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Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany with no public schedule.

At 9 a.m., members and supporters of the Alliance for Tenant Power and the “Real Rent Reform Campaign,” or the “R3″ campaign, and NYC officials call for changes in rent regulations, during a rally scheduled before a 10 a.m. hearing of members of Council’s Committee on Housing and Buildings, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

At 10 a.m., during The New School’s sold-out conference titled “All Minds Matter: Resolving the Achievement Gap of Boys and Young Men of Color in the Age of Obama,” NYC officials, commentators, family advocates and scholars are scheduled to speak; Theresa Lang Community and Student Center, room I202, Arnhold Hall, 55 W. 13th St., Manhattan.

Also at 10 a.m., NJ Sen. Cory Booker, Manhattan BP Gale A. Brewer, Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, NYC Public Advocate Tish James, Urban Justice Center Executive Director Doug Lasdon and US Treasury Department general counsel Christopher Meade, mark the opening of the center’s relocated headquarters, subsidized by $5 million in city funding; ninth floor, 40 Rector St., Manhattan.

At 10:15 a.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio holds a media availability after a breakfast he hosts at Gracie Mansion for members of the city’s congressional delegation, 88th Street and East End Avenue, Manhattan.

At 10:30 a.m., Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and LG Kathy Hochul meet with students and lead an organizing effort to combat sexual violence on college campuses, Center for Tomorrow, Flint & Service Center roads, University at Buffalo North Campus, Amherst.

Also at 10:30 a.m., Senate Republicans will hold a joint committee meeting on the MTA’s budget and finances, Hearing Room A, LOB, Albany.

At 11 a.m., on the eve of Park Advocacy Day, State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey will unveil Cuomo’s $900 million NY Parks 2020 plan, Saratoga Spa State Park; Administration Building; Saratoga Springs.

At 11:30 a.m., Sen. John Bonacic will hold a press conference in support of funding for the Research and Recognition Project in the 2015-16 budget, Room 124, state Capitol, Albany.

At 12:30 p.m., Reps. Sean Patrick Maloney and Nita Lowey and Hudson Valley elected officials will urge Congress to pass a passenger rail bill that includes significant investments in rail crossing improvements, Metro-North Rail Crossing at Roaring Brook Road – Exit 33 off Saw Mill River Parkway, Chappaqua.

Also at 12:30 p.m., Gillibrand will host a roundtable meeting at U of R with students and officials, as well as survivors, advocates, and law enforcement to discuss bolstering efforts to combat sexual violence on college campuses, Rush Rhees Library, University of Rochester, 755 Library Rd., Rochester.

At 1:30 p.m., more than a hundred district and charter school parents, clergy members and education reform activists will call on Albany to prioritize the governor’s education reform proposals, Million Dollar staircase, state Capitol, Albany.

At 2:15 p.m., Gillibrand and Rep. John Katko host a roundtable meeting at Syracuse University with students and officials, as well as survivors, advocates, and law enforcement to discuss bolstering efforts to combat sexual violence on college campuses, Dr. Paul and Natalie Strasser Legacy Room, Eggers Hall, Room 220, SU’s Maxwell School of Citizenship, Syracuse.

At 5:30 p.m., Sen. Kathy Marchione hosts a $500-a-head fundraiser at The Fort Orange Club, President’s Room, 110 Washington Ave., Albany.

Also at 5:30 p.m., Sen. Cathy Young, SRCC chair, hosts a $700-a-head fundraiser at The Fort Orange Club, Library, 110 Washington Ave., Albany.

At 6 p.m., Sen. Andrew Lanza hosts a $500-a-head fundraiser at The Fort Orange Club, 110 Washington Ave., Albany.

Headlines…

MSG and Cablevision boss James Dolan reportedly wants to buy the New York Daily News and has a team of bankers exploring the possibility. But Dolan and MSG have been locked in a 10-year feud with the News, which could put some of the paper’s editorial staff in a precarious position if he becomes the buyer.

The DN: “The governor’s policy of having state agencies delete emails after just 90 days is a violation of the people’s right to know how officials handle government business – and a recipe for cover-ups.”

A power play by the legislature against Cuomo weakened yesterday as the Assembly agreed to introduce the governor’s budget amendments. The Democratic-led chamber introduced the governor’s budget amendments containing ethics measures aimed at the legislature, state officials confirmed. Senate Republicans haven’t yet followed suit.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is at his “wit’s end” over the harsh treatment he’s received from supposed good friend Gov. Andrew Cuomo since taking office, according to sources who say they spoke directly to the mayor. But de Blasio officials deny the mayor has sought advice on how to deal with the governor.

De Blasio said he will continue not to march in the city’s annual Fifth Avenue St. Patrick’s Day parade unless this year’s event becomes “more inclusive” of pro-gay groups, including the St. Pat’s For All Parade organizers.

The mayor marched again in the St. Pat’s for All parade in Sunnyside, Queens, which emphasizes a message of inclusiveness. Kerry Kennedy, the human rights activist, was a grand marshal this year.

Tracey Brooks is readying to depart after nearly seven years as president and CEO of Family Planning Advocates within the next few weeks to join the firm of Featherstonhaugh, Wiley & Clyne, sources said. No one has been tapped to replace her yet.

A coalition of education groups is urging the state Legislature to make changes to the property-tax cap that was installed in 2011, saying the restrictions are straining school budgets.

A massive pro-charter rally co-organized by Success Academy, New York City’s largest charter school network, that is scheduled for this Wednesday in Albany will be headlined by Lisa Leslie, the former Women’s National Basketball Association star and Olympic gold medalist.

Senate Republicans, under pressure from supermarket billionaire and mega-donor John Catsimatidis, are trying to slip a “green biofuels” mandate into Cuomo’s new budget that could add $150 million a year to heating costs in New York.

More >

The Weekend That Was

A spokesman for former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani strongly denied a claim from Carl Paladino last week that the former mayor requested $50,000 for an endorsement during the Buffalo businessman’s 2010 campaign for governor.

A 26-year-old nurse said that a hospital where she had worked in Dallas and its parent company failed her when she contracted Ebola while caring for the first person in the U.S. diagnosed with the deadly disease. She is preparing to sue Texas Health Resources.

Senate Republicans may want her to publicly disclose her finances, but a spokeswoman for Cuomo’s celebrity chef girlfriend, Sandra Lee, insists: “None of the companies Ms. Lee owns lobby or have business before the state.”

Democratic NY-11 candidate Vincent Gentile is already making the Eric Garner case part of the race for office. The Brooklyn pol called on his Republican opponent, Staten Island DA Dan Donovan, to release the transcripts of the grand jury that decided not to indict NYPD cop Daniel Pantaleo for killing the father of five.

The TU chides state lawmakers for resisting Cuomo’s ethics reform ultimatum, and suggests they publicly negotiate a deal with him.

Hundreds of people attended a Saturday afternoon “Call Out Cuomo” educational rally at Massena High School.

Fred LeBrun questions Cuomo’s book deal, and wonders where US Attorney Preet Bharara is on the subject.

EJ McMahon questions the Cuomo administration’s claims that the upstate economy is “robust.”

Now that the fracking war in New York is over – for the moment – what comes next for the Southern Tier and environmental advocates?

The Buffalo News supports the governor’s quest for a “fair, effective” teacher performance evaluation system.

An unprecedented trial is scheduled to open tomorrow in Western New York. Three white Attica prison guards — Sergeant Warner and Officers Rademacher and Swack — face charges stemming from the beating of George Williams, an African-American prisoner. All three have pleaded not guilty.

This week, the North Carolina-based John Locke Foundation published its inaugural First in Freedom Index. Using more than 60 data points, we calculated fiscal, educational, regulatory and health-care freedom in the 50 states. New York ranked last.

Fiery wrecks of trains hauling crude oil have intensified pressure on the Obama administration to approve tougher standards for railroads and tank cars despite industry complaints that it could cost billions and slow freight deliveries.

Assemblyman Dov Hikind is wondering why former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has not taken a position on Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s scheduled address before Congress.

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry is raising questions about Clinton’s ethical judgment after reports that her family’s foundation received millions of dollars from foreign governments during her tenure as secretary of state.

Libertarian hero Rand Paul of Kentucky on Saturday grabbed first place in the Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll for the third year running, followed closely by rising potential 2016 Republican presidential primary star Scott Walker.

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who is considering entering the Democratic presidential race, said that financial regulation needs to be at the forefront of the 2016 campaign and suggested big banks need to be broken up if they might harm the nation.

O’Malley took a veiled shot at his possible 2016 rival, Clinton, criticizing the politics of “triangulation” that have historically been associated with the former first lady and her husband, former President Clinton.

Bordering on dysfunction, Congress passed a one-week bill late Friday night to avert a partial shutdown of the Homeland Security Department, as leaders in both political parties quelled a revolt by House conservatives furious that the measure left President Barack Obama’s immigration policy intact.

Injuries on NYC playgrounds cost taxpayers $20 million in the last decade — with parents filing 577 claims against the Parks Department, a comptroller report reveals.

The Democrat-controlled state Assembly is planning to hold a public roundtable discussion on legislation restricting where sex offenders can live – a move that some lawmakers see as a sign that the bill could win passage.

More than 1,000 people have signed a petition urging Cuomo to veto a proposed Liquefied Natural Gas deep water port near Long Beach.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio still returns to his stomping grounds in Brooklyn, and is rarely seen on the Upper East Side, even though he lives there (in Gracie Mansion) now.

Former Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s early-rising ways are irking staffers at his company, now that he had made he return there.

Four years ago, New York was home to five producers of hard cider. Today there are 31, including 11 that opened in the past year under the state’s farm cidery law. The measure, which took effect in January 2014, offers tax advantages and other benefits to producers who use fruit exclusively grown in the state.

Christopher Porco, convicted of using an ax to kill his father and maim his mother as they slept in their Delmar home in 2004, has spent the better part of the past eight years trying locate the data that he may believe will prove his innocence.

Extras

RIP Leonard Nimoy, who was best known as Spock, but was also a talented photographer.

President Obama “loved Spock,” and greeted Nimoy with the Vulcan salute when the two met in 2007.

Politicans weighed in on the “what color is that dress” controversy. Not surprisingly, they’re divided.

It looks like Gov. Andrew Cuomo will be the first to travel to Cuba since the US started normalizing relations with the country after all.

“This is the world we live in. If Preet can make a case against Silver, he can make a case against Cuomo.”

Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. said considering the DREAM Act apart from the state budget will hurt its chances of passage. “I think that Carl Heastie and the Assembly have killed the DREAM Act again,” he said.

The Public Service Commission is now scheduled to vote on the merger of Time Warner Cable and Comcast next month. The vote should happen by March 19.

Mort Zuckerman might sell the Daily News, but his other media property, US News & World Report, is not for sale.

Observer Media has rebranded The New York Observer’s website as “The Observer.”

The Cuomo administration’s top labor negotiator said the state budget does not contain a reserve to pay for higher wage and benefits that might accompany PEF’s expiring contract.

A longtime town court judge in Oswego County has taken a leave of absence from the bench as his bosses investigate the court’s activities.

The state still doesn’t have a database for background checks on ammunition sales that was part of New York’s controversial gun-control law in 2013.

Former Gov. David Paterson said that his popularity ratings slid as a result of Saturday Night Live sketches that made fun of his visual impairment.

This year, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s tax bill on his $1.41 million Park Slope townhome will total nearly $2,900. A few miles away in Borough Park, the owner of a home similarly valued at $1.42 million will have to pay more than $15,000.

The state Department of Labor and local authorities in Schenectady arrested an IRS employee for allegedly getting unemployment and social services benefits she wasn’t entitled to.

Congratulations to NY1’s Bob Hardt for hitting the 140-pound mark.

You think you’ve got cold weather problems? Consider the plight of the dairy farmer.

Ladies and gentleman, Carl Paladino.

Anti-DREAM Act Group Targets Assembly Democrat (Updated)

From the Morning Memo:

Another anti-DREAM Act group, using similar tactics employed by Senate Republicans during the 2014 campaign, is targeting Democratic Assemblyman James Skoufis.

The group, New Yorkers For Affordable Education, recently posted to Facebook a video blasting Skoufis for supporting the measure, which provides tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants.

While still an apparent astroturf organization, this organization is a bit more straightforward in its approach than a phony Facebook group that on the surface appears to be supportive of the bill, but is actually critical of the proposal.

In the latest video, images of men crossing over barbed wire fences are shown, and Skoufis is linked to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who last year unsuccessfully sought a Democratic takeover of the state Senate.

The video may also run afoul of the Assembly’s rules: It uses video images of floor proceedings, which are barred from use in campaign commercials for or against a specific candidate or ballot issue and is property of the state Assembly.

Still, the video appears to be strikingly similar to campaign strategy employed by Republicans in the most recent Senate elections.

Republicans, victorious in three key upstate Senate races, ran on their opposition to the DREAM Act as well as public financing of political campaigns.

De Blasio and his support for the Democrats also played a key role in the GOP’s Senate efforts.

Skoufis is believed to be interested in running for the seat currently represented by longtime Republican Sen. Bill Larkin, which could be a Democratic pickup in 2016.

This year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has tied the DREAM Act to the creation of an education tax credit, which is meant to spur donations to aid public and private schools.

The state Assembly on Thursday once again approved a standalone version of the DREAM Act on Thursday, 81-42.

Updated: Hudson Valley Area Labor Federation President Paul Ellis-Graham weighs in.

“If we are going to talk about the important issues facing New York State, let’s deal with the facts:

1) Why the fake group? If the political operatives behind this ad had any integrity, they would put their name on it.
2) Perhaps they won’t put their name on it because they know the ad is racist. Why is there footage of adult immigrants crawling through barb wire fences when the legislation is about children in high school looking to go to college?
3) Or maybe they won’t put their name on the ad because it’s full of lies. Since when did TAP amount to free college?

This ad is as ridiculous as it is cowardly, even by political operative standards.”

CBC: What To Keep, What To Cut In Budget

From the Morning Memo:

A letter to state lawmakers this week from the Citizens Budget Commission think tank gives elected officials a roadmap for what aspects of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal should be kept, altered or rejected totally.

The group is supportive of the slowed growth in spending, keeping design-build method of contracting in the budget, a reformed Brownfield proposal and the enhancements being made to the Rainy Day reserve fund.

Among the measures of the $142 billion budget to take out, the CBC recommends rejecting the education tax credit, which is being pushed by religious organizations and advocates for private schools.

The tax credit is actually aimed at helping both private and public schools through donations, but the bill is opposed by the state’s teachers unions and faces opposition in the Democratic-led Assembly.

The CBC, however, takes issue with the credit’s cost.

“The measure creates an enhanced, potentially costly subsidy for private education,” the group wrote. “Benefactors of education charities should continue to enjoy the same benefits available for other charitable contributions.”

Meanwhile, the budget commission is questioning what it he sees as “excessive economic development spending” — a facet of state spending plans that has grown steadily over the years.

In particular, the CBC points to the spending on tax credits of questionable value for film companies and as well as spending $1.5 billion of financial settlement money on a new round of competitive grant and incentive money for economic development.

“These proposals should be rejected and a moratorium declared on expansions in this area until the benefits of existing programs can be examined carefully and unsuccessful programs terminated,” the group wrote.

Finally, the CBC raises an alarm about pension fund deferrals, which it says is basically borrowing from the pension fund, with $3.2 billion having already been loaned by the end of the current fiscal year, March 31.

An additional $395 million is requested in deferrals for the coming budget year, which the CBC says should be rejected.

Here and Now

Happy “House of Cards” day! Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with no public schedule.

At 9:30 a.m., the New York Gaming Facility Location Board meets, ESDC, 37th Floor Conference Room, 633 Third Ave., Manhattan.

At 10 a.m., acting NYS Tax and Finance Commissioner Ken Adams discusses the governor’s tax exemption for the wine, beer, cider and spirits industries, Flagship Brewery, 40 Minthorne St., Staten Island.

Also at 10 a.m., Stop the Pipeline holds a press conference on why it is calling on the state Department of Environmental Conservation to block the Constitution pipeline in the Southern Tier, LCA Press Room (130), Legislative Office Building, Albany.

At 11 a.m., NYS Broadband Program Office Director David Salway discusses the governor’s NY Broadband Program, Swain Ski Resort, Celeste and Sean Schoonover, 2275 County Road 24, Swain.

Also at 11 a.m., NYC Councilman Fernando Cabrera and representatives of a nonprofit organization that operates a job training program for former inmates, homeless residents and people treated for substance abuse, The Doe Fund, hold a news conference; Burnside and Jerome avenues, the Bronx.

At 1 p.m., the final joint legislative budget hearing is held on the workforce development portion of Cuomo’s 2015-16 spending plan, Hearing Room B, LOB, Albany.

Also at 1 p.m., the president of the NAACP’s state conference, Hazel Dukes, serves as guest speaker during an event marking the observance of “Black History Month,” attended by senior citizens assisted by several agencies and featuring artwork, a biographical presentation, cake, music performed by the Terri Davis Quartet and a poetry reading; The Carter Burden Center for the Aging Inc.’s The Carter Burden/Leonard Covello Senior Program, 312 E. 109th St., Manhattan.

At 3 p.m., Adams discusses the governor’s property tax relief program, 20 Dorchester St., Huntington Station, Long Island.

At 7:15 p.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will deliver remarks at the DC37 Black History Month celebration, 125 Barclay St., Manhattan.

Headlines…

As a new report shows that more than 97 percent of area principals and teachers are deemed effective or highly effective, educators across the state are rallying against a plan by Cuomo to make the rating system tougher.

Though 95 percent of New York’s teachers were deemed effective or highly effective in 2013-14, there are some exceptions.

A day after NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio traveled to Albany to try to convince state lawmakers that he should remain in charge of turning around the city’s lowest-performing schools, Cuomo challenged that assertion with a new report highlighting those schools’ struggles.

In the report, Cuomo linked legislators’ names to chronically failing public schools in their districts in a provocative move to win support for his education reforms.

Cuomo’s report cited 178 failing schools across New York – the same number used in a Families for Excellent Schools (F.E.S.) report released Wednesday, which calls for a state takeover of those schools, a major component of Cuomo’s education reform proposals.

Republicans in the state Assembly pushed Cuomo to release school aid runs so that districts can better plan their budgets and tax levies, which are due to go before voters this May.

Two of St. Lawrence County’s Republican Assemblymen say they are outraged by Cuomo’s proposal to tie the DREAM Act to funding for the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP). Opponents call this “political blackmail.”

As ferocious battles rage in Congress, statehouses and courtrooms over the legal status of undocumented immigrants, an evolution has been underway at some colleges and universities. They are taking it upon themselves to more freely, sometimes openly, make college more affordable for these students, for whom all federal and most state forms of financial aid remain off limits.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie is taking credit for starting the “Who’s your daddy?” serenade against pitching great Pedro Martinez during the 2009 World Series between the Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies. But the famed Yankees’ Bleacher Creatures are calling a balk.

Despite the insistence of sergeant-at-arms Wayne Jackson that it was time for session to begin, former Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver shuffled up to former Red Sox and Mets pitcher, grinning as the soon-to-be Hall of Famer signed him an autograph.

Maggie Miller, the state’s chief information officer, faced a barrage of questions from lawmakers at a budget hearing yesterday afternoon about the Cuomo administration policy of automatically deleting emails of state workers that are more than 90 days old.

More >

Extras

Daily News owner Mort Zuckerman is exploring a sale of the tabloid and has retained the firm Lazard to assist in the process.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo won’t be the first governor to visit Cuba since the US began to normalize relations with the country. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon is going next month.

President Obama’s nominee for attorney general cleared a hurdle as a Senate panel signed off on US Attorney Loretta Lynch over the objections of some Republicans.

The FCC approved net neutrality by a 3-2 vote, with Chairman Tom Wheeler saying the policy will ensure “that no one — whether government or corporate — should control free open access to the Internet.”

The 2013-14 teacher evaluation rating data found 95 percent of the state’s educators were either effective or highly effective.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio called Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s upcoming speech to Congress a “mistake”, but stopped short of directly criticizing the controversial leader.

Former Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV cast Sen. Adriano Espaillat as too old and tired to run for a third time for the seat Rep. Charlie Rangel is expected to vacate at the end of 2016.

Speaking on the eve of today’s anniversary of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, US Attorney Preet Bharara said his office and the law enforcement officials it works with have taken the hard lessons of the last 22 years to heart.

The Staten Island Advance supports de Blasio in his disagreement with Cuomo over education policy, and calls on local lawmakers to do the same.

It was sports star day (unofficially) at the state Capitol.

The CBC says New York should stop borrowing from the pension fund and use $2.5 billion of the $5 billion surplus to reduce the oustanding liability from past borrowing.

Assemblyman Marcos Crespo is favored to succeed Heastie as Bronx Democratic Party chairman, but his record – including a “no” vote on same-sex marriage and the Women’s Equality Act – has rankled some progressives.

See where New York’s congressional delegation members ranked on the NLCV’s annual environmental scorecard.

“If they were in orange jumpsuits, you’d think they were ISIS hostages.”

New York State had the nation’s most unionized workforce in 2014, thanks largely to its very heavily unionized public sector.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren took somewhat of a pass when asked to assess the progressive credentials of 2016 Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

Clinton still has a long list of demands – though no more crudites or lemon wedges – for the paid speeches she continues to deliver.

Carly Fiorina tore into Clinton during a speech at CPAC.

Attorneys for former Gov. Rick Perry have asked a Texas appeals court to dismiss felony charges against the possible 2016 presidential candidate on free speech grounds.

Google Inc. is making its largest bet yet on renewable energy, a $300 million investment to support at least 25,000 SolarCity Corp. rooftop power plants.

Teachers at the popular PS 321 in Brooklyn’s Park Slope are turning to parents for help in opposing Cuomo’s education reforms.

Two llamas on the lam! (Sadly, no longer).

DiNapoli Questions Cuomo Per Diem Reform Tactic

From the Morning Memo:

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office was blindsided by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s announcement in his 30-day amendments that he had linked part of his ethics reform package – an overhaul of the legislative per diem system – to a portion of the comptroller’s own budget.

No one from the Cuomo administration had bothered to give the comptroller’s staff a heads-up on this, or even seek their counsel regarding the rather sticky constitutional implications of putting ethics reforms into appropriations bills in an effort to force the Legislature’s hand.

“We were not consulted by the executive,” DiNapoli spokeswoman Jennifer Freeman confirmed.

This is not terribly surprising, given the rocky relationship between Cuomo and DiNapoli.

The governor is in the habit of not consulting the comptroller on issues that impact him – the public campaign finance pilot program (which turned out to be a dud) established last year solely for the comptroller’s race, is a perfect example.

(To be fair, the comptroller wasn’t warned by legislative leaders about that, either – not even by his former colleagues in the Assembly Democratic conference).

So, Cuomo’s surprise proposal that the comptroller would be prohibited from reimbursing expenses for a member of the Legislature or statewide elected official until expanded disclosure provisions are met sent DiNapoli staffers scrambling to figure out the ramifications and implications of that plan.

So far, they’ve determined that if for some reason the Legislature completely rejects Cuomo’s amendment, it could wipe out funding for the comptroller’s office employees who are in charge of reviewing – and paying – the state’s bills.

(Remember: If something is embedded by the governor in an appropriation bill, the Legislature only has the power to either strike it entirely or reduce its monetary value; but not to amend it).

This, of course, would be highly problematic. But the comptroller’s office isn’t terribly worried, because it seems unlikely lawmakers will take the risk of completely ruling out Cuomo’s per diem reform idea.

That said, the comptroller is questioning the efficacy of Cuomo’s plan, noting that anything achieved through the budget will be short lived – basically lasting only as long as the duration of the spending plan itself, which would be (at most) two years.

“Clearly there is a need to strengthen the state’s ethics laws,” Freeman said. “But broad policy issues are generally best dealt with on their merits rather than attaching them to time-limited appropriations.”

“Comptroller DiNapoli expects these issues will be worked out during negotiations between the Legislature and the Executive.”

An Ethics Reform Blind Spot

From the Morning Memo:

Ethics reform is pretty much THE hot topic at the Capitol these days, thanks to Cuomo’s desire to extricate himself from the Moreland Commission mess and the Sheldon Silver corruption scandal.

But while the governor is threatening to hold up the entire budget in order to see his reform proposals passed by the state Legislature, he has recommended no additional funding for the three existing ethics enforcement entities currently responsible for policing the three branches of government: JCOPE, the state inspector general and the state Commission on Judicial Conduct.

A lot of ink has been spilled about JCOPE and its ineffectiveness. But even though good government groups have been calling for changes to its structure (the Legislature is more or less able to block any investigation out might want to launch), the governor has failed to propose any reforms.

As for the Commission on Judicial Conduct, this is the fifth year in a row the executive has recommended zero increases for its budget of $5.4 million, despite holding other state agencies to a 2 percent spending increase, according to commission administrator and counsel Robert Tembeckjian.

The commission is a constitutionally created independent agency of state government that enforces judicial ethics by investigating and disciplining judges for misconduct. Its work has resulted in 786 public disciplines of judges in 36 years – an average of 22 a year – including 168 removals and 51 stipulated resignations.

In testimony Tembeckjian will deliver at a joint legislative budget hearing today, he says the commission has learned to do more with less, cutting staff, giving up formal training and adopting cost-cutting technologies.

“Years of flat budgeting and corresponding cuts in staff and services have diminished our effectiveness,” Tembeckjian will say, according to an advance copy of his testimony provided to CapTon. “Unless the Legislature acts, I will be forced to make even more mission-impeding economies.”

Tembeckjian says he’s seeking from the Legislature an additional $273,300 – a 5 percent increase – “the minimum amount necessary for us to maintain the status quo,” covering a rent increase, mandated 2 percent staff salary bump and also fund step increases to eligible staffers.

WFP Claims Victory in Special Prosecutor Probe

From the Morning Memo:

The Working Families Party is celebrating the end of a protracted legal battle over its efforts in the 2009 NYC elections that lead to the demise of its for-profit arm, Data & Field Services, but ultimately resulted in no charges against the labor-backed party.

Special prosecutor Roger Adler announced yesterday that his investigation of the WFP’s involvement in Councilwoman Debi Rose’s campaign resulted in the indictment of two former aides to the Staten Island Democrat, but no allegations of wrongdoing against the party itself or any of its officials.

In a lengthy statement released late last night, New York WFP Director Bill Lipton slammed Adler, calling him an “unqualified prosecutor with a political axe to grind” who had spent “three years and hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to reinvestigate allegations…that had already been debunked.”

“This matter never should have been the subject of a criminal investigation in the first place,” Lipton continued. “It should have been treated as a routine administrative matter and examined by the Campaign Finance Board, and Roger Adler himself has admitted as much.”

“Instead, he pressed forward with a full-scale criminal investigation to attempt to inflict political damage on his opponents, while keeping the meter running for himself. By the end, we have no doubt that he’ll have billed half a million dollars in public money for himself.”

“The indictment of a defunct corporation that has been out of business for more than three years is bizarre. But the indictments against the Rose campaign and two campaign workers are especially outrageous.”

“Councilmember Debi Rose is the first and only African American elected official on Staten Island, and it is wrong that her campaign and her volunteers were subject to a different standard than everyone else.”

The US Attorney’s office and the NYC Campaign Finance Board also both investigated the WFP’s 2009 efforts and found no significant violations.

A lawsuit brought by Randy Mastro, a former Giuliani administration deputy mayor, was settled in 2010, requiring some restitution by Rose for “alleged undercharging” by DFS for services provided to her campaign and also structural changes to how DFS operated. Under the settlement, there was no finding of wrongdoing by the WFP.

The WFP hired former Chief Judge Judith Kaye to review DFS, and she recommended that it reconstitute itself as a taxable, nonprofit corporation. The WFP ultimately opted to shut down DFS altogether and pony up $100,000 in legal fees to settle its long-running dispute with Mastro.