Assembly Dems Follow Senate On SAFE Act MOU

From the Morning Memo:

Earlier this week, Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins revealed on CapTon that her conference, though still upset over the Cuomo administration’s memorandum of understanding with the GOP that appears to roll back a key provision of the SAFE Act, does not plan to challenge the document in court.

Last night, during his first extended interview on CapTon since he became speaker back in February, Carl Heastie said his conference will be following the Senate Democrats’ lead, and won’t seek a legal remedy to the MOU that seems to indefinitely delay creation of a database to be used for ammunition sale background checks.

“We’re not looking to do any, to go to court or anything like that,” the speaker said. “i’ve spoken to the governor, we’ve spoken about this a number of times. He’s assured me that when the technology is ready, the database will happen.”

This is a much different tune than the one Democrats in both chambers were singing in the wake of the Senate Republicans’ surprise announcement that they had signed the MOU with a top Cuomo aide – state Operations Director Jim Malatras – that basically said their conference had to sign off on the spending of any state cash to be used for creation of the database. More >

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s upstate tour continues in Ithaca. Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan kicks off his upstate tour in Otsego County. It’s National Chicken Wing Day.

At approximately 9:59 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul will be a guest on the Brian Lehrer show, WNYC.

At 11 a.m., Hochul, legislators and women’s advocacy organizations hold a press conference in support of Planned Parenthood on the eve of a federal defunding vote, SEIU Local 32BJ, 25 West 18th St., Manhattan.

Also at 11 a.m., NYC Public Advocate Letitia James, New York City Councilman Rory Lancman call for and showcase collision avoidance technology, Broadway between Murray and Warren Sts., Manhattan.

Also at 11 a.m., Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie meets with Assemblymembers Barbara Lifton and Deborah Glick and Cornell University President Elizabeth Garrett for a campus tour, 106 Statler Dr., Ithaca.

At 11:30 a.m., Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, joined by Sen. Jim Seward, holds a media availability during his stop in Cooperstown, The Otesaga Hotel, 60 Lake St.

At noon, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will host a press conference with Office of Emergency Management Commissioner Joseph Esposito, Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett and Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Gilbert Taylor to discuss the heat wave and safety precautions New Yorkers should take in the extreme heat, Blue Room, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 1:15 p.m., Heastie visits Northeast Elementary School pre-K program, 425 Winthrop Drive, Ithaca.

At 1:30 p.m., Cuomo and AG Eric Schneiderman hold a briefing for over 100 clergy, legislators and community members on the new special prosecutor executive order, Sheraton New York, 811 7th Ave. at 53rd St., Manhattan.

At 1:40 p.m., Heastie meets with local officials, Heights Cafe, Community Corners, 903 Hanshaw Rd., Ithaca.

At 3 p.m., Heastie tours Taitem Engineering, 109 S Albany St., Ithaca.

At 4:45 p.m., Heastie tours Weaver Wind, 7 Union St., Freeville.

At 5:30 p.m., Hillary Clinton attends a fundraiser for her 2016 presidential campaign, Radisson Hotel, 125 Denison Parkway E., Corning.

At 6 p.m., Heastie meets with local officials, Madeline’s on the Ithaca Commons, corner of State and Aurora, Ithaca.

Also at 6 p.m., NYC Councilman Andy King holds a rally to opposing a proposed Close to Home Facility, 3030 Bruner Ave., Bronx.

Also at 6 p.m., the New American Chamber of Commerce holds a seminar on getting rid of student loans, 26 Court St., suite 701, Brooklyn.

From 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., public input is sought on the Madison Avenue Road Diet, a project that will transform Madison Avenue from South Allen Street to Lark Street, Touhey Forum in the Lally School of Education, College of St. Rose, 1009 Madison Ave., Albany.

At 7 p.m., Hochul and former NYC Council Speaker Chris Quinn appear on NY1’s “Inside City Hall” with host Errol Louis.

At 7:30 p.m., Nobel Laureate Joe Stiglitz speaks to the Ansonia Independent Democrats about Inequality and his new book, Lincoln Square Synagogue, Amsterdam Ave. at W 68th St., Manhattan.

Headlines…

A mother of eight busted on a minor shoplifting charge was found dead in a cell at the Mount Vernon Police Department, and AG Eric Schneiderman’s office is investigating the mysterious circumstances.

According to several sources with direct knowledge of the project, a new LaGuardia could take more than 10 years to build and cost close to $8 billion. The Cuomo administration disagreed with that assessment and laid out their own cost assessment.

State lawmakers from the Capital Region crossed party lines to urge Gov. Andrew Cuomo to end state control of the board that runs the New York Racing Association because it threatens the future of Saratoga Race Course.

Cuomo scoffed at calls for a special session on ethics, saying it would be costly and pointless to try to force lawmakers to clean up their act even though two more are guilty in federal corruption cases.

The principal of a company bidding for a state medical marijuana license was found to have misspent funds and destroyed documents while running a taxpayer-backed authority in Kansas, according to an audit report.

Michael Goodwin: “In the middle of his second year, de Blasio has hit a wall. Trapped in a far-left ideological swamp, he can’t bring himself to put his duty to the city ahead of his narrow-minded petulance. He doesn’t even seem to be trying.”

The head of the MTA sent de Blasio a strongly worded letter urging him to finally cough up the $3.2 billion needed to close the agency’s capital budget deficit.

Former Clinton Correctional Facility supervisor Joyce “Tillie” Mitchell wept as she pleaded guilty to helping two convicted killers stage their dramatic escape from the prison in June.

Seized by an elaborate fantasy of a future with the two killers, Richard Matt and David Sweat, Mitchell performed sexual favors for one of the men and gave them tools that aided in their escape, including hacksaw blades and a screwdriver bit, according to statements she made to investigators.

“I was caught up in the fantasy,” Mitchell said. “I enjoyed the attention, the feeling both of them gave me, and the thought of a different life.” She also said she is “really sorry” for her actions.

More >

Extras

Democratic 2016 frontrunner Hillary Clinton will be in Corning tomorrow – the one-year anniversary of her last visit there.

AG Eric Schneiderman’s office is examining whether the death Monday of a woman in a Mount Vernon holding cell requires further investigation by his investigators.

Assemblyman Charles Barron might run for the Brooklyn seat vacated by former Sen. John Sampson when he was convicted on felony corruption charges last week.

The libertarian consultant and old Nixon aide Roger Stone is a longtime friend of Donald Trump’s. Now, Stone is serving as a paid communications adviser to Trump’s presidential campaign, appearing to earn $20,000 a month.

The organizers of Oswego Harborfest last weekend pulled off a feat that many in Washington believed to be impossible: They silenced US Sen. Charles Schumer.

Schumer today added his name to the Senate’s sweeping medical marijuana bill, the CARERS Act, which would end federal prohibition of medical marijuana, and remove barriers for research, veterans, and banking.

Broome County Republicans are not all on the same page about who should run for former Deputy Senate Majority Leader Tom Libous’ seat.

The state health department is scheduled to award licenses to grow and dispense medical marijuana by the end of the week, but one of the bill’s sponsors, Assemblyman Dick Gottfried, believes the process should be more transparent.

Just a day after allegations re-emerged that Trump raped his ex-wife, Ivana Trump, the billionaire’s former spouse played down the controversy. She also endorsed his presidential run.

Days after unveiling the first plank of her energy and climate platform, Hillary Clinton again refused to answer a set of questions here about how she would handle the controversial Keystone XL pipeline were she to win the White House.

NJ Gov. Chris Christie said it’s “probably likely” that he, Cuomo and U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx will meet some time in the next few weeks to discuss the construction of new Hudson River rail tunnels.

Taxpayers paid out $300,000 in June to lawyers in sexual harassment cases in the Assembly, according to state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

George Marlin says Nassau County’s current financial mess is “the direct result of years of mismanagement, cowardice and cronyism — particularly when it comes to vendor contracts.”

Former Gov. George Pataki, a 2016 GOP hopeful, campaigned recently at a New Hampshire craft beer festival.

Neither candidate seeking to become Staten Island’s top prosecutor filed a New York City ethics report on time, the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board confirmed.

District Attorney David Foley has announced his intention to seek election as Judge of Chautauqua County Court following the retirement of current Judge John Ward.

UAlbany students weigh in on the “yes means yes” sexual assault policy, about which a number of them still need to be educated.

Commissioners at the New York State Board of Elections are asking their New York City counterparts to develop an explicit plan to combat the long lines that have plagued the city’s polling places in recent elections.

A seal made its way up the Hudson River over the weekend and was noticed Saturday afternoon in a lock in the Erie Canal outside Albany.

The Catskill Mountainkeeper is urging supporters to thank the governor for “enabling shared solar.”

Newsday has a handy chart on who’s participating in the START-UP NY program.

Cuomo: Special Session For Ethics Won’t Do Anything

Gov. Andrew Cuomo once again threw cold water on calling a special session to consider ethics reform legislation, saying it “makes no sense” to do so.

Cuomo, speaking with reporters in Bolton Landing earlier in the day, said it was doubtful lawmakers would return to Albany in a special session to consider ethics legislation after they declined to pass any new measures at the end of the regularly scheduled session, which concluded in June.

“The point is, is there any reason to believe there would be a different outcome?” Cuomo said.

The first six months of the year in Albany was marred by a seemingly unprecedented parade of arrests that saw the indictments of the speaker of the Assembly and majority leader of the state Senate, both of whom were forced to step down from their posts as they fight their corruption charges.

“We have the highest ethical standards this state has ever had,” Cuomo told reporters this morning. “That is not going to stop people from doing stupid or criminal things as we’ve learned.”

Last week, two sitting state senators — Tom Libous and John Sampson — lost their seats after they were convicted in separate trials on corruption charges as well.

Cuomo had pushed lawmakers to approve a broad package of ethics reforms in the wake of Assemblyman Sheldon Silver’s arrest in January, but ultimately lawmakers approved a compromised version of the proposal, including the disclosure of outside legal clients.

Now, good-government groups are once again calling for a special session on ethics exclusively, with measures being pushed that include closing a loophole in campaign-finance law that allows for unlimited donations through limited liability companies.

Still, Cuomo is skeptical that lawmakers would be willing ton consider reaching an agreement on ethics just weeks after leaving Albany.

“The Legislature just left town a few weeks ago,” Cuomo said. “I don’t see any reason to believe there’s going to be a different outcome than there was a few weeks ago.”

At the same time, Cuomo questioned the cost of a special session, given the lack of a prospect of progress.

“For the taxpayers to spend a lot of money to bring the legislators back to Albany to have the same outcome they had a few weeks ago makes no sense to me,” he said. “My point is, the Legislature just left town a few weeks ago. What changed?”

Cuomo Says Fiala A ‘Quality Person’

Gov. Andrew Cuomo once again on Tuesday talked up Barbara Fiala’s soon-to-launch campaign for state Senate, saying that he made the early endorsement because he wants “quality people” in state government.

“I believe in getting quality people elected to the Legislature and quality people elected as mayors and county executives all across the state,” Cuomo told reporters during a gaggle at the Sagamore Resort in Bolton Landing. “Barbara Fiala is a quality person.”

Fiala is running for a seat left vacant by former Sen. Tom Libous, a Republican from the Southern Tier region who was ousted after he was convicted of lying to the FBI.

Cuomo has a close relationship with Libous and last week called his conviction a “tragedy” as the former lawmaker also battles terminal cancer.

But in the same radio interview last week, Cuomo endorsed — seemingly out of the blue — Fiala, his former motor vehicles commissioner and a former Broome County executive.

Today, Cuomo spoke of Fiala’s personal integrity, even as he declined to answer how, exactly, he would help her win the seat.

“She is a really quality person of high integrity and she is the kind of person who we should have in state government,” Cuomo said.

Fiala is expected to launch her campaign for Senate on Thursday. The 52nd Senate district has a Republican enrollment advantage and has historically elected GOP candidates.

Updated: Senate Republican spokesman Scott Reif responds.

“Barbara Fiala is running to join the same New York City-dominated Senate Democrat conference that raised taxes by a whopping $14 billion, created a $10 billion deficit and shifted critical school aid and other resources to New York City at the expense of hardworking Southern Tier families the last time they were in power,” Reif said. “Electing a Democrat to this seat would be bad news for all New York taxpayers and for the people of the 52nd Senate district. We grow more confident every day that Republicans will hold this seat.”

To Labor, Cuomo Touts Infrastructure

In two separate events on Tuesday morning in southern Adirondack resort towns, Gov. Andrew Cuomo touted his efforts to get New York and private industry to spend big on large-scale infrastructure projects.

The governor had captive audiences: He spoke before trade union members, private-sector labor groups that have been traditionally in the governor’s political corner.

Cuomo first appeared at the Sagamore Resort in Bolton Landing to speak at the New York State Laborer’s Meeting. About an hour later, he was in Lake George to address the New York State Pipe Trades Conference at the Fort William Henry Conference Center.

The message at the both event was, literally in some passages of his near-verbatim remarks, the same: New York is building while other states aren’t.

“We’re actually making agreements, we’re passing legislation and we’re moving now where other states are standing still,” Cuomo said at the pipe fitters conference.

The events came after Cuomo was in New York City with Vice President Joe Biden to unveil a planned $4 billion upgrade at LaGuardia Airport that, once completed, will include a new, unified terminal at the facility as well as enhanced passengers entrances.

Cuomo touted the LaGuardia plan as well as the ongoing effort to replace the aging Tappan Zee Bridge that crosses the Hudson River at Rockland and Westchester counties. And he made sure to claim credit for the resolution of the 421a tax abatement renewal, though the details must still be worked out by labor as well as real-estate developers.

The airport renewal project, as well as the Tappan Zee bridge plan (whose funding scheme is yet to be fully revealed) received warm applause when Cuomo mentioned them.

“The governor’s putting people to work,” said Larry Bulman, the national political director of the United Association, an umbrella group of plumbers, pipe fitters, welders and service technicians, as well as a former Democratic chairman in Saratoga County. “He’s putting New Yorkers to work. Many of the jobs are, yes, going to workers in the skilled trades, in the building trades.”

Bulman spoke warmly of the START-UP NY ad campaign, a political hot-button for Cuomo opponents, but one that Bulman believes is a net positive for the state.

“I see START-UP NY ads in Idaho, Washington State and also on the East Coast,” Bulman said in an interview. “I’ve seen the ads all over the place. I think that’s going to be his real legacy, what he talked about today — making sure he’s putting skilled New Yorkers to work on these projects.”

Friendly audiences aside, Cuomo has a complicated relationship with other labor groups, mainly public-sector unions that he has been at odds with such as the New York State United Teachers, the Public Employees Federation and the Civil Service Employees Association.

The New York State AFL-CIO declined to endorse his re-election bid last year.

Cuomo, too, has been close with the bosses of those in the trade field, garnering millions of dollars in campaign support from real-estate interests based in New York City.

Nevertheless, Cuomo has sought to shore up his relationship with labor in the last several weeks.

After the fast-food wage board convened at his behest recommended a $15-an-hour minimum wage for the industry, Cuomo led a rally attended by the Hotel Trades Council, a labor group that has seen its political influence expand in recent years.

“I believe in organized labor, I’ve supported it,” Cuomo told reporters at his stop in Bolton Landing. “We’ve had a great legislative session working with organized labor.”

And he closed with a warning for other states he says aren’t keeping pace with New York.

“The states that are not doing this preparation, that aren’t redeveloping, they are going to be left behind,” Cuomo said. “For many years, New York was not doing what it needed to do and now we are. It feels good.”

Fiala Won’t Take Position On SAFE Act

Democratic Senate candidate Barbara Fiala in a radio interview on Tuesday declined to take a position on the 2013 gun control law known as the SAFE Act, saying she still has more research to do on the measure.

Fiala is expected to launch her bid for former Sen. Tom Libous’s seat on Thursday after he was ousted following a conviction on a charge of lying to the FBI.

Fiala, a former Broome County executive and was a member of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration until last year, acknowledged the gun control law is a controversial one.

“Well, you know, the SAFE Act has to be looked at,” Fiala said on The Capitol Pressroom. “What parts of the SAFE Act are objectionable to many, is it background checks — this is something that I’ll have to take a strong look at. I know it’s controversial.”

She added: “That’s something I’m going to have to do more research on.”

It would not be unusual for a Democratic lawmaker to not support the law: Buffalo Sen. Marc Pannepinto — a SAFE Act opponent — last year defeated Republican incumbent Mark Grisanti, who voted for the measure.

Cuomo and Senate Republicans this month approved a memorandum of understanding that agreed to enact an ammunition sale database, provision of the law that the State Police had struggled to develop.

At the same time, Fiala would not take a position on using gelled propane in extracting natural gas from below ground — a move that energy producers believe could be an alternative to high-volume hydrofracking, which uses a mixture of sand and water to release gas from shale.

The Cuomo administration moved to ban the hydorfracking process late last year.

“Certainly I think you have to look at everything,” Fiala said. “Knowledge is power. It’s a new discussion and it’s something that has to be discussed and looked at.”

As for the DEC report itself on hydrofracking, Fiala said she was yet to read, but said she hadn’t changed her position on the process, insisting that she had always preferred to wait for what environmental regulators would do.

“DEC has come out with extensive report,” she said. “I have to tell you, it’s so large, I haven’t had a chance to read it.”

Cuomo ‘Sure’ Labor And Developers Will Reach Deal On 421a

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday said he would likely steer clear of the talks to finalize the 421a tax abatement, which without an agreement reached by labor and real-estate developers would expire.

“The point was the process set up in the legislation,” Cuomo said after speaking to a labor group at the Sagamore Resort in Bolton Landing, just north of Lake George.

Cuomo spoke to two different labor unions on Tuesday meeting miles apart in the southern Adirondack resort communities.

In both speeches — virtually verbatim addresses to the private-sector trade union groups — Cuomo touted their political support he has enjoyed while also touting his own efforts on including a prevailing wage component in the 421a abatement renewal last month.

Only the abatement itself could go away entirely unless labor and the real-estate development community Cuomo has also drawn political support from over the years reach an agreement on the prevailing wage provision.

The abatement debate at the end of the legislative session centered around whether to expand affordable housing provisions under the abatement as well as include a prevailing wage component for trade groups (Mayor Bill de Blasio backed a prevailing wage, but for service industry workers, putting him crosswise with construction-oriented unions).

“Organized labor is part of the process and that’s what this legislation stipulated,” Cuomo said. “The legislation speaks for itself and it sets up the process and whatever the process yields, that’s what the process yields.”

The approved bill, in essence, puts a self-destruct component in the measure, Cuomo said.

“It’s basically saying come to an agreement or everybody loses and I’m sure they’ll come to an agreement,” he said.

Assembly, Senate Spend More For Lawyers

The state Assembly and Senate spent thousands of dollars on legal fees last month, according to contract approvals from the state comptroller’s office.

In the Democratic-led Assembly, a $227,000 contract for Hogan Lovells was approved for defense in pending sexual harassment litigation. An additional $23,000 was approved for Rossein Associates, an outside counsel the chamber hired to develop a sexual harassment policy and conduct investigations.

An additional $3,000 each was spent for outside counsel for an independent sexual harassment investigation by Roemer Wallens Gold & Mineaux LLP, while Whiteman Osterman & Hanna LLP was hired for outside counsel for the appeals process in the Assemblyman Micah Kellner case.

Kellner was accused of conducting sexual explicit chats online with legislative aides; he later sought to have his punishment imposed by then-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver overturned.

Meanwhile, in the Republican-led state Senate, $381,000 was approved for legal fees for former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno to the firm O’Connell & Aronowitz.

IG: Nothing But Mitchell’s “Full Cooperation Will be Tolerated”

The woman who helped Richard Matt and David Sweat escape from a Clinton County prison has agreed to cooperate in an investigation into the incident as part of her plea deal, the state’s Inspector General said today.

Joyce Mitchell, a former Clinton Correctional employee, plead guilty to promoting prison contraband and criminal facilitation in Clinton County Court this morning. As part of the plea deal, she’ll serve a maximum of seven years in prison starting in September. She’ll also have to cooperate in an investigation by the state’s Inspector General, Catherine Leahy Scott.

Scott was charged with the investigation in June following the breakout, which would become a 21-day manhunt. Richard Matt was killed by authorities during the chase. David Sweat was injured, but recovered after spending time at a hospital in Albany.

In a statement following Mitchell’s plea this morning, the Inspector General said nothing but Mitchell’s “full cooperation will be tolerated.”

Today’s plea by Joyce Mitchell makes clear her culpability in the systemic breakdown that led to the escape of two cold-blooded killers. I thank District Attorney Wylie for ensuring at my request that the plea agreement include full cooperation by Mitchell with my ongoing investigation.  Nothing short of her full cooperation will be tolerated, and I am confident that when she fulfills this obligation, I will provide a thorough and complete accounting of all the factors contributing to this elaborate breakout, with an eye toward ensuring this never happens again.