State Senate

Senate GOP Happy To Tout Siena Poll (Updated)

Most voters don’t want the Senate Republican conference to take over the chamber.

Then again, most voters are thrilled with the idea of a Democratic takeover.

And given the option, yesterday’s Siena poll found voters preferred the idea of the majority coalition — a mix of Republicans and five independent Democrats who control the chamber.

Of course, the composition and nuances of the Senate majority coalition are lot more complex than the question might suggest.

Mainline Democrats have charged the coalition essentially bottles up or waters down measures that could pass if they had majority control — an argument they say is bolster by the fact that Democrats are in a numerical majority in the chamber (Senate IDC and GOP officials scoff at this notion).

Nevertheless, Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos said in a statement released on Tuesday the poll shows the coalition is working.

“Today’s Siena poll proves that New Yorkers want Democrats and Republicans to work together to achieve bipartisan results, which is exactly what we’ve been doing over the last four years. By partnering with the Governor and members of the Independent Democratic Conference, we’ve reduced income and property taxes, brought spending under control and made real progress in creating a climate where businesses can create new jobs for hardworking people,” Skelos said.

Touting this poll comes after NY1′s Zack Fink reported IDC Leader Jeff Klein and Sen. Mike Gianaris, a Queens Democrat, had planned to meet to discuss a potential reconciliation of the two factions. The meeting was ultimately called off after it became public.

Update: Senate Democratic spokesman Mike Murphy responded in a statement.

“Any question that simply asks if people want bipartisanship will always yield a positive response. What we have in the Senate, however, is not bipartisan but the empowerment of a Republican minority that stymies progressive ideals for which the people voted. Among the list of failures due to this backroom deal is the Women’s Equality Act, the DREAM Act, a higher minimum wage and real ethics reform including public financing. Had the poll question made that clear, the result would have been much different.”

Senate’s Break Extended To April 28

The state Senate will extend its spring break and not meet for two days next week, a Republican conference spokesman confirmed.

Senate lawmakers were due to return next Wednesday and Thursday. Now, the plan is return on April 28, the same day the Democratic-led Assembly will hold a session day.

“The Senate will reconvene on April 28, which matches up with the Assembly and better accommodates Passover, which ends on the evening of April 22nd,” said the spokesman, Scott Reif.

The sixth-month session is due to conclude June 19.

The Senate hasn’t convened since approving the $138 billion budget plan a day before the April 1 deadline.

The Assembly, however, returned for two days last week.

The initial Senate and Assembly session days showed the chambers scheduling an unusual number of days apart in Albany.

Ball: Municipal ID Confirms ‘Worst Fears’

County Sen. Greg Ball, the chairman of the Senate Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs Committee, against a New York City municipal identification card — a proposal that is backed by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

In a statement, Ball called the proposal a “homeland security nightmare” that should be blocked.

“As the details on the Mayor’s plan becomes clear, our worst fears have been confirmed,” Ball said in a statement. “Without requiring fingerprints, or other proper security checks, this will create a homeland security nightmare for law enforcement and the vulnerable civilian population of New York City and beyond.”

The ID is aimed in part to help immigrants, the homeless or the elderly who may difficult obtaining a government-issued driver’s license. Doing so would help them open bank accounts or enter areas where identification is required.

Supporters of a municipal ID for the city also argue that it would be easier for those who carry them to establish identity when dealing with law enforcement and foster greater interactivity with the city government.

Such identification cards also allow individuals to establish identity when interacting with law enforcement, preventing unnecessary detention. In addition, the cards benefit the city itself, fostering greater connectivity to important urban institutions, providing access to vital locations where photo ID is required, and creating a sense of unity within or identification with the city.

Nevertheless, the ID card issue is a politically sensitive one. In 2007, then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer proposed identification for undocumented immigrants that was broadly unpopular statewide and created some complications for Hillary Clinton on the presidential campaign trail.

Savino To Silver: You’re Not In The Senate (Updated)

Sen. Diane Savino in a statement said she was still confident a bill that would legalize medical marijuana could pass her chamber despite some skepticism voice earlier on Monday by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

“It’s interesting to hear Speaker Silver’s comments on this matter, but truthfully, I wasn’t aware he was elected to the Senate last week,” Savino said. “The fact of the matter is that each week, we continue to generate broad, bipartisan support for the Compassionate Care Act in the senate, just as we have among the general public. The Compassionate Care Act is coming to New York, the only question is when.”

Silver told reporters earlier today that he did not expect the medical marijuana bill to be approved this legislative session.

Passage of the measure in the Assembly is not in doubt, and it was included in the chamber’s one-house budget resolution this year.

“I don’t think it has a future in this session,” Silver said.

Savino has said she believes there are as many as 41 votes in the Senate to pass the Compassionate Care Act this year.

Update: Silver’s office released a statement this evening clarifying his remarks.

“The Assembly Majority has passed the Compassionate Care Act both in this year’s one-house budget resolution and during the 2013 legislative session. In fact, the Assembly has passed the measure many times since 2007,” Silver said in the statement. “To date the Senate has not acted on the legislation. Should the Senate decide to take up the bill, we would be delighted to pass it once again. I hope this is the year New York finally has a medical marijuana law.”

NARAL To Klein: Time To Push Women’s Agenda

Now that Albany is officially in the post-budget session phase, NARAL Pro-Choice New York is making a renewed push for the 10-point women’s agenda that stalled in the Legislature last year.

At the heart of the agenda is a measure aimed at the codification of the Roe v. Wade decision in state law, a provision that the state Senate declined to consider.

The Assembly approved the full agenda as a single omnibus bill, while the Senate approved nine of the 10 measures that include strengthening anti-human trafficking and discrimination laws.

In a statement, NARAL is singling out Senate IDC Leader Jeff Klein for bringing the measure to the floor (Klein attempted this in 2013 through a hostile amendment that was ultimately ruled not germane. Klein said the episode showed that the votes weren’t available in the Senate for the abortion measure).

“Now that the budget has been settled, the Senate must focus its attention on the reproductive health care needs of New York women, which have been left hanging in the balance for far too long,” said NARAL Pro-Choice New York President Andrea Miller. “New York has a singular opportunity here. Amidst attacks on reproductive rights across the nation, New York can demonstrate what we already know to be true — that both New York voters and their elected leaders support full equality for women, including the right to choose.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a news conference this morning did not mention the women’s agenda as potential measures he’d like to push in the spring, but did note the Dream Act, public financing of political campaigns and changes to the teacher evaluation law were items he wished were in the budget.

Skelos: Property Tax Package ‘A Critical Component’

Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos called the property-tax rebate program designed to nudge local governments on cutting costs a “critical component” of the agreed-to spending plan.

In an interview, Skelos said the multi-year rebate program was designed to shore up relief programs like STAR that were taken away.

“This is slowly trying to get back that type of property tax relief for those paying property taxes outside of the city of New York,” he said.

The tax plan would require local governments to budget within the state’s cap on local property tax levy increases and then in a second year find ways to share services. Property taxpayers would then receive the difference in the tax increase in the first year.

The property tax “freeze” was proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his January budget proposal.

The measure was altered to allow for shared service programs currently in place to be considered.

“It is tough for the local districts, but many of them already are looking at efficiencies, shared services, some areas are sharing superintendents,” Skelos said.

“So I think there are some positive steps going, but we want to look for them to continue to look for efficencies in their school district, their municipality.”

Skelos even adopted some language that Cuomo has used to spur local governments on cutting costs, noting the state has budgeted within a self-imposed 2 percent limit on spending increases.

“If we can do it, certainly our local government can do it,” he said.

Latimer: Astorino’s Kids Are ‘Political Props’

Sen. George Latimer, a Westchester County Democrat, has been deployed to respond to County Executive/GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino’s announcement this morning that he and his wife have decided to have his kids opt out of the upcoming Common Core exams to protest the controversial curriculum.

In a statement, Latimer, who is the ranking minority member on the Senate Education Committee, accused Astorino of sinking to a “new low” by “using his children as political props to make points that are pure fiction.”

“Mr. Astorino’s latest venture into the absurd includes blaming Bill Gates for the creation of Common Core standards and Governor Cuomo for implementing them,” Latimer continued. “We need to set the record straight.”

“Governor Cuomo has been a strong voice for parents and students in opposing the flawed implementation of common core. On this very day, the state is passing laws he proposed which eliminate all testing for kindergarten through second grade and negate common core test scores for all students.”

“This is the kind of strong leadership we need – not the type of attacks and stunts that puts political posturing ahead of public policy. Governor Cuomo deserves our thanks for his substantive vision and forceful leadership.”

Astorino has been hammering on the Common Core for some time, calling it yet another unfunded mandate handed down to local governments (in this case, the school districts) by the state. He has also said he would eradicate it completely if he’s elected governor in November.

The slam on Astorino for using his kids as “political props” seems unfair. It’s not as if he’s the first elected official to highlight family members to make a point during a political campaign. Actually, it’s a time-honored tradition to involve one’s children and spouse to demonstrate familial ties to the voters. In this case, the Astorinos are joining many other New York parents in opting their kids out of what they consider onerous and unfair testing.

Klein To Introduce Broader Public Financing Bill

Independent Democaatic Conference Leader Jeff Klein has agreed to introduce a broader public financing measure, sources said on Monday.

The plan will allow the public protection-general government legislation to go through intact, which includes a measure to create a pilot program for the state comptroller’s race only.

The compromise version of the public financing system is opposed by advocates and good-government organizations who had hoped for a broader, statewide version of the program.

Klein had been working behind the scenes on Monday to modify the current pilot program that had been introduced Friday night.

Now, Klein turn his attention to pushing a larger public financing plan outside of the budget that would be based on the New York City model of the 6-to-1 public matching program.

Comptroller Tom DiNpaoli himself is against the budget proposal.

“After eight years of my call for campaign finance reform, I am disappointed that my public financing proposal was not enacted,” DiNapoli said, referring to a version of the pilot program he introduced. “The process was flawed: I was excluded from the negotiations, and it appears a historic opportunity was missed for comprehensive campaign finance reform and public financing for all statewide and legislative offices. There are also questions on whether this proposal can be fairly and reasonably implemented in such a short time frame.”

Senate Finance Committee Chairman John DeFrancisco said earlier that talks were underway to change the proposal, suggesting “tweaks” were in store for the proposal.

A vote in the Senate for a larger public financing proposal would likely face a steep climb: Senate Republicans remain opposed to any measure using taxpayer dollars to fund political campaigns.

AQE, NY Communities For Change Target Avella

AQE and NY Communities for Change are taking advantage in this (hopefully brief) break in the budget action to target the IDC’s newest member, Queens Democratic Sen. Tony Avella, accusing him of “selling out” on charter school co-locations.

Email blasts from the two liberal organizations note that Avella used to be an outspoken opponent of charters – and co-location in particular – and yet voted “yes” on the Senate one-house budget that education advocates say pushes more of the controversial co-locations and hikes state aid to charters at the expense of traditional public schools.

This is a disaster, but it would not be on the table if Senator Avella had not voted for it when the Republican led coalition included this plan in their budget bill,” AQE’s email, signed by its advocacy director Zakiyah Ansari. “Now, Avella has to step up and stop it from happening.”

“…Negotiations are intense, and the State Assembly leadership is fighting hard, but they need our help,” the email continues. “It is difficult when the charter school lobbyists have spent more than $5 million on a TV and radio advertising campaign. These same lobbyist are funneling campaign money into the Senate leadership coalition that Senator Avella has joined.”

Both emails encourage their recipients to email Avella and express their disappointment. New York Communities for Change is also robocalling in Avella’s district. According to AQE’s Billy Easton, some 500 emails have already been sent to Avella’s office since these blasts were sent less than an hour ago.

When the Senate one-house budget was passed, Avella said he had not changed his mind about either charter schools or co-locations, but wanted to vote “yes” because he believed the plan would result in more money for NYC schools overall.

“I am voting for this resolution because of the more than half a billion dollars in new funding it asks our state to deliver to non-charter New York City publics schools,” Avella said at the time. “Any legislator stubborn enough to turn down that type of windfall for New York City students and teachers is forgetting about the families who elected them here in the first place.”

Haber Officially Enters Senate Race

Adam Haber, a Democratic businessman who unsuccessfully sought the nomination to run for Nassau County executive, launched his bid on Thursday to unseat Republican Sen. Jack Martins.

Haber, who filed a campaign finance committee with the state Board of Elections this month, had been reportedly considering running since the beginning of this month.

“As a small business owner and entrepreneur I know how to find practical, effective solutions that will move Long Island forward,” said Haber. “I’ll stand up for Nassau taxpayers and fight to pass the Women’s Equality Act.”

His candidacy also has received the blessing of Democratic Senate Campaign Committee Chairman Mike Gianaris of Queens.

“Adam will work to bring critical tax relief to Long Island and the seventh district, and he’ll fight for women’s equality and educational reform. I’m confident he’ll make an excellent Senator and we look forward to working with him in Albany next year,” Gianaris said.

Martins won the Nassau County district in 2010, narrowly unseating Democrat Craig Johnson, who is often considered an unofficial member of the Independent Democratic Conference and has led IDC Leader Jeff Klein’s fundraising efforts.

Martins in 2012 won by a 5,000-vote margin against Democratic candidate Daniel Ross, a surprisingly close result considering how little-watched the race was.