app services like Uber and Lyft to operate in upstate New York.
Aug 17th - 6:03 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo defended the state’s use of $22 million in federal funding for a promotional tourism campaign in areas impacted by devastating storms, saying a federal audit of how the state oversaw the money misunderstood federal regulations.
The audit released Friday was critical of the state’s procurement and oversight practices for how the $22 million was spent in areas impact by Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.
“During Hurricane Sandy we expended billions and billions of dollars literally in the handling of the emergency and then the construction and the aftermath in trying to get people back to the affected communities,” Cuomo said on Wednesday in the Bronx. “I’m very proud of what the state did.”
Cuomo, as did the Empire State Development Corp. which oversaw the spending, blamed the audit’s findings on a misinterpretation of federal rules.
“Some federal person, entity, did it,” he said. “We believe they misread the law and misread the regulations about how the funding should be spent, so we’re contesting the opinion.”
The entity in question is the Department of Housing and Urban Development, where Cuomo served as secretary during the Clinton administration.
Aug 17th - 5:31 pm
As the New York Racing Association remains under state control, there’s a push underway from the thoroughbred industry to privatize the entity that oversees racing in the state. Governor Andrew Cuomo says he’s supportive of the move, but on Wednesday would not give a timeline.
“It’s operating, it’s operating well,” Cuomo said Wednesday in the Bronx. “My hope and the expectation was to privatize it once the state got it on solid footing.”
The push to re-privatize NYRA is strongest in Saratoga Springs, where business and community leaders have led a concerted public campaign on the issue. Cuomo, however, says the state will continue oversight of NYRA even after it is no longer under direct public control.
“The state should continue to regulate it because we have a significant investment in NYRA,” Cuomo said. “We subsidize by about $50 million a year. So, the state has to perform its role. But the best way to do it ultimately is to privatize it with continued state regulation.”
The governor’s administration moved in 2012 to takeover NYRA operations after then-CEO Charlie Hayward was removed and the association was caught improperly collecting millions in fees from exotic bets.
“The horse racing tracks were basically bankrupt,” he said. “The state came in and effectively took it over.”
NYRA was initially meant to return to private control in 2014, but state authority has been renewed. Legislative leaders like Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie largely agree with the governor’s stance.
“We want it to be profitable,” said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. “We want it to be privately run. We just want to make sure the numbers work so we don’t run into the same numbers previously.”
Heastie says he’s deferring to the lawmakers who represent race tracks in New York.
“We just want to make sure the numbers work out,” he added.
NYRA operates three thoroughbred race tracks in Saratoga Springs, Belmont on Long Island and Aqueduct in Queens.