Ferrer Supports Senate Independents

Former Bronx Borough President Freddy Ferrer just released a statement announcing his support of the four-member Senate Independent Conference.

“Senators Klein, Savino, Valesky, and Carlucci are Democrats who have shown leadership in advocating much-needed reforms in New York, and their 2011 agenda is a broad strategy to help the state’s economy recover and restore New York as a leader in important social change,” Ferrer said.

“As Governor Cuomo embraced in his State of the State Address yesterday, it is vital that we explore new ways to work together for the betterment of all New Yorkers. The Independent Democratic Conference sets out to do just that, and I hope they find success working with all legislators.”

Ferrer noted that he, “like so many other Democrats in New York,” had worked in 2008 to help the Democrats wrest the majority from the GOP for the first time in more than four decades, only to see the chamber return to Republican control two years later.

I see this as one of those political Tinkers-to-Evers-to-Chance moments. Stay with me now:

Ferrer works for the lobbying/consulting firm Mercury Public Affairs. That’s also home to Mike McKeon, former communications director to ex-Gov. George Pataki, who just so happened to head up the Republicans for Cuomo effort during the 2010 campaign.

Sen. Jeff Klein was asked yesterday if he had received encouragement from the governor to bolt from the Democratic conference, and insisted that he had not.

However, he did say that he called Cuomo to give him a heads up about the new conference and received assurances from the governor that he supports all four breakaway senators.

There’s a school of thought that the group calling itself the IDC actually will benefit Cuomo. Its members are definitely more in line with his agenda – particularly when it comes to the property tax cap – than the more liberal wing of the Democratic conference, which is likely going to start voting in a bloc against the GOP in preparation for the 2012 election.

Or, maybe I’m being too conspiracy theorist here. Because there’s also this connection: Ferrer, Roberto Ramirez (the former assemblyman-turned-uber-lobbyist/consultant) and Klein.

Obama To Make 2nd Capital Region Trip (Updated)

The president is headed back to the Capital Region next week – his second trip here since he took office.

This time, he’ll be in Schenectady. (H/T Jimmy Vielkind).

Obama’s last trip to the area came in September 2009. He was at Hudson Valley Community College and gave a big shout-out to then-AG Andrew Cuomo.

As you’ll recall, that visit came just as the news broke that the Obama administration had tried to push then-Gov. David Paterson out of the 2010 gubernatorial race to clear the field for Cuomo.

The White House was reportedly concerned Paterson was too weak to stave off a GOP challenge. At the time, it looked like former Mayor Rudy Giuliani might run for governor, and had he won, he would have had a nice platform from which to make a second presidential run.

Of course, all that is ancient history now.

UPDATE: And here’s the official announcement of the trip…not much in the way of details, although I have been able to confirm from a source familiar with the plan that Obama will indeed be visiting the GE plant.

On Tuesday, January 11, President Obama will travel to Schenectady, New York. More details will be announced as they become available.”

Senate Dems Plot Strategy To Lure Back Indy Renegades (Updated)

The rather low-key public response of the Senate Democrats’ leadership team to yesterday’s creation of an independent conference by four renegade members belies a frantic behind-the-scenes scramble to respond to this latest act of treason (which is becoming something of the regular occurrence for the the Dems).

Senate Minority Leader John Sampson released a statement chastising anyone for putting politics over progress on State of the State day.

Meanwhile, according to several Senate and labor sources, Sampson allies were reaching out to three members of the foursome in hopes that at least one – and possibly all – of them could be lured home.

The Sampsonites basically view Sen. Jeff Klein, the former deputy majority leader, as a “lost cause,” one insider told me. After he was bumped from the DSCC post by Sampson in favor of freshman Sen. Mike Gianaris, it was pretty clear he had reached pariah status.

But the defection of freshman Sen. David Carlucci really stings for Sampson, particularly after the DSCC invested so much in getting him elected ($256,763) to a seat that had been held by the GOP (the late Sen. Tom Morahan).

UPDATE1: A source familiar with the DSCC’s expenditures said the amount spent – directly and through transfers – on Carlucci was more like $700,000, which he “gladly accepted.”

Also, Brooklyn Sen. Dan Squadron, one of the younger and more reform-minded members of the Democratic conference, made it something of a personal project to help Carlucci.

The Senate Democrats’ union allies were, according to several sources, chomping at the bit to go nuclear on the Klein club (I have to give my producer, MJ, props for coining that phrase). Calls were made, I’m told, but the leadership is treading carefully at this point in hopes of brokering some kind of deal.

However, the more time that passes, the more difficult it will be for the renegades to return to the fold, particularly if they start voting in line with the GOP and receive additional resources – or perhaps even committee chairs – from Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.

More >

Cuomo In The Classroom

Governor Cuomo has just announced he will be doing a new weekly webcast for schools across the state, which he says will increase transparency and openness in government.

The administration is calling the segment “Albany at Work.” It says the webcasts will focus on what government has been doing, including recent actions or legislation. He is also going to be holding an “Ask Albany” segment where he will answer questions submitted by students.

“My administration is committed to including citizens in the workings of their government,” Governor Cuomo said. “Empowering students with knowledge about the state government and engaging them in an active dialogue is an important part of this process. By partnering with schools and educators from throughout New York, we can teach students about the challenges we face and help them learn how to work together to solve them.”

The idea is an interesting one, considering that Cuomo is expected to significantly cut funding for schools in order to bridge the current $10b budget gap. By engaging students, he might not be seen by the public as an anti-education Governor, which unions will likely try and label him as when he proposes cuts.

That said, the president of the state’s biggest teacher’s union Dick Iannuzzi praised the move in the press release.

“Citizen participation in government is the foundation of a robust democracy, and a way for all New Yorkers to be heard on the important issues of the day,” Iannuzzi said. “Inviting students of all ages to use the Internet to learn more about how state government works will lead to greater public engagement, and that can only be a positive as New York moves forward in the days to come.”

So far 12 schools have signed onto this plan. The list is after the jump.
More >

Seminerio Dies In Prison

Former Assemblyman Tony Seminerio, who pleaded guilty last January to federal corruption charges, has died in a North Carolina prison.

The 75-year-old Queens Democrat had represented his district for 30 years. He was sentenced to do six years behind bars back in February 2010.

The Queens Courier recalls that Seminerio seemed to realize he was likely to die while incarcerated, saying shortly after his sentence was handed down: “I’m 74 years old. How much time have I left?”

To Every Season, Churn, Churn, Churn

It’s that time of year again.

An unusual number of lost seats (at least 8, maybe 9, depending on how the Skartados/Kirwan race ends up) and retirements has created considerable opportunity for advancement in the Assembly majority when it comes to leadership roles and committee charimanships.

Overall, 16 Democrats (if you include Indpendence Party member Tim Gordon, who caucused with the Democrats) didn’t return this year. Not all of them had committees or titles, though.

The majority operates on a seniority basis, and due to its considerable size (even with the losses it sustained this year) there aren’t enough lulus to go around. So, it’s a big deal to the rank-and-file when things open up like this.

It also enables Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to reward members and make people who have been toiling on the back benches happier by boosting their rather meager $79,500 base salaries (remember: state lawmakers haven’t received a pay raise since January 1999).

Keep in mind that when one member moves up, he or she leaves behind a committee or leadership vacancy to fill. And thus people further down the food chain move up, too. We call this phenomenon “churn.”

The two biggest posts open at the moment are the chairs of the Labor and Corporations, Authorities & Commissions committees, which belonged to former Assemblywoman Susan John and former Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, respectively.

Also available: The Committee On Committees (this is a leadership post that belonged to former Assemblyman Bill Parment), Deputy Majority Whip (former Assemblywoman Ann Margaret Carrozza), Small Business Committee (former Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat), Administrative Regulations Review Commission (former Assemblyman-turned-Sen. Mike Gianaris).

Here’s another interesting tid-bit: Due to their loss of 8 (or 9) seats, the Assembly Democrats are going to have to reallocate committee memberships, which are based on proportionality. Now that there are more Republicans, they’re going to have more ranking members on committees.

All of this is rather complicated, and it could take several weeks to sort out. But committees are scheduled to start meeting when the session work gets underway next week.

Breslin Compares Indy Coalition To Amigos

Cap Ton’s Sr. Producer Liz Alesse caught up with Albany State Senator Neil Breslin yesterday after the state of the state address and asked him about the four Democrats who have formed the Independent Coalition, because they are upset with current leadership in the Democratic conference.

“I am disappointed,” Breslin said. “We saw this 2 years ago with the four amigos. We are just getting over that. We are a team. There are some things you don’t like and some things you do like. So hopefully they will come back.”

Breslin went on to say he was never contacted about possibly joining with the four, though ideologically he is probably closer to many of them then he is to the current Senate leadership.

Here And Now

Welcome to Day 6 of Cuomo II, it should be slightly less hectic than Day 1 and Day 5 were. There’s nothing on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s official schedule except AG Eric Schneiderman’s public swearing-in ceremony in NYC at 7 p.m.

But, given the ambitions and aggressive approach of this new governor, who knows? Here are the headlines…

The governor mentioned the word “tax” or “taxes” 21 times – mostly to denounce them and promise to lower them – in his decidedly pro-business State of the State address.

Cuomo’s speech wasn’t all about cutting, it also included some $900 million worth of new initiatives.

Fred Dicker thought the “normally hard-charging Cuomo uncharacteristically punted” due to the lack of detail in his SoS.

The Times also found Cuomo’s speech short on details, but did see “a few particularly promising ideas.”

Bill Hammond was impressed by Cuomo’s stagecraft.

There’s skepticism in the North Country about Cuomo’s desire to overhaul the prison system.

Dan Collins writes: “His State of the State speech must have set a PowerPoint record, with 82 slides in all. New York could invade Canada with that many slides.”

Not everyone approved of the PowerPoint approach.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver struck a conciliatory tone in his remarks.

The Post slammed Silver for turning his head away when Cuomo was speaking about ethics reform. (To be fair, I believe there was a monitor placed off stage for those sitting up there to follow the PowerPoint presentation).

Former state comptroller candidate Harry Wilson liked Cuomo’s speech and urges Silver to get on board.

More >

Video: State Of The State

Watch Governor Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address in its entirety:

Extras

SoS responses galore.

“In many ways, Mr. Cuomo’s speech and his policy proposals reinforced that he was ideologically a Democrat more in the mold of his former boss, Bill Clinton, than his father, Mario M. Cuomo,” write Danny Hakim and Nick Confessore.

This assemblywoman’s cell phone went off duing the speech.

GOP Sen. Betty Little thought it was the best SoS she’s heard in 16 years of listening.

Freshman GOP Sen. Lee Zeldin liked the speech, too. (It was his first).

Hunger Action was disappointed by the lack of Cuomo’s attention to issues dealing with poverty.

Get your 2011 legislative session calendar here.

Harry Wilson, who attended the SoS, chalked his loss to state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli up to a lack of voter attention to down-ballot races.

Sen. Greg Ball posted his swearing-in on YouTube.

Ball insists he can be a team player.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (finally) has a new counsel.

Silver went further than ever before in expressing support for a property tax cap.

Gabe Pressman pens an ode to two fallen “pillars of journalism,” Wayne Barrett and Tom Robbins.

Robbins explains why he followed Barrett out the door.

Robert Stacy McCain will never forgive Dede Scozzafava.

The Manhattan Madam did not like the Craigslist killed movie.

Mayor Bloomberg supports the new Senate Independent caucus.

So does Bill Samuels.