Gambling Regulators Close In On Issuing Casino Licences

Regulators at the state Gaming Commission on Monday moved to release a package of rules for casino licensing out for public comment on Monday as they approach plans to officially issue licenses to operate the facilities by the end of September.

The board in its monthly meeting backed the release of the regulations for public comment for the next 45 days. Once that comment period concludes, the rules could be formally adopted by Sept. 30.

“To analogize, the casino regulations are a 100-piece jigsaw puzzle,” Gaming Commission Executive Director Robert Williams said. “These are the first three pieces.

The proposed regulations for public comment concern requirements for women and minority owned business contracting, workforce enhancement and commercial gaming definitions.

The meeting comes as the deadline for an application to be granted a fourth casino license has closed as of 4 p.m. to be based in the Southern Tier region of the state.

As of Monday afternoon, only one application was submitted for a Binghamton-area casino: Jeff Gural’s Tioga Downs.

The state Gaming Commission cleared the way Monday to formally issue private casino licenses as soon as Sept. 30.

The gaming commission’s casino siting board late last year approved licenses for Lago Resort & Casino in Seneca County; the Montreign Resort Casino in Thompson, Sullivan County; and the Rivers Casino & Resort at Mohawk Harbor in Schenectady.

Gaming officials said a State Police background check of those potential license holders is nearing completion “any day now.”

Hochul: Cuomo-de Blasio Rift ‘Much Ado About Nothing’

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul downplayed the feud between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday, telling reporters in Syracuse that both men have more in common politically than is being portrayed.

“For me, it’s much ado about nothing,” she said.

De Blasio last week knocked Cuomo for what he saw as undermining his administration’s agenda in Albany and accused of him of being vindictive when it comes to attacking his enemies while colluding with Senate Republicans.

Cuomo, in response, has pointed to his efforts to reach compromise at the Capitol on a range of issues that Senate Republicans have staunch philosophical differences, such as a strengthening of rent control regulations.

Hochul suggested, however, the long-simmering tensions between the Cuomo and de Blasio camps are both a product of a slow, post-session news summer and the inherent conflict between the offices, regardless of who sits in them.

“It is the end of session, so there’s less news out of Albany to cover. I think that amplifies the discussions that the mayor and the governor have,” Hochul said. “I don’t think there’s anything to it. There’s always been a different philosophy when you’re representing the entire state of New York versus a city. That’s been institutional. They will work out their issues, they always have, they always will.”

Stressing their commonality on key liberal issues, both Cuomo and de Blasio, meanwhile, share constituents in the city and wanted to expand and strengthen rent control and tenant protections, Hochul said.

“There interests are more aligned, I think, than we’ve been led to believe,” she said.

For the most part, liberal opponents of Cuomo’s have seized on de Blasio’s comments, though many elected officials have sought to stay out of the fray.

“I think they are both trying to passionately trying to represent their constituents,” U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said on Monday. “I work very well with the mayor and the governor and we work on a lot of issues that pertain to federal issues and I’m grateful that both of them are serving.”

Assembly Lawmakers Raise Concerns With Iran Deal

As the United States and Iranian governments work to hash out a deal on nuclear arms and production, a bipartisan list of Assembly lawmakers on Monday wrote to the state’s congressional delegation outlining their concerns with a potential agreement.

In the letter, the lawmakers note the concerns of the Israeli government should be kept in mind as a target date approaches for reaching an agreement with Iran.

“We know that you share our belief that the benefits of any deal must outweigh the difficult concessions we will be asked to make,” the lawmakers wrote. “In additon, we hope that you will continue to bear in mind the very real concerns of the State of Israel, our only true ally in the Middle East.”

The lawmakers backed four points that should be included in any agreement:

  • A continuation of sanctions until benchmarks have been met and verified.
  • The ability for international inspectors to ensure compliance, anytime and anywhere, without obstruction.
  • Measures of enforcement should Iran fail to comply or adequately meet benchmarks. These include snapback provisions and, further, increased sanctions beyond what is presently in place.
  • A full understanding and acknowledgment by Iran of the deal’s provisions.
    Any deal that presents an opportunity for Iran to develop nuclear weapons – either within the agreement or by skirting the agreement – is ill-conceived and dangerous to Israel and United States interests in the Middle East.

Signing on the letter included lawmakers from both sides of the aisle and many of whom represent heavily Jewish districts, as well as the chamber’s former speaker, Sheldon Silver. The signatories also represent a broad spectrum of the Assembly and include upstate conservatives like Bill Nojay and Steve McLaughlin as well as downstate Democrats Todd Kaminsky and Chuck Lavine.

The letter itself was distributed Monday afternoon by Assemblyman James Skoufis, who represents a Hudson Valley district.

Congressional Delegation Letter Re Iran Nuclear Agreement by Nick Reisman

Education Reform Report Pushes Common Core Changes

A report released on Monday by an education reform organization points to progress made by students under the controversial Common Core education standards.

The report, released High Achievement New York, is also making a series of recommendations designed to increase access for teachers and parents to view student test results and provide more adaptive testing.

The report is also pushing for aligning teacher certification with Common Core-based standards and the creation of an independent review panel to assess the quality and effectiveness of state examinations.

Backing the recommendations include a number of figures in the education reform movement, including the statewide business lobby.

“Implementing landmark education reforms is never easy, and the Common Core standards and aligned assessments are no exception,” said Business Council President Heather Briccetti. “This report shows that higher standards are working, while at the same time highlighting areas that need improvement. We always knew this was going to be a challenge and adjustments would have to be made. But we cannot lose sight of the goal, which is to ensure our students receive a quality education that equips them with the problem-solving and analytical skills necessary to succeed in the 21st century workforce.”

The report comes after Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers agreed to a package of changes to the state’s teacher evaluation system that ties performance results to standardized testing as well as makes it harder for teachers to obtain tenure.

Enacting the changes, linked to a boost in state aid for school districts, have not been without political headwinds, and the Board of Regents has backed a “hardship” exemption for some school districts that pushes back the enactment deadline.

HANY Up to Challenge Report by Nick Reisman

In The End, Cuomo Didn’t Get It All On Education

From the Morning Memo:

The legislative session concluded last month with a flurry of final hour activity on a major omnibus bill.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo insisted he was pleased with the progress made on property taxes, rent control in New York City and education.

But the end of the legislative session was also marked by what couldn’t get accomplished, including a top priority for Cuomo: The creation of a tax credit meant to spur donations to public schools and private school scholarship programs.

Senate Republicans backed the tax credit, but the measure faced opposition from teachers unions and Assembly Democrats. It’s also a perennial issue for Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who said earlier in June he would be disappointed if the measure failed to pass.

Cuomo and lawmakers did ultimately settle on a compromise: Parochial schools will receive reimbursements for mandated services. It’s a deal the Assembly can live with.

“We got to a compromise where I’m sure (Republican Majority Leader) Senator (John) Flanagan and his members can feel like they covered their bases and we feel that same way in the Assembly,” said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

The tax credit fell by the wayside despite a concerted effort to have the measure finally pass in the Democratic-led Assembly. But Democratic lawmakers were turned off by what they saw as an aggressive campaign singling out individual lawmakers and criticizing them for not backing the bill.

At the same time, many Democratic lawmakers saw the pro-tax credit campaign coming directly from Cuomo’s camp, or at least with his tacit blessing.

Assembly Democrats — and the state’s teachers unions — in June were still smarting over Cuomo’s push to enact a new teacher evaluation system and weaken teacher tenure, policies that were ultimately linked to standardized testing and a boost in state aid.

Beyond the tax credit, lawmakers couldn’t agree to the DREAM Act, which provides tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants, or whether to raise the minimum wage as Cuomo had sought. Asked about the issues falling by the wayside, Cuomo became sarcastic.

“I wish they could have cured cancer,” Cuomo said in a post-mortem press conference on the session. “I wish the East Ramapo, Luverne’s Law and curing cancer.”

UFC To Try Again Next Year For MMA

From the Morning Memo:

Ultimate Fighting Championship CEO Lorenzo Fertitta in an email to mixed-martial arts supporters last week pledged to try again next year on legalizing the sport in New York after a measure to do so once again stalled in the Assembly.

“We will stay in touch with you over the coming months as we continue to build support for passing the bill in 2016,” he wrote in the email.

Lawmakers in the Democratic-led chamber last month declined to vote on the MMA legislation despite a re-packaged version of the bill that would add new protections for insurance in athletes pro and amateur who compete in combat-style sports.

Legalizing the sport has faced opposition from the Las Vegas culinary union, which has been in a labor dispute with Fertitta, the head of the most prominent MMA-promoting company, commonly known as UFC.

Still, some lawmakers say their concerns with legalizing MMA in New York stems from the sport being too violent. Supporters point to the potential economic impact MMA bouts would have, especially in upstate New York, where Fertitta has pledged to schedule bouts should the sport be legalized.

“While our disappointment cannot be overstated, our commitment to seeing New York legalize the fastest growing sport in the nation and the world is intact and undeterred,” Fertitta wrote in the email. “We continue to strongly believe that legalizing and regulating MMA in New York is the right thing for the state economically, the right thing for the millions of fans in New York and most importantly, the right thing for the safety and benefit of the thousands of professional and amateur MMA athletes across the state.”

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with no public schedule. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and his family remain on vacation somewhere in the Southwestern and Western US; they’re due back in town Wednesday.

Starting at 7 a.m. and ending at 9:10 a.m., NJ Gov. Chris Christie, a newly-minted GOP 2016 contender, will make appearances on CBS This Morning, MSNBC’s Morning Joe and FOX News’ America’s Newsroom with Bill Hemmer.

At 9:15 a.m., the NYC Department of Transportation, the Parks Department, and Prospect Park Alliance kick off the first day of car-free Prospect Park; Grand Army Plaza, Prospect Park entrance, Brooklyn.

At 10:30 a.m., Rep. Elise Stefanik will officially launch her NY-21 “Mobile Office”, Glens Falls City Park, Maple Street, Glens Falls.

At 11:30 a.m., Kathy Hochul tours the Anheuser-Busch Brewery to discuss the latest investments in its Baldwinsville facility, 2885 Belgium Rd., Baldwinsville. (The tour is closed to the press, but a media availability will follow at approximately 12:15 p.m.)

At noon, US Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Chris Gibson announce a new push to pass legislation to ensure thousands of Navy veterans known as “Blue Water” vets from the Vietnam War exposed to the powerful toxin Agent Orange will be eligible to receive disability and health care benefits, American Legion Post, Joseph E. Zaloga Post 1520, 4 Everett Road Extension, Albany.

At 1 p.m., the New York State Gaming Commission meets, NYS Department of Labor, 4th Floor Commissioner’s Suite, 9 Bond St., Brooklyn. (Or NYS Division of Budget, Room 131, state Capitol, Albany).

Also at 1 p.m., Sens. Leroy Comrie and Diane Savino discuss passage of legislation that protects seniors and disabled New Yorkers from rent increases; The Beaver Brooke, 77-35 113th St., Apt. 6N, Forest Hills, Queens.

Headlines…

Quiet returned to Dannemora – just in time for the fourth of July weekend – after the three-week manhunt for escaped convicts Richard Matt and David Sweat came to an end.

Republicans this week will begin targeting an element of Hillary Clinton’s history that polls show to be one of her strengths as a presidential candidate: Her ability as an executive.

New election legislation in Congress that is co-sponsored by US Sen. Chuck Schumer would force New York to gain federal approval to implement photo identification laws, print bilingual voting materials and even draw fresh district boundaries.

A federal judge has ordered a city carpenters union to get back to work by today, after members walked off job sites in violation of several labor agreements. The NYC District Council of Carpenters began striking Wednesday at up to 20 sites after contract negotiations with the Cement League, a collective of unionized contractors, fell through.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s recent public criticism of Gov. Andrew Cuomo is part of a “new and coordinated effort” to get the governor to move further to the political left, according to Fred Dicker.

Silvercup Studios, which has hosted television productions such as HBO’s “The Sopranos” and “Girls” at its Queens studios, is moving forward with a third facility in the Port Morris section of the South Bronx.

The first city bus driver arrested for killing a pedestrian under de Blasio’s “Vision Zero” policy never should have been cuffed, according to a damning MTA report obtained by the NY Post.

U.S. Black Chambers CEO Ron Busby in a letter to de Blasio last week said the proposed one-year restriction on new black and livery cars will put up a roadblock to job opportunities for New Yorkers of color in the outer boroughs.

An anti-Airbnb group is rolling out a new TV commercial that accuses the apartment-rental site of lining the pockets of greedy fat cats who use it to destroy affordable housing.

The NYPD and NYC lawyers are engaging in a “stunning pattern” of evidence destruction in a high-stakes class-action case alleging cops have issued 850,000 bogus summonses due to a quota system, new documents charge.

The number of pregnant women seeking treatment for their addictions to opiates and other drugs has more than quadrupled in recent years at one of the WNY region’s biggest providers of drug treatment and mental health services.

A new book chronicles the long road to construction of a new Tappan Zee Bridge, the price tag for which remains an open question.

State lawmakers have passed a bill, which takes effect in 2017, that would require new smoke detectors contain 10-year non-removable batteries.

The city of Troy has won the state Legislature’s approval to sell the 5.74-acre Scolite site on the Hudson River for future development.

Port Authority officials are lawyering up — a sign the investigations into four major road projects are advancing.

NYC politicians eager to dump GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump’s contracts with the city over his recent anti-Mexican rant are likely to find their efforts thwarted by the First Amendment, according to a leading civil liberties lawyer.

On the same day one of its top sponsors called on NASCAR to take a stance against Trump, the motorsports series said it will not hold its season-ending awards ceremony at the Trump National Doral Miami resort.

NJ Gov. Chris Christie said the media owes him an apology over coverage of the Bridgegate scandal. “Three different investigations have verified exactly what I said the day after this incident happened, that I had no knowledge of it and absolutely nothing to do with it,” the GOP presidential contender said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Cuomo took his longtime girlfriend, Sandra Lee, to Richard Gere’s Westchester inn last week to celebrate her 49th birthday. She continues to recover from double mastectomy surgery.

“Today” host Matt Lauer’s plans to plant trees on his Hamptons property has angered a neighbor who likes looking at the bucolic 40-acre horse farm.

Joey “Jaws” Chestnut is no longer the top dog. For the first time in nearly a decade, a new champ has been crowned in the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest in Coney Island: Matt “The Megatoad” Stonie.

The (Holiday) Weekend That Was

Greeks delivered a shocking rebuff to Europe’s leaders today, decisively rejecting a deal offered by the country’s creditors in a historic vote that could redefine Greece’s place in Europe and shake the Continent’s financial stability.

David Sweat, the New York prison escapee who was shot and taken into custody last week, was released from the hospital this morning and returned to prison, corrections officials said.

Sweat is now at the maximum-security Five Points Correctional Facility in Romulus in Seneca County. He will be evaluated in the prison’s infirmary over the first 24 hours, then housed in a Special Housing Unit in a single cell within the facility’s 150-bed, 23-hour confinement unit. He also will be placed on active suicide watch.

Her change of heart came in a Chinese restaurant, with only hours left to spare. Joyce Mitchell looked across the table at her husband and changed her mind. She decided to let him live. She no longer wanted any part of the plot to have him killed at the hands of Sweat and his fellow convicted murderer, Richard Matt, whom she had agreed to help break out of Clinton Correctional Facility.

This is the Selfie Election. And if you are running for president, you have no choice but to submit.

Fourth of July parade routes were transformed into campaign trails as presidential candidates spent the holiday shaking hands, mingling with voters, and dealing with hecklers. Early primary states celebrating Independence Day – including Iowa and New Hampshire – were particularly awash in White House wannabes.

The Clinton campaign corralled journalists at the Fourth of July parade in Gorham, New Hampshire, keeping the Fourth Estate away from the candidate and mostly out of earshot from exchanges with voters. Photos of cordoned-off journalists quickly went viral.

A tearful young man crying about the uncertainties of being gay received the ultimate affirmation by none other than Democratic presidential candidate Clinton.

Theirs might not be a marriage of true minds — but NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo should still be able to stave off a permanent split in their political union, according to professional therapists contemplating the rocky state of the 20-year relationship between the two pols.

Cuomo officiated at the marriage of rocker Billy Joel and his pregnant girlfriend, Alexis Roderick, during an annual Fourth of July bash at the Piano Man singer’s estate on Long Island. More here.

Schoolchildren across the state are enjoying summer vacation and the July weather is turning placid, but New York’s newly hired education commissioner, MaryEllen Elia, will be entering a stormy, highly charged environment when she takes office tomorrow.

New York City high school graduates who enroll at CUNY often aren’t ready for college, according to data showing the rising number of freshmen in need of remedial help.

For New York, Greek yogurt is more than just a success story. It’s a win-win tale of economic redemption, the industrial phoenix risen from the ashes of closed-down factories in small- and medium-sized towns and cities across the state.

The city Department of Education failed to tell the state that it changed Regents exam scores at Automotive HS in Brooklyn, officials say. The DOE “should have provided a full report after the fact, but failed to do so,” an SED spokesman said.

Long Island Rep. Lee Zeldin is one of nine Republicans facing Democratic attacks for meeting with an extremist conservative group. Last month he addressed the Long Island chapter of Oath Keepers, a group of retired military, police and fire department employees who are committed to fighting “the tyranny we experience in our local, state and federal governments.”

A Roman Catholic shrine in upstate New York has failed in its bid to land a spot on Pope Francis’ itinerary when he visits the U.S. this September.

A Long Island prosecutor says compliance with a state law requiring schools to report incidents of bullying, harassment or intimidation is a “disaster.” Acting Nassau County DA Madeline Singas found 58 percent of all schools statewide failed to report even one incident, and 82 percent found no incidents of cyberbullying.

Marbletown officials are waiting for Cuomo to sign legislation approved last month that will allow offices to be moved into the former Rosendale Elementary School.

Actress, singer and onetime Miss America Vanessa Williams and Jim Skrip of Depew exchanged “I do”s at a private ceremony in Western New York and then later held an equally private reception. Details of the nuptials were kept secret.

Holiday Hours

Just a little note for those of you who haven’t already started your July 4th festivities.

There WILL be a Capital Tonight show this evening at 8 p.m. We’ll be chatting with Sen. George Latimer about how Yonkers ended up being the only school district that got cash in the Big Ugly deal ($25 million) after Gov. Andrew Cuomo had proposed a $100 million funded for struggling upstate schools.

Also, Latimer will talk about how the governor signed into law yesterday a pair of bills requested by Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano and fellow city leaders that allows the city to hike its sales tax and impose a separate tax on hotel rooms – both designed to assist the school district as it struggles with a major budget gap of $26 million due to a massive accounting error.

Also joining us will be Assemblyman John McDonald, who will be sharing his thoughts on the end of the session, which focused mostly on downstate issues (rent laws, mayoral control etc.) and didn’t result in much for upstate, other than the property tax cap and rebate program.

Albany County Executive Dan McCoy had a wish list of issues he hoped the Legislature would address this session. Some of them got done, others did not. He’ll be joining us to discuss.

And, of course, since it’s Friday, the Reporter Roundtable will be on hand to review the week’s headlines. With us will be Gannett’s Jon Campbell, who’s prepared to talk about all things fracking now that the state has officially banned the controversial natural gas drilling practice; Matt Hamilton of the Albany TU, who will talk a little bit about prison reform in the wake of the Clinton Correctional Facility escape by Richard Matt and David Sweat (Hamilton is from the North Country and has family working in the corrections system); and, of course, CapTon’s own Nick Reisman will be with us, too.

There will be very light blogging today, in light of the holiday weekend. And nothing again until Monday morning…unless someone gets really inspired or big news breaks.

In the absence of either of those things, have a great weekend! Be safe, and be well. See you back here in a few days. – Liz

DiNapoli: Let’s All Get Along

From the Morning Memo:

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli urged both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to set aside their ongoing feud and repair their relationship.

Interviewed on Capital Tonight on Thursday, DiNapoli said that Cuomo and de Blasio need to get along, if only for the good of both the city and the state.

“I certainly hope everyone lets off some steam. The mayor of the city of New York and the governor of the state of New York — these are very important players in terms of the future of millions of people in the city and state,” DiNapoli said. “They need to have a working relationship. They’ve had one in the past. Hopefully they’ll be able to get it back on track, we’d all benefit from that.”

De Blasio this week in an unusually candid interview criticized Cuomo’s approach toward negotiations in Albany, airing grievances that the governor has sought to undermine the mayor’s administration, sided with Senate Republicans in the closed-door talks and takes revenge on perceived opponents.

In turn, Cuomo has insisted he has to work well with members of the other party in order to accomplish things, even if that requires compromise.

“Whether it was correct or wise, he said it,” DiNapoli said of the mayor’s remarks. “I think the question now is how does everyone move forward.”

De Blasio’s remarks were a startling admission that the relationship between the governor and mayor had reached such a low point after lawmakers and Cuomo only agreed to a year-long extension of mayoral control of city schools.

DiNapoli has had a turbulent relationship with Cuomo in the past. The then-gubernatorial candidate in 2010 declined to endorse DiNapoli’s bid for a full term.

In government, DiNapoli’s office has differed with Cuomo over approaches to managing state spending and the budget, which has led to searing denunciations from the governor’s team.