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Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he wants to see the state Legislature pass a hike in the minimum wage and legislation that would decriminalize posession of small amounts of marijuana before he will even consider signing on to legisaltive pay raises. 

“We have a legislative agenda that has not been passed, which is the priority for me,” Cuomo said today at a graduation of the newest class of State Troopers. “If there is an opportunity for the Legislature to act, I’m going to be looking for them to act on the people’s agenda. I understand they may have an interest in a pay raise. I’m interested in a people’s agenda and that’s what the session would be about. “

A special session of the Legislature after the Nov. 6 elections has long been rumored. Legislative pay raises have been a crux of those rumors as well as campaign financing reform and other hot topics. State legislators haven't had a raise since 1999. 

Senate Republicans have been steadfastly opposed to a minimum wage hike and the marijuana decrimilization effort. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos called the minimum wage hike "a jobs killer" and made this memorable remark about Cuomo's plan to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana: “Just being able to walk around with 10 joints in each ear and it would only be a violation — I think that’s wrong,”

Cuomo hasn't exactly been gung-ho on a minimum wage hike up until this point. It has mostly been Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's baby, and Silver is currently a bit hamstrung by the Vito Lopez scandal.

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The National Organization for Women and Common Cause New York rallied today to call for a broader investigation into the "culture of sexual harassment in Albany."

The groups outlined a list of expectations for the Joint Commission on Public Ethic's investigation into the Assembly's handling of the Assemblyman Vito Lopez sexual harassment scandal. 

"JCOPE has an opportunity to prove itself by conducting a real investigation which reveals how pervasive the problem is, whether other instances of sexual harassment were properly addressed as well as bringing forth the full facts of who knew what and when they knew it. A hurried report which fails to address the full scope of the Assembly, and Mr. Lopez's, wrong doing is unacceptable," said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York, in a statement. 

Its unclear at the moment how far JCOPE's investigation will go into the sexual harassment scandal, but a spokesman for the commission told the Wall Street Journal that the probe would be thorough.

”As with any investigation undertaken by the Joint Commission, the evidence is followed wherever it may lead," spokesman John Milgrim said. 

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Today's Lead Stories...

Council Hearing on Policing


The City Council held a 6-hour hearing on police tactics yesterday that focused on stop-and-frisk. Four bills were mainly at issue. One bill would require officers to identify themselves and provide their name and rank during stops. Another bill would require officers to inform suspects of their right to refuse a search. Another bill would establish an Office of the Inspector General to oversee the police department. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Chief Ray Kelly were not present at the hearing and they oppose the measures. Bloomberg's council Michael Best argued that the council does not have the legal authority to legislate police tactics. Council Speaker Christine Quinn declined to say whether she supports the package of legislation. 




In the Press...

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Republican Councilman Daniel Halloran criticized his competitor in the race for the 6th Congressional District after raising money during an event hosted by Assemblyman Sheldon Silver on the 11th anniversary of Sept. 11.

Standing outside City Hall earlier today, Halloran said he "can't imagine" what Democratic opponent Grace Meng was thinking.

"Yesterday she was out trying to get money from New Yorkers on the 9/11 holiday," he told the Gazette. "I'm absolutely disgusted as someone who lost a cousin on that day."

A spokesman for Meng's campaign said that the candidate "spent the day commemorating the tragic events of September 11th with various organizations throughout the city."

"Indeed, one of those events was a lunch with Speaker Silver where Grace had the opportunity to share her remembrances with community leaders," spokesman Austin Finan said in a statement emailed to the Gazette. "To be clear, it was not a fundraiser. It was a meet and greet lunch. If individuals in attendance chose to contribute to Grace Meng's campaign, that was their prerogative."

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The sexual harassment scandal continues to remain the tops news today. The News reports that it was Assemblyman Vito Lopez who wanted the settlement payment to be kept from the public. Meanwhile, the Post finds sources who say Gov. Cuomo is worried that Assembly Speaker Silver may not survive the scandal. Silver has hired Mayor Bloomberg's former press secretary to help manage the situation. And finally, the fallout from Lopez's diminished stature has affected a number of primary races.

More headlines:

NYPD issues rules for use of social media during investigations

In quest for river’s power, an underwater test spin

Twitter must produce Occupy protester’s tweets: judge

Taxi TV to tell riders of scams

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The Joint Commission on Public Ethics may be considering an expansion of their probe into Assemblyman Vito Lopez's sexual harassment suit. Ravi Batra, a member of the commission, quit over the weekend, claiming the board had no independence. He also said good government groups were more concerned with Albany access than real reform. The attorney general and comptroller have been playing down their roles in the settlement. Also, a new accuser - who is also a candidate for State Senate - says she was the victim of sexual harassment when she worked in the Assembly Ways and Means Committee.

More stories in the press: 

Number of children in city's homeless shelters hits 19,000

Feds ready to recognize 9/11 cancer link

Ex-speaker spared $400,000 in lobbying fines

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Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver says he asked Assemblyman Vito Lopez to resign from office last week amid the sexual harassment scandal.

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“If true, the actions of Assemblyman Lopez are reprehensible, and the decision of the Assembly to keep secret the provision of ‑ and even the existence of ‑ a settlement agreement was wholly inappropriate and contrary to the public interest. Our office policy requires that agreements of this kind do not include confidentiality provisions. On May 30, 2012, an OAG attorney provided the Assembly's counsel with a copy of a model pre-litigation settlement agreement which included no provision mandating secrecy or confidentiality.
“Our office has already been in communication with Ellen Biben, the Executive Director of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics. We have already provided the Commission and the press with copies of all communications with the Assembly in our possession relating to this matter, and stand ready to work with JCOPE to ensure a full and fair investigation.”
BACKGROUND ON OAG ROLE IN EMPLOYMENT LITIGATION
The Office of the Attorney General serves as litigation counsel for the State including state agencies, the Governor, the Comptroller, the Legislature, the Office of Court of Administration, some authorities, and state employees and officers, including members of the legislature.  That is, we are the State's trial lawyers, as opposed to the lawyers within agencies and the Legislature who act as general counsel.
We act primarily as defense counsel representing these entities when they are sued. In this matter, because no litigation was initiated, the Office of the Attorney General did not represent the Assembly in its internal employment dispute.
We defend the State, state agencies as well as individual state employees in employment litigation which does not include administrative proceedings, or pre-litigation investigation, or alternative dispute resolution.
In the course of litigation, we analyze whether it is in the best interests of the state to settle matters before trial, taking into account, for instance, saving taxpayer money.
The OAG settlement policy provides that all Settlement Agreements be public in accordance with the principles of Open Government except for compelling reasons, including public safety.
Accordingly, the OAG standard settlement terms do not include confidentiality provisions. Further, our policy is that when defending the state in litigation, we do not enter into any confidential or secret litigation settlements, and we would not view a sexual harassment case as a compelling exemption to this policy.
In employment litigation, clients often request that the terms of the settlement be confidential and we regularly reject such requests based on our policy.
State agencies, including the Legislature, consult with us from time to time on matters where we have expertise such as bankruptcy, employment, and contracts in a non-litigation context, or in anticipation of litigation.
We do not, in our work defending the State:
(1)            make agency management or business decisions;
(2)            participate in agency internal investigations or ethics determinations;
(3)            participate in the internal workings of the Legislature or their proceedings as it relates to employment issues;
(4)            negotiate agency agreements with employees outside of the litigation context; nor
(5)            represent agencies or employees in administrative proceedings such as the State Division of Human Rights, other than representing ourselves.

Everyone involved in the settlement between the Assembly and Assemblyman Vito Lopez's accusers are now facing major scrutiny. The office of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman had to sign off on the sexual harassment settlement and as such they are also under the lens. In a statement just released by Schneiderman's office the AG says he is cooperating with the Joint Commission on Public Ethics: