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What better way to celebrate the New York Public Interest Research Group's 40th anniversary than to have long-time good government gadfly Blair Horner return to deliver is one-of-a-kind anti-corruption quotes?
Horner left NYPIRG two and a half years ago to work for The American Cancer Society. He returns to NYPIRG right in time for Gov. Andrew Cuomo's anti-corruption Moreland Commission's first public meetings and the 2014 state-wide elections.
I will continue to work with them on the state’s important health issues,” Horner said in a statement. “I look forward to working on many other looming issues as well. From release of the findings of the Moreland Act Commission, to next year’s vote on the constitutional amendment on redistricting, to the 2017 referendum on whether to convene a Constitutional Convention, New Yorkers have big decisions to make and I want to be deeply involved in those discussions. Being back in NYPIRG allows me to do just that.”
Horner is known for blisteringly poignant and funny quotes about corruption and good government policy. Albany reporters can rest easy knowing Horner will be bringing his quotes back with him.
Spitzer Collects 27,000 Signatures
Eliot Spitzer filed 27,000 petition signatures with the Board of Election last night in his bid to get on the Democratic line for New York City Comptroller. Spitzer announced his run with only 4 days left to file signatures. His opponent, should at least 3,750 of his signagutes stand up to scrutiny, Scott Stringer filed 100,000 signatures. Stringer's camp and allies areexpected to mount challenges to some of the signatures. Spitzer's campaign paid some signature seekers $800 a day leading up to the Thursday deadline. Experts think Spitzer will make for interesting news for quite some time to come.
Gotham Votes 2013: We've got your elections news! From now until November, we'll be curating the races, from the Bronx to Staten Island. And, as we get closer to the primary on Sept. 20, look out for expanded information on the candidates and the issues.
Other Stories We're Following
Cuomo's Moreland Commission Meets Behind Closed Doors (Albany Times Union)
Gov. Cuomo yesterday followed through on threats to establish a commission to investigate corruption in Albany after the legislature failed to pass any bills addressing the recent rash of scandals there. The commission will recommend cases against public officials and suggest changes to election and campaign fund-raising laws. It can issue subpoenas and examine witnesses under oath and it's slated to issue a preliminary report by year's end. Many of the panels members have ties to the governor. Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and Former Manhattan DA Robert Morgenthau are special advisors to the commission.
City Finally Approved For .NYC Domain Names (Politicker)
Quinn Awards $210,000 To Nonprofits That Helped Her Campaign (Daily News)
Complaints Against NYPD Cops Mirror Stop-And-Frisk Locations (Daily News)
Bloomberg Administration Looks to Block Police Bills
The office of Mayor Michael Bloomberg is moving to stoptwo bills passed by the council yesterday that would make it easier to sue the New York Police Department over profiling and one that would create more oversight for the agency. Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have characterized the bills as undermining of the NYPD. The Mayor’s office hopes to veto the profiling legislation that passed with only the minimum votes required to override a veto. The bill creating an NYPD inspector general passed by what seems an insurmountable number for the Bloomberg administration. The Bloomberg administration will put its influence to the test over the next few weeks as Bloomberg serves out the end of his term.
Some See Conspiracy in Number of Minority Lawmakers Caught up in Scandal (NY Times)
De Blasio Faces Major Setback With Hotel Trade Endorsement (Daily News)
Weiner Challenging Quinn For Gay Vote (Daily News)
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is campaigning to be the first openly gay mayor, got teary-eyed today at City Hall as she discussed the U.S. Supreme Court's overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act.
"It’s indescribable, the feeling to be more of a citizen of the United States," said Quinn, who married partner Kim Catullo last year after Albany passed same-sex marriage in 2011. "Even when you’re speaker of the City Council, to have something happen that makes you feel more fully an American, and your family fully recognized — it’s indescribable."
After the Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act that prevented the federal government from recognizing gay marriage — and declined to take up a California case and thereby clearing the way for same-sex marriage in that state — elected officials across New York issued their own statements praising the historic decision.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who led the succesful fight to legalize same-sex marriage in New York, called the decision "a major step forward in our efforts to achieve full marriage equality in this nation."
– State Government Editor David Howard King contributed to this report. Photo of Quinn at City Council news conference on DOMA by Bill Alatriste.
'Call a Moreland Commission and let god sort 'em out'--that seems to be the attitude of Gov. Andrew Cuomo when it comes to dealing with corruption in the legislature.
But John Kaheny of transparency-focused Reinvent Albany says there are some very obvious improvements that could be made to fight corruption right now, without even having to invoke the Moreland Act.
"There are huge opportunities to use technology to radically increase transparency and understanding of the various state spending that serve as quid pro quos," said Kaheny.
For one Kaheny says Cuomo could, "Put all discretionary fund requests, appropriations, and action online in an easy to understand dashboard like Recovery.gov."
Despite the many scandals involving legislators using state discretionary funds to enrich themselves there is no comprehensive list of projects with the names of their political sponor's attached.
Senate Republicans passed a to amend Gov. Andrew Cuomo's SAFE Act gun control package to a vote at about 2 this morning. The bill has already passed the Assembly. The amendment would exempt former law enforcement officials from the SAFE Act's ammunition restrictions. Fourteen legislators voted against the amendment.
The bill drew a storm of opposition and outcry from Republican legislators who want a full repeal of the act.
A number of Republican Senators including Sens. Kathy Marchione, Cathy Young and John DeFrancisco voted against the amendment saying that they did not there should be a special exception for one group of "law abiding citizens" and that they instead favor a full repeal.
Sen. Marty Golden voted for the measure and argued that law enforcement officials need to carry firearms because they can run into people they put into jail. "If anyone has the right to a 10-bullet magazine it is the people that have the experience to use them," said Golden.
Sen. Greg Ball said that people on "his side of the aisle" voted on the bill at 2 a.m. because they, "don't want to know what is going on."
The State Senate approved Tom Prendergast as chair of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority at around 9:30 tonight.
Prendergrast has been acting chair since January and he was nominated in April by Cuomo to replace former MTA chair Joe Lhota who left to run for mayor.
Prendergrast previously worked as the head of New York City Transit and president of the Long Island Rail Road.
“Tom Prendergast has a proven track record of leadership and transportation expertise, especially when it comes to the managing the vast transportation network of the MTA,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement. “As Interim Executive Director, Tom was vital to the recovery of the MTA after Superstorm Sandy and he will continue to play a crucial role in making the MTA more modern, efficient and storm ready. I look forward to Tom’s continued success in running the nation’s largest transportation system.”
Transportation advocate Gene Russianoff of the New York Public Interest Research Group's Straphangers Campaign praised Prendergrast:
Cuomo to Investigate Legislature
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced yesterday that he could not come to terms with the state legislature on campaign finance reform and anti-corruption legislation and as a result will empanel a Moreland Commission to investigate campaign finance practices at the State Board of Election. Cuomo has long threatened such a move but after a session marred by multiple indictments of sitting legislators on federal corruption charges, Cuomo pledged he is prepared to act. Cuomo said a deal with the legislature failed because he felt they wanted to police themselves. A Moreland Commission would not be able to prosecute legislators but could refer cases. "I want to restore a level of trust," said Cuomo.
Teachers' Union Backs Thompson's Bid For Mayor (NY Times)
State Expected to Reduce Role of Long Island Power Authority (NY Times)
On a day when a Siena poll showed Gov. Andrew Cuomo's job approval rating drop to 50 percent from previously stratospheric digits, the governor took to the air to admit that two of his major policy points will not come to a vote this session.
Cuomo blamed the Independent Democratic Conference for not bringing his women's agenda and campaign finance reform measures to the floor of the Senate for a vote.
"I think it’s a mistake for the IDC, who are theoretically Democrats,” Cuomo told Susan Arbetter during an interview on “The Capitol Pressroom.” “It’s not what they said initially, and I think that’s what’s giving people pause. Women’s Equality, especially, campaign finance, public finance, what they’re really saying is, these are going to be election issues next year. And they’re not going to take them up governmentally."
Earlier in his term, Cuomo enjoyed high approval numbers and was able to tap what seemed like unlimited reserves of political capital to get the Legislature to do what he wanted.
If Cuomo's poll numbers continue to drop — as they have since he forced a gun control package through the Legislature earlier this year — then legislators will have even less hesitation to challenge his agenda.
Actor Martin Sheen, the lead actor in Apocalpyse Now and The West Wing is putting his weight behind a push to get farmworkers' rights legislation passed in Albany.
Sheen, a long time activist and friend of civil rights activist Cesar Chavez, recorded a voiceover for a YouTube video put together by The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.
Rural legislators are generally averse to the legislation because farm groups say giving workers overtime, days off and access to unemployment insurance could be cost prohibitive to small farms.
A compromise deal has become a real possibility over the last few days and could address that by carving out small farms and ensuring that only large agribusinesses that hire a significant amount of workers each season are effected.
Sen. Adriano Espaillat, of the Senate Democrats and Sen. Diane Savino of the Independent Senate Democrats have been working to get a deal done before the end of the legislative session.
Cuomo's Women's Agenda Stalls
In an attempt to gain support from Senate Republicans Gov. Andrew Cuomo and women's advocates offered an amendment to the abortion plank of his 10-point women's agenda yesterday. The amendment made it clear that the bill that creates an affirmative right to abortion "as established by the United States Supreme Court in the 1973 decision Roe v. Wade" would not allow for partial-birth abortions or interfere with the federal ban on them. Cuomo and advocates have insisted that all 10 points must be voted on as a whole. Republicans and members of the Senate's Independent Democratic Conference have said they would vote on 9 of the points that include measures to assure pay equity, tough penalties for sexual harassment and domestic violence. The amendment was dismissed by Republicans on Thursday who have insisted the bill will not come to a vote.
Candidates Support Staten Island R Train (Capital)
Weiner Claims he Coined 'Obamacare' (NY Times)
Common Cause says Gov. Andrew Cuomo needs to get his veto pen ready to stop the city from bringing back its old-school lever voting machines for this year's elections.
Both houses of the state Legislature are working on bills to allow the city's Board of Elections to delay a runoff in the mayoral primary and allow the city to use the lever machines.
The Senate version, sponsored by Republican Sen. Marty Golden of Brooklyn, would allow New York City to use lever machines in all non-federal elections. It would delay the runoff to three weeks after the election.
The Assembly version, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Michael Cusick of Staten Island, would only allow use of the antiquated machines for the runoff. The delay of the runoff would be the same as Golden's bill.
Common Cause refers to Cusick's legislation as "the less of two evils." Most good government groups oppose the use of lever machines at all and say the BOE should get its act together.
With seven days left in the state Legislature's session, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has unveiled a package of legislation to overhaul public financing of campaigns.
The package includes a 6-to-1 public matching system, an overhaul to the State Board of Elections and tweaks to laws that the governor says will make it easier to prosecute political corruption.
Even before Cuomo made his announcement today, Republican Senate Leader Dean Skelos told reporters he would block any vote on public financing of campaigns.
Cuomo announced the package knowing he didn't have the full Legislature's support and repeated a threat that has become a mantra for him: If the Legislature doesn't act on some kind of reforms, he will invoke a Moreland Commission with broad powers to investigate the Legislature.
When pressed if he was prepared to call for such a commission by the end of session, Cuomo snapped "yes" almost before the question was out of the reporter's mouth.
Two female Assembly staffers have filed federal and state lawsuits against Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Assemblyman Vito Lopez. The women allege that Lopez repeatedly made unwanted sexual advances. In one case Lopez reportedly told a staffer she should have sex with a Cuomo administration official to get a housing bill passed. The lawsuits allege that Silver provided "assistance" to Lopez that allowed him to continue harassing the women. Silver came to a secret settlement with two other women who Lopez harassed and allowed Lopez to hire the two staffers who have since brought other sexual harassment claims and these two lawsuits. The incidents have shined a spotlight on the culture of sexual harassment in Albany. Lopez resigned his seat after intense pressure and facing a vote that would have expelled him. He is still likely to face over $300,000 in fines from the legislative ethics board. Silver has apologized for his handling of the incident but has brushed off calls for his resignation.
Council Bill Would Cut Down on Adult Day Care Centers (NY Times)
Report: Pot Arrests in New York Vary By Race (Democrat and Chronicle)
Finger-Pointing On Stalled BIlls (Albany Times Union)
Gov. Cuomo finally released the legislation for his 10-point women's equality plan yesterday. The Senate poses the biggest hurdle for the act, due to the abortion measure. A spokesperson for the Senate Republican leader said the GOP could come to an agreement on all nine other measures, but they don't plan to bring the abortion part of the act up for a vote. Cuomo says he's unwilling to sever that provision from the other parts of the bill. Business interests also raised concerns that the legislation pose the risk of unnecessary legal action against employers.
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Email: Harassment Victims Wanted Full Investigation By Assembly (Daily News)
Months after he first announced it, Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled his 10-point women's equality legislation today with 10 days remaining in the legislative session.
Cuomo debuted the idea of the 10-point plan back in January during his State of the State Address and since then opponents and supporters have battled back and forth about what the abortion measure in the bill meant — without having actual legislation to argue over.
The abortion point of the plan would make the language of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision part of New York law. The bill also includes measures to fight human trafficking, pay discrimination and domestic violence.
The bill is expected to easily pass the Assembly but Cuomo said he has "no assurance" from the Senate that the legislation will pass. He said that discussions with the Senate Republican conference were similar to the stance they have taken in public, which is that the abortion part of the bill is a dangerous expansion of abortion rights. Some Senate Democrats also oppose the abortion language.
“Every one of the 10 points is important,” Cuomo said. “I see it almost as a statement of a bill of rights for women.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is set to introduce his "Women's Equality Act" legislation that includes a measure that will change state law to allow abortions after 24 weeks to protect a woman's health. Federal law already allows such abortions but the legislation is likely to set up a major battle in the state senate. Cuomo aides and advocates have identified a number of Senate Republicans who they hope to sway to vote for the legislation.The Assembly will likely pass the legislation with little trouble but Republican Senate Leader Dean Skelos has said he is steadfastly opposed. The legislation also includes measures to fight human trafficking, provide equal pay for women and implement stricter punishment for sexual harassment in the work place. The urgency to pass major pieces of legislation during the last month of session has united abortion rights advocates and campaign finance reform groups that are trying to pressure the Senate Independent Democratic Conference to bring the measures to a vote.
After three days of intense meetings and arbitration the New York State education commissioner imposed a teacher evaluation system on New York City schools. New York was the last district in the state to put such a system into place. The plan is unique compared to others in the state because it leaves a large part of implementation of the evaluations up to each school.(The New York Times) The city teacher's union lost out on a push to have representatives on a committee that will implement the plan. (New York Post) The city lost $250 million in state education aid for failing to meet earlier deadlines on an evaluation system. The next mayor could overturn the new system. (Wall Street Journal)
The city saw a surge of gun violence over the weekend as 25 people were shot in 48 hours. Staten Island was the only borough not rocked by gun violence as 12 people were shot in Brooklyn, eight in the Bronx, and four in Queens. One person was shot to death in broad daylight in Manhattan. (The Daily News)
Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the ugly sexual harassment scandal surrounding Assemblyman Vito Lopez is the perfect example of why legislators need to pass his 10-point women's agenda.
“I think it would be the height of hypocrisy for a body that just recognized the problem up close and personal within their own colleagues and to not take action,” Cuomo told reporters yesterday.
Cuomo has yet to issue a bill encapsulating all 10 points of the agenda, but it is known to include stiffer penalties for sexual harassment; anti-human trafficking measures; pay equality laws; and a more controversial provision that would encode a women's right to an abortion in state health law rather than in the criminal code.
Barbara Bartoletti of the League of Women Voters echoed Cuomo's sentiments earlier yesterday. "If anyone should be the poster boy for the women's agenda legislation Vito Lopez is it," Bartoletti said.
Bartoletti wants legislators back in Albany next week ready to pass the women's legislation as well as campaign finance reform. Otherwise she said all they will have from this session is "a legacy of scandal."
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver announced he is moving to expel Assemblyman Vito Lopez last night. Silver, facing a firestorm of criticism for his office's handling of the Lopez sexual harassment scandal is looking to take decisive action as soon as Monday. Silver refused to expel Lopez last year as the scandal broke but stripped Lopez of his seniority and committee assignments. Now, with more criticism focused on his office following the release of the Joint Commission on Public Ethic's damning report, Silver says he plans to introduce a resolution that according to his spokesman Michael Whyland will be, "voted on Monday to ask the Ethics & Guidance Committee to consider the full JCOPE report and to recommend appropriate sanctions including expulsion of Assemblymember Lopez." Earlier Thursday Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters the Assembly shouldconsider expelling Lopez. “The reaction from the legislature should be zero tolerance,” Cuomo said. “If he doesn't resign, he should be expelled.”
City to Sell Councilwoman's Debt to Collectors (Daily News)
Voting Machine Firm Offers City Help in Upcoming Election (Daily News)
Lopez's Girlfriend Sticks With Her man (Daily News)