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Where or where is the college campus tax-free legislation?

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- Fifteen minutes after Gov. Andrew Cuomo today announced a new plan to crack down on cell phone use, his aides emailed around copies of the actual legislation being proposed by the governor.

But more than a week after Cuomo announced what he called one of the most sweeping set of ideas to help the upstate economy in at least a generation, getting a look at that plan's legislation is a bit more challenging since the governor has not submitted any bill on the matter.

Lawmakers and groups representing everyone from corporate to academic interests are still wondering about many details of the plan Cuomo first announced more than a week ago in Albany -- and at nine subsequent events since then -- to let businesses locate on state and private college campuses without having to pay any taxes, including state income taxes for employees.

The where-is-the-bill situation has become typical for major ideas put forth by Cuomo. His routine on many issues is announce an idea and then work out the details, or not, with lawmakers and special interest groups behind closed doors at the Capitol.

Video: Is Kathy Hochul eyeing a political comeback?

Kathy Hochul and her husband bought a condo on Buffalo's waterfront. Is it possible she might run for mayor in 2017? News Political Reporter Bob McCarthy tells Brian Meyer some insiders say Hochul believes she still has one race left in her:

Friday's must-reads from Washington

By Jerry Zremski

WASHINGTON -- Could the tea party be making a comeback? The Washington Post says an effort to set national education standards has the tea party enraged.

Meanwhile, Politico and the New York Times offer competing takes on the 2014 elections. Politico asks whether a growing economy will buoy Democrats, while the Times notes that Republicans are salivating over the possibility of campaigning against President Barack Obama.

Thursday's must-reads from Washington

By Jerry Zremski

WASHINGTON -- It's such a slow news week that I wonder if maybe I should label today's blog post "Thursday's maybe-should reads from Washington."

In any case, I'll lead with an interesting take from the New York Times about how Benghazi was a career-killer for one U.S. diplomat, but not for another.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post explores why the sequester has yet to wreck the capital's economy as many said it would.

And in Politico, longtime White House correspondent Keith Koffler asks a question no one else is asking: Is Hillary Clinton a good enough politician to become president?

Cuomo tax announcement x 10

ByTom Precious

ALBANY -- Among the many Albany traditions is this one: if you think you have a good idea keep on announcing it.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the past week is more than living up to that tradition. By the end of today, he will have announced his plan to offer tax-free zones for businesses on public and private campus properties 10 times since last Wednesday.

On Tuesday at the Capitol -- marking the third time he has publicly pushed the idea in Albany since last week -- Cuomo characterized his proposal as "the greatest cause for hope'' for the upstate economy.

Today, local officials and business executives can expect the same rhetorical flourishes when the governor takes his plan on the road to Plattsburgh, Binghamton, Batavia and Utica. He began the tour, complete with his usual PowerPoint visuals, last Wednesday with stops in Buffalo, Albany and Syracuse.

With each event, there is seemingly some new tidbit unveiled about the proposal, which serves to highlight how the idea is still evolving in unresolved talks with legislative leaders. No actual legislation has been introduced. In discussing how some private colleges will be eligible to offer the tax-free zones for businesses to locate, Cuomo said on Tuesday at the Capitol that only those private institutions north of Westchester County will be able to participate. Besides all the state public campuses, Cuomo also says 20 state sites will be eligible; he has not identified them.

 

Who's got the pygmy pig lobbying retainer?

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- A Queens senator wants to enact what he is calling the Pygmy Pig Regulation Law.

The new bill by Sen. Tony Avella would would permit New York City residents to own the little piggies so long as licensed and vaccinated as household pets. The bill memo states they must also be "sprayed'' -- we assume he means spayed -- or neutered. Only one per household, please, and they must not stand taller than 22 inches at the shoulder and weigh no more than 200 pounds.

From the bill memo: "Over the years, pygmy pigs have gained popularity and recognition as great pets due to the combination of their unique traits such as cleanliness, diminutive size, friendly disposition, and intelligence. They make great companion animals and are considered by some as therapy animals. For children with allergies, these pigs can provide necessary companionship, without affecting their health. As pygmy pigs are becoming widely accepted as pets, many towns, cities, and municipalities throughout the United States have enacted laws, ordinances and regulations to permit the keeping of pygmy pigs as pets. Currently, pygmy pigs are not allowed as a pet in New York City according to the current New York City Health Code section 161.01.''

 

Not quite for the issue he wants, Cuomo is making headlines

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- It has taken a few weeks, but the border war between New York state and Canada over the Peace Bridge is attracting a media following far beyond Western New York and Ontario.

In the past couple days, there has been story after story about Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and his administration's battles with the Canadian officials who jointly run the Peace Bridge Authority along with New York state appointees. Pieces have run in the major and smaller Canadian news outlets from Nova Scotia to Vancouver.

Continue reading "Not quite for the issue he wants, Cuomo is making headlines" ยป

Wednesday's must-reads from Washington

By Jerry Zremski

WASHINGTON -- It's a slow week in the nation's capital, save for the Scripps National Spelling Bee. So today's top reads venture a bit farther afield than usual.

FIrst off, The New York Times takes a fresh look at the Barack Obama-Chris Christie bromance.

Meanwhile, The Hill delves deep into an important issue that's receiving little attention elsewhere: the importance of President Obama's pending nominations to a top appeals court.

And Politico, in an incredibly fast turn-around, looks at the spectacular fall of Rep. Michele Bachmann only hours after the Minnesota Republican announced she will not run for re-election.

New York Times reports on Cuomo's Peace Bridge/Canada problem

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- The Times' Albany bureau chief, Danny Hakim, checks in today with a front page story on Gov. Andrew Cuomo's international diplomacy problems with Canada that have popped up the past month over the Peace Bridge.

The story was immediately picked up and posted on home pages of The Globe & Mail as well as the Toronto Star, Canada's largest newspaper.


Last week's key votes in Congress

By Jerry Zremski

WASHINGTON -- Here's a look at last week's votes in Congress, courtesy Targeted News Service. One notable local note: Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, missed votes on May 17 in order attend a speech in Jamestown by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.

HOUSE VOTES:

House Vote 1:
IMPACT OF SECURITIES RULES: The House has passed an amendment sponsored
by Rep. Robert Hurt, R-Va., to the SEC Regulatory Accountability Act
(H.R. 1062) that would require the Securities and Exchange Commission to
ensure that rules adopted by national securities associations comply
with requirements for cost-benefit analyses of the rules. Hurt said: "In
light of reports that the SEC is considering discretionary rulemakings
that would impose additional unnecessary costs resulting in little or no
benefit and being of questionable constitutionality, we must ensure that
the SEC and the associations under its purview abide by sound economic
analyses." An opponent, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., said the amendment
"doubles down on what is already a harmful bill by extending the same
onerous requirements of self-regulatory organizations. I see no reason
why the Congress would want to further tip the scales in favor of Wall
Street over Main Street." The vote, on May 17, was 233 yeas to 163 nays.
YEAS: Rep. Chris Collins R-NY (27th), Rep. Tom Reed R-NY (23rd)
NOT VOTING: Rep. Brian Higgins D-NY (26th)

House Vote 2:
ANALYZING SEC RULES: The House has rejected a substitute amendment
sponsored by Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., to the SEC Regulatory
Accountability Act (H.R. 1062) that would have stated the sense of
Congress that the Securities and Exchange Commission is already legally
required to conduct cost-benefit and other economic analyses as part of
its rulemaking process. Maloney said "there is already a multi-layered
and effective cost-benefit analysis built into the SEC rulemaking
process," making the bill unnecessary. An opponent, Rep. Scott Garrett,
R-N.J., said the amendment would halt efforts to reform SEC regulations
that are no longer needed and fail to require the SEC to study the harm
that might result from its regulations. The vote, on May 17, was 165
yeas to 233 nays.
NAYS: Rep. Chris Collins R-NY (27th), Rep. Tom Reed R-NY (23rd)
NOT VOTING: Rep. Brian Higgins D-NY (26th)

House Vote 3:
ANALYZING IMPACT OF SEC RULES: The House has passed the SEC Regulatory
Accountability Act (H.R. 1062), sponsored by Rep. Scott Garrett, R-N.J.
The bill would require the Securities and Exchange Commission to study
the estimated costs and benefits of its proposed regulations and orders,
as well as review its existing regulations every five years to change
any regulations that are unnecessary or excessively burdensome. Garrett
said: "This bill will ensure that the benefits of any rulemaking
outweigh the cost, and that both new and existing regulations are
accessible, consistent, written in plain language, and easy to
understand." An opponent, Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., said the
cost-benefit analyses required by the bill would halt the SEC's work to
improve financial markets by implementing rules under the Dodd-Frank
Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The vote, on May 17, was
235 yeas to 161 nays.
YEAS: Rep. Chris Collins R-NY (27th), Rep. Tom Reed R-NY (23rd)
NOT VOTING: Rep. Brian Higgins D-NY (26th)

House Vote 4:
FALSE CLAIMS OF MILITARY HONORS: The House has passed the Stolen Valor
Act (H.R. 258), sponsored by Rep. Joseph J. Heck, R-Nev., which would
penalize individuals who fraudulently claim for personal or financial
profit that they have received a military decoration or medal with
imprisonment of up to one year, a fine, or both a fine and imprisonment.
Heck said false claims cheapen the integrity of the military awards
system and threaten "the trust and honor bestowed upon military service
members and veterans by this Nation." The vote, on May 20, was 390 yeas
to 3 nays.
YEAS: Rep. Chris Collins R-NY (27th), Rep. Brian Higgins D-NY (26th),
Rep. Tom Reed R-NY (23rd)

House Vote 5:
COUNTERTERRORISM TREATIES: The House has passed the Nuclear Terrorism
Conventions Implementation and Safety of Maritime Navigation Act (H.R.
1073), sponsored by Rep. James F. Sensenbrenner Jr., R-Wis. The bill
would implement U.S. obligations as a party to four international
treaties to prevent terrorism attacks that use nuclear and other weapons
of mass destruction and ships and other maritime platforms.
Sensenbrenner said the bill "strengthens international cooperation and
information-sharing, and will ensure that the United States stays at the
forefront of global counterterrorism and counterproliferation efforts."
The vote, on May 20, was 390 yeas to 3 nays.
YEAS: Rep. Chris Collins R-NY (27th), Rep. Brian Higgins D-NY (26th),
Rep. Tom Reed R-NY (23rd)

House Vote 6:
APPRENTICESHIP JOB TRAINING FOR VETERANS: The House has passed the
Improving Job Opportunities for Veterans Act (H.R. 1412), sponsored by
Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo. The bill would direct the Secretary of
Veterans Affairs to work with other federal agencies to increase
on-the-job training apprenticeship programs for veterans and reduce the
final required training salary for veterans enrolled in the programs
from 85 percent of the fully trained wage for the job to 75 percent.
Coffman said the bill "will be a great tool for both private sector and
Federal employers to hire our veterans who are struggling to make that
transition from the military to the civilian workforce." The vote, on
May 21, was unanimous with 416 yeas.
YEAS: Rep. Chris Collins R-NY (27th), Rep. Brian Higgins D-NY (26th),
Rep. Tom Reed R-NY (23rd)

House Vote 7:
FINDINGS ON KEYSTONE XL IMPACTS: The House has passed an amendment
sponsored by Rep. Randy K. Weber, R-Texas, to the Northern Route
Approval Act (H.R. 3). The amendment would insert the State Department's
findings that the Keystone XL oil pipeline was unlikely to impact the
amount of oil produced from Alberta's oil sands deposits, would account
for no more than 0.012 percent of annual U.S. CO2 emissions, and would
have little impact on land and water resources along the pipeline's
875-mile proposed route. Weber said the amendment "simply sets the
record straight on these accounts by adding findings from our own State
Department that attest to the safety and environmental soundness of this
project." An opponent, Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif., said the
amendment "tries to argue that the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline does
not pose real and serious environmental harm, and that's dangerously
wrong." The vote, on May 22, was 246 yeas to 168 nays.
YEAS: Rep. Chris Collins R-NY (27th), Rep. Tom Reed R-NY (23rd)
NAYS: Rep. Brian Higgins D-NY (26th)

House Vote 8:
APPROVING KEYSTONE XL PIPELINE: The House has passed the Northern Route
Approval Act (H.R. 3), sponsored by Rep. Lee Terry, R-Neb. The bill
would approve TransCanada's construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline
from Alberta to Texas, including the pipeline's revised route through
Nebraska. Terry said by ending the five-year review of the application
to build Keystone XL, the bill would clear the way for "a $7 billion
privately funded infrastructure project that puts, immediately, 20,000
workers, 2,000 of which come from my State of Nebraska, downstream. With
the new expansion of refineries, that could go up to 118,000." An
opponent, Rep. Bobby L. Rush, D-Ill., said the bill would override
federal and environmental permitting requirements and limit the ability
of citizens to appeal Keystone XL by giving the D.C. Circuit Court of
Appeals exclusive jurisdiction over the project. The vote, on May 22,
was 241 yeas to 175 nays.
YEAS: Rep. Chris Collins R-NY (27th), Rep. Tom Reed R-NY (23rd)
NAYS: Rep. Brian Higgins D-NY (26th)

House Vote 9:
STUDENT LOAN INTEREST RATES: The House has passed the Smarter Solutions
for Students Act (H.R. 1911), sponsored by Rep. John Kline, R-Minn. The
bill would set the annual interest rate for new Department of Education
Stafford student loans at the rate for 10-year Treasury note bonds plus
2.5 percent, with the student loans interest rate not to exceed 8.5
percent. Kline said establishing a market-based interest rate for
Stafford student loans would "provide students with more stability in
the long run by putting an end to quick fixes and campaign promises" by
politicians who set arbitrary interest rates for the loans. An opponent,
Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., said that by sharply increasing interest
rates on Stafford loans, the bill "increases the drag on the economy
that the student debt is to families and to young people trying to seek
a job and to seek to form family." The vote, on May 23, was 221 yeas to
198 nays.
YEAS: Rep. Chris Collins R-NY (27th), Rep. Tom Reed R-NY (23rd)
NAYS: Rep. Brian Higgins D-NY (26th)

SENATE VOTES:

Senate Vote 1:
FUNDING FOR FOOD STAMPS PROGRAM: The Senate has rejected an amendment
sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., to the Agriculture Reform,
Food, and Jobs Act (S. 954). The amendment would have struck a provision
to cut funding for the supplemental nutrition assistance program by $10
billion over the next 10 years, and offset the restored funding by
decreasing funding for crop insurance reimbursements to farmers.
Gillibrand said:  "When Congress proposes to cut the food stamp program,
it is not a nameless, faceless person looking for a handout who
suffers--it is hungry children, hardworking adults, seniors on fixed
incomes, veterans, active-duty servicemembers fighting our wars, and the
families who stand by them." An opponent, Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said
the amendment "would effectively shield over 80 percent of the farm bill
from any deficit reduction and prevent the bill from addressing a
serious breach in the nutrition program." The vote, on May 21, was 26
yeas to 70 nays.
YEAS: Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand D-NY, Sen. Charles E. Schumer D-NY

Senate Vote 2:
CHANGING FOOD STAMPS PROGRAM: The Senate has rejected an amendment
sponsored by Sen. James M. Inhofe, R-Okla., to the Agriculture Reform,
Food, and Jobs Act (S. 954). The amendment would have repealed the
government's supplemental nutrition assistance program, also known as
food stamps, and replaced it with a program of annual block grants to
states that administer their own nutrition assistance programs. Inhofe
said the block grants would give states "all the authority they need to
ensure the program prevents the impoverished from going hungry," while
cutting spending on food stamps and reducing waste by establishing
minimum eligibility requirements for food stamp recipients. An opponent,
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said the amendment "leaves a whole lot of
families high and dry in an economic disaster, or any kind of disaster
that could occur for them." The vote, on May 22, was 36 yeas to 60 nays.
NAYS: Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand D-NY, Sen. Charles E. Schumer D-NY

Senate Vote 3:
SANCTIONS AGAINST IRAN: The Senate has agreed to a resolution (S. Res.
65), sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., strongly supporting the
full implementation of U.S. and international sanctions against Iran and
urging the president to strengthen enforcement of Iran sanctions
legislation. Graham said the resolution sent the message "that if that
day comes and Israel has to justifiably defend itself from a breakout by
the Iranian regime to build a nuclear weapon, which could be the end of
the Jewish state, we will have Israel's back economically, militarily,
and diplomatically." The vote, on May 22, was unanimous with 99 yeas.
YEAS: Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand D-NY, Sen. Charles E. Schumer D-NY

Senate Vote 4:
SUGAR SUBSIDIES: The Senate has rejected an amendment sponsored by Sen.
Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., to the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act
(S. 954). The amendment would have reduced government subsidies for
domestic sugar producers to the level that existed before the 2008 farm
bill. Shaheen said the current subsidy program was "a sweet deal for
sugar growers and a bad deal for consumers. Right now, according to the
Department of Commerce, we are losing three jobs in manufacturing for
every one job we save in the sugar grower industry." An opponent, Sen.
Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said: "Sugar is too important to our economy, it
is too important to our food processing to risk simply that we are going
to have enough sugar on the international market, that we are not going
to have a domestic supply because many of these provisions would drive
the domestic producer out of the market, making us beholden to foreign
sources of sugar." The vote, on May 22, was 45 yeas to 54 nays.
NAYS: Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand D-NY, Sen. Charles E. Schumer D-NY

Senate Vote 5:
D.C. CIRCUIT JUDGE: The Senate has confirmed the nomination of Srikanth
Srinivasan to serve as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the
District of Columbia Circuit. A supporter, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., cited
Srinivasan's work in the U.S. Solicitor General's Office and experience
arguing more than 20 cases before the Supreme Court and District of
Columbia Circuit, and his most qualified rating from the American Bar
Association. Kaine said: "Srikanth Srinivasan's career is a track record
of his dedication and ambition, but his temperament is a real tribute to
his humility, to his ability to listen not only to litigants but to
other judges. I think these credentials, both his formal
credentials--his work experience and temperament--would make him an
excellent choice." The vote, on May 23, was unanimous with 97 yeas.
YEAS: Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand D-NY, Sen. Charles E. Schumer D-NY

Senate Vote 6:
TOBACCO CROP INSURANCE: The Senate has rejected an amendment sponsored
by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to the Agriculture Reform, Food, and
Jobs Act (S. 954). The amendment would have barred tobacco farmers from
enrolling in federal crop insurance programs. Feinstein said the
amendment would save $30 million or more annually  while halting
subsidies for the production of tobacco, which "is the largest
preventable cause of cancer deaths in this country. Exactly 443,000
people die every year. It costs Medicaid an additional $22 billion." An
opponent, Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., said the amendment "would do
significant harm to the small tobacco farmers in North Carolina and in
other parts of the country" by hurting their efforts to obtain bank
financing, without having any impact on U.S. demand for tobacco
products. The vote, on May 23, was 44 yeas to 52 nays.
YEAS: Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand D-NY, Sen. Charles E. Schumer D-NY

Senate Vote 7:
CROP INSURANCE FRAUD: The Senate has passed an amendment sponsored by
Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., to the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act
(S. 954). The amendment would authorize annual spending of up to $5
million of crop insurance funds to prevent fraud in crop insurance
programs. Hagan said: "Crop insurance fraud not only harms the integrity
of Federal safety net programs and increases the cost to taxpayers, it
also drives up the cost of the insurance program for our honest,
law-abiding farmers." The vote, on May 23, was unanimous with 94 yeas.
YEAS: Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand D-NY, Sen. Charles E. Schumer D-NY

Senate Vote 8:
CROP INSURANCE SUBSIDIES FOR WEALTHY FARMERS: The Senate has passed an
amendment sponsored by Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., to the Agriculture
Reform, Food, and Jobs Act (S. 954). The amendment would limit the level
of premium subsidies provided to farmers enrolled in federal crop
insurance programs that have annual gross incomes of more than $750,000.
Durbin said the amendment would save over $1 billion in 10 years by
cutting crop insurance subsidies for wealthy farmers, "money we can
better spend either to reduce our debt or on critical programs for this
country." An opponent, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said: "Limiting
crop insurance support to producers will cause producers with large
pieces of land to leave the insurance system, losing the conservation
benefits and possibly increasing the costs, again, to smaller providers.
If everybody is not in, then the cost goes up for who is in." The vote,
on May 23, was 59 yeas to 33 nays.
YEAS: Sen. Charles E. Schumer D-NY
NAYS: Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand D-NY

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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.

rmccarthy@buffnews.com


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.

tprecious@buffnews.com


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 | jterreri@buffnews.com


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 | jzremski@buffnews.com

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