Here And Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Binghamton this morning to deliver a version of his 2011-2012 budget address.

The governor’s Medicaid redesign team is in Albany for Day One of a two-day meeting to review cost-cutting proposals, including:

The state Health Department is poised to propose a 4 percent cap on yearly Medicaid increases – a move designed to help reach the $2.85 billion reduction called for by the governor.

Also this morning: Deputy Senate Minority Leader Neil Breslin will deliver “buck slips” on behalf of his conference to the Republicans, demanding that all 62 senators be afforded the ability to support Cuomo’s redistricting reform bill.

Former NYC Mayor Ed Koch will rally at the Capitol for redistricting reform on March 1.

Ethics watchdogs and other groups urged the Public Integrity Commission to review whether close Cuomo friend and health care adviser Jeffrey Sachs broke the lobbying law by failing to register and called on him to reveal his consulting client list.

The DN urges more transparency where Sachs is concerned.

The UFT is spending big while its members face layoffs.

Eighty-five percent of New Yorkers support doing away with the “last in, first out” rule for firing teachers and say they should be evaluated based on merit, not tenure.

The Post notes the Senate GOP is fast-tracking a bill introduced by Sen. John Flanagan to repeal LIFO and calls on Cuomo to get on board.

Rep. Michael Grimm explains how New York is different from Wisconsin.

“We’re handling it different ways, both programmatically and stylistically,” Cuomo said of his approach versus the one taken by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. “We have the task forces, we have labor at the table and my approach has been we’re in a tough place, we’re in a tough time, let’s all work this out together.”

More >

Extras

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: “My religion is a private matter and it is not something that I discuss in a political arena.”

Edward Peters, who is not doing live interviews, responds to the Albany Diocese’s response to his call for Cuomo to be blocked from receiving communion.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker got punk’d by a Buffalo blog.

During his conversation with fake David Koch, Walker revealed many things – including that he’s laying a trap for the Democrats who have fled the state.

Nothing to see there, insists Rush Limbaugh.

Cuomo said there’s a “world of difference” between what he has proposed, labor-wise, and what Walker’s proposing.

NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn stood with NY labor leaders and accused Walker of “union busting.”

Josh Benson and Steve Kornacki tackle why Sarah Palin and NJ Gov. Chris Christie are falling all over themselves to praise Cuomo.

Wall Street bonuses fell nine percent in 2010, according to state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

The governor’s good friend Jeffrey Sachs is keeping his PR in the family.

Assemblywoman Jane Corwin has a campaign Website for her NY-26 run.

No decision yet on a lawsuit challenging Rochester’s mayoral selection process.

NYC Councilman Jumaane Williams had a moment with security guards while leading a protest against JP Morgan Chase’s mortgage policies.

The Brennan Center and the National Urban League have teamed up for Web-based Census redistricting training.

Josh Isay’s future, imagined.

The Citizens Budget Commission will honor Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke at its annual dinner on March 2. Location: The Pierre. Time: 8 p.m. (No link – and with the date corrected. Thanks).

The Broome County Democrats recommended a replacement for outgoing Executive Barbara Fiala.

George Clooney says he’s had too much sex and done too many drugs to ever run for office.

Former Sen. Brian Foley let his beard grow as part of his “new life” out of office.

The Corrigan Brothers have released a new tribute to “Irish President Barack Obama.”

Bellavia Forms Exploratory Committee

We are now one step closer to a free-for-all in NY-26, which could be a very good thing for the Democrats.

A spokesman for David Bellavia announced the Iraq war veteran has filed paperwork with the FEC to form an exploratory committee to raise money for a potential congressional run.

“With the Republican County chairmen in the 26th Congressional District choosing a pro-abortion candidate, we now see a clear path to the New York State Conservative Party endorsement, a party which was formed on core principles including the defense of the life of an unborn child,” Bill Hagen said.

The GOP chairs on Monday settled on Assemblywoman Jane Corwin to be their standard bearer in the still-uncalled special election to fill ex-Rep. Chris Lee’s seat. Bellavia was one of seven Republicans spurned by the chairs in favor of the self-funding assemblywoman.

Corwin’s selection cannot be official until after the governor sets a date for the election, but she’s acting like an official candidate. She spent the day traveling the district and formally announcing her candidacy.

During her four-stop tour, she was grilled on several hot-button social issues – including abortion rights, which has become something of an issue since her 2008 expression of support for keeping access to abortion legal during the first trimester.

Corwin is not backing away from that position, telling reporters today: “At the end of the day, I believe it’s a woman’s right to make the decision in the first trimester.”

The assemblywoman also stressed that she supports parental notification and opposes so-called “partial birth” (or late-term) abortion. She has also said she would have voted “yes” on the House bill to block Title X funding from Planned Parenthood that passed last week.

Erie County Conservative Party Chairman Ralph Lorigo told me yesterday Corwin’s position on abortion is no different than Lee’s was. He also said he’s not convinced Corwin is “anything close to” a liberal Republican a la ex-Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava.

Cuomo Wants To Extend Special Election Period

Gov. Andrew Cuomo weighed in on the topic of special elections today, but he did NOT set a date for the contest to fill the seat of disgraced ex-Rep. Chris Lee in NY-26.

Instead, Cuomo announced a program bill to amend the Public Officers Law to provide county boards of elections more time prior to special elections to allow enough time for military ballots to be mailed and counted in compliance with federal law.

According to the governor’s press release, passage of this bill is needed to ensure that all NY-26 voters have an opportunity to cast legal ballots.

Under current law, special elections are held between 30 and 40 days from their announcement. Cuomo’s measure would more than double the length to between 70 and 80 days.

It would also:

- Require that military ballots be transmitted no later than 45 days before a special election.

- Change the date by which the State Board of Elections must certify candidate information to the applicable county boards of elections from 13 days to 53 days before a special election.

- Similarly require county boards of elections to determine candidates and ballot questions to be included on the special election ballot 53 days before a special election.

- Require each county board of elections to transmit to the Secretary of State election results within 20 days after a special election, instead of the 10 days required in existing law.

“For years, New Yorkers serving in the military abroad have been inadvertently left out of the electoral process,” Cuomo said.

“This measure will rectify the discrepancy between New York state and federal laws regarding special elections, allow members of the military to have their voices heard, and ensure fair and accurate representation of the citizens of New York.”

The bill appears below. You can read the bill memo here.

This comes as the DOJ is pressuring the state to come up with a plan to address the whole military ballot question by April 1.

Last year, the feds sued New York before issuing a waiver. Elections officials say the best way to fix this problem would be to move the primary from September to June, but so far there doesn’t appear to be much interest in doing that.

GPB #4 – SPECIAL ELECTIONS – BILL

’34′

Mayor Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns organization released this video today as part of its national drive to tighten background check rules for people who want to purchase firearms.

The video is entitled “34″ to highlight the fact that 34 Americans are killed with guns every day and features family members (and in one case, the pastor) of victims of gun violence.

Bloomberg joined Sen. Chuck Schumer and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly today to announce the introduction of a bill that would provide greater reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System for individuals with mental illness, domestic violence records, and drug abusers, by increasing the penalties for states that fail to adequately turn over records for those who are prohibited from owning a gun.

The legislation would also require that all gun sales, including those by private sellers, be subject to a background check, effectively ending the gun show loophole.

This announcement comes one week into the Mayors Against Illegal Guns’ national campaign to “fix gun checks,” which also features a Website and a mobile billboard truck.

Dems Will Take Their Time In NY-26

If you needed any further indication that Gov. Andrew Cuomo probably won’t be calling a special election in NY-26 any time soon, well….here it is.

The seven Democratic county chairs have settled on a candidate-selection process that requires interested parties to submit their resumes and cover letters no later than close-of-business on Thursday, March 3.

That means the Democrats are going to be at least a week behind the Republicans in selecting a candidate to run for the seat vacated by former Rep. Chris Lee. The GOP’s candidate, Assemblywoman Jane Corwin, was officially tapped Monday and hit the hustings today with a four-stop campaign announcement tour.

“The process we have developed to identify the best possible candidate to serve the people of the 26th District is a deliberate, open and inclusive one,” the seven chairs said in a joint statement.

“We want to ensure that all who are seriously interested in being the Democratic candidate have the opportunity to be heard and to share their vision for addressing the needs of our district.”

“Unlike our Republican counterparts who seem to have made a rush to judgment, we believe taking the time to find the best person is of utmost importance.”

“Democrats are energized and excited and we are moving forward with the process. We assure the people of the 26th Congressional District that we will be ready with an outstanding candidate to run in the Special Election.”

The frontrunner for the Democratic nod is Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul, but Erie County Comptroller Mark Poloncarz is also in the mix.

But Democratic party leaders seem to feel they would have a better shot in this GOP-dominated district if a strong third party candidate was in the mix – say, perhaps, a self-funder like Jack Davis, a Republican (now) who is also seeking the Democratic and Conservative lines after being turned down by his own party? Or maybe decorated veteran David Bellavia, who is being pushed by a faction of WNY Tea Parters?

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Sen. Grisanti Doesn’t Read The NY Times

It’s not every day that you’re singled out by the editorial page of The New York Times – a publication widely considered the paper of record by many, but also frequently reviled by the right as a liberal bastion.

However, an effort by the Gray Lady to pressure and/or shame state legislators into keeping their the redistricting reform pledges they made to former NYC Mayor Ed Koch during the 2010 campaign hasn’t sparked too much concern for at least one of the six GOP senators named in this morning’s editorial.

“I’m not sure what the readers, how many people in my district read the New York Times,” Sen. Mark Grisanti, a Democrat-turned-Republican who ousted ex-Sen. Antoine Thompson in one of the most Democrat-dominated SDs in New York last fall.

“Never really gave it much thought as to whether or not the New York Times is liberal or not liberal,” the senator continued. “I’ve only read the New York Times probably a couple of times in my life because it’s not really a hometown paper here.”

“…What they could have done, they could have just actually called me if they had my name in an article. they could have just called me and I would have given them any answers they wanted…I’ve not even seen the article. I’ve seen bits and pieces of what was texted to me.”

Grisanti went on to say that he hasn’t finished reviewing Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s independent redistricting commission bill, but would be more than happy to support it if he determines that it’s constitutionally sounds and really does take the politics out of the line-drawing process.

That leaves a lot of wiggle room, but it’s still further than Grisanti’s fellow Republicans have been willing to go to date.

Report: Hanna Recovering From Surgery

Syracuse.com reports Rep. Richard Hanna is recovering today from surgery to repair a valve in his heart, but his staff is honoring his request not to release any details about the procedure.

Hanna, a Republican he ousted Democratic former Rep. Mike Arcuri in NY-24 last fall, is expected to make a full recovery from the previously-scheduled surgery to repair the mitral valve in his heart, according to his spokeswoman Renee Gamela.

Gamela refused to say whether the operation was an open-heart procedure, if the congressman remains in the hospital and how long he might be there. Congress is on break and is scheduled to return to work on Monday.

Hanna’s chief of staff Justin Stokes released this statement:

“He is doing very well, with a complete recovery expected. Offices in the district and Washington, D.C. are open and staff members are available to serve the constituents of the 24th Congressional District. Representative Hanna looks forward to returning to work shortly.”

Hanna is at least the second upstate congressman to be hospitalized over the past four months. (There might be more I don’t know of).

Shortly after his election to former Rep. Eric Massa’s seat in NY-29, Republican Tom Reed was diagnosed with blood clotting in his lungs – a condition that caused his swearing-in to be delayed several days.

Erie Co. GOP Chairman: Corwin Is No Scozzafava

Here’s Erie County GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy doing his best cheerleading on behalf of Assemblywoman Jane Corwin, the NY-26 county leaders’ pick to be their standard-bearer whenever Gov. Andrew Cuomo calls a special election to fill former Rep. Chris Lee’s seat.

Langworthy predicted Corwin will land as many as three ballot lines, noting Erie County Conservative Party Chairman Ralph Lorigo is a supporter. (Ditto for state Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long, while the state Independence Party is also leaning toward backing the assemblywoman, but could be open to someone else).

I asked about Corwin’s 2008 Project Vote Smart survey in which she expressed support for keeping abortion legal during the first trimester – not exactly the most conservative of positions. The chairman told me Corwin’s position on this issue is the same as Lee’s was.

He also insisted NY-26 will not go the way of NY-23 – no matter what the Tea Partiers do.

“Jane Corwin is not Dede Scozzafava,” Langworthy said. “Dede Scozzafava was a liberal Republican. She supported card check on union measures. She supported cap-and-trade. She supported all elements of abortion. She supported gay marriage.”

“This is an apples and oranges scenario. I believe at the end of the day Jane Corwin will carry the Conservative Party banner as well as the Republican and probably the Independence Party as well.”

(For the record, Scozzafava did not support cap-and-trade, while former Rep. John McHugh, who used to hold the NY-23 seat, voted for it).

NY Dems Praise Obama For Dropping DOMA Defense

Two Democratic members of the NY congressional delegation are praising President Obama’s decision to end the DOJ’s legal battle over the Defense of Marriage Act – the federal law that defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

The DOJ has determined in a pair of cases in the federal appeals court in New York that DOMA is no longer constitutional. In a letter from US AG Eric Holder to House Speaker John Boehner, the administration said it would continue to enforce the law until the court rules on the law definitively.

The president is personally still “grappling” with his position on gay marriage, (he supports civil unions), according to his spokesman.

Here’s Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s statement on Obama’s DOMA decision:

“Sexual orientation discrimination has no place in American law. I commend the Obama administration for upholding this American value today by concluding this statute is unconstitutional.”

“The fact is that history is moving in a direction that ensures gay and lesbian couples are offered the same basic rights as everyone else – the right to get married, start a family and receive the full benefits that come with it, and be counted the same as everyone else. ”

“I look forward to the day when New York and all states accept this basic principle of fairness. The time for Congress to repeal DOMA is now, and I will work hard to make sure marriage equality becomes a reality for all.”

Rep. Jerry Nadler, an Upper West Side Democrat, commended Holder and Obama for their “leadership, integrity, and courage,” adding:

“This marks the first time that the federal government has recognized that a law designed to harm LGBT Americans and their families cannot be justified.”

Nalder said he will reintroduce his “Respect for Marriage Act,” to repeal DOMA and “ensure that committed, loving couples can rely upon the legal responsibilities and security that come with the time-honored tradition of marriage.”