CSEA Dismisses Cuomo Concessions

The concessions gained from Council 82 — as trumpeted today by Gov. Andrew Cuomo — are small potatoes and have no bearing on the negotiations with CSEA and PEF, the state’s largest public employee unions.

Danny Donohue, the CSEA president, released a statement this afternoon noting that the 66,000 members of his union will continue to negotiate “in good faith at the bargaining table.”

“The Cuomo administration’s agreement with Council 82 represents a settlement with a very small number of specific state law enforcement officers who haven’t had a contract for six years. CSEA will continue to negotiate in good faith at the bargaining table on an agreement that will fairly address the state’s fiscal situation, while respecting the needs of the 66,000 CSEA members who deliver a wide range of essential services to the people of New York every day.”

Council 82 members had been without a contract since 2005. The organization represents 160 members of law enforcement. Cuomo is trying to secure $450 million in workforce concessions in order to avoid 9,800 layoffs. Cuomo’s statement released earlier in the day on the Council 82 agreement specifically called out the unions, saying that, “If similar contract terms were adopted by New York’s other public employee unions, the state could achieve the $450 million in savings needed to avoid the 9,800 layoffs.”

Cuomo To Sign Recharge NY Bill In Buffalo

Governor Cuomo is heading to North Tonawanda tomorrow for the ceremonial signing of the Recharge NY bill. It was the second program bill that Cuomo introduced, and ultimately it ended up in the final budget.

North Tonawanda city officials tell us he will hold a morning news conference at Ascension Industries, a beneficiary of the program.

Recharge New York is the successor to the Power for Jobs plan. The concept is the same. It provides low cost power to certain businesses in exchange for a promise that they will keep an agreed upon number of people employed. But this plan doubles the size of the investment in an attempt to spur job creation.

It also makes the program permanent, something business leaders applaud. In past the legislature would debate over whether to extend the program each year – which usually happens each June like clockwork. (You may remember during the coup that this issue was often brought up to illustrate the real pain being caused by the inaction in the Senate.)

Now, in order to pay for the plan, the state is taking low cost power that was being used to help cut Western New York residents energy bills by up to $4 a month. Those residents will still get discounts in coming years, but they will begin to fall off in 2014.

Robocall Stands Down As Koch Lauds ‘Prodigal Son’ Hanna

A hero-turned-enemy is back to being a hero.

Former New York City Mayor Ed Koch is celebrating the return of Republican Assemblyman Sean Hanna to his list of “heroes” of reform after the Rochester-area lawmaker signed onto an Assembly bill that would create an independent panel to redraw legislative districts.

From Koch:

“I congratulate Assemblyman Sean Hanna for his decision to co-sponsor this bill,” Mayor Koch said. “I have always said that we hold no grudges, and that anyone who supports the reforms we seek is a “Hero of Reform.” As of today, Assemblyman Hanna remains a “Hero” in my eyes. The robo-calls into his district will be halted immediately.I am especially gratified to know our efforts are working. I hope others will follow Hanna’s lead, whether motivated by our robo-calls or other factors.”"

Hanna, along with more than 40 other legislators from both parties, was the target of a robocall campaign by Koch, which started this week.

The campaign was launched because the former mayor believes the lawmakers are reneging on their promise to enacted reforms in Albany.

Hanna this morning disputed the claim that he was an “enemy” of reform because he did indeed sign onto a independent redistricting bill, just not the one Koch supported.

As Liz reported earlier, Hanna signed onto the bill sponsored by Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries, but the correct paperwork was yet to be delivered to the Brooklyn lawmaker’s office at the time of Koch’s robocall announcement.

Bill Would Create A Hydrofracking Commission

Assemblywoman Naomi Rivera wants to create a 15-member commission that would develop rules – including fees, insurance and bonding requirements – for companies that want to drill for natural gas in the Marcellus Shale region of the Southern Tier.

“We know that there will be huge infrastructure demands and damage to our roads and bridges by hydro fracking firms; that their workers will displace families from affordable housing in impacted communities; that there will be a need for additional medical and police services in impacted areas; that there is a high risk of potential large scale environmental damage; and that other states that have allowed hydro fracking have negotiated natural resource fees and tax revenue structures that do not benefit those states or their residents,” Rivera, a Bronx Democrat said in a statement.

Rivera’s bill would house the commission at ESDC (whose agency chief, Ken Adams, was recently confirmed by the Senate) and must have at least one representatives from the agency.

The Department of Transportation, Division of Home and Community Renewal, Department of Environmental Conservation, Department of Tax and Finance, the office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, and representatives of the private sector through appointments from the New York State Business Council and the Partnership for New York City would also be represented on the commission.

The commission would make its recommendations to the governor’s office.

The Department of Environmental Conservation is currently developing a study on the safety and feasibility of hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracking, due to be released in July.

It is unclear if the DEC, rocked by staff reductions in the last several years, would be able to manage and oversee the permitting process if the permitting process is approved.

Cuomo Gets Concessions From Council 82

Gov. Andrew Cuomo this afternoon announced he had successfully garnered a host of labor concessions from Council 82, the union that represents law enforcement — foreshadowing a larger battle Cuomo could have with larger unions like CSEA and PEF.

The agreement includes wage freezes through the 2013-14 fiscal year, the end of step increases, as well as increases in contributions to the employee health-insurance program.

The contract agreement with Council 82 — which Cuomo’s office labeled “historic” — comes as the governor is trying to seek concessions from the other public employee unions in the state. The 2011-12 state budget includes $450 million in workforce concessions. Cuomo has said the laying off of 9,800 state workers is a final resort.

Negotiations with CSEA and PEF, the two largest public-employee unions, are currently underway.

Cuomo, in his statement, explicitly mentions the need for concessions from organized labor:

“I applaud Council 82 and its leadership for understanding the problems of the state, and realizing that through shared sacrifice, we can get New York on the road to recovery,” Cuomo said. “This is a model the other unions negotiating with the state can follow. If similar contract terms were adopted by New York’s other public employee unions, the state could achieve the $450 million in savings needed to avoid the 9,800 layoffs projected in the enacted budget. I also want to thank and commend our lead negotiators Todd Snyder and Joe Bress for their tireless work on behalf of the people of the state.”

The agreement also reduces overtime benefits, which the governor’s office said would save $11 million. Shouldering a greater burden of health insurance by union members, which increases the share of an employee’s contribution from 10 percent to 20 percent, is expected to save $178 million.

Council 82 had been without a contract since 2005. The contract agreement includes SUNY police, Park Police, and Department of Environmental Conservation Officers and Forest Rangers and covers 1160 employees.

Carroll: Poll Numbers Will Help Cuomo Agenda

The robust poll numbers for Gov. Andrew Cuomo in today’s Quinnipiac College survey bodes well for the year’s remaining agenda.

“It impresses the Legislature. They see a governor who’s got high marks. And he’s said if people are with him, then he’ll go in and help them. The idea that a popular successful, high-scoring governor might come in and put his arm around you, that has to be a plus.”

The Democratic governor still has a host of issues he must contend with: an ethics package, expanding rent control laws and passing a property tax cap. The Legislature is about to go on a two-week break and Cuomo plans to start traveling the state drumming up support for the tax cap.

Here’s some video from the interview:

Panel To Consider Walcott Waiver Changes Composition

Just over an hour before its scheduled meeting to consider Mayor Bloomberg’s waiver request for NYC Schools Chancellor-in-waiting Dennis Walcott, the state Education Department announced two changes to the now 10-member screening panel.

Fadhilika Atiba-Weza, superintendent of the Enlarged City School District of Troy, will take the place of Shenendehowa Superintendent Oliver Robinson, who had a scheduling conflict and cannot make today’s 1 p.m. meeting, according to SED spokesman Tom Dunn.

In addition, Frank Muñoz, an attorney and the former deputy comissioner of the Office of Professions at SED, has been added to the panel. He is the lone Hispanic member. There are several is one African American member, according to Dunn. (Walcott happens to be black).

Education Commissioner David Steiner announced the panel’s membership yesterday while Walcott was in Albany meeting with legislative Education Committee leaders for the first time since he was tapped by Bloomberg last week to replace ousted Chancellor Cathie Black.

The panel is expected to make a recommendation to Steiner on Walcott’s waiver later today. Steiner has not set a time limit for acting on the request, although he has said he recognizes the needs to move quickly. Considering Walcott’s education experience – something Black sorely lacked – his approval is a fairly safe bet.

Walcott Waiver final WED

Senate Dems: Ethics Matters (Updated X2)

Senate Democrats are trying to push the Republican majority into supporting a host of ethics reform measures and are attempting to force the issue by using a Senate rule to get a hearing on the matter.

Senate Democrats used the same trick — albeit unsuccessfully — to get Republicans to have a hearing on creating an independent commission to redraw legislative districts.

But with an economy still struggling to recover, rent control laws due to expire in New York City and a tax cap wanted by a large portion of the public, Senate Democrats may be trying to swim against the tide on the issue.

Senate Democrats disagree, pointing to a Siena College poll earlier this week that showed broad support for an ethics bill.

“Siena released a poll earlier this week showing 60 percent of New Yorkers want ethics reform, specifically transparency,” said Sen. Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan. “The public has caught on. There is reason why there is such distrust in the state government in New York.”

Update: Here’s the Republican response, from Senate GOP spokesman Mark Hansen: “The Senate Democrats didn’t pass any of these bills when they were in the majority, but they did violate a few of them. Discussions with the governor and Assembly on ethics reform are ongoing and we are confident we will reach an agreement.”

Updated X2: Senate Democratic spokesman Austin Shafran says, “We passed ethics reform last year that contained many similar components to this year’s ethics package. Like independent redistricting, Republicans supported it and then backed off their promise. This is a clear pattern of broken promises by the Senate GOP.”

Then-Gov. David Paterson vetoed the ethics bill approved by the Legislature when the Democrats held a Senate majority on the grounds it was not strong enough.

‘Lauren’s Law’ Passes Senate

The Senate approved a measure today that would prohibit a driver’s license application from being processed until the licensee becomes an organ donor (or selects “not at this time”).

It’s also tangible proof that being in the breakaway conference of independent Democrats has its advantages.

The measure, sponsored by Sen. David Carlucci, D-Rockland County, is named after 11-year-old Lauren Shields, a heart transplant survivor.

“Today is an extra special day for me. Without my donor angel, I would not be here today to celebrate my 11th birthday or the passing of Lauren’s Law,” Lauren Shields said in the statement. “I want to thank Senator Carlucci for working so hard to save other people’s lives who are waiting for a life saving organ just like I was. I also want to thank Senator Skelos and all of the other Senators who voted today to save lives. Last week I had a special meeting with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and I hope very soon to be celebrating with him and Assemblyman Ortiz when it passes the Assembly.”

Passage of the bill was also a victory for Carlucci, a freshman member of the Independent Democratic Conference, the breakaway faction of Democrats who do not conference with Democrats, but are aligned with Senate Republicans. The bill’s passage is a tangible sign of the benefits of being in the conference. Carlucci, along with Sens. Diane Savino of Staten Island, Jeff Klein of the Bronx and David Valesky of Oneida.

It is generally rare for a member of the minority party in the Legislature to have a bill approved, much less voted on, but that has changed slightly in recent years.

The conference voted with the GOP to pass a constitutional amendment that would create an independent redistricting commission. Most Senate Democrats opposed the measure because the commission would not be in place until 2022. With a GOP lawmaker absent, the conference’s vote gave Republicans the needed votes to pass the bill. More >

GOP Assemblyman: ‘Bully’ Koch In Cahoots With Silver (Updated)

Assemblyman Sean Hanna, a Rochester-area Republican, is speaking out against what he deemed the “bully tactics” of Ed Koch, accusing the former NYC mayor of being dishonest and disingenuous in his independent redistricting push.

Hanna took issue with being branded as one of Koch’s so-called “enemies of reform”, saying he should not be lambasted for refusing to support Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s redistricting bill, as introduced by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, because he never technically pledged to do so.

This argument is a little twisted, but basically what Hanna is saying is that while he did indeed sign the NY Uprising PAC pledge, said pledge did not actually require his support of THIS EXACT bill, but merely A bill that would establish a nonpartisan commission to redraw the congressional and state legislative lines in time for the 2012 elections.

“As Mr. Koch is well aware, I have joined Democratic Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries to sponsor A03432, a truly bipartisan, independent redistricting commission,” Hanna said.

“Our bill assigns the same number of commissioner appointments to the leaders of the majority and minority conferences in each house. So, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents have an equal say. By promoting this bill, I am fulfilling my pledge to reform the redistricting process.”

Hanna echoed an accusation first leveled at Koch by Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, suggesting the former mayor is actually driven by a partisan desire to see his party (the Democrats) control everything in Albany. (Koch has rejected that allegation).

Hanna released an email exchange between himself and the former mayor, which appears below. He also accused Koch of striking a “backroom” deal to amend the bill to address partisan concerns during a private meeting with the governor last week.

UPDATE: Hanna’s name doesn’t appear on the sponsor list for Jeffries bill, but an aide to the assemblyman said the pertinent paperwork was walked over to Jeffries’ office yesterday. As such, a Koch spokesman said, the statement that the mayor was “well aware” of this development is “flat out untrue.”

Email Exchange Between Sean Hanna _ Ed Koch