Jun 29th - 11:59 am
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.
Jun 25th - 8:26 am
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.
Jun 25th - 8:17 am
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.”
Jun 24th - 8:38 am
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.
Jun 18th - 2:39 pm
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 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.”
Jun 17th - 8:37 am
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.”
Jun 4th - 8:50 am
From the Morning Memo:
Staten Island Republican Sen. Andrew Lanza is “confident” mayoral control of New York City schools won’t lapse, but suggested the GOP conference is backing an extension of no longer than three years.
“I’m confident we’re going to end up with mayoral control. Whether it’s one year, two year, or three years that is being discussed,” Lanza said in an interview. “For me, as long as each year we have mayoral control going forward it’s very important for New York City, for the students and teachers.”
Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan last week introduced a bill that extend mayoral control for 12 months and raise the state’s cap on charter schools by 100.
Assembly Democrats in May approved a bill that would provide for a three-year extension and largely kept the program, first installed under Mayor Michael Bloomberg as it is.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democrat who has been at odds with both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Senate Republicans, had pushed for a permanent mayoral control extension, but told reporters when he traveled to Albany last month he was fine with a three-year sunset for the moment.
But he did not back a shorter, 12-month extension, saying such a move would make the issue a “political football.” De Blasio also runs for re-election
next year in two years.
Lanza, however, said a shorter time frame for mayoral control expiring would allow lawmakers to make adjustments as needed.
“I think it just adds another layer of transparency and accountability to it,” he said. “I think that’s a positive, I’m not sure it’s a political football that we can’t handle. It provides us an opportunity for us to tweak.”
Lanza, along with Brooklyn’s Marty Golden and Democrat Simcha Felder, is among the trio of GOP conference members from New York City and has been involved in the discussions on the mayoral control issue.
As for the proposal to raise the state’s cap on charter schools — a move that Cuomo supported in his State of the State in January — Lanza blanched at the idea both the cap increase and mayoral control were seen as being “tied.”
“Tying to one thing is not the language I would use,” he said. “We have to make sure we have a comprehensive system that provides enough choice and delivers as many resources to our education system.”
Jun 3rd - 8:45 am
From the Morning Memo:
Assembly Democrats and Senate Republicans continue to be at odds over the proposal to overhaul the state’s juvenile justice system by raising the age of criminal responsibility to 18.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week while visiting Greene Correctional Facility floated a potential compromise that is designed to alleviate GOP concerns about the plan — and score a victory before the end of the session.
Cuomo told reporters he would be supportive of moving non-violent 16- and 17-year-old offenders to new facilities and out of the general prison population alongside adults. A broader plan to move cases involving minors to the Family Court system could be left to another time, Cuomo said.
“Let’s get done what we can get done even if it’s not perfect,” Cuomo said. “We can always revisit the first piece or compromise.”
Only that is not satisfying lawmakers in either chamber.
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie told reporters on Tuesday the majority conference wants a more comprehensive agreement on the push, known as Raise the Age.
“We still would like to have the centerpiece of Raise the Age be to not have 16 and 17 year olds prosecuted in that manner, but we’ll see what happens,” Heastie said. “We’re not ready to call a compromise on that issue.”
Having juveniles moved to a different facility than adult offenders is a “good, important piece, but I’m not sure that’s enough for the conference,” Heastie said.
Senate Republicans, meanwhile, say the raise the age push presents a complex and nuanced issue.
Republican Sen. Pat Gallivan in an interview said he does have concerns with the ability of the Family Court system in New York handle the cases and overhaul the juvenile justice system in one broad stroke.
“I just don’t think it’s really possible to come out with this whole series of recommendations, to say, yes we’re going to do it, throw money at it and solve the problem,” Gallivan said. “I think it’s really complicated.”
In the short term, Gallivan pointed out New York is not just one of the few states that incarcerates minors with adults, but is also in violation of federal law.
“I think that’s the immediate issue for us to deal with both from the moral perspective to prevent victimization and from the legal perspective to come into compliance with federal law,” he said.
But as for striking a deal and moving on — which has been, for Cuomo critics, more than just a tendency for his administration on complicated issues — is not a preferred outcome, either, Gallivan said.
“I think simply trying to get a deal and move on and have people from either side declare victory isn’t the right way to go about the problem,” he said. “I think we need to break this down in component parts. I think the most important issue is housing. Let’s deal with that and move on to all those other parts.”
Jun 2nd - 8:47 am
From the Morning Memo:
A coalition of statewide business groups is circulating a letter to state lawmakers opposing a measure that would set aside a prevailing wage for workers in the construction industry.
“Prevailing wages are currently required only for public projects such as those undertaken by the state or municipalities,” the letter states. “If enacted, this bill would for the first time extend costly and administratively-complex wage mandates to privately-owned and developed projects.”
The letter, from organizations ranging from the state Business Council to the Associated General Contractors Associations, comes amid the debate over the renewal of the 421a tax abatement.
The debate has further strained the public relationship between Mayor Bill de Blasio — who is pushing for an expansion of affordable housing under the abatement — and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has been sympathetic to the push for organized labor to include a prevailing wage component for construction workers.
The business groups, in the letter dated Monday, write that including a prevailing wage for construction workers would add to the already challenging effort to build in New York City.
“Building affordable housing in one of the world’s most expensive and densely populated areas always has challenges. This is especially true when the project is union built,” the letter states. “In New York City, there is a 30% differential between the cost of union and non-union construction. Requiring a prevailing wage requirement for construction work will be a significant setback in the City’s efforts to build more affordable housing.”
The tax abatement is due to expire this month, along with rent control regulations for New York City.
Cuomo said in a radio interview this week that he would keep lawmakers in Albany as long as it takes should rent control lapse beyond the June 15 deadline (in previous years, lawmakers and the governor have approved extenders to keep rent control in place while a more permanent agreement is reached).
Both Cuomo and de Blasio on Monday, meanwhile, sought to dial back their recent rhetoric over the abatement. Cuomo called the mayor’s plan over the weekend a “sweetheart deal” to developers, but followed up by insisting he and de Blasio are still friends.
Cuomo added that he and the mayor want to reach a compromise on a range of issues facing New York City and the state this month.
The mayor, meanwhile, called Cuomo’s comments in a radio interview “constructive.”
“I thought his comments today were constructive and it’s not surprising that each of us has strong views, but I also think there is a lot we can get done,” de Blasio said.
Nevertheless, labor groups are pushing forward with the campaign to include the prevailing wage component for consturction workers (de Blasio’s plan does have prevailing wage component, but for the service industry).
Jun 1st - 7:42 am
From the Morning Memo:
There are three weeks to go before lawmakers leave Albany, likely for the rest of the year. It’s a window of time that Gov. Andrew Cuomo doesn’t think is very big.
“Let me make this as a blanket statement: It is late in the day, for anything,” Cuomo said late last week.
Cuomo on Friday threw cold water on the proposals being pushed by two of his Democratic rivals: Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Schneiderman is pushing an omnibus ethics and campaign finance reform bill. De Blasio is pushing changes to a property tax abatement that are opposed by labor groups.
There are 10 days left on the legislative session calendar.
“You have a number of days left and any complicated issue, anyone who has watched Albany with one for a short period of time, you can’t get realistically a complicated issue with this Senate and this Assembly done in a matter of days,” Cuomo said.
Cuomo at the very least as a complicated relationship with both de Blasio and Schneiderman and the relationships the governor has with both is once again publicly strained over policy matters.
The mayor and attorney general are further to the political left of Cuomo, a moderate Democrat, especially on economic issues, but both men need Cuomo’s support on key issues facing the legislature.
“I think leadership requires taking responsibility,” de Blasio said. “I think that there’s not an appetite is a notion I reject.”
De Blasio spent a day in Albany last week week to personally lobby on a variety issues facing the city; issues that ultimately Cuomo gets to negotiate with top state lawmakers.
“I think a lot of problems have occurred up here. I think all over the state are disappointed in Albany. It’s a chance for Albany to turn the page,” de Blasio said.
Schneiderman, too, thinks three weeks and 10 scheduled session days is enough time to get things done at the Capitol.
“I’ve stood at those press conferences. I’m done vouching for incremental reforms. Let’s get it done,” Schneiderman said when unveiling his ethics package.
Schneiderman was on Long Island on Friday, and said he was confident there was enough time to pass his ethics bill, calling three weeks at the Capitol a lifetime.