Insurance Policy

Republican senators who have pledged to vote “yes” on same-sex marriage have earned themselves the gratitude – and political support – of the deep-pocketed and well-organized LGBT community regardless of whether the bill makes to the floor or fails to pass.

“In general, we always stand by those who stand by us, and conversely, we need to hold accountable those who aren’t,” Empire State Pride Agenda Executive Director Ross Levi told me during a CapTon interview last night.

“So, by all means, we will be looking at a legislator’s record no matter what the outcome to see that we can keep our friends around, and – if need be – take the next stop and let democracy happen for those who don’t.”

In other words, Sen. Jim Alesi, the first Republican to publicly announce his support of gay marriage, has won himself a new group of powerful political friends even if he never actually has to stand up and cast a “yes” vote. (The convention wisdom is that he will, however, since even the most staunch same-sex marriage opponents are now privately saying the bill is likely to come to the floor sometime within the next 48 hours).

That’s good news for Alesi, who was facing a difficult re-election bid next fall, thanks to his very unpopular decision to sue two constituents over the broken leg he sustained while trespassing on their property. (He later dropped the suit after a public outcry).

I mentioned Alesi’s local troubles to a national LGBT activist yesterday, who more or less shrugged that off, telling me his organization is a one-issue outfit and has championed “yes” voters from other states regardless of their baggage.

It’s unclear whether the state Conservative Party and the religious right will exact a price from Alesi and his fellow publicly declared “yes” voter, Sen. Roy McDonald, if the bill is blocked from coming to the floor. Simply proclaiming their support and ratcheting up the pressure on their fellow majority conference members might be seen as sufficiently grievous as to merit primary challenges – even if no vote gets taken.

Here And Now

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos’ prediction yesterday that the session would end today now seems overly optimistic after no bills for the omnibus tax cap/rent laws/SUNY tuition/mandate relief framework deal were voted on – or, as far as we could tell, even printed – as of late yesterday.

“I don’t think there will be any surprises, but I think there will be a lot of progress – and that may be the surprise,” the governor said of the yet-unseen uber-deal details.

The fact that the final details were still being worked out left the door open for some people whose oxen got gored in the rent deal. One hopeful source suggested last night that the 421-a fight appears dead, but not “dead, dead.”

Generally, however, Democrats who are unhappy with that agreement are trying to get used to the idea that they lost the rent battle.

“The days of pushing are over,” Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said of the rent regs deal. “The alternative is expiration or enhancement, and I think it’s a significant enhancement.”

Deputy Senate Majority Leader Tom Libous said he believed the GOP would caucus this morning to decide whether to actually vote on gay marriage, but the general consensus seems to be that issue will be left until the absolute last minute.

Senate “insiders” are predicting a marriage vote won’t materialize until tomorrow.

Cuomo is “cautiously optimistic” the Senate will take up – and pass – the marriage bill, but we still haven’t seen any religious exemption amendments yet.

New York is looking to other states to see how they deal with the religious exemptions issue.

“The longer things drag on in Albany – and this will be last vote if it’s taken – the more I worry about it,” said Sen. Jim Alesi.

The Post is cautiously optimistic about the tax cap.

Cuomo has managed to “out-Republican the Republicans,” said a longtime (and anonymous) Long Island political player.

More >

Cuomo: No Surprises In Big Ugly Bill (VIDEO ADDED)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters this afternoon that the final version of the Big Ugly agreement will have “few surprises” but will reflect substantial progress.

“I’ll get you the bills, I’ll get you the language and then you can go through it specifically,” Cuomo said at an impromptu gaggle with reporters. “I don’t think you’re going to be surprised by a lot of what’s in there.”

Among the highlights of the bill include a tax cap, rent control and a SUNY tuition plan. Details haven’t been plentiful and bill language continues to be haggled on between the Senate, Assembly and governor. No bills are expected to be voted on tonight.

The governor didn’t elaborate too much on the effort to insert more exemptions for religious organizations into the same-sex marriage bill, but did say he expected a vote on the bill.

“I believe it will be brought to the floor for a vote, I believe it should be brought to the floor for a vote, and I’m cautiously optimistic that it’s going to pass,” Cuomo said.

The governor would not say if he plans to keep legislators in Albany on Thursday and Friday if same-sex marriage legalization hasn’t been approved.

Rent And Tax Cap Language In Dispute

Lawmakers are still haggling over language in the package of legislation that will include a property-tax cap, rent control, mandate measures and a SUNY tuition plan.

(For a full rundown of what we know is in the bill, check back to this post).

Senate Republicans ended a hour-long conference without hammering out an agreement with the Assembly Democrats.

Rent advocates are likely to oppose the agreement and Senate Democrats are displeased with the measure as well. However, one lawmaker told me earlier that with so many items thrown into the legislation, it would be difficult to vote against.

With bill language still in flux, that measns no bils are being printed, meaning the measures are unlikely to be taken up this evening.

This most likely pushes back the timetable for same-sex marriage legalization in Senate, where the vote remains deadlocked at 31-31. It’s likely that no vote on marriage would take place until after the major issues of rent and the tax cap are locked down.

NOM Poll Says 57% Of NYers Oppose Same-Sex Marriage

With the fate of same-sex marriage likely to be decided in the next 24 hours, the National Organization for Marriage has released a new poll they commissioned, which found that 57% of the state is for traditional marriage.

Though polls can be a little deceiving.

These results run in contrast to independent polls that have been conducted by Siena College, Marist, and Quinnipiac that found that a majority of New Yorkers actually support the passage of a marriage equality bill. Those polls also talked to many more people than this poll, which only surveyed 302 “registered voters with voting history randomly selected from the voter registration file in NYS.”

The poll also words the question differently than the other polls. They ask, “Do you agree or disagree that marriage should only be between a man and a woman.” Which was actually close to the wording we used in our YNN/Marist poll back on 5/11, where 53% of New Yorkers personally felt marriage should be between a man and a woman.

In that same poll, we asked voters if gay couples should be allowed to marry, have access to civil unions, or have no rights, and 50% of the state said they should marry, and 25% thought they should be allowed to have civil unions.

The National Organization of Marriage poll does have a couple of other interesting results though. It found that 59% of those surveyed think the voters should decide, not lawmakers. It also asked the voters if they have heard anything recently in the news on the issue, and 91% said yes.

The poll was also conducted over the weekend, so it is timely. But it is also appears a little slanted. Of those who responded, 27% said they were “very conservative” on social issues, and 13% said they were “somewhat conservative.” Only 34% of those surveyed said they were very or somewhat liberal.


A special election to fill Anthony Weiner’s seat reportedly will be held Sept. 13 (concurrent with primary). A Cuomo spokesman insists no date has been selected.

A handwriting expert on Weiner’s resignation letter signature: “People who choose a symbolic signature tend to have a cluster of traits in common: excessive ego, secretiveness, need for privacy, arrogance, and high self-confidence in their area of expertise.”

Weiner still has some fans.

A property tax cap that expires is not “worth the paper it’s written on,” says EJ McMahon.

Sen. Tom Duane has never believed Sen. Greg Ball would vote “yes” on gay marriage.

It looks like Tier VI is out of the mandate relief deal.

Sen. Jim Alesi channels Lady Gaga.

“I will feel free to go to bed at night and travel around not just New York State but the entire country…to say we passed marriage equality in New York State, and we will pass marriage equality in America,” Alesi said.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand made the case for same-sex marriage on Tamron Hall.

Sens. Ruth Hassell-Thompson and Ruben Diaz Sr. had a verbal tiff over the rent laws in the chamber.

NYC Councilwoman Tish James to Walmart: “You get the women’s badge of shame.”

CapCon gets some love from The New Yorker.

NYC Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson is a bike lane evangelist.

President Obama’s job approval rating today: 45-48.

Jon Huntsman’s presidential rollout was not without problems.

The Upper West Side will never be the same.

What We Know (So Far) Of The Big Ugly

Details remain a bit fuzzy on the three-way Big Ugly deal, but some information has been slowly leaking out as legislators get briefed on the details. Here’s what we’ve heard so far:

- The 2 percent tax cap remains a 2 percent cap with the same pension exemptions. The cap expires in five years.

- Rent control expires in four years.

- Income threshold for rent control is raised from $175,000 to $200,000.

*The 421a tax credit continues for another four years unchanged.

- Vacancy decontrol is unchanged.

- Qualifying rent rises from $2,000 to $2,500.

- Tuition at SUNY campsues will rise $300 a year over five years.

- The less generous Tier VI pension proposal floated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the words of Assembly Majority Leader Ron Canestrari, has been “postponed.”

The Senate GOP is huddling in a closed-door conference right now. Rent advocates are not pleased with the rent deal at all, and some downstate Democratic members of both the Senate and Assembly aren’t too thrilled, either.

But Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said the rent agreement was not a bad one.

“I think that we have come up with a deal that has an expiration as opposed to straight extender which has been the Senate position all along is a significant improvement,” Silver said.

Cuomo Unleashes IG On NYRA

While we’re waiting for the “big ugly” to come together, a little side note about a very big industry in NY: Horse racing.

State Budget Director Bob Megna sent a harshly-worded letter to NYRA CEO Charlie Hayward today, questioning the racing association’s ability to bring its operations into the black and calling for a complete review of its books by state Inspector General Ellen Biben.

Megna cited “significant and unacceptable gaps” in the Franchise Oversight Board’s ability to analyze NYRA’s budget, specifically when it comes to details about the compensation for senior management.

Back in December, the NYRA Board sparked a backlash after approving raises for several hundred non-union employees one day after threatening bankruptcy if a controversial NYC OTB restructuring bill failed to pass. (It wasn’t, and the NYC OTB operation closed, costing some 1,000 people their jobs).

In his letter, Megna notes wage compensation at NYRA is projected to increase by 5 percent at a time when the association is projecting a $11 million debt – a situation that warrants “justification.”

Megna expressed “disappointment” that Hayward failed to show up to a Franchise Oversight Board meeting that he said was rescheduled at Hayward’s request to accommodate NYRA’s racing schedule.

“It is imperative that NYRA partner with the state to usher in a new era of openness that regains the public trust in a vital racing institution,” Megna concluded.

Letter to Charles Hayward NYRA June 21

Catholic Conference: Gay Marriage Chapter Amendment ‘Empty Promise’

Same-sex marriage is not a part of the framework deal announced earlier today by Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and confirmed by a spokesman for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but the issue is far from off the front burner here at the Capitol.

Speculation is that the governor would not have signed off on a “big ugly” deal that included just two of his top three post-budget policy proposals, giving up leverage on the third in the process. Skelos has not ruled out a vote on marriage tomorrow, which is what advocates are expecting at this point, but he hasn’t ruled it in, either. That gives hope to the anti-marriage coalition, whose members were still making their presence known throughout the day by sign-waving, hymn-singing, and chanting.

We still haven’t seen any language to reflect the ongoing negotiations over exemptions for religious institutions and individuals. This is make some people – including the Catholic Conference – very nervous. The assumption is that gay marriage will come up as the very last issue, allowing senators to vote and then head for the hills home ASAP. If there is an amendment, the Assembly would have to pass it, too, because it passed the governor’s program bill last week.

There’s two ways to go about this. The first is a chapter amendment, which is a stand-alone piece of legislation that passes on its own merit and changes a previously passed bill. The second is a straight-up amendment, which would require the Assembly to call the bill it passed back from the Senate and re-pass it with new language. The former is much easier, and some have even speculated would attract more “yes” votes than the marriage bill itself, since it would ostensibly deal with religious exemptions only.

The Catholic Conference opposes the chapter amendment option, calling the possibility of its passage in this case “disturbing news” that “gives great cause for alarm among those who seek genuine protections for the deeply held religious beliefs and mission of individuals and organizations in this state.”

“Chapter amendments are separate pieces of legislation used to clean up or correct mistakes or problems with previously enacted laws,” the conference said in a statement. “Use of a chapter amendment in the context of same-sex ‘marriage’ legislation is an empty promise.”

“Language that cannot be secured in the body of same-sex marriage legislation cannot be secured in a separate piece of legislation. This should be obvious. There is no reasonable expectation that the Assembly would support passage of a Senate chapter amendment to offer genuine religious liberty protection once a same-sex ‘marriage’ bill is signed into law. We call on all parties to discuss reality, not fiction.”

Forgive my choice of words here, but this strikes me as a bit of a Hail Mary.

Light At The End Of The Tunnel

After emerging from a closed-door meeting with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos told reporters he believes the trio has reached “the framework of an agreement to resolve all outstanding issues” – with the exception of same-sex marriage.

“I’m not going to get into specifics,” Skelos told me, the DN’s Ken Lovett and City Hall’s Adam Lisberg as we followed him into his third floor office. (He spoke briefly with reporters outside the governor’s office on the second floor, too).

“I think we’re going to have a real good, complete package…This is a wrap-up of what I believe are all the outstanding issues…hopefully, we can conclude tomorrow.”

Said “package” will include the rent laws, the property tax cap, mandate relief and SUNY 2020, according to Skelos. He did not offer any details. He also insisted the topic of gay marriage “was not discussed.”

The majority leader stressed that this deal is “tentative” and other issues could “pop up.” He also said he and his conference still need to review “language” on gay marriage and decide whether there will be a vote before the Senate leaves Albany for the summer.

According to CapTon’s Nick Reisman, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver subsequently came out of the three-way and confirmed Skelos’ news, and said voting could start as early as this evening.

The governor did not make a public appearance – he hasn’t throughout this whole end-of-session negotiation process. But Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto confirmed the three-way tentative agreement. UPDATE: Vlasto notes Cuomo made two appearances last week: One on Monday and another on Friday.

So, it’s official as we now have three-way confirmation.

So far, we haven’t seen any of the religious protections that have been discussed by the Republicans and the governor’s office materialize into bill language. Several on-the-fence senators – Greg Ball, Andrew Lanza – have said they would not be able to vote “yes” unless the religious protection issue is addressed.