Bar Association: Time To Pay Judges More

The state Bar Association is reiterating its call for hiking judges’ pay, one day before the Judicial Compensation Commission meets in Albany.

The bar association argues that more than a decade of judges not having a pay increase has led to a loss of “talented and experienced” judges.

In its report to the commission, which was created by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to study the issue, the bar association aruges that pay for jurists hasn’t kept up with those in other areas of the public sector.

“Over the past 12-1/2 years, the salaries of New York judges have fallen behind the salaries of hundreds of state-employed professionals, including many with less training and seniority,” the report says.

The association suggests a minimum salary of $192,000 for Supreme Court judges. In New York, the Supreme Court is the lowest-level trial court.

District attorneys in New York City, SUNY and CUNY professors and deans of public law schools all have seen their salaries adjusted upward in the last 10 years.

Historically pay for judges has been tied to salary increases for lawmakers. The last pay raise for both came in 1999. State lawmakers make $79,500, with many earning legislative stipends or “lulus” for various positions and titles within in their conferences.

The comenspation commission was meant to divorce pay increases for lawmakers and judges. Given the political climate, a pay raise for state lawmakers, who are still among the highest paid state representatives in the country, would go over like a lead balloon.

Enviros Air Ten Fracking Concerns

Environmental Advocates of New York and a coalition of advocacy organizations have compiled a list of concerns they have with the Department of Environmental Conservation’s draft regulations for high-volume hydraulic fracturing, saying the overall enforcement “lacks teeth.”

“No matter how diligent the Department of Environmental Conservation is, and how many experts double-check the agency’s work, there is an entropy factor that we really can’t plan for. There’s a big risk in allowing this industry to operate here. Every New Yorker needs to think carefully about whether the reward is worth the risk,” said Deborah Goldberg, Managing Attorney with Earthjustice.

The process, commonly known as hydrofracking, involves blasting chemicals and water into the ground in order to extract natural gas reserves. High-volume fracking is under consideration for the state’s Southern Tier region in the Marcellus Shale, where energy companies say it can be a financial boon to the moribound upstate economy.

But environmentalists believe the process can damage the water table and want the energy companies to reveal what is in their fracking fluid.

The DEC tried to thread the needle with these concerns, by proposing regulations that would ban high-volume fracking in the New York City and Syracuse watersheds and requiring companies to reveal some of the ingredients used in fracking, save for the ones protected by trade secret.

The DEC’s report goes to a public comment period later this summer. Commissioner Joe Martens has said no permits would be granted this year. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he’s reviewing the report.

But environmentalists say the DEC fails to ban certain chemicals, even ones it knows to be carcinogenic, no or does it allow the drilling waste to be treated as hazardous waste.

At the same time, the DEC’s recent spate of layoffs could hobble the agency with permit enforcement, a claim Cuomo administration officials strongly deny.

Their full top 10 list after the jump.
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NOM Spent Thousands On Surveys, Radio Ads

The National Organization for Marriage spent thousands of dollars lobbying against same-sex marriage legalization in New York, but its spending was less than half of the money utilized by New Yorkers United for Marriage, who backed the legislation.

According to the group’s filing with the Commission on Public Integrity, NOM spent $735,963 in May and June lobbying against the same-sex marriage legislation. By comparison, New Yorkers United For Marriage, a coalition of advocacy groups formed at the behest of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, spent $1.8 million during the same reporting period.

The group’s previous filing for the months of March and April showed spending of $96,547, which included automatic “informational” calls and $69,557 on a mailer.

NOM’s report shows it invested heavily on a $275,000 television ad in May and another $25,000 one in June. The group also spent nearly $200,000 on corresponding radio ads in May and June as well.

The filing also shows the diverging tactics of the pro-same-sex-marriage lobby and those who opposed the bill, which passed 33-29. The bill takes effect on Sunday, when thousands of gay couples are expected to be married.

The National Organization for Marriage shelled out $181,827 on telephone surveys. Recall that New Yorkers United for Marriage spent $50,000 on canvassing in select Senate districts, according to its report, which posted on Monday.

If anything, the relatively small amount of money spent by the anti-gay marriage lobby underscores the deep-pocketed efforts from the opposite side of the issue. They included leaders in the business community and wealthy politicians like New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg as well as celebrities appearing in TV commercials.

Though the opposition did ship in hundreds of protesters chanting and signing in the hallways against gay marriage, they never had a similar, wealthy and high-profile set of donors who publicly put their name to the campaign.

NOM isn’t through with its lobbying efforts. Earlier today the group announced it would begin a $150,000 mailer campaign against lawmakers who flipped their same-sex marriage votes from no to yes.

DiNapoli Puts Best Face On Low Campaign Funds

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli made no secret during a CapTon interview last night of the fact that he prefers the service end of public service to the political fundraising aspect.

Most elected officials feel that way, although a select few – Sen. Chuck Schumer, who has been known to gleefully squeeze in fundraising calls while driving in between public events, comes to mind – actually enjoy the ask.

DiNapoli has just under $53,000 on hand in his campaign account, according to his July 15 filing, and he spent almost as much as the $326,527 he took in over the past six months.

The comptroller has been pushing for some time to have his office used as a pilot for a statewide public campaign finance system, but while his former colleagues in the Assembly passed a bill to do just that this past session, the Senate did not follow suit.

DiNapoli told me there are “obvious challenges with this office that the other offices don’t have: People are precluded from giving.” But that’s not exactly true. The state attorney general, for example, is precluded from accepting contributions from people who his office is investigating.

The comptroller also made a passing reference to the Alan Hevesi pay-to-play pension fund scandal that put a cloud over the office he inherited, thanks (again) to his old Assembly colleagues, and was still struggling to get out from under during the 2010 election when he eked out a victory against a largely self-funding newcomer, Republican Harry Wilson.

“We’ve worked very hard, you know, because of what happened before I got there, you know, to restore the reputation. And I believe we’ve done that, but does limit our options as far as fundraising,” DiNapoli said.

“And this may come as a surprise to you, but there aren’t a whole lot of givers out there that are just waiting with their checkbooks, saying: I gotta to give to the comptroller’s race because that’s the hot race in New York State. It was last year because somebody had an awful lot of money they pulled out of their own pocket. I got more money than my opponent has in the bank…

“Perhaps it will be an uncontested election. I think we have a long way to go, and I think we showed folks, even being outspent just about two-to-one and with everything against us, the people still made a wise choice in the comptroller’s race in 2010; I think they’ll do the same thing in 2014.”

NOTE: DiNapoli’s comment about having more in the bank than his opponent was in reference to his thus far nonexistent challenger for 2014 – just to clear up any confusion, should any exist.

IDC Has $1M In The Bank

It was a good six months for the Independent Democratic Conference.

The breakaway group of Democrats consisting of Sens. Jeff Klein, Diane Savino, David Valesky and David Carlucci have a combined $1 million in their campaign coffers, establishing them as a small, but possibly influential force in their own right.

To put the figure into context, the Senate Republicans have a combined $6.6 million and the remaining Democratic minority has just over $2.1 million, according to a NYPIRG analysis.

The bulk of the money, however, was raised by prodigious fundraiser Klein, a Bronx lawmaker who at one point led the Senate Democratic Campaign Committee before going AWOL. Klein raised more than $422,000 and is sitting on more than $650,000.

The financial statement from Sen. David Carlucci, D-Clarkstown, Rockland County, but IDC spokesman Rich Azzopardi says the lawmaker is expected to report raising $130,000 and have $150,000 in the bank. No word on how much his campaign spent in the six-month January to June period yet.

In fact, all IDC members raised at least $130,000 in contributions, a higher figure than some incumbent Senate majority members.

And, as we reported earlier, the IDC benefitting from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who in addition to contributing to Senate Republicans, donated the maximum $10,300 to the conference.

Democrats in the remaining 26-member conference grumble about the IDC’s propensity to side with Republicans on contentious issues such as a constitutional amendment for independent redistricting and a vote that some saw as watering down the powers of the lieutenant governor in order to provide needed votes (it was even joked about at the LCA Show in May).

It will be interesting to see in 2012 the challenger Republicans put up against Carlucci and Valesky, both of whom in any other year would be particularly vulnerable.

Cuomo Approves April 24 Primary Date

Mark your calendars, primary voters.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill this morning that would change the date of New York’s 2012 presidential primary to April 24, his office announced.

The Empire State joins Connecticut, Delaware, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania in holding the primary in April. New York held its 2008 presidential primary on Feb. 5, part of the (somewhat insensitively) so-called “Tsunami Tuesday” primary that featured 24 states holding primaries.

The bill also changes the cuirrent law so the state complies with the federal MOVE ACT, which requires military and overseas voters receive ballots at least 45 days prior to the election.

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Marriage Sweepstakes

Expecting a rush of same-sex couples interested in tying the knot the moment it becomes legal to do so in New York this weekend, Mayor Bloomberg has limited the number of weddings that can be performed on July 24 at the five NYC clerks’ offices to 764.

The city will determine who gets to wed on that day via a lottery that will be open to all couples – gay and straight. While that number, 764, seems a little arbitrary, Bloomberg said it would be a record number of weddings performed in the Big Apple in a single day.

(The previous record was set on Valentine’s Day in 2003, with 621 weddings. UPDATE: More details on the lottery process are available here).

The NY Times’ Michael Barbaro reports the clerk’s office has already received 2,661 applications for licenses since it started accepting online applications from same-sex couples.

City officials estimated 1,728 were filed by same-sex couples. Most couples do not apply online for licenses before showing up at a clerk’s office, Barbaro says, so the number seeking to marry on Sunday would probably be much higher.

This is in sharp contrast to what’s going on upstate, where at least four clerks have expressed opposition based on religious grounds to issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples and officiating over gay weddings. So far, two clerks have resigned their posts in protest.

The Human Rights Commission’s Campaign’s Brian Ellner, who played a key role in this year’s successful campaign coordinated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to push same-sex marriage through the Legislature, called the lottery a “good compromise.”

“The record breaking number of couples registering to marry shows how popular – and right – passing marriage equality was,” Ellner said.

“…Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Quinn took this great problem to have and came up with a good solution. There will be a lot of love at the City Clerk’s Office on Sunday. Every lawmaker, Democrat and Republican, should take heart that New York families are all the stronger.”

NOM Targets Marriage Vote ‘Benedict Arnolds’

The National Organization for Marriage is launching a $150,000 mailing campaign aimed at seven Senate lawmakers who switched their avowed same-sex marriage votes from no to yes in June.

The ads are targeting Republican Sens. Mark Grisanti of Buffalo, Roy McDonald of Saratoga, James Alesi of Monroe County and Stephen Saland of Poughkeepsie. Constituents of Democratic Sens. Shirley Huntley, Joseph Addabbo, both of Queens and Carl Kruger of Brooklyn will also receive the mailers.

The mailers depict Benedict Arnold, the famous Revolutionary War traitor, alongside a picture of the lawmaker. NOM says this is only the beginning of a campaign aimed at dislodging the lawmakers who flipped their votes.

“This is the first step in what will be a sustained, determined effort to make sure the constituents of these cowardly Senators know what they have done,” said Brian Brown, NOM’s president. “They decided to ignore principle and their constituents in a calculated political flip-flop only after Governor Cuomo raised $1 million from Wall Street billionaires and hedge fund managers to support the legislation. Now, some of these same Senators are raising tens of thousands of dollars in campaign cash from gay marriage activists all around the country. It’s despicable.”

NOM argues that it was “shameful” of the lawmakers to switch their votes to yes and noted Grisanti received a $4,000 contribution from the group. The organization also points out that Kruger was recently indicted on felony bribery charges.

The measure, which takes effect Sunday, would not have passed without the support from the seven lawmakers. The Republican lawmakers received contributions from supporters of same-sex marriage, including New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who donated the maximum $10,600.

Of the GOP legislators, Sens. Jim Alesi and Mark Grisanti are considered especially vulnerable, given the former’s botched lawsuit and the latter’s freshman status.

Legislators who voted yes after either stating they woudl vote no or voted no in the failed 2009 vote were subject to intense lobbying during the same-sex marriage debate, not the least of which came from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo met with all the lawmakers on flipping their votes, and according to The New York Times account, pledged help against campaigns like the one NOM is launching.

NOM-GrisMlr-0711

Here And Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany this afternoon, where he will hold a closed press cabinet meeting in the Capitol’s Red Room at 2 p.m.

Rupert Murdoch et al set to testify today in front of Parliament on the News of the World phone hacking scandal.

That should be livestreamed here at 9:30 a.m.

“Citizen Murdoch’s ‘Rosebud’ moment might be at hand,” reports amNY.

LATFOR is holding a public hearing in Syracuse at 10:30 a.m. in the City Council chambers.

The tentative contract deals Cuomo has struck with the two largest public employees unions are a mixed mag when it comes to his next top priority: pension reform.

Union leaders have to contend with competing factions within their ranks while trying to sell these deals to rank-and-file members.

Connecticut unions eased their voting rules, signaling a possible redo on a failed vote over contract concessions.

The PEF deal means the Legislature will have to return to Albany, although no immediate plans are in the offing.

Newsday calls on PEF and CSEA members to ratify the agreements their leaders hammered out with Cuomo.

Ditto, says the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, which deems the deals “good for New York.”

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Time Warp

Special CapTon prize to whoever spots the (glaring) error in the following statement. (Sorry reader who pointed this out to me, you are not eligible…no good deed and all that).

STATEMENT OF MAYOR MICHAEL R. BLOOMBERG ON THE CITY’S BILL TO REQUIRE CROSSOVER MIRRORS ON LARGE TRUCKS TO ELIMINATE BLIND SPOTS BEING SIGNED INTO LAW BY GOVERNOR CUOMO”

“First, I want to thank Governor Cuomo for his support and for signing our bill into law. It’s been a long fight – too long – to get this common-sense safety legislation passed.”

“We’ve been pushing for passage of this law for years, and finally this very simple solution is in place and should help save lives. I want to thank our bill sponsors – Senator Golden, Senator Lanza and Assemblywoman Millman – for their leadership on this issue and I want to thank Majority Leader Bruno and Speaker Silver for helping us break through on this issue and make our streets a little bit safer.”