Senate Passes Sex Offender Bill Package

The Senate this afternoon passed four bills that would increase restrictions and penalties for sex offenders.

One of the bills, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos would make it a felony for level three sex offenders who fail to register or report a change of address. Currently a first offense is only a misdemeanor.

“The safety and well-being of our children and families are at risk each time a dangerous sex offender flouts the law and fails to register or follow release conditions,” Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said in a statement.

“There is too much at stake, which is why this bill is critical to increasing the penalties for violations and ensuring communities receive the appropriate notification about offenders’ residences.”

The other bills would expand the reach of registry requirements to include those offenders who are deemed “not responsible by reason of mental disease or defect” and lastly would restrict certain sex offenders who are released on parole from entering public buildings such as libraries.

Gay Marriage Bill Lands

As expected, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has sent the Legislature a bill to legalize same-sex marriage, starting the aging clock ticking. The measure will be live and ready to be voted on three days from now.

A key passage, which could be known as the Ball exclusion, in honor of the Hudson Valley Republican senator who has been pushing for exemptions for religious institutions, is:

“The bill also guarantees that religious institutions and benevolent organizations such as the Knights of Columbus remain free to choose who may use their facilities for marriage ceremonies and celebrations or to whom they provide religious services, consistent with their religious principles.”

In addition, the bill grants equal access to the government-created legal institution of civil marriage while leaving the religious institution of marriage to its own separate and fully autonomous sphere.

Remember that Cuomo said he would only put out a bill if he believed there were sufficient votes in the Senate to pass it. So he must know something we don’t at this point.

Marriage Equality Bill

Diaz: Gay Marriage Passage In Senate ‘Disappointing’

Here’s Sen. Ruben Diaz, giving his reaction to the news that four lawmakers, including one Republican and his former amigo Sen. Carl Kruger, announcing they support same-sex marriage.

Diaz, D-Bronx, a Penetecostal minister who is one of the most vocal opponents of gay marriage in the Senate, said he was surprised by the irony of the state being poised to have same-sex marriage legalize when the GOP is in control of the chamber.

“That’s bigger and that’s more disappointing,” Diaz said.

The measure still needs at least two more votes in order for it to pass.

Rent Control Holding Up Major Issues

As the Capitol remains a hub of nearly endless activity this week, the major unresolved issues — a tax cap, same-sex marriage among them — appear backed up by disagreement over rent control laws being extended for New York City.

At least three Democratic lawmakers met with Gov. Andrew Cuomo this afternoon to discuss rent control, with the lawmakers telling the governor they are hesitant to vote on a same-sex marriage measure until the rent laws are extended for the long-term.

Senate Republicans do not want a broad expansion of rent control as Democrats in the Assembly and Sentate are seeking. Meanwhile, Senate GOP lawmakers say they’re hesitant to support a sunset for a tax cap coinciding with rent.

As Ken Lovett wrote in today’s Daily News, Senate Republicans can claim victory either way in not delivering a cap, either because of the poision pill sunset or if the measure actually goes through.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, said today more progress needs to be made on rent control, but he’s not supporting a temporary extension as introduced in the Republican-led Senate.

“I don’t want to deal with the issue of extension,” he said. “The governor should send an emergency bill if there’s an agreement.”

More >

Fidler Fundraising For ‘Unspecified’ State Office

A reader forwarded an email invite from NYC Councilman Lew Fidler to an all-day open house fundraiser on June 26 for an “unspecified” state office, telling supporters that it is “imperative” for him to raise more campaign cash than ever before (presumably) to demonstrate political strength.

“As my time in the City Council must necessarily come to an end, it is my fervent hope that I will be able to continue my public service,” Fidler wrote.

“While I cannot control the events that are in the hands of others, it is critical that I be prepared for things that might come my way. Like a good Boy Scout, I have to ‘be prepared.’”

“…While I have always found political fund raising to be one of the most distasteful aspects of elected service, it is unfortunately a necessary one. Without matching funds, and with this urgent need, I am asking you to help…and in as big a way as you possibly can.

Fidler, who will be term-limited out of office in 2013, has been mentioned as a potential candidate for Sen. Carl Kruger’s seat, assuming the scandal-scarred pol doesn’t make it to 2012. If there’s something else he might be mulling, please let me know.

Obama To Fundraise In NYC Next Week

President Obama is coming back to New York City next week for yet another 2012 fundraiser. This time, he will be joined by Whoopi Goldberg for an “Evening on Broadway” which is scheduled for Thursday night.

By my count, this is his fifth trip to New York City this year. His last one coming days after Osama bin Laden was killed.

OVF Sister Act Invitation 06 23 11

Cynthia Nixon, Sean Avery Lobby For SSM

The Empire State Pride Agenda today unleashed some of its star power for same-sex marriage, with actress Cynthia Nixon and former New York Ranger Sean Avery lobbying lawmakers on the issue.

They held a very well-attended news conference in the LCA earlier today saying they would meet with senators on both sides of the issue.

Higgins Comes Out For Same-Sex Marriage

Rep. Brian Higgins issued a statement earlier today proclaiming his support for same-sex marriage and praising Gov. Andrew Cuomo for championing the issue and other leaders – particularly his local senator, Democrat Tim Kennedy – for being willing to vote “yes” when and if a bill comes to the Senate floor.

This is an evolution (as Cuomo likes to say) for Higgins, a Western New York Democrat. According to the congressman’s chief of staff, Higgins was formerly supportive only civil unions. This is his first public comment backing full marriage equality.

Kennedy, as you’ll recall, ousted a 2009 “no” voter, former Democratic Sen. Bill Stachowski, in a primary last year. He’s pro-life, but also supports gay marriage.

Kennedy ran on the Conservative line last fall. But that was back before state Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long issued his line-in-the-sand edict.

Also, Erie County’s Conservative Party is controlled by Ralph Lorigo, who has a history of endorsing Democrats (he backed Stachowski, too). Lorigo doesn’t see eye-to-eye with Long on a host of issues – including same-sex marriage. He recently endorsed another “yes” voter, Democratic Assemblyman Mark Schroeder for his run this fall for Buffalo comptroller.

Here’s Higgins’ statement in full (political aside: keep in mind that the congressman is one of those in peril of potentially getting redistricted out of existence and/or being pitted against a colleague in a primary next fall):

“New Yorkers are proud of our individuality, our resolve and our fighting spirit. We are at a critical moment in time when we can and must use those attributes to demonstrate what’s right. This week, we are on the verge one of the most significant achievements in our generation as Albany considers approval of legislation delivering marriage equality in New York.”

“As Assembly members and Senators prepare to vote, all New Yorkers hope that they carefully consider the important choice they have to make. On a daily basis, public officials are reminded of the words of those who served before us, who guaranteed equality under the law. Each day, countless schoolchildren and we ourselves pledge ‘liberty and justice for all.’ Now, as New York considers equal rights under the law for all couples, it is the time to simply and deliberately deliver on that pledge.

“I commend Governor Cuomo and other leaders, including my own state Senator Tim Kennedy, for their leadership and support for basic equal rights. I look forward to the day when all New Yorkers can love and live free of prejudice, and fervently hope the hours and days to come will bring us closer still to that goal.”

Ball: ‘Absolute No Vote’ Without Religious Protections

Sen. Greg Ball says he would definitely vote no if Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s same-sex marriage bill fails to have provisions for religious institutions.

“All I can say is that if it’s not i’m an absolute no vote,” Ball said in a brief phone interview.

The Hudson Valley Republican is one of the four remaining undeclared lawmakers in the Senate who are yet to take a position on gay marriage.

“The bill has toi include carve-outs for religious institutions in order to protect them,” Ball said. “We’re still waiting for the bill language.”

“I hope the governor put real thought into the bill,” he added

Cuomo has said he would introduce a bill soon. Gay-marriage advocates recommended to the governor thatintroduce the bill after four previously undeclared senators, including Republican Sen. Jim Alesi, announced they woudl vote yes.

Alesi himself brought up the issue of the bill including protections for religious institutions, saying that Cuomo had assured him language would be included in the final bill.

Sampson: I Had Kruger and Huntley Last Year

ICYMI: Senate Minority Leader John Sampson told me during a CapTon interview last night that he had actually convinced two of the three Democrats who announced yesterday that they have switched their 2009 “no” votes on gay marriage to “yes” to change their minds sometime last year.

“I had conversations with Senator Kruger back in December in 2009, at the end of December 2009, about this issue,” Sampson said. “And he says: John I’m going to revisit this; I’m going to look at it.”

“And truth be told, I can say I had both the confidence and the vote of Senator Kruger and Senator Huntley last year…Not at all. You know, it was last year and I think it was September, myself talking to Senator Kruger and Senator Huntley that they both came around and said that they would support this issue based upon their trust and confidence in my leadership. And Senator Addabbo, you know, he has to go through his process, which I respect.”

If this is true – and I have no reason to believe it’s not at this point – then it bolsters the conventional wisdom that Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his coalition have very carefully managed a rollout in hopes of steadily building momentum until passage of the gay marriage bill becomes seemingly inevitable.

The opposition forces, of course, are marshaling in hopes of stopping this train in its tracks. The week is young yet.