State Senate

Senate Gives Final Passage To Anti-Ticket Gouging Bill

State lawmakers on Wednesday approved the final passage of a bill that would provide new consumer protections for purchasing tickets in New York.

The bill cleared the Republican-led Senate this afternoon and goes to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk.

The bill is meant to crack down on people who resell tickets, gouging purchasers and distorting the market in the process.

“New York is home to some of the world’s premier artists, performers, and sports teams,” said Sen. Terrence Murphy. “Fans deserve every opportunity to see them. This package is a major step forward for consumers and will help them navigate the often complicated process of ticket purchasing.”

The bill requires operators and ticket resellers to disclose fees and surcharges associated with purchasing tickets and block the use of a website or URL name that may confuse the public into thinking they are buying a ticket direct and not from a reseller.

The bill also cracks down on the use of “bots” in ticket purchasing software. Ticket resellers would be required also to provide disclosure to purchases if a ticket has been transferred through the secondary market.

Senate Gridlock Mires Final Day

The state Senate remained stuck in neutral on Wednesday as a Republican-backed gambit to jam the Democratic-led Assembly failed to gain traction.

An omnibus package extending taxes for local governments failed to gain the needed 32 votes Wednesday afternoon in the chamber, leading the Senate to stand at ease while the Democratic and Republican conferences conferred behind closed doors.

The measure was an apparent attempt at gaining leverage over Assembly Democrats with a bill decoupling teacher evaluations from state examinations.

The Assembly has previously approved a so-called “clean” version of the bill backed by the New York State United Teachers union. Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, however, introduced a bill linking the overall issue to an expansion of charter schools in New York City, a poison pill for Democrats in the Assembly.

The Flanagan-supported version of the teacher evaluation bill was approved previously in the day.

In other words, not much can get done given the 31-31 split in a chamber in which it requires 32 votes to pass anything. Republican Sen. Tom Croci has been absent on military duty and is leaving office at the end of the year.

“The Senate Republicans are playing a dangerous game of political theatre,” said Senate Democratic spokesman Mike Murphy. “This selective extender bill has absolutely no chance of passing in the Assembly. The Senate Republicans need to stop playing games and come to the table to work on a responsible way to end session with legislation that can pass both houses.”

Flanagan Remains Hopeful For A Last-Minute Deal

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan told reporters Wednesday he’s hopeful for a last-minute deal that could be salvaged before lawmakers leave for the rest of the year.

Flanagan met with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Sen. Andrew Lanza, a Staten Island Republican, discussing a push that would delink teacher evaluations from state examinations.

Flanagan has linked the measure to an expansion of charter schools in New York City, a bill that’s been rejected by Assembly Democrats.

Nevertheless, Flanagan remained hopeful an agreement could be reached on the issue.

“I would hope so,” Flanagan said. “You know I always count on the glass being half full and that’s why we’re having these discussions.”

The New York State United Teachers union is pushing for a “clean” bill that does not include the charter expansion, which has support among Flanagan’s GOP conference members and has previously passed the Assembly.

The union on Wednesday made another public push on the issue, giving away free ice cream under the window of Flanagan’s Capitol office.

Legislature Approves Prosecutor Oversight Panel, Heads To Cuomo’s Desk

A bill that would create a commission overseeing the conduct of local prosecutors won final passage in the Legislature on Tuesday over the objections of the state district attorneys’ association.

The bill would create a panel similar to the Judicial Conduct Commission, reviewing the actions of local district attorneys. The measure received a surprising swell of bipartisan backing in both chambers — an unusual development for a Legislature often split on criminal justice issues.

The commission would not have the superseding power of removing prosecutors from office; a power that is constitutionally vested in the governor’s office.

The bill is backed by Sen. John DeFrancisco, a Republican from Syracuse who is set to retire at the end of the year.

In an interview, he said local prosecutors should not feel threatened by the bill, but see the commission as an effort to “weed out” bad actors.

“I don’t know how many cases people have to see where an individual spends years in jail and they later find out by DNA evidence that person was wrongfully convicted because of illegally withheld evidence,” he said. “There has to be some accountability.”

Democratic Assemblyman Nick Perry, too, dismissed concerns that had been raised by the District Attorneys Association of New York, saying judges had raised similar issues when a conduct commission examining jurists’ behavior was approved.

“When we try to provide opportunities for the public to seek accountability in regards to people with a lot of power, that’s usually the response,” he said.

The measure now will go to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk for his consideration.

SD-13: Citizen Action Endorses Ramos

Democratic state Senate candidate James Ramos was endorsed Friday by Citizen Action of New York, a progressive group affiliated with the Working Families Party.

Ramos is challenging Democratic Sen. Jose Peralta in his Queens district.

“At Citizen Action, our top priority is electing candidates who show a real commitment to helping working families. Jessica Ramos’ campaign to fix our subways, fully fund our schools, and achieve real rent reform shows she’s the real Democrat in this race. For too long, State Senator Jose Peralta failed to support working families, instead of working with the Republicans in the State Senate to block real rent reform, public school funding, and more,” said Jesse Laymon, Board Member of Citizen Action of New York.

“Jessica embodies the kind of candidate Citizen Action supports: rooted in her community’s needs, armed with a vision for how to turn those needs into a reality, and committed to fighting the legislative battles that will get her there. We are thrilled to support her bid for State Senate.”

Peralta is a former member of the now-dissolved Independent Democratic Conference. The IDC disbanded in April and its members joined the mainline Democratic conference fold in the Senate.

“Citizen Action of New York has worked tirelessly to push a progressive agenda forward across our state, and I’m thrilled to have their endorsement today,” Ramos said. “Our campaign focuses on harnessing grassroots power to deliver positive change back to our own community—from fixing the MTA, to funding our public schools, to passing real rent reform. I’m honored to receive Citizen Action’s endorsement and look forward to campaigning alongside their team as we work to bring a real Democratic majority to the State Senate this year.”

DAs Protest Conduct Panel Bill’s Passage

From the Morning Memo:

A bill that would create a conduct review commission for local prosecutors is being opposed by the District Attorneys Association of the State New York, with the group arguing it would undermine prosecutorial discretion and compromise independence.

The bill was approved Thursday in the Republican-controlled state Senate. It’s expected to receive a vote in the Democratic-led Assembly next week before the legislative session ends for the year.

“This bill is flagrantly unconstitutional and violates the separation of powers. DAASNY has already informed the Governor and his staff of the constitutional issues raised by this bill,” said DAASNY President, Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara. “The bill is so flawed that virtually every legislator who voted for this bill acknowledged during the floor debate that the bill already requires chapter amendments.”

The organization pointed to the existence of the Attorney Grievance Committee that oversees prosecutors.

But the panel the bill would create, its sponsors argue, would set up an entity similar to the judicial conduct commission, providing a new level of oversight. The governor would retain superseding authority to remove district attorneys from office, a power that rests in the state constitution.

“Prosecutors have substantial discretion over how to prosecute cases,” said Sen. John DeFrancisco said. “This commission would serve as an impartial forum for reviewing allegations made against prosecutors to determine whether they acted properly in certain criminal cases.”

Bill Creating Conduct Panel For Prosecutors Clears Senate

The state Senate Thursday approved a bill that would create a commission to review the conduct of prosecutors, creating an entity that would be empowered to review complaints and take accountability actions.

The bill, sponsored by Republican Sen. John DeFrancisco, was handily approved by the GOP-controlled chamber and could pass the Democratic-controlled Assembly next week.

The commission would be similar to an existing body that oversees the conduct of judges in the state.

But at the same time, the commission would not have the superseding powers to remove a sitting district attorney as outlined by the state constitution, which grants that power to the governor.

“Prosecutors have substantial discretion over how to prosecute cases,” DeFrancisco said. “This commission would serve as an impartial forum for reviewing allegations made against prosecutors to determine whether they acted properly in certain criminal cases.”

Nevertheless, the bill represents a skeptical view of locally elected prosecutors.

“They have wide latitude in determining how to prosecute and whether to prosecute certain offenses against certain defendants,” the bill’s memo states. “It is vitally important there exist in law a tribunal to oversee that discretion, to protect the rights of defendants, and make certain they are not violated. The liberties at stake in criminal prosecutions call for this level of scrutiny.”

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said his conference was supportive of the legislation.

“I do think the members are more favorable to it,” Heastie. “The fact that the Senate has taken this up lends a little more seriousness to where we are.”

DeFran: No Senate Vote On ‘Red Flag’ Bill

Republican Sen. John DeFrancisco in an interview Wednesday said the gun control measure being pushed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the waning days of the legislative session will not receive a vote in his chamber.

“I can’t imagine the red flag will be voted on before Wednesday,” DeFrancisco said. “I can’t imagine.”

Known as the “red flag” bill, the proposal is meant to restrict access to guns by people who are deemed to be a danger to themselves or others. The bill was approved earlier on Wednesday in the Democratic-led Assembly, where it picked up 14 Republican votes.

If allowed for a vote on the Senate floor, supporters expect it would likely pass.

“I am confident that if brought for a full vote of the Senate, an Extreme Risk Protection Orders bill would pass,” said Sen. Brian Kavanagh, one of the originators of the legislation. “Adjourning without holding a vote would leave an untold number of New Yorkers to die preventable deaths.”

But DeFrancisco, a longtime Cuomo critic who ran for governor this year and is retiring from office at the end of the session, called the bill unnecessary, pointing to mental health provisions addressed in the SAFE Act, a 2013 package of gun control provisions.

At the same time, he question whether educators should be empowered to determine whether a student is considered a risk.

“To suggest that a teacher can make a comment and determine that someone is unstable without any training at all, but they’re not competent if they’ve got a license to carry a gun in a school, it’s just contradictory,” DeFrancisco said. “So, the law is already clear and in existence that takes care of the problem of the mental health issue.”

Cuomo’s aggressive push for the bill has been criticized by Senate Republicans, who have accused him of election-year posturing.

“Ask him to get beyond the rhetoric and ask him to say how does it deal with the person who’s unstable,” DeFrancisco said of the governor. “What does the bill do to the person who’s unstable? All it is is a bill to take guns away from people.”

In the Assembly, the bill sailed through as expected.

“Establishing extreme risk protection orders is a critical step towards preventing needless gun tragedies that have become far too common,” said Speaker Carl Heastie. “Family and other household members are often the first to know when someone is experiencing a crisis or exhibiting dangerous behavior. We must make certain that when they voice their concerns, they are heard and the necessary precautions can be taken.”

Cuomo has accused Republicans of bending to the will of the National Rifle Association. His re-election campaign has funded a six-figure ad purchase calling attention to the issue.

“Republican members of the Assembly put children above the NRA—all we need is one to show that kind of backbone in the Senate,” Cuomo said in a statement. “It’s time for the Republicans in Albany to put politics aside and listen to their constituents who are saying ‘enough is enough.’ The cost of inaction is simply too high.”

Republicans Hopeful For Compromise On Teacher Evaluation Decoupling

Republicans in the state Senate expect some sort of compromise to be worked out on a bill that would decouple standardized examinations from how teachers and principals are evaluated, even as the GOP’s top lawmakers supports a bill considered an anathema to Assembly Democrats.

The measure, supported by Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, would lift the cap on charter schools in New York City and carve out a curriculum allowance for Jewish day schools.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has said both provisions are non-starters and the measure is opposed by the state teachers union.

Still, Republicans insist there are sweeteners in the Flanagan legislation, including a permanent decoupling provision and shortening the amount of time needed to acquire tenure.

“You can debate either. I prefer the one Senator Flanagan introduced,” said Sen. John DeFrancisco. “But there’ll be negotiations and my belief is there will be a middle ground on that one and it will be resolved.”

Sen. Jim Tedisco, a Republican from the Albany suburbs who backs the bill approved by the Democratic-led Assembly and is supported by the teachers union, said he’s hopeful the overarching issue is dealt with before the end of the session next week.

“That’s the leaders bill,” he said of the Flanagan-backed bill. “Our bill has 55 sponsors. I’m hoping we can get the main concept of what we need to get done, and that is stop using as the holy grail standardized tests for evaluating kids and teachers.”

NYSUT, Senate GOP At Odds Over Teacher Eval Bill

The New York State United Teachers union this week is ramping up its efforts for the approval of a bill in the Senate that decouples student performance on state examinations from how teachers and principals are evaluated.

Senate Republicans, however, introduced their own version of the decoupling legislation they insist is superior, even as it is likely a non-starter for Assembly Democrats, given that it raises the cap on charter schools in New York City.

But Senate GOP officials have argued their bill should be backed by the union. The measure permanently decouples exams from evaluations and speeds up the timetable for a teacher to be granted tenure from four years to three.

Nevertheless, the union isn’t convinced.

“The bill that they introduced is really about unicorns and lollipops and really does nothing,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta. “What they’re saying is we’ll repeal the whole thing, but we’ll give the charter industry another 100 schools. Where does that come from? Obviously, the charter donors need something out of this.”

So the union today is breaking out the bands, literally, for the bill. NYSUT sponsored several musical acts — one a swing band, another a group of bagpippers — to play music at the West Capitol Park on Wednesday to promote the union’s preferred bill.

The measure is one of several issues left unresolved as the legislative session winds down in Albany, scheduled to end on June 20.