Senate GOP, With IDC Support, Introduce Child Welfare Bill

Senate Republicans and the Independent Democratic Conference are backing a bill today aimed at protecting child against abuse, arguing that existing laws are “overly complicated” to the point of being useless.

The measure, known as the “Protect Our Children Act,” appears to be aimed squarely at the Casey Anthony case and at the shocking murder of Leiby Kletzky, an 8-year-old Brooklyn boy.

Among the bill’s provisions:

  • Adds felony offenses would be created for blocking law enforcement in finding a missing child
    Creates the felony of concealing a missing child
    Creates a new statute aimed at protecting children at “reckless” abuse
    Increases penalties for repeat child abusers

And leaving little doubt how this law was inspired, nearly all of the canned quotes in the Senate Republicans’ news release mention the media-hyped Casey Anthony case, in which a Florida woman was found not guilty of killing her infant daughter Caylee.

“What we witnessed in the case of the death of Caylee Anthony was tragic,” Sen. Mark Grisanti said. “By placing a law on the books requiring parents and guardians to report missing children who are in significant danger in a timely manner, we will ensure for the future that parents are going to be held accountable for their actions. It will also assure that we put justice on the side of those among us who are most vulnerable, particularly young children.”

This isn’t the first Anthony-inspired bill proposal. Assemblywoman Grace Meng proposed similar legislation earlier this month, as did Sen. Kevin Parker.

Cuomo Ends Retired Race Horse Panel

On the eve of the Saratoga Racetrack meet, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has vetoed a bill that would have extended the life of the a task force on retired race horses.

Cuomo said in a statement that the veto was part of his overall goal of stripping down the state’s bureaucracy. The task force was created in 2006 and was originally set up to develop a report on how to develop and promote the well-being of retired horses.

But the due date for the panel’s report has been pushed back repeatedly, Cuomo said. The measure being vetoed would have extended the life of the panel for two years.

“Upon taking office, I pledged to New Yorkers that it was a new day in Albany,” Cuomo wrote in his veto message. “I promised that the days of the needless proliferation of government bureaucracy were over. Approving this bill – for which there exists no compelling reason – would be contrary to my pledge to the people of this State.”

Cuomo hasn’t had the best relationship with the racing industry so far. Back in April, he blasted NYRA for hiring out-of-state workers to handle telephone wagering. And one of the few fee increases in the state budget included one aimed at horse breeders.

Here And Now

Just how hot is it? A WNY school district has called a “heat day” today.

The electrical grid is under major stress.

The shuttle has landed.

Expect some news – or maybe even another appearance – from Gov. Andrew Cuomo today, as he’s in Albany with no public schedule.

Cuomo’s budget czar Robert Megna was shouted down by a judge and accused of “disrespect” after cautioning big judicial raises could “distort the entire salary structure” of state government.

“I think the issue as we see it right now…is that the spending is not affordable,” Megna told the seven-member Judicial Compensation Commission, which is mulling the first pay bump for judges in 12 years.

The state’s chief administrative judge argued a pay raise consistent with federal district judges – who make $174,000 – would not be appropriate if not adjusted for inflation because federal judges have not had cost-of-living increases since 2009.

The governor wants 10 regions of the state to compete for $1 billion worth of economic development funds.

The 10 economic development councils are modeled after federal empowerment zones.

Cuomo may be changing his mind on medical marijuana.

More >

Extras

Light at the end of the debt ceiling tunnel?

…But the Fed wants to be ready, just in case.

Rep. Allen West says he apologized to his colleague and DNC chairwoman, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, for calling her “vile, unprofessional and despicable” in an email.

But he didn’t seem particularly contrite when he sent out an email trying to fundraise off the incident.

Also, an aide to Wasserman Schultz told TPM West did not, in fact, apologize.

EJ McMahon sees cause for concern in state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s rosier-than-expected tax collection numbers.

Manhattan BP Scott Stringer, former assemblyman and potential 2013 NYC mayoral contender, called changes to the NYC Council earmark system.

Specifically, Stringer wants the Council speaker – a spot currently occupied by his possible 2013 opponent Christine Quinn – stripped of earmark distribution powers.

NYC is ahead of schedule on its 10-year affordable housing plan, according to Bloomberg.

More coverage of the governor using campaign cash to pay for coverage (in a manner of speaking).

A right-wing rabbi blamed the death of Leiby Kletzky on the legalization of same-sex marriage.

“This is a time for introspection…This came in the very aftermath of the marriage bill, my dear friends, and not doing anything,” said Rabbi Yehuda Levin.

(You may recall this particular rabbi from his dust-up with then-gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino).

Binghamton Mayor Matt Ryan wants NYC’s gay marriage spillover.

Some same-sex couple demographics, as per the 2010 Census.

Rupert Mudoch employed a light touch with the outer-borough newspapers he purchased in 2006, 2007 and 2009.

Sen. Chuck Schumer is going to bat for the Albany International Airport.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand steps up her effort to get DOMA repealed.

The push to fix emergency radios continues nearly 10 years after the 9/11 attacks.

Lawmakers Urge Slown Down In Prison Closures

A group of GOP and Democratic lawmakers from both the Assembly and Senate are urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo to slow down the prison closure transition period in order to allow families and employees more time to develop a plan for their near-term future.

From the letter:

“Closing prisons is a state-wide issue affecting thousands of jobs which will require the filing of transfer papers and the potential for employees to have to make life-changing decisions, including selling homes and finding new places to live. As we learn more about the process, it has become apparent that the existing 60-day period is not sufficient.”

The Cuomo administration announced that seven prisons will close in the coming weeks, part of Cuomo’s effort to wring millions of dollars of savings out of the Department of Correctional Services.

The closures are due to be completed in 60 days; the lawmakers want that period extended to 90 days.

Prison Closure Extension LETTER

Gillibrand Knocks ‘Shocking’ West, Fundraises

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand isn’t taking U.S. Rep. Allen West’s email in stride.

The Democratic senator sent a letter to supporters today slamming West for his email tirade aimed at Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

West, a Florida Republican, blasted Schultz in an email CC’d to other members of congress after taking issue with comments she made on the House floor about his stance on closing the federal budget deficit for being “vile” and saying she “has proven repeatedly that you are not a Lady.”

Gillibrand today knocked West in a fundraising appeal to supporters.

“The rant against Debbie was downright shocking, especially when you consider she was protecting the interests of the people of Southern Florida, the people she’s steadfastly represented for so many years,” she said.

Full email after the jump. More >

Cuomo Now Neutral On Medical Marijuana Issue

Gov. Cuomo this afternoon said he has not changed his position on the issue of legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes in New York.

Cuomo was asked in response to New Jersey’s plan to move forward with legalization as well as a push from a downstate lawmaker for New York to do the same.

“We have proponents of the policy, I know New Jersey is looking at it. We have opponents to the policy,” Cuomo said.

“We’re looking at both sides of the issue if you will and we’re reviewing it, but we don’t have a final position.”

During the 2010 gubernatorial campaign, then-candidate Cuomo snuffed out the issue, saying, “the dangers of medical marijuana outweigh the benefits.”

Skelos Calls For Tax Cuts, If Revenues Continue

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos says the state should consider cutting taxes in light of the June Cash Report that Comptroller Tom DiNapoli released today. In that report, DiNapoli announced that the state took in roughly $800m more than projected in tax revenue over the first 3 months of the 2011-2012 budget.

In a press release, Skelos calls the numbers “encouraging” and says the situation needs to be monitored over the rest of the year. He goes on to say:

If this positive trend continues, the Governor and State Legislature should focus on cutting taxes so businesses across the state can use the resulting savings to create new jobs, grow their companies and invest in New York.

The statement goes on to specifically single out the MTA payroll tax for repeal, which the Senate Republicans have been pushing for since taking the majority.

Complete release is after the jump.
More >

Biz Council ‘Cautiously Optimistic’ On Phase II

The state Business Council says it’s “cautiously optimistic” that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s focus on job growth and private-sector investment will reverse New York’s reputation as being hostile to businesses.

“With a positive legislative session behind us, the business community strongly believes that work remains to be done to lower the cost of government, create private sector jobs and strengthen New York’s economy.

The Governor’s second phase of his plan for a new New York sends a signal to business leaders that the state is prepared to not only control the cost of government but to invest in business.

By looking at economic development from both a statewide and regional perspective, business and civic leaders will have direct input into how economic incentives, procurement practices, tax relief and mandate relief initiatives are designed.

We are cautiously optimistic that the Governor’s plan will streamline the process for New York business.”

Cuomo announced this week that Phase II — aka the next six months of his administration — will focus on “rightsizing” government and improving the state’s business climate.

Cuomo has tried to stake out a fiscally conservative stance since he started running for office last year. As governor, he sought and succeeded in getting a 2 percent cap on school and local property taxes and fought against efforts to increase taxes on the wealthy.

Cuomo’s business-friendly positions also extended to the Committee to Save New York, a monied collection of interest groups that backed the governor on the controversial tax cap and his cuts to education and health care.

Cuomo Unveils $1B Consolidated Jobs Program

Gov. Andrew Cuomo this afternoon unveiled a $1 billion economic-development program aimed at attracting private investment and job growth to the state.

The program is part of the newly created Consolidated Funding Application, which makes the money available through grants and tax credits. The 10 regional economic-development councils, which Cuomo also unveiled at a news conference at the Capitol today, will apply for the funding.

Essentially what the program does is combine grant and tax-credit applications under one defined source.

“Today’s action unlocks $1 billion in economic development and job creation in every region of the state,” Cuomo said in a statement. “We are redesigning and streamlining the way economic development projects in New York receive state aid to ensure that the best projects with the most potential for regional economic growth receive the support they need.”

Nine state agencies and authorities are distributing the funding: Empire State Development; NYS Canal Corporation; New York State Energy Research and Development Authority; Environmental Facilities Corporation; Homes and Community Renewal; Department of Labor; Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation; Department of State; and Department of Transportation.

Cuomo also released a guidebook for the regional economic-development councils, a 82-page book detailing how the organizations will work.

The second phase of the governor’s administration concentrates on stimulating job growth. He’s also planning a concerted advertising campaign aimed at attracting businesses to the state, which Cuomo likened to the I Love New York program, the venerable tourism campaign.

The councils, divided by region, will also compete for $170 million in economic development money made available through the Empire State Development Corp. The councils will be located in Capital District, Central New York, Finger Lakes Region, Long Island, Mid-Hudson, Mohawk Valley, New York City, North Country, Southern Tier, and Western New York.

The release from Cuomo’s office does not include any members of the regional councils, other than to say Lt. Gov. Bob Duffy will act as chairman. The administration did say that the vice chairs of the councils will include business and academic community.

Additional membership is comprised of local leaders from business, academia, labor, agriculture, nonprofits, and community-based organizations, Cuomo said.

Regional Council Guidebook