Bloomberg: Gay Marriage A Fundamental Right

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is giving a major, and lengthy, address this afternoon on same-sex marriage at Cooper Union.

According to Bloomberg’s prepared remarks, the mayor’s speech urges the Republican-led state Senate to legalize gay marriage, saying it’s a basic conservative principle that government shouldn’t interfer in peoples’ private lives.

The speech also shades of Bloomberg’s Park51 address given last year, when he came out in favor of the construction of a Muslim community center near the World Trade Center site.

“It is my hope that members of the State Senate majority will recognize that supporting marriage equality is not only consistent with our civic principles – it is consistent with conservative principles. Conservatives believe that government should not intrude into people’s personal lives – and it’s just none of government’s business who you love.”

Bloomberg points out that historic civil-rights addresses from the likes of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas have been delivered at Cooper Union — and that New York has always led on issues of basic freedom.

“No place in the world is more committed to freedom of expression – religious, artistic, political, social, personal – than New York City. And no place in the world is more welcoming of all people, no matter what their ethnicity or orientation. That has always been what sets us apart. In our city, there is no shame in being true to yourself. There is only pride. We take you as you are – and we let you be who you wish to be. That is the essence of New York City.”

And he says that religious objections to gay marriage shouldn’t be imposed on the general public. More >

King: If Rudy’s Out, I’m In

U.S. Rep. Peter King of Long Island said today he would consider runnning for president if his friend former Mayor Rudy Giuliani declines to enter the sparse Republican field.

“If Rudy jumps in, I would support Rudy,” King said. “If not, I’ll see what happens. Stranger things have happened.”

King’s name as a possible presidential contender was floated last week by the Nassau County Republican Party. The Long Islander, who at this point is the most visible Republican holding public office in New York, said he hasn’t ruled out a run.

But he thinks Giuliani, who ran in 2008, was gearing up for 2012.

“As of this moment, he’s very much inclined to run,” King said on Fox News this morning.

King also said Giuliani’s focus would be on the early primary states, a reversal of the failed and much derided late-game strategy of focusing on Florida three years ago.

“He very much wants to run and this time he would focus on New Hampshire,” King added. “It seems that there’s no candidate focusing on what Rudy would bring, which is tough on national security.”

Democrats Keep Beating Medicare Drum

The upset victory in the 26th congressional district gives Democrats a template in future races, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in an interview on MSNBC last night.

Wasserman Schultz looked to Kathy Hochul’s victory over Republican Jane Corwin as a sign that voters were concerned about the GOP proposal in Congress for Medicare, as championed by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan. She also pointed to a New Hampshire House race and the contest for the mayor of Jackonsville, Fla.

“All of those races turned on Medicare,” she said.

Not mentioned was the impact independent tea party candidate Jack Davis had on the race and whether he siphoned votes away from Corwin. Republicans have charged Democratic scare tactics on Medicare — and the GOP’s ineffective pushback — led to Corwin’s loss as well.

Democrats in the U.S. Senate, meanwhile, forced a vote on the Ryan plan Wednesday, which failed 57-40, in order to press their perceived advantage on the issue. Wasserman Shultz said it was likely those votes will be used against Republicans up for re-election in 2012.

“There are a number of seats that are up for election this election cycle. It’s really shocking to me that anyone after yesterday’s outcome would actually vote again to end Medicare as we know it. Seniors and Americans have sent a very strong message and we’re going to make sure that we hold Republican candidates accountable for thier vote.”

Ruben Diaz Will Wash Your Mouth Out With Soap

Sen. Ruben Diaz, D-Bronx, is blasting the planned “F*** Ruben Diaz Festival” to be held at a Brooklyn bar on June 11, calling it the continuation of a “vulgar” campaign against his opposition to same-sex marriage.

The “F” in this instance is presumably the word that rhymes with “duck” and one you hear emanating from the CapTon bureau around deadline time.

“I continue to be the target of a vulgar campaign by seething extremists who oppose my defense of New York’s marriage laws,” Diaz said in a statement.

The full title of the event is “F*** Ruben Diaz Gay Erotica Featuring NYC’s Number One Bigot!” The link to the event is here (and, goes without saying, the page includes salty lanuage). The festival is advertised as a writing contest mocking Diaz, with suggested titles like, “‘Ruben Diaz Gives Impassioned Anti-Gay Speech to his Co-Op Board.”

Scribes are charged to: “Imagine a day in the life of the Bronx’s most prominent Pentecostal minister. Is he downtown scoring poppers? Is he rehearsing his latest screed in his bathroom mirror? Is he waking up in a tangle of hard man-bodies after a raging orgy?”

Diaz, one of the most outspoken opponents of same-sex marriage legalization in New York, held a rally for traditional marriage earlier this month the same day as an AIDs awareness rally in New York City, didn’t see the humor.

It is sad to see the disrespect and irreverence that flourishes from those who have no respect for religious leaders here in New York and those who mock us as we serve our communities.

As a Christian and as the President of the New York Hispanic Clergy Organization, I will continue to defend the teachings of the Bible and oppose homosexual marriage. As a Member of the New York State Senate, I will continue to defend the definition of New York’s marriage laws to be between a man and a woman.

Bruno Discusses Evolution Of Gay Marriage Views

Former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno spoke at length this morning in a Talk-1300 AM radio interview on the evolution of his views on same-sex marriage, saying he now supports the measure.

It’s a very emotional, confrontational issue. In politics, in life, with legislation, timing is everything. Poll after poll shows the great majority of people recognize the individual rights of people to be united civilly in marriage. That’s where I came down for people to be recognized civilly. It really comes down in my mind for equal rights for everyone. So yes, I support it. I think the time has come.

It’s a turnaround from more than a decade ago when the Republican referred to homosexuality has an “abnormal lifestyle” — a comment Bruno said he now regrets.

“I have followed the more enlightened crowd that individuals can do what they see fit as long as they don’t hurt anybody else,” Bruno said. “Fred, I am enlightened, I have seen the light.”

Bruno first said he supported same-sex marriage back in 2009.

He also gave Gov. Andrew Cuomo “credit” for pushing the issue of same-sex marriage legalization. Cuomo’s goal is legalize same-sex marriage by the end of the legislative session in June.

“He’s leading very boldly and very aggressively,” Bruno said.

Bruno, An ‘Andrew Cuomo Republican,’ Says Skelos Doing Best He Can

Former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno declined to criticize his successor Dean Skelos in a Talk-1300 radio interview this morning, saying the Long Island Republican wasn’t out manuevered on the tax cap deal struck between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Assembly.

“In terms of getting things done, timing is everything,” Bruno told Fred Dicker. “The process in each house could be somewhat different. I think this is the process in action and I think it all relates to timing. I know that Dean Skelos has said publically he supports a cap on property taxes. In fact, he passed the governor’s bill. That’s their issue, it’s a Republican issue.”

Instead, he praised Skelos, along with Cuomo and his old foe Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver for coming to a tentative agreement on the cap, which excludes pensions and an unspecified expiration date.

The deal seemed to not include Skelos, however the majority leader later released a statement saying he agreed with the plan save for the sunset date and minor details.

But Bruno noted that Skelos and the Republican-led Senate already approved the governor’s original cap in January.

“People can be critical that he hasn’t stepped up, but he passed the governor’s bill,” he said. “He said very clearly by his actions, he passed the tax cap bill. On the issue, he’s terribly supportive. You have to give credit were credit is due. He did mandate relief and that has to go hand in hand with a tax cap.”

Asked if he should be considered an “Andrew Cuomo Republican,” Bruno agreed.
More >

DiNapoli Joins Gay Marriage Push

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli is the latest elected official to record a video for the Human Rights Campaign’s New Yorkers for Marriage Equality effort, highlighting his ties to Long Island – a key focus for advocates who are lobbying GOP senators to vote “yes” for the bill when – and if – it returns to the floor for a second vote.

DiNapoli, a Nassau County Democrat, was a “yes” vote for same-sex marriage back when he was in the Assembly, so his position on this issue isn’t a surprise. Here’s the video script:

“I’m State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, a proud New Yorker, and life-long Long Islander. As state Comptroller I believe in equal opportunity and a level playing field and that includes being able to marry the person you love – and I mean right here in New York where we all live and pay taxes.”

The Republicans regained control of all nine Senate seats in Nassau and Suffolk counties last fall. But several of those districts are closely split in terms of enrollment, so they’ve long been considered fertile ground for potential “yes” votes on this controversial issue.

DiNapoli isn’t the first sitting statewide elected official to record one of these videos, which feature prominent New Yorkers – actors, musicians, dancers, politicians, etc. – declaring their support for gay marriage and urging others to do the same. US Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer appeared in separate videos back in March.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo released a gay marriage video of his own this week and has made passage of a bill before the session ends next month one of his top priorities. However, he has also said he won’t put out a bill just to see it fail again in the Senate.

So far, the Democrats have 26 “yes” votes, which is six shy of the 32 needed for passage. But no GOP senators have yet come forward to express a willingness to vote “yes”.

HRC senior strategist Brian Ellner said the organization is “very grateful to Comptroller DiNapoli for joining the mainstream majority of New Yorkers who endorse marriage equality.”

Cuomo Insists Tax Cap Deal Still In Place

Gov. Andrew Cuomo this morning remained certain the somewhat tentative agreement on the property tax cap will hold, despite E.J. McMahon throwing cold water on the proposal this morning.

Still, speaking on The Johnn Gambling Show this morning, Cuomo signaled he was interested in getting the cap in place sooner rather than later.

I’m healthy cynic in Albany, being part of Albany. But the Assembly speaker has agreed to this plan, the majority leader in the Senate, Dean Skelos has agreed to this plan. They both have supported it for a long time. The Assembly actually passed a tax cap 15 years ago. Dean Skelos and the Republicans have been agressive about the tax cap. So we all stood up, we all agreed to it. I’m a little bit of a cynic, I want to sign it, I want to get it done and we have some other pieces of business we have to do here also.

Cuomo is embracing the plan submitted by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver that would still cap property taxes at 2 percent, but exclude pensions. The cap would also be timed to expire with rent control for New York City.

It’s the sunsent component that has McMahon, of the fiscally conservative think-tank The Empire Center, concerned. Writing in The New York Post this morning, McMahon points out that one house of the Legislature could simply walk away from the cap, but approve rent control for New York City.

McMahon’s initital reading of the legislation found that one couldn’t exist without the other. However, based on an interview that Silver gave with the Post’s Fred Dicker on Wednesday, McMahon raised a red flag on the issue.

No specific sunset date has been announced for the tax-cap proposal, a point that Skelos has said is the only issue that’s separating the three parties. Silver has said rent control, due to expire June 15, and the tax cap are now “inextricably linked.”

From his Op/Ed:

Under Silver’s bill as introduced, a tax-cap law could be repealed or modified in the future only by agreement of both houses of the Legislature — or by one house alone, but only if it is also willing to kill rent control (which, while desirable, is highly unlikely).

By contrast, a tax cap with its own specific expiration date could be killed through inaction of only one house of the Legislature.

Here And Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will be a guest on the John Gambling show at 9:15 a.m. on WOR this morning.

On the heels of Congresswoman-elect Kathy Hochul’s upset victory in NY-26, the US Senate Democrats forced a vote on Rep. Paul Ryan’s Medicare plan. It failed, 57-40, with five Republicans voting “no”.

Andrea Tantaros suggests the GOP put the whole Medicare thing on the back burner and focus on “poking holes in Obamacare” for a while.

Former Rep. John LaFalce, Hochul’s former boss, explained her victory thusly: “She has the most important quality in electoral politics: likability. I don’t know a single human being who doesn’t like Kathy Hochul.”

The Corwin campaign has called off a vote-counting court hearing tomorrow.

There are rumblings of a shake-up at the Erie County GOP following Corwin’s big loss. Bob Davis might get back into the game.

Erie County Democratic Chairman Len Lenihan is getting a lot of calls about the clerk’s job Hochul is leaving behind. The governor will appoint her replacement.

Bruce Gyory says the real lesson of NY-26 was that independents continue to vote against establishment candidates and parties.

The WSJ disagrees: “(Republicans) lost because Democrats ran a Mediscare campaign, and the GOP candidate lacked an adequate response.

Karl Rove blames Jack Davis, but also says Medicare played a role, “though not with the blunt force and trauma some Democrats are claiming.”

EJ Dionne sees Hochul’s win as a rejection of the Tea Party.

The NYPost, which backed Corwin, calls the GOP “brain dead” and points out that none of the six freshman Republicans who won in NY last year were state lawmakers.

More >

Assembly To Hold Fracking Forum

The Assembly will hold a public hearing Thursday to examine the impact on human health of the controversial natural gas extraction method known as hydrauclic fracturing, or hydrofracking.

The hearing comes as the Assembly considers a new moratorium on hydrofracking in New York for 2012. A moratorium was put in place by Gov. David Paterson through executive order and continued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo as the state Department of Environmental Conservation develops its draft environmental impact study on the issue.

Hydrofracking involves using a cocktail of chemicals and water to blast through rock and access the gas underneath. Business groups and the energy industry want the state to begin issuing permits soon, arguing it can be an economic boon for upstate, especially the economically troubled Southern Tier.

However, environmentalists argue the process is unsafe and could damage the water table.

The forum, to be led by Assemblyman Robert Sweeney and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, starts at 9:30 a.m. in the Legislative Office Building.