Here And Now

Two issues that have been oddly linked come to a head at the Capitol today: The rent laws that provide affordable apartments for more than one million New Yorkers (mostly in NYC) are set to expire at midnight and the Senate GOP is conferencing gay marriage for the first time since 2009. (Majority members are scheduled to go behind closed doors at 10 a.m.)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to deliver a rent laws ultimatum to legislators today: Get a deal or prepare to stick around until you do.

As for the second issue, it will only take one more GOP “yes” vote to make New York the sixth and largest state in the nation that lets same-sex couples legally wed. Yes, it’s likely to be another long and crazy day. Meanwhile, some headlines….

Get ready for the big ugly.

Sen. Roy McDonald got testy about his decision to vote “yes” on gay marriage, telling reporters: “You get to the point where you evolve in your life where everything isn’t black and white, good and bad, and you try to do the right thing. You might not like that. You might be very cynical about that. Well, f— it, I don’t care what you think. I’m trying to do the right thing.”

The DN isn’t taking sides on gay marriage, but wants the bill to come up for a vote.

Ditto, says Newsday (the majority leader’s hometown paper).

A vote in the Senate is predicted for Friday and could come in the Assembly as early as Wednesday, although Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has been reluctant up to now to let his house vote a fourth time before the Senate acts.

Sen. Andrew Lanza thinks gay marriage will pass the Senate if the bill comes to the floor, and sounds awfully undecided about his own plans to vote “no.”

Same-sex couples are cautiously optimistic, but don’t want to jump the gun because they’ve been here before.

Sen. Tom Duane is still suffering from “post traumatic trust disorder” from the 2009 debacle.

Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto insisted there was “no linkage” between the governor’s release of the same-sex marriage bill and his fundraiser last night at a special showing of “Priscilla: Queen of the Desert.”

A gay constituent of Sen. Greg Ball urges the Catholic Republican lawmaker to vote “yes.”

Democratic Suffolk County Legislator Jon Cooper, who is gay and once mulled a primary challenge to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, is threatening to run against GOP Sen. Carl Marcellino if same-sex marriage doesn’t pass.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver threatened to tank the tax cap if the Senate Republicans don’t expand rent regulations.

Tenant advocate Michael McKee has nine days worth of socks and underwear with him – just in case the rent laws deadlock drags on.

More >

Gaming The Gay Marriage Vote (Updated)

For now, it’s unlikely that Gov. Andrew Cuomo will issue a message of necessity in order to bypass the customary three-day waiting period for same-sex marriage legalization.

That leaves Friday as the earliest day the measure could be voted on.

It makes sense for Cuomo to wait at least a little while (unless, of course, he wants to strike while the iron is hot).

Two Republicans in the last 24 hours announced they would switch their 2009 no votes to “yes.” The Republican defections came after three Democrats who previously voted no announced they, too, would vote yes on the measure.

Cuomo has said he would not introduce the bill until he was sure enough votes would be available for it to pass. Today’s introduction of the gay-marriage is a sign that Cuomo is sure votes are available.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, reportedly said the measure would likely be taken up Friday.

An Assembly Democrats spokesman said the measure wouldn’t be taken up the chamber until the bill’s passage was assured in the Senate.

Updated: An Assembly lawmaker says the measure could be taken up as early as Wednesday or Thursday in that chamber after receiving a message of necessity from the governor. He notes that Friday in the Assembly is a difficult day to pass legislation since Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, observes the Jewish sabbath.

At least one more Republican senator is needed to approve the measure, but it’s likely two or even three more would be needed in order to provide political padding for vulnerable legislators. Sources with knowledge of the talks said the governor was still speaking directly with senators who remain on the fence.

The undeclared senators include Sens. Mark Grisanti of Buffalo, Andrew Lanza of Staten Island and Stephen Saland of Poughkeepsie.

And, as we noted earlier, it’s important to remember this issue isn’t taking place in vacuum. There are still the matters of rent control for New York City and a property tax cap for the suburbs and upstate.

Whatever happens this week, the potential vote would be the culmination of months of strategy plotted by Cuomo, same-sex marriage advocates and legislators, erasing initial doubts earlier this year that a marriage bill would be impossible to pass in a Republican-led Senate.


Dan Collins asks: “Is Andrew Cuomo currently the most successful governor in America?”

Senate Minority Leader John Sampson led chants of “an extension is not enough” at a rent laws press conference.

Sen. Roy McDonald on his gay-marriage vote decision: “I think I’m doing the right thing, it’s the appropriate thing, and if the public respects that, I’m grateful. If they don’t, then I move on.”

More McDonald (as per NYT Albany Bureau Chief Danny Hakim, via Twitter): “I’m tired of blowhard radio people, blowhard television people, blowhard newspapers. They can take the job & shove it.”

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy on Weiner: “We’re hearing he might resign in a couple of days…It’s going to be up to him: we can’t do anything about it to be very honest with you.”

Still avoiding on the resignation question: Sen. Chuck Schumer.

The House Democrats discussed Weinergate, but took no action to punish the scandal-scarred congressman.

Weiner’s wife, Huma Abedin, is due back from a State Department trip late tonight or early tomorrow. Democrats are hoping she’ll persuade him to quit.

Clyde Haberman compares Weiner to Narcissus – we all know what happened to him. (You know? Well, read the column then).

Chris Matthews suggests Weiner resign and then run for his seat in a special election.

NYC Public Advocate Bill de Blasio slammed the Post for coming out against same-sex marriage, noting: “This same claim was used in service of anti-interracial marriage laws.” (Added wrinkle: His wife is black).

The Department of Interior, after being repeatedly urged to do so by Schumer, reversed itself and re-opened the door to a Catskill casino.

The charges of menacing and stalking a former girlfriend that caused ex-Nassau County Legisaltor David Mejias to end his 2010 state Senate bid have been dropped.

Will Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver let the National Popular Vote bill come to the floor for a vote? He supports the “idea” of the legislation, according to a spokesman.

Cuomo supports a law that would allow law enforcement authorities to take DNA samples from anyone convicted of a felony or misdemeanor.

NYC Councilman Charles Barron opposes hydrofracking.

Squadron 2013?

No words for this. None.

NYers For Marriage Cheer McDonald News

New Yorkers United For Marriage, the coalition backing same-sex marriage in New York, released a statement only moments after Sen. Roy McDonald, R-Saratoga, announced he would back the measure.

McDonald, who had been on the fence for months on the issue, said today he would vote yes.

The Senate is now one vote away from approving the measure, but it’s likely two more Republicans would be needed in order to provide padding for vulnerable Republicans.

“We commend Senator McDonald for joining Governor Cuomo and the record majority of New Yorkers who believe that now is time for all New Yorkers to have the freedom to marry the person they love. Today, loving, committed same-sex couples — and their families and friends – from across this great State have moved one step closer to realizing their dreams. We remain hopeful and confident that this momentum continues to build so that marriage equality becomes a reality before the end of this Legislative session.”

Ball Wishes Religious ‘Carve Outs’ Went Further

Sen. Greg Ball said this afternoon that he would have preferred to see “stronger, more thorough” protections for individuals and businesses with religious objections in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s same-sex marriage bill, but he also refused to say one way or another how he’ll vote when and if the measure comes to the floor.

“I’m going to go back to those communities that I’ve been working with and see how comfortable they are with the current language,” the senator said.

“…They keep bringing up the Human Rights Law. But at the end of the day, it’s the Human Rights Law that’s going to be used against religious organizations and individuals with religious objections should they not want to either lease out facilities or engage in the same-sex ceremonies. So, that’s a fundamental problem.”

Ball appears to remain undecided, telling reporters only: “We’re going to conference this tomorrow.” Last I checked, conference was scheduled to start at 10 a.m. and last at least through noon.

Second GOP Senator For Gay Marriage: McDonald (VIDEO ADDED)

A second Republican senator has moved from the “undecided” column to the “yes” column on same-sex marriage: Sen. Roy McDonald, who occupies former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno’s seat.

H/T to CapCon’s Jimmy Vielkind, who reports the Rensselaer County lawmaker said he’s “trying to do the right thing.” This has also been independently confirmed by CapTon’s Nick Reisman.

This doesn’t come as a huge surprise. McDonald has been on the fence for some time now, and his spokesman said he had made a decision, but wasn’t quite prepared to make that public yet.

Also, Bruno, who once called homosexuality an “abnormal lifestyle,” but had a change of heart back in June 2009, has been working behind the scenes and continues to wield some influence in the district.

So, the tally now stands at 31 “yes” votes – 29 Democrats and two Republicans, McDonald and Rochester Sen. Jim Alesi.

Technically speaking, the governor and advocates only need one more vote to pass the bill that was introduced today (and won’t be “aged” sufficiently until Friday, unless there’s a message of necessity). But Republicans are nervous about being the 32nd vote that tips this bill over the edge – that person would certainly be the top target of the opposition in 2012.

So, the advocates are hoping to get at least two more Republicans to vote “yes” – preferably more, though – to provide a safety cushion, if you will. The names I’m hearing most today: Sens. Steve Saland, of the Hudson Valley; and John Flanagan of Long Island.

Conservatives Warn Against Opening ‘Pandora’s Box’

A reader forwarded a memo sent yesterday to legislators by the state Conservative Party to remind them of its opposition to same-sex marriage and warn of dire reprecussions should the bill (introduced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo today) pass.

The consequences the Conservatives are suggesting are not limited to the political, either. Consider the memo’s final passage:

“This bill is a Pandora’s Box, once opened, marriage will decline as it has in European Countries that have adopted laws to redefine marriage. If same-sex marriage is adopted, government will have no authority to limit the number of partners or whom the partners will be.”

So, basically: Today, gay marriage. Tomorrow, polygamy.

The Following Was Sent Yesterday

Senate Passes Sex Offender Bill Package

The Senate this afternoon passed four bills that would increase restrictions and penalties for sex offenders.

One of the bills, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos would make it a felony for level three sex offenders who fail to register or report a change of address. Currently a first offense is only a misdemeanor.

“The safety and well-being of our children and families are at risk each time a dangerous sex offender flouts the law and fails to register or follow release conditions,” Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said in a statement.

“There is too much at stake, which is why this bill is critical to increasing the penalties for violations and ensuring communities receive the appropriate notification about offenders’ residences.”

The other bills would expand the reach of registry requirements to include those offenders who are deemed “not responsible by reason of mental disease or defect” and lastly would restrict certain sex offenders who are released on parole from entering public buildings such as libraries.

Gay Marriage Bill Lands

As expected, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has sent the Legislature a bill to legalize same-sex marriage, starting the aging clock ticking. The measure will be live and ready to be voted on three days from now.

A key passage, which could be known as the Ball exclusion, in honor of the Hudson Valley Republican senator who has been pushing for exemptions for religious institutions, is:

“The bill also guarantees that religious institutions and benevolent organizations such as the Knights of Columbus remain free to choose who may use their facilities for marriage ceremonies and celebrations or to whom they provide religious services, consistent with their religious principles.”

In addition, the bill grants equal access to the government-created legal institution of civil marriage while leaving the religious institution of marriage to its own separate and fully autonomous sphere.

Remember that Cuomo said he would only put out a bill if he believed there were sufficient votes in the Senate to pass it. So he must know something we don’t at this point.

Marriage Equality Bill

Diaz: Gay Marriage Passage In Senate ‘Disappointing’

Here’s Sen. Ruben Diaz, giving his reaction to the news that four lawmakers, including one Republican and his former amigo Sen. Carl Kruger, announcing they support same-sex marriage.

Diaz, D-Bronx, a Penetecostal minister who is one of the most vocal opponents of gay marriage in the Senate, said he was surprised by the irony of the state being poised to have same-sex marriage legalize when the GOP is in control of the chamber.

“That’s bigger and that’s more disappointing,” Diaz said.

The measure still needs at least two more votes in order for it to pass.