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.”

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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.

Libous: GOP Not Surprised On Alesi Move

Senate Deputy Majority Leader Tom Libous, R-Binghamton, said he wasn’t surprised by the announced yes vote by his Republican colleague Sen. Jim Alesi.

Alesi, who had dropped hints left and right over the last several weeks that he would vote yes (referring the issue as “marriage equality” was a red flag), announced Monday after meeting with the governor he was in the yes column.

“I didn’t find that as a surprise. You know, for those people who found it as a surprise, I think Jim Alesi has been leaning that way. He just made it public,” Libous said.

Senate Republicans met with Gov. Andrew Cuomo at the Executive Mansion last night to discuss the issue. By all accounts, the conversation involved the governor giving a lengthy and passionate speech in favor of same-sex marriage.

“The governor certainly made a passionate case for why it needed to be passed,” Libous said, adding that he expects a bill to be released soon.

However, there was no discussion about bill language or carve-outs for religious institutions.

Power Struggle For Caucus

There was something of a power struggle last night over who will chair the Black, Puerto Rican Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus for the next two years, according to several members.

The fight was won by Assemblyman Karim Camara, a Brooklyn Democrat. He defeated the incumbent chairwoman, Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson, whose district encompasses pieces of Mt. Vernon and the Bronx.

What’s news here is that Hassell-Thompson tried to hold on to her role as head of the caucus, as it is known in Albany.

Traditionally, there’s an understanding that members take turns leading the organization, which, when it manages to stick together, can be a powerful force in the Legislature. (Caucus weekend, the annual event hosted by the group’s nonprofit arm, is a must-attend experience for Democrats – and even some Republicans – running in New York).

It’s not unheard of for there to be competition for this post. But it’s nearly unprecedented – at least in modern times – for the incumbent to try to stay in power. One member, who asked to remain anonymous, called last night’s fight “extraordinary.”

“Many of us felt that while she had served well, it was time to move in a different direction,” the member said. “If David Dinkins, Charlie Rangel, Percy Sutton, Al Vann, and Shirley Chisholm all served just one term (as caucus chair), it’s a pretty high threshold to overcome.”

“I think it was unclear to a lot of us (why she wanted to stay). I wouldn’t say it’s completely unprecedented, but it seemed pretty extraordinary, and clearly it wasn’t embraced. Karim Camara is extremely well liked by members of the Senate and the Assembly, I think people enthusiastically look forward to him leading.”

The vote was held by paper ballot, which is also traditional. As CapCon’s Jimmy Vielkind reports, other caucus posts were also filled.

More Alesi Backlash On Same-Sex Marriage

The Rev. Jason McGuire, who earlier today released a letter vowing that GOP senators would face primaries if they allow a floor vote on same-sex marriage this week, said the Republican base was in danger of deserting the party.

“I think senators should take this very seriously. If you look at the fact that their districts oppose same-sex marriage 2-to-1. That’s significant. And so every Republican senator should know they should be on record. This is something their base does not support,” said McGuire, executive director of New Yorkers For Consitutional Freedoms. “And this is something the pro-family voter will be engaged with. We date back to 2002 looking at some of the failures of the Senate leadership, pro-family, pro-life votes and this is that final line in the sand and if senators surrender this point, I think they surrender the right to lead.”

Earlier today, Alesi suggested legalization of same-sex marriage would actually help the Republican Party in Democratic-heavy New York because it removes the issue.

Alesi’s theory isn’t a dumb one. Other political observers and officials have both pointed to the large war chest of the same-sex marriage advocates who have vowed to use the money to unseat senators who vote no.

The money was used effectively against Buffalo Sen. Bill Stachowksi, who lost in a primary to pro-gay marriage Tim Kennedy, and against Queens Republican Sen. Frank Padavan, who lost to Tony Avella.