De Blasio’s Friend In WNY

From the Morning Memo:

During a wide-ranging CapTon interview last night, Buffalo Sen. Marc Panepinto unleashed on the governor, saying he had “lined up with the Senate Republicans against the mayor of New York City” during the end of the 2015 session.

“Poor Mayor de Blasio,” Panepinto said. “There wasn’t one thing that the governor agreed with him on, even though they share a party affiliation.”

The senator’s comments echoed the mayor’s very public venting of his frustrations with the governor over the past six months, which included an accusation that the Senate Republicans were under Cuomo’s “control” when it came to thwarting NYC’s agenda.

Panepinto insisted he has a “great deal of respect for the governor, but he wants to rule the Democratic Party with an iron fist.”

“We’re a party of inclusion we’re a party of discussion…and it’s been my impression during my short time in state government that Governor Cuomo often doesn’t like those debates,” the senator said.

“I’ve been on the receiving end of some of those comments in private meetings, and I’m just hoping the governor learns from this legislative process that really we all are public servants..and there are other ideas that are also workable. His aren’t the only right ideas.”

The senator declined to elaborate on any private discussions he has had with the governor, though he did note that he’s a “labor guy” and an “economic populist” doesn’t believe Cuomo has “liked some of the things that I have to say.”

Panepinto was not endorsed by Cuomo last fall, and his victory against now-former GOP Sen. Mark Grisanti was one of the few bright spots for the Senate Democrats in their failed quest to re-take the majority – in which they received considerable assistance from de Blasio, but not much from the governor (despite his promises to the contrary).

Cuomo stayed out of the race because he felt he owed as much to Grisanti, the last of four GOP senators who voted “yes” on gay marriage to still be sitting in the chamber last fall. Grisanti ended up losing the GOP primary, and ran in the general election solely on the Independence Party line.

Grisanti has since been appointed by Cuomo, and confirmed by the Senate, to a judgeship.

“Senator Grisanti did very well,” Panepinto quipped. “He got an $84,000 raise, and he’s got a shorter commute right now…I think that was the governor paying him back…I don’t have a problem with the governor taking care of someone who was loyal to him.”

Woolf: No Second Run For Congress

Democrat Aaron Woolf in an email to supporters on Tuesday announced he would not make a second bid for the North Country congressional seat he lost to Republican Elise Stefanik last year.

“While it’s an honor to even be considered, I want you to be among the first to know that I’ve decided against a run for Congress in 2016,” Woolf wrote in the email sent this morning. “Of course, that doesn’t mean our fight to keep Upstate New York moving forward is over. Far from it. I intend to stay deeply involved in this effort – but, for now, as a member of our community, rather than a candidate for public office.”

Woolf, a documentary filmmaker, indicated in the email he would continue to push for issues such as environmental protection, education and investment in capital projects.

“Infrastructure, education, and other long-term investments are the foundation of our rural economy and must be our primary focus. That’s a tough thing for a political class focused on short election cycles and short-term political victories,” he wrote. “But I believe our unique North Country perspective can transcend this polarized climate, and allow us to focus on ideas and innovation above party rhetoric and politicians.”

With Woolf out of the race, Democrats may turn to retired Army Colonel Mike Derrick in the 2016 contest. Both Woolf and Derrick met with Democrats in Warren County to talk about next year’s race.

The district, though rural and heavily Republican, has been considered a tossup seat in recent years.

The sprawling 21st congressional district last year was vacated by Democratic Rep. Bill Owens, who initially won the seat in a closely fought race in 2009 against Doug Hoffman, the Conservative Party candidate (Republican Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava dropped her bid in October and backed Owens in the special election).

The seat went to Democratic hands for the first time in a century after President Obama appointed incumbent John McHugh to become the secretary of the Army.

Owens beat back a challenge from Republican Matt Doheny in 2010 to win the seat outright and again in 2012.

The district last year was seemingly wide open with two relatively unknown major party candidates who were criticized for relative lack of ties to the area.

Stefanik handily won the seat in 2014 with 53 percent of the vote (Green Party candidate Matt Funiciello, a baker from Glens Falls, received 10 percent of the vote).


Gone, But Not Forgotten

From the Morning Memo:

The 2015 legislative is over and in the history books. For the moment, there appears to be little desire by state lawmakers in either the Senate or the Assembly to return to Albany later in the year, barring some sort of emergency.

But despite an end-of-session slate of bills passing that included needed extensions for rent control, the property tax cap, the 421a tax abatement and mayoral control of New York City schools, it’s likely unresolved policy questions will linger through the rest of the year.

For starters, there’s still the question of the 421a tax abatement and what changes will be made by January that both labor unions and developers can agree upon when it comes to the prevailing wage. If the question isn’t resolved in six months’ time, the abatement will expire.

In a more politically nettlesome area, there’s the minimum wage increase. A broader wage hike faltered during the session, despite a last-minute push from Gov. Andrew Cuomo with his allies in labor, the Hotel Trades Council.

Cuomo instead convened a wage board at the state Department of Labor to review potential changes to the minimum wage for workers in the fast-food industry, giving a nod to a growing campaign for better wages in that sector. Still, Cuomo himself has not embraced the campaign’s push for a $15 minimum wage. His proposal at the start of the year would have raised the state’s minimum wage to $11.50 in New York City and $10.50 elsewhere in the state.

New York’s minimum wage, now at $8.75, is due to increase at the end of the year to $9.

Whatever the wage board determines, advocates will likely be emboldened for a more expansive and larger wage hike in the future.

Senate Republicans have been in the past resistant to a minimum wage hike. Next year, however, is an election year and one that is due to be a politically difficult one for the GOP in New York with the White House on the line. Then-Sen. Nick Spano, a vulnerable Republican, carried a previous minimum wage increase bill as he faced a difficult re-election. It did him little good, however, when he was defeated by Democrat Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

And speaking of Senate Democrats, the rent control agreement could be revisited before it is due to expire. Stewart-Cousins told The Daily News that should the conference win a majority next year, the laws could be looked at for strengthening tenant protections before the 2019 sunset. The comment underscores the dissatisfaction among Democratic lawmakers in both chambers over the rent control agreement for not going far enough, especially when it comes to ending vacancy decontrol.

Finally, there’s the fall out from the negotiations themselves, in which Assembly Democrats viewed Cuomo as having ganged up with Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan against their speaker, Carl Heastie.

Cuomo concluded the legislative session with few, if any, Democratic allies in the Senate or Assembly, making governing for the remainder of his second term all the more challenging.

Trying Again On A Final Deal

From the Morning Memo:

The framework is there, but the meat of the deal being added to its bones is another issue.

A day after Gov. Andrew Cuomo sat with the top legislative leaders to announce a framework, end-of-session agreement “in concept,” state lawmakers took those caveats to heart.

“See, it wasn’t a deal yesterday, it was a framework, because there are still some outstanding issues,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said. “There were some items that weren’t settled. It was really about letting people have an idea about what items will be discussed if at the point we reach a final deal. There’s still a lot of outstanding issues on each of the items.”

Assembly Democrats, in particular, insisted the agreement was not yet locked down as rank-and-file members try to exact some last-minute changes.

Both the Senate and Assembly adjourned on Wednesday night without coming to a conclusive end to the legislative session and without bill language being printed.

One Senate Republican, John DeFrancisco of Syracuse, said it was just a matter of the specific language being haggled over at the final moments.

But lawmakers and their staff certainly seemed prepared last night for an extended session. Just as the Senate adjourned, dinner arrived for lawmakers and staff.

The unfinished business in the Big Ugly underscores the deep dissatisfaction among Assembly Democrats — mainly from New York City — over the agreement reached on extending rent control laws for New York City.

“Well, we’re still contemplating whether we can make some tweaks in the bill and so forth,” said Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte, a Brooklyn Democrat. “The big thing for me, obviously, is the rent laws.”

The tentative framework, in addition to rent control’s extension, included a $1.3 billion property tax rebate program, a 12-month extension of mayoral control for New York City schools and a re-approval of the state’s cap on property tax increases.

Democrats on Wednesday afternoon were still holding out hope that Heastie would be able to improve the finer points of the agreement, such as raising the threshold limit in vacancy decontrol to $3,000.

“We are counting on the speaker to do everything that he can to deliver,” said Assemblyman N. Nick Perry. “I’m sure he’s mindful of that.”

Heastie himself offered no predictions to reporters on when the deal would officially set in stone, pencils would be put down and bills printed.

The speaker was seen on Wednesday night leaving Cuomo’s office by an alternative exit to avoid reporters. Later, while walking quickly back to his office, Heastie said no deal was reached.

“Nothing’s closed down,” he said.

‘We Took One Step’ On Raise The Age

From the Morning Memo:

A key reform for the state’s juvenile justice system won’t go before the state Legislature. An effort to raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York faltered, and now Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans to go it alone with an executive order.

“Yes, we took one step, but we’re not going to quit until we reach the ultimate goal, and that’s to raise the age,” said Assemblyman Michael Blake, a Bronx Democrat.

Cuomo’s executive order will move 16 and 17-year-old inmates out of adult prisons and into alternative facilities after a larger agreement could not be reached on moving their cases to family court.

“New York should not have the distinction where we are only one of two states still having our young people in these criminal facilities,” Blake said. “We have to actually give them the chance.”

The agreement in part couldn’t be reached on Republican and Democratic lawmakers parting ways on how to shift cases involving teenagers to a different court system.

“Fundamentally you had some Senate Republicans who made it a conscience decision that sending these kids to family court was not the option, not the route,” Blake said.

For his part, Cuomo says the issue fell victim both to complications and the lack of time left in the legislative session, which has been extended more than week due to disagreements on an array of issues.

“It’s more a question of complication and time and details,” he said. “The raise the age — we made a lot of good progress. We didn’t get there.”

But some Republican lawmakers don’t want to give up on the raise the age issue. Senator Patrick Gallivan says the criminal justice and prison system should be studied for changes for how it impacts young people.

“It’s appropriate we continue the conversation,” said Sen. Pat Gallivan. “I don’t know that anybody can make the argument that we provide sufficient programming and rehabilitation services for 16 and 17-year-olds and ultimately all of the people who are going to return to society.”

De Blasio’s No Good, Very Bad Session

From the Morning Memo:

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will have to return to the Capitol next year to once again lobbying his political bete noirs, the Senate Republicans, for mayoral control of city schools.

The 12-month extension, which was coupled with a strengthening of charter schools in the city and statewide through keeping their numbers in an available pool, was agreed to after the mayor sought a permanent program.

His immediate predecessor, the independently wealthy and political benefactor of the Senate GOP Michael Bloomberg, had received a seven-year extension when mayoral control was last up for renewal.

But de Blasio in 2014 bet on the wrong horse in the legislative elections last year, actively seeking to help flip the Senate to Democratic control.

Earlier this month, the mayor traveled to Albany to personally lobby on the mayoral control issue. He came away visibly frustrated with the lack secure commitments from lawmakers.

Now de Blasio will need Senate Republicans to back mayoral control the same year their thin-majority is once again on the line in a presidential election year that tends to draw out more Democrats.

The mayor — whose sights lately have been on national issues — may not necessarily be sidelined from the 2016 elections in the state Legislature. At the same time, Senate Republicans could very well lose the majority due to the simple math of a tide of Democratic voters.

The paltry extension was also backed by de Blasio’s political frenemy Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who only 13 months ago received a boost from the mayor in order to receive the endorsement of the Working Families Party.

Cuomo, at a news conference, said the 12-month extension was the best that could be done.

Mayoral Control Dead in Buffalo, For Now

A limited extension of Mayoral control in New York City was not a good sign for a “Mayoral Intervention” plan for the Buffalo Public School District.  A Buffalo Assemblywoman, and ally of Speaker Carl Heastie, said the idea is dead for now.

“You see a city the size and the magnitude of New York City not getting what it really deserves, which is a much longer time to implement a system that’s been working for the children in a district,” said Crystal Peoples-Stokes.

In May, Peoples-Stokes drafted a two-year proposal that would allow the mayor to appoint a superintendent, and the nine member board of education. The Buffalo Public School District has had four superintendent’s in five years, and infighting over how a new leader should be chosen spurred Peoples-Stokes’ proposal.

“Buffalo gets nothing this year. That does not mean that we don’t come back for the fight,” Peoples-Stokes said.

Sensing many in Buffalo didn’t have the stomach for a full mayoral take-over, State Senator Marc Panepinto proposed “Mayoral Input.”  The Buffalo Democrat’s proposal would have allowed the mayor to appoint two additional at-large board members to five year terms.

“Mayoral control in the city of New York was a five year process, so if this is the first year of that process, let’s have a community dialogue about it. But clearly the pushback was that Buffalo stakeholders did not want it,” Panepinto said.

Panepinto knows this isn’t the last time the idea will be brought up.  He believes future discussion will be shaped by next year’s school board elections.

“I think what will inform what comes in the legislative package is what’s the makeup of that board. How’s the board going to get along with the new superintendent? I mean I really think this bill was pushed in response to the board majority’s negative interaction with their hand-picked superintendent,” said Panepinto.

With the current superintendent stepping down at the end of the month, whoever takes over will have unprecedented control over five city schools under a receivership model approved as part of this year’s state budget.  Some saw Peoples-Stokes’ measure as an alternative to that plan.

“I understand that she (Peoples-Stokes) felt frustrated and that she felt that something needed to be done that was bold and dynamic but I don’t think again that there was enough time and thought put into how to implement this law,” said BPS Board Member Crystal Peoples-Stokes.

Peoples-Stokes said she will consider changes and if more discussion and community input is what’s needed to get the bill through she’s willing to do it.

“The vast majority of people who I represent were interested in the bill as it was but if we can bring some more people to be willing to support it based on some other ideas then I’m willing to consider them,” Peoples-Stokes added.

Cuomo To Stay In Albany Tonight

Gov. Andrew Cuomo was scheduled to appear at a fundraiser this evening in New York City, but now his office this afternoon says he will stay in Albany to hash out the end of session issues.

“The Governor will be in Albany this evening continuing to work to resolve rent regulations and other remaining open issues,” tweeted Cuomo spokeswoman Melissa DeRosa.

“The Gov has said that until rent regulations are resolved he will call the leg back for special session every day,” she added.

The acknowledgement that Cuomo will stay at the Capitol tonight comes after lawmakers in both the Assembly and Senate on Thursday afternoon said the negotiations remain in a fluid state and no deal on a range of unsettled issues has been finalized.

Cuomo has been largely out of public view since Sunday, when he appeared in Yonkers to announce a fund for struggling school districts.

Rent control regulations for New York City and the surrounding counties lapsed on Monday after Cuomo and state lawmakers failed to reach an agreement to keep them going.

Senate Republicans are seeking verification requirements for income and primary residency, while Assembly Democrats want an end to vacancy decontrol.

Cuomo has linked an extension of stronger rent control regulations to the creation of a tax credit designed to encourage donations to public schools and scholarship programs for private schools.

The GOP conference in the state Senate met for nearly two hours on Thursday afternoon, but lawmakers emerged to say little about the state of the talks.

“Not much has changed,” said Sen. Michael Razenhofer. “The hold up is there’s no agreement on a lot of the outstanding issues.”

Asked about whether the Senate will be in town on Friday, Razenhofer wouldn’t say.

“I expect to be here for the rest of the day and we’ll see how things go for the rest of the day,” he said.

Added Sen. Kathy Marchione: “From what I’ve just heard, we’re still in conversation and we’re working toward getting it resolved.”

‘Getting Nowhere Fast’

From the Morning Memo:

Today is, ostensibly, the final day of the legislative session, at least according to the calendar.

It appears likely, however, that lawmakers will remain at the Capitol through the week as key issues such as rent control regulations, mayoral control of New York City schools and the 421a tax abatement are yet to be locked down.

At the same time, issues with no expiration date are yet to be sorted out: The education tax credit remains in the talks, while some state lawmakers continue to hold out hope for a compromise on juvenile justice reform.

“I expect there will be continued discussions until we leave here. I don’t know if we’ll get there, but we’re trying very hard and some folks in the Senate are trying very hard,” Assemblyman Joe Lentol, a Brooklyn lawmaker, said of the juvenile justice talks.

But the pace of progress in talks with two rookie legislative leaders and a governor with waning popularity has been slow.

Assembly Housing Committee Chairman Keith Wright summed up the current state of the negotiations in a statement released at around 10:30 on Tuesday night, saying state officials are “getting nowhere fast” with the talks on rent control.

“I am disheartened, disappointed and supremely frustrated with the tone of current three-way conversations on important end-of-session business,” Wright said in the statement. “Rent laws have expired, tenants are living moment to moment waiting for action and quite frankly, we’re getting nowhere fast. Two million New Yorkers may soon hear news that greatly displeases them and hinders the well being of their families. If we’re disappointing two million New Yorkers, who exactly are we legislating for?”

That’s not say to some progress is being made in the final days.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state’s legislative leaders announced a pact on combating sexual assault and rape on college campuses. Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan told reporters following the Tuesday evening leaders’ meeting that an agreement would come soon for protections for nail salon workers.

Four years ago, rent control had lapsed and had to be extended with stop-gap measures as lawmakers and Cuomo haggled out the issue.

At the time, the negotiations were dominated by seemingly more pressing issues, such as a vote on same-sex marriage and a cap on property taxes.

Now, as Cuomo completes the first year of his second term, negotiating such a grand bargain package with major accomplishments is a distant memory.

But with rent control expired now for two days, some observers saw the posturing — from both sides — as being a little too late in the day.

Privately, Senate Republicans are grumbling about the rent control negotiations, which appear to be the dominate concern in the closed-door discussions, and whether the Assembly Democrats are budging from their positions on strengthening the regulations.

Flanagan, post-leaders meeting, stuck to his script as he had earlier in the day: The Senate was still pushing for income and residency verification in rent controlled units, provisions that Democrats have rejected.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie left the meeting to brief his conference, though he told reporters the discussions were yet to reach anything conclusive.

“There’s still so many unresolved issues,” Heastie said following the meeting. “I don’t think there’s any blueprint to how session is ended.”

Albany Bishop Pushes Tax Credit

From the Morning Memo:

The pressure on Assembly Democrats to back the education tax credit continues unabated.

The latest effort is from Albany Bishop Edward Scharfenberger, who sent a letter to Capital Region residents calling on them to push Assemblywoman Pat Fahy on the bill.

In the letter, Scharfenberger specifically mentions Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s rebranded version of the legislation, the Parental Choice in Education Act, which is aimed at spurring donations to public schools as well as scholarship programs that benefit private and parochial schools.

“It would also help generate for important programs in our public schools in Albany, Bethlehem and Guilderland and other surrounding districts,” the bishop wrote in the letter. “as well as help teachers who spend their personal funds on classroom supplies.”

Nevertheless, the tax credit is deeply opposed by the New York State United Teachers union, which draws support from the Democratic-led conference.

But the measure’s most prominent backer, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, this year once again personally traveled to Albany to lobbying lawmakers with Cuomo at the governor’s mansion on the issue as well.

The letter comes on top of an aggressive campaigned aimed at Democratic lawmakers in the Assembly to pass the tax credit legislation, which Cuomo is linking to the passage of rent control in New York City.

Lawmakers have not been pleased with the tone of some of the mailers or the robocalls. Some of the calls, in particular, have irked members as the caller ID displays the name of the lawmaker, leading some constituents to believe they are getting inundated with unwanted calls from their local legislator.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie told reporters on Monday prior to meeting with Cuomo that the tax credit legislation remains a “difficult” bill for his conference to approve.

Bishop Letter 1 by Nick Reisman