CSEA Members Approve Contract

Members of the Civil Service Employees Association, the largest public-sector state union in New York, have approved a five-year contract with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, approving a wage freeze, two years’ worth of furloughs and increased health-insurance costs.

The approval of the contract avoids about 4,500 layoffs and could sway members of the other large public-sector union, PEF, to approve its labor agreement with the state. The PEF contract is due to be voted on by Sept. 27.

CSEA spokesman Steve Madarasz said earlier today that nearly 30,000 of the 66,000-member union voted, which he said is a typical number of members voting by mail-in ballot.

It was not immediately known what the margin of the vote was.

The contract approval is a big win for Cuomo, who is seeking a total $450 million in workforce concessions from state public employees, a figure that was baked into the 2011-12 state budget. The approval also comes after a small-law enforcement union, Council 82, split into two following its less-than-generous contract with the Cuomo administration.

“This is a big, big win– a win for the union and a win for the people of the state,” Cuomo said in a statement announcing the contract’s approval. “The union avoided layoffs and the state is financially stronger. I’m pleased that our approach of labor and management working together is vindicated. Mutual respect and honest negotiations work. I applaud Danny Donohue for his leadership and vision in this negotiation. This vote demonstrates their commitment to seeing this state get back on the right track. In these difficult financial times, shared sacrifice is needed, and CSEA members have shown willingness to do their part.”

CSEA President Danny Donohue reiterated passed statements about the less-than-ideal package, saying:

“These are not ordinary times and CSEA worked hard to reach an agreement that we believed would be in everyone’s best interest,” said CSEA President Danny Donohue. “CSEA members agree that this contract is reasonable and responsible for the long term and shows that CSEA members will do what is right for the good of all New Yorkers. The Governor’s leadership is helping move this state in the right direction.”

A news conference is planned for Tuesday morning at CSEA headquarters to discuss the contract vote. Madarasz says in an email the agreement was approved a “60-40″ margin.

Aqueduct VLT Opening Delayed To October

This just in from NY1 political director Bob Hardt.

The opening of a video casino at the Aqueduct race track in Queens is being pushed back until some time in October. A spokesman for the project says that removing lead, asbestos and pigeon droppings at the site has taken longer than expected, delaying the planned opening which was scheduled for later this summer.

The state last year received an upfront licensing fee payment of $380 million from the casino operators, Genting New York. The two-floor casino will be home to more than 45-hundred video slot machines.

The news is not good for NYRA. It is already projecting an $11 million budget deficit for this year, mostly in part to the shut down of NYC OTB, which owes NYRA roughly $20 million.

Once it opens, the VLT casino is expected to increase NYRA’s revenue by tens of millions of dollars each year.

Gas Industry: No Reason For Delay

The Independent Oil and Gas Association, an energy lobbying organization, dimissed the calls from environmentalists and some state lawmakers who called for an extension of the public comment period for high-volume hydraulic fracturing.

“The natural gas industry has waited more than three years to move forward with development of the Marcellus Shale. The draft Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement – when it was released – was to have a 60 day public review period, which has not yet begun. This is more than enough time to allow residents and stakeholders opportunity to comment.

Opponents have called for a comment period that would extend it to half a year. Clearly, this is a tactic to delay the issuance of drilling permits in New York’s Southern Tier and is not intended to facilitate a meaningful discussion.

The recent Quinnipiac poll showed that a majority of New Yorkers, in areas where the strongest impact will be made, favor increased natural gas development. Further delaying progress just means New York will continue to lose out on the economic benefits and job creation potential that will come with expanded natural gas development.”

Earlier today, multiple groups, including Environmental Advocates and Common Cause New York, called on the Department of Environmental Conservation to extend the public comment period for the agency’s draft regulations of hydrofracking, by more than doubling the time period from 60 days to 180 days.

Both Democratic and Republican state lawmakers signed on to the effort as well.

Extras

We’re still awaiting the outcome of the CSEA contract vote, and are now being told it might be several hours before we have a result. (No link).

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will not be leaving NY for his summer vacation, choosing instead to spend time on Long Island and in the North Country.

Mitt Romney renamed President Obama’s three-day bus trip the “Magical Misery Tour.”

Cuomo is signing the Complete Streets bill into law.

Ed Rendell clarified his comments to the NY Post about Hillary Clinton in 2016, saying she won’t likely be able to resist another White House run.

Rudy Giuliani could be Rick Perry’s “ace in the hole,” says Chris Cillizza.

Assemblyman David Weprin released his small business jobs plan – the first substantive policy proposal of the NY-9 campaign.

Politics on the Hudson recalls the late Gov. Hugh Carey had a plane problem, too.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is embarking on a five-borough tour tomorrow. Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. hopes Bronx ministers pressure her to explain her “silence” on Cuomo’s budget cuts.

Matt Damon for president? Michael Moore thinks that’s a great idea.

Kellyanne Conway says Michelle Bachmann is taking her campaign fashion lead from Hillary Clinton.

Cuomo put in an appearance at Sen. Adriano Espaillat’s pre-Dominican Day parade breakfast, but did not march.

NYO runs list of “50 media power bachelors” and TWO lists of media “power couples.” What’s wrong with media power bachelorettes? Just askin’.

Bill Clinton: Rick Perry’s A ‘Good Looking Rascal’ With A ‘Crazy’ Platform

…video of the former president’s remarks earlier today about the newest 2012 GOP contender, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Clinton said watching Perry’s formal announcement this week “tickled” him, adding:

“He’s a good looking rascal, and he’s strong.”

“He said, you know, ‘I’m going to Washington to make sure the federal government stays as far away from you as possible, while I ride on Air Force One and Marine One and go to Camp David and travel around the world and have a great time.’”

“I mean, this is crazy.”

H/T Azi Paybarah.

Ethics Coming To Albany, Officially (Updated)

As CapCon first reported, Gov. Andrew Cuomo will be signing the ethics overhaul bill into law sometime today (Cuomo is actually signing a batch of unapproved legislation today, right before he goes on vacation).

The bill was approved back in June, but hadn’t been delivered to Cuomo’s desk until just recently. It’s likely that the governor was taking his time to select his appointments to the new ethics watchdog before signing the
bill.

Update: Cuomo has signed the bill, says a news release.

“Today’s signing is a major step forward in restoring the people’s trust in government and changing the way Albany does business,” Cuomo said in a statement. “This new ethics reform law brings an aggressive new approach to returning integrity to the halls of our Capitol. It provides for much-needed disclosure of outside income by lawmakers, creates an independent monitor to investigate corruption, and issues strong new rules for lobbyists. I thank the Legislature for working to pass this important legislation.”

Perhaps the measure’s biggest highlight is greatly expanding the requirements for lawmakers in reporting their outside income.

But the biggest sticking point in the ethics bill’s negotiations was what form the new oversight body would take, especially who would make appointments to the new Joint Commission on Public Ethics, or JCOPE for short.

In the end, Cuomo actually gave more picks to the commission’s board to lawmakers, who feared a partisan watchdog would lead to unfair investigations. In the end, JCOPE’s board will have 14 total appointees — eight picks from the Legislature and six from the governor’s office (that’s still more than any individual GOP or Democratic conference in both chambers).

At issue was the number of appointments given to Senate Republicans. The GOP holds a narrow 32-30 majority, but will retain the same number of picks to the commission even if they fall into the minority, a sore point for Senate Democrats.

And then there’s the matter of the JCOPE’s predecessor organization, the Commission on Public Ethics. The CPI was created in the 2007 ethics measure that was championed Gov. Eliot Spitzer (the CPI itself replaced the Temporary Commission on Lobbying).

It remains unclear whether there’s actually been any formal discussions about the change over between Public Integrity folks and the waiting-in-the-wings JCOPE officials.

CPI spokesman Walter Ayres said the commission would work toward making sure JCOPE is up and running. Still left up in the air is what will become of JCOPE’s staff.

“We will work to ensure a smooth transition,” Ayres said. “Whether staff will be aksed to stay on or go, we’ll see what develops.”

FTC: Prescription Drug Law Bad For Consumers

The Federal Trade Commission says a bill approved by the Legislature earlier this year could impede how New Yorkers fill their prescription drugs and increase costs on the insured.

The measure, which has yet to be signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, would prohibit health-insurance companies from requiring prescription drugs be purchased through a mail-order pharmacy.

They point to the potential cost-savings and say the mail-order pharmacies take $5 billion out of the state’s economy.

But opponents of the bill say it adds costs onto businesses by eliminating the cheaper mail-order option that keeps rising employer-provided health-insurance costs under control.

Many health-insurance plans now require some prescriptions filled in the mail because of the expense of going to a pharmacy.

Senate Insurance Committee Chairman James Seward asked the FTC to weigh in on the issue, and the agency concluded the bill is flawed when it comes to consumer choice and that, at its heart, could lead to curtailed employer-based insurance plans.

V110013 Signed Copy of Comment to New York State Senator Seward RE AB 5502-B

A Brief History Of ‘Air Gov’

The state-funded air fleet has provided reporters with a trove of stories over the years, not to mention a considerable amount of ammunition for critics of incumbent governors.

It’s a little surprising that the Cuomo administration so mishandled the FOIL requests for information/flight manifestos from the governor’s first legislative session, going overboard with the redacting and then slowly walking that back over the weekend.

First of all, this is a perennial ask for LCA reporters, so routine as to be mundane.

You would think the press shop would have had the information already prepared in anticipation of this day’s arrival, particularly since there’s nothing all that damning in there – only the rather nebulous question of whether Cuomo uses taxpayer-funded aircraft to commute to and from Westchester, which falls into an ethical gray area.

Second: Cuomo was AG when the Spitzer administration tried – and failed spectacularly – to use Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno’s use of the state fleet against him. In fact, Cuomo investigated Bruno and then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer in the scandal that came to be known as Troopergate and issued a report critical of the nebulous rules for use of state aircraft.

(One recommendation in that report: A so-called “bright line” rule that permits use of the aircraft only when the purpose of the trip is exclusively governmental. New guidelines issued by the Public Integrity Commission in 2007 stated there must be a “bona fide” state purpose for the trip that is also the “primary” reason for the travel being undertaken).

Third: The Cuomo family has considerable experience fending off criticism about the use of state aircraft.

More >

All Aboard The Paladino Bus

I’m not sure how we overlooked this one, but it’s a doozy: Carl Paladino is about to add “tour guide” to his already ecclectic resume.

The Niagara Gazette reports the Giacomo Hotel, a Niagara Falls property owner by the Buffalo businessman and failed 2010 gubernatorial candidate, will be one of the stops along a so-called Business Familiarization Tour local economic development officials are planning for Sept. 22.

The event’s organizers hope would-be developers will be motivated by Paladino’s tale of success in converting the Old United Office Building into a high-end, boutique hotel to do a little investing of their own in this down-at-the-heels WNY city.

“We found a good niche and it’s working,” Paladino told the paper. “Our apartments are full. We’re pleased with the result and we’re looking for other opportunities in Niagara.”

No one has ever questioned Paladino’s long-standing commitment to helping redevelopment Buffalo and its environs, although some – particularly his old nemesis, The Buffalo News and its reporter, Jim Heaney – have questioned his stewardship as a property owner.

Having been on the receiving end of some of Paladino’s less-pleasant tirades, and given his history as an outspoken critic of a whole host of things and people that piss him off royaly, I don’t think it’s going too far out on a limb to say that this tour will be well worth the price of admission.

Cuomo: Butts Out On MTA Platforms

In what will surely bring a howls of “you can’t smoke anywhere in New York” (at least they’ll be howls from clean lungs!) Gov. Andrew Cuomo today approved a measure that would ban smoking on outdoor MTA platforms.

The ban approved by the governor would cover all ticket booths, boarding and platform areas, including the Long Island Railroad. Smoking is already banned on subway platforms in and around New York City.

The new measure is aimed at further curbing second smoke in public areas, Cuomo said in a statement

“It is important that commuters are not unwillingly subject to the dangers of second-hand smoke while waiting on train platforms,” Governor Cuomo said. “Exposure to second-hand smoke can lead to serious health problems for non-smokers and this law will make outdoor MTA train platforms, ticketing and boarding areas a cleaner, healthier place for all commuters. We must continue to work to protect New Yorkers and improve public health, and I thank Senator Fuschillo and Assemblywoman Jaffee for sponsoring this important legislation.”

The measure was sponsored by Sen. Charles Fuschillo and Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee.