No Decision On Casino Siting Expected By Friday

Members of the board that will decide where to place up to four casinos won’t have a decision when state gaming regulators meet on Friday, according to a letter released this afternoon.

“We are scheduled to meet again this upcoming Friday, November 21. We expect to be able to make a decision at our next meeting,” wrote Kevin Law, the chairman of the casino location siting board to state Gaming Commission Chairman Mark Gearan.

Law is referring to the next scheduled meeting after the meeting that comes this Friday, according to the state Gaming Commission.

The panel — which is composed of Law, former New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson, Paul Francis, Dennis Glazer and Hofstra University President Stuart Rabinowitz — has heard presentations over the last several months from developers who want to build resort-style casinos in three regions of the state north New York City: The Catskills/Hudson Valley, the Capital Region and the Finger Lakes/Southern Tier.

There are nine casino proposals all together.

The decision as to which developer and casino company will receive the licenses comes as the casino and gambling industry in the northeast has apparently cooled in part to a high concentration of casino sites in neighboring states.

11.18.14.GFLBLtrGearan by Nick Reisman

Silver: ‘Fine’ With Overhauling Per Diem System

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on Tuesday indicated to reporters in Albany he would be open to changing how per diems are allocated to state lawmakers, possibly as a way to achieve a pay increase for the Legislature.

“I’m fine with that,” Silver said when asked about reforming the per diem system.

The current system was created as a reform in order to limit lawmakers overstating how much they should be reimbursed for working on taxpayer time.

But the per diem system has come under scrutiny after lawmakers linked to corruption scandals — including cases involving Assemblyman William Scarborough and former Assemblyman William Boyland.

“There’s a number of ways to do and obviously I’m open to suggestions as to how we would do it,” Silver said.

Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos on Monday in Albany said he would be open to linking a pay hike to per diem reform as well.

Both Silver and Skelos are backers of increasing the base pay for state lawmakers, which currently stands at $79,500. Lawmakers have not received a pay increase since 1999.

Any pay increase would likely have to be considered in a special session of the current lame-duck Legislature before the end of the year and newly elected lawmakers take their seats.

What remains to be seen is what Gov. Andrew Cuomo would want from the Legislature in exchange for signing off on a pay increase. Cuomo would likely come under pressure from advocates for a minimum wage hike and the Dream Act, but also could use the issue to gain leverage for approval on infrastructure projects and spending of a multi-billion surplus.

Add Another $315M To The State’s Surplus

The state’s surplus — fueled in large part by massive financial settlements — just got $315 million larger.

The Department of Financial Services on Tuesday announcement its latest enforcement action that includes a $315 million penalty levied against the Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi.

The bank was accused last year of conducting transactions with Iran, Sudan and Myanmar. But in the process of the investigation over the transactions with the sanctioned countries, a misleading report from the bank’s consultant was sent to regulators that hid evidence of the transactions.

A state investigation found the bank sought to pressure accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers that removed signs of the transactions from a report that had been sent to the Financial Services Department.

“BTMU employees pressured PwC into watering down a supposedly objective report on the Bank’s dealings with Iran and other sanctioned countries, thereby misleading regulators,” said DFS Superintendent Ben Lawsky. “It is clear that we – as a regulatory community – must work aggressively to reform the cozy relationship between banks and consultants, which far too often has resulted in shoddy work that sweeps wrongdoing under the rug.”​

Regulators said the bank requested that PwC edit out original warning language in a report that would ultimately be submitted to state regulators and included a passage that offered misleading language to state the opposite of what happened.

The employees of PricewaterhouseCoopers who were involved in crafting the misleading language are now retired and the accounting firm is conducting reforms of how it handles such reports.

This is the second time Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi has paid a large settlement to the state.

In June 2013, the bank paid a $250 million settlement for its transactions with the sanctioned countries.

Before today’s announcement of the Tokyo Mitsubishi fine, the state’s surplus was estimated at $3.6 billion.

The order can be viewed here.

DiNapoli Approves $644K MedMar Implementation

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli approved a $644,000 contract with a health technology consulting firm to help the state implement its medical marijuana program.

The contract, with NYSTEC, comes weeks after state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo agreed to a limited medical marijuana program that vests much of the control in the Cuomo administration.

The company, which specializes in health care information technology, networking and communications, has offices in Rome, Albany and New York City.

The agreement with the state Department of Health runs through Dec. 31, 2015, according to DiNapoli’s open government website, Open Book NY.

The medical marijuana program is being rolled out over the next year and a half and the governor insisted on including what amounted to a kill switch that would pull the plug on the program should there be a problem.

The compromise reached in June has come under criticism from advocates for medical marijuana over what they consider a drawn-out time frame for implementation.

The Cuomo administration over the summer announced plans to have the Department of Health speed up the implementation of the program.

$150,000 in Sexual Harassment Legal Services

A total of $150,000 in taxpayer funds will be used to pay for legal services related to the sexual harassment scandals of Assemblymembers Vito Lopez and Micah Kellner, according to a release from the state comptroller’s office Tuesday.

The largest recipient was Proskauer Rose LLP, who received $141,000 for defense of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver in a federal lawsuit regarding sexual harassment allegations against Vito Lopez. That’s on top of the almost $363,000 they received in February for work on the case.

Whiteman Osterman and Hanna LLP received $8,000 for outside counsel in the appeals process for Assemblyman Micah Kellner. That brings the total amount going to the firm this year to $101,000.

And for Rossein Associates, $1,000 will be used as a payment against the law firm’s contract for outside counsel, for sexual harassment policy development and investigations. They also received just over $140,000 earlier this year for the same purpose.

It’s now been more than a year since Vito Lopez held office in the Assembly. The investigation into harassment claims against the Assemblyman actually began in 2012, but it wasn’t until May 2013 that he stepped down amidst pressure from party leaders, including Governor Andrew Cuomo.

That case has not yet went to trial, meaning more legal fees are almost definitely inevitable.

Assemblyman Micah Kellner did not seek re-election this year after an ethics committee report found he interacted inappropriately with members of his personal staff during his time in the Assembly. Kellner has since appealed that finding.

 

 

What Becomes Of The Tax Cap?

From the Morning Memo:

Some state lawmakers could begin pushing for changes to the state’s cap on property tax increases, which is due to expire next June, 2016.

The cap is the signature economic achievement for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s first term and is tied to rent control for New York City, which is also due to expire on June 15, a year before the tax cap.

Yoking rent control to the tax cap was a way of ensuring both Senate Republicans and Assembly Democrats have a mutual interest in seeing they are re-approved together.

But with any expiration and pending re-approval often comes proposals to make changes.

Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins in an interview on Capital Tonight on Monday suggested some changes may be supported in order to accommodate concerns raised by local governments as well as the expected infusion of infrastructure projects due to be proposed next year.

“I think there’s a real conversation to be had about the tax cap and how we can make it work for everyone,” she said in the interview. “We are very clear that the burden of taxes certainly for the middle class is quite crashing and we need more mandate relief.”

The property tax cap, a long sought measure for suburban lawmakers in high-tax areas, does allow for some growth in a municipality’s tax base as well as some exceptions in pensions costs.

At the same time, two major drivers of local government spending that officials on that level can’t control, pension rates and Medicaid costs, are expected to decline and seen slower growth respectively.

Nevertheless, school districts and local governments continue to point to the outsized spending requirements from Albany. And there’s more pressure on local governments to meet the cap’s requirements in order for taxpayers to receive a rebate.

“I think there are certainly things we could do to make the property tax cap more viable,” Stewart-Cousins said. “People have talked about the capital needs that are happening in these various districts and how we can build our infrastructure.”

Meanwhile, Stewart-Cousins and her Democratic conference will continue on in the minority next year after failing to win and hold enough seats to gain a majority this month.

Stewart-Cousins insisted Gov. Andrew Cuomo did enough to help her conference, but insisted it was just a bad year for Democrats overall.

Cuomo has been criticized by liberals for not doing enough to back Senate Democrats in their effort to gain a full majority in the chamber.

“I think the governor did a good deal in terms of helping our conference campaign and he certainly supported the majority of my conference for election,” Stewart-Cousins said. “He had a difficult election as well. So, the reality is that New York was not immune to this Republican wave. I think he kept his promise. He did the work.”

And she repeatedly noted that Republicans only hold a one-seat majority in the Senate, adding there are no plans to drop an emphasis on key issues for Democrats such as a minimum wage increase, strengthening abortion rights and the Dream Act — even if the votes just aren’t there for those measures.

“We are still very much in a position of influence and very much in a position to advocate for the things that New Yorkers want as we continue to build our economy and grow our jobs,” she said.

Here And Now

Good morning!

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with nothing public planned.

At 8:30 a.m., the Board of Regents professional practice committee meets, Room 146, Education Department Building, 90 Washington Ave., Albany.

At 10 a.m., Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Comptroller Scott Stringer, Public Advocate Letitia James and Assemblyman Keith Wright will hold a rally for stronger rent control laws on the steps of City Hall.

At 10 a.m., filmmaker Josh Fox and Fordham Law School professor Zephyr Teachout will appear at a rally opposing the Keystone XL pipeline, Foley Square.

At 10:30 a.m., Bronx Borough President Rubn Diaz, Jr. will speak to the New York Hispanic Cosmetology & Beauty Chamber of Commerce, Lehman College, Music Building.

At 11 a.m., Mayor Bill de Blasio will deliver remarks at the FDNY’s Probationary Firefighters Ceremony, Christian Cultural Center, 12020 Flatlands Ave., Brooklyn.

At 11 a.m., Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and western New York officials will introduce the county’s new energy officer, Eric Walker, Executive Conference Room, 16th Floor, Rath County Office Building, Buffalo.

At 11:30 a.m., Brooklyn officials will unveil legislation that would increase penalties for trespassing on structures like the Brooklyn Bridge, Brooklyn Heights Promenade, Brooklyn.

At 1 p.m., the City Council Committee on Technology holds an oversight hearing on the future of 311 technology, 250 Broadway, 14th Floor Committee Room, Manhattan.

At 3:30 p.m., Advocates and officials rally for a push to have Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie expand wage policies to include concession workers at metropolitan area airports JFK, LaGuardia and Newark. JFK Airport, Terminal 4, lower-level, Queens.

At 4:30 p.m., Sen. David Carlucci will discuss the role of student advisory committees, Nyack Middle School, 98 S Highland Ave., Nyack.

At 6 p.m., Mayor de Blasio will deliver remarks at the Puerto Rican Heritage Celebration, Gracie Mansion, Manhattan.

At 6 p.m., Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viveriot will appear at the New Immigrant Community Empowerment gala, Taj II Lounge, 48 West 21st St., Manhattan.

At 6:30 p.m., Citizens Union and the New York Immigration Coalition will sponsor a public forum on non-citizen voting, JHS 50 Auditorium, 183 South 3rd St., Brooklyn.

At 7 p.m., Assemblywoman Pat Fahy will moderate a panel on heroin/opiate addiction, 2228 Western Ave., Guilderland.

Your headlines:

Western New York was pounded with its first major snowstorm of the season, with travel advisories in effect.

President Obama is expected to issue an executive order on immigration reform, upsetting Republicans in Congress.

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer is pushing a bill that would be aimed a curtailing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Despite his legal and health problems, Sen. Tom Libous will remain the number two Republican in the state Senate. More >

Extras

Senate GOP leader Dean Skelos says he would like to see an increase in lawmaker pay but is unwilling to trade for several marquee items in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s “progressive” agenda, including a minimum wage hike.

Four members of the Assembly Republican conference wrote a letter to fellow members questioning the leadership of Brian Kolb and asking them to delay a vote to re-elect him as their leaders.

Assemblyman Kieran Michael Lalor contended today that he was pressured by his conference’s leadership to not hold a critical press conference in 2013 that called for Speaker Sheldon Silver’s resignation.

Absentee ballot votes are still being counted in the race for the 116th Assembly district between incumbent Addie Russell and Republican challenger John C. Byrne.

According to a new report, segregation in Syracuse and Onondaga County is getting worse, cutting off racial and ethnic minorities from good schools, economic opportunity and decent housing.

NYSUT slammed the state Department of Education’s stance on mandating standardized field testing.

Three New York lawmakers are urging their Congressional colleagues to support a provision in a defense bill that would provide protections for more than 950 jobs at the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) in Rome.

The state-appointed fiscal monitor of the East Ramapo school district wants a legislative intervention that would give an appointee veto power over the board’s “bad decisions.”

Rachel Noerdlinger, aide to NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray, said Monday that she’s taking a leave to spend more time with her son after he was arrested over the weekend.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Monday unveiled proposals to increase fares and tolls by four percent over the next two years.

Meanwhile, MTA Board Member Charles Moerdler suggested a ban on backpacks as a way to ease overcrowding in subway trains.

While she has not announced her candidacy, there are reports that Hillary Clinton is considering running her expected presidential campaign out of White Plains.

The Pope announced Monday that he’ll be coming to the United States in September 2015 to take part in the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, with a trip to NYC possible.

Ben Lawsky, head of New York state’s Department of Financial Services, was named one of the 100 Leading Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy Magazine.

Meanwhile, Governor Andrew Cuomo – the boyfriend of the Food Network’s Sandra Lee – and Rep. Michael Grimm have made this list of Top 10 Political Bachelors.

Skelos Knocks De Blasio’s ‘Inappropriate’ Efforts For Senate Dems

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos criticized New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday for attempting to help Democrats gain full control of the state Senate as “inappropriate.”

De Blasio this election season sought to aid Democrats in key races around the state.

Flipping the Senate is important for de Blasio’s agenda to pass in Albany as the mayor seeks a local minimum wage increase and an upper hand in negotiations over rent control and mayoral control of city schools expiring next year.

But the plan failed: Republicans gained their first outright majority in the Senate since 2010.

As such, de Blasio and Skelos — never close to begin with — are lined up for a policy clash come 2015.

“My position is you govern, the elections are over, but certainly I don’t believe the mayor interjected himself appropriately with his staff and fundraising in so many of our races,” Skelos said. “I think it was inappropriate what he did.”

Skelos also took a swipe at de Blasio’s reputation for tardiness.

“He did call me last week — a little later than I thought he would,” Skelos said with a laugh. “I think he said 1 and he called at 1:15.”

Republicans had a longtime friend in City Hall with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who contributed heavily to the state Senate GOP.

Israel to Head Up New House Messaging Post

Rep. Steve Israel looked positively giddy Monday afternoon as he handed the reins of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee over to New Mexico Rep. Ben Ray Lujan.

“If you think Ben Ray is happy, you have no idea how happy I am,” a smiling Israel said at a press conference on Capitol Hill. “This may be the happiest day in my life.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi announced Israel, who headed up the DCCC for two election cycles, will now serve as chair of policy and communications, a newly created post that will focus on crafting a message for House Democrats to use against the emboldened Republican majority.

“This new position within the Democratic leadership will bring our messaging and our policies – particularly on middle class anxieties – to a new and never before seen level for our caucus,” said Israel, who had been looking to climb the leadership ladder.

The new role is perhaps an indication that Pelosi does not blame Israel for the party’s poor Election Day performance. Those losses, including three in New York, left Republicans with their largest House majority since the 1920s.