Kolb Re-Elected Minority Leader

Brian Kolb was re-elected on Thursday the minority of the Assembly Republicans despite a faction of lawmakers raising issues with his leadership style.

“Not everyone is going to think the same or how we do things the same way,” Kolb said after the closed-door meeting with his colleagues.

Kolb said only one lawmaker voted against him receiving another two-year term for the job he’s held since 2009.

But Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney pegged that number at at least three no votes, including herself and Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin.

Kolb has been criticized by some of his members due to, by their estimation, a lack of an aggressive posture toward Assembly Democrats, especially when it comes to the spate on sexual harassment scandals that have engulfed the majority party conference.

Kolb critics also point to a requirement that all Republican conference members must agree on particular policy issue before taking a position as a conference as a whole.

At the heart of the issue is a common complaint for Assembly Republicans, who have been in the minority since the post-Watergate scandal Democratic wave of 1974: The GOP in the Assembly has practically zero actual power than that of the bully pulpit on key issues.

For those at odds with Kolb, even that hasn’t been used effectively.

Kolb defended his leadership as well as the effort to build consensus, which he said is a long-standing rule.

“There’s a lot of things that go into this job that are very, very tough,” Kolb said. “You’re going to have your critics, the job’s not easy, but I’ve been at this now I think for a good thing and I think my track record really speaks for itself and the successes this conference has had before I became leader and after.”

Kolb also insisted he has taken on Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and his handling of the sexual harassment scandals in the context of the campaign season through mailers and advertisements.

Kolb reiterated that it’s ultimately up to the Assembly Democrats as to who they pick as the speaker.

“You should be asking that question of the Assembly Democrats who elected him, why they’re continuing to support him, their leader, on that particular issue — especially the women in their conference,” Kolb said. “That’s why I’ve said from the beginning.”

Criticism of Kolb was renewed this week when four lawmakers — McLaughlin, Tenney, Steve Katz and Kieran Michael Lalor — signed on to an email to colleagues that called for a new direction for the conference, which is dwarfed in size by the Assembly Democrats.

Kolb pushed back against the email, deriding it as a “piece of fiction.”

McLaughlin said Kolb’s lashing out at the concerned members was the reason why he voted against him receiving another term.

“I’m not opposed to Brian being the leader in anyway,” McLaughlin said. “What has upset me over the past week is sort of attacking is own members, saying what we wrote is a work of fiction, and that’s not the case.”

McLaughlin nevertheless said he felt his concerns were heard.

“We’re here to discuss votes and formulate a plan,” he said. “Sometimes you need to shake things up in order to move the ball forward. We want this conference to grow, we want it to be as relevant as it can be.”

ABO Report: Environmental Facilities Corp Lacked Transparency In TZB Loan

A report from the independent Authorities Budget Office released on Thursday criticized the Environmental Facilities Corp. for discussing a controversial loan request to help pay for the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement behind closed doors and for raising few questions over its legality.

The report found federal officials raised issues with the details loan in a letter to EFC board members prior to approval, but those questions and reservations were dismissed.

Broadly, the report paints a picture of an EFC that met privately to discuss a large, and ultimately controversial loan request that raised few questions by members of the board who relied on a staff analysis.

The report comes after a coalition of environmental groups earlier this year sought an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the loan’s approval by state officials.

The state had sought a $511 million loan from a revolving fund that is traditionally used to pay for clean-water and sewer projects. The loan was later halved by an oversight board on the state level, but largely rejected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency save for $29 million.

The state is appealing the decision to reject approval of the loan money.

The reported noted that no interference by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration in the loan process was found.

Overall, the ABO’s report found the Environmental Facilities Corp. engaged in little public discussion about the circumstances of the loan or sought to determine whether there were any assurances its approval met federal regulations and guidelines.

“The board and EFC staff are expected to know that the discussion of topics not germane to those purposes enumerated in Open Meetings Law must be discussed in open and public meetings,” the report found. “Meeting in executive session resulted in a lack of transparency and disclosure. This lack of transparency and disclosure by the board is an underlying cause for the complaint.”

And at the same time, some EFC board members were incurious or disinterested about the loan and whether it met federal guidelines.

The report found loan consideration before the EFC is often given a “default vote” of yes unless there was “compelling argument against approving an application.”

“The board did not raise concerns about the legal justification for the loan and board members were satisfied that authorization of the loan was consistent with EFC’s mission,” the report found. “Certain board members tended to raise more questions than others, but those questions were often to clarify how the loan would be used to reimburse specific elements of the project rather than to settle broader legal or programmatic issues.”

Environmentalists who sought the investigation seized on the report’s findings this afternoon who called on the loan to be shelved entirely.

“It is shameful that as communities across the state struggle to find the funding to repair crumbling sewage systems and drinking water supplies, we learn that the Cuomo Administration was working in secret for more than a year to divert more than a half a billion dollars from clean water funds to pay for a new bridge,” said Peter Iwanowicz, the executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York. “The manner in which this plan was devised, advanced and approved is beyond reproach. Governor Cuomo should let this plan go, and the Environmental Facilities Corporation (EFC) board should immediately direct staff to aggressively move these funds to the communities that are in desperate need of it.”

A final cost for the replacement for the Tappan Zee Bridge has not been fully determined, but estimates place the price tag at $3.9 billion.

The Cuomo administration has downplayed the significance of the loan behind denied by federal regulators, saying it was not contingent on the completion of the new bridge.

FinalReportofReviewofPublicComplaintBoardofDirectorsEnvironmentalFaciltiesCorporation.pdf by Nick Reisman

Cuomo Backs Obama On Immigration Executive Order

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on MSNBC this morning said he backed President Obama’s plan to issue an executive order on immigration reform which will be unveiled this evening in an Oval Office address.

Cuomo, appearing on “Morning Joe” on Thursday to discuss the ongoing response to the Buffalo snow fall, said one of the lessons of the November mid-term elections is that voters want government to function and act on things.

He said victorious Republicans “have to be careful because they now were handed the reins and gridlock will be punished.”

When it comes to the executive order, Cuomo even trotted out his favored analogy for what government isn’t supposed to be.

“Government is supposed to operate,” Cuomo said. “At the end of the day, government is a service bureau. It’s not a debating society that is supposed to have political, endless ideological debates in Washington and accomplish nothing.”

Cuomo at times has been criticized for pushing through legislation here in Albany either through what critics call strong-arm tactics or by waiving the required three-day aging process for legislation through a message of necessity.

The governor, though, said the president is right to exercise his executive authority in the face of congressional intransigence.

“An executive order, you’d like to do it through legislation, but you have executive authority,” Cuomo said. “And I think he’s going to make the point that he’s heard the people and government is functioning and maybe the Republican Congress should get with it.”

Cuomo himself is believed to have national ambitions.

And his support for the immigration move by Obama comes as liberals in New York push him to include the Dream Act, which would allow undocumented immigrants to have access to tuition assistance, in his budget proposal.

Cuomo Says Bills Game Sunday ‘Impractical’

That Jets winning streak may be preserved after all.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday said it likely “impractical” to have the Buffalo Bills play the visiting New York Jets this Sunday given that the area continues to be pounded by snow, with another storm coming this weekend.

“At this point in time, everything we have to do with the driving ban, everything we just said, staying off the roads, would make a Bills game impractical,” Cuomo said during a press briefing this morning. ”

Cuomo said that having the game, scheduled for a 1 p.m. kick off in Orchard Park at Ralph Wilson Stadium, would potentially risk public safety.

“If you ask me today, right now, my two cents would be it would be impractical to do the game because it could jeopardize public safety,” Cuomo said. “I spoke to the county executive and the mayor about it,” Cuomo added. “Everybody would love to see a Bills game go forward, but I think even more, everybody wants to make sure that public safety comes first.”

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, who has Bills season tickets, largely agreed with Cuomo’s assessment, saying public safety resources on the county level are being stretched due to the snow recovery.

“As of right now, I cannot commit to emergency personnel and sheriff’s deputies being at the facility on Sunday,” he said.

A bigger challenge is coming this weekend with rising temperatures above the freezing mark and, with it, widespread flooding.

For updates on the Buffalo snow situation, be sure to check in with our colleagues at TWC News Buffalo.

Slaughter 2016?

Despite surviving the toughest re-election battle of her career this fall – a surprisingly close fight with little known and under-funded Republican Gates Town Supervisor Mark Assini – Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter is not ruling out seeking a 16th term in 2016.

Slaughter, 85, said last night during a CapTon interview that her near loss to Assini did not cause her to reassess her future.

“Not a whit; not a bit,” the veteran NY-25 representative said.

Slaughter admitted she “could have done a better job” during this election cycle, though she suggested her weak spot was “messaging” and not necessarily a failure to perform on behalf of her district.

Asked if she’ll run again in two years, the congresswoman, who recently lost her husband and has been reluctant to discuss when – and if – she might retire from public life, responded:

“Look, I plan on doing the very best job I can.”

“The way I see this, Liz, is I work as hard as I can for two years, doing everything I can for my constituents and my district, and then put myself up for them to judge whether they think that’s good or not.”

“You know, when people talk about term limits, that’s the ultimate term limit. It’s up to the constituents.”

Slaughter was widely expected to face her toughest challenge two years ago after redistricting placed almost all of Monroe County into NY-25 and spurred the local county executive and GOP rising star, Maggie Brooks, to throw her hat into the ring.

After a multimillion dollar campaign, Slaughter emerged victorious.

She was not viewed as vulnerable this year. But a combination of lingering anger upstate over the SAFE Act and low turnout proved toxic for Slaughter, providing an in for Assini.

The 2016 race will have a very different dynamic, thanks to a wide open presidential race that will boost turnout in this Democrat-dominated state – especially Westchester County resident Hillary Clinton is the party’s nominee.

Assini has managed to raise his profile considerably, however. If he decides to run again in two years, he will no doubt receive at least some support from the state and national Republican parties – a far cry from the under-the-radar campaign he ran this past year.

Senate-IDC Deal Floated With An Eye To 2016

A new power-sharing arrangement in the state Senate is being discussed that would last through the 2016 election cycle, giving Republicans a cushion against potential Democratic gains in a presidential election year.

The agreement, according to a source familiar with the discussions, would allow Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein to remain co-president of the chamber and include a handshake agreement that the coalition lasts through the 2016 elections.

The deal would allow Klein to retain the power to decide which bills come to the floor for a vote in the Senate and maintain his role in the state budget negotiations.

It has been widely speculated – and even publicly discussed by some current and former Senate GOP members – that Klein would have to give up some power now that the Republicans have won a clear 32-seat majority (plus the addition of Brooklyn Democratic Sen. Simcha Felder).

But under this deal being floated, in exchange for allowing Klein to retain most or all of the power he currently enjoys, the Senate Republicans would gain the insurance of having the five-member IDC to fall back on two years from now, when a presidential election is expected to cause an uptick in Democratic turnout and potentially put the GOP back into a numerical minority.

A source stressed the talks remain fluid and that the final details of a new coalition agreement are yet to be hammered down.

A spokeswoman for Klein declined to comment, as did a spokesman for Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos.

Earlier this week, Skelos said after a closed-door meeting with the Republican conference at the Capitol there is a willingness among his members to continue the coalition with the IDC in some form.

“There was a consensus that we would like to keep the coalition going and I will be having discussions with Senator Klein on how we move forward,” he said.

The proposal has its pitfalls for both sides.

Liberals would no doubt once again seek to oust Klein and his members in party primaries – especially given the stakes of the coalition potentially continuing through the next election cycle – even as Democrats eye Hillary Clinton’s likely run for president delivering down-ballot gains for them.

The Republicans would have to trust Klein to keep his end of the bargain should they suffer losses in the next election that puts them in the minority.

Klein in June agreed to form a new power-sharing coalition with mainline Democrats, but that deal was contingent on the party gaining enough seats to form a majority in the Senate.

Klein has insisted that agreement only went into effect when and if the regular Democrats managed to win enough seats to control the chamber, which they failed to do on Election Day.

Under this new arrangement, mainline Democrats would have to either use their resources to primary the IDC (primary challenges to Klein and IDC Sen. Tony Avella of Queens both failed this year) or win enough seats to make the the breakaway conference irrelevant.

Klein’s chance of retaining power would allow him to once again be a Democratic voice in policy making, meaning he would have to deliver some tangible results in order to stave off opposition on the left.

After being elevated to the Senate co-presidency in the last two-year cycle, Klein was able to have the state’s minimum wage increased over a phased-in period.

Nevertheless, Klein has come under criticism from liberals and other advocacy organizations for the Senate’s failure to pass measures aimed at strengthening abortion rights, the DREAM Act and the full public financing of political campaigns.

Klein has countered that the votes aren’t there in the chamber for either bills to pass, even with the IDC’s support.

Republicans would have to convince their reluctant supporters on the right that they are playing a long game by again empowering a group of Democrats in chamber in what amounts to an insurance policy against falling back into the minority.

Here and Now (Updated)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Erie County; he’s staying in Buffalo to monitor the storm recovery process. UPDATE: The governor is doing a round of TV interviews this morning, and will host a storm briefing.

At 7:10 a.m., Cuomo is a guest on CNN’s “New Day”, co-hosted by his brother, Chris Cuomo.

At 7:20 a.m., Cuomo will appear on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

At 7:30 a.m., Cuomo is on AMHQ with Sam Champion on The Weather Channel.

At 8:30 a.m., Regent Harry Phillips and staff from the state Education Department will visit Saunders Trades and Technical High School, 183 Palmer Rd., Yonkers.

Also at 8:30 a.m., NYC Public Advocate Tish James speaks at the New America Alliance 14th Annual Wall Street Summit, at 301 Park Ave., Manhattan.

At 9 a.m., Cuomo holds a storm briefing, Thruway Authority Facility, 1870 Walden Ave., Cheektowaga.

Also at 9 a.m., NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer speaks at the New America Alliance Pension Fund Diversity Day, in the Vanderbilt Room of the Waldorf Astoria, 301 Park Ave., Manhattan.

At 10 a.m., members of the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission hold a monthly public meeting; 19th floor, 33 Beaver St., Manhattan.

At 11 a.m., Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins will be a guest on “The Capitol Pressroom” with Susan Arbetter.

Also at 11 a.m., Environment New York’s campaign director, Heather Leibowitz, Sen. Kevin Parker, Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal and a representative of the New York Solar Energy Industries Association discuss a new report titled “Star Power: The Growing Role of Solar Energy in New York”; The Solaire apartment complex, 20 River Terrace, Manhattan.

Also at 11 a.m., research by the Healthy Schools Network is released, illustrating the risk that crude oil trains pose to children in the Hudson Valley, Kingston Home Port and Education Center on the grounds of the Hudson River Maritime Museum, 50 Rondout Landing, Kingston.

At 11:45 a.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio hosts a media roundtable with Corrections Commissioner Joseph Ponte to discuss reforms to the Corrections Department, Blue Room, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 12:30 p.m., Glenn Coleman, editor of Crain’s New York Business will join NYC Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen for an “armchair discussion” on the city’s future, followed by her keynote speech, Sheraton New York Times Square, 811 Seventh Ave., Manhattan.

At 1:30 p.m., the Suffolk County Human Rights Commission hosts a free public forum entitled “Children: Protecting our Future” to coincide with the UN’s Universal Children’s Day, Suffolk County Community College, Brentwood.

At 4 p.m., Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance participates in multiple panel discussions at the two-day “Justice, Race, and Prosecution” symposium convened by Harvard Law School and the Vera Institute of Justice, Harvard Law School, Cambridge, MA.

At 5 p.m., the Brooklyn Community Pride Center hosts 4th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, including a march across the Brooklyn Bridge, Columbus Park North Plaza (in front of the U.S. District Court Building), Manhattan.

At 5:30 p.m., advocates and community leaders host a “teach-in” on minimum wage laws, Westminster Presbyterian Church 262 State St., Albany.

At 6 p.m., retiring Sen. Greg Ball holds a “hall of fame” night for local veterans, Mahopac Falls Elementary School, 100 Myrtle Ave., Mahopac.

Also at 6 p.m., US Attorney and US AG nominee Loretta Lynch receives an award presented by NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray during the Peace Islands Institute’s benefit gala; The Plaza hotel, 768 Fifth Ave., Manhattan.

At 7 p.m., the Chelsea Reform Democratic Club hosts Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh to discuss his election reform legislation, which includes the Voter Friendly Ballot Act, Hudson Guild, Elliott Center, 441 West 26th Street between 9th and 10th avenues, Manhattan.

At 8 p.m., former NYC Mayor David Dinkins receives Ted Weiss Lifetime Achievement Award, Schwab House, West End Avenue between 73rd and 74th streets, Manhattan.

Also at 8 p.m., New Yorkers for Immigration Reform holds watch parties to coincide with President Obama’s speech on the subject, 32BJ, 25 West 18th St., Manhattan.

Headlines…

Gov. Andrew Cuomo traveled to Buffalo to view the storm clean-up process first hand, and said it will likely take four to five days to fully dig out from the “historic” amount of snow the area received.

“There is going to be a bit of work ahead of us in the next few days,” Cuomo said. “This is a very difficult situation to deal with.”

Another two feet of snow is expected to accumulate on the already snow-smothered heart of Erie County by the end of the day.

Cuomo toured the shut down Thruway and visited stranded truckers. He went from a Thruway Authority facility near the Walden Galleria in Cheektowaga west down the Thruway to just past the exit to Route 219.

After a similar incident on the Thruway four years ago, state officials had promised that motorists never again would be stranded on the highway during a snowstorm. Those who were this time had no one to blame but themselves, Cuomo said. That didn’t sit well with the stuck motorists or their families.

The local Thruway director in WNY contradicted Cuomo’s claim that the highway was closed in a timely manner. “If we knew those bands were going to hit (Tuesday morning) at that time and they were going to be that heavy, then certainly we would have made that decision,” Tom Pericak said.

At least seven people have died as a result of the storm. (An eighth death was confirmed this morning).

Whether the Bills-Jets game will take place as scheduled at Ralph Wilson Stadium Sunday remains an open question.

New York saw a significant drop in the number of candidates who passed teacher certification tests last year as tougher exams were introduced. Officials portrayed the results as a long-needed move to raise the level of teaching and the performance of teacher preparation schools.

Nicole Gelinas, an analyst with the fiscally conservative Manhattan Institute, said the new Tappan Zee Bridge “really threatens to overwhelm the Thruway’s capital plan over the next decade,” and will require double-digit tolls.

In a written response to the warnings, Thruway Executive Director Thomas Madison said motorists using other parts of the highway won’t be tapped for Tappan Zee bridge costs.

Looming fare and toll increases by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will likely be overshadowed by a bigger battle over overall transit funding next year.

More >

EXCLUSIVE: Cuomo Interview On Buffalo Snow Recovery Efforts

Governor Cuomo talked to Time Warner Cable News Reporter Casey Bortnick about the snow response in Buffalo, in an exclusive interview.

Cuomo says the area is in the middle of a devastating, three part storm.

Watch the entire interview, no log-in required:

Watch Here >>

Extras

Buffalo’s reputation as America’s blizzard capital is now solidified.

More snow is on the way.

Watch all of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s media briefing on the WNY storm here.

The Buffalo Bills are snowed in, and it’s unclear whether they’ll be able to clear 4 feet of snow at Ralph Wilson Stadium in time to host the New York Jets on Sunday.

“If the Buffalo Bills were truly that dedicated to the community they serve, they would offer residents $10/hour to help dig out their neighbors who can’t help themselves.”

The members of the NYC rock band Interpol are among those stranded in Buffalo storm. They’re relying on “dry goods and vodka” for sustenance.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio advised the eventual 2016 Democratic presidential nominee – which could “well be” Hillary Clinton – to shift leftward by embracing a platform of resolving income inequality.

“A lot about her history and origins suggest it’s natural for her. If you go back to the work she did originally, it gets to these same issues, what she did with the Children’s Defense Fund, what she did on family medical leave, what she did on health-care reform,” de Blasio said of Clinton.

President Obama released a Facebook video previewing his immigration announcement, which is expected tomorrow.

Oswego’s former mayor John Gosek got a lighter prison sentence eight years ago because he tipped off the FBI to possible corruption involving a public official.

Cuomo administration officials have asked David Wick to resign from his post as executive director of the Lake George Park Commission, and are urging commissioners to fire him if he refuses to step down.

The state’s Medicaid Inspector General, James Cox, will join a number of first-term Cuomo appointees who are departing the administration.

LG Bob Duffy’s hire as the new president of the Rochester Business Alliance raises ethical questions, according to NYPIRG’s Blair Horner.

Duffy said he’s been in regular contact with the state’s ethics bodies, and they’ve advised him there has been and would not be any conflicts with his new post.

What will Team Cuomo look like in Term II after all these high level departures?

A massive free health care clinic scheduled for Black Friday at the Javits Center in Manhattan was cancelled because Cuomo refused to grant the organization running it a required waiver.

Less than a quarter of NYC voters think the mayor’s spouse should have a “major role” in developing public policy, and more than 60 percent say she doesn’t need a chief of staff, a new Q poll found.

De Blasio dismissed the poll, which showed a racial divide in the city over his performance at City Hall. He questioned the validity of the survey and blamed the media for any racial disparity.

US Sen. Charles Schumer says teachers across the nation deserve to have an expired tax break brought back to life by Congress before its lame-duck session ends.

Actor Robert De Niro says he’ll reimburse a town nearly $130,000 in legal fees it incurred defending its assessment of his Hudson Valley property.

The Rev. Al Sharpton blasted a New York Times story detailing years of unpaid taxes, accusing the newspaper of writing a “misleading” and blatantly political piece about past issues that he claimed were long resolved.

Timothy Killeen, who for the past two years has served as the president of the SUNY Research Foundation, will leave New York to become the next president of the University of Illinois.

Cuomo shot down former LG Richard Ravitch’s suggestion that a new gas tax could be used to pay for the state’s mounting infrastructure needs.

De Blasio said he hasn’t smoked pot since college, and couldn’t these days due to the 24/7 nature of his job.

Over the past four years, New York voters have drifted away from the major parties.

Two of the honorary chairs of NewDEAL – Govs. Martin O’Malley and Jack Markell – announced the finalists of the group’s New Ideas Challenge.

Cuomo, In Buffalo, Urges People To Stay Off Closed Roads

Gov. Andrew Cuomo visited snow-bound Buffalo on Wednesday, urging motorists and residents to stay off roads that have been closed down due to the ongoing storm.

Cuomo has declared a state of emergency in 10 counties and deployed about 150 National Guard troops to help with the storm recovery and response.

The storm, though, caused passengers in some areas of the state Thruway to be stuck in their snow-bound vehicles, some for up to more than 24 hours.

“We believe all passengers have been removed from their passenger vehicles,” Cuomo said today. “There are commercial truck drivers who are still on the roadway.”

Some of those truck drivers could stay with the trucks given it’s easier to sleep and remain in those vehicles.

“We’re now in the process of clearing much of those commercial vehicles on the Thruway,” Cuomo said.

The governor added some of the drivers on the roadways ignored travel bans that had been issued by officials in the wake of the heavy snow.

“They shut it down at an appropriate time. What happened was even though it was closed, people still went on the Thruway,” Cuomo said. “That’s what happened here. We had the official closing of the Thruway. Because we didn’t immediately block the every entrance and people then still went on the Thruway. It was a mistake. Part of it is citizen responsibility. If the road is closed, the road is closed. That’s what it means. We need cooperation from citizens.”

Cuomo is touring parts of the Thruway this afternoon to survey the clean up and road clearing efforts, he said.

“I believe when it’s all said and done, this snowfall will break all sorts of records and that’s saying something in western New York,” Cuomo said.