Property Tax Cap Extension Debate Continues

From the Morning Memo:

The state’s cap on property tax increases doesn’t expire until next year, but some lawmakers at the Capitol are already looking to make the measure first passed in 2011 a permanent one.

“Making the property tax permanent is in the best interests of the taxpayers and the people of the state of New York.

The state Senate on Wednesday voted for a bill that would create a permanent extension of the cap, which limits local levy increases to 2 percent or the rate of inflation.

It’s a key provision this year, especially for upstate and suburban Republican lawmakers.

“Keeping property taxes down has been a priority for me in the Senate and something I’ll continue to advocate for,” said Sen. Patty Ritchie, a North County Republican.

The drive to make the tax cap permanent, through a straight extension, is also backed by statewide and regional business groups, who argue it will bring a new level of certainty to businesses that want to settle in New York.

But it’s a different case in the Assembly, led by Democrats, who question the need to make the cap a permanent fixture.

“I’m actually a big fan of sun setting more legislation than not simply because as circumstances change it gives you an opportunity to make adjustments and amendments as time goes on,” Majority Leader Joe Morelle said.

And Democrats in the chamber are suggesting that some changes could be made and school aid should be boosted as well to help districts budget within the cap.

“I think that the cap has been an effective tool, but we need to make sure we do the rest of here at the state, make sure that critical state aid is going to our schools, make sure they’re properly funded,” said Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, a Schenectady Democrat.

There is a growing drive from local government advocates as well to make some changes to the cap that could be coupled with mandate relief or even a boost in state aid.

For now, lawmakers have said the discussions do not center around linking the cap’s renewal to mandate relief provisions.

The vast majority of school districts this week had their budgets approved by voters and nearly 99 percent all budgeted within the legal limit. An override is possible, but only with a 60 percent majority.

While the cap doesn’t expire this year, it is linked to rent control regulations for New York City, which are due to lapse next month. Extending rent control is a top priority for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

“The Senate has a list, we have a list and where we can come to an agreement on some of the things we want, that’s what usually happens,” Speaker Carl Heastie said Wednesday.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo backs a permanent property tax cap, which as a signature economic achievement from his first term.

The Final Countdown

From the Morning Memo:

Counting today, there are 15 days remaining in the 2015 legislative session, and things are heating up, with the Senate and Assembly and Gov. Andrew Cuomo starting to lay out their respective agendas for the mad dash to the finish of what has been a very rocky year in Albany.

Yesterday, new Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan released a list of his end-of-session priorities, while Gov. Andrew Cuomo did a whirlwind tour of four Brooklyn churches and a yeshiva to tout his latest version of the Education Investment Tax Credit, now known (with some additions and changes) as the Parental Choice in Education Act.

Also over the weekend, Flanagan introduced a bill that would make the 2 percent tax cap permanent – a top priority for the Senate GOP’s conservative and business allies. The Assembly Democrats, meanwhile, introduced a bill to extend the New York City rent laws for another four years and make them more tenant-friendly.

These two issues are linked, though the rent laws are scheduled to expire next month, and the cap won’t do so until next year.

When he ascended to the speaker’s post back in February, Carl Heastie said renewing and strengthening the city’s rent laws would be his “No. 1 priority” this session.

The “renewing” part is probably not going to be a problem with the Senate Republicans. With the exception of two lone NYC lawmakers – Sens. Marty Golden, of Brooklyn; and Andrew Lanza, of Staten Island – the members of the GOP conference don’t have many (if any) constituents directly impacted by the laws.

But they did collectively benefit from well over $1 million from REBNY during the 2014 elections, which spent big to help the Republicans re-take the majority with an eye toward getting a clean extension – in other words, no pro-tenant changes – of the rent laws this year.

Also up for discussion is the controversial 421-a tax abatement program, which has been a boon to big NYC developers, who, in turn, have given big bucks across the board in Albany.

With the role played by developer Glenwood Management in the federal corruption scandals of both ex-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, advocates are hoping some rent law reforms could be had.

But the fact that Flanagan did not mention the issue in his priority list statement released yesterday was not a good sign, though he has said since ascending to the majority leader’s post that he expects both the rent laws and New York City mayoral control, which is also set to sunset next month, will likely be extended before the session’s scheduled end on June 17.

The Senate Republicans are likely going to push for unspecified changes to mayoral control to improve transparency and accountability, which is not going to sit too terribly well with NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and his allies in the Assembly Democratic conference.

Flanagan did include “common sense” reforms to the SAFE Act on his to do list – a nod to the conservative upstaters who did not support him during the battle to replace Skelos as leader because of his “yes” vote on the controversial gun control law.

The likelihood of the governor and Democrat-controlled Assembly signing off on any SAFE Act modifications is fairly low.

One conservative Republican lawmaker, Assemblyman Bill Nojay, of Livingston County, is suggesting Flanagan hold the rent laws hostage in exchange for SAFE Act reforms. But that seems like an extreme, playing-with-fire sort of approach that would not benefit the newly-minted majority leader – especially not as he looks toward what will be a difficult election year in 2016.

The Senate Republicans and the governor are on the same page – at least conceptually – when it comes to the education tax credit. This issue creates a problem for Heastie, who used to be a sponsor of legislation to enact the credit, but took his name off that – and all other bills – when he became speaker.

Mike Whyland, spokesman for the Assembly Democrats, is quoted in the NY Times this morning that there has “not been sufficient support” in the conference for the tax credit, though some members – especially in poorer, urban areas – have been under intense pressure to back it.

Whyland also said Heastie would not allow the tax credit to be linked to passage of any other legislation – like, say, mayoral control of the New York City school system, which some are suggesting could be linked to raising the charter school cap, another issue pushed without success by Cuomo during the budget battle.

Cuomo tried unsuccessfully during the budget to link the education tax credit, which is a problem in the Assembly majority conference; to the DREAM Act, which is a problem in the Senate majority conference. Playing the two sides against one another didn’t work in that instance. We’ll see what ends up in the so-called, end-of-session “big ugly.”

The Assembly Democrats and Senate GOP are in agreement – again, conceptually – when it come to revisiting the education reforms, especially the teacher performance evaluation system, they agreed to in the budget deal. This is likely to be an uphill battle with Cuomo, for whom the education reforms were a bright spot in a budget that saw many of his policy priorities shunted aside.

Flanagan Calls For ‘Common Sense’ SAFE Act Changes

Less than a week ager his election as majority leader of the state Senate, Republican John Flanagan on Sunday laid out an end-of-session to-do list with the pledge to pass “common sense” changes to the SAFE Act.

The pledged to do so, while left vague in the statement, underscores the fence mending Flanagan is expected to do with upstate Republicans and gun-rights advocates who opposed his elevation to the leadership post.

Upstate county chairs and Second Amendment organizations had supported Senate Finance Chairman John DeFrancisco as they raised concerns for Flanagan’s vote in favor of the law.

Flanagan in several interviews last week, including with Capital Tonight, acknowledged that a wholesale repeal of the 2013 gun control law is unlikely.

The measure is a signature one for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who pushed the package of laws through the Legislature in the wake of the Connecticut elementary school shooting.

Flanagan has said he will travel upstate to meet with party leaders as well as the business community.

Still, as Albany turns to policy in the remaining few session days left, what can actually get done after both legislative leaders were forced to step down following arrests in separate corruption scandals remains a question hanging over lawmakers as well as Cuomo.

The governor himself has seemingly given up on the Legislature coming to an agreement on a minimum wage increase and instead has turned his attention to a commission likely to recommend a hike for workers in the fast-food industry.

There’s still plenty to disagree on: Criminal justice reforms being pushed for in the wake of the Eric Garner case remain a sticky wicket for state lawmakers and Cuomo, as does expiring measures such as rent control and mayoral control of New York City schools.

Cuomo, like the Senate, supports an education investment tax credit aimed at spurring donations for public schools and scholarship programs that boost private schools. Assembly Democrats are generally opposed to the measure, where Speaker Carl Heastie last week acknowledged the bill is a heavy lift.

Flanagan, meanwhile, sought common ground with the governor on combating sexual assault on private college campuses through an affirmative consent proposal being pushed for by Cuomo.

“Senate Republicans are ready to work with the Governor and our partners in the Assembly to combat and root out campus sexual assault so students can feel safe in knowing that we have done everything possible to protect them from harm,” he said.

Flanagan, in a lengthy statement, reiterated his support for making the state’s cap on local property tax increases permanent as well as the passage of an education investment tax credit along with a lifting of the cap on charter schools.

The former Senate Education Committee chairman said he supports an effort to “address the concerns” raised by parents over the controversial Common Core education standards.

Making reforms to education reforms passed a little more than a month ago is perhaps the biggest, and most important, area of agreement for the Democratic-led Assembly and Republican-controlled Senate.

Lawmakers in both chambers are pushing for changes to the teacher evaluation criteria and its implementation — a policy championed by Cuomo in the budget approved last month.

State lawmakers in recent weeks have spoken in support of unlinking the implementation of the new evaluations on the local level with a boost in school aid for districts — a key facet of Cuomo’s reforms he is unlikely to go along with.

The legislative session is scheduled to conclude June 17.

Flanagan: De Blasio Deserves ‘Fundamental Respect’

From the Morning Memo:

Newly elected Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said this week he will take a tactful approach to dealing with New York City’s Democratic mayor, Bill de Blasio.

Flanagan’s immediate predecessor, Dean Skelos of Nassau County, made little secret of his resentment toward de Blasio, who unsuccessfully sought to flip the state Senate to the Democratic conference and provide for a more favorable airing his business in Albany.

The politics of the 2014 elections soured the already tenuous relationship between Senate Republicans and the de Blasio administration, which is fighting to preserve and make permanent mayoral control of city schools.

The mayor’s office is also involved in pushing a revision to the 421-A tax abatement as well as the debate over rent control regulations, due to expire next month.

But Flanangan told NY1’s Zack Fink in a one-on-one interview that he will find a way to constructively engage de Blasio.

“He’s the mayor of the city of New York,” Flanagan said. “So he is a key player. He deserves fundamental respect for who he is, and more importantly, for the job that he has.”

Flanagan said it’s unlikely mayoral control will be permanent, but he will negotiate an extension.

Meanwhile, the Suffolk County Republican said he will turn toward his three conference members from New York City, Sens. Andrew Lanza, Marty Golden and Democrat Simcha Felder, to help guide him on the issues facing the city.

“As the leader of the conference, and as a colleague, the three most important people to me in the city of New York are Lanza, Golden and Felder. Senator Lanza, Senator Golden and Senator Felder. So we, whatever actions we take, I think should be guided by their knowledge and experience,” he said.

Lawmakers Eager To Take Up Teacher Evaluation Changes

From the Morning Memo:

In April, state lawmakers approved a budget that created a new teacher evaluation system. Now attention in the legislature is turning toward making changes to that plan.

“I’ve co-sponsored it to deal with a lot of the issues that have come up to deal with so many of the issues that have come up with the governor’s so-called education reform proposals. Taking a look at Common Core, extending the period for public comment,” Sen. Pat Gallivan said.

Lawmakers in both the Senate and Assembly have introduced bills that would scale back the impact of the evaluation law.

In particular, lawmakers want to extend the period of time for the regulations governing the evaluation criteria to be written.

The budget set June 30 as a deadline for determining how much weight to give in-classroom observation versus a standardized test.

Another proposal would reverse linking education aid for school districts to the adoption of the evaluation systems, which districts must now enact by November.

And as a tumultuous week in Albany began to settle down, lawmakers needed little prompting to discuss their desire to change the education measures in the budget.

“I think we need to have more of a comment period and require that in the statute so that parents and educators involved can have more opportunity for input,” said Sen. James Seward.

More broadly, lawmakers want the Department of Education to review the Common Core standards and ensure examinations aren’t going over students heads.

“We need to take steps to make sure these tests that are given that are given to our students in school are age appropriate and actual cover material in the classroom,” Seward said.

If lawmakers seem to have a sense of urgency, it’s because parents and the state’s teachers unions have been vocally opposed to the education changes included in the budget agreement – policies lawmakers reluctantly adopted in order to get a boost of state aid.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, meanwhile, is turning his attention to a revamped proposal: the Education Investment Tax Credit.

“It gives parents the real choice and it gives them the real options and it keeps religious schools open,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo this week introduced a new version of the bill which is meant to spur donations to public school foundations and private school scholarship programs. Cuomo urged supporters to contact their legislators.

The tax credit bill has passed in the Senate, but is yet to be approved by the Assembly.

DeFran: Cuomo ‘Definitely’ Influenced Senate Leadership Fight

From the Morning Memo:

Despite his claims to the contrary, Gov. Andrew Cuomo “definitely” influenced the recent leadership battle in the state Senate, according to the candidate who came up short in that fight, Syracuse Sen. John DeFrancisco.

Cuomo reportedly preferred the ultimate winner, Long Island Sen. John Flanagan, to succeed former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. But publicly insisted he had no preference, telling reporters “I’m not in the Legislature,” and “I see my job as working with whoever they send me.”

But during a wide ranging CapTon interview last night, DeFrancisco rejected Cuomo’s claims, saying his colleagues specifically told him they had received calls from the governor on Flanagan’s behalf.

“Oh definitely he made calls, definitely, no doubt about it,” the Senate Finance Committee chairman said, adding: “He can do whatever he wants, but be honest about it.”

Asked why he thought Cuomo would prefer Flanagan, the former Education Committee chairman, over him, DeFrancisco replied:

“Maybe the question might be, if you’re the governor and you wanted to deal with John Flanagan or John DeFrancisco, this abrupt person who tells it like it is, maybe that might answer it….the governor’s reasons will have to come from him, and no doubt, if you ask him that question, he’ll say he didn’t call anybody.”

DeFrancisco expressed frustration with the fact that some of his colleagues said one thing and did another when it finally came time to cast their votes in the closed door conference, where he reportedly received 15 votes to Flanagan’s 18, with six fellow upstaters casting deciding votes.

“What should be practiced in Albany, like any other place where people work professionally, is look people in the eye and you tell them the truth,” the senator said. “You don’t lie, you don’t make things warm and fuzzy.”

“The reason we couldn’t get an agreement, people were telling John something, people were telling me something. In order to agree, you have to have an accurate count.”

“We could have resolved this in two minutes if everybody told us, straight up, who they supported.”

DeFrancisco insists he has no hard feelings, and, as of yesterday, was continuing his morning routine of working out with his former opponent in the Senate gym. He was the first to nominate Flanagan on the floor of the Senate to lead the chamber, and stressed the need for the GOP conference to go forward united.

DeFrancisco admitted that “maybe you’re going to look at someone a little differently than you did before” if that person reneged on a promise to back him in the leadership fight. But, he said, the needs of the conference – and, more importantly, preserving GOP control – should take precedence over any one senator’s personal grudges.

“We have 32 Republicans, one Democrat,” DeFrancisco said. “If a bunch of people go off ship, we’re going to end up with two years of Democrat control of everything in the state…there will be no voice for upstate New York. So we’ve got to maintain the conference.”

DeFrancisco did express frustration over the rumor that he had planned to retire at the end of this two-year election cycle until the possibility of becoming majority leader was raised.

“I don’t know where that came from,” he said. “…it’s not true. I’m still a vital human being. I still can do what I need to do to lead a conference.”

At the same time, DeFrancisco refused to commit to seeking re-election in 2016, saying: “A lot of things happen between now and then, and we’ll evaluate it at that time…I definitely was not planning on anything, whether I’m running or not.”

Upstate Lawmakers Say They’re Uniting Behind Flanagan

From the Morning Memo:

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan rose to power this week on the strength of the GOP conference’s nine-member Long Island delegation, but he insisted on Tuesday he will represent the entire state.

“You’re not going to hear me talk about upstate-downstate. You’re going to hear me talk about the state of New York,” Flanagan told reporters on Monday.

“If people want to chatter about that, that’s up to them, but I’ll tell you from my standpoint the fact that I’m from Long Island, that has no bearing.”

Questions remain for upstate conservatives, who backed his rival John DeFrancisco of Syracuse.

Conservative advocates and upstate Republican chairmen have raised concerns over Flanagan’s backing of the SAFE Act and whether he understands the needs of the upstate region.

“We really need to see some concrete actions that upstate is being heard in the Republican conference,” said Jason McGuire, the Livingston County Conservative Party Chairman.

Flanagan won the majority leader post in a narrow vote and he did receive backing from six upstate Republicans, including western New York Sen. Cathy Young.

“Senator Flanagan has a stellar record. His record is one that supports the entire state, but upstate too,” said Young, an Olean lawmaker.

Those Republicans who supported DeFrancisco say now is the time for unity in the GOP conference.

“Much is made about upstate and downstate. We are one state,” said Patrick Gallivan, a Republican from Elma who supported DeFrancisco.

Lawmakers also say that while there are key differences in this diverse state, there are some unifying issues Flanagan and Republicans from upstate both support, such as making the state’s property tax cap permanent.

“We need to work together to advance the interests of all of our constituents. There might be some differences, there are many similarities,” Gallivan said. “As Republicans, we care about reducing the size of government, reducing the regulatory burden and keeping government out of peoples’ lives.”

With Flanagan of Suffolk County now majority leader, none of the “three men in a room” live north of Westchester County.

Flanagan, The Senate And Continuity

From the Morning Memo:

The script that played out over the last seven days in Albany was a familiar one: A legislative leader is arrested, his allies deny he’ll resign, he angrily brushes aside questions about his future, tries to strike a deal and, in the end, steps aside for new blood.

If the Dean Skelos drama this week felt like the Kubler-Ross stages of grief, it also felt strikingly like what unfolded in the Democratic-led Assembly in January, when Sheldon Silver was ousted as leader following his own arrest.

Stepping in to the role in the Republican-controlled Senate is John Flanagan.

At 54, he’s younger than his predecessor. He was elected to the Senate nearly two decades after Skelos.

But there were indications on Monday that Flanagan was very much a continuity candidate for the chamber as the Senate works through the remaining five weeks of the legislative session.

His election as majority leader keeps power concerted in the Senate on Long Island, where the nine-member delegation have formed a powerful bloc of votes.

Not surprisingly, his election was quickly praised by Republican Sen. Ken LaValle.

“I fully support the Conference’s decision to elect my friend, and colleague, Senator John Flanagan as the New York State Senate Majority Leader,” LaValle said. “I believe that Senator Flanagan’s selection is in the best interest of not only the people of the First Senatorial District but residents from across New York State. I congratulate Senator John Flanagan, and know he will be a great Majority Leader.”

Flanagan is strongly supportive of charter schools as well as the education investment tax credit. On Monday, Flanagan said he had questions about mayoral control for New York City, which is due to expire next month.

Flanagan, to the chagrin of upstate gun-rights advocates, backed Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s SAFE Act gun control measure.

Indeed, those senators on the record as to who they were backing for leader and went with Syracuse’s John DeFrancsico, weren’t just upstate lawmakers, but relatively new ones: Rich Funke, Kathy Marchione and Robert Ortt had all been elected in the last four years.

Flanagan on Monday after his election as majority leader gave no indication he’ll shake up the leadership team at the moment.

For now, Tom Libous of Binghamton remains his deputy and floor leader. DeFrancisco is staying put as the Finance Committee chairman.

The biggest decision it would seem is who will fill Flanagan’s shoes at the Education Committee.

There are some key changes, however: Flanagan has left his law firm, where he was of counsel and earned at least $100,000.

The decision to step back from his private-sector work makes him the latest legislative leader to do so, following Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and IDC Leader Jeff Klein.

Flanagan was also the personal choice of Skelos, who insisted on Monday that he did not personally lobby senators to back the Suffolk County Republican (It was reported on Saturday that Skelos would step aside, but as long as a Long Islander, like Flanagan, took the post).

“John Flanagan is going to be a great leader,” Skelos told reporters. “He’s a bright guy, he travels the state, parenthetically, he’s from Long Island, which doesn’t hurt in terms of my thought process.”

Flanagan brushed aside questions about his support from Skelos.

“What matters is the vote that took place on the floor,” he said. “I was preferred the candidate of all 31 members in our conference.”

And does he consider himself a break from Skelos?

“I view myself as the leader of this conference,” Flanagan said, “and I view myself as an ambassador and spokesman for things we believe in.”

Skelos Out, Flanagan In (Updated)

After spending about two hours behind closed doors, the Senate Republicans appear to have selected Long Island Sen. John Flanagan as their new leader, replacing now former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who was forced to give up his leadership post in the face of federal corruption charges.

Sen. Phil Boyle, a Long Islander like Skelos and Flanagan, confirmed the news in a tweet, in which he congratulated “my friend and colleague (Flanagan) on his ascension to Maj. Leader of the NYS Senate.” The tweet was quickly erased, but not before is was widely retweeted by members of the state Capitol press corps, and various Capitol watchers.

Nick Reisman, who has been monitoring the Senate Republicans’ closed-door confab, also says he has independely confirmed the news of Skelos’ demise, and Flanagan’s rise.

UPDATE: The first official statement on the leadership changeover in the Senate comes from Sen. Ken LaValle, another Long Island Republican, who had been a staunch Skelos supporter.

“I approached this matter with the goal of doing what is in the best interest of the people who elected me to represent them,” LaValle said. “This last week we have gone through the very involved process of selecting a new Majority Leader. Our Conference is comprised of intelligent, hard working individuals from across the state.”

“I fully support the Conference’s decision to elect my friend, and colleague, Senator John Flanagan as the New York State Senate Majority Leader. I believe that Senator Flanagan’s selection is in the best interest of not only the people of the First Senatorial District but residents from across New York State. I congratulate Senator John Flanagan, and know he will be a great Majority Leader.”

Sources say that Skelos has agreed to give up his leadership role, but will not at this point be resigning the Senate entirely – a decision that no doubt brought his colleagues a measure of relief.

Flanagan’s apparent victory comes at the loss of Sen. John DeFrancisco, of Syracuse, who was also in the running to replace Skelos, and has been far more public in campaigning for the job. Flanagan last week was one of 16 senators to sign on to statement of loyalty to Skelos that was distributed by the then-majority leader’s office. DeFrancisco’s name did not appear on that list.

At this moment, Senate Republicans remain behind closed doors in their conference room on the state Capitol’s third floor. There is so far no word as to who who serve as Flanagan’s No. 2 – or even if the currnet occupant of that post, Deputy Senate Majority Leader Tom Libous, of Binghamton, will be forced to give it up.

Libous cannot ascend to Skelos’ majority leader post, as he might normally do, due to the fact that he, too, is fighting a federal corruption charge. Also, Libous is battling terminal cancer, and is currently in Florida, where is he recuperating from back-to-back surgeries related to his cancer.

Sen. Cathy Young, of Olean, initially was mentioned as a potential replacement for Skeos. Young, who heads the Senate GOP’s fundraising arm, reportedly wanted to strike a deal with Flanagan that would have exchanged her support for the No. 2 post in the chamber.

There were numerous reports over the weekend that Skelos had been refusing to heed mounting calls to step aside from his seat unless the majority leader post remained on Long Island, in Flanagan’s hands. There was a furious upstate-downstate battle, which also pitted some of the more conservative (and anti-gun control) members against more liberal members – like Flanagan – who voted “yes” on the controversial SAFE Act.

Skelos also reportedly threatend to resign his seat altogether if he didn’t get his way in the leadership fight, which would have left his fellow Republicans in a significant lurch, due to their razor-thin 32-seat majority, which is cushioned only slightly by the addition of Democratic Sen. Simcha Felder, of Brooklyn, who reportedly would have contemplated going back to the Democrats if the GOP no longer controlled the chamber outright.

It remains to be seen if Flanagan can weather criticism of being seen as Skelos’ hand-picked successor. Also, the Daily News reported in March that Flanagan has voted on bills that benefitted the clients of a firm where he is of counsel. But the senator has insisted he is not involved with those clients and there is no conflict of interest present because he does not represent any clients with business before the state.

Flanagan’s ascension leavesommittee he chairs – Education – without a leader at a time when education remains a very hot topic at the Capitol, thanks to the ongoing debate over the state’s teacher evaluation system and Common Core-related tests.

Will Upstate Hang Together?

From the Morning Memo:

Those backing John DeFrancisco’s bid to become the next majority leader of the state Senate, the key question is whether the upstate lawmakers in the GOP conference can hang together and back one of their own.

Senate Republicans return to Albany today in an altered political landscape in the Senate: embattled Majority Leader Dean Skelos appears to be on his way out after a weekend of jockeying for his post as he faces corruption charges.

DeFrancisco, a Syracuse Republican, has the backing of gun-rights advocates as well as large upstate county chairmen.

His top competition is from Senate Education Committee Chairman John Flanagan, a Suffolk County Republican who is said to be Skelos’s top choice.

As of late Sunday night, neither DeFrancisco or Flanagan had the necessary votes locked up to replace Skelos.

“It’s a jump ball,” one source described the situation on Sunday night.

The seeming endorsement of Flanagan over the weekend by Skelos left DeFrancisco supporters scratching their heads: Why would Republicans want to back a new leader endorsed by a scandal-scarred one?

Nevertheless, Flanagan will need help from upstate lawmakers in order to keep the majority leader’s post in Long Island hands.

Last week, 16 Senate Republicans signed on to a statement backing Skelos’s tenure as majority leader, including the bloc of the conference known as the “Long Island 9.” Counting Skelos, the Long Island 9 make up a powerful delegation within the GOP conference.

But also included on the list were several upstate Republicans, including Sens. Bill Larkin, Hugh Farley, Michael Nozzolio, James Seward and Cathy Young, the latter of whom was expected to be a candidate for majority leader herself.