Jan 28th - 3:50 pm
That, of course, would be Sen. Malcolm Smith.
The Queens Democrat has not given up hope that New York will some day have a super-speedy rail system, despite the fact that elected officials have been pushing for this since time immemorial (or at the very least since back in former Gov. Mario Cuomo’s day, as Bill Hammond recently recalled).
Smith readily admits New York’s high-speed rail plan is lagging far behind other states, like California and Florida, for example.
But he was heartened to hear President Obama give top billing to the issue in his State of the Union address this week, and also to see the House Transportation Committee hold a field hearing on high-speed rail in the Northeast corridor – its first of the year – in NYC yesterday.
Smith attended the event, as did Mayor Bloomberg, who is a big supporter.
“Having a presidential cheerleader as President Obama and dealing with what we saw today… this was major,” Smith told me during a CapTon interview last night.
“Think about it: You have a chairman of a House committee that’s a Republican from Florida who already has high-speed rail moving in his state… here having his first hearing of the year, in NYC to talk about how important high-speed rail is in the Northeast corridor.
Then having two very noteworthy people such as Governor Rendell and Mayor Michael Bloomberg talking about that and then prior to that at 8 o’clock in the morning in New York City where we had a big snow storm, we had 25 people in the room…talking about high-speed rail and how to finance it. It’s a major happening for this initiative.”
Jan 28th - 3:36 pm
State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli is continuing to make staffing changes as he settles in to his first four-year term.
The comptroller, who asked about a dozen top staffers for their resignations in the wake of his first statewide victory over Republican Harry Wilson last November, announced today he has elevated Assistant Deputy Comptroller Elliot Pagliaccio to the post of deputy comptroller for state government accountability.
In this $157,000-a-year job, Pagliaccio will oversee audits of state agencies and authorities. He has extensive experience in government auditing and has also served as a state agency inspector general.
DiNapoli also announced that Kevin Murray has been named executive deputy comptroller for the state and local retirement system. He previously served as deputy comptroller for the system.
Former Troy Mayor Mark Pattison, who is currently serving as executive deputy comptroller for the Office of State and Local Government Accountability, will assume Murray’s former duties.
(No salaries were given for either Murray or Pattison).
The comptroller also announced the following will continue in their current roles:
Joan Sullivan, Executive Deputy Comptroller for Operations; Margaret Becker, Deputy Comptroller for Contracts and Expenditures; Kevin Belden, Chief Information Officer; Daniel Berry, Deputy Comptroller for Payroll, Accounting and Revenue Services; Kenneth Bleiwas, Deputy Comptroller, Office of the State Deputy Comptroller for New York City; Angela Dixon, Deputy Comptroller for Human Resources and Administration; Raudline Etienne, Chief Investment Officer; Celia Gonzalez, Deputy Comptroller for the Division of Diversity Services; Stephen Hancox, Deputy Comptroller for Local Government and School Accountability; Thomas Nitido, Deputy Comptroller for Budget and Policy Analysis; and Dennis Tompkins, Director of Communications.
It should be noted that at least one person in the above list – Tompkins – was one of the staffers who was asked to tender his resignation. Clearly, the comptroller had no intention of getting rid of everyone, but he did bring in some new blood, including former Assemblyman Pete Grannis, and move people around.
Jan 28th - 1:33 pm
Five of New York’s good government groups are calling on the Senate Republicans to have an open debate on the chamber’s rules and offering some suggestions on improvements to the changes that first came to light earlier this week.
The goo-goos praised the GOP for keeping “most of the important advances from the last session,” which, as you’ll recall, were made in the wake of the coup-inspired 31-day stalemate, but said the changes proposed “fail to take the next crucial steps that are needed to continue reforming the Senate.”
The group was “disheartened” that the Republicans’ changes surfaced just two hours before the Rules Committee was scheduled to meet, and also sided with the Democrats on the effort to end LG Bob Duffy’s ability to break a tie over who the chamber’s temporary president should be.
The state Constitution “already provides under what circumstances the lieutenant governor may cast a vote, and the Senate is bound by those provisions, regardless of what internal operating rules it passes,” the goo-goos wrote.
They also suggested a host of additional reforms, which are laid out in the letter below.
Jan 28th - 1:07 pm
Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos told business leaders in Manhattan this morning that the Republicans plan to take action next week on a property tax cap – a top priority for Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“We need to get this done this year,” Skelos told the crowd at the ABNY breakfast.
“Many of you in this room, such as myself, live in either Nassau, Westchester, Rockland (counties), and we’re paying the highest property taxes in the country.”
“It makes it difficult for businesses to survive and grow. It makes it difficult for seniors who want to stay here to be able to stay. And it makes it very difficult for young people, such as my son, who are looking to buy their first home.”
The Senate passed a one-house property tax cap bill last year when the Democrats were still in control. (The Assembly did not follow suit, despite then-Gov. David Paterson’s multiple calls for the Democrat-dominated chamber to do so, saying voters had a right to know where their respective lawmakers stood on the issue).
Skelos did not say which property tax bill the GOP would be bringing to the floor, and, of course, the devil is in the details on this one.
Earlier this week, the Democrats held a press conference to profess their support for Cuomo’s two percent property tax cap. But they also called for a companion circuit breaker, which the governor has made clear he opposes.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has said his chamber is open to a cap, but he hasn’t gone into any detail. (He did, however, say he would be able to pass a cap even if it wasn’t linked to new rent regulations – a pairing the governor rejected).
It will be interesting to see if Cuomo includes the cap in his budget proposal, which will be unveiled next Tuesday.
Jan 28th - 12:19 pm
Carl Paladino and his former campaign manager are decidedly not on the same page when it comes to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s selection of state Business Council President Ken Adams to serve as CEO of the Empire State Development Corp.
In the wake of yesterday’s announcement about Adams, Caputo took to Twitter to to express his disapproval, saying alleging his selection had been a “quid pro quo” in exchange for the Business Council’s support of Cuomo in the 2010 governor’s race – its first-ever endorsement of a gubernatorial candidate.
Paladino, however, praised Adams during a brief interview at YNN Buffalo last night, saying:
“I think that he has a great opportunity to do the right and certainly he has the knowledge and hs brings the credentials to occupy that office.”
Adams, as you’ll recall, was the host at the Business Council’s annual meeting at the Sagamore over the summer where Paladino’s speech (apparently well-received by the attendees) was greatly overshadowed by his fight with the Post’s Fred Dicker.
Paladino and Caputo had something of a push-pull relationship during the campaign, so it’s not unusual for them not to be on the same page. However, I also don’t think this is a sign that Paladino is going soft on his old opponent.
To the contrary, he has been quite clear that he thinks Cuomo as governor leaves quite a bit to be desired so far.
Jan 28th - 11:16 am
State Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long today released the line-up for his 44th annual Political Action Conference, which will draw Republicans and cosnervatives from across New York to the Holiday Inn on Wolf Road.
The conference, which Long said has more people registered than ever before, will kick off Sunday at 12:30 p.m. More information is available here.
E. J. McMahon is scheduled to speak about the budget. NYC Councilman Eric Ulrich, a Queens Republican, will discuss term limits. Sheriff Adrian “Butch” Anderson will address law enforcement and newly-elected GOP senators Lee Zeldin (Long Island) and Pat Gallivan (Buffalo) will be on a panel with Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin (Melrose).
All of the newly elected Republican House members will abe on a panel to discuss their plans to change Washington.
On Monday, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, a GOP rising star who ousted Democratic veteran Andy Spano in 2009, will speak along with Andy Sullivan, described as a “hard hat survivor of 9/11 and Ground Zero Mosque opponent.”
Others expected to participate include: Former LG Betsy McCaughey, pro-life advocate Kathy Gallagher and the Rev. Michel Faulkner, who ran an unsuccessful challenge to Democratic Rep. Charlie Rangel last fall.
The luncheon speaker is frequent Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity fill-in Mark Steyn.
Long’s party is enjoying a high point at the moment.
After the chairman’s preferred gubernatorial candidate, former Rep. Rick Lazio, lost to Carl Paladino in last September’s GOP primary, the Conservatives got behind the Buffalo businessman, who went on to win enough votes on their line to boost them to Row C on the ballot.
In addition, the Conservatives’ message of fiscal discipline is very popular of late – so much so that Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo is starting to sound awfully like he might need to check his registration. Long is such a big fan that he has launched a robocall campaign calling on state lawmakers, particularly “liberal” Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, to support the governor’s agenda.
Jan 28th - 10:51 am
Senate Minority Leader John Sampson is upping the ante considerably this morning in his war of words with Majority Leader Dean Skelos over rules changes, accusing the GOP of creating a “constitutional crisis” by moving to strip LG Bob Duffy of his right to break a tie in a leadership vote.
Samspon accused Skelos of seeking this change “just because (Duffy) is a Democrat,” deeming that “political pandering at its worst, and something Republicans never would have attempted were the Lt. Governor a member of their party.”
The minority leader said the majority’s attempt earlier this week to “ram through” the changes with virtually no notice to the Democrats and no public input “guarantees a step backward to the separate and unequal chamber the Senate was for far too long.”
“Further, the Senate Republican proposal to create a ‘working group’ to review Senate rules after they have been adopted without any public notice or input is like convening a jury after the prisoner has been sentenced,” Sampson said.
“After having already broken their promise to pass Mayor Koch’s pledge to clean up Albany with independent redistricting, ethics, and budget reform, the Senate Republicans’ ‘working group’ is nothing more than another empty promise, not worthy of the people of New York or the Senate which serves them.”
Sampson had asked Skelos to reconvene the temporary committee on rules that had bipartisan members – three Democrats and three Republicans – in hopes of coming up with changes that both sides could agree on.
The “working group” to which the minority leader refers was as far as the majority leader was willing to go. He also noted in a letter to Sampson that appears below that he is indeed making good on his pledge of bipartisanship by offering three Democrats committee chairmanships. (The fact that those all went to members of the breakaway IDC makes that a tough argument for Sampson to swallow).
A Senate spokesman informs me the GOP plans to move forward with its rules changes next week, most likely on Monday. Assumedly, Sen. Ken LaValle will make it to the Rules Committee to vote this time.
Jan 28th - 10:40 am
Comptroller Tom DiNapoli is proposing legislation that would strip public officials of their pension benefits if they are convicted of a felony.
Convicted ex-pols like Joe Bruno, Alan Hevesi and recently deceased Guy Velella all collected pension benefits despite corruption convictions.
DiNapoli’s bill also imposes a penalty of up to twice the amount of money a public official garnered as a result of a crime committed while in office and elevates Official Misconduct to a felony – which, in the case of the Senate and Assembly, would also result in the lose of one’s seat.
“When public officials break the law while performing their public duty, they should forfeit their public pension, plain and simple,” DiNapoli said in a statement.
“It’s time to take away the pension of anyone found guilty of committing a felony in the course of his or her official duties. No one who violates the public trust should be allowed to receive a taxpayer-funded pension. And the tough sanctions I’m pushing will remind every public official that violating the public trust will not be tolerated.”
The state constitution does not allow retirement benefits of sitting public officials to be reduced, but they would be subject to the penalty of up to twice the amount they benefited from their crime.
The pension forfeiture portion of the bill would apply to all public employees who are sworn in subsequent to the bill’s enactment – they would also be subject to the hefty financial penalty of up to twice the sum they unlawfully collected. This includes state and local elected officials, officers and appointees, including directors and members of public authorities and public benefit corporations who are convicted of a “job-related felony.”
DiNapoli first floated this idea back in December when he said he was researching ways of stopping pension checks from going out to former politicians with felony records.
Here is the bill:
Jan 28th - 10:25 am
As the governor and legislative leaders discuss (behind closed doors) ethics reform that would require lawmakers to fully disclose their outside income, NYPIRG has released a breakdown of where moonlighting legislators are making their cash.
To date, much of the focus has been on whether lawyer-legislators would be required to reveal their client lists. NYPIRG notes that only 45 of the 211 seated assembly members and senators are, in fact, attorneys – a lot less than you might think.
Thirty-nine legislators indicated they have more than one source of outside income. (NYPIRG did not count investments or pensions for this review).
Sevety-six lawmakers – 48 of whom are serving in the Assembly Democratic conference – have no outside jobs at all. That explains why so many of them are anxious to see an increase of their $79,500 base pay, which hasn’t gone up since January 1999.
The bulk of legislators (47) who are earning outside income are in the real estate industry, which is, of course, a big special interest in Albany. REBNY, for example, is a major contributor to the pro-Cuomo Committee to Save New York and is gearing up for a big fight over the rent control laws, which are set to expire at the end of the year.
Real estate interests were also big contributors to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2010 campaign. According to the NY Times, they accounted for one in every five dollars worth of campaign cash that Cuomo received in the last six months of 2009.
UPDATE: Just for kicks: The lifeguard listed here is, as many are probably aware, Long Island Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg. At least one of the three lawmakers who say they’re employed in a “religious” capacity is, I believe, Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. Another might be Assemblyman Karim Camara.
Jan 28th - 7:51 am
Cuomo is taking full advantage of the Executive Mansion.
Incoming ESDC President Ken Adams describes vision for New York in interview with The Business Review.
Cuomo has a lot of hurdles in this year’s budget, Newsday suggests.
Workers in upstate youth facilities are bracing for Tuesday’s budget.
Lawmakers and the Governor are quietly discussing ethics reform.
City Hall lists Sen. Maziarz as one of the state’s winners this week, for securing a leadership role.
Several Senate Democrats in NYC might lose their district offices.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has declared war on scammers.
Nassau County continues to argue they have balanced their budget.
Federal officials are now looking into the Sanitation Department’s “slowdown” during the Christmas storm.
She is in the Capital Region today calling for an extension to a research and development tax credit.
Look out for tonight’s YNN / NY1 / Marist Poll on Senators Schumer and Gillibrand. (No Link)