Cuomo’s Health Commish Sails Through Senate

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s health commissioner pick, Dr. Nirav R. Shah, was unanimously approved by the state Senate today, making him the first confirmed agency head of the new administration.


The remarks on the Senate floor – from both Republicans and Democrats – were overwhelmingly positive. Glowing even. He was, according to CapCon’s Rick Karlin, lightly grilled earlier today by members of the Senate Health Committee, although they unanimously recommended his confirmation.

While acknowledging that Shah undoubtedly has his work cut out for him, with a sizable chunk of the $10 billion worth of spending cuts anticipated in Cuomo’s budget likely to come from the hides of Medicaid and education aid, the senators lauded the 38-year-old Buffalo native for his impressive resume and familiarity with upstate.

Shah, who was seated with his family in the Senate gallery, received a standing ovation following his confirmation by voice vote. He was very smiley – we’ll see how he looks when the executive budget comes out on Feb. 1.

The new health commissioner is a Battery Park City resident who is currently attending physician at Bellevue Hospital Center, associate investigator at the Geisinger Center for Health Research and assistant professor of Medicine in the Section of Value & Comparative Effectiveness at NYU Langone Medical Center.

Shah replaces Dr. Richard Daines, who served as DOH commissioner during the Spitzer and Paterson administrations.

Sampson’s McMillan Moment

Failed gubernatorial candidate Jimmy McMillan and his signature “rent is too damn high” tagline continues to reverberate through NY politics.

Here’s footage of the Senate Democrats’ post-property tax relief press conference Q-and-A with reporters. Look for Senate Minority Leader John Sampson saying that property taxes in NY are “too damn high.”

Reilich On Alesi: We ‘Expect More’

Here’s Monroe County GOP/Assemblyman Bill Reilich talking to CapTon’s Mike Whittemore about his decision to “publicly denounce” Sen. Jim Alesi for his decision to sue his own constituents after he trespassed on their property three years ago, badly breaking his leg in the process.

Reilich says he believes voters are particularly angry with the Rochester Republican because this is sort of a “there but for the grace of God” situation, explaining:

“I think we have to, as elected officials, be looked at a little differently than the private citizen and expect a little more,” Reilich said.

“This isn’t a personal matter such as an argument with a sister or a family member or even into the personal affairs of his home. We’re talking about a lawsuit that was filed against citizens, constituents of his.”

“I think most people relate to the fact that this could have been them. He could have wandered into anyone’s home that was being built and this lawsuit could have been against them at this point.”

Klein Accepts Sampson’s Offer, Decries ‘Power Plays’

Sen. Jeff Klein, the ringleader of the Independence Democratic Conference, said the renegade foursome will accept Minority Leader John Sampson’s offer of committee assignments, but couldn’t help but bite the hand that fed him in the process.

“I think watching what happened over the last three weeks, and Senator Sampson’s power plays and actions and not assigning us to committees as duly elected Democrats, I think really brought home the reason about why we decided to start an Independent Democratic Conference,” Klein told reporters.

“This is not about games. This is not about power plays. This is about governing. This is about governing in a bipartisan fashion. Democrats and Republicans, and I think in answer to the question, its about time that we were assigned to committees. We’ll accept the committees.”

Klein noted that Sampson had offered the IDC members four committees each, while other Democratic senators have five or more. The Bronx Democrat said he’s hoping his former leader will allow the foursome the chance to serve on more committees in the future.

Klein’s remarks came at a press conference at which the IDC released a report on chronic overspending and other concerns at the Office of Children and Family Services.

Senate Dems Back Cuomo’s Tax Cap, Go Further (Updated)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has made a property tax cap one of his top priorities (after the budget, of course) and although he also tapped a mandate relief team, he has yet to commit to linking one to the other – even though local elected officials and school districts insist they’ll go broke without that connection.

The Senate Democrats today unveiled their property tax cap plan, and while it mirrors Cuomo’s call for a 2 percent cap (or, the rate of inflation, whichever is lower), it also includes an “immediate” four-year moratorium on unfunded mandates from the state government.

UPDATE: Just to be clear, the Democrats, who passed a one-house tax cap bill back when they were still in control of the chamber last year, want to pass a stand-alone cap and then move on to the issues of mandate relief and a circuit breaker.

Among ideas floated by the minority conference to assist school districts: Flexibility on funding for textbook aid, Pre-K, and information technology; savings and effeciencies for the BOCES system, protections for school finance information and new training on cost-savings and collaboration.

The Senate Dems would like to see local governments allowed to piggyback on state and federal contracts, changes to the procurement system and a required fiscal note on all legislation so lawmakers have some idea of the cost their bills would impose lower down the democratic food chain.

Another break between the Senate Dems and Cuomo: The minority wants to include a so-called “circuit breaker” to directly tie property taxes to the adjusted annual income of homeowners, not merely the value of their property.

Opponents of Cuomo’s plan – a group that includes both teachers unions and some taxpayer groups – have been pushing the circuit breaker idea, which has a number of drawbreaks.

First, it would only benefit homeowners, and not businesses, which are also seeking relief from the mounting property tax burned. Second, if it includes a tax credit, it’s not free, and the state is already struggling to dig itself out of a $10 billion (or more) budget deficit.

The Senate Democrats’ press release says they’re “building” on support for Cuomo’s tax cap. The package is being carried by freshman Sen. Tim Kennedy, of Buffalo, who, incidentally, also delivered the conference response to the governor’s State of the State address.

Alesi Under Pressure

Sen. Jim Alesi is under pressure from all sides – including within his own party – for his decision to sue a couple in whose home he trespassed three years ago, breaking his leg in the process.

The Rochester Republican’s constituents and onetime allies seem particularly outraged by the fact that he has gone this route after the couple in question declined to press charges against him.

Monroe County GOP Chairman/Assemblyman Bill Reilich had some particularly harsh words for Alesi, saying he’s “outraged” by the lawsuit.

“While no doubt the Senator suffered physical trauma, I stand with the countless number of every day citizens as well as party faithful who believe that his recent decision is unacceptable,” Reilich said in a statement.

“The homeowners in this situation decided against dragging their elected official into a legal matter and let the statute of limitations expire on the charge of trespassing. Imagine their shock when they learned that their Senator did not turn the other cheek and accept personal responsibility for the obvious accident that occurred.”

“While Senator Alesi is clearly calling this situation a ‘personal matter,’ I must disagree. As an elected official, the public justifiable holds us to a higher standard, we must guard the trust they place in each of us. ”

“Therefore, I must publicly denounce Senator Alesi’s decision to move forward with this lawsuit and ask that he reconsider his position and accept this incident as an unfortunate accident. Senator Alesi needs to drop this irresponsible lawsuit, appologize (sic) and get to work at rebuilding the shattered trust of his constituents.”

Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks was somewhat more subdued in her response during a YNN interview earlier today, but she sought to distance herself from the senator, saying this was an “individual decision” that he has to “take ownership” for.

IDC’s Carlucci ‘Unsure’ On Sampson’s Committee Offers

At least once of the Independence Democratic Conference members is as yet reluctant to accept the offer of committee assignments extended to the four renegades over the weekend by Minority Leader John Sampson.

“I don’t know all the details yet; I just got the letter this weekend, so I’m going to see what the best options are for my district and go from there,” Sen. David Carlucci told me during a brief telephone interview this afternoon.

“Obviously, I want to do what’s in the best interest of the district and be on the committees I think will be able to move legislation that has the most impact.”

“…(These assignments) are not necessarily ones that I thought would be great for myself and my district. I want to talk to the Senate counsel and see what the options are.”

As I reported Saturday morning, Sampson sent letters to the foursome indicating that he and Majority Leader Dean Skelos had agreed the Democratic leader still has jurisdiction over the IDC members even though they’re technically no longer members of his conference.

More >

Oral Arguments In Haggerty Trial Delayed

Oral arguments in the trial of John Haggerty, the Queens-based GOP consultant who is accused of stealing some $1 million worth of cash Mayor Bloomberg contributed to the state Independence Party, were supposed to take place this morning, but have been delayed until Feb. 8, NY1′s Grace Rauh reports.

Haggerty’s legal team, led by his former boss (and former AG) Dennis Vacco, spent about an hour this morning conferencing behind closed doors with Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Ronald Zweibel.

The judge emerged and announced the new date for the oral arguments (that’s a Tuesday, and the scheduled start time in 10 a.m.), but didn’t offer an explanation.

Vacco spoke briefly with reporters and said it appeared the judge needed more time to review the motion to dismiss filed by Haggerty’s team.

Haggerty was in court today, but didn’t say anything, according to Rauh.

In an unrelated development on the Haggerty front, the Post’s David Seifman reported over the weekend that the NYC Campaign Finance Board has, at the Manhattan DA’s request, decided to hold off its review on whether the mayor violated disclosure laws by channeling cash intended for Haggerty through the Indy Party.

Coming And Going (Upated)

It looks like this is going to turn into a semi-regular feature as news of additions and subtractions in the lobbying/consulting world at the dawn of a new gubernatorial administration.

The latest:

- Christopher J. Duryea, a veteran lobbyist and former Assembly legislative director, has joined the Albany-based lobbying firm Marsh, Wassermann & McHugh.

Duryea represents clients in numerous public policy areas including telecommunications, manufacturing, transportation, health care, insurance, gaming and racing. He’s departing his post as a partner at the Crane Consulting Group and is a past VP of the Cable Telecommunications Association of New York.

- Mercurcy Public Affairs, a NYC-based firm with offices in Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, Washington, D.C. and California, is doing a lot of hiring these days. The newest addition: Political strategist Austin Finan, who is director of NY Government Relations.

Finan was a political associate at the Parkside Group, the preferred firm of the DSCC for the last campaign cycle. He has worked on a number of campaigns, including (now former Rep.) Mike Arcuri for Congress (2006, 2008), Ed Braunstein for state Assembly (2010) and Jerry Iannece for NYC Council (2009).

- UPDATE: A reader sends one more…Keith Powers, formerly of Assemblyman Jonathan Bing’s office, has joined Constantinople and Vallone Consulting, LLC. Powers was replaced on Bing’s staff by Jake Dilemani, who left The Parkside Group on Dec. 31 to join the public payroll.

Bloomberg: SoU An ‘Opportunity’ For Obama to Push For Gun Control

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg says President Obama should use tomorrow’s State of the Union address to make a “pledge” to call for the enactment of stricter gun control laws.

Specifically, Bloomberg is calling for legislation to close loopholes allowing for guns to be sold without background checks. He is also supporting Rep. McCarthy’s bill to ban high capacity clips, like the one that Jared Lee Loughner used in Tucson.

Bloomberg says Mayors have been doing all they can, but the current problems can only be fixed on the federal level.

“We need courage of someone to stand up and do something about that,” Bloomberg said.

The Mayor went on to suggest that members of Congress may be removed from the issue. He told reporters that Mayors are the ones that go to funerals, and deliver eulogies.

Before he spoke, he had 34 families tell their stories of gun violence. The number was symbolic, because Bloomberg says everyday 34 people are killed in gun related crimes.