Some progress, but no deal in the federal budget talks. The congressional leaders will reconvene with President Obama at 7 p.m.

DCCC Chairman Steve Israel is fundraising off the threat of a shutdown, blaming the “Tea Party Republicans” who want the Democrats to “surrender to their outrageous demands.”

The DSCC solicited funds for a “Shut Them Down Project.” (The “Republican extremists,” that is).

Rep Jerry Nadler called the House GOP budget “the most radical budget we’ve seen in our lifetimes.”

Earlier this week, ex-NYC Schools Chancellor Joel Klein downplayed the exodus of top deputies from the Education Department, insisting it could actually benefit his (now former) replacement, Cathie Black.

Dan Collins is looking forward to some peace and quiet under NYC Schools Chancellor-in-waiting Dennis Walcott.

Walcott told his new staffers: “You’ll see me in your offices, you’ll see me hanging out. I told some folks already, you guys don’t know what you’re in for. They’re going to have to tie me down, because I’m just going to be all over the place.”

This is all about Bloomberg’s legacy.

State Education Commissioner David Steiner said it was a “bizarre coincidence” that news of his departure broke on the same day as Black resigned.

Rudy Giuliani called a woman who questioned his opposition of an independent investigation of 9/11 “a conspiracy nut” and suggested she seek psychiatric help.

Donald Trump said he has “people” in Hawaii researching the president’s citizenship who “can’t believe what they’re finding.”

Sen. Tim Kennedy is on team sweet corn, and he wants you to be, too.

Sen. Liz Krueger says the budget passed by the Legislature last week was “not the best we could have done.”

Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. is continuing his criticism of both the budget and the governor.

An April Fool’s joke got Sen. Chuck Schumer in trouble with classic car buffs.

The formerly wayward Bronx Zoo cobra has a name. (Not my first choice).

CGI animated the whole fast food toy/trans fat, salt and smoking ban argument in NYC. Look for the moment when Bloomberg is depicted as throwing the Star of Davis at Colonel Sanders, Jewish Ninja-style. Weird.

Jeffries On The Extender Option Challenge

ICYMI: Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries told me during a CapTon interview last night that he could support a legal challenge to the governor’s use of budget extender bills to make policy, but doesn’t believe the Senate GOP’s legal challenge to a law ending so-called prison gerrymandering is the right way to go about that.

“I think there is a legitimate issue in terms of deciding what is the legislative perogative to be a co-equal branch of government in terms of the budget document, which is the most important thing that the governor and the Legislature can do in any given year,” the Brooklyn Democrat said.

“But this lawsuit is not the appropriate vehicle for that challenge for a variety of reasons.”

Jeffries maintained the change in how prisoners are counted for the purposes of redistricting was not done in an extender bill that was forced upon the Legislature as a take-it or leave-it choice, but rather through an Article 7 language bill that was negotiated – albeit after the April 1 deadline – by the governor, the Senate and the Assembly.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver admitted during an interview with WAMC’s Alan Chartock that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s threat of forcing lawmakers to choose between passing his entire budget in an extender bill and shutting down the government did help facilitate this year’s on-time budget – the first in five years.

The speaker also said during a recent interview with our Erin Billups that the executive’s extender power has “not been fully tested” and will likely be challenged in court at some future date.

Steiner Confirms Departure ‘Later This Year’

It’s a big day for education departures. First Cathie Black, and now this…

State Education Commissioner David Steiner just released the following statement confirming his plans to leave the post he has held since July 2009:

“As the end of the school year and the legislative session approaches, I am immensely proud of the reforms we’ve achieved – guiding New York’s successful Race to the Top application, designing a new teacher and school leader evaluation system, reforming teacher preparation and certification and implementing a tough re-setting of our 3-8 tests. ”

“With the anticipated approval of a final teacher evaluation program in the coming months, I have informed Chancellor Tisch and members of the Board of Regents that I intend to leave the State Education Department later this year. Together we will begin to plan for a seamless transition.”

Tisch, who let the cat almost all the way out of the bag during an interview this morning with the Capitol Pressroom’s Susan Arbetter, said the following:

“We recruited David because he is one of America’s leading education reform visionaries, and as Commissioner he has delivered – leading New York’s successful Race to the Top application and guiding this department through an amazing array of reforms. ”

“As he approaches the end of his second legislative session and second school year as Commissioner, he has informed me of his desire to return to a role outside of state government where he can continue to champion reform. I know he is weighing a number of exciting options. ”

“In the weeks to come the Board will begin an orderly transition and continue to move forward with our reform agenda.”

Steiner Next To Go

The man who granted embattled former NYC Schools Chancellor Cathie Black a controversial waiver enabling her to take the job she lost this morning might be following her out the door.

State Education Commissioner David Steiner’s departure is “imminent,” The Post’s Brendan Scott reports. A source with knowledge of Steiner’s plans confirmed for CapTon’s Nick Reisman that Steiner is indeed on the way out the door.

A formal statement is expected later today.

Steiner was confirmed by the Board of Regents in July 2009 to replace outgoing commissioner Richard Mills. Prior to this post, he was the dean of Hunter College. (The governor does not control the selection of the education commissioner – a fact that has long been a thorn in the side of any number of executives).

State Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch confirmed during an interview with the Capitol Pressroom’s Susan Arbetter this morning that Steiner is “exploring his options,” but hastened to add: “I think no decision has been made.”

Tisch praised Steiner, saying: “He put together a brilliant application for Race to the Top and created an extraordinary vision for educational reform … But, as I said, no decision has been made.”

Steiner was roundly criticized for heeding Mayor Bloomberg’s request to grant Black a waiver to run the nation’s largest public school system even though she had no experience as an educator. (That decision was challenged and upheld in court).

As a compromise, Bloomberg agreed to install a chief academic officer as Black’s No. 2 who will be staying on when Deputy Mayor Dennis Walcott takes the helm.

Walcott also needs a waiver. He attended public school, has taught kindergarten and holds a masters degree in education, but lacks the required certification as a school administrator. Bloomberg said today that he expects Walcott to receive the waiver in short order.

What A Shutdown Would Mean For NY

With a federal government shutdown looking increasingly likely, state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has outlined what impact that might have in both the long and short terms here in New York.

Congressional leaders and members of the Obama administration remain at odds in their budget battle, and lawmakers have now moved on to a debate over whether they should get paid if they fail to reach a deal (which some 800,000 civil services employees will not) – never a good sign.

Some of what DiNapoli lays out here is fairly obvious – about 126,000 full and part-time federal employees work in New York, and some $687 million in federal cash were used to partially or fully fund state emplloyees.

Less obvious is a potential cash flow crunch when the state is not able to draw down cash for federally-funded programs and projects. Not good at a time when we’re already facing a fiscal crisis here at home.


In Bid For Peace, Farm Bureau Holds Veggie Vote

As close followers of state politics are aware, the contentious, passionate debate over designating an official state vegetable blew up this week, with even Gov. Andrew Cuomo being forced to weigh in on the matter.

Though the governor declined to give his preference, the Farm Bureau has stepped in to make the decision easier for New York officials caught between the onion and the sweet corn.

The Farm Bureau, which is the state’s largest agriculture lobby, is holding a vote on the issue via a Facebook page.

“Picking an official vegetable is a tough choice,” said Dean Norton, president of New York Farm Bureau, in a statement. “As we do with all of our Farm Bureau policy positions, we are soliciting a consensus opinion from our members, and others interested in agriculture throughout New York.”

Democratic Sen. David Carlucci is backing the onion, while Sen. Michael Nozzolio, a Republican, is in favor of sweet corn.

Possibly throwing a monkey wrench into this debate, however, is the bureau’s suggestion of the pumpkin (quick aside: isn’t that gourd?)

From the bureau:

New York should also be considering the pumpkin as an official vegetable since it ranks first in the nation in crop value, according to the statistics service.

Pumpkins showed a value of $35.1 million last year, first in the nation. There were 6,800 acres harvested. Value of production in 2010 increased 61 percent from 2009.

Skelos vs. Koch, War Of Words Heats Up

The accusations are flying thick and fast between former NYC Mayor Ed Koch and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who are locked in a battle of wills over redistricting reform.

The Manhattan Democrat and Long Island Republican exchanged heated letters yesterday over what Koch views as the Senate Republicans’ renegging on their collective promise to support creation of an independent and nonpartisan commission to draw legislative and congressional lines in time for the 2012 elections.

Skelos accused Koch of allowing his “well-meaning crusade for reform” to devolve into “a series of increasingly bitter personal and partisan attacks.”

Koch responded by saying that he likes the majority leader personally, but feels he has been “dishonorable” in retreating from his written NY Uprising pledge to support reform that will impact the next round of redistricting.

This comes as Koch was in Albany to meet with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and received – according to the former mayor – the governor’s reassurance that he will indeed veto any redistricting plan created in the traditional, partisan manner controlled directly by the Senate and Assembly.

Skelos wasn’t in Albany today. He’s reportedly in Buffalo to discuss, among other things, the budget agreement and the upcoming UB2020 summit.



Cuomo Unveils New Parking Placard Policies (Updated)

The Cuomo administration is dramatically reducing the number of state-issued police and executive branch parking placards following an investigation by Inspector General Ellen Biben that found they are widely misused by officials and pols.

“Government issued parking placards are meant to be used by state employees when they are doing official business,” Cuomo said in a press release.

“Under my administration, abuses of government powers will be stopped and those responsible will be held accountable. I applaud Inspector General Biben for her review of the distribution and use of parking placards, and for her recommendations reforming the system to hold those who have placards responsible for their actions.”

The number of police placards distributed will be slashed by more than 84 percent from 1,730 to 261 by limiting recipients only to law enforcement personnel. They will only be issued to officials with statutory police powers and will only be distributed only by the State Police.

All placards marked “police” are being recalled by the administration so they can be redistributed under the new rules, and the State Police will handle that distribution.

UPDATE: Based on the comments section, I revisited the press release, which, as you can see, is a bit confusing, and updated the numbers in this post.

The total number of placards distributed to executive agencies and the Legislature is being reduced from 2,210 to 1,993. Those without police powers will only be given a placard marked “official business.”

In addition, new policies have been established for members of the executive and legislative branches who seek a placard. Chief among the changes: Applicants will have to explain in writing why they need a placard and what vehicle it is intended for.

Any employee who misuses a placard could face disciplinary action.

Koch On Black’s Ouster: ‘Shock And Awe’

Asked about the ouster of city schools chancellor Cathie Black, former Mayor Ed Koch said the situation inspired “shock and awe.”

But he didn’t criticize Mayor Michael Bloomberg for appointing Black, a former publishing executive who had no educational administrative experience.

“Look, the mayor has to be given credit for bringing the education jurisdiction under that every other mayor including David Dinkins and Giuliani failed. I think the mayor if he is held responsible should be given every opportunity and right to appoint whoever he feels is capable, so I’m not going to second guess him.”

Sen. Kevin Parker, a Brooklyn Democrat, was willing to offer his critique of Bloomberg’s failed pick, saying the mayor was essentially admitting he made a mistake : “Whether she resigned or she stepped down, I think they do realize, the administration does realize they made a mistake. I think the mayor comes in with a particular perspective. He believes what’s good for Wall Street is what’s good for America. He’s more concerned about balancing the budget and test scores than what’s good for our young people.”

DiNapoli To Open Charter Schools’ Books

Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli will pry open the books of charter schools around the state after a new state law gave his office auditing powers over the independent, taxpayer-funded schools.

“A change in state Education Law gives my office the authority to audit charter schools,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “These schools are supported by taxpayer dollars. Taxpayers have the right to know how their money is being spent.”

First up on the auditing block are schools in Brooklyn, Albany and Buffalo: Brooklyn Excelsior Charter School in New York City, the Brighter Choice Charter School for Boys in Albany and the South Buffalo Charter School.

DiNapoli is seizing on an amendment to a new law that created 260 new charter schools, which was passed as part of New York’s effort to receive federal Race to the Top funding. The 171 charter schools operating currently in the state receive more than $570 million in taxpayer money.

School districts of residence for students enrolled in charter schools contribute a “basic tuition” to the charter school. The district also pays the federal or state aid that might be due a student with disability.