Assembly Goes International

While waiting for a breakthrough on the gay marriage-property tax cap-rent laws logjam, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver found time to meet with the first lady of Jamaica, Lorna Golding, and her entourage, which featured a gentleman sporting a very large hat.

Assemblyman Nick Perry (he’s Jamaican-born) was doing the honors. He’s standing on the speaker’s left in this photo. Golding is standing on Silver’s right. It seemed like a pretty standard meet-and-greet. I didn’t have time to stick around and interview the first lady, unfortunately. But I did overhear some polite conversation about the Jewish community in Jamaica.


Bloomberg: Weiner Scandal ‘Tragic’

Mayor Michael Bloomberg seemed relieved that the saga of U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner was coming to ane expected end today after reports that the Brooklyn congressman will resign in the wake of a sexting scandal.

Bloomberg, in Albany today to talk to Senate Republicans about gay marriage, was of course sucked into the malestrom that is the Weiner scandal.

“I haven’t heard what he’s going to say, I’ve heard what the press thinks he’s going to say. But he’s got to talk to his family and decide what’s right for his country and what’s right for his family and what’s right for himself and make a decision.”

He called the forthcoming announcement “a positive step.”

Bloomberg also said the scandal has become a distraction and suggested the coverage of the case had gone too far. And he called the situation in which Weiner sent sexually explicit photos of himself to women “tragic.”

“It’s become a diversion away from all of the important things this country has to deal with and if you look at the amount of coverage and attention this is getting, that’s not good.”

Ball Outlines Opposition To Cuomo Bill

Sen. Greg Ball this afternoon has sent over a detailed point-by-point list of reasons for why he opposes Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s same-sex marriage bill.

Supporters of the bill refute a lot of what Ball has said, saying the protections he’s seeking are already in the existing human rights law.

Ball’s growing concerns over the religious exemptions in the governor’s bill was met with a statement from Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto, who said the Hudson Valley Republican was wrong about the language.

Here are the points from Ball:

1. Governor’s language does not protect church-related agencies from denial of funding by state and local government agencies to provide charitable and health services, or allow them to make hiring and benefits decisions based on religious beliefs. Most of these religious-affiliated groups are incorporated under the Not for Profit Corporation Law, not just the Religious Corporation Law and Education Law.

2. The exemption given for church halls and facilities of benevolent orders is limited. It does not protect religious or benevolent orders from challenges to tax exempt status. (POINT: This occurred in NJ – when a Methodist Church refused use of facilities for same sex marriage). Nor would the current bill protect against local human rights/public accommodations laws.

3. The exemption language in the Governor’s bill does not rule out enforcement actions by regulatory agencies (POINT: Examples include denial of licenses to provide services).

Bloomberg: Marriage Bill Passes With More Than ‘Bare Majority’

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg met privately with Senate Republicans for about 45 minutes today to discuss the same-sex marriage bill and emerged to say at a Q and A that he expects the measure to pass beyond just 32 votes.

Bloomberg, a deep-pocketed donor to Senate Republicans over the years, said he’s spoken in recent weeks to Sens. Andrew Lanza, R-Staten Island, and John Flanagan.

Lanza has said he’s on the fence and could change his vote, while Flanagan has always been a firm no in public.

Bloomberg said he was moved by the conversation he had with Sen. Roy McDonald, R-Saratoga, who announced on Tuesday he would vote yes.

This is the second trip Bloomberg has made to Albany on the issue in recent weeks. He’s been huddling with Senate Republicans to discuss the issue.

Cuomo Threatens Special Session On Rent Reg

Governor Andrew Cuomo just issued a statement saying he is prepared to call a special session if the legislature can’t reach a deal on rent regulation in the next few days. The last scheduled work day for the Senate and Assembly is Monday, and current rent laws expired at midnight yesterday.

The governor handed down a temporary extension last night, which sailed through the Assembly, but failed to pass in the state Senate in part because Democrats refused to support the short stop gap measure.

“Affordable housing is an all too scarce commodity, especially in New York City and the surrounding areas. Our state’s rent protection laws are essential and any long term expiration would create a crisis. Last night the State Senate — both Democrats and Republicans — failed to continue the laws beyond their expiration,” Cuomo said in a statement.

“We are making progress but the Senate’s failure to act last night was unacceptable and a betrayal of the one million tenants living in rent protected apartments. I will not allow the legislature to go out of session and go home until tenants are protected. I am prepared to call special session to keep the legislature in place until there are rent protection laws in place.”

Skelos Meets With Bloomberg, Cuomo: ‘We’ll Continue Our Discussion’

After meeting with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who made a special trip to Albany to make a final push for same-sex marriage, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos stopped on the second floor of the capitol to meet with the governor to try and work out the unresolved issues including the aforementioned bill and rent control.

“We listened the mayor make his presentation, a very thoughtful presentation on the issue of gay marriage,” said Skelos.

“The governor and I talked about outstanding issues and really they haven’t changed in terms of gay marriage, rent regulations. [I have] a sense of disappointment in terms of what happened last night where Democrats allowed the rent regulation to expire, property tax cap and we’re going to continue to our discussions concerning rent regulations. I think people from the different points of view will be coming up. We’ll have discussions with them and see if those issues can be resolved.”

He went on to say, “the governor has indicated there are a lot of issues to be resolved and he intends to keep us here until that occurs and I understand his point of view.”

Tenant Advocate Calls Out Cuomo

The Senate Democrats are taking some heat – mostly from the Republicans – for refusing to go along with the three-way deal on extending the real laws through Friday, choosing instead to let the midnight expiration deadline pass by.

But Tenants PAC Treasurer Mike McKee is offering the Democrats some cover this morning, insisting a short-term extension was simply “not adequate” in his eyes.

“Now at the midnight hour – on the eve of end of session – the chances for meaningful improvements rest entirely on one player: Governor Cuomo,” McKee said. “Is he serious about winning real reforms that will reverse the phaseout of the rent regulation system and preserve affordable housing for the future, or are we waiting for the crumbs the real estate lobby might accept?”

“We will not accept crumbs. The ball is in the Governor’s corner and we hope he means to win real reforms. If he is willing to call the Senate into extraordinary session until they pass real rent reforms, good. The entire future of maintaining affordable rental housing in the city and suburban counties rides in the balance.”

McKee agreed with those Democrats – like Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., who, along with Sen Tom Duane, voted “no” on every single budget bill this spring – who argued that they should have held out for a rent deal during the budget battle.

At the time, however, the Democrats were loathe to embarrass the powerful governor during his first ever budget, particularly when he was 1) New, powerful and enjoying sky-high approval ratings; 2) Negotiating his first spending plan; and 3) Pushing very hard for an on-time agreement.

Now, however, a number of Senate and Assembly Dems who are nervous about getting screwed on this issue are experiencing some remorse for not flexing a little more muscle. They’re also a bit miffed that the rent extension deal was negotiated without them. One Senate minority source said: “You’d think if they wanted our votes, they might have included us in the talks.”

The Senate Dems are also moving to quash the talk going around the Capitol that they’re threatening not to vote on a gay marriage bill – if one should come to the floor – unless they get a rent deal. That’s simply a red herring, since there’s no way they would risk angering the advocates and the progressives in that way. However, a number of downstate Dems are privately saying that while they really want to see marriage pass, they politically need the rent laws strengthened a lot more.

So far, there’s nothing resembling a deal on this issue. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos met briefly this morning with the governor. No word on any log jams broken there, however. In the meantime, Senate Democratic spokesman Austin Shafran reminded me that the rent laws briefly expired back in 1997 and no one ended up on the street. (State Housing czar Darryl Towns sent out an email saying pretty much the same thing earlier today).

“The real doomsday scenario is if rent laws are not strengthened,” Shafran said. “Republican attempts to merely extend the current rent laws are just a ploy to kill another 100,000 units of affordable housing over the next decade.”

“Senate Democrats are ready to stay as long as it takes to strengthen rent laws. We won’t go home until rent laws that protect the homes of millions of tenants are strengthened.”

Skelos ‘Surprised’ Senate Dems Turned On Rent Extender (UPDATED)

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos seemed perplexed that Democrats would pull a 180 on rent control, voting down an temporary extender that would last through Friday.

“Most of the were New York City Democrats and I’m a bit surprised that they did it,” said Skelos.

“We were prepared to do the extender. I voted for the extender. I have always said that rent regulations should be extended as is and they voted to eliminate it.”

Democrats insist an extension will give the GOP an out and fail to produce the stronger laws they’re seeking. The governor has vowed to keep lawmakers in Albany until a deal is reached on the measure.

UPDATE: Senate Democratic spokesperson Austin Shafran just sent the following response to Sen. Skelos’s comments, followed by a statement from Mike McKee of Real Rent Reform after the jump.

“The last time there was a short-term lapse in the rent laws, no tenants lost their homes. The real doomsday scenario is if rent laws are not strengthened,” said Shafran.

“Republican attempts to merely extend the current rent laws are just a ploy to kill another 100,000 units of affordable housing over the next decade. Senate Democrats are ready to stay as long as it takes to strengthen rent laws. We won’t go home until rent laws that protect the homes of millions of tenants are strengthened.”

More >

NYT Report: Weiner Tells Friends He Is Resigning (Updated)

The New York Times just tweeted, and put up a breaking news ticker saying “Representative Anthony D. Weiner Tells Friends He Is Stepping Down.”

Now, this is not shocking.

House Democrats said a couple of days ago that they expected him to resign in the matter of days. Also, Weiner’s wife Huma Abedin returned to the states yesterday from her trip to the Middle East with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Also, House Democrats are meeting today, and there was talk that Weiner might have been stripped of his committee assignments.

We are obviously monitoring this and will bring you more as it develops.

UPDATE: The announcement will come at 2 p.m. today at the Council Center for Seniors in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn – the same location where Weiner announced his NYC Council campaign in 1992. So he’s coming full circle on his career as an elected official. Sheepshead Bites, the local blog of record, notes the seat in question is currently occupied by Councilman Mike Nelson.

For Latest Updates Follow Us On Twitter

With so much happening on a multitude of issues facing the Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo this week (rent, tax cap, same-sex marriage), we’ve been tweeting our hearts out on our twitter page,

That’s where you’ll find all the breaking news of the day, plus minute-by-minute updates of the day’s action.

Then check back here on the blog for a further fleshing out of the details, video, anaylsis and other fun stuff.