McCall To Protestors: You Can’t Always Get What You Want

Representatives of SUNY shared the west Capitol stairs with a small group of college-aged protesters this morning, which made for a few awkward moments as Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, Trustee H. Carl McCall, several campus presidents and lawmakers tried to promote the system-wide rational tuition policy.

The students interrupted with boos anytime an official mentioned the word, “tuition.” It briefly threw some of the speakers off their game. However, McCall was undeterred. The former state comptroller told the crew that the five-year plan to clearly define tuition increases was not only endorsed by SUNY officials, it was partly conceptualized and voted on by elected student body representatives across the state.

One protestor shouted out, “We didn’t vote for them.” McCall replied, “that’s too bad.”

“I didn’t vote for a couple of people either but they still became president of the United States, that’s what happens,” said McCall.

“We are committed to providing quality education to every student and this bill will help us achieve that,” said McCall. “If there was some other way, we would all be supporting it.”

The bill, sponsored by Sen. James Seward (R-Oneonta) and Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes (D-Buffalo), would in part allow the SUNY Board of Trustees to set annual tuition, provided it does not increase by 5.5 percent per year for each of the five years.

Zimpher: We’re Cooperating Fully With IG, Comptroller

SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher says she welcomes a collaboration with the Inspector General and the State Comptroller, both of whom are investigating the internal practices of the SUNY Research Foundation.

“I began my concerns about any audit by calling the comptroller so my assumption is that he’s responding to my request to engage him in this process,” said Zimpher.

“I’m quite pleased the right people are taking the lead in these audits and investigations and pledge my full support, but I did make the inquiry myself.”

According to a spokesperson for Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, the probe will focus on employment, hiring practices and the payroll of the billion dollar foundation.

Both investigations come in the wake of news that foundation president John O’Conner allegedly gave a no-show job to former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno’s daughter, Susan. He has since taken a leave of absence.

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Long Makes Calls In Yonkers Mayor Race

Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long said he’s making calls in the race for Yonkers mayor, where the declared Republican candidate John Murtagh is pro-gay marriage and is trying to seek the Conservative line.

“I’ve spoken to people about it,” Long said. “Let’s put it this way, I’ve spoken to a lot of people about this.”

The Murtagh nod would be a second test of the blanket declaration given by Long, who has said his party would not endorse any candidate supporting same-sex marriage, a measure that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is trying to get approved by the end of June.

The Erie County Conservative Party did endorse pro-gay marriage candidate Mark Schroeder, a Democratic assemblyman who is running for Buffalo comptroller. County Chairman Ralph Lorigo said he didn’t “draw a line in the sand” on the issue. However, Long did not become involved in that decision or make any inquiries into the nomination.

The Westchester County Conservative Party is set to vote on its candidate for mayor on Monday.

Republican senators may be disinclined to back the measure since many rely on the Conservative Party line to win re-election.

Long added that it’s not up to him to decide who ultimately gets the nomination in Yonkers, but pressure is being applied to Murtagh to alter his stance.

“Naturally there are certainly thinks I can enforce and things I can’t enforce,” Long said. “There are some people who have said they’re trying to get him to back off support of such legislation.”

Also at play here is Westchester County Conservative Party Chairman Hugh Fox, a close political ally of County Executive Rob Astorino. Fox also works in the Astorino administration.

DiNapoli Wants Placement Agents Ban Permanent

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli today called on the state Legislature to permanently ban placement agents and lobbyists from appearing before his office to try to curry favorable investments in the state’s pension fund, one of the largest in the country.

The bill DiNapoli is introducing is aimed squarely at the tarnished legacy of his immeidate predecessor, Alan Hevesi, who is currently serving in a prison sentence for his role in a massive pay-to-play scheme, which also ensnared his political advisor, Hank Morris.

“Since I took office, we’ve worked to implement reforms that will help restore integrity and trust in this office and the pension fund,” DiNapoli said. “Banning placement agents and lobbyists from involvement in investments was a big step. Now it’s time to make that ban a permanent part of New York State law.”

DiNapoli previously banned placement agents in 2009 through executive order.

The legislation is sponsored by Assemblyman Peter Abbate.

Hevesi resigned his post in late 2005 after he used a state driver to chauffer his wife. DiNapoli, a former assemblyman, won a full term last year.

SAGE Reccds Unlikely This Session

The much-heralded Spending and Government Efficiency Commission, created by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to undertake the first top-to-bottom review of state government in 80 years, will not be making any “right-sizing” recommendations to the Legislature before the session ends on June 20.

SAGE, which got off to a very late start. The 20-member commission was created by executive order in January, but didn’t get all its appointees or even meet until May.

So far, it has held just two meetings. A scheduled get-together on May 27 at which members were expected to vote on a handful of proposals to send to the Legislature was called off.

The budget approved by the Legislature shortly before the April 1 deadline did include some consolidations, most notably the creation of an uber-Financial Services Department that will be headed by Cuomo’s former chief of staff, Ben Lawsky.

But it appears a more far-reaching consolidation effort won’t take place now until next year. That makes sense, considering the governor already has his hands full trying to negotiate his top three policy priorities – ethics reform, a property tax cap and the legalization of same-sex marriage.

I discussed the delay on CapTon last night with former Sen. Mike Balboni, who is a member of the SAGE Commission. He told me:

“The budget provided for spending authority for any costs associated with the operations of the commission, and the committee members were associated shortly thereafter. That, of course, left little time in this calendar, but we are making great progress in examining all the issues.”

“…Frankly, the vehicle for this used to be the constitutional conventions, which of course New York has said we’re not going to do that anymore. And given the talent of the folks on the commission, their wide breadth of experience and their insight, I think it’s also taking time to get all those insights packaged in the right way that we can provide useful recommendations for the governor and the Legislature.”

Engel Campaign Hires Spano’s Lobbying Shop

U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel’s campaign has retained the services of former GOP state Sen. Nick Spano’s lobbying firm Empire Strategic Planning, according to a filing on the Commission on Public Integrity’s website.

It’s not clear from the filing what Spano and company will lobby the state for on Engel’s behalf. However, it’s likely that the firm will focus on the upcoming redrawing of legislative boundaries, which must be completed by 2012.

According to the contract filed with the CPI, Empire Strategic Planning will be paid $5,000 a month, for a total of $60,000.

The contract took effect May 1 and runs through April 30 of next year, around the time that new districts for state and federal offices must be drawn.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and good-government groups want an independent panel to redraw the lines. The Senate, over the objection of Democrats, approved a constitutional amendment to create and independent commission, but that would be in place until 2022.

In the past, lawmakers have redrawn the lines to the benefit of incumbents. Cuomo has vowed to veto any lines that are not drawn by an independent commission.

Other federal officeholders, like Rep. Joe Crowley, have hired lobbying firms to become involved in the redistrcting battle.

Bill Mahoney of the New York Public Interest Research Group said retaining influential lobbyists is another sign that the commission needs to be in place.

“The fact that one of the factors that goes into redrawing district lines is how much money incumbents are willing to spend on lobbyists is yet another sign that the system is in desperate need of reform,” he said.


O’Donnell Pitches Again On Gay Marriage

With just nine remaining days scheduled in the 2011 legislative session, Assemblyman Danny O’Donnell is again hitting up members of his conference to sign on to his bill that would legalize same-sex marriage for gay New Yorkers – including himself and his partner, John Banta.

The Manhattan Democrat mentions Banta in a memo that he sent to his fellow Democrats yesterday, noting that they have been together for three decades and would simply like to be among the “thousands” of people who receive a “civil license (that) has nothing to do with religion” every year.

O’Donnell and Banta held an engagement party back in May 2009 when the gay marriage bill passed for the second time in the Assembly. It first passed on June 19, 2007. (This timeline is fixed).

All told now, the marriage bill has passed three times in the Assembly – twice in 2009.

Recall that there was a bit of a extraordinary/ordinary session issue in December 2009 when the bill died in the Senate, which forced the Assembly to basically redo a vote on the same piece of legislation. This is not something Speaker Sheldon Silver wants to have to do again.

O’Donnell introduced his bill when it became clear Gov. Andrew Cuomo had no plan to send his own program bill to the Legislature even though he’s spearheading an effort to get the Senate to pass a marriage measure before the session ends on June 20. Cuomo has said he doesn’t want to see a bill go to the floor in the Senate if it’s just going to fail again.

Silver hasn’t yet committed to bringing O’Donnell’s bill to the floor, although he hasn’t ruled out doing so before his members leave Albany for the summer if the governor doesn’t send something first.

Republicans have been suggesting for a while now that the Assembly Democrats, who now number 99, don’t have enough votes to pass this bill a fourth time – even with a handful of “yes” voters in the minority conference. Silver, O’Donnell and LGBT advocates have refuted that allegation, but I guess we won’t know until the votes are tallied – if things get that far.


Weiner To Reporters: I’m Getting Back To Work

U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner sent a missive to reporters camped out his office, saying in no uncertain terms he was tired of answering questions about whether he sent a lewd tweet to a Washington state woman.

Weiner gave a stilted press gaggle on Tuesday, in which he said he wanted to focus on other issues.

Today, the Democrat also reiterated that he didn’t send the tweet. However, he has said in a MSNBC interview that he didn’t know if the photo in question was actually him or not.

Here’s his statement:

“Good morning. Yesterday from 1 o’clock to almost ten o’clock I sat down and did interviews with anyone that wanted. Answered questions extensively. I made it very clear I did not send the picture, that my Twitter account had been hacked and this prank apparently has been successful. But after hours, almost 11 hours of answering questions any that anyone wanted to put, today I’m gonna to have to get back to work doing the job that I’m paid to do. So I appreciate your patience and understanding and if I can do anything to make you more comfortable while you sit out here in the hallway please let me know. Thank you.”

NYers For Marriage: Momentum Is Building

The coalition of advocacy groups pushing for same-sex marriage legalization are seizing on today’s Quinnipiac survey that showed 58 percent of voters back the measure.

The number is virtually the same from a poll that same-sex marraige groups have touted in the past, which they say is a sign that critical mass is building for the issue.

“Momentum for marriage is building every day, and today’s poll shows exactly who is driving that momentum – the people of New York State,” said Marc Solomon, National Campaign Director for Freedom to Marry. “Combined with the steadfast leadership of Governor Cuomo, we are confident that the record support of New Yorkers will carry us over the finish line and give loving and committed couples the freedom to marry.”

We’re tracking were Senate lawmakers stand on the issue with this handy interactive map, showing eight legislators either remain on the fence or won’t say how they’ll vote.

Here And Now

Weinergate Day 6

The tabloids had a field day with the Congressman’s comments during yesterday’s media blitz.

NYPost’s John Podhoretz thinks Rep. Weiner is a bad liar.

DN’s Michael Daly thinks Weiner is embarrassed.

And the DN’s editorial board still has questions.

Newsday’s Dan Janison thinks Weiner will be hurt politically by this.

Is an ethics reform deal coming today?

Seems unlikely as there is no bill language being circulated.

Gov. Cuomo, Speaker Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos all seem confident that something will get done before the end of session.

SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher and former Comptroller H. Carl McCall are at the capitol today pushing for a set tuition increase plan. (no link)

Speaker Silver says his conference may support the idea.

Cuomo is receiving much praise for pulling out of the federal Secure Communities program.

The administration left the door open for coming back to the program, saying “until the numerous questions and controversies regarding the program can be resolved…”

NY Post thinks AG Eric Schneiderman is pursuing a “radical environmental agenda” by suing the Feds over failure to study the impact hydrofracking would have on the Delaware River Basin.

A North Country town has repealed it’s “English-only” law after pressure from the AG.

Comptroller DiNapoli’s office is holding up a $70 million highway construction project in the Hudson Valley over complaints over an “unusual” labor agreement.

Both the Comptroller and IG Ellen Biben are now looking into alleged wrongdoing at the SUNY Research Foundation.

Rep. Brian Higgins says Democrats spirits have been lifted with Kathy Hochul’s victory in NY-26.
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