Jun 15th - 4:26 pm
Following the Senate GOP’s punt earlier today on same-sex marriage, attention has turned to the Assembly, which requested – and received – a message of necessity from Gov. Andrew Cuomo so it can circumvent the three-day aging process and vote on his program bill this afternoon.
Assemblyman Danny O’Donnell, the bill’s sponsor, just Tweeted that the bill is through the Rules Committee and headed to the floor for the fourth time in NYS history soon.
Republicans, particularly Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, have been suggesting that there might not be sufficient votes in the chamber to pass the bill yet again. Advocates have rejected that assertion, and I guess we’ll be finding out who’s right soon enough.
The Democrat-Republican split in the chamber is now 99-51, with four vacant seats on the Democratic side. There are also a handful of members in both conferences who have a history of crossing the aisle on this issue. The pro-marriage folks just got some good news from Assemblyman Nelson Castro, a Bronx Democrat, who announced he has changed his mind and plans to vote “yes” today.
Castro’s full statement appears after the jump.
Jun 15th - 4:25 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier today sent a message of necessity to the Democratic-led Assembly, allowing them to bypass the normal three-day aging process and pass the bill today.
The measure is expected to be taken up this afternoon. Cuomo justifies the suspension of the aging process by writing in the memo:
“The continued delay of the passage of this bill would deny over 50,000 same-sex couples in New York critical protections currently afforded to different-sex couples including hospital visitations, inheritance and pension benefits.”
Jun 15th - 3:02 pm
The Assembly is expected to vote on a same-sex marriage bill as early as this afternoon, officials there just confirmed.
The vote comes with a message of necessity from Gov. Andrew Cuomo after Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, requested it be sent over to the chamber.
Update: We’ve learned the vote will take place around 4 p.m. this afternoon.
Though it’s been reported the measure will pass easily in the Democratic-heavy chamber, GOP lawmakers are shopping a theory that it may be more difficult this year than in previous years.
They say with the gains in 2010 (a total of 10 new Republican lawmakers) and with the mutlitude of vacancies left after several Democrats joined the Cuomo administration, a vote may not sail through as it has the previous three times.
The Senate, as we reported earlier, is another matter entirely.
Jun 15th - 12:57 pm
While we’re waiting for the Senate GOP to emerge from behind closed doors or send up some smoke signals on same-sex marriage, (we’re almost at the three-hour mark here), the fight over extending and/or strengthening the rent laws, which are set to expire at midnight, is continuing.
An Assembly Democrat told me not long ago that his conference is still struggling with whether to accept a 48-hour extension, an extension until Monday or no extension at all (this in spite of the speaker’s tough talk about rejecting all three).
Meanwhile, the advocates are handing out the flyer that appears below, highlighting the Senate GOP’s close relationship with the Rent Stabilization Association (president Joe Strasburg is the guy with a moneybag for a head) and likening Majority Leader Dean Skelos to a mob boss.
The Senate Democrats, meanwhile, are preparing to dig in. Sen. Adriano Espaillat, who has led the fight for his conference, sent an email to supporters in which he again pledged to remain at the Capitol “as long as it takes” to pass legislation that extends and strengthens rent regulations.
“Following my meeting with Governor Cuomo yesterday, I have once again rejected Republican moves to further weaken rent laws and allow landlords to raise rents and harass tenants,” Espaillat wrote.
“For the next 12 hours – and beyond – I will continue to fight to make sure millions of tenants are protected. I am working closely with Governor Cuomo who has joined us in our call for the extension and strengthening of rent regulations.”
Jun 14th - 11:24 am
There was something of a power struggle last night over who will chair the Black, Puerto Rican Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus for the next two years, according to several members.
The fight was won by Assemblyman Karim Camara, a Brooklyn Democrat. He defeated the incumbent chairwoman, Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson, whose district encompasses pieces of Mt. Vernon and the Bronx.
What’s news here is that Hassell-Thompson tried to hold on to her role as head of the caucus, as it is known in Albany.
Traditionally, there’s an understanding that members take turns leading the organization, which, when it manages to stick together, can be a powerful force in the Legislature. (Caucus weekend, the annual event hosted by the group’s nonprofit arm, is a must-attend experience for Democrats – and even some Republicans – running in New York).
It’s not unheard of for there to be competition for this post. But it’s nearly unprecedented – at least in modern times – for the incumbent to try to stay in power. One member, who asked to remain anonymous, called last night’s fight “extraordinary.”
“Many of us felt that while she had served well, it was time to move in a different direction,” the member said. “If David Dinkins, Charlie Rangel, Percy Sutton, Al Vann, and Shirley Chisholm all served just one term (as caucus chair), it’s a pretty high threshold to overcome.”
“I think it was unclear to a lot of us (why she wanted to stay). I wouldn’t say it’s completely unprecedented, but it seemed pretty extraordinary, and clearly it wasn’t embraced. Karim Camara is extremely well liked by members of the Senate and the Assembly, I think people enthusiastically look forward to him leading.”
The vote was held by paper ballot, which is also traditional. As CapCon’s Jimmy Vielkind reports, other caucus posts were also filled.
Jun 13th - 9:30 am
Today’s Siena poll finds New Yorkers share two of Gov. Andrew Cuomo top policy priorities – ethics reform and a property tax cap – and will hold chiefly the Senate Republicans to blame if either fails to pass this week – the last full scheduled work week of the 2011 legislative session.
More than 50 percent of poll respondents put requiring full disclosure of lawmakers’ outside incomes and passing a tax cap among their top two most important issues before the session ends June 20. Only 29 percent included Cuomo’s third priority – the legalization of same-sex marriage – in that list.
“The tax cap and ethics are the top two issues for voters of every party, every age group and every region, although for New York City voters the tax cap, ethics and extending rent regulation laws are all virtually tied for first place,” noted Siena poll spokesman Steve Greenberg.
If either the cap or ethics reform fails to pass, a plurality of the supporters of the proposals will blame Senate Republicans, more than Assembly Democrats and far more than Cuomo, according to the poll.
Both the Senate and Assembly are expected to pass the ethics reform deal formally unveiled last week at the Capitol. (The Senate is scheduled to take the matter up today; the Assembly is expected to follow suit later this week). The tax cap still remains an open question, although an agreement on that was announced far earlier – late May.
A Senate Republican told me last week there is “no question” a cap gets approved this week, but since there’s now talk of a temporary rent regulation extension – something the Assembly Democrats wanted linked to the cap – it’s unclear exactly how this will work. Will there be a stand-alone cap bill? Stay tuned.
Cuomo’s favorability rating has dropped a few points over the past month to 68-21 – the “lowest” since he took office in January, but still better than three-to-one and a number most electeds would kill for. At the same time, his job performance rating of 55-41 is up from 52-45. That’s his second highest job approval rating over the past six months, and the best since February.
Voters view each house of the Legislature unfavorably by approximately two-to-one majorities. However, a majority of voters view their local senator favorably and a plurality have a favorable view of their Assembly member.
On two other policy issues trending at the Capitol: A strong majority of New Yorkers support letting grocery stores sell wine, while they’re not quite ready to let the state join the ranks of those that have legalized mixed martial arts (AKA ultimate fighting).
Jun 10th - 5:13 pm
Rounding out the late Friday afternoon news dump, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver announced he was shuffling the top leadership and committee chairmanships in his chamber.
Among the notable changes: Tourism Chairman Steve Englebright is moving over to Government Operations, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz is moving from Aging to Consumer Affairs. He is being succeeded at Aging by Assemblywoman Joan Millman. Assemblywoman Annette Robinson will lead the Assembly Banks Committee, taking over for Darrel Towns, who left to become the top housing official in the Cuomo administration.
Perhaps not surprisingly, there was no mention of the stipends or “lulus” the legislators will be paid for their new jobs.
The full roster after the jump. More >
Jun 8th - 9:12 am
Assemblyman Jonathan Bing, an Upper East Side Democrat, was calling allies and party leaders last night to inform them that he plans to resign his seat within the next several weeks to accept a job with the Cuomo administration, according to sources with knowledge of the legislator’s plans.
Contacted via email this morning, Bing refused to confirm or deny his imminent departure, saying: “I can’t comment at the moment; sorry.”
Bing, who was first elected in 2002 to represent Manhattan’s 73rd AD, will be a deputy commissioner at what used to be known as the state Insurance Department, in charge of running the Liquidation Bureau. (As you’ll recall, the Insurance Department was recently merged with the Banking Department to create the uber Department of Financial Services, which is going to be run by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s chief of staff, Ben Lawsky).
It’s a little curious why Bing, who had been considered a top contender for Rep. Carolyn Maloney’s seat (should she ever leave or lose it), is leaving for a deputy post in the executive branch when other Assembly colleagues have been rewarded with bigger titles.
Former Brooklyn Assemblyman Darryl Towns, for example, is Cuomo’s housing czar. Former Utica-area Assemblywoman RoAnn Destito is OGS commissioner.
An Assembly source said Bing has been talking about landing a job with Cuomo for months now. He ran afoul of the UFT last year by supporting the repeal of LIFO. That landed him a primary challenge from a NYC high school teacher, and also won him the support of Mayor Bloomberg (he’s a constituent).
Bing successfully won re-election, but permanently damaged his relationship with the teachers union – and likely its labor allies in the Working Families Party – making it potentially difficult for him to seek higher office.
Bing won’t likely resign until after the session ends on June 20, and potentially won’t depart until next month. I’m told the frontrunner for his seat is Community Board 8 member Dan Quart, who unsuccessfully ran for NYC Council in 2005.
Once Bing does resign, there will be five vacant seats in the Assembly chamber. (Aside from Destito and Towns, two former Queens members – Nettie Mayersohn and Audrey Pheffer – have also resigned). So far, the governor has called no special elections.
It’s possible that he will simply wait until the already scheduled elections this fall, ostensibly to save money for the local boards of elections. It’s an off political year, so turnout will likely be light in most cases, although there are a number of county executive races going on in some parts of the state.
UPDATE: A Democratic source familiar with Bing’s new job took issue with my characterization of it, writing:
” This move was based heavily on family considerations – wife and young child at home, etc. Also, this position is huge – it’s executive, directly reports to Lawsky, runs the dept and it’s an area of expertise and, most signigificantly, it’s NYC. No travel to Albany (Destito and Towns have to be in Albany). This has absolutely nothing to do with UFT/LIFO/etc.”
UPDATE2: Now there’s an official announcement. Bing’s new title will be “special deputy superintendent of the NY Liquidation Bureau. The text of the press release appears in full after the jump.
Jun 7th - 1:30 pm
State lawmakers are targeting sexual assaults and harassment in hotels, requiring owners to provide sexual-harassment training to its employees.
The bill comes after former International Monetary Fund cheif Domnique Strauss-Kahn was accused of sexually assaulting a woman in a Manhattan hotel.
The measure is sponsored by Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, D-Manhattan, and Sen. Betty Little, R-Queensbury, Warren County. Little’s district includes the motel-heavy Lake George region.
“New York’s hospitality industry is a major part of our state’s economy and a very important source of jobs for many,” Little said in a statement. “It’s important that we have sensible policies in place to protect those in the workplace, raising awareness, providing appropriate training and ensuring that if something happens, the right steps are taken.”
Rosenthal said that not all incidents can be stopped, but she alluded to the DSK case as a reason for the legislation’s need.
“The behavior of hotel guests will always be unpredictable, and recent events have demonstrated that there is a clear need for sexual harassment awareness and prevention education and training for hotel employees. The training required by this bill will provide a much-needed layer of protection against aggressive and inappropriate customer behavior,” she said.
According to the lawmakers, the legislation would require hotels to provide a “clear” system to report incidents to hotel staff and external authories and protects employees from owner retaliation.
Jun 6th - 12:46 pm
At CapTon’s request, Assemblyman Sam Hoyt forwarded the 2011 invite to his annual clam bake fundraiser, an event for which the Buffalo Democrat and his staff go all-out in the creativity department.
As usual, the invite is a riff on a summer blockbuster – in this case, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – featuring Hoyt in the title role. There’s also a list of Top 10 reasons to “join Sam’s voyage”, which include tweaks at the GOP Erie County executive, Chris Collins, who’s seeking re-election this year; and perennial NY-26 candidate Jack Davis.
My favorite: No 2, which highlights one of the stranger stories to come out of Albany so far this year (and that’s saying a lot).