Lawmakers Seek A ‘Grand Plan’ For Mayoral Control

Legislative leaders emerged from a closed-door meeting with Gov. Andrew Cuomo this morning with not much new to report on the progress of the talks over extending mayoral control of New York City schools.

“He’s still trying to push things forward,” Majority Leader John Flanagan said of the governor, “but we don’t have an agreement yet.”

Flanagan and Senate Republicans want to expand the number of charter schools in the state as a condition of extending mayoral control; Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie continues to oppose any effort to link charter schools to a deal.

“As I said before I’m not having a discussion on charter schools,” Heastie said after the meeting. “That’s the Senate’s desire.”

Senate IDC Leader Jeff Klein said a push for a two-year extension remains under discussion. A two-year extender for mayoral control would synchronize the sunset date with another high-profile New York City concern, rent control regulations, which will expire in 2019.

“We’re still talking about a grand plan to get it done,” Klein said. “I think it’s extremely important. At the end of the day it’s important we have mayoral control.”

Of course, this year’s final days of the legislative session do not appear to be the same as previous efforts that culminated with a “big ugly” agreement and an omnibus bill. Much of what Cuomo wanted this year was accomplished in the state budget.

Lawmakers have reached agreement on issues such as expanding the purchasing of American-made goods like steel and iron, while a bill that would make it easier for the survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file lawsuits has been shelved.

Legislative leaders, too, are hedging as to whether this will be the final day of the session for the year.

“There’s been talk of that, but we will probably work late into the night if we have a deal,” Klein said.

Rally Against AHCA Planned For Albany

A rally will be held Thursday in Albany to protest the Republican-backed effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, organizers of the event said.

The demonstration will be held in West Capitol Park in Albany at 11 a.m.

The rally will be held as Gov. Andrew Cuomo is marshaling an effort with the state Democratic Committee to unseat Republican House members from New York who voted for the GOP-led health care legislation known as the American Health Care Act, including Reps. John Faso and Chris Collins.

“Constituents and concerned community members pleaded with Republican members of Congress to vote against Trump Care, but they ignored our voices and voted against our health,” said Karen Scharff, the executive director of Citizen Action of New York. “As the Senate secretly prepares their version of the health care bill, we’re organizing an all out mobilization of community members, leaders, and organizations united to protect the lives of millions who would lose coverage if this were ever to be signed into law.”

The event comes as Republicans in the U.S. Senate are crafting their own version of the health care bill largely behind closed doors. The Senate version is expected to differ from the House-approved bill and Senate leaders want a vote on it before the July 4 holiday.

It also comes days after Democrats lost a high-profile and costly special election in a Georgia House district.

Organizers of Thursday’s rally include a range of groups such as the politically influential union 1199, Citizen Action, Autism Speaks, the New York State Nurses Association and others.

Flood Relief Package Under Discussion

State lawmakers are scheduled to adjourn the legislative session today, but they are still discussing a number of issues, including an agreement on an aid package for communities in upstate New York devastated by recent flooding.

“I think all of us are on the same page whether we represent downstate communities or upstate or anything in between that we have to help our upstate neighbors with flood damage,” said Sen. Jeff Klein, the leader of the Senate Independent Democratic Conference.

It’s unclear specifically what lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are discussing. Top leaders in the Senate and Assembly met for just over an hour on Tuesday morning.

The Assembly has approved a $90 million aid package for upstate flood relief after communities on Lake Ontario and elsewhere have been contending with rising lake levels this past spring. The Republican-controlled Senate, too, has passed a relief package.

“What we’re talking about is the Senate and Assembly passed individual bills and the governor now wants a three-way agreement with guidelines attached and money on how to help distressed New Yorkers,” Klein said.

But lawmakers remain at odds over the status of other controversial issues, including mayoral control of New York City schools, due to expire at the end of month. That issue has been linked to the continuation of upstate and suburban county sales tax provisions.

One Day More?

From the Morning Memo:

Lawmakers are scheduled to adjourn the legislative session for the year today, but no agreement remains in place for the extension of mayoral control of New York City schools.

All day Tuesday, top lawmakers in the state Senate and Assembly gave no indication they plan to stay at the Capitol passed Wednesday — raising the possibility mayoral control could lapse for the first time since 2009.

Lawmakers have been working toward ancillary, less high-profile agreements such as an extension of Kendra’s Law, which requires mandatory treatment for some mentally ill patients.

The Legislature has also struck an agreement with Gov. Andrew Cuomo for legislation that would expand the state’s preferences for purchasing American-made steel and iron.

The Child Victims Act falling out of the negotiations as Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said on Tuesday is also a sign lawmakers are moving behind areas in which they can’t find agreement.

But the mayoral control agreement remains elusive.

This comes as New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio — already presiding over a city annoyed and inconvenienced by transit delays being blamed on an agency controlled by the governor — is running for re-election.

Running for re-election this year, de Blasio could base the campaign, in part, on the city’s frustration with Albany.

In the meantime, there would be fallout from the lack of mayoral control for upstate and suburban counties that need sales tax and other local tax measures re-authorized. Those bills were packaged with the Assembly’s version of the extension.

That means local governments this summer (and potentially into the fall) will have a new level of uncertainty when setting their budgets for next year.

Legislators could always return to the Capitol later in the year — a prospect Cuomo raised last week when he was skeptical anything of significance could be accomplished this week.

Adding to the atmosphere of what could either be a short (or long) day at the Capitol, a coalition of progressive groups today will stage a New Orleans-style jazz funeral demonstration starting at a State Street church.

The event is meant to highlight legislation that “died” during this year’s legislative session.

Medaille President Sounds Off On ‘Free College’ Program

From the Memo:

Medaille College, a small private school in the city of Buffalo, said its enrollment numbers are actually up by roughly 10 percent this year, despite the state’s new “free tuition” program that some other higher education institutions worry will negatively affect their bottom lines.

“We think it has brought our enrollment up because students are looking at their choices and realizing that there’s more than just costs that goes into making the right college decision,” President Kenneth Macur said.

He added his college is educating students about the actual cost of going to a state school versus a private school, noting, for example, roughly 55 percent of students at private schools graduate in four years – considerably higher than at public schools, which contributes to a higher bill.

“You need to go to school six years at the state system to match that graduation rate, so the cost over six years of going to a private school is actually less than a SUNY school,” Macur said.

Macur also pointed out that there’s about $5.1 billion dollars in financial aid available to students who go to private colleges in New York.

“There’s a big misconception about tuition at privates because we publish the sticker price, which is pretty high compared to the sticker price of a state school,” he said. “But when you factor in discounts of 50-55-60 percent, the costs become closer and again the four-year cost of getting a degree becomes less,”

For those reasons, Macur said, students hoping to take advantage of the so-called “free tuition” program are taking an expensive gamble. With the state only having set aside $87 million dollars for the Excelsior Scholarships, he likened the program a lottery without very good odds.

“The Excelsior Scholarship itself is free tuition with a huge asterisks; it’s conditional,” Macur sid. “It’s unguaranteed and it’s really a bait-and-switch to the students of the state of New York.”

Medaille is one of a number of Western New York schools to reject the state’s Enhanced Tuition Awards program, which offers assistance to students at private universities and colleges only if the schools agree to match the state’s contribution.

Macur said that program is not particularly viable either, because it requires private donors to make additional contributions on top of that $5.1 billion.

In his opinion, the state had better options to make higher education more accessible and affordable, but ultimately went with what amounts to a “gimmick.”

“There could have been more consultation but really the consultation we did have was pretty crystal clear,” he said. “If the state wants to support access to higher education, they really should give it out in normal TAP (Tuition Assistance Program) benefits, expand the existing TAP program.”

Ultimately, Macur said, if New York wants to saddle students with less debt, it should be focusing on graduating them sooner and getting them into the workforce as quickly as possible.

Cuomo’s MTA Plan Pushed As Session Closes

From the Morning Memo:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday injected one final issue into the end of the legislative session with a bill that would remake the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority with two new seats controlled by the state.

Supporters of Cuomo saw this as the governor taking a need leadership role in the wake of continued subway delays and other transit problems in the New York City area.

Critics saw it has little more than window dressing for an agency Cuomo already has defacto control of and will do little to stem the brewing transit crisis.

“The problem is not MTA board structure; the problem is the absence of leadership and the lack of a credible plan from Governor Cuomo for how he will fix the subway,” according to a statement from John Raskin of the Riders Alliance.

“Riders don’t have the luxury of quibbling over MTA board governance when we know it’s not the real issue. We need a plan from the Governor and a reliable source of funding that can fix our disastrous commutes.”

That drew a rebuke from John Samuelsen, the president of the Transit Workers of America — which backed Cuomo’s bill.

“The Riders Alliance doesn’t get to have it both ways – they have repeatedly and publicly pointed out that control of the subway system belongs to Governor Cuomo,” he said in a statement. “Now when the Governor steps up and embraces that responsibility legislatively by assuming the appointment of a flat out majority of voting board members, John Raskin objects. Come on, really?”

It’s unclear if the bill will get a vote before lawmakers adjourn the session for the year.

Sen. Mike Gianaris, a Queens Democrat, said he backed the plan that would provide “more accountability” for the MTA’s board, but added there’s a broader issue that needs to be addressed.

No solution will be complete, however, unless we also address the historic underfunding that led us to the current emergency,” he said.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany with no public schedule. The Legislature is in Albany for the last scheduled day of the 2017 session.

In D.C. this morning, Vice President Mike Pence will deliver remarks at the U.S. Department of Justice National Summit on Crime Reduction and Public Safety, and then will participate in a call with Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci.

A fuller calendar of the day’s events appears at the end of this post.

Headlines…

State lawmakers yesterday approved measures to renew Kendra’s Law and allow medical marijuana to treat post-traumatic stress disorder — but Mayor Bill de Blasio’s future control of the NYC schools remained an unsettled issue.

De Blasio has suggested that if the Legislature leaves Albany without renewing mayoral control of schools, which is set to lapse on July 1, the city’s education system will immediately descend into chaos. In fact, the one time that mayoral control lapsed, in 2009, the effect was minimal.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie reportedly promised the mayor back in April – after the budget deal was done – that he would draw a line in the sand on a two year extension for mayoral control, seeking to end its use as a bargaining chip for unrelated issues.

Top de Blasio administration officials, though not the mayor himself, worked the state Capitol hallways on mayoral control yesterday.

Former Obama Education Secretary Arne Duncan threw de Blasio a curveball when he joined the mayor on a teleconference to back renewal of mayoral control of schools — but said he also supports adding charter schools.

With the NYC subways and commuter trains in crisis, Gov. Andrew Cuomo introduced a bill to give himself majority control of the MTA board to tackle the problems.

The governor’s MTA bill came just 24 hours before the scheduled end of the legislative session, leaving some to question how serious a proposal it is.

The Daily News deems Cuomo’s effort to take more control of the MTA a “political gambit” since it comes so late in the session, but then says: “Even political gambits can be meaningful.”

A bill that surfaced late in the state legislative session became the subject of a fight that legislators said pitted safety measures on the Long Island Rail Road against the need for a third track to improve efficiency and cut congestion.

It appears that state Senate Republicans once again turned their backs on child sex abuse victims. Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan responded “yes” when asked if the Child Victims Act is done for the year.

Cuomo and legislative leaders announced an agreement to implement the purchase of American-made steel and iron products by state entities.

Assembly Democrats are blocking a Cuomo-backed bill that would allow booze to be sold in movie theaters.

The state Senate and Assembly unanimously approved $90 million in flood relief for residents and municipalities ravaged by Lake Ontario floods in a measure now awaiting Cuomo’s approval, and appears likely to get it – in some form.

The International Joint Commission Board, which controls the water level on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River, voted to continue record-high water releases at the Moses-Saunders dam in Massena until further notice.

The state Thruway Authority would be required to give 10 percent of the tolls it collects on the Grand Island bridges to three communities affected by pollution caused by the toll booths traffic under a bill introduced by Sen. Chris Jacobs. But no vote is expected before the session ends.

Cuomo signed legislation putting an end to child marriage in New York. The legislation raises the age of consent from 14 to 18, and amends the process to require parental and judicial consent for marriage between 17- and 18-year-olds.

A bill granting cancer coverage to New York’s more than 110,000 volunteer firefighters has passed both chambers of the state Legislature, and is headed to Cuomo’s desk.

More >

Klein: ‘Hopeful’ For 2-Year Mayoral Control

A two-year extension of mayoral control of New York City schools is under discussion, Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein said at the end of a meeting with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and top legislative leaders.

“We’re hopeful we can do a two-year extender of mayoral,” he said after the meeting. “We’re hopeful. That’s not a deal.”

The two-year plan would be longer than anything that’s been approved for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in recent years. It would also kick the issue out of the 2018 legislative session, when all members of the Senate and Assembly are up for re-election as is the governor.

“I’m hopeful we’re going to have a deal,” Klein said. “Mayoral control is very important to the people of the city of New York.”

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan was hesitant to endorse or discuss a timeframe for the extension. But he has sought an expansion of charter schools in the mayoral control talks, which is opposed by the Democratic-led Assembly.

Flanagan said there was a “full-blown discussion” on the mayoral control issue.

As for strengthening charter schools, Flanagan said, “I have not deviated from where we are in terms of that being part of the package.”

Cuomo Signs Bill Increasing Age Of Legal Marriage

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed into law on Tuesday a measure that increases the age of legal marriage to 17.

“This administration has worked tirelessly to defend exploited and disadvantaged New Yorkers, provide minors with the rights and protections that they deserve, and ensure that women are empowered to have control over their own lives, and with this legislation, we continue to help protect those who cannot protect themselves,” Cuomo said in a statement.

“This is a major step forward in our efforts to protect children and prevent forced marriages, and I am proud to sign this legislation that puts an end to child marriage in New York once and for all.”

The bill had been backed in the Assembly by Westchester County Democrat Amy Paulin over the last several years. The legislation would allow for 17-year-olds to receive judicial approval before receiving a marriage license.

“Current law allowing 14 year olds to get married is discrimination against women written explicitly in our statues,” Paulin said. “Victims of child marriage are forced and condemned to a life that they did not choose with no means of escape, resulting in physical and mental health problems, loss of education and economic opportunities, and an increased likelihood of experiencing violence. Today, we bring an end to forced child marriage in New York State and set a precedent that the rest of the states should follow.”

The measure was signed in a private ceremony in the Red Room, the ceremonial office of the governor at the Capitol. Press was not invited to attend, but the room was arranged in the way the administration has held press conferences, with the governor flanked by top aides and signs proclaiming the bill’s approval, according to photos from advocates in the room.

It’s also not unusual for any governor to sign a bill privately and announce it later via press release or email.

Extras

Today’s runoff between Karen Handel and Jon Ossoff in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District will decide what has become the most expensive House campaign in history — and quite possibly the most consequential special election since Watergate.

Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is poised to take a more active role in opposing President Trump, saying that “now is the time to be more visible” — including weighting a 2020 presidential bid.

Seeking to advance her family-focused agenda, Ivanka Trump made her first official sojourn to Capitol Hill today to talk tax policy with Republican lawmakers.

The Chinese government invited Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, to visit the country’s capital later this year, a White House official confirmed.

AG Eric Schneiderman wrote an OpEd for Teen Vogue about his efforts to keep birth control free in New York. He emailed the piece with a link seeking $3 contributions to his political campaign.

Schneiderman today joined a coalition of 14 attorneys general and the City of Chicago in filing a motion to intervene in a lawsuit against EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s actions to halt regulation of leaks of greenhouse gas emissions and other harmful air pollutants from new sources in the oil and gas industry.

Edward Walsh, the former politically powerful Suffolk County Conservative Party leader, was sentenced to 2 years in prison following his conviction on federal charges of wire fraud and theft of government services.

In what has become a seemingly weekly ritual, a series of problems cropped up across NYC during the morning rush, including signal issues and a train with mechanical problems.

At Cuomo’s request, the MTA will give Long Island Rail Road commuters a 25 percent discount while operations are disrupted because of repairs at Penn Station this summer.

Assemblyman Denny Farrell, who is retiring next year, wants to name the new Tappan Zee Bridge after the late former Gov. Mario Cuomo.

A remark by Cuomo, well into a ceremony yesterday for the new Penn-Farley west concourse at New York’s Penn Station, could reinvigorate discussion about congestion pricing, a concept backers say could generate billions for mass transit among other benefits.

A man convicted of taking hostages at a Hillary Clinton presidential campaign office in New Hampshire in 2007 has been sentenced to five years in prison for robbing a bank last year.

Assemblyman Joseph Morelle and state Sen. Pamela Helming announced bipartisan legislation to establish a program that would set aside up $90 million in grants for flood recovery along the Lake Ontario shoreline.

Charter Communications, which was allowed last January by the Public Service Commission to take over Time Warner Cable, will pay a $13 million penalty for its failure to build out its service network, which was part of the takeover deal.

While asking a roomful of voters to elect him, Syracuse mayoral candidate Raymond Blackwell said he has assaulted people, carried a gun to parties and tried selling drugs.

Was White House spokesman Sean Spicer fat shammed by his fellow Trump administration official, Steve Bannon? Chelsea Clinton thinks so.

The state Office of General Services will perform renovation work on the Empire State Plaza concourse food court beginning June 27, resulting in the relocation of some vendors and temporary closure of others, the agency announced.

The panel that regulates water levels on the St. Lawrence Seaway says the governor was using mislabeled information when he said they “blew it.”

Upstate New York’s three biggest cities – Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo – have all been named among the worst places to live in the United States by 24/7 WallSt.