Archive for June, 2011

Full Steam Ahead on Gay Marriage
June 14th, 2011

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has introduced a program bill to allow all couples to marry in New York State. This is the same-sex marriage bill that Cuomo said he would only introduce if he had the votes to pass it. The bill says that religious institutions and benevolent organizations do can limit who uses their facilities for marriage ceremonies and says that no minister or clergy person has to “solemnize” a marriage. The bill would become law 30 days after Cuomo signs it.

“From the fight for women’s suffrage to the struggle for civil rights, New Yorkers have been on the right side of history. But on the issue of marriage equality, our state has fallen behind,” Cuomo said in a statement. “For too long, same-sex couples have been denied the freedom to marry, as well as hundreds of rights that other New Yorkers take for granted. Marriage Equality is a matter of fairness and legal security for thousands of families in this state — not of religion or culture. When it comes to fighting for what’s right, New Yorkers wrote the book, and Marriage Equality is the next chapter of our civil rights story.”

Here is the press release from Cuomo’s office: Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 14, 2011, 3:28 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Eye on Albany | 5 Comments »

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Rent is the Issue of the Day
June 14th, 2011

The laws that keep housing affordable for millions of New Yorkers will expire tomorrow and the debate over whether to simply renew or strengthen the laws is front and center today in Albany. A number of Democrats spoke to Gov. Andrew Cuomo today to tell him that they don’t want to vote on same-sex marriage legislation until there is a deal to permanently extend and strengthen the rent law. A tax cap also hinges on a rent laws.

A number of Democratic Senators are becoming increasingly worried that Cuomo will be willing to simply extend the laws as a way to get Republicans on board with other issues he wants to tackle. These Democrats say they will not be able to back Cuomo in the future if he abandons the fight.

Meanwhile Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver insists that he is not interested in the Senate Republicans’ rent law extender that would last til Friday. Silver told reporters that the governor can send an emergency bill to both houses if a deal is reached.

By on June 14, 2011, 2:33 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Housing | Comments Off on Rent is the Issue of the Day

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Ethics Bill Passes Both Houses
June 13th, 2011

The Senate and Assembly passed the “Public Integrity Reform Act of 2011” today. The Senate passed the measure 61-0, while the initial vote by the Assembly is 99-1.

Meanwhile there is more movement on gay marriage. Senate Republicans are reportedly going to the Governor’s Mansion to speak to Gov. Andrew Cuomo about the gay marriage legislation. Meanwhile Republican Sen. Jim Alesi emerged from a meeting with Cuomo earlier today to announce that he will vote for the bill. Earlier today, three Democrats who previously voted against the bill announced they will vote for it. That means there are 30 of the 32 needed yes votes in the Senate. Same-sex marriage advocates told Cuomo today that they want him to bring the bill to a vote and Cuomo’s office has indicated it could happen this week. There are only 5 days remaining in session.

By on June 13, 2011, 6:02 pm
In category: Eye on Albany,Gotham City | 1 Comment »

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Three Dems For Gay Marriage
June 13th, 2011

Sens. Joseph Addabbo, Shirley Huntley and Carl Kruger announced today that they support gay marriage. That means 29 of 30 Democrats now support gay marriage while it remains unclear exactly where the Republicans stand.

The Post reported this morning that seven Republicans have told Gov. Andrew Cuomo that they support gay marriage. But some of the legislators cited in the story have told other reporters that they oppose gay marriage.

Cuomo told reporters at a conference this afternoon that passage of the bill is up to the Senate Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said he plans to discuss the bill with his conference tomorrow.

Cuomo plans to meet with gay marriage advocates today and then decide whether to introduce the bill. The bill would have to come later this week unless the governor issued a letter of necessity. Some legislators say they expect session to be over by Friday even though session is scheduled to go til next Monday. There is so much many issues left to be hashed out this year that it seems unlikely legislators will get an early exit. But who knows–this is Albany.

By on June 13, 2011, 4:25 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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Tallying the Marriage Votes
June 13th, 2011

This morning we cited a story in the Post reporting that seven Republicans have told Gov. Andrew Cuomo they are prepared to vote in favor of marriage equality if and when the measure comes to the Senate floor.

The story by Fred Dicker cited Kemp Hannon of Nassau County, Charles Fuschillo of Suffolk County, Betty Little of Glens Falls, Andrew Lanza of Staten Island, Greg Ball of Putnam County, James Alesi of Rochester and Roy McDonald of Rensselaer County — all of whom voted against marriage equality when the issue went down to defeat in December 2009 — as being “unexpected potential Senate Republican ‘yes’ votes.” Their switch, along with that of some Democrats, would be “more than enough to put the controversial and historic measure over the top this week, ” Dicker wrote.

But supporters of same-sex marriage should not pop the cork on the champagne bottles yet. Several of the senators cited in Dicker’s piece have told Liz Benjamin of State of Politics that they remain opposed to gay marriage. These include Hannon, Little and Fuschillo.

And in an interview with the Times, Alesi played it coy saying, “I do believe in the sanctity of marriage… I grew up a Roman Catholic. Its a sacrament,” and then adding, “It’s a sacrament that exists in the 21st century.”

While no Republicans publicly backs the bill, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos has said he will let members vote their conscience on the matter.

As for Democrats, the Times reports that one or more of three previously undecided Democrats who voted no last time around — Shirley Huntley, Joseph Addabbo and Carl Kruger — could endorse the bill in the next day or so.

By on June 13, 2011, 2:35 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Eye on Albany | 6 Comments »

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Klein Cashes in on Race to the Top
June 9th, 2011

The Daily News’ Rachel Monahan has an eye-opening story today that the state is about to award a chunk of its federal Race to the Top funds to the company now run buy former New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein. It’s hard to imagine a tale more rife with seeming conflicts of interest.

First the news, according to Monahan: The state Department of Education is about to award a $27 million no-bid contract to Wireless Generation to develop software to track student test scores, achievement and so on. The system would be similar to the Achievement Reporting and Innovation System, or ARIS, developed for the city schools when Klein ran them.

The state, according to the News, said the no-bid contract is justified because ARIS already cover a third of the state (i.e. the city) and the system has received national recognition.

Recognition, yes, — but not all of it positive.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 9, 2011, 5:09 pm
In category: Albany,Education,Gotham City,Tech | 2 Comments »

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More Elections, Less Suspense
June 9th, 2011

Correction: As a reader points out, there is a fourth open Assembly seat: the one previously held by Audrey Pheffer, who let the legislature to become Queens County clerk. The post has been corrected and material about Pheffer’s seat added.

Less than 24 hours after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Assemblymember Jonathan Bing’s appointment as special deputy superintendent of the New York Liquidation Bureau, City Hall reported that Democrat Daniel Quart, a community board member and lawyer, is the frontrunner for the seat from Manhattan’s 73rd Assembly District.

With the election not even scheduled yet, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, whose congressional district includes Bing’s Assembly district, assured City Hall that Quart will be the candidate.

No disrespect of Quart intended but the rapid development underscores once again the rather undemocratic nature of special elections — especially those in districts, such as this one, where one party holds a lopsided edge.

More on threefour Assembly vacancies and how they’ll be filled after the jump.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 9, 2011, 2:51 pm
In category: Albany,Electoral Politics,Eye on Albany,Governing | Comments Off on More Elections, Less Suspense

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Cuomo Introduces New Pension Tier, Bloomberg Digs It
June 8th, 2011

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has introduced pension reform legislation that would create a Tier VI Pension for future employees. His office claims the measure will save taxpayers $93 billion dollars over the next 30 years–that is minus what is saved in New York City. The bill includes a pension reform measure exclusively for the city. The city reforms would apply to new employees of New York City including uniformed employees. Provisions in the legislation include: Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 8, 2011, 4:16 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Work and Labor | 2 Comments »

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Bing Takes Cuomo Appointment
June 8th, 2011

Assemblyman Jonathan Bing made a lot of enemies in the labor movement when he authored a bill that would have gotten rid of last in first out. He made so many enemies that his re-election to his seat was very much in doubt.

“As it is now we can’t get rid of teachers who perform unsatisfactorily after giving them due process,” Bing told the Gazette of his bill earlier this year. “I think there is a better system out there than the one we have now. I am not trying to bust any union.”

Bing’s stand prompted an election challenge from a candidate backed by the United Federation of Teachers. It also won him the endorsement of — and at least $4,000 from — Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has made ending “last in, first out” a key goal. Bing won re-election with 65 percent of the vote.

But now thanks to Gov. Andrew Cuomo Bing has a new gig–special deputy superintendent of the New York Liquidation Bureau. If that doesn’t sound like a plum gig that is because it simply isn’t.

Bing put out this statement to supporters this morning: Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 8, 2011, 12:58 pm
In category: Albany,Education,Eye on Albany,Work and Labor | 3 Comments »

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Another Vacant Assembly Seat
June 8th, 2011

Correction: As a reader points out, there is a fourth open Assembly seat: the one previously held by Audrey Pheffer, who let the legislature to become Queens County clerk. The post has been corrected.

It looks as though there will be another opening in the city’s delegation in the State Assembly. Gov Andrew Cuomo has announced the appointment of Manhattan Assemblymember Jonathan Bing as special deputy superintendent of the New York Liquidation Bureau.

The agency’s mission, according to its web site, is to protect policyholders and creditors of insurance companies that have gone bankrupt. Bing would replace Dennis J. Hayes.

The city already has twothree unfilled Assembly seats: District 54 in Brooklyn, which became vacant when Cuomo named Darryl Towns CEO for Homes and Community Renewal; District 27, left vacant by the retirement of Nettie Mayersohn; and District 23, which became open when Audrey Pheffer resigned to become Queens County clerk.

So far, no special election has been scheduled.

By on June 8, 2011, 12:35 pm
In category: Albany,Education,Electoral Politics,Eye on Albany | 2 Comments »

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Mark Ruffalo, Zoe Saldana, Shoot Video Against Fracking
June 8th, 2011

Mark Ruffalo, Ethan Hawke, Zoe Saldana and a host of other New York based actors have filmed a video proclaiming their love for “New York Water.” The anti-hydrofracking campaign is hosted at cleanwaternotdirtydrilling.org. Check out the video to see Saldana brushing her teeth, a scantily clad Hawke taking a shower and a geared up Ruffalo engaging in some fly fishing. They all deliver the line, “I love my New York Water.”

My family moved to our quiet farming town on the Delaware River so we could enjoy a simple, healthy life outside of the bustling city, said Ruffalo in a statement. We want to enjoy that peace down the road, and know that the tap water we drink, and bathe our children in, is safe.

The coalition of actors, with the help of environmentalists is calling on New Yorker’s to tell their legislators to ban fracking in New York.

The Assembly recently passed a bill to extend the current moratorium on fracking til June of next year but the Senate is not expected to move on a similar measure. The Independent Oil and Gas Association called the proposed moratorium, “job killing.” Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 8, 2011, 12:29 pm
In category: Albany,Environment,Eye on Albany | 4 Comments »

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Barriers to Cleaner Boilers
June 8th, 2011

Zachary Bergson filed this post.

Manhattan borough President Scott Stringer released a report this week criticizing the New York City Department of Environmental Protection’s plan to phase out boilers that consume highly polluting No. 4 and No. 6 oil.

In the report, Stringer said the department’s plan to phase out dirty boilers that burn the two dirty oils did not go far enough and failed to consider the financial burdens boiler conversions will place on residents of rent-regulated buildings.
The city has estimated that boilers burning the polluting oil account for over 3,000 deaths and 6,000 asthma related emergency department visits every year. Although only 1 percent of buildings use this oil, it is blamed for 86 percent of soot pollution from buildings.

According to Stringer’s report, approximately 63 percent of the 8,912 buildings that use dirty boilers contain one or more rent regulated units. In the Bronx, rent regulated buildings accounted for over 80 percent of dirty boiler buildings, the highest concentration in the city.

As part of the update to his environmental program — PlaNYC2030, Mayor Michael Bloomberg in April announced that the city would phase out boilers that burn the heaviest — and so most polluting — No. 6 oil by 2015 an No. 4 by 2030. But Stringer’s report said thousands of residents of rent-regulated buildings would continue to be at risk because of financial loopholes that would allow owners to delay boiler conversions.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 8, 2011, 12:02 pm
In category: Gotham City | 2 Comments »

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Weiner's Millions
June 7th, 2011

However low his political stock may have fallen this week, Anthony Weiner’s campaign bank account balance remains high, leaving the Tweeting representative from Brooklyn and Queens with lots of cash and perhaps no place to spend it.

According to city Campaign Finance Board records, Weiner has collected $5.1 million for a likely mayoral run in 2013, most of it raised in 2007 and 2008. That was back in the days when Weiner — single and perhaps not yet on Twitter — was coming off a strong showing in the 2005 Democratic mayoral primary and Mayor Michael Bloomberg still dreamed of the White House, not a third term in Gracie Mansion. Weiner backed out of the 2009 race — reportedly much to Bloomberg’s relief — after the mayor extended term limits and decided to run for re-election. Records show Weiner has not raised any money since 2008 — although he has returned some contributions during that period.

As he is allowed to do under city campaign law, Weiner rolled the money over into a new account for 2013. And he has made some modest expenditures.

That leaves him with somewhere around about $4 million as of the last filing deadline: January 2011. (For a summary of Weiner’s raising and spending go here.)

Weiner has a substantial fundraising edge over his closest rival — Christine Quinn who has raised about $3.2 million and spent a little less than $500,00 of it — and dwarfs the amounts raised by other possible mayor contenders Scott Stringer (a little les than $1.1 million raised), John Liu ($513,472) and Bill de Blasio ($392,576).

As they say, though, money isn’t everything. And however much Weiner might like to use funds to say escape to a dessert island where no one Tweets (assuming there is such a place), he is fairly constrained about how he can use the money, according to Eric Friedman, director of external affairs for the Campaign Finance Board.

More on what he can and can’t do after the jump.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 7, 2011, 5:24 pm
In category: City Hall,Electoral Politics,Gotham City,Governing | Comments Off on Weiner's Millions

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Cuomo Introduces Ethics Program Bill
June 7th, 2011

It was in bill drafting yesterday but today there is an actual bill codifying the deal reached between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders to reform ethics in Albany. Cuomo’s office has made both the bill memo and bill text available. If you see anything interesting give us a shout. Feel free to comment here, Tweet me @davidhowardking, or e-mail me at [email protected] Click here for more on what the bill does and does not do. Please note that the previous title “Clean Up Albany Act” has been retitled “Public Integrity reform Act of 2011.” That will surely soothe some sore egos–especially that of Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings. Here is the full statement from Cuomo’s office: Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 7, 2011, 3:33 pm
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Assembly to Pass Fracking Moratorium
June 6th, 2011

The Assembly is expected to pass a moratorium on hydrofracking. The current moratorium, enacted by former Gov. David Paterson, will expire at the end of the month and the Department of Environmental Conservation will issue new recommendations about hydrofracking in the state. The Assembly’s moratorium would last until June 1 2012. The Senate is not expected to act on similar legislation.

We have heard from thousands of residents across the state about many issues associated with hydrofracking, and prudent leadership demands that we take our time to address all these concerns. The natural gas within the Marcellus Shale isnt going to go anywhere, said Silver. With this legislation, the Legislature will have more time to study the concerns associated with hydrofracking and determine if the benefits of this natural resource can be safely realized without compromising our drinking water and devastating our environment. Hopefully, the Senate will support the moratorium and approve this bill.

Here is a statement from Silver’s office: Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 6, 2011, 4:40 pm
In category: Albany,Environment,Eye on Albany | Comments Off on Assembly to Pass Fracking Moratorium

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Where is The Ethics Bill?
June 6th, 2011

According to Gov. Andrew Cuomo the ethics bill, now called the Public Integrity Reform Act, is currently in bill drafting and will likely be available to legislators and the media tomorrow.

Cuomo said a deal was announced without a bill on Friday because negotiations were complete and wanted to keep everyone up to date–not because there was a fear that legislators would balk at the bill as details leaked out over the weekend. Cuomo called the renaming of the bill from the “Clean up Albany Act” to the “Public Integrity Reform Act” a simple “rewrite.”

Cuomo defended the make up of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics and the fact that they would not be able to dole out punishment and instead would have to refer their investigation to the Legislative Ethics Commission. Cuomo said he was no problem with the Legislative Ethics Commission and noted criminal offenses would be forwarded to the proper authorities.

When asked when the bill could be voted on Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver joked that it would happen “in the next eight days.” There are eight days left in session. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said he figured a vote could take place in the next few days. The legislature is only in session today and tomorrow this week. They will return for five days next week.

Cuomo reassured the press that the deal on ethics is not like the deal on a property tax cap that seems to have fallen apart.

Skelos thanked good government groups, “for your nudging.” Cuomo said that there was a different term for “nudging” during negotiations.

Here is a release from one such good government group– the Citizen’s Union, the sister organization to the Citizen’s Union Foundation that publishes the Gotham Gazette: Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 6, 2011, 3:16 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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Quinn, Recchia Offer More Budget Brainstorms
June 6th, 2011

The City Council leadership continues the drumbeat against the city’s burgeoning contract budget. In a release issued today, Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Finance Committee Chair Domenic Recchia contend that cutting 5 percent of the contract budget in four areas — unspecific general contractual services, data process equipment and commuter consultants, legal services and other professional services — would free up money to save all 20 fire companies slated for the ax.

The contract budget has surfaced as a key point of contention this year, fueled by scandals over CityTime and various education department technology deals — and by its sheer size. The contract budget has grown by more than 70 percent since Mayor Michael Bloomberg took office and is slated to top $10.3 billion next fiscal year. (For more on the dispute over city contracts and consultants, see Officials Call for Holding the Line on Contracts.

Recchia and Quinn also target some particular programs, raising them as alternatives to some areas the mayor has called for cutting. Under the council, the city’s sustainability play — PlanNYC would take a big hit — losing $4.4 million for a parks plan and$2.6 million for an air quality study. Other proposed savings of a million or more would defer or cut evaluation in the Center for Economic Opportunity ($2.2 million), reduce parking meter collection staff ($2.3 million), reduce the subsidy to the Central Park Conservancy ($1 million); reduce the strategic planning group division ($1.1 million) and the research and policy unit ($1.1 million) in the Department of Housing Preservation and Development and eliminate the sanitation department’s public information budget ($2 million).
Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 6, 2011, 1:59 pm
In category: City Hall,Crime & Safety,Gotham City,Public Finance | Comments Off on Quinn, Recchia Offer More Budget Brainstorms

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Schneiderman Applauds Ethics Deal, Himself
June 3rd, 2011

Attorney General Eric Schendeirman, who spent many years in the Senate working on ethics reform, issued a statement that is fairly supportive of the ethics deal reached between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders. Scheiderman mentions the on-time budget as well as the deal between the AG’s office and the state comptroller to “expand the ability to prosecute wrongdoing involving government spending as recent accomplishments that will “restore New Yorkers’ faith in government.”

Statement after the jump.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 3, 2011, 6:21 pm
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An Ethics Deal Announcement... Late On a Friday
June 3rd, 2011

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver announced the long discussed and oft rumored deal on an ethics reform package via press release late on a sunny Friday afternoon. A formal announcement will be held in Albany on Monday.

The main reform will create the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, a 14-member ethics watchdog group capable of investigating the executive branch, the legislature and their employees, as well as lobbyists. The group will not be able to punish legislators for misdeeds — instead they will have to pass on their findings to the Legislative Ethics Commission. The joint commission will be made up of six of the governor’s appointees, eight from legislative leaders and four from the political parties.

Legislators will have to reveal any clients they have with business in front of the state. Financial disclosures will now be released to the republic without redacted amounts.

The attorney general be able to take away the pensions of public officials convicted of a crime involving their offices.

The press release does not go into some very important specifics and we will follow up on those shortly.

Full statement from the governor after the jumo.
Read the rest of this entry »

By on June 3, 2011, 5:57 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

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The Return of the Bag Tax
June 3rd, 2011

Zachary Bergson filed this post.

The controversial plastic bag tax is back as some lawmakers and environmental groups are questioning the effectiveness of a state-recycling program intended to reduce plastic bag waste.

Plastic bags have been littering New York and other major cities for years. In response, cities like San Francisco and Washington D.C. instituted bans and taxes on plastic bags at large retailers. Some New Yorkers think this city should take similar action to reduce plastic bag waste, protect the environment and generate revenue.
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By on June 3, 2011, 10:57 am
In category: Environment,Public Finance | 1 Comment »

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