‘Our Generation’s Sputnik Moment’

Excerpts from the State of the Union address President Obama will deliver at 9 p.m. this evening:

“With their votes, the American people determined that governing will now be a shared responsibility between parties. New laws will only pass with support from Democrats and Republicans. We will move forward together, or not at all – for the challenges we face are bigger than party, and bigger than politics.”

“At stake right now is not who wins the next election – after all, we just had an election. At stake is whether new jobs and industries take root in this country, or somewhere else.”

“It’s whether the hard work and industry of our people is rewarded. It’s whether we sustain the leadership that has made America not just a place on a map, but a light to the world. We are poised for progress. Two years after the worst recession most of us have ever known, the stock market has come roaring back. Corporate profits are up. The economy is growing again.”

“But we have never measured progress by these yardsticks alone. We measure progress by the success of our people.”

“By the jobs they can find and the quality of life those jobs offer. By the prospects of a small business owner who dreams of turning a good idea into a thriving enterprise. By the opportunities for a better life that we pass on to our children. That’s the project the American people want us to work on. Together.”

“…Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a satellite called Sputnik¸we had no idea how we’d beat them to the moon. The science wasn’t there yet. NASA didn’t even exist.”

“But after investing in better research and education, we didn’t just surpass the Soviets; we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs.”

“This is our generation’s Sputnik moment.”


President Obama, on the defensive as the GOP pushes for fiscal austerity, will call for a spending freeze in tonight’s SOTU.

In case the speech gets really boring.

A ConEd manager has been charged with accepting some $4 million in kickbacks from a contractor.

Why aren’t there more women in NY politics?

Former Sen. Frank Padavan had a mild stroke and was hospitalized.

Four people are vying to be the next executive director of the embattled NYC Board of Elections.

The e-cigarette bill is moving in the Assembly.

Former AG Andrew Cuomo’s Public Integrity Commission appointee has vacated his post.

A judge ruled against the ex-AG in a real estate dispute.

Rahm Emanuel is back on the Chicago mayoral ballot.

NYC Public Advocate Bill de Blasio felt Emanuel’s pain.

The bipartisan spirit is catching.

County executives weigh in on Cuomo’s agenda.

Rudy Giuliani has mixed feelings about the Tea Party.

Dan Collins thinks Giuliani is frozen in time.

The president trumps rock stars when it comes to autographs, a Marist poll found.

Welcome back to the blogosphere Jude Seymour.

Reps. Anthony Weiner and Pete King will stop sniping at one another long enough to sit together at the SOTU tonight.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Rules Fallout (Updated)

The Senate Democrats, not surprisingly, focused on the IDC ringleader, Sen. Jeff Klein, in their response to the news that the Republicans had provided three of the four renegade former minority members with committee chairmanships.

“They unnecessarily created a committee to purchase the loyalty of their newest member,” Senate Democratic spokesman Austin Shafran said in a prepared statement.

“Instead of reducing government, they’re only making it bigger and more costly for the public It’s clear this was never about independence, but power, perks, and now the payoff.”

UPDATE: IDC spokesman Rich Azzorpardi responded:

“That’s preposterous. If the members of the Independent Democratic Conference chose to sit back, ignore the problems and remain a part of the Senate Democratic Conference, they would have been better off financially.”

Azzopardi noted all four IDC members lost money by departing the minority conference (a bit of a strecth for Carlucci, since he’s a freshman, although he made $128,500 as Clarkstown town clerk – a far cry from the $79,500 and $12,500 lulu he’s now receiving).

Klein and his fellow IDC members – Sens. Diane Savino, David Valesky and David Carlucci – have repeatedly insisted their departure from the Democratic fold was not spurred by a desire for more power following their party’s loss of the majority, saying they would have simply crossed the aisle to join the GOP if that were indeed the case.

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Senate Dem Spokesman: GOP Rules Changes ‘Toxic’

Here’s a summary of the nine (so far identified) rules changes put forward by the Senate Republicans, which the Democrats are denouncing as a power grab that will cast the chamber back into the dark ages.

The summary was provided by the Democrats, whose spokesman, Austin Shafran, called the changes “absolutely toxixc to good government” and insisted they would codify the operation of government in “secret” and “behind closed doors.”

Some of the rules are cleaning up a mess created by the 2009 Senate coup, such as the elimination of the post of VP for Urban Policy and Planning – a job that was given to former Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr. as part of the deal that brought him back to the Democratic fold and ended the 31-day stalemate.

Another re-connects the president pro tempore and majority leader posts – jobs that were split following the coup, with the former going to Sen. Malcolm Smith and the latter to Espada.

Yet another change would require the temporary president to be elected by the majority of senators elected (the current rule just says the Senate “shall choose” without specifying how) and also bars the lieutenant governor from casting a tie-breaking vote.

The GOP also resurrected an old committee, Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, which was awarded by Majority Leader Dean Skelos to Sen. Jeff Klein, the Bronx Democrat who is the ringleader of thefour-member Independent Democratic Conference.

Senate Republican spokesman Scott Reif said the changes are “additional rules that will help the committees function,” adding: “We’ve made some small changes, and we’re going to continue to work with Republicans and Democrats.”

12411 Senate GOP Proposed Rule Changes[1]

Joint Budget Hearings Scheduled

The Senate and Assembly have scheduled joint hearings to review the governor’s budget proposal due out Feb. 1.

The hearings will take place over the course of about a month beginning Feb. 7 and will provide the public an opportunity to weigh in about state spending in specific areas.

The complete schedule appears after the jump.

Those interested in testifying during one of the hearings can find the appropriate contact person here.

The hearings will be streamed on the Senate and Assembly websites.

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GOP Gives IDC Committee Chairs, Changes Chamber Rules

The Senate Republicans have elevated their power struggle with the minority over the breakway Independence Democratic Conference by awarding three of the four renegade members committee chairmanships.

In addition, after pledging to change the chamber rules to make them more equitable to the minority and then putting off a decision for two weeks, the GOP has come up with alterations that have the Democrats crying foul.

One of those changes re-establishes a committee that had been dormant – Alcoholism and Substance Abuse – that has been awarded to IDC ringleader Jeff Klein.

The GOP also made Sen. Diane Savino chair of the Children and Family Services Committee and Sen. David Valesky chair of the Aging Committee. All three of these posts carry a $12,500 lulu. The youngest member of the group, Sen. David Carlucci, did not receive a committee.

UPDATE: As it turns out, Carlucci DID receive a title: Co-chair of the Administrative Regulations Review Commission, which is responsible for reviewing rules and regulations passed by state entities. I’m told this may also have a $12,500 lulu, but I’m not certain about that.

(Previously, Aging had been held by Sen. Marty Golden and Children and Family Services belonged to freshman Sen. Patrick Gallivan, who also chairs the Social Services Committee).

Just yesterday, Klein announced that he and his fellow IDCers would accept Senate Minority Leader John Sampson’s offer of committee assignments that included only four committees per member and no ranking positions (hence, no lulu).

Klein called Sampson out for waiting so long to dole out committees to the IDC members, who have insisted they’re still Democrats, although they’re no longer conferencing with their former colleagues.

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Gold Replaces Kwatra At HTC

The New York Hotel and Trades Council has tapped a new political director.

Josh Gold, a veteran Democratic operative with deep ties to organized labor, is scheduled to start next month, taking over for Neal Kwatra, who departed to serve as AG Eric Schneiderman’s chief of staff.

Gold, a 29-year-old White Plains native and Fordham Law School graduate, is currently serving as special counsel to NYC Comptroller John Liu.

He worked on Liu’s 2009 campaign (which elected the first Asian-American to citywide post), running the then-NYC councilman’s field operation while on leave from his job with the powerhouse health care workers union, 1199/SEIU.

Gold got his start in politics as a volunteer and then paid intern on Mayor Bloomberg’s 2005 re-election campaign.

While there, he met a former 1199 staffer, Patrick Brennan, who later became Bloomberg’s point man for labor (before leaving the administration to become a sort of outside operator for the mayor’s political mastermind, Kevin Sheekey).

Brennan alerted Gold to a job with 1199′s Healthcare Education Project, an entity jointly funded by the union and its industry partner, the Greater NY Hospital Association, that runs all the budget campaigns. His first campaign was the 2007 budget battle in which then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer tried to cut Medicaid and fought an (eventually losing) air war with HEP.

Gold has considerable knowledge of all the NY political players, but lacks some of Kwatra’s depth when it comes to the hotel industry.

As a result, HTC has decided to split Kwatra’s old job into two parts, with Gold handling the political end and UNITE HERE researcher Maris Zivarts handling the research/union organizing end.

Kwatra is largely responsible for elevating HTC’s field operation and turning the relatively small union into a highly sought-after political player – particularly in downstate races. HTC also played a major role in Schneiderman’s successful bid to succeed former AG-turned-Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

(Hence, Kwatra’s new gig; he also ran field for the state Democratic Party’s coordinated campaign and received an election night shout-out from the governor).

During a brief interview earlier this afternoon, Gold said Kwatra will be a tough act to follow, adding:

“I think Neal and (HTC President) Peter (Ward) and the rest of the folks at HTC have done a good job of taking the member activism and building a strong political operation that is sought after by many folks in New York.”

“Part of my role is going to be to help Peter on how to best leverage those gains and use those relationships to help further the goals of the union.”

DOT’s Got An App For That

The DOT has upgraded its 511 New York system to include a new free mobile device application that provides up-to-the-minute information on traffic, transit and emergency service notifications and weather advisories, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced this afternoon.

The app is free and can be downloaded by Blackberry, iPhone and Google Android users from their respective app stores. It will be made available on additional platforms in the near future.

“As we’ve seen with this harsh winter, it’s vital that New Yorkers have immediate access to urgent information regarding travel, transit and emergency notifications,” Cuomo said in a press release.

“This new app, along with additional features to this innovative DOT program, is an example of how government is making full use of the technological platforms that are not just gaining popularity, but revolutionizing how we interact.”

The new app is part of an upgrade to the 511 New York system, which was created in 2008 to provide real-time information on road closures, accidents, construction, transit delays and inclement weather information.

For more details, click here.

Rasmussen: Voters Split On More Spending

As the President prepares to call for targeted government spending in education and technology during tonight’s speech, a poll by Rasmussen shows that Americans are mixed on the issue of government spending.

The poll found that 39% of Likely U.S. Voters favor the federal government spending more money in areas like education, transportation and technological innovation. Forty-five percent oppose additional government spending like this, while 15% more are not sure about it.

The numbers weren’t as good when voters were asked what was better for the economy. Forty-seven percent felt that cutting federal spending would do more to jump start economic activity than investing in education, transportation and technology. Only 33% felt investing was better.

The national debt has risen to more than 14 trillion dollars, and many House Republicans have said that cutting federal spending was their top priority. Which means President Obama may have a difficult time passing a budget with spending increases.

But, we just learned that President Obama will call for 5-year freeze on non-security discretionary spending during today’s speech. No word yet on how much in potential savings would come from the cuts.

Giffords’ Intern Supports Bloomberg’s Gun Check Plan

Daniel Hernandez, the intern to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords who the President called a hero for administering first aid to the Congresswoman and likely saving her life, has joined Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s push to make sure that current laws for background checks are enforced, and additional legislation is passed.

Hernandez, who turned 21 today, will be sitting with the First Lady during tonight’s speech.

“On the morning of January 8, the lives of an entire community changed,” Hernandez said. “The people of Tucson, Arizona, and the nation were turned upside-down by a barrage of bullets fired by a dangerous, disturbed man with a gun.

From the moment those of us who were unharmed began helping the victims of the attack, including Representative Gabrielle Giffords, it has been clear to me that much more must be done to prevent similar attacks in the future. It is my hope that President Obama and Congress will work together right away to reform our gun background check system so that all records of dangerous people are in the system and all gun buyers will have to pass a thorough background check.

And that this be done in a way that does not infringe on Second Amendment rights, so that responsible citizens may exercise their right to bear arms.”

Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which was formed by Bloomberg and Boston Mayor Tom Menino back in 2006,
sent a letter to President Obama today urging him to stand up for the victims of gun violence in his state of the union address.

The complete press release is after the jump.
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