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Posts by Nick Reisman
May 24th - 3:41 pm
New York Republicans are again knocking U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand for not criticizing Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and his handling of the Vito Lopez sexual harassment scandal.
After Gillibrand made the rounds on TV this week to condemn the spate of sexual assaults in the military, state Republican Committee spokesman David Laska suggested in a statement the Democrat was trying to have it both ways.
“Kirsten Gillibrand can’t have it both ways: while she treks around the country claiming to fight for sexual abuse victims, New Yorkers haven’t forgotten that she stood shoulder-to-should with sex abuse enabler Sheldon Silver at the DNC, and still refuses to call for his resignation. If she wants to eradicate patterns of sexual abuse in America, we suggest she begin at home.”
The criticism of Gillibrand on the issue is a line of attack we saw back in August, when the allegations of sexual harassment against Lopez were first made and Gillibrand was running for a full, six-year term against Republican Wendy Long.
Though most Democrats have not called on Silver to step down as speaker (in a chambe that Gillibrand isn’t a member of), she did criticize Manhattan Democrat’s handling of the matter in the October YNN/NY1 debate with Long.
“Vito Lopez should have paid those fines himself,” Gillibrand said in the debate. “Taxpayer money should not have been used.”
May 24th - 2:40 pm
As the Boy Scouts of America approve a plan that would allow gay scouts but still prohibit gay and lesbian leaders, Sen. Brad Hoylman is calling for an to the tax-exempt status to youth oriented organizations that discriminate against sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.
Hoylman is not just only the lone openly gay member of the Senate, but he’s also a former Eagle Scout.
“As the only openly-gay New York State Senator, a parent and a former Eagle Scout (Troop 70, Lewisburg, WV), I am outraged that the BSA has maintained its ban on gay adult leaders. This policy represents rank discrimination by the organization against LGBT people and is extremely painful to families like mine.
Hoylman introduced his bill May 13, but is touting the measure now as the BSA officially adopts the new membership guidelines.
Hoylman, D-Manhattan, called the move to continue to prohibit gay leaders in the Boy Scouts of America a stigma that reinforces and legitimizes bullying.
“I strongly believe that the BSA is obliged by the Constitution of the United States, longstanding state and local anti-discrimination laws and the Scout Law itself to categorically end its policy of bigotry toward gays and lesbians,” he said in a statement.
May 24th - 1:38 pm
Opposition to changes to the state’s Scaffold Law remains a heated issue in Albany, as evidence by the criticism from some advocates of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance’s BBQ fundraiser held last night.
My inbox last night included several statements of anger over the fundraising effort, which funds the alliance’s political action committee.
“This is disgusting — a barbecue to celebrate a campaign against injured workers?!? They are partying, while injured workers are suffering, to raise money to take away the wheelchairs from workers who fell off of roofs through no fault of their own. This is a morally reprehensible extension of big developers’ attempt to put profits before people’s lives,” said Joel Shufro of the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health.
The event, according to the invite below, is rather small dollar by PAC standards — $25 per person.
That a fundraiser for a political action committee is garnering this much criticism does seem unusual, but it’s a sign the issue, while not dominating the public conversation at the Capitol now, could become a noisier one as we head into the homestretch of the legislative session.
I’v reached out to the Lawsuit Reform Alliance and will post any response.
Update: Comments from both Unshackle Upstate and the New York chapter of NFIB have come in.
From Brian Sampson of Unshackle:
“It is no secret that the Scaffold Law has been the ‘goose that laid the golden egg’ for the Trial Bar in New York. No one is attempting to take away the rights of a worker to sue for injuries sustained on the job. But there needs to be fairness in the law that allows the employer to demonstrate what they have provided relative to training and safety equipment to his/her employees. The change we support would simply change the law to consider the actions of all those involved, not just hold the employer absolutely liable.
And from Mike Durant at NFIB:
“Scaffold law remains the standard bearer for the old New York’s anti-business reputation and is solely a golden egg for the Trial Bar. Worker safety is of course a concern for all employers, this law serves only to the benefit of the Trial Bar. Any and all efforts to reform this notorious law should be front and center as session ends. This criticism is ridiculous at best.”
Update X2: And Tom Stebbins of the Lawsuit Reform Alliance emails to note the fundraiser “had nothing to do with the Scaffold Law.” His repsonse:
For purposes of accuracy, our PAC fundraiser had nothing to do with the Scaffold Law, but it is amusing to me that the Trial Lawyers’ allies are increasingly hysterical about our organization and our Scaffold Law effort. Further, it is ironic, given that we were trying to raise $25 at a time, while the Trial Lawyers spend millions to block reforms.
In response to Mr. Shufro’s ravings, I welcome any proof that reforming the scaffold law would compromise safety in any way. Evidence from other states shows safety improved after they repealed their versions of the scaffold law. Perhaps Mr. Shufro should look at the data before he shoots his mouth off about our BBQ
May 24th - 12:30 pm
Comptroller Tom DiNapoli today warned against getting too accustomed to April’s rosy tax revenue, with collections standing at $8.6 billion, a 25.2 percent increase over that same period.
In a report released this morning, DiNapoli attributed the increase due to the growth of the personal income tax, but it’s likely to be a temporary increase, he said.
“The state’s new fiscal year started strong but we are unlikely to see PIT collections continue at this pace,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “The growth in these collections comes primarily in April tax settlements from individuals who accelerated income to avoid federal tax changes that took place in January. Economic signs are mixed, and while the financial markets are strong, the state must watch spending and trends carefully.”
The general fund has a closing balance of $6.4 billion, about $71 million lower than projected by the enacted budget.
All government fund spending grew by 27.8 percent, $1.5 billion, which is attributed to the timing of local assistance payments, according to the report.
May 24th - 10:20 am
From the Capital Tonight morning memo:
The effort to expand casino gambling in New York is rapidly emerging as perhaps the most do-able of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s end-of-session agenda items.
Unlike abortion rights or public financing, most lawmakers seem to be in favor of allowing commercial, non-Indian casinos in theory.
In practice, however, the move is a lot more complicated.
Cuomo has been trying to clear the deck of the most nettlesome concerns in the process, and that’s striking deals with the state’s American Indian nations. Already he’s put in place agreements with the Oneidas in central New York (to the consternation of the Cayuga) and with the Mohawk in the North Country that allows them to retain their exclusivity on casinos, but grants the state and local governments a slice owed revenue.
In a radio interview Thursday morning, the governor conceded the talks with the Seneca Nation of Indians in western Neow York aren’t going well and that he doesn’t expect a deal to be done with the nation.
Tribal politics and resolving decades-old disputes with the Indian nations aside, Cuomo has to also contend with state lawmakers, who also want some influence in the process.
Just as Cuomo wrapped up his interview on The Capitol Pressroom, Senate Racing, Wagering and Gaming Committee Chairman John Bonacic released his own detailed plan for casino siting, a move that he had originally signaled he wouldn’t do after speaking with Cuomo.
Broadly, the proposal gives priority to casino construction in the Catskills, with downstate gaming facilities in the mix by 2019.
The bill offers want lawmakers have generally said they want: A clear idea of where casinos could be built should a constitutional amendment be approved to expand gaming.
It also doesn’t seem likely to pass the Democratic-led Assembly, where there isn’t even a same-as bill.
Cuomo has insisted he wants the process of citing specific casino locations not in the hands of legislators, but vested in his own gaming commission. Publicly that remains a major sticking point.
After announcing his deal with the Mohawk earlier this week, the governor and legislative leaders huddled for nearly two hours on the casino issue. They emerged to say little, but also to reveal some internal disagreement.
Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos emerged from the Tuesday afternoon meeting to float a plan to allow Long Island OTB facilities to operate to manage VLT operations.
“Certainly, the governor is very affirmative about three casinos upstate. We need that for economic development there, but we’re going to look at all regions of the state and how everybody can benefit,” Skelos said told reporters waiting outside.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver came out of the governor’s office a little while later to plead ignorance on the OTB proposal, saying Skelos hadn’t raised the issue in the meeting.
May 23rd - 7:10 pm
President Obama today nominated former Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle to be a commissioner for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the White House announced this evening.
Buerkle is a Republican who unseated Democrat Dan Maffei in 2010, only to be unseated by Maffei in a comeback bid in the following election.
Buerkle is an interesting choice for a Democratic administration, given that she was considered one of the more conservative members of the state’s House delegation.
Here’s how the White House gave her bio this evening:
Ann Marie Buerkle served as the U.S. Representative of New York’s 25th Congressional District from 2011 to 2013. During her time in Congress, Ms. Buerkle was selected to serve as a United States Representative to the 66th Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations from 2011 to 2012. Previously, Ms. Buerkle was an Assistant Attorney General for the state of New York from 1997 to 2009. Earlier in her career, she practiced law in a private firm from 1994 to 1997. She began her career as a registered nurse at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in New York City. She received a B.S. from Le Moyne College and a J.D. from Syracuse University College of Law.
May 23rd - 6:05 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo appointed David Arroyo to fill a vacancy on the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, a lawyer who has ties to both Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer.
Arroyo is the senior vice president for legal affairs at Scripps Networks Interactive (the parent companyof the Food Network).
He previously served on Schneiderman’s attorney general transition team and on a judge screening panel for Schumer.
Before working at Scripps, Arroyo was the chairman was Latino Justice PRLDEF.
“David is highly-respected for his legal acumen and for his service with Latino Justice PRLDEF,” Cuomo said in a statement. “His experience and perspective will be great assets for the Commission as it moves forward with its mission providing guidance, training, and oversight to public officials under the ethics rules of our State. I thank David for his willingness to serve.”
Arroyo replaces the spot on JCOPE held by Westchester County District Attorney Janet DiFiore who resigned earlier this year to focus on her re-election bid.
DiFiore had served on the ethics watchdog as the chairwoman. When she stepp down, Cuomo appointed sitting JCOPE member Daniel Horowitz to lead the commission.
“The Joint Commission welcomes Mr. Arroyo, acknowledges his impressive credentials, and looks forward to working with him as a member of the Commission.”
May 23rd - 2:26 pm
The Democratic-led Assembly this afternoon approved an alteration to the January gun control law to exempt former law enforcement from certain provisions in the measure.
The debate over the exemption measure reignited the largely partisan dispute, however, over gun control and whether the law was hastily drafted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the wake of the Connecticut school shooting late last year.
Lawmakers and Cuomo agreed earlier this year to carve out an initial exemption for current police officers and law enforcement officials.
The legislative tweak made today would provide for a “limited exemption” for retired law enforcement officers who have met training requirements. The measure would allow the retired officers to possess large capacity ammunition feeding devices and assault weapons that had been addressed in the January law, known as the SAFE Act.
A version of the exemption bill is carried in the Senate by Brooklyn Republican Marty Golden and Long Island Republican Phil Boyle.
For supporters of the law, the change today isn’t considered a correction or a fix, but merely a clarification.
“This bill is not correcting a mistake in the Safe Act,” said Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh, a Manhattan Democrat. “It was acknowledged at the time we passed the SAFE Act, that it was not intended to apply to active duty police officers. There was a question which retirees ought to be able to carry weapons that are no longer available to civilians and this bill addresses that.”
Assembly Codes Committee Chairman Joe Lentol struck a similar tone, calling the initial failure to include former law enforcement “an oversight.”
“I think this happens a lot with legislation that we pass,” Lentol, D-Brooklyn, said. “Sometimes it is done in haste, but other times you don’t realize that you eliminate entire section when you’re writing an entire bill. It wasn’t intended to eliminate them, it just happened to eliminate them because of an oversight.”
But for Republican opponents, the bill today was another reminder of the law that has become a flashpoint for gun-rights advocates across the country.
“There was a time that I hoped this could be redeemable that with all its flaws and all of its haste that it could be salvaged by chipping away at it,” said Assemblyman Kieran Michael Lalor. “This is not a dialogue, therefore there can’t be any compromise with someone who is not willing to compromise. This bill wasn’t thought out.”
Alongside the legalization of same-sex marriag,e Cuomo has cited the gun control law as one of his key legislative accomplishments since taking office.
May 23rd - 12:51 pm
Yesterday in Buffalo, Gov. Andrew Cuomo really didn’t want to comment on former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s formal announcement that he’s running for mayor of New York.
“None,” Cuomo said when asked for his reaction. ”No reaction. Look, my face didn’t move. No reaction.”
But later in the day, the governor did respond to a question about Weiner in an interview with The Post-Standard in Syracuse.
Here’s the exchange, according Teri Weaver, between the governor and Syracuse Media Group Chairman Stephen Rogers:
Cuomo: “It’s basically democracy. Those are grownups (in the Assembly) who are picking, who pick their leader.”
Rogers: “So if Anthony Weiner wants to run for mayor, he can run for mayor.”
Cuomo: “He runs? He runs.”
Rogers: “And if we elect him?”
Cuomo: “Shame on us.”
That line has gotten some pickup today, with Drudge linking to it in, unsurprisingly, a double entendre-heavy headline.
May 23rd - 12:41 pm
After initially signaling he would back from his plan to introduce his own enabling legislation for building casinos, Sen. John Bonacic today announced the introduction of a bill that would give priority to the Catskill region.
In a lengthy statement that was released alongside a “fact sheet” on the proposal and a bill memorandum, Bonacic said his proposal is “similar to the concept” of what has been proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The full bill language can be found here.
Bonacic says his proposal would:
-Create regions in the state were casinos would and would not be allowed.
-Prohibit casinos “downstate” for five years
-Develop a casino siting board that’s appointed by the state gaming commission to recommend who receives a license
Bonacic’s proposal would create a timetable for which counties could be considered for the first three casinos, with either Columbia, Delaware, Greene, Sullivan and Ulster counties given preference.
The second casino would be primed for the Southern Tier, and the third in the Capital Region.
The legislation would exclude both Long Island counties, but the off-track betting parlors in Nassau and Suffolk counties would be allowed to operate one video-lottery terminal parlor in each county.
The final two casinos would be placed in either Westchester or Queens counties or any other county where an exclusivity clause has expired. The facilities there would not be sited until 2019.
Local approval or a signal of support to build the first five casinos would be required as well.
“Governor Cuomo gave us a road map, and while this is perhaps a slightly alternative route, we both are trying to reach the same destingation,” Bonacic said in a statement. “We both want the voters to have enough information to successfully pass in support of casino gaming this November.”
Bonacic, the chairman of the Racing, Wagering and Gaming Committee in the Senate, released a statement earlier this month indicating he would not release his own casino proposal, saying that he while he wanted preference for the Catskills region, he would wait for Cuomo.
State lawmakers and Cuomo have negotiated how to site the casinos in enabling legislation. Cuomo wants the process controll by his own gaming commission, but lawmakers want more control over the process and some specific idea as to where the facilities would be built.
Cuomo met with the three legislative leaders in the Assembly and Senate this week for more than 2 hours to discuss the specifics, but no deal was announced.
In addition to enabling legislation, lawmakers must also pass a constitutional amendment for expanding non-Indian gaming. The amendment is then subject to voter approval this November.
The governor, meanwhile, has been forming agreements with the Mohawk and Oneida Indian nations in order to grant them exclusivity to their own territory for casinos. The zones in central New York and the North Country have removed those areas from contention.