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Council Votes to Curb Deportations

The City Council overwhelmingly voted for two bills yesterday that will further restrict the city's cooperation with federal immigration authorities in an effort to prevent unnecessary deportations. The laws would stop the city from honoring detainment requests except for immigrants with previous felonies, who are on gang or terrorist watch lists, have outstanding criminal warrants, or have committed misdemeanors such as sexual abuse, gun possession and assault. However, the law would prevent holding immigrants charged or having been found guilty of most misdemeanors. The impact of the laws is unclear as they echo recent guidelines from the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement chair. "Current policy is eroding the trust between immigrants and local law enforcement and that frustrates the stated purpose of ‘Secure’ Communities,” said City Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn in a statement. “If immigrants believe that the police will hand them over to immigration authorities, they are less likely to report crimes, and this can only have a negative effect on public safety. We have seen too many families torn apart by current detention and deportation practices


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The New York City Parents Union is adding Mayor Michael Bloomberg's name to their lawsuit that aims to stop city schools from losing $250 million in education aid.

The group won a temporary junction to stop Gov. Andrew Cuomo from putting in place the cuts that were triggered by the failure of the Bloomberg Administration and the United Federation of Teachers to work out a deal on teacher evaluations.

In allowing the injunction, a state judge ruled last week that children should not be punished for a failure to reach a deal. 

The Parents Union says Bloomberg's attorney informed them today that the Mayor is going forward with the $250 million in cuts. So now the group has added Bloomberg, the New York City Department of Education and Chancellor Dennis Walcot to the lawsuit and asked the judge to extend the temporary injunction to them. 

"We are appalled that Mayor Bloomberg has decided to cut $250 million from New York City's public schools despite the fact that parents have obtained an injunction against Governor Cuomo and New York State Education Commissioner John B. King, Jr., stopping them from taking education funds due to the lack of agreement between New York City and the UFT on a teacher evaluation system," said NYC Parents Union President Mona C. Davids in a statement. "Is Mayor Bloomberg above the law?"

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The New York City Immigration Coalition may have its work cut out for itself this year: Its 10-point agenda is ambitious and will require action from Albany as well as cooperation from law enforcement.

The groups top policy priority is expanding access to college by passing New York State's version of the DREAM Act. The State's DREAM act which is backed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Council Speaker Christine Quinn would open up tuition assistance to students regardless of their immigration status.

Despite massive grassroots pressure, Gov. Andrew Cuomo did not make the DREAM legislation a part of his State of the State Speech in January. The Democratic-controlled Assembly has passed a version of the DREAM Act in the past and seems poised to do so again.

The Senate is a different story. The breakaway Independent Democratic Conference has indicated major support for the legislation but Senate Republicans have generally been opposed to the measure and have prevented floor votes. To add to the difficulty advocates face, it is unclear how many in the Democratic conference actually support the legislation.

Democratic Sen. Joe Addabbo said at a debate in October that he felt his constituents had a hard enough time finding money sending their children to college so he could not support the DREAM Act. His Republican opponent, Councilman Eric Ulrich, said at the time that he supported "some version" of the legislation.

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State Looks For Quick Action on Gun Laws 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to toughen New York's gun laws and according to The Times Union Cuomo wants to do it as soon as next week. A source told the times union that a gubernatorial aide presented Senate Republicans with a draft of proposed gun legislation on Wednesday but Republicans turned it down. Republicans deny turning down any legislation. A myriad of Assemblyman have confirmed they were asked to stay in Albany on Wednesday in case a special session came to fruition this week but now all eyes or on Dec. 28. Cuomo has said he will address the issue of gun violence in his Jan. 9 State of the State Address but with the action in Albany it seems like something could happen much sooner. Cuomo has said he wants to eliminate loopholes in the state's assault weapons ban. Meanwhile, the Times Union reports that the same venue Cuomo will give his State of the State address in next year will also scheduled to host a gun show two weeks after the speech




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Gov. Andrew Cuomo seemed to question the relationshiop between the Independent Democratic Conference and Senate Republicans in an interview with Fred Dicker this morning:

If Amedore actually wins then the problem for the Senate Democrats is a mathematics issue. They just lose on the numbers. So the whole IDC thing would become irrelevant. I don’t know what that would do to that arrangement. But, if Amadore wins, none of the consternation and that chatter would amount to anything because the Republicans would have won. Of course they have Simcha Felder, which whatever that situation is. But I don’t know that it’s over. I know the Democrats say they are going to appeal Amedore, so I don’t know.”

I asked Deputy Minority Leader Sen. Mike Gianaris at a press conference today what he made of the governor's comments and his tone was conciliatory: 

The agenda they set forth is the agenda we have been talking about for years. Ideologically we are more of a match for them than the Tepublicans who stand in the way, literally, of everyone of those objectives. So it has always made more sense that we would be together at the end of the day, so hopefully we will get there. 

Although Gianaris does not have a wonderful relationship with Sen. Jeff Klein, who leads the IDC, Democrats did recently replace Sen. John Sampson with Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins. Stewart-Cousins is said to have a good relationship with Klein. Gianaris, however, was named minority leader. 

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo has officially announced the date and location of this year's State of the State address — and all I can say is I hope everyone dresses warm. The event will take place on Jan. 9, at 1:30 p.m., at the Empire State Convention Center.

Cuomo has held his State of the State in the Empire State Plaza Convention Center for the past two years and each time I have felt like I was going to get hypothermia. One year, I even got bronchitis (it may have been my habit of wearing sandals in wintertime). Regardless, if you are attending, expect it to be cold. Acording to some news reports, this isn't an accident: Cuomo apparently likes to keep the heaters turned down low so that people are at full attention. Last year, the temperature outside in Albany was around 30 degrees at its high. If you want to attend the freeze-fest, you can register at www.governor.ny.gov

Cuomo said in a statement: 

The State of the State Address serves as an opportunity to speak directly to the people of the state of New York and lay out our plan as we continue to build on the successes of the past two years. Once again, we are holding the State of the State in the Empire State Plaza Convention Center so that we can be as inclusive as possible, and give New Yorkers from across the state the chance to participate in this day. I look forward to joining the members of the Senate and Assembly, and the public on January 9 as we kick off the new legislative session and continue to make New York the Empire State once again.

 

Tagged in: Gov. Andrew Cuomo

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“If Amedore wins, then the whole IDC thing would be irrelevant,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo told the New York Post's Fred Dicker today.

Cuomo was refering to the breakaway faction of Democrats, the Independent Democratic Conference led by Sen. Jeff Klein, that announced it was joining the Senate Republicans earlier this year to form a bipartisan coalition.

But, as Cuomo noted, if Assembly George Amedore's victory over Democrat Cecilia Tkaczyk holds up then the bipartisan coalition might not really amount to much because Demcoratic Sen.- elect Simcha Felder from Brooklyn decided to caucus with Republicans before the IDC made its deal.

There has been quite a lot of fuss made over Cuomo's connection to the power-sharing agreement with some folks, with some accusing the popular governor of orchestrating it himself. Cuomo even issued a "litmus test" to show that he was focused on issues and not party politics. The Senate Democrats have even switched leaders, which some says is ploy to lure the IDC members back into the fold in case their relationship with the Republicans doesn't last. 

The IDC has been rather defensive, if not touchy, about their relationship with Republican Senators – especially in the wake of a new focus on gun control legislation.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo is negotiating a package of major gun control legislation with legislative leaders that could come to a vote in a special session before Christmas, reports The Buffalo News

However, Cuomo officials are saying that negotiations are not moving quickly and it is more likely Cuomo will reveal the package in his January 9 State of the State Speech. The Daily News reports that the package could ban clips with more than 7 bullets and have tougher penalties for criminals who use guns in the commission of a crime.

Meanwhile, in what seems to be a seperate effort, represenatives from a group of over 50 legislators, gun control advocates and victims of gun violence will gather on the steps of City Hall at 2 p.m. today to push for a package of legislation to combat gun violence. Some of those expected to attend include Assemblywoman Michelle Schimmel, Assmeblyman Brian Kavanagh and Sen. Eric Adams. 

Before the Friday massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut Senate Democrats were talking about how gun violence was an issue they were going to press and were unsure what kind of results they would get from the Senate Republicans and Independent Democrats who appear to control the chamber.

Now it seems Senate Democrats will get to test out their new role a bit early--by pushing more progressive legislation from the sidelines. 

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The call for more gun controls has been a familiar refrain following the Connecticut elementary school massacre, but a number of N.R.A. backed congressional Democrats and some Republicans have joined the chorus this time. Some opponents of the N.R.A. say this most recent tragedy could provide a true test of the powerful organization. Even conservative pundit Joe Scarborough has called for stricter rules and Wal-Mart removed a semiautomatic assault rifle similar to the one used in the incident from its Web site. In the wake of the shooting, Mayor Bloomberg unveiled a new campaign for stricter rules, and will send out 34 videos to each member of Congress, a number meant to symbolize how many gun victims are killed daily nationwide. Gov. Cuomo also called for stricter federal rules, although he said the state’s assault weapons ban should be tightened, too.

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State Senate Democrats are expected to take a leadership vote later this afternoon.

A number of sources have said that the situation remains very fluid and have indicated that discussions about who should lead the conference have really heated up over the past week.

We reported last week that some Democrats were excited when Gov. Andrew Cuomo seemed to chide Republican Sen. Dean Skelos for not publically backing his litmus test. There has also been a lot of talk about voting for a new leader who might entice the breakaway group of Democrats led by Sen. Jeff Klein back into the fold, should there be trouble between them and the Senate Republicans.

However, other Democratic senators insist they will vote for the right person to lead the conference based on their positions and abilities not just someone who could possibly make the IDC happy down the road. Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins is being talked about as a favorite to replace Sampson, and she has a decent relationship with Klein.

We will update you on the situation as it unfolds. 

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo has issued a statement following the concession of Sen. Steve Saland who was one of the four Republicans who helped pass same-sex marriage in New York. 

Senator Stephen Saland has been an exemplary representative for the Hudson Valley whose leadership has made New York a better place.

Steve has been a true partner who always put what was right before politics, and worked with me during the past two years to rebuild this state and restore the people’s faith in government. Throughout his career, he championed issues that directly affected New Yorkers, from strengthening protections against domestic violence, to putting in place an all-crimes DNA databank. As a result of his courage, tens of thousands of couples here in New York State have the freedom to marry whom they choose. Steve is a public servant of remarkable character, integrity, and courage and serves as a model for our collective aspirations of how our elected officials should perform. It is unfortunate that an elected official who stood so strong for equality, as Steve did, was not able to survive in today's political environment.

I thank Steve for his work on behalf of the people of the state of New York and his friendship, and give my warmest wishes to him, his wife Linda, and their family as they enter this next phase."

 

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A recent Quinnipiac University Poll shows that New Yorker's support a minimum wage increase by a margin of 80 to 18 percent. Republicans support the measure 61 to 38 percent. 

Respondents were given a choice of the size of the increase they thought would be best and here is how they responded: 

43 percent say raise the minimum wage to more than $8.50 per hour;
28 percent say raise the wage to $8.50 per hour;
6 percent say raise the current $7.25 per hour minimum wage to something less than $8.50;
18 percent oppose any increase.

Respondents were much more conflicted about whether a minimum wage hike will result in employers hiring fewer workers--49 percent of respondents thought a hike would not hurt hiring while 44 thought it would. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has made some sort of a minimum wage hike a part of his priorities for next year as have the Assembly Democrats, the Independent Democratic Conference in the Senate as well as Senate Democrats but Senate Republicans have generally balked at the measure. Republican Conference Leader Dean Skelos has called a wage hike, "A jobs killer."

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City Considers Limiting Deportations

Two bills set to be proposed in the City Council today would further limit the city's cooperation with federal programs that seek to deport immigrants. The bills are in response to The Secure Communities Act which mandates fingerprints taken at local jails are compared to a Department of Homeland Security database. Anyone who is deemed an illegal immigrant is then marked to be detained. If the City passes these laws it will strengthen its reputation as immigrant-friendly. Gov. Andrew Cuomo symbolically withdrew New York from the program earlier this year. â€śWhat we don’t want is New York City’s agencies having to participate in deporting people who present no risk and in fact may be adding a great deal to the City of New York,” Council Speaker Christine Quinn told the Times yesterday in an interview. 




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Senate Republican Conference Leader Dean Skelos told reporters yesterday that his conference hadn't committed to passing any legislation that was part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's litmus test and hadn't made any "decision or agreement" on what legisaltion will come to the floor in this coming session.

Cuomo has said he will support any legislators who support his policy priorities, including a minimum wage hike and campaign finance reform; the Independent Democrats, who created a power sharing agreement with the Senate Republicans, publicly support those measures. Skelos, however, has been evasive and, at times, opposed to the measures. Republicans have to balance the wishes of their party base and their constituencies with their desire to stay in power.

Cuomo took to the airwaves today to tell Skelos to get behind his legislative agenda or fear facing his wrath.

“If that’s true then we’re going to have a problem, and we’re going to have a problem sooner rather than later,” he told Fred Dicker. “If Sen. Skelos is opposed to the agenda of the people of New York State, then I will oppose him." 

So far, Cuomo has played hands-off with the power-sharing arrangement in the Senate, even while the deal has been decried by Democrats as excluding minorities and being against the will of the people. But now that issues are involved, Cuomo is involved.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo devoted a bit of time this morning on Fred Dicker's Talk 1300 radio show to insisting that the powersharing agreement between the Senate Republicans and Independent Senate Democrats has nothing to do with him:

It’s not my job to determine who is a committee chairman, who gets the office in the corner, and what political alliances are. My job is to pass legislation that makes a difference for the people of this state.

But there are many in Albany who don't buy Cuomo's claims. You can pretty safely put The Times Union's columnist Fred LeBrun at the top of that list. 

In a column titled "A Puppet Master at Work," LeBrun seems to take some joy out of what he considers Cuomo's duplicity:

It is thoroughly amusing to watch the governor, whose operatives have orchestrated this goofy arrangement, sit back professorially and say he will judge the coalition only after he sees it in action as far as taking up legislation is concerned, and whether his "progressive" agenda is advanced, and on what it actually passes. Also that he will withhold judgment on the validity of the coalition until then. He even goes so far as to question how it possibly can get anything done, but just maybe.

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On Friday, President Obama asked Congress for $60.4 billion in Sandy aid for New York, New Jersey and other states. Nearly $48 billion of it would go to relief, while the rest would be used for mitigation of future storms. To further help recovery efforts, two U.S. senators have also proposed billions in tax breaks, a plan modeled after a Katrina bill. Meanwhile, a relief fund set up by Gov. Cuomo has been criticized for the political nature of the board that oversees the money it raises. Many members were involved in fundraising for the governor's election campaign. In related news, a number of the area's non-Sandy related charities have seen a drop in donations since the storm hit.

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Obama Expected to Ask For $50 Billion in Storm Aid


Preisdent Barack Obama is expected to ask Congress for about $45 to $50 billion in storm aid reports The New York Times. That figure is far below the $82 billion requested by New York, New Jersey at Connecticut â€śWhile $50 billion is a significant amount of money, it unfortunately does not meet all of New York and New Jersey’s substantial needs,” Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten E. Gillibrand of New York and Frank R. Lautenberg and Robert Menendez of New Jersey, all Democrats, said in a joint statement. The storm aid may get tangled up in the battle between President Barack Obama and Republican legislators over debt and tax rates. 

 

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There is a bit of a logic problem with the op-ed Gov. Andrew Cuomo's published today after it was announced that there would be a power-sharing agreement to run the State Senate.

Cuomo says in the op-ed that "the Democratic Conference was in power for two years and squandered the opportunity, failing to pass any meaningful reform legislation despite repeated promises."

But, as it happens, the people in charge of the Democratic conference when it was in the majority are currently members of the Independent Democratic Conference:  Sen. Malcolm Smith was majority leader and Sen. Jeff Klein was deputy majority leader during the two years Cuomo recalls as "squandered."

And the man that the IDC struck a "power sharing" agreement with, Sen. Dean Skelos, helped plan and iniate the coup that paralyzed the chamber in 2009.

Furthermore, even after the Senate coup was resolved and Sens. Pedro Espada and Hiram Monserrate rejoined the Democratic conference fold, Smith retained the Senate presidency and Klein kept his title as deputy majority leader.

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In an op-ed for the Times Union titled "Mainstream Democrats 'squandered the opportunity,'" Gov. Andrew Cuomo explained today that his political support is not based on party but on support of issues. The issues he sets out to earn his support are as follows:

1. The property tax cap that has finally imposed fiscal discipline
on local governments and provided relief to taxpayers
2. Campaign finance reform
3. Increasing the minimum wage
4. Reform of New York City’s “stop and frisk” policy
5. Environmental protection and initiatives that address our
changing climate
6. The education and Medicaid budget rate formulas that provided
fiscal predictability and sustainability
7. The tax cuts that brought taxes on the middle class tax to the
lowest rates in 58 years
8. Education reforms – like teacher evaluations – that bring more
accountability to our schools and continued improvement to our SUNY
system
9. Protecting a woman’s right to choose
10. Limited and highly regulated casinos introduced as economic
development generators

Before the power-sharing deal between the IDC and Republicans was announced, Democrats worried that Cuomo favored an alliance because it would allow him to pass his conservatve fiscal policy and his progressive social agenda.

Cuomo wrote in the op-ed that the Democratic Conference had more than one chance to prove their leadership ability:

The Democratic Conference was in power for two years and squandered the opportunity,failing to pass any meaningful reform legislation despite repeated promises. The Democratic Conference dysfunction was legendary and the current leadership has failed to come to a cooperative agreement with
Mr. Klein’s IDC faction.

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The New York Post reported this morning that state Sen. Malcolm Smith will join the Independent Democratic Caucus the group that has pledged to help keep Republicans in charge of the chamber.

Smith was Senate Majority Leader in 2009 when Senate Republicans staged a coup with the help of two renegade Democrats, which left the Senate in chaos for weeks. 

The Independent Democrats, created and led by Bronx state Sen. Jeff Klein, supposedly left the Democratic confernece because of the infighting and absurdity that took place when Smith was "in control" with the Democrats. Smith, however, looks to be setting himself up for a run for New York City mayor on the Republican ticket.

Klein bolted the Democratic conference when Minority Leader John Sampson replaced him as head of the New York Senate Democratic Campaign Committee in 2010. Democrats lost a number of seats under Klein's watch in the 2010 elections. But Klein and his followers got some perks from Republicans in 2011 while rank-and-file Democrats saw their budgets and staffing slashed. 

This year, Democrats have picked up at this moment an undetermined amount of seats — likely enough that if all Senate Democrats were on board they would be back in the majority.

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