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GOP senator who backed gay marriage rights concedes defeat

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- Sen. Steve Saland, a Dutchess County Republican who was the first GOP lawmaker to publicly back gay marriage rights in New York, conceded defeat today in his re-election contest against Democrat Terry Gipson.

That leaves Sen. Mark Grisanti, a Buffalo Republican, as the sole GOP senator -- of the four who broke with their party to back the marriage equality legislation passed into law last year -- returning to Albany with his legislative job come January. [Grisanti, courtesy of Senate Republicans and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, was given a new district to run on in November with far fewer Democrats than his old district.]

Besides Saland, who lost the Conservative Party line he needed to have been competitive in the general election, one of the other GOP senators who backed the gay marriage bill chose to retire instead of running in a race Republicans said he would have lost and the another was defeated during the September primary.

Republicans have been waging legal battle over paper ballots in the Saland race, but since election day GOP sources have privately said there was no way Saland was going to be returning to Albany.

"I join all New Yorkers in wishing Senator Steve Saland the best as he completes a 32-year career in the State Legislature, the last 22 as a distinguished member of the New York State Senate.  Steve is a
highly-respected lawmaker and a dear friend,'' Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said in a written statement of his colleague who he said was the author of 350 state laws.

UPDATE: Governor Cuomo checked in this afternoon with his reaction to the election concession statement by Saland; Cuomo owes much to Saland for his role in getting the governor's gay marriage law proposal through the Senate. Here is part of the statement:

"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,'' Cuomo said.

"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,'' he added.


Caputo resurrects Illuzzi website

By Robert J. McCarthy, a controversial website devoted to politics formerly maintained by the late Joseph J. Illuzzi, is being resurrected by local political operative Michael R. Caputo.

An East Aurora resident, Caputo served as spokesman for Republican gubernatorial Carl P. Paladino in 2010. He said Wednesday he intends to duplicate some of Illuzzi's style with "rumor and innuendo," but also plans a major overhaul into a more professional source of political news.

"I originally bought it to put it to sleep and make sure it hurt no more people," Caputo said. "But people in Western New York want an additional outlet to hear about politics. We'll try to do a better job of it."

Caputo said he will be joined by Peter Herr, a local teacher, blogger and leadership consultant in publishing the new site, which has been dormant since Illuzzi died Sept. 25.

Reaction begins to Cuomo historic tax credit veto

By Tom Precious

ALBANY – Not everyone is upset this morning with Gov. Andrew Cuomo for vetoing a bill to increase tax breaks for historic property rehabilitation projects, a measure developers say would have been a sizeable benefit to downtown Buffalo.

“My understanding is they will include it in next year’s budget, so there’s a bright light there,’’ Rocco Termini, a Buffalo developer, said this morning.

The Buffalo News first reported Cuomo’s intention to veto the bill, quoting an administration official as saying the governor supports the idea but does not generally approve legislation with a fiscal hit on the budget outside of the normal budget-making process in the spring. Administration officials Wednesday said Cuomo will consider addressing the matter in his 2013 budget plan, but did not commit to it as strongly as Termini is suggesting will happen.

Termini had been the most vocal proponent of the legislation, which was sponsored in the Senate by Mark Grisanti, a Buffalo Republican. Termini hosted a fundraiser for Cuomo earlier this year at the Hotel @ the Lafayette, the refurbished project he developed with the assistance of historic tax credits.

Termini said he believes the governor, in his budget plan due out next month, will offer a more comprehensive bill that extends the current tax credit program beyond its 2014 expiration date and possibly allow further tweaks to a provision that now makes developers “buy” both federal and state tax credits to qualify; such changes, he said, would make more projects eligible for state tax credits.

Also, he said he would back any effort to further target the credits to certain distressed areas of the state. “It might be a good idea to target it because there are certain areas of the state that don’t need it,’’ he said.

Termini earlier this fall shelved plans for a $60 million rehabilitation of the AM&A’s Building because Cuomo had not yet signed the tax credit bill, which was passed by lawmakers in June. But on Thursday morning, he was sounding a different theme. “It might be a little delay, but I think it’s a win win for everybody,’’ Termini said of Cuomo’s veto.

UPDATE: Grisanti said this morning he is confident Cuomo will still address the tax credit situation in next year's budget plan. "I'm happy to hear it's something they want to look at. It's not a dead deal, but it's something the governor's office is going to look at and do something in the budget. At what amount and what time period, I'm not sure, but it's something we'll continue moving forward on to get passed,'' he said.


Today in City Hall

By Jill Terreri

Good morning, 

Today at 9:30 a.m., the Buffalo Urban Renewal Agency will meet to vote on a sub-recipient agreement with the city regarding HUD funds. The agreement will govern how HUD's HOME program funds are spent. The city is waiting on nearly $3 million in HOME funds that have not yet been released. 

At 3 p.m., the Preservation Board will meet in room 901. The agenda is posted below. 

In case you missed it, the Buffalo Sabres' HARBORCenter LLC, which is developing the Webster Block, has applied to the state's Brownfield Cleanup Program, which provides tax credits. HARBORCenter officials said early on that they would be seeking brownfield credits, and the agreement with the city does not allow delays in the project as a result of the project's inclusion in the state program. 

And if you're a shoe lover and you're around City Hall today or tomorrow, Mobile Soles, a shoe-store-on-the-go, will be set up in the lobby from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.


Meeting Agenda 12.13.12

Live chat: Erie County politics discussion with Denise Jewell Gee at 11 a.m.

Bronx newspaper uncovers questionable donations to Senate IDC leader

 By Tom Precious

ALBANY –- State Sen. Jeff Klein is giving back some sizable campaign donations, including some om an individual with organized crime ties, after an investigation by a weekly newspaper in the Bronx.

A Klein spokesman this evening confirmed the senator is returning the donations in question. Here is just the top part of the article published by the Riverdale Press on its web page today:

State Sen. Jeff Klein, one of the most prolific fund raisers in the state and now one of its most powerful legislators, has accepted more than $150,000 from some donors with felony convictions and others with ties to organized crime, a Press investigation of campaign filings, court filings and news stories has found.

There is no evidence that Mr. Klein granted any favors to his donors in return for their offerings. What is known is these developers have helped Mr. Klein amass one of the largest war chests in the Senate. 

As recently as June, Mr. Klein’s campaign committee, New Yorkers for Klein, received $2,500 from Cava Construction, Inc., whose owner and president Carmine Della Cava was convicted of a bid-rigging scheme in the 1990s.

Mr. Klein has received a total of $27,500 from the company since 2005 — approximately 81 percent of the company’s total campaign contributions. 

After reporters made him aware of Mr. Della Cava’s criminal past, Mr. Klein said he planned to direct all the money he’s received from Cava Construction to charity.

“In order to ensure that we adhere to the highest standards, New Yorkers for Klein regularly monitors incoming contributions. Now that we are aware of Mr. Della Cava’s conviction, we are directing all of his donations to local Bronx charities,” Eric Soufer, a spokesman for Mr. Klein, said in a statement.

Mr. Della Cava served just over two years of an eight-year sentence in a Pennsylvania federal prison for racketeering, according The New York Times. Before that, he was a driver for a Genovese crime organization boss in the mid-80s, according to The Times.

Mr. Della Cava’s cousin, Vincent Cafaro, a mobster turned informant, identified Mr. Della Cava as a Genovese representative to an organized crime commission that controlled concrete contracts for high-rise construction in Manhattan, according to a New York Times article. 



Cuomo: Them's fighting words

By Tom Precious

ALBANY – Gov. Andrew Cuomo is not happy that Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos did not immediately roll over this week and embrace his “litmus test’’ agenda, which includes raising the minimum wage, relaxing marijuana possession laws and having a taxpayer-funded campaign finance system.

“If that’s true, then we’re going to have a problem … and we’re going to have a problem sooner rather than later,’’ Cuomo said on Albany’s WGDJ radio station this morning.

Skelos on Tuesday would not commit to passage of such things as the minimum wage, though he said his GOP colleagues would be happy to discuss the issue. And he raised concerns about spending $200 million in public funds to finance political campaigns at a time when the state is facing another period of red ink, though said senators are open to some changes in the campaign system that he did not detail.

While Cuomo acknowledged he did not read the full transcript of the remarks by Skelos at the Capitol Tuesday, it did not stop him from threatening to go after the GOP leader. “If Senator Skelos is opposed to the agenda of the people of this state then I will oppose him and then I will be involved, Cuomo said.

The governor also lashed out at "journalists with their own opinions" and "self-appointed advocacy groups'' whose sources of funding are uncertain. Albany's biggest such group this past year was the Committee to Save New York, a pro-Cuomo organization that has sought to keep its donor list secret.

UPDATE: Senate Republicans issued a quick reply this morning to Cuomo. The essential message: chill.

"If Senate Republicans have proven anything over the last two years, it's that we can successfully work with Governor Cuomo to pass an agenda that benefits all New Yorkers. The people want Democrats and Republicans to work together to get results, and we're going to keep getting the job done for them in the next legislative session,'' said Scott Reif, a spokesman for the Senate Republicans.


Liveblog: CitiStat meeting on MIS at 11 a.m.

By Jill Terreri

The Brown administration's CitiStat team will question the Management Information Systems Department at 11 a.m. today. 


Today in City Hall

By Jill Terreri

Good morning,

The Water Board met this morning for an hour and a half - when I left an executive session on "contractual matters" was about to start. 

Of note was an update on rates from the board's rate analyst, Lisa Foti, in which she said she does not expect a rate increase will be necessary in 2013-14, and that revenues are covering expenses, without having to use funds in reserve. The board's budget won't be reviewed until the spring, and any rate changes will be made then. 

The board also denied a request from a hot dog vendor to set up a cart on Water Board property at 667 Kensington, at the Grider intersection, citing past practices and the location, which is outside of the city's special downtown vending district. 

Also today, CitiStat will interview members of the city's Management Information Systems department. I'll liveblog the meeting. 

Here's a look at yesterday's Council meeting, in which Council Member Michael LoCurto expressed his displeasure with an update from the Seneca Gaming Corp.'s marketing activities at the Buffalo Creek Casino at Michigan and Perry streets. The gaming corporation has said that an economic recession has impacted progress at the casino, but that they expect a new, permanent structure to open next year. 

In today's paper, Mark Sommer examined prospects to save the Central Terminal from its leaky roof. 

Also, a school district meeting for parents failed to draw many, despite efforts by the district to attract them, reports Mary Pasciak. 


Skelos backed as leader for another term by GOP colleagues

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- Senate Republicans may not have done so well with voters in November, but the deal hatched last week by Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos to still keep Republicans at least in partial control of the chamber was more than enough to keep the Long Island lawmaker as head of the GOP conference.

In Albany for a couple hours of closed-door talks and some lunch, Senate Republicans today backed Skelos as their leader for the two-year session beginning in January. [Skelos -- every two weeks -- will be alternating the title of Temporary President of Senate with Sen. Jeff Klein, the Bronx Democrat who brought four other Democrats along into a coalition deal to help keep the GOP at least in partial control of the Senate; Skelos could not say, when asked by a reporter today, whether he or Klein will start off with the title on January 1.]

Here is the victory statement this evening from Skelos:

"I am honored that the members of our Senate Republican Conference have voted unanimously today to reelect me as their leader. I appreciate their support and confidence, and look forward to being a strong voice for their priorities.

By partnering with Governor Cuomo and the Independent Democratic Conference, Senate Republicans have delivered the bipartisan results New Yorkers need and deserve, including two early budgets that reduced spending, enactment of a two property tax cap, middle-class income tax relief and an end to Albany dysfunction. The men and women of our conference are excited for the opportunity to be part of this new Senate Majority coalition, a unique partnership of Democrats and Republicans that will protect and build on the historic progress we’ve made over the last two years.

New Yorkers have made it very clear that they don’t care about Republican solutions or Democratic solutions, they just want results. Senate Republicans are committed to working with the Governor, Senator Klein, Speaker Silver and all of the members of the Legislature in the months and years ahead to improve the quality-of-life for all New Yorkers."


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About Politics Now

Robert J. McCarthy

Robert J. McCarthy

A native of Schenectady, Robert J. McCarthy came to The Buffalo News in 1982 following a six-year stint at the Olean Times Herald. He is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and has been covering local, state and national politics since 1992.

Tom Precious

Tom Precious

Tom Precious joined The Buffalo News in 1997 as bureau chief at the state Capitol, where he covers everything from statewide politics and state government fiscal affairs to health care, environmental and municipal government matters. Prior to The News, he worked for news outlets in Albany and Washington, DC.

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri is an Amherst native and has covered politics and government in upstate New York since 2003. She joined The Buffalo News in 2012 and covers City Hall.

@jillterreri |

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski, The Buffalo News Washington bureau chief, has reported from the nation's capital since 1989 after joining The News as a business reporter in 1984. A graduate of Syracuse University, Zremski is a former Nieman fellow in journalism at Harvard University. In 2007, he served as president of the National Press Club.

@JerryZremski |