Senate Votes To Ban Pretend Pot In NY

The Senate has acted on legislation that would ban synthetic marijuana-type products in New York. The Senate has already passed legislation that bans salvia divinorum, a decorative plant with hallucinogenic qualities similar to marijuana.

salvia

The bill, which passed today 59-1 (the no-vote being Sen. Tom Duane), takes the previous bill a step further and outlaws other near-drugs that are commonly referred to K2, Spike 99 and Spice.

The United States Drug Enforcement Administration has taken action on the fake drugs, making them illegal. However, the bill’s sponsor points out this ban is only a temporary measure imposed by the DEA.

“While I applaud the efforts of the federal government, it is important to enact a statewide law restricting the sale of synthetic marijuana to make sure that our communities are protected in the event that the federal ban is lifted,” said Sen. John Flanagan (R-Northport).

“These substances are dangerous, they are gateways to future and more expanded drug use and they should be permanently banned. That is why I am hopeful that the Assembly will join the Senate in passing this legislation.”

If signed into law, those convicted of knowingly selling or distributing synthetic cannabinoids would face a civil penalty of up to $500.

Today’s legislation, along with the salvia-ban bill, have yet to be taken up by the Assembly.

Trump Headlines Lincoln Day Dinner

Though his stock may be falling after President Obama released his long-form birth certificate, the Donald is still a sought-after public speaker.

Trump is scheduled to give the keynote address at the Lincoln Day Dinner in New York City. Also due to make appearances the $1,000-a-seat dinner are GOP Chairman Ed Cox and Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino.

Trump is yet to formally announce whether he’ll run for president, but has said he would make a formal decision after his reality show “Celebrity Apprentice” finishes its season.

2011 Lincoln Day Dinner Invitation

Buerkle’s Office Temporary Shuttered By ‘Suspicious Communication’

Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (NY-25) just released the following statement on a “suspicious communication” that caused the temporary shutdown of her district office in Syracuse.

“We can confirm that a suspicious communication was received at my Syracuse District Office. Staff reacted appropriately by contacting local emergency responders who evaluated the situation.”

“The office has now been reopened and staff has returned to work. I am very troubled by this incident, which threatened not only members of my congressional staff, but also postal workers, building workers and tenants.”

“My staff and I are grateful for the professionalism and responsiveness of the various local and federal law enforcement and emergency response authorities.”

The statement doesn’t offer any details on what type of “communication” – call? package? e-mail? – was received by the freshman GOP congresswoman or its content. I have a call in to her spokeswoman, as does YNN Syracuse.

Buerkle is one of the top targets on the DCCC’s 2012 list of Republicans to oust.

She has been the subject of several negative ads, mailings and call campaigns that highlighted her votes on, among others things, Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medicare overhaul plan and the “extremist” effort to defund Planned Parenthood (she voted “yes” on both).

A number of New York Republicans have received suspicious and/or threatening correspondence lately, including state Sen. Greg Ball and Rep. Pete King.

Canestrari: Spending Cuts Make Millionaires Tax Look Better

The deep cuts to social services, education and health care successfully sought by Gov. Andrew Cuomo will result in a renewed call for the millionaires tax, Assembly Majority Leader Ron Canestrari said this afternoon.

But convincing the governor, who wanted to close a $10 billion deficit without tax increases and new borrowing, will be difficult, Canestrari said.

“We’re not going to give up on it and it’s something that we believe in strongly,” he said. “We don’t get intend to let this get by the board.”

Liberal members of the Democratic-led Assembly made a strong push for keeping a surcharge on those who make $1 million or more, saying it would offset the spending cuts by bringing in an extra $750 million.

But Cuomo, who marshaled the support and resources of the business community, opposed the plan. Most Republicans in the Senate, save briefly for Sen. John Bonacic, R-Mount Hope, Orange County, were also against the millionaires tax idea.

The final $132.5 billion spending for the 2011-12 fiscal year, which began April 1, also allows the surcharge on those making $200,000 or more to expire in 2012. Sen. Tony Avella, D-Queens, re-introduced the millionaires tax legislation last week.

Having both Republicans and the business-friendly governor come around to support the tax will be an uphill climb, Canestrari added.

“That’s a harder lift, that’s difficult. But we’ll continue our efforts here and see what happens as we move forward. As people see the effects from the cuts because of the lack of revenue I think our case becomes stronger to get this done as well,” he said.

Duffy: Cuomo Has ‘Horrendous’ Schedule

Lt. Gov Robert Duffy said Gov. Andrew Cuomo couldn’t make today’s Equality and Justice rally because of his “horrendous” schedule.

Duffy, who spoke before 500 or so people at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center this morning, said the governor’s absence didn’t mean support for gay marriage was faltering.

Instead, the deployment of Duffy was the beginning of the governor’s plan to deploy members of his administration around the state to drum up support for a tax cap, ethics bill and gay marriage.

Moments before we spoke to Duffy on camera, he attended to woman who had fallen down the Million Dollar Staircase here at the Capitol. Duffy, a former cop, rushed to the woman’s side calling for help and stayed until an ambulance crew arrived.

Duffy said the woman would be OK.

“These stairs can be unforgiving,” he said.

Jeffries Forms House Exploratory Committee (Updated)

Assemblyman Hakeem Jeffries is taking the first steps to begin a run for a House seat currently occupied by Democratic U.S. Rep. Ed Towns.

The Observer reported today that Jeffries, D-Brooklyn, has long been considered an ambitious member of the Legislature. Towns, a longtime House member, has faced stiff primary challenges in the past, notably from firebrand Councilman Charles Barron and Assemblyman Roger Green.

Jeffries’ committee website can be found here.

UPDATE: Several folks have emailed to say the link is dead. We’ll get to the bottom of this. — NR

Court Vacates Cigarette Tax Injunction

In a victory for the state, the Court of Appeals Second Circuit vacated an injunction state Indian Tribes had successfully sought against New York collecting taxes on tobacco products on tribal lands.

The state Legislature, at then-Gov. David Paterson’s urging, approved last summer a per-pack tax hike on cigarettes and a levy increase for tobacco products. It was coupled with a long-sought plan to tax cigarettes sold on Indian tribal lands by pre-taxing the packs.

Tribe members and reservation residents would not be subject to the tax. But several tribes, including the Mohawk, Seneca and Oneida nations, argued that the state had no baring to tax the tribes and had received an injunction against collecting the tax.

The $110 million in revenue the tax was expected to bring in was included in the 2011-12 state budget.

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Skelos: No Gay Marriage Bill From Cuomo (Yet)

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos shrugged off this afternoon any possible loss of support from the state’s influential Conservative Party if a gay marriage vote is allowed this year in the Senate.

“I think this is really an issue that is personal, personal conscience and as I’ve said all along, members will vote the way they wish to vote,” he said.

Skelos, R-Nassau County, also noted that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is yet to introduce a gay marriage legalization measure for the Senate Republicans to discuss in conference.

“That will be subject to the conference decision, we have not conferenced it yet. And we’re also waiting for the governor to send his program bill.”

Gay marriage advocates, who have formed a coalition of groups called New Yorkers United for Marriage, hope to legalize same-sex marriage this year. In order for any measure to be approved, several legislators on the GOP side will have to vote in favor.

Republican legislators seen as targets for “yes” votes include Sens. Roy McDonald of Saratoga, Greg Ball of the Hudson Valley, Jim Alesi of Monroe County and Mark Grisanti of Buffalo.

NYSUT To Hold Vigil Protesting Cuts

The state United Teachers union plans to hold a “candlelight” vigil protesting state aid cuts to education.

The vigil, which, for safety reasons will actually utilize glow sticks, will take place tonight from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. at West Capitol Park.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature agreed to about $1.2 billion in education aid cuts in the 2011-12 fiscal year spending plan, which took effect April 1. NYSUT also plans to protest the lack of a tax on millionaires, which they said would bring about $750 million in revenue to the state and offset some of the cuts.

Cuomo was steadfastly opposed to increasing taxes those who making $1 million or more, saying it would further drive them out of the state.

Sen. Tony Avella, D-Queens, introduced a new measure last week with the hope of reviving the millionaires tax. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, has also said he doesn’t think the issue is dead.

The vigil also comes as school districts across the stat vote May 17, next Tuesday, on local school district budgets.

From NYSUT:

The vigil, sponsored by New York State United Teachers, is “for every person who has received a layoff notice or knows someone who has; for everyone upset that schools are being closed; and for those concerned that students are being denied educational opportunities, while the most affluent New Yorkers are enjoying new tax cuts,” organizers said.

Cuomo Robocalls On Gay Marriage

Gov. Andrew Cuomo may have been a no-show from today’s Equality and Justice rally, but he will be coming to a phone near you.

The state Democratic Party announced this afternoon that Cuomo recorded a robocall in support of gay marriage. It comes as his administration is being sent on the road in order to press the issue, along with a property tax cap and an ethics overhaul.

In the phone call, the governor frames the issue as a non-partisan necessity. Gay-marriage advocates need several Republican lawmakers in the Senate to vote in favor of the bill if it is to become law.

Here’s the script:

Hello, I’m Governor Andrew Cuomo.

There is a pressing issue of basic fairness and civil rights in New York…and that is marriage equality.

Without the ability to marry, same-sex couples and their families are denied over one thousand federal and state rights such as visiting a spouse in a hospital in the event of illness.

It makes same-sex couples second tier citizens who receive less protection and have fewer rights than others.

This is not a Democratic or Republican issue. It is a question of New York going forward or backward.

It’s hard to imagine today, but at one time in this country it was illegal for blacks and whites to marry each other. We have come a long way and now it is time to go further — to achieve marriage equality for all New Yorkers.

I urge you to call your State legislators and ask them to vote for equality – marriage equality- for all New Yorkers.

Thank you.