NY SUNY 2020 Bill Lands

It’s true! A bill is in print!

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has sent a NY SUNY 2020 program bill to the Legislature. In it: Tuition increases, a memorandum of understanding about annual state operating aid (but no “lockbox” language to prevent sweeps), and guidelines establishing the challenge grant program the governor and SUNY chancellor announced earlier this month.

Gpb11nysuny2020challenge Bill

Basile Resigns State GOP Post

Here’s a development that has been speculated about for well over a year now: Tom Basile has tendered his resignation as executive director of the state GOP, citing unspecified “personal and professional” considerations.

“There is more work to be done to rebuild our party, but due to certain personal and professional considerations I believe that now is the right time for me to move on,” Basile wrote in a June 18 letter to state GOP Chairman Ed Cox, his longtime political patron.

“I shall leave my current post effective July 31, 2011 to permit a proper operational transition. It is my hope to continue offering strategic counsel to you and the Party and contribute in other ways to the ongoing success of this institution under your leadership.”

“What we have done could not have been accomplished without the hard work and dedication of a wonderful staff who endured a running start to this administration in 2009 and the busiest political season this state had seen in more than 30 years in 2010. Both elections yielded historic victories for our Party.”

“Past and present staff, consultants and faithful volunteers each has my deep appreciation for their responsiveness and constant counsel.”

Basile, a Rockland County resident, got engaged not long ago, according to his Facebook page.

He has worked for Cox since the chairman’s ill-fated run for the US Senate back in 2006. Basile was also instrumental in helping Cox defeat then-Niagara County GOP Chairman Henry Wojtaszek in the battle for the state chairmanship at a time when most of the GOP old guard – including former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Gov. George Pataki – had lined up against Cox.

Cox has had a bumpy tenure as chairman – to say the least. And Basile was a lightning rod for controversy, with county chairs and staffers alike grousing about his management style and lack of communication.

During the upheaval of the 2010 GOP gubernatorial primary, in which Cox unsuccessfully pushed for DEmocrat-turned-Republican Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy to get the nod (he was blocked from getting onto the ballot by former Rep. Rick Lazio, who lost in the primary to Carl Paladino), some called for Basile to be fired.

He wasn’t, but Cox did bring in former Assemblyman Tony Casale to help with party operations last November.

There was a call for Cox’s ouster in the wake of Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s big win last fall, along with the GOP’s loss of all statewide races. The chairman, whose two-year term ends next fall, refused to step down. He took credit for helping the Senate Republicans regain the majority and pointed to the six House wins for the GOP in Democrat-dominated New York – more than any other state.

Republicans have grumbled privately (and not so privately) that Cox oversold his involvement in these victories. He has definitely been at odds with segments of the national GOP, whose leaders did not support his wooing of Levy into the governor’s race.

TJB Letter to Chairman Cox

Kolb Briefed On Chapter Amendment

Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb was briefed this morning on the draft language for the chapter amendment’s religious exemptions this morning, saying the measure described to him dealt with religious organizations like Catholic Charities.

Kolb also cautioned that the language could have shifted since he first saw it and that the measure was not yet in print.

Being in print seems to be a key point today. It’s just after 3 p.m. and we still have not seen that elusive religious exemption bill, which is most likely not in the omnibus big ugly bill, Kolb told me.

The religious exemption language has been a line in the sand for fence-sitting Republican Senate lawmakers who say the original bill introduced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo doesn’t go far enough to protect insitutions like Catholic Charities.

Sen. Greg Ball, now an avowed no vote, said he wanted broader language, but he announced Friday read the amendment and didn’t approve. But his office later admitted that was a mistake in the release and Ball hadn’t read the amendment.

Meanwhile, the Cuomo administration insists bills are being printed, even as lawmakers are yet to take them up.

Bill Extends CSEA Deal To MC Employees (Updated)

A reader alerted me to the existence of A-08513, a bill that appears to extend the compensation segment of the 5-year contract deal reach by the Cuomo administration and CSEA to the state government’s 12,000 non-union employees who are prohibited from collective negotiations by the Taylor Law – AKA the “management confidentials.”

This is a pretty standard practice, since these “at will” employees – who have an association, but not a union – aren’t able to participate in the contract negotiation process.

UPDATE: A reader who is a MC employee writes to correct my use of the phrase “at will,” which applies to those who are exempt and serve in an executive-controlled state agency or on the second floor:

“Most MC Employees are not exempt and in fact part of the competitive civil service (system) who got their position through a civil service exam (only a small percentage of MC employees are in exempt position where they serve at will).”

“…The only difference is I’m not represented by a union nor allowed to collectively bargain, but I have civil service protections and can not be fired at will.”

I stand corrected.

Both the Senate and the Assembly quickly signed off on the tentative contract agreement that was announced earlier this week. That is, of course, contingent on CSEA’s 60,000 rank-and-file members ratifying the contract by early August.

The deal includes three years of pay freezes followed by two years of 2 percent annual raises, nine furlough days over two years, and increased health care contributions. In addition, workers will get a $1,000 bonus in the third year of the deal.

In exchange for these concessions, CSEA is avoiding some 4,000 layoffs. The Cuomo administration is currently preparing layoff lists that don’t include CSEA members, even though they have not yet voted to green light this deal.

The governor has indicated that all of the 9,800 layoffs he has threatened would be averted if the other public employee unions – particularly PEF, the second-largest union – follow CSEA’s lead. So far, however, we haven’t seen any developments indicating similar deals are on the horizon.

Capitol Holding Pattern Continues

It’s deja vu all over again.

Senate Republicans remain huddled behind closed doors as we continue to wait for bill language for the mega property-tax cap, mandate relief and rent control extension for New York City.

Republicans were obstensibly conferencing for only 30 minutes this morning and then were supposed to head into session at 10 a.m. Obviously that is not the case as the GOP continues to meet as 2:20.

Sen. Andrew Lanza, who has sought greater religious protections for religious organizations, was spotted coming out of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office earlier today and would not comment on the meeting.

Lanza, along with Sens. Kemp Hannon and Steve Saland have been meeting with Cuomo to discuss adding religious language to the bill.

Sen. Joe Robach, R-Greece, Monroe County, poked his head out at one point to say the Senate Republicans
were “taking a little break” (I’m assuming this means lunch) and were continuing work through the afternoon.

“We get this all done and go home,” Robach said.

But the clock is ticking. A Senate Democratic staffer says even if the omnibus language is delivered to their conference soon, voting will likely not take place until 6 p.m.

This complicates matters for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who must return home by sundown in order to observe the Jewish sabbath.

NY To Hold Prez Primary April 24 (Updated)

Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto confirms the 2012 presidential primary will be April 24 of next year – as we first reported earlier this month.

You may remember that in 2008 voting took place in February, during the Super Tuesday where 24 of the 50 state’s held their primaries.

Both the Senate and Assembly will have to vote to approve the primary date. They are expected to vote on it before the end of session, but it really is unclear if they are going to at this point.

Update: A senate source actually informs me that both the Senate and Assembly have passed this bill. It appears both houses did it last Friday. (Sorry about that, it’s been a long week.)

Senate Dems Show Frustration

Senators Mike Gianaris, Liz Krueger, and Adriano Espaillat (who all have been tweeting up a storm trying to make several hashtags trend) held a press conference this morning to blast the lack of progress at the capitol.

“Unfortunately we have been here all week when were just supposed to be here on Monday. There are important issues to decide. We stand as a conference on the Democratic side ready to vote on all the issues of the day that have been outstanding all week. We cannot understand what the hold up is,” Gianaris said. ”

“We were in the capitol yesterday for 13 hours, we were in session for one hour. We all know there are significant important pieces of legislation that thousands of people throughout the state, and even people throughout the country are watching and hoping we can resolve one way or the other. There is no excuse for the slowness we are seeing and the delay in the legislative activity.”

Senator Krueger specifically called for the chamber to take up the bills that have been printed, or passed by the Assembly already. Specifically same-sex marriage, which we are told the Republicans have not decided about as a conference though they have subsequently been working to have religious carve outs put into the bill language.

Krueger also called for a vote on the creation of a health exchange, which also has passed the Assembly – and which we thought was agreed to by Skelos, Silver and Cuomo. Krueger says they might as well bring bills that have been printed to the floor, while they wait for other bills to be printed.

Senator Espaillat echoed her comments, and even suggested it is “dangerous” to not move on some of these issues. He also suggested that the Senate GOP is playing with people’s lives, because of the passionate supporters and opponents of same-sex marriage who are lining the halls waiting for something to happen.

Tax Cap Opponents: It’s Not A Done Deal

The NYS Coalition of Local Control just sent out this press release, calling for significant mandate relief in the omnibus bill that we still haven’t seen – though we are told it is called the Affordable Housing Act.

What was interesting about this is that they boldly state, “Tax Cap Not a Done Deal – Mandate Relief Being Negotiated.” Several rank and file lawmakers have told Cap Ton the same thing, that this mega deal is still being fine tuned. In fact, one Assembly Dem even said that rent regulation might change as well – from the framework deal that was announced earlier this week.

It’s just further evidence that the longer this goes, the more emboldened the special interests become. Thinking they can derail a key piece of legislation, or at least change the wording.

In this case, the NYS Coalition of Local Control wants several pieces of mandate relief put in place if there is a cap. Here is their wish list.

  • Costs outside school districts’ control must be excluded or paid for by the State;
  • A contingency budget should not be a zero increase in the tax levy; it should be set it at the cap and contain necessary exclusions (debt service, increases in pension costs, tax certiorari payments and costs due to enrollment increases, etc.);
  • All school district budgets should be decided by a simple majority of local voters; as Assemblyman Kevin Cahill (D-Kingston) was quoted yesterday as saying, the 60% override vote for tax levies exceeding the cap is “undemocratic”. It runs afoul of our one-person/one-vote construct and polls show people want local control, and a supermajority override requirement may violate the U.S. and New York State constitutions.

A Timeline From The Assembly

Assembly Democratic spokesman Michael Whyland just stopped by the YNN/NY1 nook on the Capitol’s third floor to optimistically predict we will be seeing the housing (AKA the big ugly) and SUNY/CUNY tuition bills sometime in the “early” afternoon. He could not be more specific than that, unfortunately.

We are being told that no printing has yet begun, however, which is not at all good news.

I asked if there is a deadline for the departure of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who is an Orthodox Jew and therefore usually leaves town early on Fridays to get home before Shabbat starts. Whyland said “there is no real deadline” at this point, but added that he has not yet had that specific conversation with the speaker.

The Assembly Democrats are conferencing what was described to be as “non-big” bills at the moment. UPDATE: Here’s what’s on the Ways and Means calendar at the moment.

That includes a chapter amendment to the taxi bill being pushed by Mayor Bloomberg, which sparked massive protests/demonstrations of support from the yellow cabbies and livery drivers over the past two days. The bill passed the Assembly earlier this week with bipartisan support, but then stalled in the Senate.

The chapter includes a 50-cent MTA surcharge, like the yellow cabs pay. Assemblyman Carl Heastie, who has been spearheading negotiations on this bill in his chamber, told me earlier today it was assumed that would be automatically charged to the new medallion holders, since that’s in existing law, but the opponents wanted it specifically spelled out.

It has been widely speculated that the Assembly will slam through bills as quickly as possible – assuming any ever get printed – and depart the Capitol before the gay marriage circus begins – if it begins – in the Senate. That would theoretically include the chapter amendment with religious exemptions for the same-sex marriage bill, but no one has yet seen a printed version of those, either, although there has been a lot of talk about them.

Silver said earlier this week that he had reviewed the language of the chapter and found it “acceptable.”

No doubt some members might stick around to watch the show, particularly those with a personal interest in the outcome of the vote, but others are jonesing to get home ASAP.

Meanwhile, it’s slow going over on the GOP side

Schumer Emails For ‘Truly Special’ Gillibrand

Sen. Chuck Schumer is lending his name to a fundraising push by his junior counterpart, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, calling her “something truly special” and urging supporters to help her hit the $100,000 mark prior to the June 30 FEC deadline.

In his email, Schumer sounded the alarm about the “hard right” that controls the House, and insisted the Democratic majority in the Senate could be in jeopardy.

“Over the past two and a half years, Kirsten has distinguished herself as a leader who possesses the strength and courage to push through crucial legislation,” he wrote. “As things really start to heat up in Congress, she is exactly who we need to lead the charge against extremism and for progressivism.”

“But just as we recognize Kirsten as a critical advocate in our fight to push this country forward, the GOP sees her as a threat to their plans to roll back our progress. They know that with Kirsten around, it will be that much harder to eradicate the EPA, line the pockets of Big Oil and repeal health care reform.

In their desperate attempt to take control of the Senate, Republicans are looking for signs of weakness among all Democratic senators. Let’s make sure they continue to see Kirsten as a strong, capable opponent who has the resounding support of her grassroots allies…We simply can’t let the Republicans get a hold of Kirsten’s seat.”

“With your help, I know Kirsten will win in 2012. So please, act now and show her you’ll be there for her.”

Schumer isn’t the only member of the New York delegation emailing on Gillibrand’s behalf. The state’s newest House member, Rep. Kathy Hochul, sent out an appeal, too.

Gillibrand has sent at least two money-seeking missives herself, including one that raises the specter of the only Republican to formally announce his intention to challenge her in 2012: Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos.

Maragos, who briefly mounted a (never-realized) challenge against Schumer last fall, has said he’ll spend $4 million to $5 million of his own cash on his campaign if he gets onto the ballot.