Report: UB2020 Summit Scheduled

The Buffalo News’ Tom Precious reports the UB2020 summit Gov. Andrew Cuomo pledged to host in the Queen City after the key WNY initiative failed to make it into the budget passed last week by the Legislature will be held during the first week of May.

Sen. Mark Grisanti said the governor called him this morning, asking him to gather names of people from Western New York – including university and union officials – to attend the gathering. The panel also will include including Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, a Manhattan Democrat who has opposed the UB2020 plan.

Officials from SUNY at Stony Brook, which is interested in piggybacking onto the UB plan, may also be on the panel, said Grisanti, a Buffalo Republican.

“It’s a positive sign,” Grisanti said.

Word of the summit came as Glick, an influential lawmaker, expressed concerns about the UB2020 plan in a memo to her Assembly colleagues.

Precious notes Cuomo has signaled support for the UB2020 plan, but there’s concern about broadening it out and letting all SUNY schools set their own tuition levels.

‘The Census Is Senseless’ (Updated)

The Prison Policy Initiative has launched a campaign to end so-called “prison gerrymandering,” the practice of counting incarcerated individuals in the facilities where they’re doing time rather at their last known place of residence.

This practice was changed in New York last year thanks to a measure championed by then-Democratic majorities in both the Assembly and Senate, included in the 2010-2011 budget and signed into law by then-Democratic Gov. David Paterson.

Now that the Republicans are back in control of the Senate, they have challenged this change in a lawsuit filed Monday in state Supreme Court in Albany.

The suit alleges the switch was unconstitutional for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it was done via a budget extender bill.

That, of course, raises the stakes in this battle to a new level, since Gov. Andrew Cuomo used the extender bill threat pioneered by Paterson to force the Legislature to do an on-time budget deal with him or risk the possibility of a government shutdown.

If Cuomo no longer has that option available to him, then he’ll lose considerable power during the budget negotiation process.

In the meantime, the whole question of prison gerrymandering is a complicated one. The Prison Policy Initiative explains it thusly, which is fairly apt, albeit with an obvious slant (UPDATE: A reader offers some additional context by noting this clip is from the HBO show “Oz”):

No Negotiating Tax Cap, Says Skelos (VIDEO ADDED)

Negotiating Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2 percent cap on property taxes would ultimately weaken the bill, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos told reporters this afternoon.

Skelos, asked about the possibility that the cap wouldn’t be made a reality this year because of a lack of mandate relief, reiterated that the Republican-led Senate approved the measure Jan. 31.

Everybody has the right to express their opinion. I said, this I don’t know how many times, if the governor wants to negotiate it, or the Assembly wants to negotiate it, that means they want to water it down. So we’ve passed the hard property tax cap and we hope that the governor just like he did on opposing the continuation on the income tax surcharge, I hope he convinces the speaker to pass our property tax cap, which is the governor’s property tax cap.

Speaker Sheldon Silver told us earlier today that the tax cap bill was still under consideration and was being negotiated.

Cuomo’s bill would cap property tax increases at 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower.

“We’ve been working very closely with the governor and I think very effectively,” Skelos said. “All I know is we passed the governor’s program property tax bill and we’re very happy that we did. I would hope the Assembly and the speaker will take up the bill.”

NYSUT To Honor Cuomo’s Ex-Wife

….and that would be kerry Kennedy, of course.

The teacher’s union, which has been at odds with the governor since the 2010 campaign (recall that it did not endorse him) and battled him on budget cuts, is poised to presdent Kennedy tomorrow night with the Albert Shanker Award for Distinguished Service.

That award is described by NYSUT in a press release as “the union’s most prestigious award recognizing special contributions made to public education in the United States.” Shanker was a NYSUT co-founder and longtime AFT leader.

“Kennedy will be honored for her work in establishing the Speak Truth to Power human rights curriculum, which in conjunction with NYSUT, was introduced in schools throughout New York state in November,” the release explains.

“Through lesson plans developed by classroom teachers, the curriculum introduces students to human rights defenders from across the globe. Based on Kennedy’s book of the same name, the Speak Truth to Power curriculum ultimately aims to encourage students to abandon the role of ‘bystander’ and, instead, work to affect positive change in the world in which they live.”

More >

Conservative Party To Assembly: Pass The Tax Cap

Mike Long might be Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s best friend these days.

The state Conservative Party is calling on the Assembly to Cuomo’s cap on property taxes, a measure that has already been approved in the Senate in a memo released today.

We urge the Members of the Assembly to pass the real property tax cap immediately. The NYS budget has passed with cuts to the programs that receive funding from real property taxes and while there is no safeguard for real property owners this year (the effective date of this proposal is 2012) those who plan budgets must have the maximum amount of time to plan.

It’s one of several moves, including mailers and robocalls, that the party has done on behalf of Cuomo’s efforts since he took office. Long was an uneasy supporter of Republican Carl Paladino’s gubernatorial campaign after initially supporting Rick Lazio.

But it might not be the Assembly that needs convincing to make a cap on property taxes law. Though the Senate has approved the bill way back in January, there’s an evolving theory that Senate Republicans would be hesitant to support a cap, given the impact it would have on municipalities who still must contend with costly state mandates.

Senate Education Chairman John Flanagan, a Long Island Republican, said a cap would likely not be achieved

this year without a bill for mandate relief.

Sen. Greg Ball, a Hudson Valley Republican, denied that was the case in a radio interview this morning. Ball also accused the governor’s office of playing politics with the issue.

“The state Senate majority conference is 110 percent committed to a property tax cap,” he said. “What’s happening is a little bit of politics from the governor’s office, they are trying to see a softening of a cap. We are committed to a hard line cap.”

Here And Now

It’s getaway day at the Capitol, back to the three-day work week for state lawmakers. We’re three days (counting today) from a possible federal government shutdown. Talks between the White House and congressional leaders have so far failed to result in a deal. And now, some headlines…

A shutdown in Washington, D.C. would further complicate things for the already cash-strapped states.

Rep. Pete King praised Sen. Greg Ball’s post-9/11 public protection hearing, calling it “absolutely essential” and “first rate.”

Senate Democrats say the hearing will “promote bigotry.”

The note that accompanied the bloody pig’s foot sent to King was as much racist as it was anti-Semitic.

Ball and Sen. Kevin Parker traded accusations of political opportunism.

President Obama is back in NYC today to attend the 20th anniversary celebration of the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network.

“Anytime you run for re-election, the first places you go are your base and your foundation of support—you try to make sure that’s tight,” said Assemblyman Keith Wright, chairman of the Manhattan Democratic Committee.

Both the president and Sharpton stand to gain from tonight’s event, says Hank Sheinkopf.

Senate Democrats are gearing up to try to make Sen. Marty Golden the Frank Padavan of 2012.

Some state lawmakers are advocating closing Sing Sing and turning it into riverfront condos.

Tea Partiers like Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget and think they influenced it.

Cuomo is preparing to launch a campaign to “raise the temperature” on the property tax cap debate.

More >

Ball Bites Back At Parker For Terrorism Hearing ‘Quips’

Anyone who thought Sen. Greg Ball would ignore Sen. Kevin Parker’s criticism for his terrorism preparedness hearings, they don’t know Greg Ball.

The Putnam County Republican said the concern voiced by Parker and about a dozen other Democratic lawmakers over a hearing witness list that is due to include a controversial columnist and human-right advocate – both who are known for anti-Muslim statements – was unwarranted.

In a letter to Parker, Ball says the “recent political quips made by some, including you, are beneath all of us.”

The terrorism preparedness hearing will be held in New York City on Friday. Ball is chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

From Ball’s statement:

“We are nearing the 10 year anniversary of 9-11. Through these hearings, which may be the first of a series, I hope we can look back and see real progress. We have made improvements, but we still have a soft underbelly that makes us vulnerable and in the current environment, no threat can be taken lightly.”

“Unfortunately the possibility of a significant attack is real, and while we have made gains, initial evidence is compelling that we really are not as safe or as secure as we should be. These hearings are meant to assist in being frank about our weaknesses and making sure that we expose and protect our soft underbelly, before it be exposed by the enemy.”

It’s unclear why the letter, which appears below, was sent just to Parker. Several other lawmakers signed onto the Brooklyn Democrat’s initial letter voicing concern over the witnesses.

Sen. Ball’s Resp. to Sen. Parker4.5.11


First Girlfriend Sandra Lee is expanding her empire to include a home products line.

President Obama will hold a Facebook town hall on April 20.

The DNC’s new political director is Jeff Lerner, a former spokesman for (then AG) Andrew Cuomo.

Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is replacing Tim Kaine as DNC chair. (He’s running for Senate).

Wasserman Schultz was a Hillary Clinton supporter in 2008.

Mayor Bloomberg isn’t surprised Obama is running in 2012, but will probably won’t endorse him.

The CUNY 33 will be cleared.

NYC Councilman Leroy Comrie, who admits he’s “seriously overweight” himself, is targeting Happy Meal toys in a bid to combat childhood obesity.

Anthony Papa approves of Cuomo’s efforts to overhaul the juvenile justice system.

The Port Authority purchased $8 million worth of heavy equipment and vehicles without justifying the need for them, an audit by state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office found.

Here’s Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman’s video address to court employees on the impact the state budget will have on the court system. In short: Layoffs. Significant layoffs.

Former Gov. David Paterson is still jonesing for a radio gig.

The White House launched an on-line “tax cut calculator.”

The Long Island village of Hempstead is pulling its cash from JP Morgan Chase to protest the bank’s lending and foreclosure policies.

Bloomberg and Manhattan BP Scott Stringer disagree over whether NYC is experiencing a “rat invasion.”

The mayor heralded the signing of the city’s first “green lease.”

Sen. David Carlucci and Assemblyman Felix Ortiz brought in a powerful lobbyist for their organ donation bill.

Senate GOP Fires First Salvo Against Executive Extender Power

A key component of the Senate GOP’s lawsuit against the prisoner counting change included in the 2010-2011 budget is a challenge to the way that switch was made – through a budget extender bill sent to the Legislature by then-Gov. David Paterson and passed by the Legislature last summer.

The pertinent passage of the suit starts on P. 16. It argues, in short, that the governor does not have the power to enact policy through an emergency extender, which – until Paterson – was traditionally used to keep government running in the absence of a budget deal.

The suit alleges the budget bill that included the prisoner counting change was “enacted unconstitutionally in that it usurped the State Legislature’s power under Article III, Section I.”

“By reason of that usurption and by reason that the sole alternative was to vote against the continuity of State government, members of the Legislature were deprived of their powers under Article III,” the suit continues.

“In this situation, the then-governor became omnipotent and the members of the state Legislature constitutionally helpless as it had no power to remove the purely legislative, non-appropriation language from the Article VII bills.”

The suit concludes that a “dispute exists” over the governor’s constitutional authority to force the Legislature to pass non-revenue items in a revenue bill and this “requires a judicial determination of the score of non-apportionment or non-revenue lanuague in Article VII bills.”

So, if the Senate GOP wins this suit, it could theorectically rob Cuomo of his most powerful tool in future budget battles.

I’m sure the governor is probably going to have something to say about this. But remember: Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver predicted as much….just sayin’.


Senate Dems Defend Prisoner-Counting Law

Sen. Martin Maleve Dilan, a LATFOR member, responded to the news that the Senate GOP has challenged the prisoner-counting law in court with the following statement:

“Last year, New York enacted a law to accurately reflect the state’s prison population in the new state legislative redistricting plan.”

“This law requires state prisoners to be counted at their last known residence instead of at their place of incarceration, when possible. Enactment of this legislation represented a major step forward for civil rights advocates demanding fair and equal representation.”

“I was disappointed to learn yesterday that my colleagues in the Senate majority filed a challenge to this law in state court.”

“Senator Little and others filed this challenge against the Legislative Advisory Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR) and the State Department of Corrections.”

“As a LATFOR member, I will join Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in defending this law. A lawsuit at this time only serves to disrupt the task of creating new legislative districts developed through a participatory and transparent process driven by objective and fair criteria.”