Cuomo: Session Won’t End Until ‘People’s Business’ Is Done

…and by “people’s business,” he appears to mean strengthening and extending the rent laws – although he doesn’t go into any specifics about what that means to him, bill-wise. And there are a LOT of bills out there.

The last I checked, I think there were no fewer than eight pieces of legislation that address 421-a alone.

Sen. Adriano Espaillat has been heading up the Senate Democrats’ push on the rent laws, which are set to expire at midnight tonight. He told us earlier today that the governor had pledged to keep the Legislature in Albany until there’s a deal on this issue.

It’s a big deal for downstate Democrats, which is why it’s now linked to the property tax cap – a big deal for suburban and upstate Republicans.

Here’s Cuomo’s statement:

“If the laws are not renewed, over the long term, there would be nothing less than a housing crisis in the State. Today’s expiration is generating anxiety among affected tenants and their advocates. This is compounded by the fact that the anticipated end of the Legislative session is next week.”

“My position has been clear. New York’s rent laws must be extended and strengthened.”

“However, New Yorkers should know the facts. There would be no short-term emergency. Current rent laws could be continued by short-term ‘extender’ legislation or even if the laws lapse for a short period of time, which they have in the past, there will not be a significant increase in rent levels or disruption in the availability of affordable housing.

“Make no mistake, to prevent a long term crisis, these laws must be renewed and strengthened.”

“There is a full agenda for both the Assembly and Senate to accomplish and the legislative session will not end, either through regular or special session, until the people’s business is done.”

Giant Debate Over Same-Sex Marriage (Updated)

NY Giants that is…

The Human Rights Campaign has been very good about cutting videos with celebrities supporting same-sex marriage, including future NFL Hall Of Famer Michael Strahan, who played his entire career with the NY Giants. And also current NY Giants owner Steve Tisch has come out in favor of passage.

Well now Giants Superbowl hero Wide Receiver David Tyree has taken up a position on the other side of the issue. He has recorded a sit down interview with the National Organization of Marriage (that unfortunately for me includes his miraculous catch against the New England Patriots – it still hurts to watch).

Tyree makes the argument that legalizing same-sex marriage will send a message that children don’t need a father and mother. He also talks a lot about the importance god has played in his life, and how that has shaped his view on the issue.

And Tyree also suggests that redefining marriage could lead to anarchy.

Update: A reader notes that David Tyree actually lives in New Jersey.

Assembly Same-Sex Marriage Flipper

Following the Senate GOP’s punt earlier today on same-sex marriage, attention has turned to the Assembly, which requested – and received – a message of necessity from Gov. Andrew Cuomo so it can circumvent the three-day aging process and vote on his program bill this afternoon.

Assemblyman Danny O’Donnell, the bill’s sponsor, just Tweeted that the bill is through the Rules Committee and headed to the floor for the fourth time in NYS history soon.

Republicans, particularly Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, have been suggesting that there might not be sufficient votes in the chamber to pass the bill yet again. Advocates have rejected that assertion, and I guess we’ll be finding out who’s right soon enough.

The Democrat-Republican split in the chamber is now 99-51, with four vacant seats on the Democratic side. There are also a handful of members in both conferences who have a history of crossing the aisle on this issue. The pro-marriage folks just got some good news from Assemblyman Nelson Castro, a Bronx Democrat, who announced he has changed his mind and plans to vote “yes” today.

Castro’s full statement appears after the jump.

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Here’s Cuomo’s Message Of Necessity

Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier today sent a message of necessity to the Democratic-led Assembly, allowing them to bypass the normal three-day aging process and pass the bill today.

The measure is expected to be taken up this afternoon. Cuomo justifies the suspension of the aging process by writing in the memo:

“The continued delay of the passage of this bill would deny over 50,000 same-sex couples in New York critical protections currently afforded to different-sex couples including hospital visitations, inheritance and pension benefits.”

Marriage FIX

Assembly Gets Cuomo Message, Will Vote On Gay Marriage (Updated)

The Assembly is expected to vote on a same-sex marriage bill as early as this afternoon, officials there just confirmed.

The vote comes with a message of necessity from Gov. Andrew Cuomo after Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, requested it be sent over to the chamber.

Update: We’ve learned the vote will take place around 4 p.m. this afternoon.

Though it’s been reported the measure will pass easily in the Democratic-heavy chamber, GOP lawmakers are shopping a theory that it may be more difficult this year than in previous years.

They say with the gains in 2010 (a total of 10 new Republican lawmakers) and with the mutlitude of vacancies left after several Democrats joined the Cuomo administration, a vote may not sail through as it has the previous three times.

The Senate, as we reported earlier, is another matter entirely.

Lanza Concerned About Religious Exemptions

Sen. Andrew Lanza, a Staten Island Republican seemed to side with his colleague Sen. Greg Ball, of the Hudson Valley, after emerging from the closed-door conference on same-sex marriage, saying he’s concerned about religious and non-profit exemptions included in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s program bill.

Lanza did add that his position on this issue remains the same: A “no” that could change. (In other words, he’s more or less undecided).

There’s a process, there’s a conversation happening,” Lanza told reporters. “I think there’s a great conversation happening and it’s continuing.”

“I think one of the hallmark principles of this country is respect for the faiths of religion in this country and I think that needs to be preserved. I think there are issues that are outstanding in this legislation with respect to this issue. If nothing else, we are a country that protects religion freedom and that must be embody in any legislation that comes to the floor for a vote in this Senate.

He added: “I think any bill in this state should considered that disregards the religious protections that we are known for in this state.”

No Decision On Senate Gay Marriage Vote (VIDEO ADDED)

After spending nearly four hours behind closed doors, members of the Senate GOP conference emerged without a decision on whether to vote on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s bill to legalize same-sex marriage.

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Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos emerged to tell the antsy, hungry press corps and assorted advocates who have been working the halls on both sides of this issue that the Republicans will take up the issue again tomorrow.

“I thought I would be seeing a little bit earlier,” Skelos told the crowd. “We’ve had a tremendous conference, a thoughtful conference discussing the issue of marriage equality. Discussions are going to continue tomorrow.”

“…The issue has not been resolved. I’m respecting the decision of the conference. Once its made. The conference has asked me to keep the confidence at this point, which is what I intend to do. That’s my responsibility as the leader, and we will continue to conference the issue tomorrow. We haven’t resolved anything other than that we’re going to continue our conference.”

Most senators avoided speaking to the press by exiting the conference room through a back door that leads into the members-only lounge. A few popped their heads out early, including Sen. Bill Larkin, who came out shortly before Skelos did and basically told us the same thing: No decision.

Sen. Kemp Hannon, a Long Island “no” voter, emerged later to say that the conference had been “thoughtful and contemplative” and without fireworks. Sen. Andrew Lanza, a Staten Island “no” vote considered potentially switchable, told reports that he is “in the same place I was yesterday.” He also said there’s a “great” process happening that has to continue.

Meanwhile, the governor has sent a message of necessity to the Assembly to circumvent the three-day aging process and allow an immediate vote on the program bill he sent the Legislature yesterday. The Assembly is expected to vote sometime today, although Assembly Democrats I spoke to while staking out the Senate Republicans said the matter hadn’t yet been conferenced on their side.

(The photo, in case you’re wondering, is of an Orthodox Jewish man who was praying outside the Senate conference room as Republicans mulled whether to put the marriage bill onto the floor).

Fare Increases Redux? (Updatedx2)

Shortly before entering the marathon same-sex marriage conference with his fellow Republicans, Sen. Lee Zeldin announced the Senate will take up – and likely pass – a bill to repeal the controversial MTA payroll tax that was part of the bailout package for the perennially cash-strapped authority that was passed by the Legislature in 2009.

The bill calls for phasing out the tax in seven of the 12 MTA service counties impacted by the tax (Dutchess, Nassau, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Westchester AND Nassau and Suffolk counties – basically everything but the five counties that make up NYC) over the next three years.

According to an Albany insider who crunched the numbers of this, by the time the bill is fully implemented in 2014, it would generate a budget gap for the MTA of about $800 million a year. That would be offset slightly by a statewide sales tax intercept, but the annual estimated hit to the authority is still hovering at about $768 million, this source maintains.

So, where would the money come from to make up that difference? Well, the MTA pretty much has one major revenue generation option: Fare increases.

If the split was 50-50 between the subway system and the rails (LIRR and Metro North), fares would increase 15 percent and 30 percent, respectively, according to this source. If the MTA decided only the commuter lines should take the hit, which one could argue makes sense, since that’s what services those seven counties, fares would have to up a whopping 64 percent.

It’s ironic that the Republican majority in the Senate would pass payroll tax relief bill that would drive a high fare increase for rails,” this source said.

That would indeed seem to undercut the intent here, which is, of course, to reduce taxes in the overtaxed NYC suburbs. The payroll tax was a key issue in the 2010 campaign in which Zeldin ousted former Democratic Sen. Brian Foley.

UPDATE: Zeldin reached out after the Senate GOP’s same-sex marriage confab broke, informing me that the numbers this source has provided are off. The cost, he said is actually $840.9 million, but the bill also has $465 million worth of new revenues for the MTA, leaving it with a gap of $376 million by 2014.

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Dems Push Bill To Ban Smoking In Cars With Minors Present

Senate and Assembly Democrats are pushing a bill that would prohibit drivers from lighting up with a child under the age of 14 in the car.

The bill would allow for $100 penalty to drivers stopped for suspicion of spoking with underage passengers. Other states have adopted a similar law, but the age limit is often 18.

The Assembly is expected to vote on the bill today or tomorrow. It’s unclear if or when the Senate will do the same.

Senate Dems To Try And Force Debate On Millionaire’s Tax

Senate Democrats will make one last-ditch effort this afternoon to bring the millionaire’s tax to the floor for a vote.

Sen. Tony Avella (D-Queens) will introduce a hostile amendment to a local county tax extender with the personal income tax surcharge, or PIT, legislation attached. The bill is the same as the one introduced in the Assembly by Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Democrats are trying to make a point that extending the sales tax rates for counties, which the Senate has been voting on for days, the same logic should apply to the millionaire’s tax. They argue that the legislation is simply an extension, not a new tax and it could generate approximately $4.16 billion in revenue for the State.

“The local tax extender will affect hundreds of thousands of middle and working class consumers who will pay the local sales tax over and over, which will only raise approximately 161.8 million,” said Sen. Avella.

“The PIT surcharge will only effect around 79,000 of the most wealthy New Yorkers once a year, and raises over four billion dollars.”

The bill would be a one-year extension and only apply to those individuals making one million dollars or more, unlike the current tax that applies only to those making excess of $200 thousand.

However, Gov. Andrew Cuomo opposes the reinstatement on a tax surcharge, a sentiment shared by the Senate Republican majority.