Dream Act Supporters Blast Grisanti Ad

From the morning memo:

Supporters of the DREAM Act are blasting a campaign ad from Buffalo Republican Sen. Mark Grisanti that highlights his opposition to the legislation.

Grisanti, who is considered a moderate given his votes in favor of the gun control bill known as the SAFE Act and support for same-sex marriage, released a TV ad that touts his opposition to the measure, as well as the public financing of political campaigns and providing college inmates with access to college courses.

For supporters of the DREAM Act, Grisanti’s opposition comes off especially harsh.

“What the campaign ad unveiled today makes obvious is that the Republican leadership’s willingness to allow a Senate vote on the DREAM Act had everything to do with politics and nothing to do with policy,” said Sen. Jose Peralta, a Queens Democrat. “While there is a growing consensus among business, labor and Republican and Democratic leaders across the country on the importance and economic benefits of reforms such as the DREAM Act,New York Republicans cling to narrow-minded ideals in a misguided bid to keep to the right of Rick Perry.”

The measure, which provides tuition assistance to the children of undocumented immigrants, was voted down in the Senate after it failed to achieve the needed 32 votes for passage.

The hope at the time was that at least two Republicans — supporters had been eyeing Sens. Jack Martins and Phil Boyle of Long Island — as potential yes votes.

Assemblyman Francisco Moya, the lead sponsor of the measure in the Assembly, went further, calling the ad “disgraceful.”

“The ad touts his opposition to several forward-thinking pieces of legislation, including the DREAM Act, as if it’s a good thing,” Moya said. “It’s not. Preventing New York’s children from going to college is nothing to be proud of. In fact, this ad makes plain what we suspected all along, that Republican opposition to the DREAM Act was based on political convenience, not principle. Opposing the DREAM Act just to score political points is shameful. When New York’s DREAMers are unable to go to college and are then forced to live lives of underpaid, under-the-table work, we’ll know who to thank, Senator Mark Grisanti.”

Latino lawmakers have vowed to push for the bill in the post-budget legislative session after it was not included in the 2014-15 state budget.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with no public schedule.

At 8:50 a.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio appears on HOT 97.

At 9 a.m., SUNY hosts a green infrastructure summit, with representatives from the EPA and the DEC, SUNY Plaza, 353 Broadway, Albany.

At 10 a.m., NYC Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez, NYC DOT Commissioner Trottenberg and others make a traffic safety announcement at East 183rd Street and Grand Concourse, the Bronx.

At 10:30 a.m., NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray reads to children at Kings County Hospital Pediatric Center, Kings County Hospital Center, Building E, 541 Clarkson Ave., Brooklyn.

Also at 10:30 a.m., EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck, state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Deputy Commissioner Tom Alworth and Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan host “#NatureSelfie” photo project demonstration, by tulip beds along Madison Avenue, Washington Park, Albany.

At 11 a.m., Sen. Tony Avella hosts press conference to announce a tax relief program for homeowners, renters, co-op and condo owners in the 2014-15 state budget, Glen Oaks Co-Op, 70-33 260th St., Queens.

At noon, Enck delivers a keynote address at SUNY’s green infrastructure summit, SUNY Plaza, 353 Broadway, Albany.

Also at noon, black clergy members call on de Blasio to appoint more members of color in his administration, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

At 12:45 p.m., de Blasio holds a press conference to make an announcement, Build It Back Center
1976 Hylan Blvd., Staten Island.

At 1 p.m., Assemblyman Karim Camara, foster care and workforce development agencies and foster youth hold a roundtable at The Children’s Aid Society, Next Generation Center, 1522 Southern Blvd., the Bronx.

At 1:30 p.m., Westchester County Executive and gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino will be a guest on the John Gomez Show, Long Island News Radio 103.9.

At 3 p.m., IDC Leader Jeff Klein and Assemblyman Marcos Crespo unveil legislation to put the brakes on “boozy and out of control underage party buses,” Villa Barone Manor, 737 Throggs Neck Expressway, the Bronx.

At 6 p.m., de Blasio speaks at Speakers on the Square, NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, 566 LaGuardia Pl., Manhattan.

Also at 6 p.m., Astorino will address the NYU College Republicans, Kimmel Center for University Life, 60 Washington Square S., Manhattan.

At 6:30 p.m., AG Eric Schneiderman’s office and Assemblyman Brian Curran host a public forum on consumer protection from fraud, Malverne Public Library, 61 St. Thomas Place, Malverne.

At 7:30 p.m., Astorino will attend a fundraiser hosted by New York County GOP Chairman Dan Isaacs, Dorrian’s, 1616 Second Ave., Manhattan.

At 9 p.m., Astorino will attend another fundraiser hosted by Isaacs, Ricardo Steak House, 2145 Second Ave., Manhattan.

Headlines…

Basil Paterson, New York’s first black state secretary of state, a former senator, “Gang of Four” member and father of ex-Gov. David Paterson, has died at the age of 87 – 11 days shy of his 88th birthday.

The Paterson family released this statement shortly after midnight:

“Basil was well known throughout the community as a man of action, as someone who set his mind to accomplishment and always met those goals. He was a selfless leader and he dedicated his life to making sure others lives were better.”

“Throughout his life, he was known as a pillar of strength by so many throughout New York. For that, we know he was grateful.”

“While he dedicated his life to public service, his great love was his family. We will remember him most of all as a man of conviction, a man of courage and a man of integrity. He will be greatly missed.”

TWU Local 100 wants Cuomo to “personally intervene” in its contract negotiations with the MTA where “significant stumbling blocks remain.”

The NYT reports the TWU and MTA appear close to a contract deal two years after the last contract expired. Workers are expected to receive a sizable wage to avoid an election-year strike.

Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee wants Cuomo to intervene in the East Ramapo School District dispute. She has been trying for years to get the state to take over the school board, which is mainly controlled by Orthodox and Hasidic Jews, despite the fact that their children predominantly attend private, religious schools.

The Washington Post’s Harold Meyerson finds Cuomo insufficiently liberal for New York’s Democrats, and asks “why on earth” they would want to re-elect him.

More >

Extras

NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina and First Lady Chirlane McCray appear in a PSA encourging parents to sign up for pre-K. (Deadline: April 23).

The DCCC raised $10.3 million in March – a sizable haul due in part to President Obama’s help.

Ex-NYC Mayor Bloomberg on his $50 million battle with the NRA: “This is not a battle of dollars. This is a battle for the hearts and minds of  America so that we can protect our children, protect innocent people.”

A potential problem for Hillary Clinton in 2016: Much of what she labored on as secretary of state is either unfinished or has gone awry since she left.

The Syracuse Teachers Association sued the state Education Department over its teacher evaluation system, arguing that the system unfairly penalizes teachers of disadvantaged students.

Cheektowaga area Republicans have chosen Councilwoman Angela Wozniak to run this fall for former Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak’s seat.

Former NYC Council speaker and mayoral candidate Christine Quinn, who has avoided the public eye since leaving office last year, will appear on Bill Maher’s show on April 25.

Republicans in Buffalo’s North and Niagara districts have unanimously backed Sen. Mark J. Grisanti for re-election.

Sen. Daniel Squadron, Manhattan BP Gale Brewer and Assemblywoman Nily Rozic unveiled a new “fair wage” bill that would require large employers to pay far more than minimum wage.

State Department of Financial Services Ben Lawsky will attend a White House meeting tomorrow to discuss the Affordable Care Act.

AG Eric Schneiderman had to pay $9,620 to the federal government and $2,585 to the state in taxes, according to his 2013 returns.

The Green Party’s Ursula Rozum will not be a candidate in the NY-24 election again, and the party has no plans to challenge Democratic Rep. Dan Maffei in November.

Judging from his contributions, Denver software entrepreneur Tim Gill would like to see Clinton occupying the Oval Office.

The NYC Department of Education has wasted no time shedding a slew of top Bloomberg-era officials, offering signs of the school system’s new priorities under Chancellor Carmen Fariña.

Ex-Rep. Anthony Weiner has terminated his federal campaign account.

Weiner doesn’t think Rep. Charlie Rangel will survive the June primary.

The campaign manager for Rich Funke, Republican candidate for the state Senate’s 55th District, posted potentially offensive tweets on his personal Twitter account.

GOP state Senate candidate Jim Coughlan has suspended a personal Twitter account because some of his retweets were considered inappropriate.

Activist, comedian and gubernatorial contender Randy Credico engaged in a little performance art at the Capitol today.

Cicero’s loss is Buffalo’s gain with Albany Molecular.

State GOP Spokesman To Eldridge Campaign: Why Not Hire Baghdad Bob

As Sean Eldridge’s congressional campaign searches for a new spokesperson, the communications director for the state Republican Committee has a recommendation: Baghdad Bob, of Gulf War II fame.

In a letter to the Eldridge campaign, Republican spokesman David Laska — jokingly, let’s assume — suggests the one-time Saddam Hussein spokesman Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf, nicknamed Baghdad Bob during the lead up to and aftermath of the 2003 Iraq war.

The letter comes after BuzzFeed found a help wanted ad for a “young, energetic” spokesperson to work on the campaign following a particularly unflattering story in Politico about Eldridge’s campaign efforts.

Eldridge, a 27-year-old investor, is seeking to take on Republican Rep. Chris Gibson this fall.

Here’s the letter from Laska:

Eldridge Recommendation by Nick Reisman

DFS: Aetna To Pay $500K Fine

The Aetna Life Insurance Company is being hit with a half-million dollar penalty for violating consumer protection regulations, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office on Wednesday announced.

The fine follows a Department of Financial Services investigation that found the insurance company used policy forms in violation of the state’s insurance law when it comes to group life insurance policies.

The company failed to inform policyholders of their rights that are guaranteed under the policies, DFS found.

“Making sure that policyholders know what they are paying for is a bedrock consumer protection requirement,” Cuomo said in a statement. “Our administration will continue our work to ensure that consumers are fully informed of their rights and insurance companies meet their obligations.”

The Financial Services probe found Aetna had been using non-compliant policy forms over a nine-year period, between 2002 and 2011, for a half dozen group life policies.

“When insurance companies fail to comply with their consumer protection requirements, it can prevent New Yorkers from making informed choices. We will take action whenever insurers leave consumers in the dark about their rights and benefits,” said DFS Superintendent Ben Lawsky in a statement.

stip-20140416-aetna by Nick Reisman

A Super PAC Slams Demos

A super PAC is knocking Republican congressional candidate George Demos and tying his fundraising to Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

The ad is from the U.S. Jobs Council, an independent expenditure committee formed on March 21, Federal Election Commission records show.

The ad claims Demos is utilizing the “Nancy Pelosi cash machine.”

“Nancy Pelosi’s people have their eye on another seat — this time all the way on Long Island,” the ad says.

The Pelosi charge is one that has been made by Republican Chairman Ed Cox — who backs Demos’ primary rival state Sen. Lee Zeldin — and is one that the Demos campaign denies (Cox may have an ax to grind, considering the fallout from the primary race that included Demos and the chairman’s son, Christopher Nixon Cox, in 2010).

Demos has support from Republicans Rudy Giuliani and George Pataki, but Zeldin has the backing of the state and local party apparatus, as well as the Conservative Party.

The Pelosi money claim stems from Demos’ father-in-law, a wealthy California developer who has contributed to Democratic causes.

The primary battle for the NY-1 on Suffolk County is one of the more heated House races around the state. The winner faces Rep. Tim Bishop this fall.

Astorino On BOE Appointment: Cuomo Couldn’t Find Anyone Else?

Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino questioned on Wednesday the appointment of his former rival, Democrat Andy Spano, to the state Board of Elections by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“Honestly, in a state of 18 million, you couldn’t find a more qualified Democrat?” Astorino said in the radio interview with Fred Dicker on Talk-1300.

Astorino, the Republican candidate for governor, unseated Spano in 2009 following three terms.

Spano this week was appointed to fill a Democratic vacancy at the BOE.

“It’s just another one of the many political tricks and gimmicks this governor does,” Astorino said.

Astorino added that Spano should recuse himself from any votes at the Board of Elections involving the governor’s race this year.

“Clearly even with his comments that he wants me to lose, he needs to recuse himself on board of elections decisions on anything that comes before him with the governor’s race,” Astorino said. “That’s the obvious.”

In announcing the appointment, Cuomo praised Spano, and said the recommendation for the appointment came from Manhattan Assemblyman Keith Wright.

“By agreeing to join the Board of Elections, Andy will carry on his long career in public service and uphold New York State’s commitment to fair and responsible elections,” Cuomo said in the statement. “I want to thank Assemblyman Keith Wright for his recommendation on this appointment and welcome Andy Spano to the State’s Board of Elections.”

Nevertheless, Cuomo has ties to Spano, not the least of which is his top aide, Larry Schwartz, who was deputy county executive under Spano.

“Obviously there’s the love triangle,” Astorino said.

State Judge Upholds SAFE Act

An acting state Supreme Court judge in ruling on Wednesday upheld the constitutionality of gun control law known as the SAFE Act.

The challenge to the law, brought Washington County political activist Robert Schulz, alleged the law was approved infringed on the right to bear arms, as well as challenged the legality of Gov. Andrew Cuomo issuing a message of necessity to waive the required three-day aging process for bills.

The Senate approved the measure first in January 2013, followed the next day by the state Assembly.

Schulz had argued Cuomo’s use of the message of necessity was a “sham.”

However, Acting Supreme Court Justice Thomas McNamara ruled the legality of the message issued by Cuomo is “well settled.”

“Here, while plaintiffs may disagree with the Governor’s and Legislature’s assessment of the need to act quickly, the Governor included in his certificatearecitation of his reasons for urging speedy passage,” McNamara wrote.

At the same time, McNamara writes in the ruling the arguments that the SAFE Act violates the constitutional right to bear arms fall short.

“Though plaintiffs assert in the complaint that the SAFE Act infringes upon rights granted by this provision of the Constitution, they do not point to any right created thereby nor is one apparent,” he wrote. “The arguments offered with regard to this provision are generally linked to the right to keep and bear arms which as discussed above, fall short of demonstrating unconstitutionality beyond a reasonable doubt.”

A key registration deadline for registration certain weapons under the measure came on Tuesday, though it has not been publicly revealed how many gun owners complied with the registration requirement.

A separate challenge to the SAFE Act remains pending in federal court that is supported by the National Rifle Association.

Judgment by Nick Reisman

The WFP Finds A Way To Praise Cuomo

The labor-backed Working Families Party is decidedly lukewarm on giving Gov. Andrew Cuomo its ballot line as he runs for re-election.

Indeed, the party, which has never run a candidate of its own, has not ruled out endorsing someone else this election year as its rank-and-file remain restive over Cuomo’s fiscal agenda over the last three years.

Nevertheless, the WFP found a way to give Cuomo some props this week, praising his signing of a measure that would add New York to the states in the national popular vote compact.

Here’s the statement, released last night:

“Today’s signing advances the effort to reclaim the democratic value of a New Yorker’s vote on the highest level. Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature provide momentum to a National Popular Vote effort designed to rescue the vast majority of states from irrelevancy in our presidential contests. For too long, the the status quo has penalized New York for being progressive. Today’s move brings us towards a fairer, more just system of electing our President where one person really does equal one vote,” said Bill Lipton, State Director for the Working Families Party.

A thaw? Perhaps not. But it’s a sign the WFP and Cuomo relationship while strained isn’t completely broken just yet.

The Different Takes On Taxes

New York’s tax climate isn’t great, but it’s improving.

That’s according to the Tax Foundation, once derided as a “right-wing think tank” by a top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, which gave credit to changes made in the 2014-15 budget to the state’s corporate tax structure that reduce the rate and simplified the code.

The changes bumped New York from 50th in the Tax Foundation’s business climate ranking to 48th overall. The governor and legislative leaders were pleased by this progress. But, for New York Republican Chairman Ed Cox, the incremental difference isn’t something to write home about.

“New Yorkers have never settled for second best, let alone 48th best,” Cox said in a statement. “Andrew Cuomo’s preening in the face of such a laughably small accomplishment is proof positive that this Governor has given up on trying to fix New York’s business climate.”

Not all Republicans agree, though.

Former Gov. George Pataki – who Cuomo appointed to the tax commission alongside former rival and ex-state comptroller, H. Carl McCall, that crafted a package of proposals including the corporate tax changes — praised the report’s findings.

“Today’s Tax Foundation report highlights the reforms advanced by the Pataki-McCall Commission to the state’s corporate income and estate tax,” Pataki said. “While there is more work to do to lessen the overall tax burden on New Yorkers, these bipartisan reforms, adopted as part of the budget are an important step forward to improving the business climate.”

Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos also released a statement touting the report.

“I’m particularly pleased that many of the reforms that were included in this year’s enacted budget, which form the basis for our improved ranking, were ideas Senate Republicans have been advocating for years. By reducing costs for businesses and making New York more competitive, we can create new jobs and keep our young people here to settle and raise their families,” Skelos said in the statement.

As for liberal advocacy groups that have not totally been on board with Cuomo’s budget proposals the Tax Foundation’s blessing just confirmed their concerns.

“Top Cuomo staffers have called the Tax Foundation a ‘right-wing think tank,’ and that’s accurate. Hundreds of millions in new tax breaks for big companies and Wall Street won’t help New York’s economy, but it will make our worst-in-the-nation inequality even worse,” said Michael Kink of Strong Economy for All.