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.

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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.”

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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.”

Extras

Roger Stone, who promoted Trump 2012 to the hilt, says he never actually believed The Donald would run.

Trump is stiffing the Manhattan GOP. Chairman Dan Isaacs is very unhappy.

Trump can teach the GOP field some important lessons, says Chris Cillizza, notably that “confrontation works”.

No bail for IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Today’s Buffalo schools boycott had mixed results.

President Obama delivered the commencement address at Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis, Tenn.

Up to 30 more Senate Democratic staffers are getting pink slips, including Keith St. John, a veteran counsel who was on the rostrum during the ’09 coup.

Jane Corwin and Kathy Hochul will debate in Rochester on Wednesday (to air Thursday).

State Independence Party Chairman Frank MacKay is “personally” for gay marriage. No official party position.

Assemblyman Micah Kellner, champion of shelter animals.

The DCCC is robocalling in 20 districts – including NY-19 and NY-25 – on Medicare.

Here’s Mayor Bloomberg’s roadmap for NYC’s “digital future”.

NYC might add another 1,500 yellow cabs.

Here’s video of the redistricting protest this weekend that targeted Sen. Greg Ball.

Education groups praised the selection of John King to take over from outgoing state Education Commissioner David Steiner.

At just 36 years old, King will be among the nation’s youngest educational leaders.

The Albany Project’s Dan Jacoby thinks Bill Samuels is a “smart guy”.

Bloomberg insisted there “aren’t many” panhandlers left on the subway. (Not sure what lines he’s riding).

Former Blue Dogs are lobbying.

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney will run unopposed this fall.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand plans to introduce the Pro-Vets Act.

Who will surrogate for Obama in 2012?

This is depressing, albeit not surprising.

Tedisco: If Assembly Goes WiFi, Why Not Paperless?

As the Assembly chamber takes a step toward becoming a Starbucks by offering a free WiFi hotspot (and really, we do need more of those) Assemblyman Jim Tedisco is renewing his call for a paperless chamber.

“This is a step in the right direction and it certainly is confirmation that my message of the need for New York State government to save taxpayers money and reduce our state’s carbon footprint is resonating,” Tedisco said in a statement. “Now that the Assembly has gone Wi-Fi, now’s the time for it to go digital and burn the paper.”

“When you consider the costs of all this wasteful printing to taxpayers and the environment, now that the Assembly has gone Wi-Fi, it’s obvious that going digital just makes ‘cents,’” he added.

Tedisco has been pushing a bill that would eliminate the paper waste produced by the Legislature, even standing in front of a giant stack of budget books during the spending plan debate.

The Saratoga Republican says the measure would save the state $13 million in printing costs.

Wine Sorbet, Anyone?

wine

Also passed by the Senate today was a delicious bill that would allow more frozen treats to be made with wine in New York.

The idea is to spur more economic activity using products made in New York State. Current law only allows the manufacture of ice cream made with wine. This bill, sponsored by Sen. Patty Ritchie (R-Heuvelton), would expand the law to include alcoholic sherbets and sorbets.

The bill also limits the percentage of alcohol in frozen desserts to not more than five per centum of alcohol by volume–making it more of a risk to your wallet and waistline to rely frozen dessert wine to get a buzz.

A version of this bill was passed back in 2010 with Sen. David Valesky (D-Oneida) as the sponsor and was the subject of a spirited debate at the time. It passed unanimously today.

Evergreen Debate Gets Testy In Senate

One of the more spirited and testy debates in the Senate this month hasn’t been over gay marriage, or an ethics bill or an even a revised property tax cap measure.

No, the Senate just completed a debate on whether public buildings should be allowed to display fresh-cut evergreen trees.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Michael Nozzolio, R-Fayette, Seneca County, would exempt certain fire codes, allowing the trees to be displayed.

The measure was opposed by Democratic Sens. Dan Squadron, Liz Krueger and Carl Kruger (marking the first time Krueger and Kruger may agreed on anything).

The bill passed 56-3, but not before Squadron and Sen. John DeFrancisco, R-Syracuse, traded barbs.

The Democrats’ chief concern seemed to breakdown on concerns that the bill was only meant for Christmas trees or that fresh-cut trees would be a hazard (I’m assuming the executive mansion has fresh-cut evergreen trees on display each December. If not, someone put an end to it).

At one point, Squadron asked DeFrancisco if the bill would only pertain to Christmas trees. The reaction from DeFran was quick: “That was the most asinine question I’ve heard since I’ve been on the Senate floor.”

That prompted Sen. Neil Breslin, D-Albany, to call for civility in the debate.

“OK,” DeFrancisco conceded. “It wasn’t the most asinine question I’ve ever heard.”

Earlier, he had asked Krueger if she would be against different types of bushes in government buildings.

“Would I have a problem with any type of shrubbery in government buildings?” she asked in response.

Breslin: Remain civil on the floor

Senate Passes Bills To Ban Radar Detectors, Dashboard TVs

The Senate passed two bills this afternoon that will limit some electronic devices allowed in vehicles, including radar detectors.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset), essentially expands the definition to include new devices that can block or jam a radar signal from a police officer in addition to those that only audibly warn of a nearby speed trap.

According to the Senate website, these devices are “sold for the sole purpose of evading police speed-detecting equipment.”

If signed into law, New York would join California, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Virginia, Nebraska and Washington D.C all who have outlawed the use of radar detectors.

Also passed by the Senate today was a bill (also sponsored by Marcellino) to outlaw display monitors that could distract a driver including TVs or DVD players. It would only apply to devices within view of the driver and would not apply to GPS displays.

Cuomo Willing To Bet On Tax Cap Passage

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is so confident his 2 percent property tax cap will be passed by the Legislature before the session ends that he’s willing to bet on it – and with reporters, to boot.

At the two-minute mark in this Q&A video (recorded after Cuomo’s “People First” tour stop at Hofstra University this morning), the governor is asked whether the Democrat-controlled Assembly will eventually follow the Senate’s lead and pass a cap bill, and he replies:

“I think at the end of the day, there will be a property tax cap passed. (Aside: Notice he doesn’t say “MY” property tax cap, but rather “A” property tax cap, interesting). You sound dubious…So, why don’t we make a side wager on this. You’ll give me odds because it’s been 15 years. You want to give me two-to-one odds? What odds will you give me?”

In the end: No odds and no bet.

The governor goes on to discuss – very broadly – his soon-to-be-introduced (within days, he says) Tier VI proposal, saying:

“We can’t afford the public pension system we have in this state. Period. We just can’t afford it. The increase in public pensions has been astronomical. What is driving the taxes that we were just talking about, one of the things is the public pension system. It is unaffordable for local governments. It is unaffordable for the state government.”