A Busy Session For Kemp Hannon

Long Island Sen. Kemp Hannon was the busiest and most effective lawmaker this session, a New York Public Interest Research Group study found.

The report, released today, found Hannon sponsored more legislation that passed both houses than his 211 colleagues in the Senate and Assembly.

In a split Leiglsature that loves one-house bills, that’s something of a feat. The Democratic-led Assembly passed 999 bills while the Republican-controlled Senate passed 1,289. Of that, 677 bills passed both houses.

Hannon, a Republican from Suffolk Nassau County and the chairman of the Senate Health Committee, is known as a policy maven. He also was one of the three Republican lawmakers Gov. Andrew Cuomo consulted to develop religious carve out language for the same-sex marriage bill.

Though Hannon was ultimately a no vote on the bill, he did vote for the amendment (Republican Sens. Steve Saland, Roy McDonald, Jim Alesi, Carl Marcellino, Mark Grisanti and Majority Leader Dean Skelos joined him).

Some other stats from NYPIRG:

-11 legislators introduced more than 200 bills; 8 introduced 5 or less.

-The vast majority of bills that passed each house did so with little or no opposition.

-Members of the Independent Democrats voted the same way as their leader more so than any other conference. The members who differed from their leader most frequently were Assembly Republicans.

- Most of the Senators enrolled as Democrats voted the same way as Senator Klein more often than they voted the same way as Senator Sampson.

- Cuomo relied on messages of necessity less frequently than most of his predecessors. He introduced fewer program bills than any governor in the past decade, but saw a higher percentage of these passed.

NYPIRG 2011 Session Analysis

NYSUT Sues State Over Teacher Eval Policy

The state’s largest teachers union, NYSUT, has filed suit to block the teacher evaluation system that was pushed by the Cuomo administration earlier this year.

The lawsuit specifically alleges that the Board of Regents and State Education Commissioner overstepped their authority when they put into place a system that allows some school districts to double the weight of state standardized test scores when evaluating teachers, instead of using “locally selected measures” for the other part of the evaluatin.

When this was adopted back in May, Regents Chancellor Meryl Tisch told Capital Tonight that doubling the state scores was only an option for some school districts, and that the local districts could choose to use tenure and other methods to make up the other half of the evaluations.

NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi called Tisch’s comments “disturbing” when she first voiced support of this plan. In today’s press release he said:

“New York was poised to take the lead in developing a thoughtful, comprehensive evaluation system developed in collaboration with teachers and other stakeholders. Instead, the Regents chose politics over sound educational policy and the cheap way over the right way, doubling down on high-stakes tests of dubious worth instead of requiring school districts and teachers unions to collaborate in ways that would really strengthen instruction in our classrooms.”

The implementation of an evaluation system is necessary for New York to collect the nearly $700 million dollars in federal money that it won as part of the Race to the Top program. Part of the application process was demonstrating a willingness of labor groups to work with the state to implement changes to teacher evaluation.

The legislature passed a bill in May of 2010 detailing what the system would look like. As NYSUT points out in their press release, the bill states that a teacher’s annual performance will be based on an effectiveness score where 20% of the evaluation is based on “state assessments” and another 20% on “locally selected measures.”

Q Poll: NYers Approve Of Gay Marriage Law

Today’s Q poll finds a majority of New Yorkers – 54 percent – support the same-sex marriage bill passed by the Legislature last week and promptly signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Overall, 40 percent of poll respondents say they oppose the new law, while support is strongest – 70-26 – among voters under the age of 35.

White Catholics are split 48-48 percent on this controversial topic. Jews support it, 67-30, while white Protestants oppose it, 54-40. Voters who say they have no religion also backed the measure, 78-17.

Voters are divided, 47-46, on whether the new law will pressure religious groups to perform gay marriages. Seventy percent said opposition from religious leaders doesn’t impact their position on this issue.

On one outstanding issue – redistricting reform – voters continue to say they’re supportive of a completely independent commission (42 percent), while 37 percent believe the Legislature should retain a role in redrawing the district lines and 14 percent believing the politically-controlled system is fine just the way it is.

This Q poll was conducted June 20-26, which means it was in the field as the Senate was deliberating – and then passing – gay marriage. Live interviewers surveyed 1,317 registered voters via land lines and cell phones, and the poll has a 2.7 percent margin of error.

062811 NY GAY + BP

Here And Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is back in Albany at 11 this morning for a cabinet meeting in the Red Room – perhaps to map out his post-post budget strategy.

Some things still on the to-do list: Making a decision on hydrofracking, announcing the six prison closures, getting the Legislature to agree on redistricting reform, negotiating a contract with PEF….just to name a few.

The meeting is closed to the press, and reporters will no doubt stake it out. If the past is any guide, cabinet members will be fairly closed-lipped upon their departure, but perhaps the governor will say a few words. He has a lot to be proud of, after all.


Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said his chamber will likely be back within the new few weeks to deal with unfinished business – including the health care exchange bill.

NYSUT sued the Board of Regents and state Education Commissioner John King over the new teacher regulation system, which the union says exceeded their authority.

The “Cuomo 2016″ buzz continues, with former Clinton/Gore White House adviser Chris Lehane saying the governor has established a “courage brand,” something every pol wants, but rarely manages to accomplish.

Richard Cohen calls Cuomo a “masterful” politician, thinks he has come a long way since 2002 and believes he deserves the 2016 speculation.

The governor called the White House talk “silly,” but didn’t close the door on a potential run after first ruling it out.

Bill Hammond calls Cuomo a champion for the “sensible center” and thinks he defies pigeonholing.

Sen. Mark Grisanti, under fire from Republicans and Conservatives for his “yes” vote on same-sex marriage, won’t rule out running as a Democrat in 2012. (He switched from D to R in 2010 after failing in a Democratic primary against his ousted 2010 foe, ex-Sen. Antoine Thompson).

Clerks are awaiting direction on same-sex marriage licenses. The current applications read “bride” and “groom.”

The gay marriage law goes into effect on a Sunday, July 24, which complicates things.

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The US Supreme Court made it harder for states and cities to use public funding of campaigns to limit the effect of private money on elections.

The court also struck down a California law blocking minors from buying violent videogames, voting 7-2 that it violates the First Amendment.

Spotted along yesterday’s Gay Pride Parade route: “Homo for Cuomo 2016.”

Rudy Giuliani still favors marriage as between one man and one woman, but is “glad the people that felt discriminated against had that sort of burden of discrimination lifted.”

Mayor Bloomberg’s advice to Cuomo if he’s really interested in the White House: “Get back to work!”

“By the fall of ’16, support for gay marriage on the national stage won’t seem nearly as bold or risky as it now does,” Steve Kornacki reminds us.

Hillary Clinton expressed support of New York’s new same-sex marriage law, but did not endorse same-sex marriage outright.

Bloomberg isn’t thrilled by the comparisons of his leadership abilities to Cuomo’s.

The CBC wants NYC Comptroller John Liu to audit the Health Insurance Stabilization Fund.

Bloomberg took partial responsibility for the CityTime scandal.

Rep. Michelle Bachmann is officially running for president.

Bachmann gets some defense from Dave Weigel for her John Wayne flub.

The “NYC I Do” campaign will market the Big Apple as a gay wedding destination.

More reaction from the right to New York’s gay marriage vote.

Gay divorce presents some thorny legal issues.

Blago was convicted on 17 of 20 counts of corruption-related charges.

Sen. Greg Ball on CNN: “This isn’t Texas and marriage equality was going to come to New York state sooner or later.”

ACLU is fundraising off NY’s gay marriage win.

A different interpretation of the royal wave.

Schumer On Cuomo 2016: ‘That’s A Long Way Off’

Taking a page from the governor’s own playbook, Sen. Chuck Schumer downplayed the Cuomo 2016 speculation that has ramped up since last week’s passage of the same-sex marriage bill, insisting it’s far too early to think about the next presidential election – particularly when President Obama’s re-election campaign it just getting off the ground.

“I think that’s a long way off,” said Schumer, who was on a Buffalo-Rochester-Albany swing today. “I think he’s done a great job this year.”

“I think, you know, keeping property taxes down and getting a budget in time and things like that are very, very important to the economic well being and job growth here in New York. So I think he’s done an excellent job. But I think he’d be the first to say: Speculating six years from now is a lifetime.”

Schumer didn’t include gay marriage in that list of Cuomo’s accomplishments, although he was asked about the historic vote. The senior senator praised the development and noted he has been a supporter of same-sex marriage for a long time, which I guess depends on your definition of the word “long.”

Schumer actually didn’t come out in favor of full marriage equality until March 2009. At the time, he was the last remaining statewide Democratic elected official who was still only backing civil unions.

His position shifted not long after then-Gov. David Paterson tapped then-Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand to fill former Sen. Hillary Clinton’s seat.

One of the first things the former congresswoman did to curry favor with the left, which was suspicious of her from her Blue Dog days, was to announce her full support of same-sex marriage. She has since become an outspoken champion of gay rights.

Alesi Expected 35 ‘Yes’ Votes On Gay Marriage

Sen. Jim Alesi, the first Republican to publicly announce he would vote “yes” on the same-sex marriage bill that passed last Friday, told me after the Senate vote that he had expected more of his colleagues to join him on this one.

“I was surprised that we didn’t have a couple more,” Alesi said. “Originally, I was thinking that we were going to have 35.”

“I have no bones about it, 33 is a pretty good win in this atmosphere when you consider the winning votes were brought over by a small handful of Republicans. But it was brought to the floor by the Republican leader, which I think showed great courage on his part.”

The marriage bill passed 33-29 with just four Republicans joining 29 Democrats in voting “yes.” They were – Alesi, Roy McDonald, Steve Saland, and Mark Grisanti. The chapter amendment that included the religious exemptions to the bill was passed by a slightly larger margin: 36-26.

The Republicans who voted “yes” on the chapter include the four mentioned above plus Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and two of his fellow Long Islanders – Sens. Carl Marcellino and Kemp Hannon, who assisted Saland in hammering out the amendment language.

Cuomo and Saland Share Generous Contributor

Sen. Stephen Saland, the Poughkeepsie Republican who provided the key 32nd vote in the same-sex marriage vote Friday night, shares a generous contributor with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

New York hedge-fund manager Martin Sosnoff, who has a home in Rhinebeck, contributed heavily to both Cuomo, a Democrat, and Saland in 2010.

Both Sosnoff and his wife Toni threw a $19,000 black-tie fundraiser for Saland at the Rhinebeck home last year.

And Cuomo received a combined $63,625 from the couple over the last three years as he was gearing up to run for governor.

Saland was one of three Republican senators — Andrew Lanza and Kemp Hannon were the other two — who helped develop religious exemption language that ultimately formed the amendment to Cuomo’s same-sex marriage.

In a radio interview on Talk 1300-AM this morning, Cuomo praised the four Republicans who voted yes on the measure. On Saland, Cuomo said:

“Senator Saland is a tremendously thoughtful, deep thinker. He was troubled by the question of religious organizations. We spent hours and hours and hours working on the language and drafting those religious provisions and going back and forth. We talked it through. He’s a very intelluctual fellow, a very deliberative fellow and he was struggling with doing the right thing.”

Legislator Mails On Ethics Reform

A Brooklyn resident forwarded this taxpayer-funded mailer he received recently from Assemblywoman Joan Millman, touting the passage of a “hallmark ethics reform” bill by the Legislature during the 2011 session.

The other side, which appears after the jump, informs the recipient that the Legislature has ushered in “greater transparency and accountability in Albany” by:

- Creating a new independent commission that will investigate wrongdoing in the legislative and executive branches;

- Requiring fuller disclosure by legislators of outside employment and clients who do business with the state, and:

- Cutting off pension benefits for public officials convicted of felonies related to their office.

Nowhere does the mailer mention anything about the fact that Gov. Andrew Cuomo was the one pushing ethics reform on the Legislature. In fact, it refers to the “Assembly’s legislation” – as if the bill had originated in the lower house and was a gubernatorial program bill that was the result of three-way negotiations with the speaker, Senate majority leader on the governor.

According to this reader, who is a close follower of Brooklyn Democratic politics, Millman generally only mails out a newsletter. I suspect she’s not alone in sending out this particular mailer, which aims to capitalize on widespread public support of ethics reform in hopes of improving the Legislature’s overall standing with voters – particularly with the 2012 campaigns in newly-drawn districts looming.


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Citizens Union To Cuomo: Don’t Fill Seats In Special

New York City-based good-government group Citizens Union is urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo not to fill vacant seats in the Legislature through special elections with candidates selected by party bosses and not through open primaries.

From the report:

Five state legislative seats are confirmed to be vacant and an additional five could also beempty by year’s end.
Should all ten vacancies be troublingly filled in special elections,the percentage of legislators in both houses first elected in a special election wouldmove back up to 30 percent, offsetting the encouraging downward trend seen in the past few years and returning the prevalence of closed partisan special elections to anunacceptably high level.

The vacancies, all of which are the Assembly, are due in part to several lawmakers — Darryl Towns, RoAnn Destito and Jonathan Bing among them — joined the Cuomo administration.

Still other seats, like the one held Assemblyman William Boyland, a Brooklyn Democrat caught up in a bribery scheme to steer lucrative hospital contracts and the recipient of a no-show job, could become empty as well.

Cuomo is yet to call a special election for any of the empty seats.

The vacancies became a near problem earlier this month when the Democratic-led Assembly approved the same-sex marriage bill, but only by one of the narrowest margins in the bill’s history, 80-63. The low vote tally was blamed in part on the Democratic vacancies.