Heastie Decries ‘Anti-NYC Sentiment’

Assemblyman Carl Heastie is growing increasingly dismayed by what he sees as an anti-NYC sentiment among opponents of the plan to restructure the downstate OTB operation, which passed in his house during last week’s special session.

Heastie, who is also chairman of the Bronx Democratic Party, called this development “sickening,” adding (via text message, his preferred mode of communication): “(It) can lead to regional problems down the road for those who need city legislators’ votes for their regional issues.”

That sounded vaguely threatening to me, but Heastie insisted he’s not suggesting he’ll vote “no” on anything in particular. He did, however, confirm that he’s “pissed” at lawmakers who are now proposing a “compromise” bill that would include the regional and suburban OTBs.

“They don’t care about hundreds of empoyees being laid off under a bill that will save the state money,” he fumed.

“…It shouldn’t be going this far. They say they can’t vote for this because it’s a New York City issue. But nobody’s else’s region is in bankruptcy right now, and when that comes we can look at a statewide way to fix OTB. But to try to throw every regional OTB in now is something I don’t think the rest of the state should look to do.”

Two thoughts on this…

First: The so-called compromise bill that was introduced over the weekend by the Senate GOP is actually being carried by a downstater, Sen. Andy Lanza, who hails from Staten Island.

Second: This “cutting off your nose to spite your face” argument was made this morning by NYC OTB Chairman Larry Schwartz, who is also secretary to Gov. David Paterson.

So Much For Bipartisanship

It turns out that Mayor Bloomberg, who made a big show of spreading his love around in the 2010 election cycle to demonstrate he dedication to post-partisan politics, quietly chose sides in the battle for control of the state Senate, after all.

And he bet well.

The billionaire mayor gave at least $500,000 to the Senate GOP’s housekeeping committee, according to a source familiar with Bloomberg’s largesse. Another source pegged the final amount from the mayor to the Republicans at just under $1 million.

It’s a little hard to peg down the exact amount at this point because the party housekeeping accounts, which have no contribution limits and are thus the favored vehicles of deep-pocketed donors, are not required to file its next report until the middle of next month.

Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson declined to comment, although he did not dispute that Bloomberg gave big bucks to the Senate Republicans during this campaign.

Sen. Marty Golden, who, along with outgoing Sen. Frank Padavan, is arguably closest to Bloomberg than any other GOP conference member, professed complete and total ignorance about the mayor’s contribution(s).

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CSEA To Gov: If You Can Afford Pork, You Can Afford Us

In the wake of the TU’s story this morning about Gov. David Paterson’s pork barrel spending spree, CSEA is calling on the lame duck governor to rescind his plans to issue layoff notices to almost 900 public employees later this week.

“Everyone but the governor and some other politicians seem to understand that laying people off is bad for the economy,” said CSEA President Danny Donohue.

“It takes away paychecks that would be spent in local communities, loses taxes that would otherwise be paid and eliminates front line employees who actually deliver necessary services that help generate revenue.”

“It is also a cruel and unnecessary action in this holiday season that will hurt innocent families. No one should ignore the human misery that governor’s plan will cause to real people.”

The lame duck spending detailed by the TU’s Jim Odato amounts to $16.7 million, which is quite a bit less than the $250 million worth of workforce savings the Paterson administration has been trying to wring from the public employee unions.

Paterson has the support of Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo in his layoff plan. Cuomo has made it clear that he’ll be taking a “with me or against me” approach with the state workers, who will be entering contract negotiations with the new governor within months of his inauguration.

Rescind Layoff Release

NYPIRG Issues Leibell-Related Challenge

NYPIRG is hoping – as it has in the wake of so many previous instances – that today’s guilty plea to federal corruption charges by former Sen. Vincent Leibell as a catalyst to jump-start ethics reform at the state Capitol.

The good government group’s lobbyist, Blair Horner, said Leibell’s plea should “reignite voter outrage about Albany and spur outgoing Gov. David Paterson to call another special session specifically to deal with comprehensive ethics legislation.

In addition, Horner said, the AG, who is responsible for regulating nonprofit organizations, needs to conduct a “thorough review” to determine if other entities are “controlled” by state lawmakers.

“During the election, all candidates ran as reformers,” Horner said.

“It’s long past time for those promises to be put into action. As for the Governor, he has one last opportunity to clean up Albany and leave it a better place than he found it. New Yorkers should not have to rely on the FBI to police Albany.”

Paterson, who vetoed an ethics bill last February, arguing the measure didn’t go far enough, said in the wake of last week’s largely unproductive lame duck session that he would not be calling lawmakers back to the Capitol unless he saw a “change of heart” on the topic of mid-year budget cuts to close the $315 million gap.

AG-elect Eric Schneiderman pledged during the campaign to make fighting public corruption a central focus of his tenure as the state’s top attorney.

His oopponents – both in the primary and general election – argued he would not be able to adequately police he former colleagues, but Schneiderman pointed to his role as chairman of the committee that led the charge to expel former Sen. Hiram Monserrate as proof he can be tough with state lawmakers.

Bloomberg’s Election Reform Crusade

Mayor Bloomberg today unveiled a host of reforms designed to increase voter participation while releasing a report that demonstrates New York has the most restrictive election policies in the country and decades of declining voter turnout.

“Voter turnout at elections for at all levels of government is unacceptably low, and the State’s antiquated election laws are part of the problem,” Bloomberg said in a press release.

“Reforms like early voting and extended registration deadlines will help New Yorkers make their voices heard.”

The mayor was joined by a group of city and state elected officials, good government groups and the Rev. Al Sharpton. His proposals include:

- Creation of an early voting period: 35 states offer some form of early voting, generally 1-2 weeks before Election Day at a selected number of “super poll sites.”

- At-home ballot completion.

- Streamlined voter registration. This includes allowing registration up to 10 days before Election Day, rather than the current 25; linking existing state and local Boards of Elections databases; allowing open primaries regardless of party affiliation.

(Bloomberg’s report notes 20 out of 25 states that require party affiliation to vote in primaries allow for changes within 30 days of Election Day; only New York requires voters to wait more than a year to vote in a party primary after changing party affiliations ).

- Simplified Ballot Design.

Voter Access in New York[1]

In Leibell’s Own Words

…sometimes a picture’s worth a million. Compliments of CapTon’s Kaitlyn Ross, who is waiting for the start of the US attorney’s press conference on the former senator’s guilty plea to two charges of federal corruption earlier today.

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Schwartz’s Warning

Larry Schwartz, chairman of NYC OTB and secretary to Gov. David Paterson, just said the regional and suburban OTBs would be “cutting their nose off to spite their face” if they are successful in getting lawmakers to reject a bailout for the downstate betting operation in hopes of getting some financial help for themselves.

“If their attitude is ‘it’s everyone or no one,’ I think that’s a very dangerous and risky strategy,” Schwartz told the Post’s Fred Dicker on his first-ever AM TALK 1300 interview.

“If New York City goes down, I don’t see them getting any help next year. I think there will be a lot of resentment…They’ll be cutting off their nose to spite their face if that’s the tactic they take.”

Schwartz noted that the OTB bill currently on the table was negotiated by the administration as part of a Chapter 9 bankruptcy proceeding and includes concessions from employees in the NYC betting parlors. “We’re not asking for a handout; we’re not asking for a bailout,” he said.

He said the regional OTBs should, if they feel they need assistance from the state, make the case to the Legislature and the incoming administration next year as the NYC OTB has this time around.

Asked whether there might be a consolidation plan in the offing for the OTBs statewide, Schwartz replied: “Anything is a possibility.” He refused to predict whether the NYC OTB bill passed last week by the Assembly will be approved tomorrow by the Senate, noting: “Twenty-four hours is an eternity, whether it’s in politics or government.”

Whipping The Horse Vote

Senate Democats are their allies spent the weekend furiously whipping votes in hopes of landing the 32 yeses necessary to pass the NYC OTB bailout bill when lawmakers return to Albany tomorrow for a last-ditch attempt to prevent the downstate gambling operation from closing.

As the DN’s Ken Lovett reported this morning, DC37, which represents the workers slated to lose their jobs if NYC OTB shuts down tomorrow night, focused on pressuring NYC senators to support the bill, while NYRA and horse breeders lobbied the upstate members.

Senate insiders estimated the Democrats need anywhere from five to seven votes from the other side of the aisle to pass the measure. (That factors in a likely no-show by outgoing Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr., who didn’t show up at last week’s lame duck session).

They’re counting on the three NYC Republicans – outgoing Sen. Frank Padavan and Sens. Marty Golden and Andy Lanza – along with Sen. Roy McDonald, who told CapTon’s Kaitlyn Ross last week that he would be holding his nose to vote “yes.”

Of that group, only McDonald has publicly said he’d be willing to vote for the bailout bill negotiated by the Paterson administration. But Democats hope McDonald’s public “yes” will provide some impetus for “soft” upstaters like Sens. Neil Breslin, Dave Valesky and (outgoing) Darrel Aubertine to follow suit.

Lanza unveiled a “compromise” bailout bill over the weekend that would extend assistance to the suburban and regional betting parlors not included in the NYC OTB measure.

The Democrats and some in the racing industry rejected it out of hand, with one senator calling the measure “cover” for Republicans.

The Republicans, meanwhile, are insisting there’s sufficient Democratic support for the bill to see it pass if it’s allowed to come to the floor tomorrow. Capital District OTB CEO/President John Signor is on TALK 1300 AM at the moment voicing support for the bill, adding: “We hope that a compromise can be made here where the other OTBs can be included.”

The problem with that bill, of course, is it’s not what the Assembly passed last week. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has shown no sign of being open to returning to Albany before the end of the year.

Cohen Out (Updatedx2)

As we reported last night, Republican Bob Cohen has formally conceded to Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer and offered his “sincere congratulations…on a hard-won victory” to the veteran Democratic lawmaker, but also warned her to start to better “serve and appreciate” her constituents going forward.

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“Some supporters have urged me to press for a hand recount of the ballots because of voting irregularities, but I ran to stick up for Westchester taxpayers and I cannot ask them to pay that bill,” Cohen said.

“This race has only hardened my resolve to work for fiscal responsibility and tax relief in New York State. I learned an enormous amount about public policy in this contest, but more importantly, I learned how prohibitively high taxes are squeezing Westchester families and inhibiting business development and job growth.”

“I am hopeful that Senator Oppenheimer will better serve and appreciate her constituents as a result of this hard-fought election.”

Cohen also thanked his supporters, along with the NY Times and the Post, which endorsed him; and two of his most prominent political backers: Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino.

This result was expected by Democrats and Republicans, alike, who acknowledged Oppenheimer’s lead of some 500 votes was simply insurmountable for Cohen.

Unless there’s some sort of miracle in the 7th SD, where Democratic Sen. Craig Johnson is today expected to file a motion to appeal a Nassau County judge’s decision over the weekend rejecting his request for a hand recount, the Senate GOP will be returning to the majority come January.

UPDATE: Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos released a statement praising Cohen, which appears in full after the jump. UPDATE2: There’s also a statement from Oppenheimer.

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Leibell Pleads Guilty, Out On Bail (Updated)

As expected, former Sen. Vincent Leibell pleaded guilty this morning to two counts of federal corruption charges: Obstruction of justice and falsely filing tax returns in from 2003 to 2006, CapTon’s Kaitlyn Ross reports.

Leibell will be sentenced on March 7, 2011 at 9:30 a.m.

The first count carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine. The second carries a maximum sentence of three years in prison and a $250,000 fine. So far, there’s no word on a recommended sentence, Ross says.

The ex-lawmaker, who will not be taking the post as Putnam County executive that he just won on Nov. 2, is out on $100,000 bail.

UPDATE: Ross reports that Leibell said the following after entering his guilty plea (which takes up nine pages in the print version):

“I deeply regret these actions, and I want to apologize to my family, my friends and my constituents.”

Anthony Scannapieco, the longtime Putnam County GOP elections commissioner, said he thought Leibell “got off easy and duped the people of Putnam County.”

He said he expects the former senator will eventually receive a relatively light sentence of one to two years behind bars. (Ross says: Sentencing guidelines call for 18-24 months in prison).

After noting the original indictment of Leibell included 15 counts and spanned 17 pages, Scannapieco surmised Leibell is cooperating and has thrown any number of people under the bus, which could lead to many more indictments down the road.