Dems Push Bill To Ban Smoking In Cars With Minors Present

Senate and Assembly Democrats are pushing a bill that would prohibit drivers from lighting up with a child under the age of 14 in the car.

The bill would allow for $100 penalty to drivers stopped for suspicion of spoking with underage passengers. Other states have adopted a similar law, but the age limit is often 18.

The Assembly is expected to vote on the bill today or tomorrow. It’s unclear if or when the Senate will do the same.

Senate Dems To Try And Force Debate On Millionaire’s Tax

Senate Democrats will make one last-ditch effort this afternoon to bring the millionaire’s tax to the floor for a vote.

Sen. Tony Avella (D-Queens) will introduce a hostile amendment to a local county tax extender with the personal income tax surcharge, or PIT, legislation attached. The bill is the same as the one introduced in the Assembly by Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Democrats are trying to make a point that extending the sales tax rates for counties, which the Senate has been voting on for days, the same logic should apply to the millionaire’s tax. They argue that the legislation is simply an extension, not a new tax and it could generate approximately $4.16 billion in revenue for the State.

“The local tax extender will affect hundreds of thousands of middle and working class consumers who will pay the local sales tax over and over, which will only raise approximately 161.8 million,” said Sen. Avella.

“The PIT surcharge will only effect around 79,000 of the most wealthy New Yorkers once a year, and raises over four billion dollars.”

The bill would be a one-year extension and only apply to those individuals making one million dollars or more, unlike the current tax that applies only to those making excess of $200 thousand.

However, Gov. Andrew Cuomo opposes the reinstatement on a tax surcharge, a sentiment shared by the Senate Republican majority.

Settling In For the Long Haul On Rent Regs

While we’re waiting for the Senate GOP to emerge from behind closed doors or send up some smoke signals on same-sex marriage, (we’re almost at the three-hour mark here), the fight over extending and/or strengthening the rent laws, which are set to expire at midnight, is continuing.

An Assembly Democrat told me not long ago that his conference is still struggling with whether to accept a 48-hour extension, an extension until Monday or no extension at all (this in spite of the speaker’s tough talk about rejecting all three).

Meanwhile, the advocates are handing out the flyer that appears below, highlighting the Senate GOP’s close relationship with the Rent Stabilization Association (president Joe Strasburg is the guy with a moneybag for a head) and likening Majority Leader Dean Skelos to a mob boss.

The Senate Democrats, meanwhile, are preparing to dig in. Sen. Adriano Espaillat, who has led the fight for his conference, sent an email to supporters in which he again pledged to remain at the Capitol “as long as it takes” to pass legislation that extends and strengthens rent regulations.

“Following my meeting with Governor Cuomo yesterday, I have once again rejected Republican moves to further weaken rent laws and allow landlords to raise rents and harass tenants,” Espaillat wrote.

“For the next 12 hours – and beyond – I will continue to fight to make sure millions of tenants are protected. I am working closely with Governor Cuomo who has joined us in our call for the extension and strengthening of rent regulations.”

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Sen. Sampson Lobbies GOP On SSM

Senate Minority Leader John Sampson has just released this message calling for his Republican colleagues to pass same-sex marriage. This as the Senate GOP is still meeting behind closed doors to conference this issue (now on their 3rd hour).

“My fellow New Yorkers. We are at the doorstep of a historic moment in the fight for equality.

“Earlier this week, I was proud to stand with Governor Cuomo to announce Senate Democrats were delivering crucial votes to bring New York three steps closer to passing marriage equality.

“After a long journey toward equality, the finish line is now in sight.

“It is my hope our actions will send a strong signal to the nation that we are ready for full equality.

“I hope our Republican colleagues will join us on the right side of history by giving the votes needed to finally pass marriage equality into law.

“Let our journey toward equality be a powerful example of what is possible when people lay aside partisanship and work together to do what is right and just.

“New York is closer now than it has ever been to fulfilling the promise of equality for all our people so our actions finally match our best intentions.

“The final step is before us. To my Republican colleagues – I urge you to do what is right and join us in supporting marriage equality to give all New Yorkers the more equitable and just future they deserve.

“Thank You.”

Libertarians Offer Yes-Voting GOPers An Alternative To Row C

In hopes of countering the state Conservative Party’s threat to strip GOP senators who vote “yes” on gay marriage of the right to run on Row C, the Libertarian Party is offering those ousted lawmakers a place to land in 2012.

“The Libertarian Party does not believe government should have any role at all in marriage,” state Chairman Mark Axinn told me in an email this morning. “But inasmuch as it does, we certainly believe that such involvement should be on a non-discriminatory basis.”

“Various Republican State Senators have stated that they will support equal rights for gay New Yorkers and it is likely that the Conservative Party (and perhaps others) will shun them for that. We believe the opposite reaction is warranted. Those state Senators who indicate they oppose government discrimination are welcome to seek the Libertarian line in 2012, and we would be happy to discuss it with any of them should they be so inclined.”

This isn’t exactly an equal trade.

The Conservatives are an official party with a ballot line. Actually, they saw their ballot standing improve thanks to Carl Paladino in 2010, who received sufficient votes to return them to Row C, bumping the Independence Party down two to the WFP’s old Row E.

The Libertarians, who ran Warren Redlich for governor last year, came within 1,600 votes of official ballot status. (The Greens just made it, thanks to their candidate, Howie Hawkins, who just broke the required 50,000-vote threshold).

So, Republican Senate candidates who want the Libertarian line would have to petition their way onto the ballot, gathering 3,000 signatures, whereas Conservatives can simply cross-endorse non-member candidates and issue them Wilson Pakulas at their annual convention.

Still, it is an option to consider, and it’s not nothing. As Axinn wrote:

“In a cross-endorse state like New York, the extra line is the margin of difference. Look at (Queens Republican) NYC Councilman Dan Halloran. He’s the first person to tell anyone that the Libertarian endorsement and extra line on the ballot was a big part of getting elected in an overwhelmingly Democratic district.

Silver Wants Message Of Necessity On SSM

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has told reporters that he is going to ask for a message of necessity on the Governor’s Marriage Equality Act program bill. That would allow his conference to vote on the measure today or tomorrow, and not wait until Friday.

This comes as a little bit of a shock, because Silver had previously said he wanted to wait for the Senate to pass the bill before his conference took it up and passed it for a 4th time.

Not sure if this decision will in any way impact what the Senate Republicans do. As you know, they are conferencing behind closed doors as we speak.

Sen. Ball Reaffirms Same-Sex Marriage Position

Greg Ball is still undecided on gay marriage, but has just sent out a statement clarifying his position. It includes 3 sections of rough bill language he’d like to see that would get him to support the measure. The statement came after he had already entered the Senate GOP Conference which is happening right now.

“As a young leader and firm believer in less government, not more, I genuinely appreciate both sides of this polarizing issue. I was sent to Albany to cap property taxes, freeze school taxes for seniors, cut state spending and reform Albany, not to advocate on behalf of social issues to the left or the right.

On one side, it is viewed as a civil rights issue, and on the other side, a direct affront on heartfelt religious beliefs. From repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to widespread equality issues, I have always been an advocate on behalf of gay rights, and to this day, would proudly support the most comprehensive civil union legislation in the nation, while placing marriage equality out to the public for a referendum and a vote.

That said, on the specific issue of marriage equality, with the possibility of serious and comprehensive religious protections, I will remain undecided until I see the final bill. Without those basic religious protections, I clearly must vote no.”

The basic wording Senator Ball is seeking:

1) No clergy or other person authorized to conduct marriage ceremonies shall be required to do so against their beliefs or desire, whether religious or not.

2) No religious or tax exempt organizations shall be required to provide any services to which they object because of religious or other beliefs.

3) No house of worship, individual or business with religious objections, or tax exempt organizations shall be required to allow their property or services to be used for any function or purpose to which they object or have their tax exempt status challenged or removed because of failure to permit usage of their property for same sex ceremonies.

The Value Of The Conservative Line (Updated)

Having the Conservative Party line helped secure victories in 2010 for the Republican lawmakers who remain publically undeclared on the issue of same-sex marriage — making Chairman Mike Long’s vow that they would lose the line all the more potent.

Sens. Mark Grisanti of Buffalo and Greg Ball of Putnam County both would not have won their elections without the line. Sen. Jim Alesi, who announced Tuesday he was voting yes on the measure, would have difficulty winning his race.

Sen. Roy McDonald, R-Saratoga and the second GOP yes vote, would still have won without the line, but his margin of victory would have been significantly smaller (a full break out of the Conservative Party votes for GOP lawmakers is after the jump).

Sen. Andrew Lanza, R-Staten Island, and another undecided, did not have an opponent last time around.

Candidates in New York can run on multiple lines.

There are a few ways of looking at these races. Ball and Grisanti were both running for their first terms and may not have had the advantage of running as incumbents. Alesi represents an increasingly Democratic district and was a main target of Senate Democrats.

Ball did not have the initial backing of the Conservative or Republican parties, but defeated Mary Beth Murphy in a September primary.

And the lawmakers may have a more pressing concern when they run for re-election in 2012 — namely a primary from a fellow Republican opposed to same-sex marriage or a Conservative candidate spoiler.

Then again, as Alesi told Fred Dicker Wednesday, it’s possible that with gay marriage approved, the opposition to the measure will evaporate.

Update: A reader points out that Long has said he’s OK with a vote in the Senate on same-sex marriage in order to see where lawmakers stand. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos has said he would support a “conscience vote” on the measure as well.

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Monroe Co. Conservative Chair On Alesi: ‘He Doesn’t Exist Politically’

YNN’s Casey Bortnick spoke exclusively yesterday to Monroe County Conservative Party Chairman Tom Cook, who confirmed GOP Sen. Jim Alesi has kissed any hope of running on Row C next year goodbye with his pledge to vote “yes” on same-sex marriage.

However, in a rather telling disclosure, Cook also revealed that the Rochester Republican wasn’t likely to get his party’s nod anyway because of the lawsuit he filed – and then withdrew following a public outcry – against two of his own constituents on whose property he injured himself while trespassing.

“Based on the reaction from (Monroe County Executive) Maggie Brooks and (Monroe County GOP Chairman) Bill Reilich at the time, I doubt he would have gotten the endorsement of the Republican Party, either,” Cook added.

Alesi told me during a CapTon interview Monday following his “yes” vote announcement that he indeed plans to seek re-election next year. So, even though he insisted his 2009 “no” vote was political and now he is “liberated” and planning to vote his own true feelings, it seems politics probably continued to be a consideration for him this time around, too.

Cook also told Bortnick that “three or four” people have already approached him seeking to run against Alesi, adding: “In my opinion, his political career is over. I thought he was toast before, and I think he’s definitely toast now.”

Bortnick also caught up with Reilich, who said he doesn’t see why Alesi’s decision would prevent him from running on the GOP line in 2012, explaining: “We’ve run openly gay candidates in the past…We’re a big tent.”

However, the GOP chairman also said: “Any decision about (Alesi’s) future with the Republican Party or his status as an endorsed Republican candidate won’t be made until the next election cycle.”

Here And Now

Two issues that have been oddly linked come to a head at the Capitol today: The rent laws that provide affordable apartments for more than one million New Yorkers (mostly in NYC) are set to expire at midnight and the Senate GOP is conferencing gay marriage for the first time since 2009. (Majority members are scheduled to go behind closed doors at 10 a.m.)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to deliver a rent laws ultimatum to legislators today: Get a deal or prepare to stick around until you do.

As for the second issue, it will only take one more GOP “yes” vote to make New York the sixth and largest state in the nation that lets same-sex couples legally wed. Yes, it’s likely to be another long and crazy day. Meanwhile, some headlines….

Get ready for the big ugly.

Sen. Roy McDonald got testy about his decision to vote “yes” on gay marriage, telling reporters: “You get to the point where you evolve in your life where everything isn’t black and white, good and bad, and you try to do the right thing. You might not like that. You might be very cynical about that. Well, f— it, I don’t care what you think. I’m trying to do the right thing.”

The DN isn’t taking sides on gay marriage, but wants the bill to come up for a vote.

Ditto, says Newsday (the majority leader’s hometown paper).

A vote in the Senate is predicted for Friday and could come in the Assembly as early as Wednesday, although Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has been reluctant up to now to let his house vote a fourth time before the Senate acts.

Sen. Andrew Lanza thinks gay marriage will pass the Senate if the bill comes to the floor, and sounds awfully undecided about his own plans to vote “no.”

Same-sex couples are cautiously optimistic, but don’t want to jump the gun because they’ve been here before.

Sen. Tom Duane is still suffering from “post traumatic trust disorder” from the 2009 debacle.

Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto insisted there was “no linkage” between the governor’s release of the same-sex marriage bill and his fundraiser last night at a special showing of “Priscilla: Queen of the Desert.”

A gay constituent of Sen. Greg Ball urges the Catholic Republican lawmaker to vote “yes.”

Democratic Suffolk County Legislator Jon Cooper, who is gay and once mulled a primary challenge to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, is threatening to run against GOP Sen. Carl Marcellino if same-sex marriage doesn’t pass.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver threatened to tank the tax cap if the Senate Republicans don’t expand rent regulations.

Tenant advocate Michael McKee has nine days worth of socks and underwear with him – just in case the rent laws deadlock drags on.

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