Skelos: No Marriage Vote Today

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said this afternoon there will be no vote on a same-sex marriage bill today.

He emerged from a close-door meeting with Gov. Andrew Cuomo saying the governor was listening to him on the exemptions being sought by fence-sitting Republican legislators who are concerned the same-sex bill could open religious institutions to lawsuits.

“This has been a very complicated year in terms of the issues that we’ve addressed and I’ve found the governor from the very beginning starting with the budget process has always had an open ear and is flexible in terms of the suggestions I give or the speaker gives,” Skelos said.

Skelos also said there would be no Sunday session. Lawmakers are due back in Albany Monday for the final regualrly-scheduled day of session. Cuomo has indicated he would call special sessions of the Legislature in order to extend rent control for New York City on a long-term basis.

Rent laws expired Wednesday night, but a new bill is being worked on that would extend the laws through the weekend.

“There are discussions going and we understand the needs of the speaker a bit better, the different parts of the real-estate industry and we’re just going to pull these parts together.

He added: “We’ll see what happens with the rent extender the governor sends us Monday.”

Skelos: GOP Worried About ‘Unintended Consequences’ Of Gay Marriage Bill

Another marathon closed-door Senate GOP conference has passed without a decision on whether to move Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s same-sex marriage bill to the floor for a vote. According to Majority Leader Dean Skelos, members on both sides of the issue continue to be concerned about protections for religious individuals and institutions.

“There is a concern right now as to the unintended consequences of some of the religious clauses, carve-outs, protections, and we’re reviewing that,” Skelos told reporters after emerging from a nearly three-hour session.

“As you know, there have been some meetings with the governor’s office indicating that they are receptive to some changes, and those discussions are going to continue. There’s been no decision. In fact that really was not the discussion as to whether it would come out yet, who’s voting for it, who’s voting against it, other than people want to feel comfortable if it is reported to the floor that there will not be, as Archbishop Dolan mentioned, unintended consequences to this legislation.”

Asked for specifics, Skelos brought up the issue of adoption services offered by Catholic churches.

The majority leader could offer no timeline of when the bill might come to the floor, saying: “I’ve told you all along, with our conference this is going to be a very deliberative process and members on both sides are raising concerns.”

A reporter noted that the Assembly has already passed the governor’s bill (the fourth time the legalization of same-sex marriage has been approved in the Democrat-dominated house) and any changes would require the house to go back a a fifth time (so would the passage by the Senate of a bill in extraordinary session, if the governor calls one to deal with the ongoing rent laws logjam)

“A lot of bills are passed, and they can be amended; they can be changed,” Skelos said.

As for whether we’re going to be here over the weekend, the majority leader said: “I know that the speaker goes home this evening and will not be available until Sunday, (because he observes the Jewish Sabbath), but our staffs will continue discussions.”

Faith Leaders Say Bill Has Enough Protections

A group of more than 700 faith leaders across New York who support same-sex marriage are speaking out in response to the criticism of the language in the Governor’s same-sex marriage bill.

Senate Republicans have voiced concerns that the bill language is too vague when it comes to religious protections, and it is still unclear if they are going to bring it to a vote, or if there are enough votes to pass the bill.

The organization of faith leaders supporting gay marriage takes issue with the argument over the bill language though, suggesting that opponents are “using religion a smokescreen to hide their intolerance.” They go on to suggest that opponents are also misstating what is in the bill.

“…the Governor’s bill specifically provides that no clergy, house of worship or denomination would be forced to perform same-sex marriages or make their facilities available to same-sex couples for marriage ceremonies, receptions or other functions,” they say.

Whole statement is after the jump:
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Lady Gaga’s Misplaced Call

I ran into Sen. Tom Duane in the hallway outside the Senate GOP’s conference room. He was introducing his partner, Louis Webre, to his colleagues and members of the press.

The couple was sharing a laugh about the fact that Lady Gaga herself had called the Manhattan Democrat’s office to urge him to vote “yes” on same-sex marriage – apparently unaware of the fact that Duane is not only 1) The long-time sponsor of the gay marriage bill; and 2) The lone openly-gay member of the Senate.

Part of the problem might have been that Lady Gaga used her real name – Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta – when she called, and did not identify herself as the international rock star and outspoken gay rights advocate she is. Duane said the staffer who took the call didn’t recognize Lady Gaga’s given name, and so didn’t ask her for a number where the senator could call back.

Duane clearly got a kick out of this whole situation, joking that he had “been on the fence” about gay marriage, but since Gaga called to “twist my arm” he’s willing to reconsider.

“I don’t even know if I would have called her back,” the senator said. “But it would have been nice to have her number.”

It’s unclear if Lady Gaga is actually Duane’s constituent. If she is, he wasn’t previously aware of that fact.

The singer has long been active in the push for gay marriage – a nod toward her many LGBT followers. She has injected herself into the NYS debate several times, calling on her fans – AKA the little monsters – to Tweet, call and email on-the-fence senators, particularly Buffalo Republican Sen. Mark Grisanti.

Gillibrand’s First Challenger (Updatedx2)

Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos confirmed during a brief telephone interview this morning that he informed Tioga County GOP leaders last night he will be seeking the Republican and Conservative lines to challenge Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in 2012.

“I’m very serious about running,” Maragos said. “I understand that it’s going to be an uphill fight, but it’s not impossible. I’ve done a lot of impossible things, and I feel I have the reousrces to be successful.”

Maragos is the founder and president of SDS Financial Technologies, a finance and trading services company. He said he’s prepared to spend up to $45 million of his own money to run against Gillibrand, who is a prodigious fundraiser but is not independently wealthy.

UPDATE: Several readers have asked whether I might have misheard Maragos on the number here, and if he may have said “$4 to $5 million). He does have a slight accent (he’s Greek), and I was speaking to him in a slightly noisy office. I have a call in to him seeking clarification.

UPDATE2: I just got off the phone with Maragos, and I did mis-hear him. It’s $4 million to $5 million. Still a lot, but nowhere close to that previous number. Sorry for giving some of you a heart attack.

Maragos, as you may recall, ran a short-lived challenge to New York’s senior senator, Chuck Schumer, last year.

The comptroller failed to receive sufficient support to get onto the ballot at the GOP convention and opted not to petition his way on. Two Republicans ended up getting convention nods – Jay Townsend and Gary Berntsen. Townsend won the primary, but lost in a landslide to Schumer in the November general election.

Maragos had only been in office four months when he first floated his name as a potential Schumer opponent. He defeated the Democratic incumbent, Howard Weitzman, as part of the GOP sweep in 2009 that also saw Republicans re-take control of the county executive’s office and the county legislature.

Gillibrand easily defeated her 2010 GOP opponent, former Westchester Rep. Joe DioGuardi, in her first statewide run for the seat she inherited from former Sen. Hillary Clinton, compliments of former Gov. David Paterson. Gilllibrand is currently serving out the remainder of Clinton’s term, and will run for her own full six-year term in 2012. DioGuardi has said he’s thinking of a re-match, as is one of his vanquished GOP primary opponents, David Malpass.

Gillibrand was initially questioned by the left, thanks to her days as a Blue Dog House member representing NY-20 (a seat currently held by Republican Rep. Chris Gibson). But she worked hard to ingratiate herself with liberals, becoming a champion of gay rights and successfully pushing the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” She also played a key role in getting Congress to pass the Zadroga bill.

Gillibrand hasn’t seen her poll numbers climb much higher than 50 percent, but she has a national profile now – thanks in part to her Vogue spread and her close friendship with Rep. Gabby Giffords, about whom she talked quite a lot in the aftermath of the Arizona congressman’s near-fatal shooting.

The junior senator had a massive first fundraising quarter, bringing in $2.76 million more than $3 million. She had $3.37 million on hand at the end of March.

Dolan: What Gov’t Gives, Gov’t Can Take Away

Archbishop Timothy Dolan, who is in Seattle for a national conference, says he is hopeful that Senate Republicans won’t pass a bill legalizing same-sex marriage.

During an interview with Fred Dicker on Talk1300AM, Dolan specifically thanked several of the undecided Republican Senators, Greg Ball, Andy Lanza, and Stephen Saland for strongly considering the impact a yes vote on same sex marriage will have on religion.

He also addressed the ongoing discussion about drafting a bill with carve outs that protect religious organizations. Dolan says Governor Cuomo reached out to the Catholic church and asked them if they would lend some of their lawyers to help draft legislation. Dolan says they were happy to help, but they still are adamantly opposed to passage of the bill.

He also says he doesn’t view the carve outs as concessions by same-sex marriage advocates, he says they are religious protections guaranteed in the Constitution. And he worries that future legislatures might scale them back. “What government gives, Government can take away,” Dolan said.

Dolan also disputed arguments that gay marriage was a civil right, saying “this is a question of defending something ingrained in the human condition.”

Spano: If I Were Leader, We’d Vote

I spotted former Sen. Nick Spano hanging around outside the conference room where his erstwhile GOP colleagues are holed up – again – to presumably discuss same-sex marriage, along with a host of other yet-unfinished business holding things up at the Capitol.

Spano, as you may recall, once had designs on the majority leader post now held by Long Island Sen. Dean Skelos.

That aspiration was shattered when Spano came within 18 votes of losing his seat back in 2006 to then-Democratic Westchester County Legislator Andrea Stewart-Cousins. He ultimately managed to hang on to his seat, only to be ousted by Stewart-Cousins – with the help of the then-wildly popular gubernatorial contender, Eliot Spitzer, in 2006.

Spano is a moderate Republican. The Democrat enrollment edge in his old district (35) caused him to take left-of-center positions on abortion rights, raising the minimum wage and same-sex marriage, which, he informed me this morning, he came out in support of back in 2006 – the first sitting GOP senator to do so.

Spano, who is now a lobbyist, said he would “probably be the sponsor” of the governor’s program bill to legalize same-sex marriage if he were still a member of the Senate.

He believes his old colleague should get off the stick and bring the bill to the floor “so they can handle other issues to close up the session,” and he’s telling them so, too.

“My recommendation to my friends who ask my opinion is time has come,” Spano said. “There has been a generational and attitudinal change. I’ve had a lot of discussions with many members. As you know, I’m not shy.”

I asked Spano if he would bring the bill to the floor if he were in Skelos’ shoes – even if he knew the majority of the conference would prefer not to that happen. He reminded me that a controversial casino gaming bill was reported out to the floor back in his day, even though only a handful of members wanted to see that happen. The bill passed.

“The minute I knew the votes were there, I would put it on the floor,” Spano said.

“The casino bill came out even when the majority of members opposed it because we felt it was in the best interest of the state to move forward. That’s what a leader does – makes a decision based on what he decides the members want and also what’s best for the conference.”

Brooklyn GOP Vows ‘Battle’ For Weiner’s District

Brooklyn GOP Chairman Craig Eaton announced this morning that he has already begun speaking with potential candidates to run for the seat vacated yesterday by former Rep. Anthony Weiner and is working with his Queens counterpart, Phil Ragusa, to set up formal interviews.

Voters in Brooklyn and Queens need someone to represent their moderate to conservative views on issues like jobs, taxes, and keeping America safe,” said Brooklyn Republican Chairman Craig Eaton.

“Hard-working men and women in our local neighborhoods are ignored by the liberal Democratic officeholders that dominate New York politics,” Eaton said in a statement reelased shortly after 8 a.m.

“We intend on changing that by sending another Republican to Washington to fight for our working class and middle class voters, building on the GOP victories of last year with Congressman Michael Grimm and Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis beating incumbents to take seats in Congress and the NYS Assembly.”

“We are confident that the candidate which is selected will make this an extremely competitive race. Let us not forget that Bob Turner, a businessman with no prior political experience, garnered 40 percent of the vote against incumbent Anthony Weiner in the last election cycle – this sends a clear message that this seat is definitely in play for the GOP.”

Political numbers crunchers have insisted NY-9 is indeed in play for the Republicans, noting President Obama carried the district by just 56 percent in 2008 (relatively low for the Democrat-dominated city).

But the DCCC sent out a fact sheet on the district yesterday that portrays it as “solidly Democratic” with a 63 percent performance index for the party.

About 70 percent of the district is located in Queens, while 30 percent is in Brooklyn, so the Queens County leaders will control which candidates get selected – assuming the governor calls a special. (There’s some disagreement over whether he is constitutionally mandated to do so).

Also: Independent candidates can petition their way onto the ballot if they’re passed over for the special election by party leaders. Jack Davis did that in NY-26. Candidates have about 12 days to collect 3,000 legal signatures, which really means gathering about three times that number to provide insurance in the face of all-but certain challenges.

The list of potential candidates on both the Democratic and GOP sides continues to grow. NYC Councilman Eric Ulrich appears to be the GOP favorite, and is being urged by former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani to run. City Hall has a pretty comprehensive rundown here.

Spitzer’s Advice To Weiner

The road to redemption requires a period of reflection, according to the former-governor-turned-TV-host, who knows a thing or two about coming back from a sex scandal.

“It’s not going to be an easy time; I can tell him that,” Eliot Spitzer said last night during an “In the Arena” segment with founder Dan Abrams.

“…You sit, you reflect, you figure out what you did wrong Why you did it wrong. What you can contribute back to society. You then go out and you try to do things you think will contribute. You begin to lead a life and try to put it back together, and you spend time with your family. I hope that’s what he does.”

Here And Now

Another day, another Senate GOP conference sheduled to begin at 10 a.m. In the meantime, some headlines:

Rep. Anthony Weiner’s final decision to step down was his, but his wife Huma Abedin had also decided that he should resign.

Huma Abedin is “beyond numb” and “angry” according to one source.

A witness who spotted the couple at a Long Island supermarket said Abedin was “all smiles.”

Abedin for Congress?

Weiner’s staff was often left in the dark throughout the scandal.

Potential Weiner replacements aren’t that excited about running for what will be a lame duck seat.

Michael Daly thinks scandals like Weinergate and Chris Lee’s resignation are making woman politicians more appealing to voters.

Weiner has retirement benefits that are far more generous than what most workers with similar pay and duration of service could ever hope to match.

The former congressman’s job prospects are probably better than the average out-of-work Joe’s.

The director of HBO’s “Entourage” wants Weiner to appear as himself in a cameo.

Weiner’s high school cancelled his planned commencement speech.

Eliot Spitzer says Weiner should take time to reflect and “figure out what you did wrong.”

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