‘Bones’ Jones: Take It From Me, MMA Is Safe

The state Senate is taking up a bill that will legalize mixed-martial arts in New York.

On hand to help secure votes for the bill’s passage is UFC light heavyweight champ and fellow Union-Endicott graduate Jon “Bones” Jones.

Jones says the sport is much safer than when the UFC first came on the scene, which is why New York may is hesitant to join the other 31 states that have legalized MMA.

“The original UFC that came, there wasn’t as many rules to protect the fighters like ‘fish-hooking’ and pulling hair; it was very barbaric at first,” said Jones.

“The UFC has come a very long way. There are so many rules and regulations and testing to make sure that we’re as healthy and safe as possible.”

Jones also pointed out he doesn’t have too many scars as a result of his bouts.

‘Lonely’ Silver Critic Wants To Leave Legislature (Updatedx2)

Buffalo Assemblyman Mark Schroeder, a frequent – and often lone – critic of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver among his fellow Democrats, is trying to depart the chamber by running for local office back home in Buffalo.

Schroeder sent a letter to Erie County Democratic Chairman Len Lenihan seeking his support in a run for city comptroller – a campaign he’ll announce at 10 a.m. on June 4 at the Buffalo Irish Center.

UPDATE: Sorry, I had my county and city comptroller posts mixed up. The city position has been vacant since February when its former occupant, Andy SanFilippo, resigned to become a deputy under state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli. The county comptroller, Mark Polocarz, is running this fall against GOP Erie County Executive Chris Collins.

In the letter, Schroder touts his ten years in public service and two decades in the private sector. He also cites his record for “independence”, adding:

“As any observer of state government can tell you, no one in the state Capitol is more independence than I am. It might make Albany a lonely place for me sometimes, but my constituents deserve a voice that will speak out on their behalf, no matter what the consequences.”

UPDATE2: Also, Schroeder, who insisted in a Buffalo News interview that his desire to run locally has nothing to do with either his rocky relationship with Silver or a concern about redistricting, expressed upset over the “unfair” process by which a comptroller candidate will be selected.

And now he’s seeking the support of the very party structure he criticized. Not unusual, just interesting to note.

Schroeder Announce

O’Mara, Morelle Push WIGS Legislation (Update)

State lawmakers today are touting revised legislation that would allow the sale of wine in grocery stores, a long-sought, but often failed provision that is seen as a revenue-raiser for the state.

The measure, sponsored by Assemblyman Joe Morelle, D-Irondequoit, Monroe County, and Sen. Tom O’Mara, R-Big Flats, Chemung County, would generate an estimated $346.7 million in revenue its first year and $71 million in subsequent years.

Lawmakers earlier today held a panel discussion on the issue, which included grape-growers and convenience store owners. WIGS supporters point the potential job creation and economic boon, but opponents say it could hurt small businesses who rely on selling wine.

The measure comes after a period of relatively little lobbying on the matter, according to the Commission on Public Integrity. Look for that to change in the coming weeks.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is yet to take a position on WIGS. But the measure was pushed heavily and unsuccessfully by his predecessor, Gov. David Paterson, who wanted the bill approved last year in order to shore up the state’s budget deficit.

Update: The Last Store On Main Street released a statement knocking the roundtable as a “rehash” of tired arguments.

“Today’s roundtable was little more than a rehash of the same tired arguments from Big Box stores and their allies bent on putting more than 4,500 people out of work by shuttering more than 1,000 Mom-and-Pop stores around the state. WIGS will not help New York wines, which is why more than 100 wineries oppose it, but it will increase underage drinking, which is why public health advocates oppose it.

“We remain confident this legislation has little chance of passing in Albany, where it has failed for the last three years, because the Legislature is not buying the phony arguments from the greedy Big Box stores who simply want more corporate profits for themselves at the expense of family-owned businesses.

“The Legislature can lift our industry, wineries and retailers alike, by aggressively promoting New York wines. Even places like Virginia and Ohio are doing more to promote their wines than New York, which says more about where the problem lies than anything else.”

Bill Clinton: ‘You Can Count On Kathy’

Here’s the robocall recorded for Democratic NY-26 candidate Kathy Hochul by former President Clinton as the party pulls out all the stops headed into the home strech of tomorrow’s special election:

“Hi this is Bill Clinton. I’m calling to ask you to support Kathy Hochul for Congress in the Special Election tomorrow, May 24th, because she’ll protect Medicare and create jobs for hardworking Western New York families.”

“Just as she’s done in Erie County, Kathy Hochul will fight to cut wasteful spending in Washington. You can count on Kathy to say no to partisan politics that would end Medicare as we know it to pay for more tax cuts for multi-millionaires. That’s just one reason I hope you’ll join me in supporting Kathy Hochul for Congress in the Special Election tomorrow, May 24th. Thanks.”

A $1.3 B Bake Sale?

Here’s a 60-second radio ad launched by NYSUT that opposes Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed property tax cap, calling it a “gimmick that takes control away from the local communities and provides no real relief.”

The $213,000 ad campaign, which will run through the end of May, takes a bit of a satirical approach, staging a school “bake sale” at which participants are trying to sell 1.3 billion cupcakes (presumably at $1 a piece) “because that’s how many dollars Albany’s cut from education this year alone.”

This comes as negotiations over the tax cap are heating up at the Capitol, with the Senate Republicans easing up on their previous refusal to entertain any softening of the 2 percent hard cap Cuomo started pushing during the 2010 campaign.

The ad doesn’t name any names, but does say that “some in Albany and their Wall Street friends support.” That reads to me like a jab at Cuomo and the business-backed Committee to Save NY, which has launched TV ads of its own to support Cuomo’s plan.

The ad proclaims support for the millionaire’s tax re-launched last week by the Assembly Democrats, even though both Cuomo and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos have more or less declared that idea DOA.

“Lawmakers should listen to their constituents and not to their rich friends,” said NYSUT Executive Vice President Andrew Pallotta in a press release.

“Last week, voters spoke loudly and clearly when they approved nearly 94 percent of the local school budgets across New York. Clearly, local control – which would be lost under tax caps – is working. New Yorkers want real tax relief, not political gimmicks.”

Just for the record, others – including Cuomo – are spinning the 93.5 percent school budget passage rate a bit differently. Here’s what the governor said:

“We’ve reigned in state spending, we now have to reign in local government and school district spending. And I think the message is communicating it, and I think you saw that in a lot of these school district budgets.”

NYers For Marriage Cheer Cuomo Video

Not surprisingly, the coalition of advocacy groups supporting same-sex marriage legalization praised Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s video today reaffirming his support for the measure.

“We are enormously grateful for Governor Cuomo’s vigorous and continued leadership,” said Brian Ellner, Senior Strategist at the Human Rights Campaign. “New Yorkers United for Marriage will continue working closely with the Governor to get this legislation passed so all New Yorkers can soon be able to marry. Together we can make this change a reality in New York.”

The group, New Yorkers United for Marriage, was formed at Cuomo’s urging in an effort to legalize same-sex marriage this year. Cuomo is working a careful strategy of lining up the necessary votes in the Republican-led Senate in order to pass the bill by the end of the legislative session in June.

Indy Line Goes To Gay Marriage ‘No’ Voter

Remember when state Independence Party Chairman Frank MacKay told me he’s personally supportive of legalizing same-sex marriage, but won’t make the issue a litmus test for candidates who seek Row E?

Well, if you needed proof of that, look no further than the endorsement by the Dutchess County Independence Party of Assemblyman Marc Molinaro, a Republican candidate for Dutchess County executive.

Molinaro voted “no” on same-sex marriage when it last came up for a vote in the Democrat-controlled Assembly along with the majority of his GOP colleagues.

(It should be noted here that the handful of Republicans who did vote “yes” were not subsequently defeated at the ballot box, as was predicted, with the exception of former Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava, whose vote was cited by the Tea Partiers as a reason to back the Conservative candidate, Doug Hoffman. But her loss in the three-way NY-23 special election was a special case).

Now, I know some of you are going to suggest I’m comparing apples and oranges here since this is a local race with an endorsement determination controlled by local Indy leaders.

Two things: 1) MacKay told me flat out that endorsements going forward would continue to be informed, if not outright controlled, by local party officials, although he does wield considerable sway over the executive committee and its support of state legislative candidates. The party has a traditional of backing both Democrats and Republicans.

2) The Conservatives have made it clear they’ll back no candidate – no matter what office that candidate is seeking – who “does not support marriage as defined between one man and one woman”.

So, I expect the gay marriage question will be a litmus test going forward for candidates at all levels of government, thanks to the recent resolution adopted by the Conservative Party’s executive committee.

Incidentally, Molinaro has also been endorsed by the Conservatives and now will have three lines in the November general election. He’s facing Democrat Dan French, who is seeking the WFP endorsement, too.

Gianaris: Bring Gay Marriage To A Vote

Democratic Sen. Mike Gianaris today disagreed with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to not introduce a bill supporting same-sex marriage unless the votes are available, saying the public deserves to know where individual legislators stand.

In an interview on WCNY’s Capitol Pressroom this morning, Gianaris, D-Queens, said not having a bill allows Senate Republicans to tease on where they and duck the issue on where they stand.

“Bottom line is simple: Put it on the floor let people take a vote, let’s know where everybody is and then people can make decisions accordingly.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he would not introduce his bill for same-sex marriage unless the votes are available.

Gianaris did say that the pro-same-sex marriage advocates and Cuomo are doing an effective strategy, which includes behind-the-scenes talks with advocates and fence-sitting legislators.

Still, Gianaris accused Republicans of stalling on the issue.

“We’re in a democracy, people should know make their decisions clear and then people can make their decisions accordingly,” he added.

Cuomo and some gay marriage advocates don’t want a demoralizing repeat of 2009, when the measure failed in the Senate 38-24.

Skelos On Tax Cap: ‘I’m Not Going To Piecemeal Negotiations’

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos emerged from a roughly 35-minute chat today with Gov. Andrew Cuomo today, saying he was yet to see the final version of the Assembly’s long-promised version of its tax cap.

“You know, I’m not going to piecemeal these negotiations. I’d like to see a bill. The speaker is going to conference on the cap, I’d just like to see it.” Skelos said. “I haven’t seen anything other than rhetoric, I’d like to see what he’s proposing.”

The Senate approved the 2 percent cap on local property taxes back on Jan. 31. The Assembly is yet to take up the measure and Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, has said he would introduce a version of the cap that would be at 2 percent, but include some unspecified carve outs.

Skelos previously said he didn’t want to negotiate the measure if it would mean a “water-down” cap, but has recently opened the door a bit to at least looking at what the Assembly proposes.

Skelos has been meeting on Mondays with Cuomo to discuss legislation. The meetings with the governor, who has ratcheted up his rhetoric toward lawmakers in recent weeks, have been productive, he said.

“I think it’s going well. To be very frank with you, the governor and I have been having Monday cups of coffee, I wouldn’t call it ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ but we’ve been doing our weekly coffee break and I think it’s been very productive,” he said.

Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., Still Here

Just in case you needed further proof that the Rapture did not, in fact, occur this weekend, consider this formal statement sent out late last night by Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., a Bronx Democrat, the Senate’s lone (I believe) Pentacostal minister and an outspoken OPPONENT of same-sex marriage:

“Like many who heard about the prediction that a Biblical rapture world come upon us yesterday, I used the occasion to reflect upon my life. The rapture prediction put many of us in mind of our final judgment.”

“Since no rapture took place and we are here continuing with our lives, I take from this a rededication to devoting myself to protect the institutions of the family which include marriage between a man and a woman, and to promote respect for all human life.”

“To those who hoped that I would be taken away on the rapture day, please be assured that your negative blogging and tweeting comments have not distracted me. Instead I will proceed undeterred dedicated to my Christian beliefs.”