Proposed Cut To Security Benefits Podunk, Idaho?

Mayor Michael Bloomberg met with Sen. Greg Ball, R-Patterson, Putnam County, and other lawmakers today to discuss the proposed $100 million cut to New York’s federal homeland security funding.

Sen. William Larkin, R-Orange County, said the money needed to go to New York, not a part of the country that wouldn’t be a target for terrorists.

“Do you think Podunk, Idaho is some place they would be looking at? I don’t think so,” Larkin said during the news conference.

The mayor said the city continue to stands out as a target.

“New York is the iconic symbol of the United State around the world for those people who don’t like the fact we’re in charge of our own destiny and we have the right to say what we say,” Bloomberg said.

“Unfortunately the likelihood of something happening again is very high,” he added, saying the cut would impact the city’s ability to thwart an attack and adequately respond to one.

After U.S. special forces killed Osama bin Laden, concerns have been raised that another attack would be launched on U.S. soil. Information in the compound where bin Laden was hiding included plans to bomb trains in the United States, possibly on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Ball, the chairman of the Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs, sent a letter to President Obama last month urging him to reconsider the cut.

Ball also held a committee meeting on the issue of preparedness, which was criticized for including witnesses who are critical of Islam.

Coalition Aims To Curb ‘Archaic’ Abortion Laws

The Bipartisan Pro Choice Legislative Caucus is increasing its efforts to end what it calls “archaic” laws that restrict reproductive freedoms and is pushing to update language in the state law to reflect modern views on providing abortions.

In a news release, the group, led by Sen. Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan, says New York’s laws need to be updated in order to fit with modern times.

The group is trying to pass the Reproductive Health Act, which, among other things, guarantees a woman’s right to an abortion, even when her health is endangered and revises language to treat abortions as a “public health” issue, not a medical practice.

While New York once led the nation in breaking barriers on behalf of women’s reproductive rights, these same laws, which have not been updated in 40 years, are now antiquated and ill serving in modern times. After the nation followed New York in securing a women’s right to choose, and even provided greater protections for these rights, our State failed to match this new standard. Instead, New York settled into complacency and left our laws unchanged. Even now, under New York State law, there are inappropriate limitations placed on a woman’s ability to terminate her pregnancy in situations that put her health in jeopardy.

The law also has the backing of the New York Civil Liberties Union.

House Majority PAC Attacks Corwin

More DC money is flowing into NY-26. Today, House Majority PAC launched an added attacking Republican Jane Corwin for saying she’d support the Paul Ryan budget. What’s interesting is that they don’t hammer her as hard on the Medicare aspect of the House budget, as they do on the debt that budget contains.

The ad says it will increase the national debt by 8 trillion dollars over ten years. The figure is widely accepted on Capitol Hill – but in fairness it would be virtually impossible to stop the debt from increasing over the next ten years. The debate is more about how much you can slow it down, and how quickly you can turn our economy around and start running surpluses, and where you are going to make cuts or give tax breaks in order to make that happen.

The House Majority PAC was formed shortly after the 2010 elections by Democrats as a way to counteract Republican groups who poured millions into campaigns last year following the Citizens United decision which did away with limits on how much individuals and corporations could spend.

The ad is going to be playing on cable and network stations until election day. Sources tell CapTon that the ad buy is in the low 6 figures. Just yesterday, the NRCC launched a $400k ad buy attacking both Kathy Hochul and Jack Davis.

Bar Association Outlines Legal Case For Gay Marriage

The New York Bar Association is laying out the legal argument today for the legalization of same-sex marriage, the same day that Mayor Michael Bloomberg is in Albany to likely push the issue as well.

“The right to obtain a civil marriage license cannot be denied to a particular group on the grounds that it historically has been denied that right,” said Samuel W. Seymour, President of the New York City Bar Association. “If that were the case, interracial couples would still face barriers to marriage.”

The argument is similar to the one made by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and conservative lawyer Ted Olsen, who penned a Daily News op/ed earlier this week laying out a legal argument for same-sex marriage.

And, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo quietly pushes the issue in the hopes of getting it approved by the end of the legislative session in June, the argument is in line with the strategy of New Yorkers United for Marriage. As Republican strategist Bill O’Reilly opined earlier, the coalition is trying to lay out a logical, not emotional argument for its passage.

Same-Sex Marriage Press Release (2)

In Albany, Business Groups Urge Tax Cap

A coalition of upstate business groups is in Albany today to lobby for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed 2 percent cap on local and school property taxes, meeting with Assembly Democrats in an effort to push the measure into law.

The meetings with Assembly Democrats comes a day after Cuomo held his second “People First” tour event in Nassau County. The Republican-led Senate approved the measure in January, but Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, has said he would introduce a different bill with some exemptions for built-in cost drivers such as local debt and pensions.

Cuomo himself has at times suggested he would be interested in compromised measure, but his office signaled they are steadfastly opposed to letting the cap expire. But today Cuomo is also making a concerted effort to extend and expand rent regulations for New York City and released a web video on the issue.

The cap, which enjoys broad popular support, faces its biggest hurdle among those in the base of the Assembly Democrats, who say a cap would harm school districts who are already facing deep cuts due to a reduction in state aid.

Today, coincidentally, is also when 697 school districts’ budgets are before voters.

The groups include Unshackle Upstate, National Federation of Independent Business, New York Farm Bureau, Westchester County Association, Buffalo Niagara Partnership, Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce, Rochester Business Alliance, The Manufacturers Association of Central New York, Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Rochester Association of Realtors and the Schenectady County Chamber of Commerce.

Retailers Union Mails Bloomberg On Living Wage

Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union President Stuart Appelbaum mailed New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg today knocking his long-standing opposition to living-wage laws.

The letter comes as the city Council is considering a wage-mandate law, a provision opposed by a coalition of business groups.

The Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act will help lift retail workers out of poverty. As you know, the proposed legislation would establish a living wage for workers in large taxpayer-subsidized development projects. Similar legislation is already successfully in effect in a number of cities and municipalities across the country. Workers in those cities earn more and there has been no adverse impact on job creation or development.

The City Council is set to vote on the living-wage bill Thursday, but it is opposed by small business groups and larger retailers.

Here’s the letter:

Open Letter to Mayor Bloomberg From Stuart Appelbaum

Cuomo: ‘Extend And Strengthen’ Rent Laws

Gov. Andrew Cuomo this morning released his third policy-oriented Web video, this time urging the Legislature to “extend and strengthen” the rent laws, which are set to expire next month.

“There’s no doubt that affordable housing is the building block of strong communities and a strong economy. But for too many New Yorkers, affordable housing is just out of reach,” Cuomo says in the video. “In New York, more than 1 million people are protected by New York’s rent regulation program.”

“However, this program is set to expire June 15, less than 5 weeks from now. That would be a crisis for our state. In fact, what we need to extend and strengthen our rent regulation laws, and we need to do it now.”

The rent laws, which are a top priority for the downstate-dominated, Democrat-controlled Assembly, are not one of Cuomo’s top three post-budget policy priorities outlined in his “People First” tour (next stop for the governor: Lake Placid). As has been reported ad nauseam at this point, that trio includes: Ethics reform, legalization of gay marriage and the property tax cap.

This stance puts Cuomo at odds with the Senate Republicans, who are allied with the landlords – particularly REBNY, which is split with the governor on this issue, in spite of its membership in the pro-Cuomo Committee to Save NY – and appear willing to renew the rent laws, but not strengthen them.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has been arguing that the tax cap and rent laws are philosophically the same – both prevent people from getting priced out of their homes. But so far, a trade does not appear to be in the offing.

So far, Cuomo has released videos on the tax cap (his first) and ethics reform, but not gay marriage.

The script of Cuomo’s latest video appears in full after the jump.

More >

Grisanti Would Vote ‘No’ On Gay Marriage

In a potential blow to same-sex marriage advocates, Democrat-turned-Republican Sen. Mark Grisanti, who was “still looking at both sides” of this issue as of May 9, told me last night that he is now in the “no” column.

“If it were to come up to a vote today, I would vote ‘no’ because of the term ‘marriage’ being in there other groups had said to me that, you know, we don’t really care about the term ‘marriage’ as long as we have the 1,324 rights that we’re not allowed to have for married couples, and I agree that they should have those rights.”

This is a continuation of an argument that started to emerged in recent days in which GOP senators suggest civil unions might be a compromise that wouldn’t endanger their 2012 endorsements by the Conservative Party.

But LGBT advocates and their allies insist anything short of full marriage equality isn’t going to cut it. AG Eric Schneiderman and former US Solicitor General Theodore Olson said in a DN OpEd yesterday that a civil union is “not marriage, nor is it an adequate substitute for one; to suggest otherwise is a cruel fiction.”

Grisanti represents one of the most Democrat-dominated districts in the state. He ousted a “yes” voter on marriage, former Democratic Sen. Antoine Thompson, in last year’s elections.

Grisanti’s on-the-fence status drew him the attention of Lady Gaga, a major gay rights advocate, during a her concert in Buffalo back in March. But apparently, even the pressure of her Little Monsters hasn’t been enough to sway the senator.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand told me last week that she planned to call every single senator – Democrat or Republican – who she believed to be in the “maybe” column on marriage. But Grisanti said last night he hasn’t yet heard from her.

He did tell me (see the full interview here) that he had a conversation with Gov. Andrew Cuomo about his position on marriage during a recent get-together at the mansion celebrating DEC Commissioner Joe Martens’ confirmation. (Grisanti chairs the Senate’s DEC Committee).

Cuomo said last week that he doesn’t want to see a marriage bill, which he has not yet sent to the Legislature, die again on the Senate floor. Grisanti told me he agrees with that approach.

Here And Now

Voters across New York head to the polls to vote on school budgets today. The outcome of these usually below-the-radar screen elections will be closely watched for signs of post-education funding cut fallout and tax hike increase voter backlash.

The School Boards Association expects 90 percent of the budgets to pass.

“(A) crucial day in the annals of North Country education,” says the Plattsburgh Press-Republican.

“I think that if more school budgets are voted down than typically happens, that’s a pretty clear sign to not only statewide officials but school board members that voters have grown impatient (on the wait for a property tax cap,” said Unshackle Upstate’s Brian Sampson.

Expected in Albany today, two billionaires: Mayor Bloomberg (to lobby on gay marriage), and Tom Golisano (who’s pushing for the National Popular Vote).

Bloomberg will hold a press conference at the LCA press room with NYC Council Speaker Chris Quinn (also here to lobby for gay marriage) at 2 p.m.

Today’s “People First” tour brings Department of Taxation and Finance Commissioner Thomas Mattox to Albany for the state Business Council’s annual conference.

Former Rep. Tom Reynolds, still a player in WNY GOP circles, bluntly predicted Jack Davis won’t win in NY-26 and called him a spoiler.

Factcheck.org called a Jane Corwin ad “bogus.”

Tea Partiers are split between Davis and Corwin.

AG Eric Schneiderman has requested information and documents in recent weeks from three major Wall Street banks about their mortgage securities operations during the credit boom, indicating the existence of a new investigation into practices that contributed to billions in mortgage losses.

A “full-blown inquiry would mark (Schneiderman’s) debut as Wall Street enforcer,” writes the Financial Times. (Subscription).

Sources familiar with the probe say the AG will hold meetings with executives of several major banks, including Bank of America Corp., Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs in the coming week.

Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour comes out for gay marriage, saying: “As far as I’m concerned, having the right to say ‘I Do’ is as fundamental as the right to vote.”

More >

O’Connor Taking Leave, Files Complaint With IG

John O’Connor, State University of New York Research Foundation President, announced he is taking a leave of absence after being accused of allowing Joe Bruno’s daughter, Susan Bruno, to work at a no-show job.

O’Connor accused the Commission on Public Integrity of leaking information and, according to a statement, is filing a formal complaint regarding the matter.

In the statement, O’Connor says he will be taking a leave of absence using accrued time so the Inspector General can review the complaint. His entire statement is below:

Statement of John J. O’Connor

“I am extraordinarily distressed that in thirty years in service in public and private higher education, my integrity and ethics are now being called into question as the result of a flawed process by the New York State Commission on Public Integrity.

The Commission has issued a Notice of Reasonable Cause based on testimony which is factually incorrect and intentionally disregards information and documents provided to them. Furthermore, leaks by Commission staff to the news media, beginning more than two years ago have been harmful to me and violated the confidentiality of the ethics process. I have not been given the opportunity to make my case as the law allows regarding my management of the Research Foundation.

I have filed a formal complaint with the New York Inspector General and have indicated my commitment to fully cooperate in all aspects of what I am asking be a full and speedy review of the actions of the Commission on Public Integrity over the past two and a half years as it has on and off investigated this matter.

At this time, I have advised Chancellor Nancy Zimpher and SUNY Board Chairman Carl Hayden that I will voluntary take a leave of absence – using accrued time – from my responsibilities as President of the Research Foundation and also from my duties as Senior Vice Chancellor and Secretary of the University – beginning today through July 1st while the Inspector General undertakes a review.

I want this action to signal my strongest commitment to and compliance with all ethical practices across SUNY, New York State government and public service.”