Libous, Grisanti Meet With Cuomo, Won’t Discuss Details

Republican Sens. Tom Libous of Binghamton and Mark Grisanti of Buffalo met privately with Gov. Andrew Cuomo for about 40 minutes, but didn’t offer up too many details once the meeting was over.

“We just had a conversation about finishing up the end of session — UB 2020 and it ties into Binghamton and wrapping up and getting out of here,” Libous said referring to the economic-development program considered vital to the city of Buffalo and Grisanti’s re-election.

Meanwhile, the Legislature appears posied to vote on SUNY 2020, which, among other components, would allow for annual tuition increases over five years.

The meeting between the governor, Grisanti and Libous also included Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy, who jetted back up to the third floor to avoid a media scrum. Libous, too, seemed eager to avoid the small press contingent and tried to herd Grisanti away.

It also raised a few eyebrows because Grisanti remains undecided on same-sex marriage legalization, a position he says he hasn’t changed. Libous, a firm no vote on the marriage bill, said no formal religious exemption language was shown.

You know what, I’m not going to tell you it didn’t come up, but it wasn’t heavily discussed.

GOP Competition In NY-22

Apparently, George Phillips is NOT the only Republican interested in taking on Democratic Rep. Maurice Hinchey.

Not long after I posted Phillips’ email announcing his intention to mount a third House campaign next fall, GOP consultant Rob Ryan called to say he has a client, Thomas Engel, who is also interested in running.

Ryan forwarded a letter that Engel, a private practice attorney, former assistant US Attorney, and longtime ally/appointee of former Gov. George Pataki (hence, the connection to Ryan, a former Pataki aide), sent earlier this month to GOP and Conservative Party leaders announcing his intention to raise/spent $2 million to challenge Hinchey in 2012.

“2012 will be a tougher year for Republicans than 2010; President Obama will be up for re-election, and the Democrats will be out in force registering new voters on the college campuses throughout the congressional district,” Engel wrote.

“If the Republican Party is to defeat Maurice Hinchey, we must have a candidate who can raise over $2,000,000 and wage a no-holds-barred campaign against him. If I enter this race, I will be that candidate.”

Engel contributed to Phillips last year and said he ran a “great race”, but “sadly” came up short. He’s planning on filing paperwork to establish an exploratory committee at the end of the month. (“Exploratory” because of the uncertainty that redistricting adds to the mix, Ryan said).

Engel will seed the committee with “six figures of his own money – partially a loan, partially a donation – then assess as we move forward,” Ryan said, adding: “He has wherewithal to both raise and put in money that will be needed to defeat (Hinchey).”

Obviously, Republicans smell blood in the water after Hinchey’s tough race last year.

Engel-gop Chairs Final

Silver: Nothing Ugly About What We’re Doing

Well, we’ve heard this one before.

But Assembly Speaker Sheldon Siver exited a closed-door meeting with Gov. Andrew Cuomo to say he expected the major pieces of legislation — a tax cap, SUNY tuition increase scheme, rent control for New York City — will be taken up and passed by the end of the day.

But broken out of that measure will be the SUNY 2020 plan, which will be a separate, stand-alone measure.

“There’s no omnibus, nothing’s ugly about what we’re doing. Rent, tax cap and mandate all deal with affordability of homes,” Silver said. “Upstate, downstate. That’s the only piece of legislation. Suny cuny is separate.”

Still, Silver said bill language is yet to be finalized for the non-ugly big ugly.

“There’s still drafting that’s taking place…we know where we want to go,” Silver said. “I could say to you if you want to go to california from here and I agreee we’re going I may take a different airline than you will.”

Meanwhile, he says he hasn’t seen a final copy of the religious exemption amendment for the same-sex marriage bill which already passed his chamber.

“Not a final signed off copy. Contains religious protections for religious organizations. For religious organizations period. It reinforces it a little bit,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Senate plans to conference the health-insurance exchange bill later this afternoon. A separate conference on whether a same-sex marriage bill brought to the floor for a vote is expected later today.

Upstate Advice On SSM

Assemblywoman Addie Russell is a same-sex marriage “yes” voter who replaced a no-voting fellow Democrat (Darrel Aubertine) back in 2008.

Russell represents a conservative upstate district and yet has managed to survive – and even thrive – politically despite her progressive position on this controversial issue. The assemblywoman was elected in a special election after Aubertine was elected in his own special election to a previously held GOP seat in the Senate, (he has since moved on to accept a post as Ag and Markets commissioner in the Cuomo administration).

Russell appeared on CapTon last night and offered the following advice to her colleagues across the Capitol who might be struggling with how they’ll vote on a same-sex marriage bill if it comes to the floor:

“Well, I’ve just been very upfront with my constituents,” she said. “When I first ran for office, I let everyone know how I planned to vote if the issue came up, so it wasn’t a surprise to anyone. I think if you have an opinion it’s best to state it and let the voters know that. They may not agree with you, but it’s not a surprise, they know how you’re going to vote.”

So far, only two members of the 32-member GOP conference have publicly pronounced their intention to vote “yes,” while most senators have clearly stated their “no” positions.

A small handful remain on the fence. They include: Sens. Mark Grisanti, Andrew Lanza, Greg Ball (although he has sounded a lot like a “no” of late), Steve Saland. Also being watched as potential flippers from “no” to “yes” – Sens. John Flanagan and Kemp Hannon, although he has been pretty clear about not changing his mind.

Religious Exemption Could Be In Big Ugly

The amendment to the same-sex marriage bill, which is expected to include broader religious exemption language, could be included in the “big ugly” omnibus bill, making it difficult for Republican lawmakers to vote against.

Assembly Majority Leader Ron Canestrari said the amendment to Cuomo’s marriage bill, which already passed the Democratic-controlled chamber, will likely be released later this afternoon.

“It may be part of the omnibus, big ugly if you will. We’d do it all in one bill,” he said. “I don’t know that yet, but it may one of the pieces in the puzzle.”

The omnibus bill is believed to include a 2 percent cap on local property taxes, a long-term rent control extension for New York City and mandate relief in order to accommodate the cap.

Putting the amendment in a giant bill with so many needed pieces of legislation would be a major end-run around Senate Republicans who want a tax cap, but are opposed to same-sex marriage.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said this morning after meeting with Gov. Andrew Cuomo that minor techinical matters remain over printing the bill. And he said his GOP conference will discuss whether to bring the same-sex marriage bill to the floor for a vote.

Pataki Says He May Be ‘Compelled’ To Consider 2012 Run

Maureen Mackey of the Fiscal Times sat down for a “wide-ranging” interview with former New York Governor George Pataki, where he made it clear that he is not impressed by the current GOP field. Also specifically saying that he is upset that Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels didn’t throw his hat in the ring.

Here is an excerpt of his interview.

“Well I’m not running now, but I think we do need someone who has both a serious deficit- reduction program that they can outline and a good chance of defeating President Obama come next fall. So hopefully a candidate will emerge from the GOP field that does that, someone I could feel strongly about and support.”

“I’m disappointed that Mitch Daniels didn’t run because had he run, I think he would have made this an issue, and he certainly has the track record in Indiana of success to point to, but I hope someone fills that void. And if not, I’ll certainly feel compelled to take a look.”

Pataki has spent the past few months talking about the issue of debt, after forming his No American Debt PAC back in April. During that time he has made a lot of trips to New Hampshire, and even launched an anti-Obama ad in the Granite state.

Pataki has also been spending some time in Iowa. On Monday, he even called out some GOP presidential contenders saying they should be campaigning in the Hawkeye State, saying Iowa represents “the type of politics that is good for America.”

Senate Will Conference Gay Marriage Vote Today

It’s going to be a long day.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said this morning that his GOP conference will discuss for the first time today whether to let the same-sex marriage bill come to the floor for a vote. Skelos did not give a time for this closed-door confab.

The majority members have had several lengthy discussions about the issue of gay marriage in general, but have not yet officially wrestled with the question of whether they want to vote on the controversial issue or punt.

“We’re going to conference the language of the amendments; we’re going to conference the whole issue,” Skelos said. “And I expect that that’s going to take a little time.”

Skelos refused to say whether he believed the vote could take place in the middle of the night (to minimize TV coverage and allow for a quick getaway), as has been widely speculated. He said the conference will make that decision.

As for the “big ugly,” Skelos insisted that “everything is on track,” although some technical details are still being worked out. He said some bill printing has begun and he is “optimistic” and “hopeful” about passage sometime today.

All but one (Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr.) of the 30 Democratic senators have announced they will vote “yes” if the bill comes to the floor, including three who voted “no” when the bill failed in 2009: Sens. Carl Kruger, Shirley Huntley and Joe Addabbo.

Two members of the 32-member GOP conference have announced they will join the Democrats in voting “yes” – Sens. Roy McDonald and Jim Alesi.

That leaves the gay marriage bill one vote short of the 32 needed for passage. Republicans who have been working on this issue have insisted the 32nd vote has been secured, but they refuse to reveal who that individual is. A number of GOP senators have privately said they believe the bill will pass – perhaps even with 34 or 35 votes – if it is allowed onto the floor.

The question now is if the majority of the majority conference is willing to let the bill out. They’re under enormous pressure from the Conservative Party, which has threatened to un-endorse any Republican who votes “yes,” and the religious right, which is threatening to primary any straying GOP senators.

However, these threats are offset somewhat by the deep-pocketed and well-organized LGBT community, which has pledged to protect “yes” voters and also will undoubtedly be furious if the bill doesn’t at least come to the floor a second time.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has been pushing very hard on this one, had said he didn’t want to see the bill come to the floor if it was going to fail. But he changed his tune yesterday, saying the public deserves an up-or-down vote.

Another Sign Of A Long Night

Republican Assemblyman Steve Katz just sent out a press advisory cancelling a town hall he had scheduled for 7pm tonight in Brewster. And he didn’t mince words, blaming the “extended legislative session” for the cancellation.

It’s just another sign that lawmakers expect to be here late tonight, as leaders still debate bill language on mandate relief, and other issues.

Another sign that we might be here for a while came from a tweet by the Associated Press’s capitol bureau chief Mike Gormley.

He wrote: “Caution for those hoping for an end soon to the NY legislative session: NYC lobbyists and staffers asking where they can buy dress shirts.”

Schumer, Gillibrand Praise Prez Over Oil Decision

President Obama’s decision to tap into the strategic petroleum reserve was quickly praised by both of New York’s Senators. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand have been asking the president to open up the oil reserves for months now, as gas prices skyrocketed.

“The President has heeded our call to release oil from the strategic reserve. This can only help in combating the all-too-high price consumers face at the pump, and is a needed shot in the arm for our economy. We hope the President will continue to keep a watchful eye on the situation with oil prices, and if this dollop proves to be insufficient, will consider releasing more from the reserve,” Schumer said.

Senator Gillibrand said in a statement, “I applaud President Obama’s decision to release oil from the SPR. With our families already struggling in this difficult economy, the last thing we need is for gasoline prices to continue to skyrocket. This release will stabilize gas prices and provide crucial relief to families here in New York and across the country.”

Under the president’s plan, 30 million barrels will immediately be put into the market, and 60 million barrels will be tapped over the next few months. The decision was timed to provide some relief for the summer months, when demand spikes.

Hinchey Challenger Hopes 3rd Time’s A Charm

George Phillips, a conservative Republican who has twice failed to unseat veteran Democratic Rep. Maurice Hinchey, has decided to make a third attempt at a House seat in 2012.

A reader forwarded me an email Phillips sent to supporters early yesterday morning announcing he has decided to run again next year after “much thought and prayer” with his family. He explained the move thusly:

“Our decision is based on the following:

1) We had one of the closest and most exciting races in the country in 2010

2) We believe our district will be improved in the redistricting process

3) Given our strong performance, we believe we can receive national support much earlier in 2012 if we start now

4) We have received tremendous encouragement to run again from so many supporters as well as local, state and national leaders.

5) We face great challenges as a nation and I believe I can still make a difference serving in the United States Congress.”

Phillips did not specifically say he will challenge Hinchey again. It’s unclear what the already-sprawling 22nd CD will look like come 2012.

There had been some speculation that the 72-year-old Hinchey – who is undergoing treatment for colon cancer and had a tough re-election campaign, although he ended up winning by a comfortable, albeit not huge, margin – would be targeted in redistricting. But that was back before Weinergate.

Hinchey, who was first elected in 1992, fended off Phillips last fall by winning 52 percent of the vote – and that was in spite of the considerable cash spent on the race by outside-the-district GOP outfits like Karl Rove’s American Crossroads.

Hoping to get a jump on fundraising, Phillips said he is launching a “new strategy” for money-gathering. He’s asking supporters to make a small monthly donation to provide a steady stream of cash instead of writing one big check. He’s aiming for a strong showing in the next FEC report, the deadline of which is June 30.