Cuomo’s Labor Gamble

One last clip from last night’s CapTon – this time from PEF President Ken Brynien, who opined on whether Gov. Andrew Cuomo tough approach with labor unions could come back to bite him if he runs for president in 2016.

I asked Brynien if he thought Cuomo, who is at odds with progressives in general, but at war with the teachers and state workers unions, might have sufficient time to patch things up between now and a potential White House bid.

“His father tried to run for president, or at least made noise about it. Didn’t quite get there. And it could be because he didn’t have full support of labor… I don’t know. He’s got time today. I’ll sit down with him now if he wants to talk, and I bet the other union leaders would too,” the PEF president responded.

“I know there’s a lot going on with the gay marriage thing and the rent control thing and all the other things that are going on in the state. But when you’re in that position, when you’re sitting in the governor’s seat, you’ve got to be able to juggle all these thing at once.”

Cuomo seems to be taking a divide-and-conquer approach with the state workers, who have been without a contract since midnight on April 1. While he might have failed in getting a model contract from Council 82, might he have some success driving a wedge between the two largest state employee unions?

The TU’s Rick Karlin noted that CSEA members did NOT appear to take part in large numbers in yesterday’s rallies protesting the layoffs with which the governor is moving ahead in the absence of concessions worth some $450 million. A CSEA spokesman told the paper the union is at a “critical stage” of contract talks.

By contrast, Brynien told me yesterday that the Cuomo administration hasn’t come to the negotiating table with his union for about four weeks now.

It’s hard to see how any Democratic presidential candidate succeeds without labor in his (or her) corner in 2016, even with the famously fractured movement diminishing in power over the years. But public sector employees are the boogeyman du jour these days for governors all over the country (particularly Republicans, consider Wisconsin).

So, perhaps Cuomo is banking on the fact that he’s got the public opinion on his side here – much like with gay marriage – and also is counting on the fact that labor won’t likely support a Republican, particularly not with the rightward trend the party has been taking of late.

UPDATE: A Cuomo aide noted the governor enjoyed widespread labor support during the 2010 campaign, with the exception of some holdouts like NYSUT and CSEA. However, Brynien told me yesterday that had he known then what he knows now, he would not have backed Cuomo.

The point here is twofold: 1) There was no way labor was going to back a Republican – certainly not Carl Paladino, and 2) Cuomo had no record as an executive with labor (he was good with the unions during his four years as AG, leaders say), but now he’s got one on which he’ll be judged going forward.

Long: Carveouts In Marriage Bill Not Good Enough

Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long today sent a memo to Republican lawmakers who may sign on to a same-sex marriage bill saying that religious carveouts that some are seeking won’t go far enough.

“Carving out exceptions in a proposed law to change the definition of marriage will do nothing to protect the small businesses that will be affected by yet another mandate and could force more businesses to leave the state,” Long said.

Three lawmakers — Sens. Kemp Hannon, Steve Saland and Andrew Lanza — have met with Gov. Andrew Cuomo on mutlitple occaisions to discuss a possible chapter amendment to the same-sex marriage bill.

Long has said any Republican lawmaker who votes for the bill would lose the Conservative Party ballot line — a valuable asset in a close contest.

Two Republican senators so far — Roy McDonald and Jim Alesi — have both said they would vote yes. Several more are rumored to be on the fence, including Saland, Lanza and Greg Ball of the Hudson Valley.

But Long also says New Yorkers want fiscal solutions from lawmakers, not social ones.

New Yorker’s priorities are tax relief, mandate relief and jobs. They are not focused on changing the definition of marriage. Changing the definition of marriage will not change the economic climate in New York State, yet if the Wicks Law is eliminated and the Triborough Amendment tossed, the economy could grow.

Tedisco Trumpets Paperless Legislature

Assemblyman Jim Tedisco is celebrating the passage of his paperless Legislature bill, saying the effort will save the state money and be good to the environment.

“Mother Earth is smiling today and so are taxpayers because the New York State Legislature is going digital to stop the wasteful printing of bills,” Tedisco said. “This is a victory for taxpayers and for anyone who cares about reducing our carbon footprint.”

The bill would replace the piles and piles of paper used to print bills and other legislative documents, only to be thrown out several hours after the fact.

During the budget battle, the Schenectady Republican made a show of standing behind a stack of budget bills, saying that it cost the astate $13 million. The bill now requires the bills to be filed electronically.

“This bill, which cuts down on paper usage and promotes greater government efficiency, is very much in synch with our holistic approach to encouraging government to go digital to protect the environment and save taxpayer dollars,” he said in a statement.

The measure now goes to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who hasn’t indicated if he’d sign the bill — presumably on paper.

Skelos Introduces Amendments To Rent Reg, Tax Cap (Updated)

With Albany in an apparent log jam over rent regulation, same-sex marriage, and a property tax cap, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos quietly introduced a href=””>amendments to an omnibus bill addressing the tax cap and rent regulation.

Skelos told reporters this morning that he thinks the amendments will break the gridlock. He also says his plan does not include a sunset for the tax cap, which Speaker Sheldon Silver had proposed. Silver wanted to link the expiration date to the end of the new rent regulation bill.

“Working with the industry, there have been modifications to the rent regulations–increasing some of the income limits,” Skelos said.

“We would have the property tax cap permanent. We would also make sure those that are getting the benefits of rent stabilization when they shouldn’t be will be weeded out of the program.”

The Senate GOP bill would raise the income threshold for eligibility only slightly, from $175,000 to $200,000. It would also make the rent level $2100 for apartments with under 50 units, and $2400 for places with more than 50 units.

Also, there appears to be a lot of amended language in this bill that requires tenants to file taxes in New York City if they want to keep their apartments. (Not sure if this would be a sticking point. You can find it near the very end of the bill text.)

UPDATE: Bill also states that a tenant would lose their rent controlled apartment if they cast a vote from another location in any election. Here is the bill language on that:


The bill also includes a new section on mandate relief, calling for the establishment of a Council on Mandate Relief. Here’s some bill text describing what it would do:


Diaz: I Was Misquoted!

Sen. Ruben Diaz, D-Bronx, claims he was misquoted on Monday when asked if though same-sex marriage was an inevitability.

Diaz, a Pentecostal minister and avowed opponent, responded in the affirmative.

Today, he claims the press misquoted him and took that statement out of context. Only his clarifying statement still suggests he thinks same-sex marriage will be legalized in New York.

From his release:

For the sake of accuracy, this is what I said:

“Because the Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo is making the Republicans do what the Democrats could not do when they were in the majority, the Republicans are bending to the Democratic Governor and gay marriage is inevitable in the State of New York.”

Diaz also says he was “amazed” with the speed at which he was misquoted.

“The press took one phrase from my comment and as a result it has appeared in this morning’s newspapers completely out of context,” he said.

People Are Watching

Yesterday’s passionate rallies in the halls of capitol aren’t the only indication of how heated the issue of gay marriage is here in New York. The Human Rights Campaign, which has been leading a coordinated public relations push for same-sex marriage, just announced that more than a million people have viewed their videos featuring celebrities, athletes and top politicians from Mayor Bloomberg to Russell Simmons to Michael Strahan.

“This has been an incredible campaign. We are in the home stretch. We are grateful to all New Yorkers who lent their voices to the fight for equality,” said HRC Senior New York Strategist, Brian Ellner. “Their efforts and participation helped people realize that support for marriage equality is about basic fairness for all New Yorkers.”

If you want to check out the videos, you can see them here.

This campaign has been so successful that the National Organization for Marriage, the leading group opposing gay marriage, has also started to try and utilize celebrities to make their case, starting with an interview they did with former NY Giant Wide Receiver David Tyree, who was also at the capitol yesterday lobbying against passage of the bill.

Hoyt’s Prediction

ICYMI: Assemblyman Sam Hoyt joined me live last night on CapTon and surprised me with his prediction about the outcome of the deadlock over the rent laws.

“My instinct is that ultimately what we’ll see happen is the current law extended, because obviously those landlords are a powerful lobby,” the Buffalo Democrat said. They have the ear of the Senate, no doubt. I think the Senate understands, in the end, an extension is going to happen. It’s just, in what form?”

A straight extension with no strengthened protections for tenants and no change in the income and rent thresholds which landlords can begin charging tenants market rate? That would indeed be a big win for the Senate Republicans and their landlord allies. That suggestion also runs counter to everything we’ve been hearing down at the Capitol.

I asked Hoyt, who is a longtime ally of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whether he thought his downstate-dominated conference would accept such a thing, and he replied:

“You know, I can’t speak for my New York City colleagues. I’m just telling you what my instinct is. You mentioned the word ‘gridlock’ earlier, and people are frustrated and people are anxious to get all of these three and other issues resolved. And in the end, compromise is what we do here in Albany, and I’m just telling you how I feel in the end it’s going to end up.”

A New Sticking Point?

During a CapTon interview that aired last night, Sen. Marty Golden injected a new element into the rent laws/property tax cap/gay marriage discussion: Mandate relief.

While that may come as music to the ears of local municipal and school officials who have been warning that passing a cap in a vacuum – even if it is followed by mandate relief some time down the road – could force them into bankruptcy, the addition of a very complicated issue to an already complicated mess of unrelated policy proposals isn’t likely to speed up negotiations.

“I don’t believe we’re holding up,” Golden insisted. I believe that this bill gets done with property tax cap and rent control. But I do believe there has to be a follow up shortly thereafter on the mandate relief. That’s part of the discussion…It may not be in this session but it definitely has to be part of the discussion that there will be mandate relief.”

I noted that “mandate relief” is a catch-all phrase that can include all sorts of things, some of which are quite complex and politically controversial – pension reform, and repeal of the Triborough Amendment and Taylor Law, for example. Asked what sort of relief the Senate GOP might be seeking, Golden replied:

“I think they need to get a commitment that they are going to do mandate relief regardless of what it extends to. I believe there has to be an agreement that we’re going to, whether it’s picking up the Medicaid costs in the towns and the villages and the counties, whatever.”

“Going forward we need some type of commitment to work together to provide that mandate relief. Will that tie up the rent control and the property tax cap? Not really. But it definitely is part of the discussion.”

Here And Now

Welcome to the first official day of summer. The Legislature is not on vacation, and so neither are we.

The Senate GOP is due to conference at 10 a.m. Both houses of the Legislature passed another rent laws extender last night – this one lasts through midnight tonight. Dueling protests are expected again at the Capitol on the same-sex marriage issue. And now, headlines…

The key to unlocking the 2011 session deadlock: What does Skelos want?

There will be no gay marriage vote in the Senate until there’s a rent control deal the GOP feels doesn’t overly protect rich downstaters.

“We’re not looking to protect the wealthy,” the majority leader said. “We’re looking to ensure that rent stabilization helps affordability.”

For Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the stakes are very high, writes Jacob Gershman. “Prominent campaign promises hinge on the outcome of these negotiations, which have the potential to set a pattern for his young administration.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver accused the Senate GOP of being inflexible.

NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who has lobbied hard for the marriage bill, predicted the vote will come tomorrow or Thursday.

“Everyone agrees in concept, that we’ve talked to, that we should do whatever we can to protect religious expression,” said Sen. Andrew Lanza on the ongoing gay marriage talks. “Finding the language, I believe, will ultimately not be a problem.”

Sen. Greg Ball says the governor needs to “at least pay respect” to concerns about protecting individuals who have religious objections to gay marriage. Without the protections the GOP is seeking “I don’t see how the governor gets it done,” he said on CNN.

Sen. Mark Grisanti on whether he has made up his mind on gay marriage: “Not as of yet. Really.”

Clergy members are divided over whether they’ll perform same-sex marriages if the practice is legalized by the Legislature.

More >

Silver: Yes, Frustration Is Setting In

The gridlock at the Capitol today probably isn’t getting resolved any time soon.

Yet another three-way leaders meeting convened and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos emerged from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office to say nothing’s been agreed to.

“Nothing has been resolved in terms of rent, in terms of a property tax cap,” Skelos said.

Silver, asked by a reporter “at what point frustraion sets in” responded, “I’d say it has set in.”

Still left to be resolved is a property tax cap and rent control for New York City, both onerous and tricky issues.
Silver has said the issue of the tax cap, which is obstensibly aimed at helping upstate and suburban homeowners, is now completely linked to the rent control laws for New York City.

The Legislature is expected to approve yet another temporary extender measure for the rent regulations through Tuesday.

All three measures — the tax cap, the rent control bill and the same-sex marriage bill — are considered linked in that a domino effect will be created once one measure passes. It’s also possible both measures may be consolidated into one omnibus bill in order to accomplish both measures at once.

It’s also tough recalling the last time all three leaders spoke to each other at the same time twice on the same day (the budget battle, perhaps?).

If anything, there