DiNapoli And Church Of England Pressure Exxon On Climate Change

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and the Church of England are teaming up to pressure ExxonMobil to reveal how it expects its business across the globe will be impacted by efforts to combat climate change.

DiNapoli is once again leveraging the state’s pension fund’s investment in a company to act as an activist investor in order to produce change in how a company functions.

“ExxonMobil has said it supports the Paris Agreement, but those are empty words unless the company backs them up with action,” DiNapoli said in a statement.

“Exxon’s business is extremely vulnerable to changes in climate regulation and consumer demand. Unlike its peers that have agreed to analyze how the effort to limit global warming impacts their portfolio and share those results with investors, Exxon refuses to account for the goals of the Paris Agreement. Irrespective of the current administration’s stance on climate change, countries around the world are moving ahead with policies that will limit greenhouse gas emissions and will likely impact the market for ExxonMobil’s products. ExxonMobil puts itself and its long-term investors at risk by failing to acknowledge this reality.”

DiNapoli’s office and the Church of England have co-filed the proposal with other company investors, including the New York City Retirement Systems and CalPERS.

DiNapoli is not the only state elected official to set Exxon in his sights. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has been embroiled in a legal battle over the company’s climate change claims and whether it understated its impact.

Senate Eyes Procurement Reform

From the Morning Memo:

The Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday will consider a bill that would re-establish power to Comptroller Tom DiNapoli to oversee procurement in certain economic development projects.

It’s a dry sounding topic, sure, but it carries implications for economic development oversight going forward and is indicative of the ongoing fallout from the contentious budget process in Albany that wrapped up 10 days into the state’s fiscal year.

The procurement measure comes after a half dozen prominent upstate developers, ex-SUNY Polytechnic President Alain Kaloyeros and former close gubernatorial aide Joe Percoco were charged in a bribery and bid-rigging case.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the aftermath proposed his own procurement changes to oversee contracting the established new posts, including a chief procurement officer.

But DiNapoli, a rival of the governor’s, had urged lawmakers to take up legislation that would re-authorize his office to have jurisdiction over contracting at SUNY construction projects — power that he was stripped of in 2011.

Deputy Senate Majority Leader John DeFrancisco, who had been sharply critical of Cuomo during the budget talks, said the bill being considered today by Finance Committee is a basic reform he says is needed.

“I think that’s a reform that’s important. I think it’s a reform because you have to have some type of oversight for that,” said DeFrancisco, a Republican from Syracuse. “I don’t think we’ve worked out all the details, but I’m looking forward to dealing with the Assembly.”

Good-government organizations are pushing the bill, too, after lawmakers and Cuomo did not agree to any ethics law changes in the state budget as initially proposed by the governor.

Cuomo said the Legislature didn’t have an appetite for the proposed changes, which included constitutional amendments for term limits, limiting private-sector income and bills aimed at making it easier to vote in New York.

Medical Society To Survey Aid In Dying

From the Morning Memo:

The Medical Society of the State of New York will survey its members to gage support for aid-in-dying legislation — a move that’s being praised by Compassion & Choices New York, the group backing the measure in the Legislature.

The survey authorized by the society will assess the views of physicians, medical residents and medical students on the proposal, which allows patients with terminal illnesses to put in motion an end to their life under prescribed conditions.

“On behalf of the millions of New Yorkers who support making medical aid in dying in New York legal, I want to thank the House of Delegates of the Medical Society of the State of New York and its leadership for the wise and inspired decision to survey physicians on medical aid in dying,” said the group’s director, Corinne Carey.

“MSSNY has taken a giant step forward with this vote and I am convinced that the results of this survey will mirror similar surveys of physicians nationally and in other states – including Maryland and Colorado – and demonstrate strong support among New York’s doctors.”

The legislation faces opposition from religious organizations, including the Catholic Church, and so far as stalled in the Legislature for the last several sessions.

So far, a half dozen states have backed legislation that authorize aid in dying for patients with terminal illnesses.

Rochester Dem Mayoral Primary Gets Heated

From the Morning Memo:

The Democratic primary battle for Rochester mayor is already shaping up to be a contentious one.

Incumbent Lovely Warren gave a State of the City address last night that sounded an awful lot like a campaign speech.

Not to be upstaged, her opponents, who were in attendance, were quick to criticize. They questioned Warren’s claims about unemployment and job growth, and also said she’s taking credit for development she’s not responsible for.

Former TV reporter Rachel Barnhart said the mayor cherry picked statistics by saying Rochester’s unemployment rate fell from nine percent to six percent.

She said those numbers come from the city’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, which only designate a person unemployed if he or she has actively searched for work. According to Barnhart, the actual unemployment rate is considerably higher – closer to 14 percent.

The former journalist also took issue with Warren’s claim that 30,000 jobs have been created and retained on her watch at City Hall. Warren later said roughly 22,000 jobs were retained while 8,000 were actually created.

“Lovely Warren is delusional,” Barnhart said. “Does anyone really believe that we created more than 30,000 jobs in this region? There is absolutely no data to support that.”

Meanwhile, former Rochester Police Chief James Sheppard said Warren was taking credit for projects – like filling in the long-criticized Inner Loop – that started well-before she took office.

“There`s a lot of things that have happened in the city of Rochester that were basically in the pipeline for a number of years,” he said. “Predecessors put in in the pipeline and they came out and their successful.”

Warren defended herself. For instance, regarding the inner loop, she said her administration secured funding for the project, though it had been in the works before she arrived on the scene.

The mayor accused her primary opponents of trying to score political points by detracting from the progress she and her staff have made.

“The facts speak for themselves,” she said. “You cannot, you cannot take away the great work that we have done in this administration.”

Warren said when she ran for office four years ago, she didn’t deny the work her opponent, incumbent Mayor Tom Richards, had done, but instead offered a different vision. She suggested her primary challengers do the same.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Monroe County and Albany.

Members of Congress return to work on Capitol Hill after a two-week spring break. In Albany, both the Senate and Assembly are in session today.

VP Mike Pence is returning to D.C., having cut short a 10-day trip to Asia and Hawaii. He will attend the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s National Days of Remembrance ceremony with the president at 11 a.m.

In the afternoon, Pence will participate in the Senate Republican Policy Luncheon.

After the Days of Remembrance ceremony, President Donald Trump will meet with Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, and then have a meeting on tax reform.

Later in the afternoon, Trump will participate in a farmers’ roundtable and sign an executive order promoting agriculture. He’ll also meet with National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster, and have dinner with Sen. Bob Corker.

It’s a very busy day in NYC, state and national politics. A fuller calendar of the events appears at the end of this post.

Headlines…

President Trump last night appeared to back off his threat to risk a government shutdown if he didn’t get his demand for a down payment on a border wall with Mexico, removing the major barrier to keeping the government open at the end of this week.

Trump has instructed his advisers to make cutting the corporate tax rate to 15 percent a centerpiece of his tax-cut blueprint to be unveiled this week, according to people with knowledge of his plans, even if that means a significant reduction in revenue that could jettison his campaign promise to curb deficits.

In his first public speech since leaving office, former President Obama decried the influence of money in politics and the polarization he blamed on social media and the explosive growth of cable TV.

Obama studiously avoided any mention of Trump or the assault on his own legacy as he returned to his adoptive home of Chicago.

The U.S. State Department’s recent promotion of Trump’s Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, is drawing criticism from Democrats and ethics advocates.

The U.S. Department of State has appointed “Fox & Friends” anchor Heather Nauert as its new spokeswoman.

Albany County Judge Peter Lynch ruled that Sen. Robert Ortt’s rights weren’t violated during the grand-jury process last month, which resulted in felony indictments against the Niagara County Republican and his predecessor, ex-Sen. George Maziarz.

Reached by phone following the ruling, Stephen R. Coffey, Ortt’s Albany defense attorney, said he had no comment on the decision but indicated that he thought Ortt would be exonerated.

Kristina Johnson, an engineer, inventor and former top US Energy Department official, was named chancellor of SUNY, eventually replacing outgoing Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, though there will be a several month lag between the two during which an interim chancellor will be in charge.

In addition to serving as and undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, Johnson helped develop technology that aided the 3-D glasses used in films like “Avatar.”

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio expressed skepticism about the need for the additional powers afforded to the governor in the latest state budget.

The mayor wants to extend his pre-K program — promising free full-day child care for all city 3-year-olds by 2021, but he’ll need help from the state and federal governments to pay for it.

De Blasio criticized a lawsuit demanding that he fix the city’s unbalanced property tax system as wrong-headed — but wouldn’t say how the problem should be fixed.

De Blasio will announce plans to spend $1.8 million on 14 new sidewalk-cleaning trucks as part of his executive budget, set to be rolled out on tomorrow.

The mayor denied speculation that he has been coloring his hair.

Mayoral hopeful Bo Dietl “illegally secured journalists’ phone records and credit reports” at the behest of Fox News executives, a new lawsuit filed by Andrea Tantaros charged.

Eric Ulrich, one of three Republicans on the NYC Council who once considered a run against de Blasio himself, instead has endorsed Dietl’s mayoral run, lending the weight of an elected officeholder to a political novice.

Democratic operative Charlie King, an on-again/off-again Cuomo ally for years, gets attention from the WSJ for his recent public – and controversial – attacks defending a top administration official, Melissa DeRosa.

More >

Extras

Former President Obama today made his first public comments since leaving the White House, but made only the most passing of references to his successor.

Vice President Mike Pence is cutting short a 10-day trip to Asia and Hawaii, returning to Washington by mid-week to help the president pass a spending bill to keep the government fully open past Friday.

Top Trump administration officials will hold a rare briefing on Wednesday at the White House for the entire U.S. Senate on the situation in North Korea, senior Senate aides said.

Actress and longtime education advocate Cynthia Nixon used her appearance on “The View” today to attack Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s education policies — and compared him to Trump’s controversial Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

Cuomo will nominate NYSERDA CEO John Rhodes to head the PSC, replacing former Chair Audrey Zibelman, who left to head one of Australia’s grid operators earlier this year.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is staffing up for his re-election bid — starting with naming Rick Fromberg, the operative he previously tapped to create City Hall’s Public Engagement Unit, as campaign manager.

Seeking to double down on an effort — expanding early childhood education — for which he has been widely praised, de Blasio announced a plan today to offer free, full-day prekindergarten to 3-year-olds.

Former Broome County Executive Debbie Preston was scheduled to be arraigned on three counts of official misconduct this morning. Instead, she entered a guilty plea to just one of those counts.

On Holocaust Remembrance Day, Assemblyman Charles Lavine, also a Democratic Nassau County executive candidate, introduced an amendment to the SAFE Act that would prohibit any individual convicted of a hate crime from possessing a firearm.

The fierce lobbying battle in Albany that led to expansion of ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft statewide has now moved to Long Island and Westchester County, where taxi interests hope to persuade suburban counties to opt out of the app-based transportation.

Greek yogurt giant Chobani is suing right-wing radio host Alex Jones, accusing the conspiracy theorist of publishing false information about the company.

The last remaining Lottery game where you can get a ticket for a dollar will soon be no more. Tickets for Mega Millions will at the end of October go from $1 to $2, although Lottery officials say there will be more chances to win.

Dailykos takes a closer look at potential Democratic primary challenges to IDC members in the next election cycle.

Green groups and business interests don’t agree on much, but both view Cuomo’s recent decisions on natural gas infrastructure like pipelines as inconsistent and problematic, albeit for different reasons.

Former Fox host Andrea Tantaros filed a suit in federal court today alleging that network operatives hacked her phones and emails to conduct a smear campaign against her after she reported sexual-harassment complaints against former CEO Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly.

SUNY Appoints Its New Chancellor

The Board of Regents at the State University of New York on Monday formally elected Kristina Johnson as the sprawling system’s new chancellor, replacing the departing Nancy Zimpher.

“Throughout her distinguished career, Kristina Johnson has not only been a faculty member, administrator, and visionary in higher education but also a dedicated public servant, national energy czar, successful entrepreneur, and an acclaimed inventor,” said SUNY Chairman H. Carl McCall. “We are thrilled to welcome her to SUNY, where her range of experience will enable her to leverage the incredible work of our 64 colleges and universities.”

Johnson holds dozens of patents, and is the current founder and chief executive officer of Cube Hydro Partners, LLC, which develops hydroelectric generation facilities. She has served as dean of Duke University’s engineering school and served in the Obama administration as a deputy energy secretary.

“The State University of New York is a complex, captivating system like no other in higher education, and the opportunity to serve as its chancellor is the highest honor of my career,” Johnson said.

She is the 13th person to serve as chancellor of the SUNY system, which oversees and administers 64 public university and college campuses.

“From her groundbreaking research and her experience at some of the nation’s finest academic institutions to her service as Under Secretary at the U.S. Department of Energy, she has a proven track record of leadership and innovation,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “I applaud the Board of Trustees for this outstanding selection. New York is leading the way in public higher education, and Dr. Johnson will help maintain the upward trajectory of one of the nation’s largest systems of higher education.”

State GOP, Senate Dems, Spar Over Ellison

As The Daily News reported this morning, Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison is appearing at a fundraiser this spring for mainline Democrats in the state Senate — drawing the ire of New York Republicans in the process.

Ellison, who ran unsuccessfully for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee, has been complimentary of the Nation of Islam and its controversial leader, Louis Farrakhan, which he has since repudiated.

Ellison had faced similar charges of anti-Semitism during his bid for the DNC chairmanship, but had been supported by prominent Democrats like U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer.

“It’s shocking that Senate Democrats would invite and embrace someone who has a long history of anti-Semitic leanings to headline their event,” said New York Republican Chairman Ed Cox.

“Regardless of Party, New York is home to nearly two million Jews, and to embrace someone with that history is deeply offensive and disturbing. Mr. Ellison was caught making anti-Israel statements at a past private fundraiser–is that what the New York Senate Democrats are looking for? This invitation speaks volumes about their values, and is more proof they are wrong for New York.”

In response, Senate Democratic spokesman Mike Murphy blasted New York Republicans for supporting President Donald Trump.

“This is ironic coming from a party that embraces Donald Trump, who leads the most hateful administration in modern American history,” he said.

DeFran: Legislature Working On Comptroller Procurement Legislation

Deputy Senate Majority Leader John DeFrancisco has reached out to his counterpart in the Democratic-controlled Assembly to iron out differences on a bill that would restore oversight powers to the state comptroller’s office.

DeFrancisco, a Syracuse Republican who has been at odds with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, said he spoke with Democratic Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle during the Legislature’s break this month on the bill aimed at enhancing oversight to the governor’s key economic development programs.

“I think that’s a reform that’s important. I think it’s a reform because you have to have some type of oversight for that,” DeFrancisco said. “I don’t think we’ve worked out all the details, but I’m looking forward to dealing with the Assembly.”

He added, “Their house is interested in working something out.”

A Senate version of the bill is set to be considered on Tuesday before the chamber’s Finance Committee.

The bill would restore authority to Comptroller Tom DiNapoli to oversee procurement and contracting under certain economic development projects. At the time, DiNapoli was stripped of that oversight ability as lawmakers and Cuomo agreed to streamline the economic development spending process.

DiNapoli and Cuomo have had a tense relationship.

But a corruption scandal last year — engulfing a former close aide to the governor, prominent upstate developers and the ex-president of SUNY Polytechnic — has caused lawmakers to reconsider oversight.

“We limited that in some of the governor’s economic development programs,” DeFrancisco said. “That was a big mistake. Quite frankly, I don’t know if I voted for it. If I did I must have been sleeping at the time, because it’s something that I think is important.”

DiNapoli last week said he was disappointed the budget didn’t include any oversight reforms and was hopeful a push could be made in the post-budget portion of the legislative session.

Heastie Opposes Charter School-Mayoral Control Link

As Senate Republicans signal they will link expanding the number of charter schools in New York to an extension of mayoral control of schools in New York City, Speaker Carl Heastie on Monday said in an interview he was opposed to the idea.

“I think mayoral control should be extended on its own merits,” Heastie said. “We’re not interested in adding any other criteria to extend the governance of schools.”

Mayoral control of New York City schools is due to expire in June after Mayor Bill de Blasio was granted a 12-month extension of the policy.

Republicans and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have been generally supportive of charter schools and have had a tense relationship with the liberal mayor.

Assembly Democrats, meanwhile, have sought more than a year’s extension of the program.

As for the remainder of the session, Heastie said he plans to focus on what his conference members want done. Cuomo this month said he got most of what he wanted in the budget, indicating it will be up to the Legislature to shape the remainder of the session.

“It will just be going through the members priorities,” Heastie said. “If we’re going to have a two-way discussion and if the governor says he’s going to be led by what the Legislature, we’ll see if we can move them on some of priorities. We’ll see what we can do.”