Nojay Facing GOP Primary

He was rated the most conservative member of the New York State Legislature by the State Conservative Party in a conservative Assembly district, but that ranking isn’t shielding Bill Nojay from a Republican Primary challenge.

Last week, Honeoye Falls Mayor Rick Milne announced he was seeking the 133rd Assembly seat through a social media post.

“It is my belief, that the residents of the 133rd Assembly District deserve representation that will actively serve all the communities within the district and strive to support all the communities in a positive way,” Milne wrote.

Milne was elected mayor in 2005 and noted he served as president of the New York State Conference of Mayors in 2015 in his announcement.

When reached by phone Tuesday night, Nojay touted his opposition to Governor Cuomo’s policies on gun control and the minimum wage, which earned him that conservative ranking.

“If he’s suggesting he’d vote differently then let’s talk about the issues,” Nojay said. “If he has a substantive problem with any vote I’ve taken I’d love to hear from him.”

This primary challenge came just days before the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle reported he had consulted on Lovely Warren’s Democratic primary challenge of Rochester Mayor Tom Richards in 2013, a report Nojay described as old news.

“It was not at all a secret.  It was widely known in political circles in Rochester,” he said.

Nojay said he voiced his support for Warren on his radio talk show because there was no Republican in the race for Rochester mayor.  Nojay explained a mutual friend then got him involved with Warren.

“In 2013 the choice was between an incumbent Mayor who had no vision for the city and a young vibrant candidate.  (Assemblyman) David Gantt asked me to help out and I did,” said Nojay.

Despite follow up reports on his ethics filings, Nojay insisted he had nothing to hide and chalked up the examination of three-year-old information to this upcoming election cycle.

The 133rd Assembly district includes Livingston, and parts of Steuben and Monroe counties.  Nojay has already received the endorsement of the Livingston and Steuben Republican Parties.

The Monroe County GOP will hold its nominating convention Wednesday night.

 

Buffalo Billion RiverBend Site Remediation Costs More Than Originally Budgeted

Remediation of the site of Buffalo’s RiverBend project, the future home of SolarCity, cost more than initially expected. A spokesperson for SUNY Polytechnic Institute said there were numerous unanticipated issues on the site including radiological slag, unmarked utilities, buried foundations and tons of debris.

All in all, SUNY Poly confirmed it needed an extra $30 million. As reported by the Buffalo News, that brings the total site cost to $209 million.

“Governor Cuomo, Empire State Development, and SUNY Poly should be commended for turning a polluted and abandoned industrial site into a major green energy manufacturing hub. The first budget for site preparation at RiverBend, a former steel plant, was based on the fact that it certified as “clean” nearly a decade ago by DEC,”

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, D, said, based on the updates he’s received, it shouldn’t be a major problem.

“It seems that the project has gone over budget because there are some environmental issues that were not initially anticipated that had to be addressed, but I don’t believe that that will impede or slow the movement of the project forward,” Brown said.

Doyle said the state isn’t spending any additional money on equipment or to build the manufacturing facility.

Extras

A 21-year-old Bronx man was charged with trying to support the Islamic State.

Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, Buffalo Billion independent investigator Bart Schwartz insists he’ll be independent, but others remain skeptical.

Uber is moderating its expectations for New York ride sharing at the moment, given the atmosphere in Albany due to the ongoing investigations.

Amid high-stakes court battles, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics has hired two attorneys.

€“Onondaga County prosecutors will set a dangerous legal precedent if they are allowed to pursue criminal charges against Syracuse resident Bruce Conner for sending a letter to the editor without permission, according to Conner’s attorney.

A report detailing how many jobs were created in 2015 under the START-UP NY program is nearly eight weeks late and some are questioning why.

SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher says union support is key to the effort with the Department of Education to train teachers.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s poll numbers are suffering amid ongoing investigations into his campaign fundraising activities.

Advocates at the Capitol on Tuesday called for a ban on e-cigarette smoking in indoor spaces.

Veterans are making a renewed push for a pension benefit credit legislation that has been vetoed multiple times.

Finger Lakes horsemen are calling for a cut of the expected proceeds from the Lago Resort and Casino.

A pride parade in Suffolk County has been postponed amid security concerns.

Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist will not compete at the upcoming Belmont Stakes.

Cuomo Admin: Up To Investigator To Release Buffalo Billion Report (Updated)

It is unclear if the report being compiled by independent investigator Bart Schwartz will be publicly released, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s top counsel on Tuesday told reporters.

“It’s not our decision, it’s his,” said administration counsel Alphonso David. “He’s an independent investigator being retained by the state.”

Updated: Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi sent this statement along.

“Mr. Schwartz will make his findings public unless a law enforcement agency determines that it would interfere with their work,” he said.

Schwartz was hired by Cuomo’s office earlier this month after acknowledging a federal investigation was underway into the Buffalo Billion, Cuomo’s signature economic development program.

Schwartz is being charged with reviewing contracts under the program as well as giving the final go-ahead on spending.

Cuomo on Tuesday said in a gaggle with reporters a contract for Schwartz was yet to be finalized, but would be publicly available soon.

Cuomo called Schwartz a “credible, independent operator.”

Meanwhile, a vote before the Public Authorities Control Board determining whether to approve $485.5 million in spending for a Buffalo Billion-related project should be approved, Cuomo said.

:I believe it will. I believe it should,” Cuomo said. “These economic developmental programs in upstate New York are vitally important and have worked extraordinarily well. Well, there are questions about what one or two people. Alright, let’s get the facts.”

Cuomo Plans To Unveil More Reform Measures

Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans to introduce more ethics and campaign finance reform legislation after unveiling a package of measures designed to close the LLC loophole for a variety of state elected offices.

“We will be pushing for the broader package,” Cuomo said. “I’ll do it one at a time to focus on it.”

Cuomo indicated those measures will include to cap outside income of state lawmakers as well as term limits.

“We have a full agenda,” Cuomo said. “I want to make the point issue by issue to actually drum it home if you will.”

The effort comes with 10 legislative session days to go and counting before the Assembly and Senate leave Albany for the rest of year and (for the broad majority of them) run for re-election.

Reform measures have stalled in recent months, with Senate Republicans indicating they oppose a cap on outside income, while they remain at odds with Democratic lawmakers in the Assembly over differing measures for stripping corrupt officials of their pensions through a constitutional amendment.

The reform push this month also comes as Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion economic development program is under investigation by the U.S. attorney’s office as is the fundraising efforts by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Good-government groups have prodded Cuomo on conducting a public campaign of sorts on behalf of ethics reform legislation, insisting that would be an effective means of pushing the Legislature on the issue after a series of corruption scandals have rocked the Capitol.

But Cuomo has been hesitant to take on such an effort, arguing on Tuesday such a plan wouldn’t sway voters.

“A quote-un-quote campaign for ethics is not really effective,” Cuomo said. “It does not have the same resonance. It’s not about them. People want a clean government, but it does not have a direct effect on them.”

Challenging Legislature, Cuomo Unveils 8 LLC Closure Bills

In an effort to dare state lawmakers into passing a version of a bill to close the loophole in state election that allows for unlimited contributions through limited liability companies, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday announced plans to introduce no fewer than eight different proposals to deal with the issue.

Call it Choose Your Own Adventure: LLC Loophole Edition.

“Pass all of them, or as many as you’d like, but at a minimum, pass the one impacting anyone running for the office of the Governor,” Cuomo said in a statement. “I will go first – pass it and I will sign it into law today.”

The bills Cuomo has backed provide varying degrees of LLC closure coverage, but all include campaign fundraising by candidates for governor.

The permutations include turning off the LLC loophole spigot for all state elected offices, banning it for the Legislature as a whole, candidates for Senate, candidates for Assembly, candidates for attorney general and comptroller, as well as measures covering the AG and comptroller races separately.

One bill would just close the LLC loophole solely in the race for governor.

The effort is an attempt by Cuomo to call the question on LLC loophole giving. Cuomo is himself a prodigious fundraiser and has taken advantage of the loophole, which allows single donors to give unlimited amounts of money through a web of LLCs.

Cuomo has declined to voluntarily forego donations from LLCs, saying he would not want to unilaterally disarm and leave himself at a disadvantage.

“The people of New York are demanding change and it’s time we took action to restore the public trust by closing the LLC loophole and bringing fairness to our campaign finance system,” Cuomo said in a statement.

“For years, I have proposed closing the LLC loophole – one of the most egregious flaws in our campaign finance system – and every year the bill has stalled. This year, I am introducing eight different bills to close the LLC loophole – one for each elected office in the state.”

All of the bills backed by Cuomo would treat LLCs as traditional corporations under state election law and cap their contributions at $5,000 with the intent of having their owners not avoid disclosure requirements.

The caps would apply to donations provided directly to a candidate or through a political party or committee.

Cuomo’s introduction of eight different proposals is, in many ways, a classic legislative maneuver for the governor and could help him reclaim some high ground in a push for ethics and campaign finance reform before the legislative session ends next month.

At the same time, introducing multiple bills could allow each half of the Legislature to pass differing versions they prefer.

Good-government advocates have pushed Cuomo in recent weeks to undertake a public campaign for reform in the wake of the prison sentences for the two former legislative leaders in the Senate and Assembly, Dean Skelos and Sheldon Silver.

Senate Republicans in particular have been hesitant to take up the legislation to close LLC giving. Efforts to close the loophole at the state Board of Elections — which initially created the issue through an interpretation of a 1996 federal law — have also be rebuffed.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan in a statement said the real concern should be broader disclosure of political giving and called the LLC loophole issue a “red-herring.”

“If the Legislature and Governor are serious about reforming our campaign finance system and restoring the public trust, it won’t achieved by closing the LLC loophole, but rather through a comprehensive bipartisan approach that addresses the reality of the post-Citizens United landscape and brings disclosure and sunlight to the Capitol,” Flanagan said.

Republicans have pointed out the LLC loophole proposals in the past have done little to stem the influence of labor unions and their subsidiaries.

Dinolfo Addresses I-Square In Emotional Press Conference

Save for a press conference two months ago and a few isolated interviews with other media outlets, Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo, has refused to comment on a scandal with direct connections to her office. Tuesday, Dinolfo broke her silence, addressing the situation which led to the resignation of one of her top staffers, as well as four of the seven members of the County of Monroe Industrial Development Agency.

“It happened on my watch, and I am the county executive. The buck stops here,” the Republican said.

Dinolfo laid out the series of events that started March 18 when Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-New York, appointed Irondequoit Town Supervisor Adam Bello as county clerk, the seat vacated by Dinolfo when she became executive. Monroe County GOP Chairman Bill Reilich released a statement the same day claiming that under Bello’s watch, a major Irondequoit development, I-Square, had defaulted on its tax agreement with the county. Two days later, COMIDA made a sudden inspection of the site.

Dinolfo said in her March 20 press conference she presented incorrect information given to her by Assistant County Executive Justin Roj. She said she learned afterward that Roj provided confidential information about I-Square to Reilich and then acted to cover it up.

“I’ve come to learn that it was Mr. Roj alone who worked with and provided direction to COMIDA council. It was Mr. Roj who sought from COMIDA council a memo for public release, the preparation of which led to the inspection of I-Square on Sunday, March 20,” she said.

The county executive said she had dodged questions since her previous press conference because she believed it was a personnel matter. She said she was able to come forward now because the district attorney’s office concluded its investigation.

“I promised a transparent and open government, and by being here today and laying out the documents and discussing from the beginning to the end what occurred and taking some pretty substantial measures by relieving a long-time employee of his responsibilities here in the County of Monroe, I want the people in Monroe County to know that I will not tolerate this type of behavior,” Dinolfo said.

The county executive at times looked like she was struggling to keep her composure when talking about Roj. She described him as a smart and capable employee.

“Mr. Roj admitted that he purposefully lied to me. After this disclosure, it was clear that he could no longer work in county government. This was certainly difficult given that Mr. Roj was a trusted adviser and worked for county government for a long time,” she said.

Dinolfo apologized to I-Square owners Mike and Wendy Nolan, as well as the media and the community at large. She promised safeguards to avoid a similar situation in the future but the Nolans said it’s not enough.

“We really, sincerely walked in this morning hoping this was going to be brought to an end. It should’ve been brought to an end this morning. It could’ve been. She failed,” Mike Nolan said.

In particular, he said he was disappointed Dinolfo ended the press conference before answering every question from local media members.

“It’s been 60-some days of my life consumed by this mess, and she won’t take an extra 15 to 20 minutes to finish answering the questions. That is not open. That is not transparent,” Nolan said.

Dinolfo sidestepped questions about whether Reilich or COMIDA board member Jay Popli, who recently hired Roj, should themselves resign.

Legislative Leaders Indicate Support For PACB Spending

The top legislative leaders in the Democratic-led Assembly and GOP-controlled Senate on Tuesday indicated they support approving $485.5 million in spending for a subsidiary of the under-investigation SUNY Polytechnic, saying the money is vital for the continuation of the economic development program in western New York.

“There’s a general belief that it’s a worthwhile project,” Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said. “There are a series of questions that we put forward and we’re just waiting to get those answers back and then I think everything will be fine.”

Added Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan: “It’s critical to economic development in the state of New York, it’s critical to western New York.”

The vote for the Public Authorities Control Board is scheduled for Wednesday after it was delayed a week due to scheduling issues, according to the state Division of Budget.

The money is set to go toward an entity formed by SUNY Poly, which is being investigated for bid rigging by the state attorney general’s office. The money is part of a broader spending effort to the RiverBend project, the site of a SolarCity factory in western New York.

The project is a component of the Buffalo Billion program, an economic development effort that is being investigated by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office.

Both the Assembly and Senate have votes to approve the spending, as does the Division of Budget, which is part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s administration.

Still, lawmakers have questioned the spending, while Cuomo himself has said the funding is to be reviewed by the independent investigator his office hired, Bart Schwartz.

“There are a lot of vehicles for oversight which should take place,” Flanagan said. “But I don’t think that should be an excuse for not moving ahead and making sure we approve jobs for the economy.”

Heastie: Ride Share Bill Avoids NYC

A ride sharing measure under consideration by the Democratic-led Assembly would not cover New York City, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on Tuesday said in an interview.

Lawmakers in the Democratic conference discussed last night a draft of a proposal from Assembly Insurance Committee Chairman Kevin Cahill that would provide for an insurance structure for companies like Uber and Lyft to operate outside of New York City.

The bill would not cover ride sharing where it is currently allowed in New York City.

“This would really be dealing with insurance outside of the city of New York,” Heastie said.

As for ride sharing in New York City, Heastie indicated the measure would keep the current regulatory system from the Taxi and Livery Commission in place.

“That’s regulated by TLC and we’ll leave the jurisdiction to the city,” he said.

The bill avoids setting Albany in opposition to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration over ride sharing. Initially, state officials, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, had suggested a statewide framework could be development that would have jurisdiction over ride sharing in the state, including New York City.

As for the bill’s chances of passage before the end of the legislative session next month, Heastie was non-committal.

“It was a draft that Assemblyman Cahill came up with, put it out there for comments,” he said. “We’ll put it out there and see what happens.”

DeFran: PACB Money Should Be Approved

The $485.5 million in funding to be disbursed as part of the SolarCity project at River Bend in western New York should be approved, Deputy Senate Majority Leader John DeFrancisco said on Tuesday in a radio interview.

The Syracuse Republican, who relinquished his chairmanship on the Senate Finance Committee last year when ascending to the number two post in the chamber, is the latest lawmaker to back the spending amid an investigation by federal prosecutors into the Buffalo Billion, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature economic development program.

The money is slated to go toward a subsidiary of SUNY Polytechnic, which is under investigation by the state attorney general’s office for bid rigging.

But DeFrancisco, echoing lawmakers like Sen. Patrick Gallivan, told The Capitol Pressroom in a radio interview the should be approved by the Public Authorities Control Board in a vote scheduled for Wednesday.

He also warned against passing judgment on individuals before they have their day in court.

“In the case of the legislators, you don’t remove them from a position until it’s proven you’ve done something wrong,” he said.