Negotiations Underway on Pension Forfeiture

From the Morning Memo:

The Senate and Assembly are negotiating new language on a constitutional amendment that would cause public officials convicted of wrongdoing to lose their public pensions – an issue that was supposed to be settled during last year’s session, but got derailed due to labor opposition.

“We’re working with Assemblyman (David) Buchwald right now to get a same-as bill so that both houses have the same kind of bill,” said Senate Ethics Committee Chairman Tom Croci during a CapTon interview last night.

“It’s a constitutional amendment that goes far deeper than what has currently been proposed at taking away pensions.”

As you’ll recall, there was supposedly a deal on this last year, but it was passed by the Senate and not the Assembly, which held off due to reservations expressed by unions that the language was too broad. The worry was that rank-and-file public employees, and not just bad-acting elected officials, who were supposed to be the target of this effort, would be impacted.

Despite numerous assertions that the Assembly would be revisiting the issue, it so far has not. Speaker Carl Heastie just yesterday said he’s seeking “clarity” about the amendment’s reach.

Reform advocates were heartened by the fact that the governor included pension forfeiture in his budget proposal, but lawmakers clearly would like to get something done outside the context of the budget.

Asked how far into the public employee ranks the amendment should reach. Croci said he likes the “federal model” in which anyone who is a position of shaping public policy and/or is a “leader” in a position of public trust is held accountable.

“Those are the kinds of things that we’re trying to sort out right now,” Croci said. “To make sure that we’re going after individuals, whether it’s in the governors branch of government, the executive branch, in the Assembly or in the Senate or in the legislative staff that are considered public officers…we’re having that conversation right now with (Buchwald’s) office.”

Long Warns Bonacic Over RHA

From the Morning Memo:

Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long this week warned Republican Sen. John Bonacic not to move forward with the Reproductive Health Act by forcing a floor vote or risk losing the party’s support.

In an interview on Capital Tonight on Tuesday, Long said he spoke with Bonacic this week at the party’s annual political action conference held in Colonie.

“I made it very clear to him he’s making my job a little harder,” Long said. “My hope is that he’s not going to try to move that bill. That would be detrimental to him if he did.”

Bonacic last month told reporters he was supportive of the Reproductive Health Act, a measure that is aimed at strengthening abortion rights in the state and codifies Roe v. Wade into New York law.

The support from Bonacic, who also said he would be working within his conference to get a floor vote, made him the first Senate Republican to publicly announce he’d support the bill.

A version of the bill was included in the 10-point Women’s Equality Act, an omnibus of bills that included pay equity, anti-human trafficking and measures to curtail discrimination in the workplace and housing aimed at women.

But the package also included the abortion plank, which Republicans in the state Senate balked at, insisting the measure was both unnecessary and an expansion of existing abortion laws.

Ultimately, nine out of 10 women’s agenda measures were made law in piecemeal fashion.

Moving the RHA to the floor through Bonacic’s advocacy, meanwhile, could risk losing the Conservative Party’s endorsement, Long said.

“That could happen. i’m not advocating that, but that could happen,” he said. “I’ve taken endorsements away from candidates and incumbents before and I could do it again.”

Bonacic, who did not have a general election opponent in 2014, received 7,163 votes of his total 49,787 on the Conservative Party ballot line.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany with no public schedule.

At 8 a.m., NYLCVEF, Enterprise Community Partners and NYU’s Wagner School host a policy forum on greening affordable housing in New York City, The Puck Building, 295 Lafayette St., 2nd Floor, Manhattan.

At 8:15 a.m., the Riders Alliance launches an “Apology Tour” with a cardboard cutout Cuomo saying he’s “sorry” for not funding the MTA’s capital plan in his budget proposal, Grand Central Terminal, Manhattan.

At 9 a.m., Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and Dinner Lab announce the grand opening of Brooklyn FoodWorks, a shared kitchen and culinary incubator in Central Brooklyn, 630 Flushing Ave., Brooklyn.

At 9:30 a.m., legislators will hold the 9th of 13 hearings on Cuomo’s budget proposal, focusing on mental hygiene, Hearing Room B, LOB, Albany.

At 10 a.m., state Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon outlines CUomo’s 2016 State of the State agenda, Sheldon Hall, SUNY Oswego, 7060 Route 104, Oswego.

Also at 10 a.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio holds a press conference, Manhattan 1/2/5 Sanitation Garage, 353 Spring St., 5th Floor (at intersection of West Street), Manhattan.

Also at 10 a.m., the Legislature will begin interviews of state Board of Regents candidates, Assembly Parlor, 3rd Floor, state Capitol, Albany.

Also at 10 a.m., Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton announce the results of a major long-term investigation, DA’s office, 350 Jay St., 19th Floor, Brooklyn.

Also at 10 a.m., the NYC Planning Commission will vote on Mandatory Inclusionary Housing and Zoning for Quality and Affordability, 22 Reade St., Manhattan.

At 10:15 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul outlines Cuomo’s 2016 State of the State agenda, Fordham University, Tognino Hall, 441 E. Fordham Rd., the Bronx.

At 11 a.m., Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz issues a report on platform development opportunities over railyards in the Bronx, Lehman College, 250 Bedford Park Blvd.

Also at 11 a.m., former NYC Mayor David Dinkins rehearses his narrative role in a special performance of Lincoln Portrait at Carnegie Hall next week in collaboration with renowned pianist Jiaxin Tian and the Manhattan Symphonie, DiMenna Center for Classical Music, 450 W. 37th St., Manhattan.

At 11:45 a.m., Deputy Secretary for Legislative Affairs Mark Weprin outlines Cuomo’s 2016 State of the State agenda, Bay Ridge Senior Center, 6935 4th Ave., Brooklyn.

At noon, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign will hold a news conference with supporters to announce the 80,000 signatures gathered to appear on the ballot in NYC, City Hall Park, Manhattan. (Sens. Bill Perkins and James Sanders, Jr., former Sen. Tom Duane, WFP State Director Bill Lipton and others are expected to attend).

At 12:30 p.m., Reardon delivers her second State of the State outline of the day, this time at Gigi’s Italian Kitchen, 2256 Hudson Ave., Rochester.

At 1 p.m., legislators hold their 10th of 13 joint budget hearings on the workforce development portion of Cuomo’s spending proposal, Hearing Room B, LOB, Albany.

Also at 1 p.m., de Blasio holds a press conference, 1 Police Plaza, 2nd Floor, Manhattan.

At 3 p.m., Hochul outlines Cuomo’s 2016 State of the State agenda, Yeshiva University, 215 Lexington Ave., Manhattan.

At 6 p.m., Hochul delivers remarks to the Adirondack Council, The Cornell Club, 6 East 44th St., Manhattan. (Closed press).

At 7 p.m., Deputy Secretary of State for Local Government Dede Scozzafava outlines Cuomo’s 2016 State of the State agenda, Mullin’s Family Restaurant, 1180 US-11, Gouverneur.

Headlines…

A battle over housing policy is quietly rekindling the feud between New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The Cuomo administration wants to add oversight to the city’s affordable-housing bonds, a measure the city fears will slow development and cause uncertainty among developers—and imperil the top item on the mayor’s agenda.

The New York Times: “Cuomo, who should be using his power to make New York City more hospitable to working-class and middle-class families, has instead slipped a little poison into his executive budget that could cripple the city’s ambitious efforts to build affordable housing…It’s not a stretch to call this sabotage (of de Blasio’s agenda).”

Cuomo on Wednesday will name Rossana Rosado, the former editor and publisher of El Diario-La Prensa, as New York’s next secretary of state. Rosado, 54, will replace retiring Cesar Perales, who has held that post for the past five years and is considered the most influential Hispanic official in the governor’s cabinet.

While de Blasio was in Iowa stumping for Hillary Clinton, opposition to his plan to shrink the horse-carriage trade and restrict it to Central Park has grown, prompting the mayor and his surrogates to do some last-minute vote wrangling to counter the growing number of antagonists.

“The Sopranos” actress Edie Falco, a backer of NYCLASS, sent robocalls to pols urging them to sign off on the deal to cut the number of horses to 75 and keep them in a stable inside Central Park, as did actresses Debi Mazar and Kathy Najimy. Hip hop mogul Russell Simmons was also personally calling members, according to NYCLASS. And X-files star Gillian Anderson is sending them e-mails.

Staten Island’s Groundhog Day celebration, held for 35 years, may have been the highest-profile appearance for Kathy Hochul in her yearlong tenure as lieutenant governor. She called the event an “honor,” but was feeling the pressure, saying: “It’s like being in the Super Bowl. You got to get it right.” (She did).

Sen. Michael Nozzolio, 64, who has represented the Finger Lakes region for more than 30 years, announced he will not seek re-election in the fall, citing a heart problem.

Nozzolio’s departure causes another headache for the Senate GOP as it seeks to retain the majority this fall. He was unopposed in four of his last six Senate campaigns, and with $209,986 in his campaign accounts as of mid-January,he likely would have been difficult to unseat in 2016.

Ontario County Republican Committee Chairman Doug Finch said there are three state Assembly members from that region who would be good GOP candidates to run for Nozzolio’s seat: Minority Leader Brian Kolb, Assemblyman Robert Oaks, and Assemblyman Gary Finch.

Many New Yorkers who earn more than a million dollars a year would see a tax increase under the terms of a proposal introduced by Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. (The idea was immediately shot down by the Senate Republicans).

A new Siena poll found voters overwhelmingly support a number of Cuomo’s priorities for 2016, but still hold mixed views about the governor himself.

Motorists at all 85,000 metered parking spots in the city will be able to pay the meter from their smartphone by the end of this year, de Blasio plans to announce in his State of the City address.

De Blasio denied he was micromanaging his image last year when his lawyers issued a sweeping mandate to review all public records requests that could “reflect directly on the mayor.” But the first batch of more than 50 requests forwarded to City Hall, and obtained by the AP, reveal many in which the “sensitivity or controversy” for the mayor’s office is tenuous at best. Some are downright innocuous.

More >

Passing Paid Family Leave, Assembly Dems Stake Out Position

The Democratic-led Assembly on Tuesday approved legislation aimed at providing up to 12 weeks of paid leave to workers — a measure that would have to be reconciled with the proposal backed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The Assembly bill approved by a wide margin Tuesday afternoon would be paid for with an expansion of the temporary disability insurance fund, while the governor’s initial plan would require a $1 deduction from an employee’s paycheck once full phased in.

But the Cuomo administration has signaled a willingness to make changes to the bill in the upcoming 30-day amendments due later this month that could satisfy some concerns paid leave advocates have voiced.

“We’ll review the bill,” said Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi. “Governor Cuomo is strongly committed to passing paid family leave in New York this session and he has introduced legislation to do just that.”

Speaker Carl Heastie at a news conference before the measure’s passage said he was also hopeful Cuomo would be willing to alter the program.

“We will be hopeful that he would get the benefit amount to somewhere where we are,” Heastie said. “We do believe our bill is better.”

Paid leave legislation in New York has languished for several years in the Legislature. Only three states have paid leave programs: California, New Jersey and Rhode Island.

Cuomo proposed a paid leave measure in his $154 billion budget proposal and has touted the measure with Vice President Joe Biden.

Democratic lawmakers pointed to provisions in their legislation would provide a more immediate benefit to workers, especially those on the lower end of the income bracket.

“We feel that our bill would take into account the concerns to the people that it really matters, which is the lower-wage worker,” Heastie said.

Senate Democratic Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins praised the Assembly’s passage of the legislation, calling it a “meaningful” program.

“As a national leader, we have a responsibility to serve as an example and finally pass this paid family leave proposal, and I urge the Senate Republicans to drop their opposition to this essential program,” she said.

Still, Senate Republicans would have to be convinced to back the legislation as they are also being pressured to accept a minimum wage increase. Cuomo and Democratic lawmakers back increasing the minimum wage to $15 over the next several years.

Senate Republicans have indicated a $15 minimum wage is untenable, but haven’t ruled out a wage hike at some point this legislative session.

Business groups, meanwhile, have raised concerns with the impact and cost of paid leave programs.

As for business concerns, Heastie said they “need to have a heart.”

“It’s the humane thing to do,” Heastie said. “If the person decided to leave even without the paid leave, they’d have to have a replacement worker.”

Extras

LG Kathy Hochul presided over Groundhog Day at the Staten Island Zoo and lived to tell about it – as did the groundhog.

Lawmakers will start interviewing candidates for the state Board of Regents tomorrow. There are two open seats – the at-large position being left by chancellor Merryl Tisch and the seat held by vice chancellor Tony Bottar, who represents the 5th Judicial District, which includes the Mohawk Valley.

Sen. Mike Nozzolio, who is retiring due to health concerns, was expected to face a GOP primary after he angered some constituents last year for voting for Long Island Sen. John Flanagan as Senate majority leader instead of Syracuse Sen. John DeFrancisco – a move critics said was a slight to upstate.

The state plans to spend $200 million to build a high-tech drug-manufacturing center in Dunkirk for a Buffalo biotech firm that would create hundreds of jobs.

A Long Island builders’ group is criticizing the lack of details in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s splashy plans for New York’s infrastructure and accusing Island lawmakers of abandoning the issue so far in the 2016 legislative session.

The Sullivan County Board of Elections will appoint a monitor to review challenges to voter registrations to settle a lawsuit filed by Hasidic Jewish residents in what legal experts call an unprecedented agreement in New York state.

WNY Republican and Democratic lawmakers are joining together to push Cuomo to provide “true parity” in funding between upstate roads and bridges and the downstate Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Former NYC Assemblyman Robert Jackson is running again for the state Senate seat currently held by Adriano Espaillat, who is running for the House seat being vacated by Rep. Charlie Rangel.

The families of Continental Flight 3407 joined with senators, congressmen and one of the nation’s most prominent pilots today to launch the first strike in what they expect will be a battle to preserve key aviation safety improvements won after Clarence crash that claimed 50 lives.

As Jon Kaiman prepares to run his final meeting tomorrow as chairman of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority before stepping down to run for Congress, speculation about his potential replacement is beginning. One name that has surfaced is that of former two-term County Comptroller Howard Weitzman.

George Marlin points out some potential problems with Kaiman’s political fundraising.

Julie Menin, NYC Consumer Affairs commissioner for the past two years, has been named commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment.

Former LG Bob Duffy channels his inner Eddie Money for a good cause.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ near win in Iowa puts NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Hillary Clinton supporter who once yearned to be the face of the national progressive movement, on the wrong side of its groundswell.

About 1 million, or half of the state’s property tax rebate checks have gone out and the other half should be sent out by the end of February, state Tax Commissioner Jerry Boone told lawmakers at a budget hearing.

The products in Syracuse’s newest medical pot dispensary at 2140 Erie Boulevard East sound like cappuccino flavors: “Dolce,” “Forte” and “Balance.”

Two state Assembly members from Syracuse – Bill Magnarelli and Pam Hunter – today endorsed Colleen Deacon over her two Democratic rivals in the race for the party’s designation for the NY-24 seat.

Former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg is giving a lecture to the 1-percenters at the private Bahamas resort Lyford Cay on Feb. 13.

Heaney Continues to Outraise Faso in NY-19

Andrew Heaney continues to out-raise his Republican primary opponent John Faso in the race for the 19th Congressional District.

Heaney raised $363,475 in the last quarter, according to his latest filing with the FEC. Faso trailed behind with $233,706.

That’s a larger difference than last quarter when both candidates were separated by about $20,000. Heaney pulled ahead in that filing with contributions totaling $645,856.

Now Heaney has a comfortable advantage over Faso with $761,890 on hand to Faso’s $624,267.

Both campaigns have spent similar amounts since declaring last year. Faso has thrown $234,188 into his campaign while Heaney has spent slightly more at $247,440.

Bob Bishop, a Delaware County farmer, has raised just under $6,000.

The two leading Democrats in the race declared their candidacy after the filing deadline, so we won’t have public information on them until April, just two months ahead of the Congressional primary.

We do know that within the first day former gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout declared her candidacy, she raised $43,656 from 1,000 contributions.

Teachout has received support from several Democratic chairs in the district, with the exception of Columbia County where Livingston’s Deputy Town Supervisor Will Yandik has the endorsement.

But if history repeats itself, Teachout has work to do to make up ground in the 19th Congressional District. Republican Congressman Chris Gibson won the district easily with 62.5 percent of the vote in 2014. His Democratic opponent, Sean Eldridge, was able to get 34.4 percent.

Enrollment also does not do Teachout any favors. Republicans and conservatives outnumber Democrats and WFP voters by almost 10,000 as of last November. There are enough voters who do not identify with either party for that point to be moot, though.

One advantage for the Fordham Law Professor – the year. We know statistically more Democrats turn out in a presidential election year than off-years.

Education Commissioner’s Charter Rally Appearance Stirs Union

eliaThe brief appearance by Education Commisioner MaryEllen Elia at a rally for charter schools in Albany on Tuesday caused a stir with the state United Teachers Union.

Up until now, NYSUT has been largely supportive of Elia, a former teacher in western New York herself and a one-time union member.

Elia was appointed by the Board of Regents to the top post in June, replacing Education Commissioner John King, who had been at odds with the union over a variety of education policy issues.

In her remarks, Elia thanked the attendees for their “support of education in New York.”

“I am very focused on choice,” Elia said at the rally. “I led my career with putting in magnet schools within the traditional school system there. We also had charter schools. My focus on all schools and all kids and all parents and all teachers is we all need to be focused on what makes education work for our children.”

But NYSUT wasn’t pleased with the appearance, even if Elia spoke in broad strokes.

“The commissioner’s appearance today at a political rally sends the wrong message entirely,” said NYSUT President Karen Magee. “The commissioner is creating a distraction and sending the wrong message to the Legislature.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo last year clashed with NYSUT over efforts to overhaul the state’s teacher evaluation system that links Common Core-based test results to performance reviews. A moratorium has been placed on the plan as the state reviews the education standards.

Cuomo also battled with NYSUT over charter schools, which has backed for expansion and extra funding.

Once again this year, Cuomo is seeking to boost charter schools through increasing funding statewide by $27 million.

Assembly Democrats on Tuesday signaled they won’t go along with those plans.

“The conference has long been clear on where we stand on charter schools,” said Speaker Carl Heastie at a news conference. “The governor likes them, the Senate Republicans like them. But I don’t think the conference’s position has changed, if any, over the last few months.”

Heastie: Assembly Wants ‘Clarity’ On Pension Forfeiture

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie at a news conference on Tuesday defended the chamber not approving the same-as constitutional amendment approved in the state Senate for pension forfeiture.

Heastie told reporters the conference had sought “clarity” in the amendment, which he indicated could have been too far-reaching for some lawmakers.

“The constitutional amendment only points to enacting legislation. So you could have a broad constitutional amendment and then any future Legislature or the governor given his extreme powers in his ability to write language, he can change the language or the legislation on which someone could lose their pension,” Heastie said.

“We just want more clarity if you’re going to strip peoples’ pension, we just want it spelled out this who and this is why their pension should be taken.”

Assembly Democrats were set to vote last March on a forfeiture amendment on the night budget bills were due to be considered that the GOP-led Senate had already approved. But lawmakers finished work for the night without taking up the amendment.

Labor unions had raised concerns with the parameters of the amendment and whether it could impact all public employees. Ultimately, Democrats chose to back an alternate measure that has not been approved in the Senate.

Republicans in both chambers have said it’s up to the Assembly to pass the Senate version of the amendment, which was supported last year by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

This issue is back on the table in Albany after both former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and ex-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos were convicted late last year of corruption, but retained their pensions.

In his 2016 State of the State, Cuomo reiterated his support for pension forfeiture.

Heasite added there should be other considerations due to as well, including the impact stripping a pension from a former public officials has on families.

“One of the things people need to realize that even for those whose pensions are taken, there are families that are affected,” Heastie said. “We in the Assembly we always want to be mindful how this is going to affect everyone. Yes people are going to raise concerns, because it doesn’t just affect who has unfortunately has done a misdeed, but it also affects the family. We just want to take a real holistic approach to things.”

Flanagan: No To A Tax Hike

As Assembly Democrats seek to raise taxes on the rich and create an earned-income tax credit, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan on Tuesday reiterated his conference’s opposition to a hike.

“Whether it’s income taxes, property taxes, business taxes, user fees, or tolls, we don’t support raising taxes or asking hardworking New Yorkers to dig deeper into their pockets to pay more,” Flanagan said in a statement. “Senate Republicans have a long history of standing up for taxpayers, and we recognize that New York should be cutting taxes across the board to help families make ends meet and to spark economic growth and opportunity all across this state.”

The proposal was unveiled as the state’s income tax rates are due to expire in 2017 and, with the adjustments, net the state an additional $1 billion in revenue.

It’s not wholly surprising Senate Republicans would publicly oppose a tax increase, which is being proposed as the conference faces pressure to back a minimum wage increase and a paid family leave program the Assembly is approving today.

Speaker Carl Heastie at a news conference said the conference would like to see the additional revenue that would come from the tax increase to be directed toward education spending.

“If we’re going to look to add revenue to come up with the spending plan’s priorities, this is absolutely the right time,” Heastie said.

NY-21: Stefanik Given Independence Party Nod

Rep. Elise Stefanik, a Republican freshman running for re-election to her North Country House seat, was endorsed on Tuesday by the Independence Party.

Though an early endorsement in the race, it’s the second time Stefanik has been given the party’s nod as she runs in a key battleground against Democrat Mike Derrick.

“I am honored to again receive the endorsement of the New York State Independence Party,” Stefanik said in a statement. “As I’ve stated from the beginning of our campaign, I believe in working on common sense ideas that help people in the North Country, no matter what side they come from. I’m committed to working with leaders from all across the 21st District in bringing a new generation of leadership to Congress.”

Lewis County Independence Party Vice Chair Joe Bruth praised Stefanik’s time in office.

“Elise has proven to be a principled and hardworking member of Congress, and we are once again proud to offer our support to Elise in her reelection efforts,” he said.