Iraq Vets Push Comrade’s NY-26 Bid

Although it appears NY-26 GOP leaders are coalesing around Assemblywoman Jane Corwin to run for former Rep. Chris Lee’s seat, Iraq War veterans are lobbying on behalf of another would-be candidate: David Bellavia.

Kieran Michael Lalor, founder of the Iraq Veterans for Congress PAC, send a fundraising appeal this week on Bellavia’s behalf, calling him “the real deal” and “an authentic hero,” noting he was nominated for the Medal of Honor and Distinguisehed Service Cross and was awarded the Silver Star for his actions during the Second Battle for Fallujah.

Bellavia also received the Bronze Star, three Army Commendation Medals and two Army Achievement Medals, Lalor said.

“As a decorated veteran, David Bellavia has demonstrated selfless service to country. As a principled conservative he is right on the issues,” Lalor wrote.

“The special election will be held in just a few weeks and we need to make sure that this dynamic and honorable man has the resources he needs to win.”

Lalor himself ran for Congress in 2008. He lost that year to Democratic incumbent Rep. John Hall, who was toppled this year by Republican Rep. Nan Hayworth.

The NY-26 Republicans have set up a screening process to select a candidate for the yet-to-be-called special election. The final interviews will take place this Sunday.

According to the Lockport Journal, the GOP leaders extended an invitation to Bellavia to interview. Others who will be screened include: Corwin and Amherst Town Supervisor Barry Weinstein.

Gottfried: Medicaid Team Won’t Meet Deadline

Assembylman Dick Gottfried, who is serving on the Medicaid redesign team, told me last night that entity is unlikely to meet Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s March 1 deadline of cutting $2.85 billion from next year’s budget, which means the health commissioner would be empowered to make those reductions himself.

“I do not believe we will be able to come up with $2.85 billion in savings that can be realized this year,” the Manhattan Democrat told me.

“…As long as the state’s political process is committed to no new taxes, which is again not my view, then I think we are inevitably headed to significant and not very good – very bad – cuts in Medicaid reimbursement to providers, which in many instances will mean community-based providers that will be suffering real losses.”

Gottfried told me he thinks the Medicaid team, which is reviewing some 49 cost-cutting proposals, might be able to come up with $2.85 billion worth of savings in the long term.

But Cuomo’s budget relies on some $4 billion worth of savings – including the Medicaid reduction – in the next fiscal year.

As the WSJ’s Jacob Gershman noted this morning, Cuomo is moving to expand the powers of the executive branch far beyond that of his predecessors. The Legislature is able to increase, strike or decrease numbers in Cuomo’s budget, but it isn’t able to amend language, which means they have to negotiate with the governor to get him to amend things like giving the DOH commissioner unilateral control to cut Medicaid spending.

Here And Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has launched an effort to expand executive powers far beyond that of his predecessors. “It’s quite possible that (the governor) will send down one extender and that extender will be his budget,” said Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, a Cuomo ally.

Hank Morris’ wife cried after a judge rejected his plea for an extra week of freedom and he was marched off to serve his prison sentence of up to four years.

“The evil effect is obvious,” state Supreme Court Justice Lewis Bart Stone said of Morris’ pay-to-play pension fund scheme.

Senate Democrats applauded Cuomo’s redistricting reform legislation.

The majority legislative leaders are reviewing the governor’s program bill.

As of Thursday, no Republicans had signed on to co-sponsor Sen. Mike Gianaris’ redistricting reform bill.

The Manhattan DA has sued the state Independence Party for failing to return Bloomberg’s cash that was allegedly stolen by John Haggerty.

“There is ample evidence to believe all of the defendants made attempts to hide the evidence of the crimes and conceal the fact that the funds contributed by the mayor had not been used as originally intended,” the DA’s Office asserted.

Mayor Bloomberg’s preliminary budget relies on the state coming through with $600 million in additional aid.

The Post thinks Bloomberg’s crying poor rings hollow given the “good news” about the $2.1 billion worth of “found” tax revenue in city coffers.

The mayor is calling for cuts to senior centers and city-run daycare.

Former Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. had a 50-person staff that cost taxpayers $1 million.

All told, taxpayers spent some $1.2 million on Espada during his last six months in office.

Members of VOCAL and Community Voices Heard protested with a “bake sale” outside Cuomo’s $15,000-a-head fundraiser last night at the Top of the Rock.

Diane from CVH discussing the protest from VOCAL-NY on Vimeo.

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Skartados Concedes

That’s Assemblyman-elect Tom Kirwan, to you.

The once-and-future Hudson Valley lawmaker just announced that the Democrat who ousted him two years ago, Assemblyman Frank Skartados, called him to concede the 100th AD race today after a court decision yesterday that upheld Kirwan’s 15-vote victory.

“I’m very excited to put this election behind me, and I look forward to working with my new Assembly colleagues to pass a responsible state budget and institute tough ethics reforms,” Kirwan said.

“Assemblyman Skartados was very gracious in his concession, congratulating me and wishing me the best. He stressed that if there was anything he could do to help expedite the transition process he would be more than happy to oblige.”

No word yet from Skartados himself, who briefly conceded the race on Facebook yesterday and then apparently thought better of it.

Extras

Sarah Palin, speaking on Long Island today: “It’s no wonder Michelle Obama is telling everybody you better breast-feed your baby – yeah, you better – because the price of milk is so high right now!”

Palin and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann are on the same page here.

Palin said there’s “no one” more qualified to handle the multi-tasking being president requires than “a woman, a mom,” but didn’t tip her hand about 2012.

She did, however, acknowledge that she gets her “butt kicked” in a lot of 2012 polls.

As expected, Mayor Bloomberg’s $65.6 billion budget includes the elimination of as many as 6,166 teaching positions.

Housing Works accused the mayor of throwing poor New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS “under the bus” in his budget.

Bloomberg wants the extra cash principals might be planning to roll over into the next school year.

The Senate Democrats invoke the ghost of their former colleague, Pedro Espada, in a video that pressures the Republicans on ethics reform.

A former DNer joined Rep. Peter King’s team.

The Assembly Democrats will host a March 1 hearing on the property tax cap.

Some constituent love from Sen. Jeff Klein.

Russell Simmons gave a boost to Richard Aborn with his latest gun control campaign.

The 2009-2010 school report cards are now on-line.

The MTA dumped infamous CityTime contractor SAIC.

“It is time to go,” said state Supreme Court Justice Lewis Bart Stone to Hank Morris.

Sen. Adriano Espaillat’s peace flan.

Facebook expanded its relationship options.

DiNapoli: Morris Sentence ‘Fitting’

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli a statement on this morning’s sentencing of political consultant Hank Morris for his role in the pay-to-play pension fund scandal, basically using this as an opportunity to put some more distance between himself and his predecessor (and Morris’ longtime client), Alan Hevesi.

“Hank Morris has received a fitting sentence. Jail time should help serve as a deterrent for anyone looking to rip off the state pension fund,” DiNapoli said.

“Since taking office, I’ve worked hard to restore faith in the Office of the State Comptroller after the abuses of the Hevesi administration. I banned placement agents so that corrupt middlemen could never again run the type of pay-to-play scheme that Mr. Morris did.”

“We must ensure that the pension fund is protected against this kind of criminal behavior.”

“Last month, I proposed a bill that would strip convicted former public officials of their pensions. Public officials who commit a felony related to their duties shouldn’t be rewarded. There are better ways to spend New York’s tax dollars than to support retired felons who ripped off the public.”

For the record, Morris was never an elected official or a public employee (at least not to my knowledge), and therefore doesn’t have a pension.

Hevesi, on the other hand, has a rather sizable pension – $105,221 a year – from his days as an assemblyman, NYC comptroller and state comptroller.

Hevesi pleaded guilty last October to a felony corrution charge and could face between 16 months and four years in prison. He was supposed to be sentenced in December, but that was postponed until March.

We have yet to hear whether AG Eric Schneiderman will demand prison time for Hevesi like he did for Morris.

Vacco In Schneiderman’s Corner

Here’s former AG Dennis Vacco telling me during a CapTon interview last night that while he supports Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s government consolidation effort in theory, his push to create an uber-regulatory agency that would essentially compete with the AG’s office in policing Wall Street is not a good idea.

“I fully recognize that he’s got a difficult task at hand,” Vacco said of Cuomo. “But I think that this proposal – at least part of the proposal that expands the prosecutorial power, the due process power through subpoena authority etc. while consolidating these agencies – is a little bit over the rail in my estimation.”

“…As he knows full well having done a great job as attorney general, the ability to enforce the Martin Act, the ability to guard against fraud on Wall Street, is a traditional power and responsibility of the attorney general.”

Vacco, a Republican who served just one term as AG and was ousted in a squeaker of a race in 1998 by Democrat Eliot Spitzer, refused to speculate on why the governor might be interested in usurping the powers of his old office.

He did, however, suggest an alternative, recalling back when the Legislature the AG and the governor formed an organized crime task force, which was run by an assistant attorney general who was a duel appointee by both the governor and the AG.

Another Day, Another Task Force

…Actually, this one is a “team.”

Specifically, Gov. Andrew Cuomo just issued an executive order establishing a team to explore ways to meet his goal of expanding minority- and women-owned business enterprise participation in state contracting to 20 percent. (It’s currently at 9.2 percent, so there’s a long way to go).

“Since its creation, the Empire State’s great strength has come from the diversity, innovation and perseverance of all its residents,” Cuomo said in a press release.

“New York’s M/WBE programs have provided access to countless entrepreneurs and businesses and provided a level playing ground for state contracts.”

“However, we must always look for ways to improve and strengthen our business climate and make it reflective of our current world. This team will find new ways to open doors to success for any New Yorker who has the talent, drive and passion for their business to succeed.”

The M/WBE team by will chaired by former NYC Comptroller Bill Thompson, who was a significant Cuomo surrogate during the 2010 campaign. Not on the team: Former Gov. David Paterson, for whom M/WBE was a huge priority.

Jimmy Vielkind notes this annoucement just so happens to come on the eve of the annual caucus weekend. Coincidence? Probably not.

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Avella To Bloomberg: Stop Blaming The Unions

NYC Councilman-turned-Senator Tony Avella sent a letter today to his erstwhile political foe, Mayor Blooomberg, accusing him of taking an “unconscionable” stance on the so-called holiday “bonuses” he’s trying to eliminate as part of his pension reform push.

The Queens Democrat, who ran a longshot run for mayor in 2009 (losing the Democratic primary to then-NYC Comptroller Bill Thompson), is siding with the more than 33,000 former NYC cops and firefighters who receive that amount every December as part of the Variable Supplement Fund.

The bonus was established in 1968 and, unlike other pension benefits, is not constitutionally protected. Doing away with it would save the city $200 million a year, Bloomberg mantains.

But the unions – and now Avella – note the bonuses came about as a result of the collective bargaining process. In exchange, the city was allowed to adopt a more aggressive pension investment strategy to reduce its annual direct contribution to the pension funds. (This reportedly saved $4 billion, Avella said).

Avella called the mayor’s characterization of the VSF as “Christmas bonuses” disgraceful, adding: “Your attacks in this regard on the city’s uniformed personnel, who put their lives at on the line every day throughout their careers, is unbecoming for a mayor of the City of New York.”

Letter to Mayor Bloomberg re VSF

Environmental Report Cards: Congress Edition

The New York League of Conservation Voters and the National League of Conservation Voters have teamed up to compile rankings for the entire 2010 NY delegation in Congress.

There aren’t too many surprises here. All the Democrats scored extremely high. Most getting a 100 percent ranking. Many others getting an 80 or 90 percent ranking.

North Country Democrat Bill Owens is the only exception. He came in with a 60%, tied for the lowest among Democrats with Rep. Gary Ackerman.

The two Republicans on the list, Rep. Pete King, and Rep. Chris Lee both got a 10%. (I can imagine that this ranking is the least of Chris Lee’s concerns right now.)

Despite the high marks, LCV President Gene Karpinski says the organizations top priorities weren’t addressed in 2010. They had hoped for passage of a clean energy and climate control bill, known as Cap and Trade. They were also calling for a greater response to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

“The 2010 National Environmental Scorecard clearly illustrates that there is much work to be done, and LCV will be there at every step of the way in 2011 and beyond, working to protect the environment and public health while transitioning our nation to a clean energy economy,” Karpinski said.

The full 2010 National Environmental Scorecard results for New York are after the jump:
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