Here And Now

Happy spring! Oh, it’s snowing. It’s the final full week of budget negotiations before the Friday, April 1 deadline. The governor is expected in Albany, but has no public schedule.

Sen. Kevin Parker is scheduled to be sentenced at about 9:45 a.m. in a Brooklyn Court. Former Long Island lawmaker George Guldi is also scheduled to be sentenced today.

The Committee to Save NY has spent some $2.6 million to back Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal.

Said committee spokesman Bill Cunningham (whose firm has earned $80,000 to date): “If you want to communicate with the people of the state of New York, it’s expensive.” Without GNYHA and 1199 SEIU in the mix, opponents have spent less- about $1.9 million.

A NYSUT ad was amended to eliminate Cuomo’s name after the governor placed a call to Dick Iannuzzi.

“Administration insiders” accuse (via Fred Dicker) Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver of wanting to increase spending, which could cause a government shutdown. Silver called the allegations “not worth responding to.”

Sen. John DeFrancisco is pushing a bill that would let lawyers like himself collect as much as 33 percent in legal fees from malpractice payouts by repealing a less lucrative law on the books.

The Post urges Cuomo to stand firm on capping med-mal payments.

The WSJ sides with Cuomo and the Senate GOP in the millionaire’s tax fight.

The Senate and governor are also facing off against the Assembly and NYSUT over $32.5 million in funding for 125 teacher training centers.

Peter Applebome raises concerns about Indian Point’s evacuation plan.

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The Weekend That Was

Sen. John McCain says President Obama waited too long to attack Libya, but the country needs to support him now.

Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul’s NY-26 bid was endorsed by the Working Families Party. (No link).

The DCCC might be lukewarm on Hochul’s candidacy, but she is benefitting from the advise of an “old hand” of the committee, according to Bob McCarthy.

Erie County Democratic Chairman Len Lenihan cast the NY-26 race as Wall Street vs. Main Street.

Hochul describes herself as someone who’s “not viewed as a polarizing figure.”

The Times decries Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s “all cuts budget,” calling for the governor and the Legislature to show some “political courage” and approve relatively painless tax increases.

The AP’s Mike Gormley borrows a phrase from Eminem to describe Cuomo’s likely big budget win.

“I’d say he was hurt, on his own behalf and on behalf of Sandra (Lee),” John Marino, a family friend and a past chairman of the state Democratic Party, said of Cuomo’s response to criticism he weathered from a conservative Catholic commentator.

“For more than 25 years, Mr. Kruger and the Turanos of Mill Basin have forged the most unconventional of domestic arrangements – at once public and opaque, widely whispered about and poorly understood,” the NY Times reports on the scandal-scarred senator’s unusual living arrangement.

Rudy Giuliani has a lot of work to do in New Hampshire if and when he decides to join the presidential fray.

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As Expected, NY-26 Dems Tap Hochul

After conducting candidate interviews in Geneseo today, the seven Democratic county chairs in NY-26 announced they had unanimously selected the frontrunner, Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul, to run for the seat vacated by former Rep. Chris Lee.

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Hochul launched a campaign Website yesterday and released the following statement after her selection by the chairs today:

“I am running for Congress because I can do in Washington what I’ve done in Erie County – cut waste, hold down taxes, and help Western New York businesses create jobs for working families.”

“I am looking forward to meeting residents throughout the district, and sharing my plan to get people back to work and get our economy back on track.”

Judith Hunter, chair of the Livingston County Democratic Committee, said Hochul has been a “proven leader in Erie County and will work to support Western New York’s hard working families,” adding:

“She understands the struggles that businesses face and will work hard to help them grow and create jobs right here where it matters.”

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Cuomo Admin To Meet With White House On Indian Point

Governor Andrew Cuomo just released a statement about the Indian Point nuclear power plant, echoing his previous calls for closer scrutiny of it’s safety.

The governor says members of his administration, including Lt. Governor Bob Duffy and Director of Operations Howard Glaser, will meet with senior Obama officials on Tuesday.

You might remember that Cuomo told reporters on Wednesday that he was concerned with an MSNBC report that found Indian Point to be the nuke plant most at risk for seismic activity in the entire country, and that he would be addressing the issue ASAP.

Here is the complete release:

“In light of the catastrophe in Japan, New Yorkers must know the facts regarding Indian Point and its latest risk assessment.”

“After watching the events in Japan and having previously opposed the Indian Point plant, this past Tuesday, I requested the White House schedule a meeting between my staff and senior members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.”

“That meeting has now been scheduled for Tuesday, March 22 with, among others, Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy and Director of State Operations Howard Glaser.

“The purpose of the meeting will be to discuss the risks facing Indian Point in the event of an earthquake, how prepared Indian Point is to handle an earthquake, as well as what risk assessments have been completed regarding Indian Point.

“We are looking forward to a productive dialogue with the NRC.”

Extras

Sen. Kevin Parker is scheduled to be sentenced Monday on the two misdemeanor charges of which he was found guilty last December.

Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul says she’s in the NY-26 race, and Democratic leaders at the state and local level aren’t exactly thrilled.

A state judge handed public employees a temporary win in Wisconsin.

New DEC Commissioner Joe Martens says the release of the environmental impact study on drilling in the Marcellus shale will come sometime this summer – perhaps slightly after a moratorium ends in June.

NY1 morning anchor and “In the Papers” creator Pat Kiernan is a big fan of Trader Joe’s and a Canadian cereal called “Shreddies.”

Former NYC Councilwoman/Comptroller candidate Melinda Katz had a second baby.

She named the baby, in part, after a character in a TV show.

Americans are worried about the historically high national debt, but not worried enough to pay more taxes to lower it.

Spending on NYC homeless shelters could increase up to 66 percent next year due to the elimination of a rental voucher for low-income families.

CWA launched a radio ad attacking Sen. Patricia Ritchie.

The Barack H. Obama Elementary School in Asbury Park, NJ is closing due to lack of enrollment.

New York is slated to receive $46 million in federal School Improvement Grants.

President Obama on Libya: A cease-fire must be implemented “immediately,” no US ground troops.

Helen Thomas to Playboy: “I think (the Jews) are wonderful people.”

97 Rock FM responds to Mayor Bloomberg’s comments about Buffalo…in song and T-shirt form.

Whither Rudy Giuliani in the NY gay marriage debate?

Bill O’Reilly takes an alternate view of nuclear plant safety.

Schneiderman Pushes NRC On Indian Point (Updated)

AG Eric Schneiderman is pressuring the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to consider seismic risk in relation to the relicensing of Indian Point, an argument the state has heretofore been unsuccessful in making while seeking to prevent the nuclear plant from getting permission to remain open for another 20 years.

In a letter to the NRC commissioners, Schneiderman argues that the unfolding nuclear crisis in Japan, coupled with a new report that ranked Indian Point’s Reactor No. 3 as at the highest risk of quake damage in the US, merits consideration.

“As the NRC has acknowledged, Indian Point Unit 1, which was authorized in 1956, was built prior to any specific requirement for earthquake protection,” the attorney general wrote.

“Although the NRC revoked the operating license for the Indian Point Unit 1 power reactor in 1980, many of Unit 1’s system, structures, and components were conjoined to Unit 2 and Unit 3 and are still in use today.”

“These aging Unit 1 systems, structures, and components were built to inferior seismic specifications, and Unit 2 and Unit 3’s continued reliance on these systems today poses significant safety questions.”

“The NRC has consistently blocked consideration of New York’s seismic concerns, as well as related concerns about population, emergency evacuation, fire safety, and site security.”

Indian Point’s operator, Entergy Corporation, has applied for its two reactors to be allowed to continue operating for another two decades past 2013 and 2015 when their 40-year licenses expire.

Entergy insists Indian Point’s reactors can easily withstand the sort of low-magnitude quakes that occur in the Northeast, which are nothing compared to the 8.9 monster that ravaged Northern Japan, causing a massive tsunami.

Yesterday, the Obama administration ordered a safety review of all the nation’s nuclear power plants.

Earlier this week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has long maintained that Indian Point should be closed and began the process to block its relicensing when he was AG, expressed renewed concern about the facility and ordered a complete safety review.

Cuomo said the proximity of the plant to NYC – just 24 miles to the north in Westchester County – makes it too risky to keep open. But Mayor Bloomberg said yesterday that he supports the plant’s continued operation, noting it generates up to 30 percent of the city’s energy.

“Short term, we have to have power if we are going to grow, adn Indian Point at the moment is a big part of that,” Bloomberg said. “All of these other alternatives are a number of years down the road.”

The full text of Schneiderman’s letter appears after the jump. UPDATE: John Durso Jr., executive director of a business/labor/community group called the New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance (NY AREA) released a pro-Indian Point statement that appears just before the AG’s letter.

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Kruger Scandal Gets Cute

Compliments of a reader, an anime version of Sen. Carl Kruger and “Real Estate Deverloper No. 1 (AKA, it’s fairly ceratin, Bruce Bender of Forest City Ratner) discussing how to use $4 million of worth of taxpayer funds for a variety of projects – including the Carlton Avenue Bridge.

All the dialogue is lifted directly from the US attorney’s criminal complaint against Kruger, Assemblyman William Boyland Jr., lobbyist Richard Lipsky et al.

Report: Fix Is In For Hochul; Morelle Objects

Democratic leaders in NY-26 are scheduled to interview seven potential candidates to run for former Rep. Chris Lee’s seat tomorrow in Oswego Geneseo, but according to a “knowledgeable source” who spoke to Roll Call, all but one of those would-be contenders shouldn’t bother showing up.

According to this source, the county chairs will officially nominate Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul Sunday night. However, that comes as not-so-welcome news to one of those chairs, Monroe County Assemblyman Joe Morelle, he told me he’s planning to travel to Oswego aGeneseo nd has no favorite.

“That’s news to me,” the chairman told me when I reached him this afternoon. “…I haven’t committed to anyone. I’ve spoken to Kathy Hochul, but I’ve spoken to a lot of people because we’re going through a process.”

Hochul has been the presumptive frontrunner on the Democratic side since Lee’s abrupt resignation following his Craigslist scandal. But she was also mulling a potential challenge to GOP Erie County Executive Chris Collins this fall, and it was unclear which of these two likely uphill battles she really wanted to take on.

The NY-26 Democrats have been dragging their feet on selecting a candidate as the DCCC has been reluctant to commit to investing in the race. Not that you can blame Rep. Steve Israel, the new DCCC chairman, considering this is a GOP-dominated district that’s on the short list to be redistricted out of existence.

The Republicans went early with Assemblywoman Jane Corwin, who has since landed the Conservative and Independence Party lines as well.

Corwin is already campaigning hard around the district and launched her first TV ad this week.

Democrat-turned-Republican businessman Jack Davis is circulating petitions to run as an independent and has said he’ll spend as much as $3 million on his own money on the race. Republican-turned-Conservative Iraq War veteran David Bellavia’s supporters are also trying to collect 3,500 good signatures in 12 days to get him onto the ballot, although it’s not clear he’ll actually go through with a run.

Further complicating the field, Ian Murphy, editor of the Buffalo Beast Website, has confirmed he plans to run on the Green Party line, changing his registration from the Working Families Party to do so.

Eliot Spitzer Won’t Discuss His Fantasies, Likes ‘American Idol’

This Sunday’s NY Times Magazine will feature a Q&A with former Governor-turned-CNN host Eliot Spitzer, in which he again declined to as he once put it, offer a “Shermanesque” denial about haboring an interest in entering the 2013 NYC mayor’s race.

“The only thing I can say is that I have not thought for a millisecond nor done anything to prepare for any sort of political campaign,” Spitzer told reporter Andrew Goldman.

“I’m doing one thing and one thing only, and that’s trying to show the folks here at CNN and the audience that we can create something that will be worth watching.”

Spitzer also declined to say whether he fantasizes about being president of the United States, noting: “I don’t talk to journalists about what I fantasize about.”

When Goldman protested that he hadn’t really been “going there” – a tactic nod to Spitzer’s potential sensitivity to discussing his (ahem) fantasies, the former governor replied:

“You thought that this one was fair game? Look, these days the fantasies are seeing headlines that say, ‘CNN at 8 o’clock is beating all the competition,’ that we’re beating ‘American Idol’ and O’Reilly.”

Quipped Goldman: “Keep dreaming.”

Spitzer: “Yeah. I hate to admit it, but ‘American Idol’ is a great show.”

The former governor said he still isn’t able to laugh about the prostitution scandal that forced him to resign from office three years ago this month, but also doesn’t “live in a hermetically sealed container and pretend things didn’t happen.”

And he issued an open invitation for some of his top political enemies – Ken Langone, Hank Greenberg and Dick Grasso – to come debate him on “The Arena” any time, but thinks “they will run for the hills.”

Superintendents To Cuomo: Say What?

The New York State Council of School Superintendents is firing back at Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a blog post (!) that refutes a number of claims he made in his Red Room tirade against school districts and their allies yesterday.

The council questions Cuomo’s claim that schools have received “tremendous” increase in funding over the past decade, noting, for example, that aid increased 1.9 percent in 2009-10 largely because federal stimulus cash averted the need for layoffs that would have been caused by the $1.1 billion worth of cuts proposed by then-Gov. David Paterson.

The post goes on from there, addressing the governor’s assertion on the percentage of expenditures devoted to classroom instruction versus administrative costs, as well as his insistence that districts can make up the difference in lost aid with reserve funds and economize by reducing waste, fraud and abuse.

“Conclusion: The Governor and Legislature face hard choices in assembling a budget for the state,” the council’s Deputy Director Robert Lowry wrote.

“So do superintendents, boards and voters in putting together budgets for their schools. Nothing good can come from minimizing the challenges we share.”

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