John Flanagan

Flanagan Mailer Touts Pension Forfeiture Amendment

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Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan’s office is touting the passage of a constitutional amendment that would strip public officials convicted of felonies related directly to their jobs of their pensions in a mailer to constituents.

The amendment, which passed overwhelmingly in a voter referendum last month, is called a “a major victory in the battle against corruption” by the mailer, obtained by Capital Tonight. The pension forfeiture amendment had been a key reform for lawmakers and good-government groups after a spate of corruption arrests engulfed the Capitol.

Its passage is being touted by Flanagan as a series of prominent corruption trials are scheduled to begin next year, starting with the trial of Joe Percoco, a former close aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, on Jan. 8.

Former SUNY Polytechnic President Alain Kaloyeros and upstate developers are also due to go on trial in related cases as well stemming from bribery and fraud charges related to economic development spending.

Flanagan’s predecessor, ex-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, is due back in court on June 18 to face a retrial on fraud charges alongside his son after his previous conviction was tossed earlier this year.

And the retrial of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to begin April 16 after his conviction as similarly overturned.

Martins Slams Curran for Heastie Fundraiser, Lands Flanagan Backing (Updated)

Republican Nassau County executive Jack Martins’ campaign issued a statement today slamming his Democratic opponent, Nassau County Legislator Laura Curran, for her fundraiser last night that was headlined by Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

Martins campaign spokeswoman Mollie Fullington, (a Pataki administration veteran), accused Curran of being “bought and paid for by the New York City politicians who have continually abused Long Island taxpayers and don’t share our values.”

“Heastie led the effort in the state Assembly to make New York a Sanctuary State for violent felon illegal immigrants, and has been anything but a friend to Long Island as speaker of the state Assembly,” Fullington said.

“…Nassau County cannot afford to have a County Executive who is indebted to New York City politicians like Speaker Heastie,” she continued. “Nassau County needs an independent, experienced leader who will protect county taxpayers and stop the New York City special interests that want to impose their radical agenda on Long Island taxpayers and families.”

Martins is himself a product of Albany, having served in the state Senate for six years, and declining to seek re-election in 2016 when he opted to run for the House seat vacated by former Democratic Rep. Steve Israel. Martins lost that race to Democratic Rep. Tom Suozzi, who, in an ironic twist, used to hold the county executive post that Martins is now seeking.

It’s interesting that Martins’ campaign is using that “violent felon illegal immigrants” line, which is a page straight out of the Senate GOP playbook. The Senate Republicans, who have steadfastly refused to approve the DREAM Act in their chamber, employed that same approach in the last election cycle with considerable success – especially in upstate and Long Island districts.

As for Martins’ Senate tenure, Fullington said he “successfully fought against Assemblyman Heastie and the New York politicians who redirected Long Island’s state school aid to New York City<" adding:

“Jack Martins rolled back the unfair MTA payroll tax Heastie supported to require Long Islanders to subsidize New York City’s subway system and he restored the state property tax rebate program that Heastie and the New York City politicians eliminated when they had total control over state government.”

And since we’re on the subject of the Senate GOP, it’s worth noting that Martins landed the endorsement today of his former colleague, and fellow Long Islander, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, who called Martins “right leader at the right time.”

Expect another round of attacks along these same lines from the Martins campaign when Gov. Andrew Cuomo headlines a fundraiser for Curran on Oct. 5. Cuomo has long been an ally of the departing Republican Nassau County executive, Ed Mangano, who declined to seek re-election after being hit with federal corruption charges.

UPDATE: Philip Shulman, Curran’s campaign spokesman, emailed the following response:

“Let’s cut the hypocrisy. Laura is indebted to no one. And Jack Martins would know about indebtedness. Martins took more than $275,000 from Dean Skelos’ corrupt political machine to fund his campaigns for state Senate. So it’s no wonder he blocked efforts to remove Skelos from power after his indictment on federal corruption charges.”

Flanagan Promotes from Within

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, who has been retooling his staff headed into a make-or-break election year and in the wake of a spate of departures/firings, announced a new lineup of top staffers late this afternoon.

In a press release that arrived in my inbox shortly after 4 p.m. – (on a Friday, does this qualify as a news dump?) – Flanagan said he has appointed David Previte to serve as counsel to the majority.

Previte is moving up having previously served as senior counsel, focused on Health, Medicaid, Racing and Wagering, and Elections. He will be replacing Beth Garvey, who, Flanagan announced back in August, had informed him of her “desire to step away from the position.”

“David Previte is a skilled legal and policy professional who has what it takes to lead our Majority forward,” Flanagan said. “His intimate knowledge of the Senate and his experience navigating difficult issues both as a senior leader in our Counsel and Program office and as the State Party’s top lawyer will serve him extraordinarily well. I am confident that David will help us achieve a smooth and seamless transition.”

Flanagan also said that as part of the “overall transition, he has elevated James Curran, who recently serviced a special counsel to the majority leader and advised the conference on education issues, to the position of first Deputy within the office.

In addition, three other staffers – Lisa Harris, Jonathan Federman and Nicola Coleman – will each take on increased leadership roles within the office.

“I am thrilled to now have this outstanding team in place, and with their guidance and assistance we are going to hit the ground running next session and build on our many accomplishments as a Senate Majority,” Flanagan said.

This is the first major overhauling of staff Flanagan, a Long Island Republican, has undertaken since he took over the majority leader post from Dean Skelos back in May 2015 after Skelos was forced out of office due to a federal corruption scandal. The staff shuffle is taking place as the Republicans gear up for yet another uphill battle to retain the majority next year – and effort that will largely turn on what Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the now-eight member IDC decide to do.

Flanagan’s retooling has not entirely smooth. Garvey’s rather abrupt departure took the Capitol by surprise.

Though Flanagan formally announced her decision, he did not do the same with several other stop attorneys who dated back to the days when Dean Skelos was majority leader and had also decided to part ways with the Senate GOP, including, as the DN’s Ken Lovett reported, first assistant counsel Rebecca Lovullo, program senior counsel Tim Atkins, and Frank Alleva, a program assistant counsel.

Earlier this month, Lovett (again) reported that three more aides were leaving, but this time it was Flanagan’s decision that they should go. He reportedly dismissed Kathy Pendergast, director of majority appointments, and John Conway, the Republican commissioner at the legislative bill drafting commission. A third unnamed staffer was also on the chopping block, according to Lovett.

Senate GOP spokesman Scott Reif did not provide Lovett with any comment, but an anonymous source close to the majority leader called the revolving door of the central staff a “little bit of a re-set.”

Flanagan Questions Con-Con Cost

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan expressed concern on Tuesday with the potential price tag of a constitutional convention, saying the cost could be put to better use.

“The indications I’ve gotten if the last one in 1967 cost $47 million. The expectations are that if one is done now it would cost about $350 million,” Flanagan said. “That’s a lot of money. I think that if you went to the average person and said do you want to put that into roads, highways and bridges or education or health, I think people would do that.”

New York voters this November will determine whether the state should hold a convention to revise or entirely rewrite its constitution, a once-every-seven-years consideration.

The convention may not even necessarily produce a new constitution or major changes to the current system of state governance.

There are a variety of crosscurrents opposing a constitutional convention, including public-sector labor groups who worry it could undermine collective bargaining.

Flanagan indicated a better way to change the constitution, if desired, is to pass amendments (doing so requires passage by two separately elected Legislatures and voter approval).

“We can put up constitutional amendments at any time,” he said, “and we do.”

Flanagan Says He’s Focused On Budget, Not Potential Statewide Run

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan does not believe the talk of his potential run for governor in 2018 will undermine his efforts to negotiate the state budget.

“People are going to say whatever they want,” Flanagan told reporters staked outside of the executive mansion in Albany following a private briefing on the state budget. “Whatever the discussions are they will take place. All I care about right now is starting to work on the budget.”

Cuomo even jokingly referenced talk of Flanagan’s 2018 bid in the discussion, according to Sen. Jim Tedisco. Cuomo’s aides, too, have referenced Flanagan’s potential statewide campaign when sharply criticizing the Long Island Republican.

But Flanagan also noted he’s not the only one with aspirations.

“Look, (IDC Sen.) Tony Avella in there is running for mayor, the governor has talked about running for president — welcome to Albany,” Flanagan said.

Cuomo has called talking his running for president in 2020 “flattering” but said he’s focused on being governor. He has announced plans to run for a third term.

Flanagan Considering Run For Governor

Add Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan to the list of Republicans considering a run for governor in 2018, sources told NY1’s Zack Fink.

Newsday first reported about the buzz in GOP circles of Flanagan’s potential statewide run.

Flanagan, who ascended to the top post in the chamber following the corruption charges against Nassau County lawmaker Dean Skelos in May 2015, first joined the Legislature in 1987 and was first elected to the Senate in 2002.

Flanagan had been considered a potential candidate for the 2014 race for governor as well as Suffolk County executive.

Republicans also considering a campaign in 2018 include Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, Rockland County Executive Ed Day and businessman Harry Wilson.

Incumbent Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans to run for a third term next year. Cuomo’s office over the last several days has been sharply critical of Flanagan after talks for a special session in December fell apart in December.

Democrat And Reform Party State Senate Candidates Team Up Against GOP Establishment

From the Morning Memo:

We’re still feeling the after effects of a brutal five-way GOP state Senate primary in the Finger Lakes region.

Registered Republican Floyd Rayburn continues to actively campaign on the Reform Party line, after losing the September primary for the 54th district by about 200 votes to party-endorsed candidate Pam Helming.

He said Republicans he spoke to told him to keep running, including the three other candidates who lost the primary. Rayburn said he has no concerns, despite the fact that two GOP candidates could create an opportunity for a Democrat, despite a heavy Republican enrollment advantage.

He said if he doesn’t win, it really doesn’t matter who represents the district.

“Right now, I don’t know if there’s a difference. I don’t know if there’s a difference. I don’t know if there’s many Republicans left in the state,” Rayburn said.

Rayburn believes Helming, the Canandaigua town Supervisor, was handpicked by the district’s outgoing state Senator Mike Nozzolio and Cathy Young from the Southern Tier.

Both voted for Long Island state Senator John Flanagan in 2015, helping him secure the position of majority leader by a narrow margin over John DeFrancisco from Syracuse.

He said the GOP is supporting Helming to protect Flanagan’s leadership position and downstate interests.

“My goal is to get a new majority leader, Senate majority leader,” Rayburn said. “Yes, that’s my goal and I think if I’m there I’m going to vote for John DeFrancisco.”

For her part, Helming has not said who she would support for Majority Leader if elected and Republicans maintain control. She said she would vote with the best interest of the district in mind.

“I’ll make my decision for the Leader just like I’ve made every decision as a local town supervisor. That’s by doing research,” she said.

According to campaign finance reports, the committee gave Helming about $40,000 during the primary but Rayburn believes the number was ten times that much. Democratic candidate Kenan Baldridge agreed, arguing much of the money spent on the district was unspecified.

Baldridge, currently the Rose town supervisor, ran unopposed on the Democratic line thanks to a petition challenge from the GOP that knocked his opponent off the ballot. Regardless, he said the committee’s behavior was “reprehensible” and turned off members off both parties.

“The key question here, I think overriding all others, is the question of who shall own the 54th. Will it be the power-brokers in Albany or will it be the people of the district,” Baldridge said.

“If someone wanted to, they could vote for Floyd in protest. We would rather see them come over and vote for me, but either will do.”

Senate Republican spokesman Scott Reif said every dollar spent in the district was properly accounted for and election laws are in place for a reason.

“Candidates for public office in New York state must meet minimum requirements to be listed on the ballot,” he said. “A number of candidates in this race didn’t meet those minimum requirements and while it’s easier to cast blame elsewhere, it’s nobody’s fault but their own.”

Flanagan Says He’ll Support The GOP Nominee, Whoever He Is

Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan last week said he would back his party’s nominee for president, regardless of who the candidate is.

“The voters are going to decided,” Flanagan told reporters at the state GOP convention in Buffalo on Friday. “I have every intention of supporting the Republican candidate in the fall, whoever it may be.”

The Suffolk County Republican has not made an endorsement in the race for president, though several GOP lawmakers have backed publicly Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. At least two GOP members of the Assembly have endorsed Donald Trump.

A number of Republicans on the national level have insisted they will not support Trump should he be the nominee of the party, including Mitt Romney, he party’s 2012 nominee.

Flanagan declined to criticize Trump or suggest his candidacy could hurt Republicans running in down ballot races in New York, a heavily Democratic state that tends to bring out more Democrats during presidential election years.

“That’s something the voters will decide,” Flanagan said. “I can pick out faults and weaknesses in the candidates on both sides.”

At the same time, Flanagan said that with two New Yorkers in the race — Trump and Hillary Clinton — potentially puts the state in play in the general election. A Siena College poll released on Monday found Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders easily defeating any of the GOP candidates.

“New York’s in play. New York’s in play in a big way,” he said. “I’m looking forward to April 19. I hope we have an extensive turnout.”

Flanagan Hints at Targeted Senate Races

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan hinted, Friday, at a few races where his conference is planning to run candidates.

Speaking at the State Republican Convention, Flanagan said they are looking to run strong candidates in races across the state.

“All of you are acutely aware we have a potentially excellent candidate for a Western New York Senate seat. I’ll leave you to guess who that may be,” Flanagan said. “We have an excellent prospect down in Westchester. We have an excellent prospect for Senator Martins’s seat.”

Jack Martins is running to replace outgoing Congressman Steve Israel in the 3rd Congressional District on Long Island. If he wins the seat, that will leave his seat in the Senate open. One strategy for Democrats to win back the majority in the chamber has been through Long Island where they are currently running Todd Kaminsky to fill the seat once occupied by former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.

No candidates have filed to replace Martins for the seat in the Senate, according to filings with the state Board of Elections. There are a few seats in Westchester that the conference could be targeting, including that of Ruth Hassell-Thompson, who has said she will not seek another term in the office.

In Western New York, Republicans have previously targeted the seat held by Democrat Marc Panepinto, who prevailed in a four-way race in 2014 to win the seat. It was held previously by Republican Mark Grisanti.

Republicans will also have to run a candidate to replace outgoing State Senator Mike Nozzolio, a Rochester-area lawmaker. Nozzolio is leaving due to health issues.

Flanagan: Last Time I Checked We Had a Constitution

Republicans in the State Senate don’t plan on budging when it comes to raising the age of criminal responsibility and providing tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants for college. They’re also not thrilled about a recent move by the Board of Regents to allow undocumented immigrants to apply for teacher certifications.

Speaking at the State Republican Convention in Buffalo, Senate Majority Leader Flanagan laid out a handful of issues that he says his conference is not interested in taking up

Governor Cuomo made a strong push last year to pass a bill that would raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18 in New York. Currently, 16 and 17-year-olds can be prosecuted as adults. Cuomo did issue an executive order that separated teen prisoners from adult prisoners but has said he would still like to see the legislature take up the issue. Flanagan says it’s a non-starter.

“We don’t think that’s good public policy because in essence what they’re trying to do is absolve people from violent and heinous and felonious crimes,” Flanagan said. “That’s not a way we think we should be going.”

The DREAM Act is also off the table, Flanagan says. It’s a bill that would provide tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants seeking financial aid to attend college. It has passed in the Assembly but Republicans continue to block it in the Senate.

“It’s taxpayer funded tuition for illegal immigrants,” Flanagan said. “We don’t support that and that resonates with people because everyone in this room struggles or has struggled in some way to take care of their family.”

Republicans also do not agree with the recent decision from the Board of Regents to allow undocumented immigrants to apply for teacher certifications. It’s a move that has not set well with GOP lawmakers who say the measure should have been approved by the legislature.

“They’re evading the law, which I think is illegal and a violation and it underscores the difference between their philosophy and their priority,” Flanagan said of the Board of Regents and the Assembly. “That’s something we’re going to need to pay attention to because that’s subversive and other people will disagree but it’s symptomatic.”

It reflects a common theme from Republican leaders who say the Governor and state have developed a habit of bypassing the legislature. Governor Cuomo has acted alone this year on several different issues, including a minimum wage hike for fast food workers and legal protections for transgender New Yorkers.

“Periodically we have a problem with our executive because he looks at the New York State Senate and the New York State Assembly as a constitutional annoyance,” Flanagan said. “Last time I checked we had a constitution. Last time I checked we had separation of powers and last time I checked we had laws in the state of New York that are supposed to be adhered to and enforced.”