Assembly Democrats Lay Out Their Agenda

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on Wednesday laid out an agenda for the coming 2019 legislative session — an agenda that can pass with more pieces in tact due to the coming Democratic majority in the state Senate, ranging from strengthening abortion laws, gun control and rent control in New York.

The push includes bolstering and expanding pre-Kindergarten and after school programs in the state. Heastie pointed to one his longtime priorities, My Brothers Keeper, as well.

At the same time, Heastie said he wants to pass measures that are designed to make it easier to vote, including early voting, no excuse absentee voting and consolidation of the state and federal primaries.

And the Assembly Democrats will back closing the loophole in state election law that allows unlimited donations through a web limited liability companies.

Heastie also listed upgrading mass transit in New York City, gun control, criminal justice reform and making it easier for the victims and survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file lawsuits.

Many of these measures have already been approved, in some form, by the Assembly. The difference for Assembly Democrats this year is a Democratic majority on the other side of the Capitol as well in the state Senate.

“During my nearly four years as Speaker of the State Assembly, I have had the opportunity to travel across the state, and I can confidently say that there is more that unites us than divides us,” Heastie said. “With that in mind as we look ahead to the rapidly approaching 2019 session, I look forward to working with Governor Cuomo and new Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins to craft an action agenda that puts New York’s families first.”

Rochester Lobbyist Arrested In Connection With Bribery Scheme

Federal prosecutors have charged a second person in connection with a bribery scheme that originated in Monroe County.

Lobbyist Robert Scott Gaddy was arrested Thursday for allegedly willfully aiding and abetting bribes to state Assembly Member Joe Errigo, in order to influence him to introduce legislation aimed at obstructing a pending development project. Law enforcement arrested Errigo in connection with the same scheme last month.

According to the complaint, an individual working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, conspired with Gaddy and Errigo and paid the two men a total of $10,500 over the course of several months. The lobbyist was originally approached about coordinating with another legislator, identified as “Member A,” but Gaddy suggested Errigo introduce the bill.

“The people of Western New York, like all our citizens, deserve to have representatives who act in the public’s interest, not for their own personal financial gain,” U.S. Attorney J.P. Kennedy said. “Where, as alleged here, legislative acts are undertaken not on their merits but in exchange for the payment of bribes and in hopes of personal financial gain, then all involved in the corruption of our legislative process ought to expect to face criminal charges.”

The FBI said it did not allow the proposed legislation or any other official acts to advance beyond preliminary stages. The legislation in question was assigned bill number A10227.

The official charges are: Bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds, and honest services wire fraud. Gaddy made his initial appearance Thursday and is due back in court in December for a status conference.

If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Abinanti Backs Limo Safety Bill

Assemblyman Tom Abinanti has introduced an Assembly version of the Stretch Limousine Safety Act in his chamber, a bill announced earlier this week by Sen. Simcha Felder.

The measure was introduced following the deaths of 17 passengers, a driver and two pedestrians after a stretch limo in Schoharie crashed.

“We need a more comprehensive approach to the inspection and licensure of ‘stretch limos’ to protect all New Yorkers,” said Abinanti, a Westchester County lawmaker.

“New Yorkers hire these limos to transport them safely to and from proms, weddings, and other special events. They count on the State to make sure that the vehicles and the drivers are safe.”

The bill includes a retirement age for stretch limos, new training requirements for drivers as well as inspection and insurance regulations that would make it harder for a vehicle to get back on the road should it fail to pass.

The limo involved in the crash, officials have said, failed inspection a month earlier.

Molinaro’s Per Diem Spending Under Scrutiny

From the Morning Memo:

As a member of the state Assembly, Republican Marc Molinaro in one year claimed $17,617 in expenses while traveling to Albany and back.

The per diem spending — used by lawmakers for meals and travel costs– would today place Molinaro second among the 213 members of the state Legislature.

His successor in the Assembly, Democratic Assemblywoman Didi Barrett, does not claim per diems.

Likewise, lawmakers from the Hudson Valley like Molinaro who travel even further from the mid-Hudson Valley to get to the state Capitol don’t take travel per diems, including Republicans Sue Serino in the state Senate and Kieran Labor in the Assembly. The late Democratic Assemblyman Frank Skartados also did not accept per diems.

Molinaro’s only contemporary in the Assembly was Skartados, who died earlier this year.

Molinaro’s per diem spending jumped in 2009-10. He spent only $2,000 or so during his first year in office, 2007. His increased per diem spending was partially a reflection of Molinaro’s rapid rise in the Assembly GOP ranks. At the time he departed the chamber to become the Duchess County executive, he had become assistant minority leader, a member of the Way and Means Committee and sat on several task forces, posts that required him to travel around the state.

Molinaro this year is challenging Gov. Andrew Cuomo for a third term.

“Sadly, this is just another attempt by Andrew Cuomo to cover up his disastrous record of making New York the highest taxed and most corrupt state in America,” said Molinaro spokeswoman Katy Delgado.

“But while we’re on the subject, maybe Andrew Cuomo should come clean about how much money taxpayer’s have spent for his travel on Air Cuomo and how much money has been stolen by his corrupt administration’s campaigning out of state offices. How quickly we forget, soon to be inmate, Joe Percoco’s 837 phone calls out of a government office while he was employed by the campaign.”

But one Democratic insider said Molinaro’s to call for fiscal discipline doesn’t square when he also took in per diems.

“Molinaro is all talk when it comes to protecting taxpayer dollars but in reality he’s raiding the collection bin. Just like giving tax breaks to county contractors that employ his family, Molinaro would rather line his pockets with New Yorkers hard-earned dollars than rein in government spending.”

Errigo Latest Lawmaker To Face Corruption Charges

Republican Assemblyman Joe Errigo was accused Wednesday by federal prosecutors of accepting thousands of dollars in cash bribes in exchange for introducing a bill at the behest of a lobbyist and an unnamed member of the state Assembly.

Errigo was charged with bribery and wire fraud, making him the latest state lawmaker to face corruption charges in the scandal-plagued New York state government.

Prosecutors outlined an alleged scheme in which an unnamed lawmaker — identified as “member A” in the criminal complaint — and a lobbyist worked to introduce legislation that transferred authority over a Rochester development project to the state Department of Transportation.

It was the lobbyist, also not named in the complaint, who suggested Errigo be used to introduce the legislation to make the bill “untraceable” to the original lawmaker.

The cash bribes, handed over in envelopes during different steps of the bill introduction process. The money used to “grease the skids” which included one payment for the legislation receiving a bill number. All told, some $10,500 in cash bribes changed hands.

Errigo was first elected in 2000 and served until 2010. He was re-elected in 2016 to fill the vacancy created when Assemblyman Bill Nojay died by suicide as he was about to face criminal fraud charges. During the campaign, Errigo made headlines when he suggest in a radio interview that President Obama was telling black to “kill the whites.”

Errigo lost his Republican primary earlier last month to Marjorie Byrnes.

“The allegations against Assemblyman Joe Errigo announced today are disturbing for everyone in state government and for the people of the 133rd Assembly District,” said Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb. “We have just learned about the charges, and more facts will be presented as the legal process runs its course. If a crime has been committed, the guilty parties should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Any time these kinds of accusations are brought against a public official, it severely damages the public trust.”

Lieberman Endorses Hikind Successor

Former U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman this weeke endorsed Simcha Eichenstein in the state Assembly for the district being vacated by retiring Assemblyman Dov Hikind.

“I’m delighted to be able to endorse Simcha Eichenstein for the New York Assembly in this year’s election,” said Lieberman, the 2004 vice presidential nominee.

“I haven’t gotten involved in many campaigns since I left the United States Senate, but this is an unusual one—first, because I know Simcha. I met him more than 15 years ago when I was in the United States Senate, and he came to talk to me to ask me to help him and others preserve cemeteries in Europe, where some of our family members were buried and had been overlooked and not cared for. It was a real mitzvah because, as we know, those who benefitted — those who were buried there—their neshamos were in Olam haboh—were not here to say thank you to Simcha. So he’s a very good person.”

Lieberman also recorded a video to tout the endorsement.

Hikind had previously endorsed Eichenstein for his Brooklyn Assembly district.

Unshackle Upstate Releases Endorsements

The pro-business advocacy coalition Unshackle Upstate endorsed 39 lawmakers in the upcoming general election.

Endorsements are based on the group’s legislative scorecard ranking state lawmakers’ efforts to strengthen New York’s economy, assessing floor and committee votes and bill sponsorships over the past two years in the state legislature. 15 State Senators and 24 members of the State Assembly won the group’s good favor–endorsing sans party lines, indiscriminately between incumbents and challengers.

“At Unshackle Upstate we believe in supporting candidates who support the issues that matter to the Upstate economy. We’re proud to endorse the following legislative candidates because of their commitment to reining in state spending, easing the tax burden on Upstate families and improving New York’s harsh business climate,” said Michael Kracker, executive director of Unshackle Upstate. “We strongly encourage voters who want to see a stronger Upstate economy to support these candidates on Election Day.”

Republican Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh from AD-112 said in a statement:

“As a member of the state legislature, I have always worked to prioritize the needs of Upstate New York’s business owners and taxpayers. It’s clear that Albany’s unsustainable spending and crippling tax burden need to be dealt with once and for all, and that makes it more important than ever that we partner with organizations like Unshackle Upstate to improve our state’s harsh business climate and defend the best interests of our hard-working families.

Biz Council PAC Makes Legislative Endorsements

From the Morning Memo:

The Business Council’s political action committee on Thursday will formally unveil its endorsements for the state Legislature as the group seeks to push back what it sees as an attack on “pro-growth” efforts in the state.

“The 2018 elections are shaping up to be among the most important in our state’s history,” said Business Council Heather Briccetti .

“With pro-growth, pro-jobs messaging under attack on multiple fronts, and the competitive challenges facing New York’s business community, it is critically important that New York taxpayers elect lawmakers who understand the role business plays in our state’s economic health. The lawmakers and candidates endorsed by The Business Council PAC have demonstrated a commitment to the issues most important to our members.”

The group is backing largely Republican lawmakers in both the Assembly and the state Senate, endorsing GOP candidates running this year in key swing districts, including Bob Antonacci, Tom Basile, Elaine Phillips, Annie Rabbit, Marty Golden, Terrence Murphy, Sue Serino and Jeff Pravato, among others.

The PAC is supporting two Democratic lawmakers: Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a Long Island lawmaker, and Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder, a Democrat who is allied with Republicans and helps them retain their narrow majority in the chamber.

Democrats hope a handful of races on Long Island, the Hudson Valley and one in central New York will give them a full majority next year and flip the chamber for the first since 2009.

The Business Council could face a range of legislative challenges next year, including the growing push for the adoption of a single-payer health care system in New York, which Democrats in the Legislature are running on as a top issue.

The full list of endorsements is after the jump. More >

Assembly Race Has Congressional Implications

From the Morning Memo:

State Assembly races typically don’t get the same kind of attention as, say, congressional contests, statewide campaigns, or even their state Senate counterparts.

There are several reasons for that. First of all, there are so many races, thanks to the fact that the chamber has 150 seats. Also, the body is all but assured of being controlled by the Democrats, as it has been for decades, so there’s not a heck of a lot at stake.

Typically, even tightly contested races Assembly are relatively inexpensive (comparatively speaking) and receive modest attention, at best, from media and the major parties.

The 147th AD contest does not exactly fit the bill of a tightly contested race. Republican incumbent David DiPietro is running for his fourth term, and has a challenger for the first time since 2012.

The GOP has a roughly 3-2 voter enrollment advantage, and has held the seat for decades, and it has been a jumping off point for higher office in some cases. In fact, a couple of relatively recent 147th Assembly members – Bill Paxon and Tom Reynolds – even went on to become members of Congress.

Yet, DiPietro has indicated he’s taking this race against Democrat Luke Wochensky very seriously. Yesterday, the Republican, considered among one of the state’s most conservative state lawmakers, brought on political pundit – veteran GOP consultant and gadfly Michael Caputo – to manage his campaign.

Caputo is best known either for running Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino’s “Mad As Hell” gubernatorial campaign in 2010 or for working with Donald Trump’s team in 2016 – a position that ultimately led to him being a witness in the ongoing special counsel’s Russian collusion investigation.

In short, Caputo represents an awful lot of firepower for a mere Assembly race.

On the surface, there are a couple of reason the move makes sense.

First, Caputo and DiPietro both live in East Aurora and are extremely close friends. They were both members of a small group that spearheaded the Trump for governor and Trump for president movements in New York.

DiPietro also indicated it’s not in his nature to dismiss an opponent. The campaign would surely like to send a message to Democrats in Erie and Wyoming county that the seat is not vulnerable in the future.

Still, there is another major factor to consider this cycle: indicted Republican Rep. Chris Collins’ decision to remain on the ballot, despite the desire of local GOP leaders to replace him with someone else, thanks to the charges he faces of insider trading and lying to the FBI.

DiPietro’s district falls entirely within the southern portion of NY-27.

Some Republicans have a genuine concern about the impact the Collins vs. Democrat Nate McMurray race could have on voters. Some disenchanted Republicans might simply opt to stay at home, which would cause a problem for down-ballot candidates like DiPierto.

On the flip side, a strong GOTV effort for the DiPietro campaign could help the GOP ensure NY-27 remains under its control. The closer Collins battle with McMurray appears in the coming weeks, the more we may see and hear about DiPietro’s re-election bid.

Assemblyman Ryan to Catholic Bishops: Stand Down on CVA

From the Morning Memo:

The reported accusations against Catholic priests in Western New York continue to pile up.

The state attorney general’s office is investigating how the diocese reviewed allegations of sexual misconduct. Even as that probe is ongoing, there have been plenty of cases coming to light – but few outlets for victims seeking relief.

Buffalo Democratic Assemblyman Sean Ryan wants his colleagues in the Senate to pass the Child Victims Act, and he’s calling on the Catholic bishops organization to stop lobbying against the bill.

“After what we’ve seen in Buffalo and after the Pennsylvania report that came out, my request to the Catholic bishops in New York State is to stop lobbying against this act,” he said.

Ryan said it’s important victims get justice. But more importantly, he said, perpetrators who are found guilty of the accusations lodged against them should be in jail to prevent others from being victimized.

State Senators have been hesitant to pass the bill in part because of how a civil lookback period could affect institutions like the church, which is already reeling – and paying out millions of dollars in settlement – due to the years-long priest sexual abuse scandal.

Ryan said the bishops need to accept the gravity and significance of the situation.

“Crimes against children are crimes; they’re not sins,” the assemblyman said. “There are sins and you can take care of that in a confessional, but there are also crimes and crimes need to be taken care of in a court of law.”

The assemblyman said the indiscretions of Catholic priests in the region have made it so the Child Victims Act addresses something well beyond a hypothetical problem. He said it has become a major issue – both locally and nationally – and one that people increasingly want to be addressed.