Jan 8th - 4:10 pm
Deputy Senate Republican Leader Tom Libous is hopeful that some agreement can be forged with Assembly Democrats and Gov. Andrew Cuomo on gun control, he said in an interview outside of the Republican conference’s offices.
Libous, the number two lawmaker in the conference, said that a hallmark of the Senate GOP has been compromising with the powerful governor over the last several years.
“We’ve prided ourselves in the last couple of years on compromise and there’s always a great opportunity to compromise,” he said. ”I think we’ve laid some good issues on the table and the governor has issues he thinks are important and we can put together a package that’s really going to go after the problem. Sometimes problems that exist in this state, and hopefully we can come to reasonable expectation where something can actually stop some of these horrific killings.”
Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos last weekend released a package proposal on stemming the use of illegal weapons, but the proposal was silent on updating the ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, two areas that Cuomo wants to see addressed.
Cuomo has been pushing hard behind the scenes for gun control legislation sooner rather than later. After meeting privately with Cuomo last week, Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein said that Cuomo wanted gun control to pass this month.
Still, deals could be in the offering on gun control, including a strengthening of Kendra’s Law, as well as limiting disclosure of pistol permit licenses in order to satisfy Republican concerns.
“We are willing to work with him, we are willing to work with our colleagues in the Assembly,” Libous said in the interview.
He compared what Republicans and Democrats are doing in Albany to the legislative gridlock in Washington and the fiscal cliff, a frequent point that Cuomo likes to make when discussing his own successes.
Republicans are meeting this afternoon to review rules changes that will create a coalition government with the five-member IDC.
“We had something of that effect for the last couple of years, but now we’re going to put it in the rules and actually vote for it,” Libous.
It remains unclear which conference leader – Klein or Skelos — will be the first temporary president of the Senate.
“We’ll flip a coin,” Libous joked.
Jan 7th - 12:52 pm
Sen. Liz Krueger, whose Upper East Side Senate district is one of the wealthiest in New York, has teamed up with Democratic donor/New Roosevelt Initiative founder Bill Samuels to propose using cash generated by the proposed casino expansion to pay for a publicly-funded campaign system.
The duo characterized their proposal as a “grand bargain” that would silence the concerns of detractors – mainly, the Senate Republicans – that a public campaign finance system would be too expensive and should not be funded with taxpayer dollars.
(There has been some verbal sparring over exactly how much such a system would cost, with Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos using a figure of $200 million a year and pro-reform advocates saying the number is actually closer to $40 million annually. Either way, it’s not chump change).
The proposal floated by Krueger and Samuels would use licensing fees of approximately $8 million a year from each of the seven casinos authorized under the constitutional amendment, assuming, of course, that’s it’s given second passage by the Legislature this year – not a foregone conclusion – and also passes muster with the public in a referendum vote.
Once up and running, the pair says, this would cover the cost of a full “fair elections” campaign finance system with matching funds for small donations from citizens, which experts have projected to be $224 million per four-year election cycle.
Annual sales revenue – an estimated $250 million to $1 billion – would be used to fund education, in keeping with the statutory requirement.
“The time is now for Governor Cuomo and lawmakers to make good on what they failed to do last time – pass real campaign finance reform and get money out of politics in this state for good,” said Samuels.
“It is at the heart of so many problems in Albany, and if Governor Cuomo put forward the type of leadership he used to get Marriage Equality passed, we could set an example for the rest of the country.
The real question though is which Cuomo will show up on this issue. His State of the State speech might reveal which Governor will appear on this issue.”
Dr. Gerald Benjamin, my father and a partner with Samuels in his EFfectiveNY campaign for constitutional change, called this idea: “as counterintuitive as it is powerful,” adding:
“It causes big money interests in the form of multi-billion dollar casino companies like Genting Group, Sands, Caesars, MGM Mirage and Wynn Resorts to be the agents of reform of our politics, not its further corruption.”
But when asked about the proposal in the Red Room this afternoon (following a preliminary presentation by the Moreland Act Commission investigating New York utilities’ response to Superstorm Sandy), Cuomo seemed unenthusiastic.
“We’ll do a budget,” he said. “…We have to fund education. We have to fund roads and bridges. We have people who need homes in the Rockaways – they have to be funded. We’re rebuilding from Irene; we have to finish doing that. We have a lot of important issues. An individual legislator can have their own issues, but at the end of the day, we have to fund a lot of top priorities.”
I guess the best you could say is that he didn’t completely rule out the idea, but he didn’t embrace it, either.
Cuomo has voiced support for campaign finance reform and creation of a publicly-funded system since his 2010 campaign. But he has yet to expend the kind of significant political capital necessary to achieve this goal that he has for other priorities like the property tax cap, same-sex marriage and pension reform.
Samuels and Krueger are scheduled to appear on Capital Tonight at 8 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. this evening.
UPDATE: The DN’s Ken Lovett reports that Sen. Jeff Klein, head of the IDC, wants to use casino cash to pay for a state Dream Act, which would help undocumented immigrants pay for higher education in New York.
This is just the beginning. Look for a whole slew of proposals to spend the money that would theoretically be generated by non-Indian run casinos, assuming they ever become a reality here.
Jan 7th - 11:09 am
Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins has just released a letter she sent to Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos on Friday, thanking him for meeting with her, and asking him to release the new senate rules today before they are put into effect on Wednesday when the chamber convenes.
In the letter, Stewart-Cousins says “it is clear that the Senate Republican Conference and Independent Democratic Conference intend to fundamentally alter how the chamber is governed.” But she does not provide any specifics as to how things will change.
Stewart-Cousins goes on to say, “Since we are meeting to vote on these measures a day before what is constitutionally mandated, it is crucial that all Senators are able to review these rules to determine how they will impact the legislative process, and ultimately, the public.”
Republican Leader Dean Skelos and IDC Leader Jeff Klein have yet to provide many specifics about how things will run in the chamber since they announced their agreement back in early December, often brushing off reporter questions about rules by saying it will be worked out between the two of them.
Among the questions that is still unanswered is how specific pieces of legislation will come to the floor, and whethr or nor Skelos or Klein will have the ability to block bills like gun control for example.
The full letter is below.
Jan 4th - 11:52 am
A day after Republican George Amedore announced he had submitted his oath of office with the state Board of Elections even as his Democratic opponent Cecilia Tkaczyk is yet to exhaust her legal options, Sen. Neil Breslin slammed the GOP assemblyman in a statement, calling it an “alarming disregard” for voters.
“Yesterday’s announcement from Mr. Amedore is nothing more than a blatant attempt to circumvent the democratic process. The idea of seating an individual before the election results are finalized is deeply disturbing and demonstrates an alarming disregard to the rights of the voters he is purporting to represent. It is critical that the judicial process be completed and all the votes counted before either candidate is sworn into office.”
Amedore’s 37-vote victory in the 46th Senate District was certified by acting Montgomery County Judge Guy Tomlinson, but Tkaczyk is appealing and a court hearing is due Monday. In his statement announcing the oath of office filing, Amedore noted that “I have tremendous respect for the appellate process, and look forward to a swift decision.”
With an Amedore victory, Republicans would have a 33-member majority in the chamber, plus a power-sharing arrangement with the five-member Independent Democratic Conference.
The newly drawn SD-46, which was added by the GOP during the redistricting process in order to hold and expand their majority in the chamber, stretches from the Mohawk Valley to the Hudson Valley.
Jan 3rd - 4:09 pm
It’s all a bit procedural, especially since Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk hasn’t exhausted her legal options just yet, but Republican Senate candidate George Amedore says he’s filed for his oath of office today with the state Board of Elections.
Amedore is not a guaranteed state senator from the newly created 46th district just yet.
Tkaczyk still has her day in court on Monday as an appeals court hears her case following the certification by acting Montgomery County Judge Guy Tomlinson in Amedore’s favor by a mere 37 votes.
“Following the State Board of Elections certification of my election to the 46th Senate District, I filed my oath of office today to serve the families of Albany, Greene, Montgomery, Schenectady and Ulster counties,” Amedore said in a statement. “I have tremendous respect for the appellate process, and look forward to a swift decision. I am eager to get to work on behalf of my constituents so we can keep building on the progress we’ve made in turning New York around.”
Republicans would certainly like the case to be resolved by Wednesday, the first day of the legislative session as they work out the finer points of the new power-sharing agreement with the five-member Independent Democratic Conference. Democrats have sought — and failed to receive — an order to have judges legally block Amedore from taking a seat in the chamber.
The SD-46, which includes the Mohawk and Hudson valleys, is the final outstanding legislative race from November.
Jan 2nd - 12:45 pm
Just as Gov. Andrew Cuomo was wrapping up his Q-and-A with reporters by railing against New York Republicans, calling out state GOP Chairman Ed Cox and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos for failing to join Rep. Pete King in decrying the House leadership’s failure to bring the Sandy disaster aid bill to the floor, the following statement from Skelos arrived in my in-box:
The failure of Congress to act on the federal assistance legislation to help the millions of people impacted by Hurricane Sandy is absolutely unconscionable.”
“People in my district and throughout the region continue to struggle to put their lives back together. Business owners are working to get back on their feet and everyone is trying to restore a sense of normalcy.”
“By walking away from the aid bill, the House leadership has turned their backs on New Yorkers in their time of need. Without action to provide federal aid, rebuilding homes and businesses and repairing vital infrastructure becomes even more of an uphill battle.”
“I urge the House to immediately take up the Hurricane Sandy aid legislation passed by the U.S. Senate so this critical assistance can get to the people who so desperately need it.”
Remember: Skelos’s district is in Nassau County, which was hit hard by Sandy.
King, who is also a Long Islander, said earlier today that the delayed Sandy vote is an “absolute disgrace.” He called on political donors in New York and New Jersey to cease contributing to congressional Republicans, saying anyone doing so would be “out of their minds.”
UPDATE: The Senate GOP press office says Skelos’ statement actually went out before Cuomo wondered aloud where the majority leader is on this issue. It takes a while for these blast emails to move through their pre-programmed lists, I guess.
Dec 28th - 2:38 pm
In classic Greg Ball fashion, the Hudson Valley Republican State Senator continues his push back against the Journal News with a new nickname.
The newspaper recently published the names and addresses of area permit-carrying gun owners obtained from a Freedom of Information Law request.
“As many of you know, The ‘Urinal’ News (new name, evidently) recently revealed the addresses of homeowners with pistol permits in Westchester and Rockland Counties,” Ball said in a fundraising email to supporters.
“What you may not know, is that many of those listed are retired cops, victims of domestic violence and single moms. Publishing this information on a website provides criminals with a map of where they can steal firearms from lawful owners for later use in the commission of crimes.”
In that email, Ball asks supporters to donate in hopes of reaching a $30,000 goal by January 1 due to exhausting his $1 million war chest leading up to the November election.
I assume it will only be a matter of time the CapTon crew gets its own Greg Ball nickname. Keep in mind “Crapital Tonight” is overplayed at this point.
Dec 26th - 9:14 pm
The campaign of Democratic Senate hopeful Cecilia Tkaczyk is filing an appeal on the 333 votes tossed out by a Montgomery County judge, claiming that they were discarded for “technical” reasons.
In the appeal, Tkcazyk says many of the votes — including 54 ballots in Democratic-heavy Ulster County — were tossed out on “hyper-technical” grounds in part because they were handed out prior to a two-week waiting period. An additional 206 ballots were tossed because voters had not properly listed their previous address, lawyers for Tkcazyk’s campaign contend.
The stakes in the outcome of the appeal are high. Republicans have already declared that Republican George Amedore is the winner in the newly drawn 46th Senate District after acting Montgomery County Judge Guy Tomlinson certified the race in his favor.
But the move allowed Democrats to appeal the race, which is the last outstanding race of the state Legislature.
Republicans have already formed an alliance with the five-member Independent Democratic Conference, but a victory in the SD-46 would give them a working majority, which includes Democrat Simcha Felder, who has pledged to sit the with GOP conference.
A GOP response to the Tkaczyk filing is expected by Friday.
Dec 19th - 9:55 pm
As The Buffalo News’ Tom Precious first reported this evening, there’s chatter that a special session could be called in the coming days to take up gun control measures in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre.
The chatter is indeed real.
Multiple sources confirm Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who’s anxious to be the first in the nation to tackle this issue – even before President Obama has a chance to push through any legislation in D.C., has been in talks with both the Assembly and the Senate in hopes of landing a deal.
But so far, the talks have not produced fruit, and negotiations over which gun-control bills might be taken up remain very much in the conceptual stage.
An administration official this evening insisted there are no plans for a special session and any gun control discussion taking place relates to what will be included in Cuomo’s State of the State address on Jan. 9.
The official stressed that a three-way agreement (or four, if you believe the IDC-GOP coalition is officially and firmly in place) is nowhere close to being reached.
Nevertheless, several Assembly sources say key members have been warned not to go very far in the coming days. Just in case.
Putting together a comprehensive gun control package to be voted on Thursday or evening Friday would be a heavy lift – even for Cuomo, who, as you’ll recall, pulled off a December deal last year on tax reform.
It hasn’t been ruled out by some in Albany that lawmakers could return sometime between Christmas and New Year’s.
But that would certainly make for some very ornery legislators – especially in the Assembly, where downstate members are very upset about not getting a pay raise this year.
As you’ll recall, Superstorm Sandy pretty much killed any hope of a special session at which a pay raise might have been addressed.
And voting to raise their own pay at a session called specifically to deal with gun control after a tragedy as deeply-felt as Sandy Hook would certainly be viewed as the height of opportunism and pretty much politically impossible for the Legislature.
At a cabinet meeting earlier this week, the governor called for progress – any form of progress – on gun control, even as he stressed that he believes this is largely a federal issue.
“I think what the nation is saying after Connecticut, what people in New York are saying, ‘Is do something please,’” Cuomo said on Tuesday.
“They look to government to respond to a crisis. They look to government to respond with leadership.”
“I think what they’re saying is put the politics aside and pass a bill that makes progress even if it’s not a perfect bill.”
It remains to be seen what Senate Republicans might be able to do on gun control.
The conference has blocked measures in the past – most recently the microstamping bill. But they could perhaps see the benefit of scoring public perception points by demonstrating a willingness to act so soon after Sandy Hook.
In doing so, the Republicans would remove the issue entirely from the table before the 2013 legislative session officially gets underway, earn some goodwill with the governor and also avoid a confrontation that they can ill afford at a time when their hold on the majority is so tenuous.
Dec 19th - 4:19 pm
Montgomery County Guy Tomlinson has certified the final outstanding state Senate race in favor of Republican George Amedore, but the move allows Democrats to appeal the hundreds of unopened paper ballots that have been tossed out.
Tomlinson certified the race with Amedore leading Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk 63,141 to 63,104, a 37-vote difference in the newly created Senate district that stretches from the Mohawk Valley to the Hudson Valley.
Republicans have declared multiple times that Amedore is the winner, but the certification allows the Democrats to officially appeal the judge’s basis for tossing out the ballots. Indeed, both sides have taken to calling their candidate “senator-elect.”
In a statement issued this afternoon, Tkaczyk spokesman Gary Ginsburg indicated the campaign will do just that.
“There are still hundreds of outstanding objections that have to be ruled on by the Appellate Court,” he said. “Every voter has a right to have their voice heard in the electoral process, despite efforts to silence them due to minor errors and incorrect instructions. When all the votes are counted Cecilia Tkaczyk will be certified the winner of this election.”
Democrats expect to file an appeal tomorrow morning, and it likely will not be argued in court unitl Jan. 7 following the holiday recess.
Nevertheless, Republicans consider this to be a big step in the process and say they’re confident Amedore will give them a 32nd member.
If Amedore is seated, he would give the Senate GOP 31 members, plus Democrat Simcha Felder who plans to conference with them come January.
Both sides in the IDC-GOP coalition insist that their plans won’t change should Amedore be seated next month.