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Skelos: Cuomo showed a "lack of inner strength"

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- The Republican co-leader of the Senate is lashing out at Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for the deal announced Wednesday in which a small band of independent Democrats say they will form a new coalition with the main Senate Democratic conference to oust Republicans from power.

“He’s a Democrat, but what’s surprising to me, really, is the failure in character to stand up to the Working Families Party and Bill de Blasio and just cave to their radical demands," said Sen. Dean Skelos, a Long Island Republican, about Cuomo in an interview with The Buffalo News this afternoon.

Skelos said Republicans will pick up seats to maintain the majority this fall. But he said the deal that Cuomo helped put together with Senate co-leader Jeff Klein, a Bronx Democrat, if successful, will disenfranchise upstate and Long Island by putting legislative power into the hands of New York City Democrats.

Skelos said that four years ago Cuomo dictated demands to the Working Families Party for him to run on their line. “This time it was the timid Andrew Cuomo who sold out politically and governmentally to the Working Families Party and what they represent."

Skelos dismissed Cuomo’s claim that he wants a more “progressive" agenda than Senate Republicans were willing to give him, noting that Cuomo got through a major gun control law, legalization of marriage rights for gays and an increase in the minimum wage with Republicans in partial control of the Senate.

As for de Blasio, who Skelos says helped orchestrate the endorsement by the Working Families Party of Cuomo, the New York mayor is poised to become “the de facto governor" of New York if he gets his way and a New York City-dominated Legislature is in place in both the Senate and Assembly.

“We’re going to win back the majority. This year, I think, is better than 2010, when we won back the majority," Skelos said. He said New York voters will react to what he characterized as policy problems in the Obama White House as well as Cuomo “moving away from a bipartisan government to a total New York City-type state government."

Skelos said he has not talked to Cuomo since the end of the session last week. Cuomo this week went to Binghamton, Rochester, Buffalo and then Long Island –- appearing at each event with Republican senators while touting his ability to work across the aisle.

“I think what he was doing by embracing Republicans at events is sending a message of bipartisanship while in the background he is basically looking to destroy bipartisanship in this state and have totally New York City dominance and takeover of the state," Skelos said.

Asked if the whole episode will now see Senate Republicans cozying up to Rob Astorino, the party’s gubernatorial candidate, Skelos said: “I endorsed Astorino a long time ago. He’s our candidate. It’s not just about Republicans endorsing Republicans and Democrats endorsing Democrats. It’s that the governor showed a lack of inner strength and character by capitulating to the Working Families Party and the radical left agenda."


Skelos on Klein deal: Deal? What deal? Everything is fine

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- Here is the statement tonight from Republican Senator Dean Skelos on the claim by his fellow Senate co-leader, Democrat Jeff Klein, that Republicans are out of power and it's all in for Democrats come January.

"It’s unfortunate that Mayor de Blasio, the radical Working Families Party and their co-conspirators in the Senate Democratic Conference are attempting to take control of the New York State Senate. This ‘agreement’ is nothing more than a short-term political deal designed to make threatened primaries go away.

"Both Senator Klein and I realize that our historic coalition has made great progress for the people of this state, and more importantly the majority of New Yorkers believe that as well. In fact, just today the Governor was touting our shared accomplishments.

"It’s unfortunate that the Governor would cave to the Working Families Party and what they stand for - - higher taxes and spending - - and is that concerned with a primary from a largely unknown challenger. Many of the achievements we’ve had together over the last four years would not have become reality without strong Senate Republican leadership, and would not have occurred with an all-Democrat state government.

"Senator Klein has witnessed what it’s like to govern in a Senate that was dysfunctional and in one that has functioned well. No one wants to return to those days of failure and chaos. In the heat of primaries and elections, people say a lot of things. When primary season is over, I’m confident that cooler heads will prevail. And, make no mistake that once the dust settles from this election, Republicans will have a full majority. Even then, we will continue to work with Democrats to cut taxes, create jobs and move this state forward.''




Klein says goodbye to coalition with Senate GOP; Cuomo says good

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- Here is the statement by Senate co-leader Jeff Klein and Gov. Andrew Cuomo will work to form a new coalition with main Democratic conference after November elections:

Senator Jeffrey D. Klein said, “The Independent Democratic Conference has served as a strong, stabilizing, sensible force for governing in New York State for four years. Under a first-of-its kind bipartisan, coalition government the IDC ushered in a functioning New York State Senate and delivered unprecedented results for working families, including four consecutive on-time budgets, passing the toughest gun control laws in the nation, marriage equality, an increase to the minimum wage, universal pre-k for thousands of toddlers and the safe, regulated use of medical marijuana.

“Yet as we reflect on these past achievements, it is also clear that core Democratic policy initiatives that the IDC championed remain unfinished. As Democrats, the IDC remains committed to the fight for an equal education for all New York students - which the Dream Act would provide, protecting a woman's right to choose, increasing workers' wages, and enacting meaningful campaign finance reform. I agree with Governor Cuomo that these are progressive priorities we must pass.

“Therefore all IDC members are united and agree to work together to form a new majority coalition between the Independent Democratic Conference and the Senate Democratic Conference after the November elections in order to deliver the results that working families across this state still need and deserve.”

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said, “I applaud the IDC’s decision. There is no doubt that we have accomplished much for the state over the past four years. We have transformed the state government from dysfunctional to highly functional, a deficit to a surplus, and losing jobs to gaining jobs. There is also no doubt there are progressive goals that we have yet to achieve and that we must accomplish next January.”



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Roll call: Assembly members' votes on medical marijuana bill

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- Here is the Assembly vote, from very early this morning, on legalizing medical marijuana:

Assembly vote on medical marijuana bill

Buffalo poised to get its long-sought traffic adjudication bill

By Tom Precious

ALBANY – It’s been years of making a pitch, but Buffalo tonight has moved a major step forward in its bid to take over the state's work of adjudicating traffic violations that occur within city limits.

A measure to let the city run its own traffic adjudication system, approved by the state Senate Wednesday, sailed through the Assembly tonight without any debate.

The state has been unwilling for years to give up the adjudication responsibilities – and the money it brings.

But an amendment to the long-stalled bill called for the city to take over the work – and keep the money – so long as the move does not cost the state any lost funds in its current fiscal year that ends next March 31.

For motorists, there could be an extra benefit: plea bargaining. The legislation notes that the state handles traffic violations for the city without plea bargaining opportunities.

The new bill, which still needs approval from Gov. Andrew Cuomo to become law, changes that legal maneuvering with the switch-over to a city-controlled traffic adjudication system. The bill will not take effect until the city’s 2014-15 fiscal year, and it is already counting on $3.2 million from adjudicating its own tickets.

The bill's sponsors, Buffalo's Sen. Mark Grisanti, a Republican, and Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes, a Democrat, argued in a bill memo that the current system preventing plea bargaining is unfair because that option is afforded motorists getting tickets in all other cities, towns and villages in Western New York.

They say violators could be given the option of attending a traffic safety course and, as a result, not receive any additional points on their license. In turn, that could help keep insurance rates down, they argue.

The bill dates back to at least 2007, according to a legislative memo, and has been requested year after year by Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown.

Poloncarz backs Zellner for re-election as Dem chairman

   By Robert J. McCarthy

   As expected, County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz has announced his support for the re-election of Jeremy J. Zellner as Erie County Democratic chairman this year.
   Poloncarz made the announcement Wednesday evening before a gathering of town chairmen.
   “Jeremy is committed to supporting candidates who embrace true Democratic Party values and he is a real advocate for creating a better community,” Poloncarz said. “I look forward to voting for him again for another term as chair of the committee.”
   Zellner has always enjoyed solid support from the Poloncarz wing of the party, but could still receive a challenge for the chairmanship. Cheektowaga Democratic Chairman Frank C. Max Jr. has indicated he is interested in running for county chairman again in September, but has made no official announcement.

Miller-Williams will skip challenge of Kennedy

   By Robert J. McCarthy

   Legislator Barbara Miller-Williams said Thursday she will not enter the Democratic primary for the State Senate seat now held by Timothy M. Kennedy.
   "I have a lot of respect for Sen. Tim Kennedy and I certainly do not want to run aganist him," she said. "I simply don't have an interest at this time."
    Miller-Williams did not entirely close the door on a Senate candidacy this year, acknowledging that some Democrats continue to urge her to run. But she also said she does not anticipate changing her mind.
   Kennedy is already facing a primary challenge from Legislator Betty Jean Grant, and some observers say the incumbent would benefit by facing two black opponents who might be expected to diffuse the African-American vote in the district.

Lawmaker says tentative teacher evaluation deal will push re-look at Common Core

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- The head of the Assembly education committee, who helped negotiate the teacher evaluation deal that appears to be coming together this afternoon, will likely lead officials in New York to eventually re-examine the whole Common Core program.

Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan, a Queens Democrat, said the temporary time-out in the Common Core program to use the new standardized tests as at least 20 percent of a teacher's performance evaluation "will spark another round'' of talks about the Common Core standards. She noted the debate over teacher evaluations in New York comes a day after the governor of Louisiana moved to end his state's Common Core program.

The governor this afternoon introduced a program bill to give a two-year delay -- during the the 2013/14 "and/or" 2014/15 school years -- to the use of standardized tests based on the Common Core curriculum as part of teacher evaluations in school districts across New York. The same break was given to students -- in the form of the tests basically not counting against their promotion or graduation -- back in March.

Nolan and the governor's office were not yet officially calling it a three-way deal today on the teacher evaluation, especially since the matter shortly after 1pm was being discussed in a closed-door meeting by Senate Republicans.

But sources said the Assembly is certain to pass the bill. "It gives the teachers the breathing room we gave to students during the state budget,'' Nolan said in an interview this afternoon.

The Common Core, already dismissed as a failure by many parents across the state, targets English and math skills in grades three through eight.

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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 |