Long No Longer Wants A Same-Sex Marriage Vote

Conservative party chairman Mike Long just fired out this brief statement:

Once again, we urge you to stand strong for traditional marriage and not put a bill on the floor. Any bill that will harm our state should not be allowed a vote.

Long and the conservative party released a similar statement earlier this week. Long is obviously passionately opposed to the legalization of same-sex marriage, but earlier this year, on April 26, he told us on Capital Tonight that the bill should come to the floor for the vote.

“I think the voters deserve to know where their senators stand – both Democrat and Republican,” the chairman said.

“Let them know where they stand…There’s a lot of Democrats that voted the other way the last time. They may vote with us again, and I would hope they do because they could be in swing districts that could make a difference in their election or in the primary.”

“They’re under a lot of pressure and I understand the addition of the governor in this whole move makes it even more uncomfortable for them. And that’s why I would hope that Governor Cuomo really doesn’t push this too far and force the issue and stays focused on bringing New York State back into the status of the Empire State.”

Obviously, the dynamic has changed now that there are 31 senators publicly supporting gay marriage, and several other Republican Senators openly speaking about the need for religious protections in the bill.

Here is the video from the April 26th interview.

Skelos: Mandate Relief, Rent Control Language Sticking Points In Negotiations

Arriving at his office shortly before the Senate Republican conference meets to discuss the rent/tax cap “framework” deal, Majority Leader Dean Skelos says some key aspects of bill language are still being worked out–casting blame on Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver:

“Apparently the speaker has problems with some of the mandate relief, which is critically important to our conference as part of the cap,” Skelos said.

“It’s my understanding [Silver] is looking to reopen rent control, which I thought we had a pretty good agreement on. That could delay things”

Yesterday, we learned the tentative deal includes a rent control extension that would expire after four years and raise the threshold for removing apartments from rent stabilization to $2,500 a month, up from $2,000. Tenants who make more than $200,000 a year would pay market rent. The current income ceiling is $175,000.

A property tax cap affecting mostly upstate and the suburban homeowners would end after five years. Meanwhile, a SUNY tuition would increase $300 a year over five years.

Of course, that was the deal as of yesterday. More to come on that.

Skelos was also a bit evasive when asked about same-sex marriage, saying his conference has not discussed the issue. He also claims Gov. Cuomo now wants an up or down vote–a change from his previous stance. Cuomo has previously stated he would only want the bill to come to the floor if the 32 votes needed to pass were secured.

Upstate Spin

While a number of downstate Democrats in the Senate and Assembly and their tenant advocate allies are grumbling over getting the short end of the stick in the rent laws/property tax cap deal, upstaters – and not just Republicans – are generally pleased with the arrangement.

Assemblyman Joe Morelle downplayed any disappointment in his conference during a CapTon interview last night, insisting “there’s no question that in the city of New York, those people who are protecting tenant’s rights and making sure there’s affordable housing are very happy.”

(He must not have chatted with Tenants PAC treasurer Michael McKee, who called the deal an “unmitigated disaster” and accused the governor of selling out tenants).

Morelle, a longtime ally of Gov. Andrew Cuomo who also serves as Monroe County Democratic chairman, heaped praise on Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and the governor for brokering the so-called “big ugly” agreement – despite the fact that we have yet to see the final details.

“(I)f we conclude these proposals that are really being brought to a close, I think this will be probably the finest session in my 21 years as a legislator,” Morelle told me. “I think people are very, very optimistic, and we just want to bring this to a conclusion now.”

Insurance Policy

Republican senators who have pledged to vote “yes” on same-sex marriage have earned themselves the gratitude – and political support – of the deep-pocketed and well-organized LGBT community regardless of whether the bill makes to the floor or fails to pass.

“In general, we always stand by those who stand by us, and conversely, we need to hold accountable those who aren’t,” Empire State Pride Agenda Executive Director Ross Levi told me during a CapTon interview last night.

“So, by all means, we will be looking at a legislator’s record no matter what the outcome to see that we can keep our friends around, and – if need be – take the next stop and let democracy happen for those who don’t.”

In other words, Sen. Jim Alesi, the first Republican to publicly announce his support of gay marriage, has won himself a new group of powerful political friends even if he never actually has to stand up and cast a “yes” vote. (The convention wisdom is that he will, however, since even the most staunch same-sex marriage opponents are now privately saying the bill is likely to come to the floor sometime within the next 48 hours).

That’s good news for Alesi, who was facing a difficult re-election bid next fall, thanks to his very unpopular decision to sue two constituents over the broken leg he sustained while trespassing on their property. (He later dropped the suit after a public outcry).

I mentioned Alesi’s local troubles to a national LGBT activist yesterday, who more or less shrugged that off, telling me his organization is a one-issue outfit and has championed “yes” voters from other states regardless of their baggage.

It’s unclear whether the state Conservative Party and the religious right will exact a price from Alesi and his fellow publicly declared “yes” voter, Sen. Roy McDonald, if the bill is blocked from coming to the floor. Simply proclaiming their support and ratcheting up the pressure on their fellow majority conference members might be seen as sufficiently grievous as to merit primary challenges – even if no vote gets taken.

Here And Now

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos’ prediction yesterday that the session would end today now seems overly optimistic after no bills for the omnibus tax cap/rent laws/SUNY tuition/mandate relief framework deal were voted on – or, as far as we could tell, even printed – as of late yesterday.

“I don’t think there will be any surprises, but I think there will be a lot of progress – and that may be the surprise,” the governor said of the yet-unseen uber-deal details.

The fact that the final details were still being worked out left the door open for some people whose oxen got gored in the rent deal. One hopeful source suggested last night that the 421-a fight appears dead, but not “dead, dead.”

Generally, however, Democrats who are unhappy with that agreement are trying to get used to the idea that they lost the rent battle.

“The days of pushing are over,” Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said of the rent regs deal. “The alternative is expiration or enhancement, and I think it’s a significant enhancement.”

Deputy Senate Majority Leader Tom Libous said he believed the GOP would caucus this morning to decide whether to actually vote on gay marriage, but the general consensus seems to be that issue will be left until the absolute last minute.

Senate “insiders” are predicting a marriage vote won’t materialize until tomorrow.

Cuomo is “cautiously optimistic” the Senate will take up – and pass – the marriage bill, but we still haven’t seen any religious exemption amendments yet.

New York is looking to other states to see how they deal with the religious exemptions issue.

“The longer things drag on in Albany – and this will be last vote if it’s taken – the more I worry about it,” said Sen. Jim Alesi.

The Post is cautiously optimistic about the tax cap.

Cuomo has managed to “out-Republican the Republicans,” said a longtime (and anonymous) Long Island political player.

More >

Cuomo: No Surprises In Big Ugly Bill (VIDEO ADDED)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters this afternoon that the final version of the Big Ugly agreement will have “few surprises” but will reflect substantial progress.

“I’ll get you the bills, I’ll get you the language and then you can go through it specifically,” Cuomo said at an impromptu gaggle with reporters. “I don’t think you’re going to be surprised by a lot of what’s in there.”

Among the highlights of the bill include a tax cap, rent control and a SUNY tuition plan. Details haven’t been plentiful and bill language continues to be haggled on between the Senate, Assembly and governor. No bills are expected to be voted on tonight.

The governor didn’t elaborate too much on the effort to insert more exemptions for religious organizations into the same-sex marriage bill, but did say he expected a vote on the bill.

“I believe it will be brought to the floor for a vote, I believe it should be brought to the floor for a vote, and I’m cautiously optimistic that it’s going to pass,” Cuomo said.

The governor would not say if he plans to keep legislators in Albany on Thursday and Friday if same-sex marriage legalization hasn’t been approved.

Rent And Tax Cap Language In Dispute

Lawmakers are still haggling over language in the package of legislation that will include a property-tax cap, rent control, mandate measures and a SUNY tuition plan.

(For a full rundown of what we know is in the bill, check back to this post).

Senate Republicans ended a hour-long conference without hammering out an agreement with the Assembly Democrats.

Rent advocates are likely to oppose the agreement and Senate Democrats are displeased with the measure as well. However, one lawmaker told me earlier that with so many items thrown into the legislation, it would be difficult to vote against.

With bill language still in flux, that measns no bils are being printed, meaning the measures are unlikely to be taken up this evening.

This most likely pushes back the timetable for same-sex marriage legalization in Senate, where the vote remains deadlocked at 31-31. It’s likely that no vote on marriage would take place until after the major issues of rent and the tax cap are locked down.

NOM Poll Says 57% Of NYers Oppose Same-Sex Marriage

With the fate of same-sex marriage likely to be decided in the next 24 hours, the National Organization for Marriage has released a new poll they commissioned, which found that 57% of the state is for traditional marriage.

Though polls can be a little deceiving.

These results run in contrast to independent polls that have been conducted by Siena College, Marist, and Quinnipiac that found that a majority of New Yorkers actually support the passage of a marriage equality bill. Those polls also talked to many more people than this poll, which only surveyed 302 “registered voters with voting history randomly selected from the voter registration file in NYS.”

The poll also words the question differently than the other polls. They ask, “Do you agree or disagree that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.” Which was actually close to the wording we used in our YNN/Marist poll back on 5/11, where 53% of New Yorkers personally felt marriage should be between a man and a woman.

In that same poll, we asked voters if gay couples should be allowed to marry, have access to civil unions, or have no rights, and 50% of the state said they should marry, and 25% thought they should be allowed to have civil unions.

The National Organization of Marriage poll does have a couple of other interesting results though. It found that 59% of those surveyed think the voters should decide, not lawmakers. It also asked the voters if they have heard anything recently in the news on the issue, and 91% said yes.

The poll was also conducted over the weekend, so it is timely. But it is also appears a little slanted. Of those who responded, 27% said they were “very conservative” on social issues, and 13% said they were “somewhat conservative.” Only 34% of those surveyed said they were very or somewhat liberal.

Extras

A special election to fill Anthony Weiner’s seat reportedly will be held Sept. 13 (concurrent with primary). A Cuomo spokesman insists no date has been selected.

A handwriting expert on Weiner’s resignation letter signature: “People who choose a symbolic signature tend to have a cluster of traits in common: excessive ego, secretiveness, need for privacy, arrogance, and high self-confidence in their area of expertise.”

Weiner still has some fans.

A property tax cap that expires is not “worth the paper it’s written on,” says EJ McMahon.

Sen. Tom Duane has never believed Sen. Greg Ball would vote “yes” on gay marriage.

It looks like Tier VI is out of the mandate relief deal.

Sen. Jim Alesi channels Lady Gaga.

“I will feel free to go to bed at night and travel around not just New York State but the entire country…to say we passed marriage equality in New York State, and we will pass marriage equality in America,” Alesi said.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand made the case for same-sex marriage on Tamron Hall.

Sens. Ruth Hassell-Thompson and Ruben Diaz Sr. had a verbal tiff over the rent laws in the chamber.

NYC Councilwoman Tish James to Walmart: “You get the women’s badge of shame.”

CapCon gets some love from The New Yorker.

NYC Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson is a bike lane evangelist.

President Obama’s job approval rating today: 45-48.

Jon Huntsman’s presidential rollout was not without problems.

The Upper West Side will never be the same.

What We Know (So Far) Of The Big Ugly

Details remain a bit fuzzy on the three-way Big Ugly deal, but some information has been slowly leaking out as legislators get briefed on the details. Here’s what we’ve heard so far:

- The 2 percent tax cap remains a 2 percent cap with the same pension exemptions. The cap expires in five years.

- Rent control expires in four years.

- Income threshold for rent control is raised from $175,000 to $200,000.

*The 421a tax credit continues for another four years unchanged.

- Vacancy decontrol is unchanged.

- Qualifying rent rises from $2,000 to $2,500.

- Tuition at SUNY campsues will rise $300 a year over five years.

- The less generous Tier VI pension proposal floated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the words of Assembly Majority Leader Ron Canestrari, has been “postponed.”

The Senate GOP is huddling in a closed-door conference right now. Rent advocates are not pleased with the rent deal at all, and some downstate Democratic members of both the Senate and Assembly aren’t too thrilled, either.

But Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said the rent agreement was not a bad one.

“I think that we have come up with a deal that has an expiration as opposed to straight extender which has been the Senate position all along is a significant improvement,” Silver said.