Truth Squad Dings Astorino For Appearing With Pastor

Democratic surrogates for Gov. Andrew Cuomo are knocking Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino for appearing at a rally for social conservatives on Tuesday with a pastor who has made inflammatory remarks about gays and the same-sex marriage movement.

The pastor, Bishop Harry Jackson, has called same-sex marriage a “satanic plot” during a radio show and has compared the effort to legalize same-sex marriage to “just like during the times of Hitler.”

The push back from the “Astorino Truth Squad” — a group ostensibly led by Westchester County Democrats — comes after Astorino called on Cuomo to “repudiate” remarks by Home Depot founder Ken Langone, who compared the income inequality movement to Nazi Germany.

Langone, a Republican, has emerged as a major contributor and Republican supporter for Cuomo.

Cuomo’s office or the re-election campaign is yet to address the Langone remarks.

Klein: A Dream Act Vote Is What Advocates Wanted

Sen. Jeff Klein defended his decision in an interview on Tuesday to allow a vote on the Dream Act yesterday, saying advocates for the measure wanted it to be held.

The vote for the bill, which provides for tuition assistance to the children of undocumented immigrants, failed by two votes in the Senate Monday evening, 30-29.

Klein, in the interview with NY1′s Zack Fink, called the criticism that the timing of the vote was off “rather strange.”

“I have spoken to the advocates and they asked me to bring the Dream Act to the floor for a vote,” he said, citing a rally at City Hall in New York for the measure that called for a vote.

He placed the blame on two registered Democrats who voted against the bill.

“I’m disappointed that there weren’t enough votes to pass the Dream Act, but the question that advocates have to ask is why two duly elected Democrats voted no — Ted O’Brien of Rochester, Simcha Felder of Brooklyn,” Klein said.

Felder, of course, is literally a Democrat in name only since he conferences with the Senate Republicans, not the mainline conference.

“Did they not realize how important this issue is? I think really that’s where we have to be asking the question,” Klein said.

Minority Groups Urge Cuomo To Fill Legislative Vacancies

A coalition of groups ranging from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Educational Fund to LatinoJustice are urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo to call special elections to fill a dozen legislative vacancies by calling special elections.

The group in a letter notes that many of the vacant seats impact minority communities around the state.

“As our letter explains in the strongest possible terms, we are deeply troubled by the reality that, at this moment, hundreds of thousands of our Asian, Black, and Latino constituents are unrepresented in seven districts in Brooklyn and the Bronx. We are profoundly concerned that Governor Cuomo’s failure to act swiftly will deprive these vulnerable communities of critical representation until January 2015, leaving them without the tools to confront and address significant local everyday concerns and broader statewide legislative priorities,” said Ryan P. Haygood, Director of the Political Participation Group at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Educational Fund, Inc.(LDF), a separate entity from the NAACP in a statement.

The letter comes a day after a vote in the Senate on the state-level version of the Dream Act failed by two votes.

Two seats in the Senate are vacant and one, a Brooklyn district represented by Democrat Eric Adams, almost certainly would have been another vote for the measure.

Ten seats are empty in the Democratic-led Assembly, with recent subtractions coming after Dennis Gabryszak resigned amid a sexual harassment scandal and two more coming after Bronx Democrat Eric Stevenson and Brooklyn’s William Boyland were removed from office following corruption convictions.

Still, the letter reflects growing concern from minority groups and advocates in particular that their communities aren’t being represented during the critical budget debate in Albany.

Regardless, arguments against special elections include the selection process tends to be held by local party leaders and cost too much money even as voters in a few months will elect new candidates.

NYVRC Vacancies Letter, March 18 (Attachments) by Nick Reisman

Gagglegate

Here’s the gaggle Gov. Andrew Cuomo held with reporters following his property tax relief event in Utica earlier today. I’m posting it at the request of several colleagues and in response to the governor’s press office, which says my characterization on Twitter of the governor not taking off-topic questions is “false.”

TWC News’ Cara Thomas was at the event, and told us here at CapTon that she was unable to get any questions in – neither off-topic nor on – during the roughly five-minute Q-and-A session.

As you can see, there isn’t a moment when the governor or his spokesman, Matt Wing, say outright that off-topic questions won’t be entertained, but the reporters all start with on-topic questions – as is generally the practice, especially for TV folks who need soundbites for packages – and then run out of time when the governor informs them he has to get back to Albany.

Cuomo did get one off-topic question before he departed. It was about a local issue (the Stanley Center for the Arts).

Could the local reporters have been more aggressive in their questioning? Yes – they could have ignored on-topic questions entirely, and started right off the bat with off-topic questions about the DREAM Act and the Nazi comment by “Republicans for Cuomo” co-chair Ken Langone (both issues on which we here in Albany were hoping to get the governor’s comments).

But perhaps they thought they would have more time with the governor, and, to be fair, local reporters might not be used to the take-no-prisoners sorts of gaggles in which members of the LCA typically engage.

Make of this what you will.

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After DREAM Act Fails, Senate Dems Divided On Klein (Updated)

The Senate Democrats aren’t all reading from the same playbook on the question of who’s to blame for the failure of the DREAM Act last night.

Some, like Deputy Minority Leader Mike Gianaris, are point fingers directly at IDC Leader Jeff Klein. Gianaris, who has long been at odds with Klein, said Klein had “failed miserably” because he was unable to get any of his power-sharing Republican colleagues to vote “yes” on the bill, and rejected the IDC’s argument that the Democrats aren’t united on this issue, either, saying: “If Senator Klein thinks things should pass when there’s only Democratic support, why did he leave?”

But others, including Sen. Jose Peralta, sponsor of the DREAM Act, declined to blame Klein, saying the Republicans should bear the brunt of the blame for refusing to produce even a single vote for the legislation.

UPDATE: After having some time to process the DREAM Act loss, Peralta changed his tune. At a press conference earlier today, the Queens senator said the DREAM Act supporters were “set up” by a surprise vote that was doomed to fail. He also said it’s time for Gov. Andrew Cuomo to step up and push for this issue to be part of the budget deal.

And Sen. Daniel Squadron, of Brooklyn, even gave Klein some half-hearted praise during a Capital Tonight interview, saying he IDC leader deserves credit for at managing to get the bill to the floor for a vote.

“Look, I am glad it was out there,” Squadron told me. “I don’t think you could call today a victory for anybody. The bill didn’t pass. The fact that we got 30 votes against 29 is a positive sign. The fact that there was the kind of passion that you saw was a positive sign.”

“But the victory here isn’t about some sort of parliamentary step. It’s about creating the DREAM Act in this state for the 4,000-plus students for whom it would make the difference in being able to get an education…I do think that having a vote is a positive step, and I think Senator Klein deserves credit for that. But today is not a positive day for the DREAM Act by any measure.”

Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., who recently flirted with the idea of joining the IDC (which doesn’t appear to want him), was far more effusive in his praise, saying in one of his frequent “What You Should Know” missives that’s it’s time for his fellow regular Democrats to swallo their pride and work to get Klein and his fellow renegades back into the fold.

“We needed 32 votes in the Senate for the DREAM Act to pass, and sad to say, we lost by 2 votes,” Diaz Sr. wrote. “The vote tally was 29 Nays to 30 Ayes. Two Democratic senators voted against the DREAM Act. They were Simcha Felder from Brooklyn and Ted O’Brien from Monroe County in upstate New York.”

“All of the IDC Members, I repeat, were united with their leader, Senator Jeff Klein, voting yes for the DREAM Act … and we Democrats were left with egg on our faces.”

“You should know that there are reasons for many of my colleagues to be angry at Jeff Klein and the IDC Members. That is understandable! But we cannot continue to hold grudges. For the good of the Senate Democratic Conference, we should all put our pride aside.”

“By being able to convince the Republicans – even though they all voted against the DREAM Act – Senator Jeff Klein has proven to be a worthy leader. He is someone who keeps his word, and someone who could be of tremendous help for us Democrats to get back into the Majority.”

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Cuomo: All This Government Not ‘Written In Scripture’

The proliferation of local governments and special districts in New York is part of an antiquated system that needs to change, Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters in Utica on Tuesday.

“It’s not in the Old Testament that you have to have 62 counties and have to have 10,000 towns,” Cuomo said. “It wasn’t written in scripture. It was how we organize at a time. It was a much different time. Transportation was different, technology was different.”

Cuomo appeared at Mohawk Valley Community College to pitch his property tax freeze proposal, part of the $142 billion budget.

The plan has met resistance in the Legislature.

Senate Republicans and the IDC back an altered property tax plan, while the Democratic-led Assembly dropped it entirely in favor of an expanded circuit breaker approach.

Cuomo has railed against the number of local governments around the state for the cost to property taxes in New York, the highest in the country.

The claim, though, has come under scrutiny, considering that many of the districts Cuomo cites are used to collect fees for essential services.

Cuomo again insisted on Tuesday the effort to find savings on the local level wasn’t about consolidating governments or abolishing the districts, but finding cost controls.

“We’re going to have to think outside of the box. What we’re saying here is not every local government has to do everything and we’re going to have to find a new model where you have government working together,” Cuomo said.

Astorino Calls On Cuomo To ‘Repudiate’ Langone Comment

Gov. Andrew Cuomo should “repudiate” Home Depot founder Ken Lagone’s statement that the income inequality movement is similar to Nazi Germany.

Langone told Politico that “I hope it’s not working” and added “Because if you go back to 1933, with different words, this is what Hitler was saying in Germany. You don’t survive as a society if you encourage and thrive on envy or jealousy.”

Langone, a Republican donor to major figures like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, has emerged as a key GOP supporter for Cuomo, and is leading a Republicans for Cuomo effort.

“Gov. Cuomo should repudiate that statement by Ken Langone,” Astorino told reporters. “That’s not what we need as dialogue in this country.”

He added Langone should apologize for the remarks.

“Ken should issue an apology,” Astorino said. “There’s no room for those kind of comments. There isn’t.”

The Westchester County executive also used the moment to appeal for more tolerance in public pronouncements on either side of the political aisle.

And in a way, the Langone remarks play into his pitch that political rhetoric has gotten overheated.

“I think it’s outrageous and that’s what I’m getting at,” Astorino said. “The intolerance is two ways. It can’t be on the left, it can’t be on the right.”

He once again knocked Cuomo for his comments about “extreme conservatives” not having a place in the state (Cuomo’s office says the governor was talking about political candidates, not all New Yorkers).

“All this extremist conversation anytime someone disagrees with you has to go away,” Astorino said.

Cuomo in Utica today did not take off-topic comments. We’ve reached out to his campaign to get a statement on Langone’s remarks.

Of course, the governor himself has been on the receiving end of harsh comments.

Republican Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin said Cuomo’s legislative tactics would make both Hitler and Mussolini “proud.” McLaughlin the same day apologized for the remarks.

Astorino appeared on Tuesday at the legislative day for the Family Research Foundation, a coalition of social conservatives.

His appearance at the event was knocked by supporters of abortion rights, which Astorino opposes.

“You can’t represent New York State women and families if you don’t stand for safe access to family planning centers which provide basic health services to the community, and sexual education designed to protect the health and welfare of our community,” said M. Tracey Brooks, CEO of Family Planning Advocates of New York State, in a statement.

At the same time, Astorino criticized both Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio not marching in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the city, a boycott that stems from organizers not allowing LGBT advocates to use signs or banners.

Astorino noted signs of all stripes aren’t allowed at the parade.

“I don’t think there was any reason for him to do that,” he said. “He snubbed not only every Irish person in New York, but also the uniformed officers who were there and, probably, Catholics worldwide.”

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Astorino Says He Supports Dream Fund, Blames Cuomo For Dream Act Failure

Republican Rob Astorino said he would push as governor for private-sector investment in a “Dream Fund” that would provide tuition assistance to the children of undocumented immigrants and knocked Gov. Andrew Cuomo for the failed vote on the Dream Act.

Unlike a private-sector financed fund, the Dream Act provides state tuition dollars, but has the same goal of giving assistance to the children of undocumented immigrants.

Astorino, who spoke at the New York Family Research Foundation’s legislative day in Albany on Tuesday, placed blame for the failed vote in the Senate yesterday at Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s feet.

“I think if Gov. Cuomo really and truly wanted the Dream Act to go through he would have found a way just like other big bills that were important to him,” Astorino told reporters.

The measure failed 30 to 29, two votes shy needed for a bill to pass the Senate.

Cuomo in a statement last night said he would push for the Dream Act, and supporters of the measure said they would also want to see the governor take a larger role in having the measure pass the Senate or be included in the budget.

Astorino noted that Cuomo has been able to push through legislation in the Senate, where power is shared by Republicans and five independent Democrats, in the past.

“He’s got an extraordinary amount of power in the budget process, he seems to strong arm his way through on certain issues, so I was a little surprised to see it go down,” Astorino said.

Astorino added that two seats in the Senate are vacant — including the one that would be a Democratic lock — but Cuomo is yet to call for special elections.

But instead of the Dream Act, Astorino said he favored the Dream Fund, saying that as governor he would seek to raise money from corporations and endowments or even a voluntary check-off box on the state income tax form.

“I would propose something a little bit different and that is voluntary contributions,” Astorino said. “You’ve got a lot of people in this state who are absolutely struggling to pay for college education and we’ve got to find that balance.”

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Dream Act Deferred

From the morning memo:

The chances of the Dream Act being made law this year suffered a near-fatal setback on Monday when the state Senate turned down the measure by two votes.

The vote came after weeks of careful negotiations and lobbying by supporters of the bill, including Assemblyman Francisco Moya, who was in the Senate chamber during the floor debate and watched as Republican lawmakers one by one cast “no” votes.

For supporters of the measure, which would provide tuition assistance to the children of undocumented immigrants, the result was clearly a step backward.

Clearly dejected, Moya called the votes against the measure “gutless” and vowed to have Gov. Andrew Cuomo take a more active role in lobbying for the bill.

Sen. Jose Peralta, the main backer of the Dream Act in the Senate, optimistically noted that now there’s a formal tally of support and opposition, the latter of which includes Rochester Democatic Sen. Ted O’Brien.

Nevertheless, the math didn’t add up for Dream Act advocates.

After the bill’s defeat, Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein defended his decision to allow a vote on the Dream Act, saying he was fulfilling a pledge he made earlier.

And he blamed the mainline Democratic conference for not marshaling all of their members to support the bill.

But the measure may have also been prematurely let go to the floor; a cake that was close to be baked, but still needed a little more time.

Lobbyists and supporters of the measure maintain that the last several weeks have seen a breakthrough in pushing members to support the legislation.

GOP Sens. Jack Martins and Phil Boyle would potential yes votes, as was O’Brien, the Democrat from Rochester.

The thinking with O’Brien is that if either Boyle or Martins had been yes votes, he may have been inclined to support what would be then a bipartisan vote.

Boyle, meanwhile, was called out of town for a family funeral, though said he would have been a no vote.

Sen. Kemp Hannon was also not in the Senate for the vote.

The reasons for the precise timing of the vote remain unclear for now. There are still weeks left to go in the legislative session, which runs through June.

More lobbying could have been performed, more polls conducted. In other words, advocates for the bill have argued, there was still time.

With Caveats, Boyle Backs Medical Marijuana

From the morning memo:

Long Island Sen. Phil Boyle couldn’t attend Monday’s vote for the Dream Act.

He did sit down, however, with Liz Benjamin for an interview about the new heroin addiction task force.

In the interview, Boyle indicated he backed the idea of medical marijuana, but had qualms with the Compassionate Care Act when it comes to smoking.

“I’m not in favor of the bill as it is now,” he said. “I think I’m in favor of the general concept of medical marijuana if it’s highly regulated.”

Boyle added that his “line in the sand” is smoking marijuana, but suggested he was open to a compromise that allowed terminal patients to smoke.

“I would support medical marijuana in oil form, edibles, vapors, things like that,” he said.

Supporters of the Compassionate Care Act, including Assembly Health Committee Chairman Dick Gottfried, note the smoking option needs to remain for some patients who need a higher dosage.

Still, Boyle’s tentative support for a medical marijuana program puts him in a camp of Senate Republicans who either support the bill or are inching in that direction.

Sen. Tom Libous, the number two Republican in the chamber, said in an interview last week he is “doing my homework” on medical marijuana and did not rule out trying it himself.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a Red Room news conference on Monday was non-committal when asked if he could move away from his own plan to allow for medical marijuana on a limited basis through an existing law and support the Legislature’s measure.

Cuomo said he would have to review any medical marijuana bill approved by the Legislature before signing it and claimed he hadn’t read the Compassionate Care Act.

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