Cuomo: Ethics Problems For Legislature Different

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday sought to differentiate between ethics legislation being sought to address outside income of state lawmakers and what oversight might be needed for the executive branch.

“Structurally you don’t have the conflicts with the executive because you don’t have the opportunities with the executive,” Cuomo said.

As Cuomo pursues new ethics legislation in the state budget that would create new private income and client disclosure laws as well as the submitting of receipts for travel reimbursement, some lawmakers have called for similar pushes on the governor himself.

Cuomo has received at least $700,000 from a deal with HarperCollins to publish his memoir, which was released last year.

Cuomo has not released the terms of his contract with the company, whose parent NewsCorp received generous tax breaks last year.

The governor has disclosed ranges of outside income from the book with the state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics.

He is also required to release the income information each year based on the updated filing.

But the terms of the contract or how much Cuomo could expect to earn year over year have not been revealed.

“Be real — it’s a book company that is NewsCorp,” Cuomo said. “You know that company. You know who owns it and it’s a book deal. You come up with some theory writing a book and then we’ll talk about it at that time.”

As for NewsCorp’s lobbying for tax breaks for online publishing, Cuomo said he was unaware the company sought the legislation.

“I have no idea what it is,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo, meanwhile, said he had not been subpoenaed by federal prosecutors in the ongoing federal investigation into the circumstances of the Moreland Commission shutting down.

But he would not say whether any current or former members his staff have received subpoenas stemming from the review into the governor’s involvement in the panel.

“I wouldn’t know if you were. It’s not anyone’s business other than the individual,” Cuomo said.

The governor’s office has hired a lawyer to represent the staff in the Moreland Commission inquiry.

Cuomo insisted, meanwhile, that despite the parade of corruption arrests and scandals, his administration has made progress on passing new ethics legislation over the last four years.

“We have preceded in leaps and bounds. Well, it’s not enough. That may be true,” he said. “But it’s also true we’ve made tremendous progress. I don’t know if it’s ever going to be enough unless you make structural change.”

Cuomo did win ethics legislation in recent years that included new income disclosure laws for state lawmakers and statewide elected officials as well as new crimes for bribery and public corruption.

Asked if there should be any concerns with his office over U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s probe, Cuomo said: “There shouldn’t be.”

PSC Won’t Say If It Will Vote On Cable Merger This Week

Regulators at the state Public Service Commission declined to say on Wednesday whether its board will vote to approve Comcast’s acquisition of Time Warner Cable.

Public Service Commissioner Chairwoman Audrey Zibelman at a meeting of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s cabinet said she was not prepared to say whether the approval of the cable merger would be on the agenda at the PSC’s meeting on Thursday.

“We have been working on it for the past seven months,” she said of the pending deal. “We’re reviewing it.”

Cuomo himself refused to weigh in on the merger.

Time Warner Cable is the parent company of Time Warner Cable News and NY1.

Zibelman did acknowledge the merge has “a huge amount of implications” for consumers in the state.

The Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger, first announced in February, still faces scrutiny from regulators at the federal level over net neutrality guidelines as well as from the Department of Justice.

Cable regulators in other states, including California, have already approved the agreement.

“We’ve done everything we can to make sure when we make a decision it’s a decision that we can be proud of and that it’s going to serve the needs of the state,” Zibelman said.

New York’s approval is a key component to the merger being approved, given its market.

The state, meanwhile, is pursuing a $1 billion broadband expansion effort with $500 million coming from private industry.

Stewart-Cousins: Ahem, What About Me? (Updated)

Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins is (not surprisingly) displeased by the fact that she and her fellow minority leader, Assembly Republican Leader Brian Kolb, are being left out of the backroom budget talks that again include IDC Leader Jeff Klein, even though he no longer has a power-sharing deal with the Senate Republicans.

After the governor revealed at his Red Room cabinet meeting that the four-men-in-a-room budget talks established when the IDC and GOP split control of the chamber would continued, Stewart-Cousins responded by suggesting the time has come to get rid of this secretive negotiation process altogether.

“As we discuss ways to clean up Albany and reform state government, a perfect place to start is the much maligned three/four men in a room​ budgetary process,” Stewart-Cousins said in a statement. “In the past we had been led to believe that membership was based on constitutional roles and not simply the whims of the governor.”

“Since membership has now been expanded, I would hope all legislative conference leaders will be ​included, giving all New Yorkers a voice in the budget. The more diversity and light we can shine on this process the better it is for everyone.”

After the GOP won its slim – but complete – majority in the 2014 elections, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Klein renegotiated the relationship between their two conferences so that it’s something less than their previous status, but something more than the minority-majority relationship between Skelos and Stewart-Cousins.

Cuomo said Klein in being included in this year’s leaders meetings – the first of which is taking place right now – due to his “relationship” with Skelos, and the fact that he can deliver the votes of his five-member conference, which gives the GOP some breathing room in the closely-divided chamber.

The three men in a room process was the subject of some very public criticism by US Attorney Preet Bharara, who mocked the practice in a speech delivered the day after the arrest on corruption charges of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and said it is the root of Albany’s many problems.

“I have a little bit of a hard time getting my head around this concept of three men in a room,” Bharara said while speaking at New York Law School. “Maybe it’s just me. I’m an immigrant from India, which is overpopulated, so for me, it’s like a billion men in a room.”

“…Why three men? Can there be a woman? Do they always have to be white? How small is the room that they can only fit three men? Is it three men in a closet? Are there cigars? Can they have Cuban cigars now? After a while, doesn’t it get a little gamey in that room?”

Bharara told The Buffalo News in a subequent interview that he keeps the book “Thee Men in a Room” by former Sen. Seymour Lachman on his desk and has met with the ex-Democratic lawmaker to discuss the frustrations he experienced while serving in Albany.

UPDATE: Stewart-Cousins is getting some backup here from Citizen Action of NY. The organization’s executive director, Karen Scharff, released the following statement:

“It’s hard to understand ​Governor Cuomo’s ​reasons for excluding the only woman legislative leader from a seat at the decision-making table. Leader Stewart-Cousins has been a champion for New York’s working families and ​is the leader of 24 senators while Senator Klein only leads 5. Governor Cuomo should open the process so that the voices of all leaders, and the voters that they represent, can be heard.”

Klein To Be Included In Budget Talks

Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein will be included in the closed-door budget talks with the legislative leaders and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo made the announcement today at a cabinet meeting that he would include Klein, a Bronx Democrat, in the first leaders meeting scheduled for later this afternoon.

Klein was included in the talks — colloquially called the “Three Men In A Room” talks — in the last two years after he was elevated to co-president of the state Senate under a power-sharing agreement with Senate Republicans.

But Republicans last year gained full control of the chamber and Klein lost the title, plus the ability to have veto power over which bills come to the floor for a vote.

Cuomo today said he discussed having Klein included in the talks with Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who agreed Klein should be included.

Klein can deliver votes because of his “partnership with Skelos,” Cuomo said.

Senate Republicans still have an interest in keeping Klein close, at least for now. The GOP conference has 33 members, a narrow majority in the chamber that could shift even before the next election due to any number of factors, ranging from corruption convictions to the health members.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara gave a withering critique of the three-men-in-a-room negotiations after his office arrested Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on corruption charges, likening the set up to a sitcom.

Cuomo today indicated he had no plans to change the high-level talks on the budget.

Today’s meeting also marks the first time newly elected Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie of the Bronx will sit in on the meetings.

Cuomo’s $142 billion budget is due March 31.

‘Enough Is Enough’ Campaign To Highlight Campus Rape Reporting Policy

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday announced a campaign designed to promote his measure that would enact uniform policies for rape and sexual assault at private college campuses.

The campaign, called “Enough Is Enough,” will include Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul highlighting the policy push on college campuses.

SUNY previously adopted a uniform rape and assault policy that requires reporting directly to law enforcement and the adoption of “affirmative consent” for sexual intercourse.

The latest effort was rolled out at a cabinet meeting by Christine Quinn, the former New York City Council speaker who unsuccessfully ran for mayor in 2013. Her one-time Democratic primary opponent, Mayor Bill de Blasio, is also in Albany today to testify on the state budget.

Cuomo insisted the key component of the policy at college campuses is meant to take the investigation out of the hands of college officials and under the purview of law enforcement.

“This is a possible crime and they are not criminal investigators,” Cuomo said of college officials. “They don’t handle crime scenes.”

Cuomo had campaigned last year heavily on women’s equality issues, promoting a 10-point package of bills that include pay equity and a codification of Roe v. Wade in state law.

The package passing a whole is unlikely to be approved in the state Senate this year given its Republican majority.

Cuomo today acknowledged the sensitivity of discussing the campus rape issue, comparing it to hot-button social issues such as gun control and same-sex marriage.

“The national dialogue is not as loud and pronounced as it should be,” Cuomo said.

He added that he hoped the assault policy adopted in New York would be replicated nationwide.

“It’s part of the bully pulpit of New York.” he said.

De Blasio Parts With Cuomo On Testing, School Takeover

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday called for a permanent extension of mayoral control for city schools and criticized Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s approach toward standardized testing and push to make it easier for the state to takeover struggling schools.

De Blasio’s testimony this morning before a joint legislative budget committee in Albany marked the kick off of what’s known as “Tin Cup Day” at the Capitol — typically a day in which mayors and other local government officials from around the state provide their reactions to the governor’s budget proposal.

In calling for a permanent extension of mayoral control, de Blasio quoted his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, who was a key political ally and generous donor to Republican lawmakers in the state Senate.

“Mayor Bloomberg and I agree,” de Blasio said. “Mayoral control gives the City the authority it needs to carry out a vision of improving and reforming education. The speed and scale of our pre-K-for-all and expanded after school initiatives were only possible because of mayoral control.”

Making the authority over the district permanent would “build predictability into the system, which is important for bringing about the deep, long-range reforms that are needed.”

Cuomo in his joint State of the State and budget presentation last month called for a re-approval of mayoral control for New York City schools as well as extending to schools in other cities, including Rochester and Yonkers.

While de Blasio credited Cuomo with the mayoral control push, he also admonished his efforts to reform public education in the state through more stringent teacher evaluations.

De Blasio told lawmakers that education reform “must be done the right way.”

“Of course, we must have standards and accountability – we all agree on that,” the mayor said. “But excessive reliance on high-stakes testing is troubling. Standardized tests should not be the largest part of a full evaluation of a student or a teacher. When small variations in student test scores result in failing ratings for teachers, and that can lead to automatic termination, it forces teachers to teach to the test, rather than teaching for learning. And it discourages teachers from serving our most challenging students. That is not good for teachers, parents, or students.”

He saved what was perhaps his most pointed criticism for the effort to make it easier for the state to assume control over struggling public schools through the appointment of a monitor.

In his testimony, de Blasio made clear that he opposes an effort to have the state inject itself in an effort to turn around failing schools in his city.

“… the fact is, mayoral control already makes it clear who is responsible for struggling schools in New York City – I am. I am fully accountable to the people of New York City, and if they do not believe I have succeeded, they will have the opportunity not to renew my contract,” de Blasio said.

The mayor’s budget testimony — his second in Albany since taking office last year — comes as he continues to part ways with Cuomo on key policy matters. Last year, Cuomo resisted de Blasio’s push to allow New York City to raise taxes on high-income earners in order to fund a city-wide pre-Kindergarten program (In the end, Cuomo funded a statewide version without a surcharge).

Now, de Blasio and Cuomo are odds over a minimum wage increase. Cuomo’s proposal would create a two-tier system that would provide for a $11.50 minimum wage for the city and $10.50 elsewhere.

De Blasio wants a $13 minimum wage for the city, plus indexing that would eventually make the wage $15 an hour as poverty advocates have called for in recent months.

Cuomo’s office has called the de Blasio wage proposal a “non-starter” with the Legislature.

At the same time, de Blasio’s push to develop Sunnyside Yards faces administration opposition as well.

If anything, de Blasio continues to face a classic problem that his predecessors have struggled with, namely the push and pull of home rule — a struggle that has stymied mayors dating back to the Rockefeller era.

But de Blasio is traveling to Albany in which majority Republicans in the state Senate are once again openly hostile to his agenda.

De Blasio sought to help Democrats take full control of the state Senate last year, only to have three upstate incumbents lose to Republican challengers last fall.

De Blasio last year also sought to shore up his alliance with Cuomo through lobbying the Working Families Party to endorse the governor for re-election.

For now, de Blasio strongest Albany allies may be the Assembly Democrats, who have a new speaker following Shelly Silver’s corruption arrest.

De Blasio traveled to Albany earlier this month to praise the new speaker, Bronx Democrat Carl Heastie, at a weekend gathering of black and Hispanic lawmakers.

De Blasio Testimony by Nick Reisman

Senate To Consider Port Authority Reform Bill

From the Morning Memo:

The Port Authority reform measure vetoed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his New Jersey counterpart Chris Christie in December, re-introduced this year, has advanced to the Senate’s active list.

Lawmakers in the chamber plan to vote on the bill today, a Senate spokesman confirmed last night.

The reform bill would create new accounting and oversight controls at the bi-state agency, which manages infrastructure shared by the two states.

In striking down the broader reform bill, Cuomo and Christie embraced their own set of reforms. Lawmakers in the Senate this month backed a chapter amendment that would subject the Port Authority to the Freedom of Information Law.

But lawmakers in the Assembly and Senate re-introduced the full legislative package in January as they wait to see whether the New Jersey Senate and Assembly can mount of an override of Christie’s veto.

Staten Island Sen. Andrew Lanza described the re-introduced bill as an “insurance policy” in order to achieve reforms at the public authority.

Lawmakers in New York are confident both governors are willing to negotiate new reforms to the port, even as an override threat looms.

Such a move would also require a more straight-forward override vote in New Jersey’s Legislature, which is already being planned for March.

The initial reform bill passed both state’s Legislature without a single vote in opposition.

An override wold be rare, politically tricky, but also embarrassing for both governors.

Last week, board members at the Port Authority declined to resign despite that being one of the recommendations backed by Cuomo and Christie.

Stewart-Cousins Gives Nod To Teachers

From the Morning Memo:

Senate Democrats this week continued to part with Gov. Andrew Cuomo on effort to overall the state’s education policies.

The latest move came in an interview on Susan Arbetter’s Capitol Pressroom with Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

The Yonkers Democrat was subtle in her approach to parting ways with Cuomo, whose stance on charter schools and teacher performance criteria, has irked the state’s teachers unions.

“There are so many things that have to be talked about,” she said in the interview. “This conversation is limited and it must be broadened and everyone I’ve spoken to understands. There will be a push and a pull.”

Stewart-Cousins asked whether students and teachers alike are receiving enough resources in the classroom, while adding that educators themselves are being excluded in providing their take.

“Hopefully our stakeholders, including our teachers who are so critical will be part of the conversation and everybody reaches a good end for our kids,” she said.

Her comments come after Stewart-Cousins took a more pointed jab at Cuomo’s education efforts in the state budget through a statement earlier this month.

“There has been too much demonizing of our teachers lately. As a former teacher, I understand firsthand the obstacles that many New York educators are facing and the resources they so desperately need in order to help our children,” she said at the time.

A Siena College poll released this week found most New Yorkers — 62 percent — back Cuomo’s efforts to make it more difficult for teachers to obtain tenure.

But in general, voters polled were more supportive of the teachers’ approach on education initiatives than the efforts being made by the governor.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany, and the Legislature is back from its mid-winter break. It is ON at the state Captiol!

At 8:30 a.m., Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi holds a breakfast fundraiser, (cost: $400 a head), Fort Orange Club, 110 Washington Ave., Albany.

At 9 a.m., Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. and other officials from the NY Hispanic Clergy Organization hold their fifth prayer rally for the 64-year-old nursing home patient and rape victim of Nanic Aidasani, who is scheduled to appear in court, Bronx Criminal Court, 265 East 161st St., the Bronx.

At 9:30 a.m., a joint legislative hearing will be held on the local government section of Cuomo’s 2015-16 budget proposal, (this was re-scheduled due to a snowstorm), NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will testify first, Hearing Room B, Legislative Office Building, 181 State St., Albany.

Also at 9:30 a.m., NYC Council Members Paul Vallone and Corey Johnson will hold a press conference to call for the establishment of full service animal shelters in Queens and the Bronx; City Hall steps, Manhattan.

At 10 a.m., NYC Council members Carlos Menchaca and Helen Rosenthal, advocates for worker cooperatives and workers express support for a City Council bill scheduled for a Thursday vote that would require reporting of city contracts and small business assistance awarded to worker cooperatives; steps, City Hall, Manhattan.

Also at 10 a.m., SUNY chancellor Nancy Zimpher, Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan, UAlbany president Robert Jones and Albany city schools superintendent Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard deliver an “Albany Promise” progress report, University Hall, University at Albany, 1400 Washington Ave., Albany.

At 11 a.m., Cuomo holds a cabinet meeting, The Red Room, state Capitol, Albany.

Also at 11 a.m., labor advocates release a report called “Empty Judgments: The Wage Collection Crisis in New York” to coincide with Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal’s introduction of new state legislation to provide workers with tools to recoup their compensation, LCA Press Room, (130), LOB, Albany.

At noon, NYS Financial Services Superintendent Ben Lawksy will deliver remarks on financial regulation at Columbia Law School, Jerome Green Hall, Room 106, 435 W. 116th St., Manhattan.

At 1:30 p.m., de Blasio holds a media availability, LCA Room 130, Legislative Office Building, 181 State St., Albany.

At 2 p.m., leaders from Agudath Israel of America and other advocates hold a news conference to discuss the Education Investment Tax Credit, 3rd Floor, state Capitol, outside Senate lobby near the LCA Room, Albany.

At 5:30 p.m., Assemblyman Marc Butler holds a $275-a-head fundraiser, Fort Orange Club Library, 110 Washington Ave., Albany.

Also at 5:30 p.m., Assemblyman Clifford Crouch holds a $250-a-head fundraiser, The University Club, 141 Washington Ave., Albany.

Also at 5:30 p.m., the SRCC holds a fundraiser, (cost: $1,000 per person), at The State Room, 100 State St., Albany.

At 6 p.m., Sen. John Flanagan and Assemblyman Andrew Garbarino hold separate fundraisers for $750 and $250 per person, respectively, at the Fort Orange Club, 110 Washington Ave., Albany.

Also at 6 p.m., NYC Public Advocate Tish James opens a planned series of public “Mayoral Control Forums: Our Schools, Our Voices” events in each borough to discuss administration of public schools; moot courtroom, Brooklyn Law School, 250 Joralemon St., Brooklyn.

At 6:30 p.m., Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro holds a $99 per person fundraiser at Cosimo’s, 120 Delafield St., Poughkeepsie.

Headlines…

An increase in the hourly wages for New York’s tipped workers was ordered by the acting labor commissioner, Mario J. Musolino, and will go into effect at the end of the year. It will consolidate three categories of tipped workers — whose minimum hourly wages range from $4.90 to $5.65 — into a single class to be paid at least $7.50 an hour.

In an interview with the NYT, Staten Island DA-turned-congressional candidate Dan Donovan “was unapologetic” about the outcome of the Eric Garner chokehold case, “and fiercely defensive of his record as an officer of the law. He did not conceal his frustration that his reputation has been transformed because of a racially divisive legal battle.”

The de Blasio administration, under pressure from ultra-Orthodox rabbis, is set to ease New York City’s regulations on a controversial Orthodox Jewish oral circumcision ritual that has been linked to herpes infections in infants.

Former Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver pleaded not guilty to three felony counts during his arraignment hearing in federal district court. Lawyers for Silver said they plan to file motions requesting the indictment be dismissed.

The former speaker’s legal team moved for a mistrial based on “improper extrajudicial statements” by Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, whose office is prosecuting the case.

Silver, 71, avoided injury after losing his balance on the ice outside Manhattan federal court on Centre Street as a TV newsman and one of the Manhattan assemblyman’s lawyers, Joel Cohen, grabbed him by his shoulders to catch him before he could fall.

The NY Post: “(T)here’s only one thing to conclude from Cuomo’s heated outburst over Dicker’s column: It couldn’t have been more spot on.”

Ninety-two percent of voters said in a Siena poll that corruption in state government is a serious problem (51 percent say very serious; 41 percent say somewhat serious) in the wake of the arrest and indictment of Silver. But the majority don’t think reform is worth risking a late budget to achieve.

The real estate lobby will press its agenda in Albany today, calling for the renewal of a major development subsidy program, warning lawmakers not to strengthen rent-control laws and arguing for the renewal of an initiative meant tot spur cleanup of contaminant sites.

More >

Extras

A portrait of Gov. Andrew Cuomo as a white Persian cat (AKA “Cuomew”) exists, as do paintings of several other New York elected officials portrayed as felines.

A former federal prosecutor explains how ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s attorneys might make the case that the corruption charges against him are unfounded.

“We hate to say it, but this has the mark of an administration that’s teetering.”

The president kept his promise to veto legislation that would have given the federal government’s blessing to the Keystone pipeline, but he hasn’t yet made up his mind about the project’s fate.

Rep. Elise Stefanik spoke on the House floor (her first floor speech) to commemorate the 35th Anniversary of the “Miracle on Ice” that occurred at the 1980 Lake Placid Olympic games. (For the record, the 30-year-old congresswoman wasn’t yet born when that historic win took place).

Reps. Steve Israel, Kathleen Rice, Hakeem Jeffries and Joseph Crowley derided “dumb” and “dangerous” Republicans for attaching amendments to a DHS funding bill that would rollback President Barack Obama’s controversial execution action on immigration.

The NYT’s Eleanor Randolph joins a growing chorus questioning why Cuomo wants to shut down nydoctorprofile.com. She wants more information on the site – and pictures.

The Court of Appeals will take up a case that could derail NYU’s controversial expansion plan and redefine what types of property can be considered parkland.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is trying to use incendiary remarks made by former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani as a springboard to raise money for his Republican presidential campaign.

The Syracuse Post-Standard: “Cuomo’s proposal to stop placing official notices about votes on constitutional amendments in the newspaper is a bad idea on multiple levels.”

Former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer will headline the Broome County GOP Lincoln Day Dinner this Thursday.

A federal investigation found that New York City public schools have long denied girls equal opportunities to play high school sports, and the city has promised to address the problem.

The U.S. Postal Service opened a Zip Code Boundary Review Process to determine if a unique Zip code for Halfmoon is warranted, according to Sen. Charles Schumer’s office.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio released the preliminary mayor’s management report for 2015.

US Attorney Preet Bharara and his wife, Dalya, attended the pretigious Vanity Fair Oscar Party with the likes of Jane Fonda, Anjelica Huston and Steve Martin.

De Blasio has decided to annul the regulation enforced by the Bloomberg administration on the controversial oral suction circumcision practice known as Metzitzah B’peh.

Stemming the exodus of young people from Long Island must be an objective of state business aid, according to Howard Zemsky, Cuomo’s nominee for economic development czar.

The film company set to be the first tenant at a new state-run nanotechnology hub in DeWitt has again delayed shooting of its first films in the Syracuse area.

AG Eric Schneiderman is in the market for a senior speechwriter.

Singer-songwriter Taylor Swift has donated $50,000 to New York City public schools.

A draft conservation plan for bald eagles in New York is now available for public comment.