New York State Senate

The Empire

LATFOR draft maps are released for both Senate and Assembly--updated

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The wait is over!

Draft maps have been placed on the New York State Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment website. A statement from the task force, co-chaired by Republican Senator Michael Nozzolio and Democratic Assemblyman John McEneny, called the plan "fair, legal and protects minority voting interests."

Not surprisingly, Senate Democrats are not taking the lines well.

"This Republican proposal contains none of the criteria reformers sought and none of the reforms the Governor included in his proposed legislation," Senate Minority Leader John Sampson said in a statement "The Republican-proposed districts are not compact, vary widely in population, and divide communities of interest in blatantly political ways."

Former mayor Ed Koch, who saw Senate Republicans renege on their promise of an independent, non-partisan redistricting process, is also blasting the plans.

"No surprise, I am disappointed in this result and in the dishonorable lawmakers who openly pledged to do things differently this year, and then reneged when it wasn't to their political advantage. What a shame: this is not reform in letter or in spirit," Koch said in a statement. "Today, victory lies with the Enemies of Reform."

He called on Governor Cuomo to keep his promise of vetoing maps that were not independently drawn an overtly partisan.

Governor Cuomo ran for office pledging to reform the way our state works, and to date, he's kept his word," Koch said. "Just this afternoon the Governor said his position has not changed, which I applaud him for, and I have every confidence he will keep his word to the people of New York and veto the proposed maps."

The images for the Senate districts are below. The Assembly districts are after the jump:

New York City's proposed Senate lines ( )

Long Island's proposed Senate lines ( )

Upstate New York's proposed Senate lines ( )

[caption id="attachment_13468" align="center" width="620" caption="New York City's proposed Assembly lines" credit=" "]

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The Empire

Councilman Lew Fidler to announce State Senate bid Monday

Friday, January 13, 2012

Another announcement that surprises no one: City Councilman Lew Fidler will announce his campaign for State Senate on Monday. He'll be running in a special election to fill the seat vacated by former Senator Carl Kruger.

The election is on March 20.

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The Empire

The Senate GOP's extra seat: hidden method or manipulation?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Assemblyman McEneny, left, and Senator Nozzolio, right (Courtesy of the LATFOR Committee.)

Late in the workday last Friday the long-anticipated LATFOR bomb dropped. There was no press release or announcement. Instead, a word or two were changed on the committees website and a new link to a document were all that indicated that the size of the New York State Senate would increase from 62 to 63 seats next year.

The move has been bashed by Senate Democrats (the Governor and Assemblymembers have been tellingly silent) and good government groups since it was noticed after 5 pm on Friday. They argue its a purely political attempt for the Senate Republicans to manufacture and maintain their majority. Senate Republicans are defending the decision as constitutional.

How the GOP can justify a new seat requires a bit of state constitutional knowledge. Unlike the Assembly, which has its number firmly set at 150, the Senate’s number is dictated by a formula that allows it to grow alongside the state’s population. (Jimmy Vielkind of the Times Union has a detailed breakdown of the math behind the change.)

At least that’s the idea. The problem really lies in the fact that the formula was decided upon and made law before a pretty big development occurred for New York: the incorporation of the City of New York in 1898. The Senate’s formula didn’t take into account the dividing of Queens County into the borough and Nassau County, nor the creation of the Bronx as its own county in 1914. Likewise Staten Island and Suffolk County were grouped into one Senate district.

This is the crux of why there’s even a debate over how many seats there are in the Senate. From 1972 to 1992, there was one agreed upon interpretation of how to apply the formula, per a ruling by the state’s highest court. The reason Senate Democrats are so angry over the 63rd seat announcement is because they believe Republicans are, again, changing how they want to count the counties that have morphed since 1894.

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The Empire

LATFOR site subtly announces 63rd Senate seat

Friday, January 06, 2012

Below is the letter that LATFOR has posted on their website justifying the increase of the State Senate from 62 to 63 seats. The move had been anticipated after Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos indicated last week that there was "a good chance" the Senate would add a 63rd seat.

Senate Republicans, according to an official, are saying the methodology used in 2002 to create 62 seats is the same being used now, and that the increase is mandated by the formula set by the New York Constitution.

In a phone interview, Democratic State Senator Michael Gianaris of Queens said Senate Republicans have reached "a new low in old Albany partisan politics."

"Just when we thought we'd turned the corner, with Governor Cuomo leading the way, to a new way of doing business in Albany, the Senate Republicans remind us that they're nothing but everything that's wrong with state government," Gianaris said. He said this gives the Governor even more of a reason to make good on his promise of vetoing the maps LATFOR produces.

One person close to LATFOR noted that Senate Republicans could have, instead of posting a memo at 5 pm on a Friday, made the announcement at the LATFOR public hearing scheduled for this coming Tuesday.

One of the big questions outstanding is whether or not Assembly Democrats cooperated with or were made aware of the Senate Republican's plans to announce the 63rd seat. As the message was posted to the LATFOR site, and one person close to LATFOR said Assembly Democrats were often the ones posting new documentation to the website, there seems to be a very high likelihood.

Senate Size

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The Empire

Councilman Lew Fidler likely Dem pick for open Kruger seat in Brooklyn

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Councilman Lewis Fidler

In the fallout over disgraced former state Senator Carl Kruger’s resignation, rumors have been swirling in the press over who will be running to fill the seat. On the Democratic side, it is almost sure to be City Councilman Lew Fidler. In conversations with Democratic officials, it was clear that Fidler has the backing of the Brooklyn Democratic Party (there are no primaries in special elections, so the party organization picks its candidate). Adding to this assurance is that labor groups, which back the Working Families Party, are content enough with Fidler that they won’t run someone to his left.

The Councilman has been not-so-subtlety suggesting he’d be gunning for the seat for some time. This is partly because he will be term limited out of his position in the city council in 2013 (he got a new lease on life when the Mayor Bloomberg-backed term limit override allowed him to run for a third term). Fidler has been showered with city council discretionary funds over the years, and has been close to Speaker Christine Quinn. That wasn’t enough, though, to help him secure the most coveted of council chairmanships—finance--back in 2009. The spot went to the Bloomberg-backed Domenic M. Recchia, Jr.

On the Republican side, it’s been reported that David Storobin, a Brooklyn GOP official, is angling for the seat. The Observer reports that he's meeting with key Republican officials today. There are a number of factors that could make this a competitive race—the district is relatively conservative, it voted for Republican Congressman Bob Turner by a 2-1 margin back in September, if the special election is held on the Republican presidential primary date—but Fidler, with his name recognition and fundraising ability, would be a difficult candidate to beat.

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The Empire

Brooklyn State Senator Carl Kruger resigns

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

As always, State of Politics and YNN host Liz Benjamin has a great rundown of Kruger's career. Read it here.

Carl Kruger Resignation Letter

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The Empire

Lovin' the Gov'na: voters continue to give Cuomo high marks

Friday, November 04, 2011

Courtsey of the Governor's office

Governor Andrew Cuomo continues his string of good poll numbers. A NY1/YNN-Marist Poll released today says 55 percent of New York voters say the Governor is doing a good or excellent job. According to the poll 70 percent of those surveyed said they had a favorable impression of Cuomo.

“Governor Cuomo is successfully navigating against a difficult economic current,” Lee Miringoff, Director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, said in a statement. “What makes his numbers particularly impressive is his popularity despite the anti-government, anti-incumbent sentiment in our politics today.”

Case in point: Only about 20 percent of voters think either the Assembly or the State Senate is doing an excellent or good job.

Part of the Governor's popularity is likely stemming from the impression voters have that he's kept his campaign promises, with 65 percent of those surveyed saying he did. His ability to connect word and deed in the voters eyes helping his image as an Albany reformer (63 percent say he's changing the capital for the better) who is the right sort of leader for the state (75 percent).

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The Empire

Republicans seek another Senate seat in Brooklyn

Monday, October 31, 2011

Majority Leader Skelos, center, with Senator Golden, far right, in Brooklyn last week. (Courtesy of Masbia)

City Hall News had a note about this this morning, and it's something I had wanted to point out last week when it happened. Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos of Long Island and the only Republican State Senator in Brooklyn, Marty Golden, did a photo-op at an Orthodox Jewish-backed soup kitchen in Brooklyn.

Skelos has been eyeing the communities of the 27th Senate District, currently held by indicted Democratic State Senator Carl Kruger, and more specifically the Orthodox community as a possible pickup to the Republicans' slim majority in the Senate. From City Hall:

The majority leader was there last week to help chop vegetables and serve food at the Jewish Met Council's Masbia soup kitchen in Midwood, but also took some time to consider the possibility of capturing Kruger's district in next year's election. Skelos said Rep. Bob Turner's win in the neighboring Ninth Congressional district bodes well for the Senate Republicans' chances of winning in the 27th district.

Watch for changes in the redistricting map produced by Senate Republicans, as they seek to strengthen their push for another seat in deeply Democratic Brooklyn.

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The Empire

Despite assurances, Senate Republicans show little movement on prisoner reallocation

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Senator Nozzolio at the most recent LATFOR meeting on Staten Island. (Courtesy of LATFOR)

Last week,a judge heard oral arguments on whether a law requiring New York State prisoners to be counted where they lived prior to being incarcerated for the purposes of redistricting should be upheld. Senate Republicans, who brought the suit, could really use a ruling against the law. Tens of thousands of upstate prisoners have helped boost predominantly rural areas population numbers. The effect has been more upstate seats, held mostly by Republicans.

But until a ruling is handed by the judge in the case—which could be as least as two months from now—LATFOR is bound by the law to draw lines that count prisoners in their communities. All those involved say they’re committed to following the law. That includes Republican Senator Michael Nozzolio, who, in a September 30 letter to the other members of the committee, said LATFOR should “immediately begin” the technical process of correctly identifying which prisoners should be counted where.

The thing is that Nozzolio’s colleagues in the State Assembly, according to documents, have already finished the process, and have submitted the geocoded prisoner database to the LATFOR committee. The Senate Republicans have known their Assembly colleagues have been working on complying with the law since at least the August 10 LATFOR meeting in White Plains, when a representative for the Assembly discussed where they were at in the process with Nozzolio.

A few weeks later they finished, producing documents that detail how they were able to identify 70 percent of prisoners out of the 58,000 in the state could be counted. The other 30 percent were either out-of-state prisoners, Federally incarcerated, or had invalid address for whatever reason.

That was the Friday before Labor Day. Weeks later Nozzolio issued his letter without a mention of the work done by the Assembly. In fact, looking at the letter, it could be read to suggest the Senator is calling for the process to start all over again.

But, as people testifying at LATFOR meetings have noted, the entire process is under both a compressed time frame and a tremendous amount of uncertainty. There’s the Federally mandated—and currently being litigated—requirement that New York move its primary date up in time for overseas service members to mail back ballots. When you add the promised veto by Governor Cuomo, the potential law suits, the time needed before deadlines for candidates to get on the ballot, and a picture of chaos begins to emerge.

With all this uncertainty it’s interesting that Nozzolio and the Senate Republicans—who have the most to lose from prisoner reapportionment—are saying they’ll conform to the law, but in practice aren’t taking the easy road. There doesn’t seem to be any actions accompanying Nozzolio’s letter from last month. A key member of LATFOR wasn’t present at the last public hearing, meaning any discussion about the reallocation process won’t happen until—at the earliest—at the October 27 meeting in Old Westbury.

I reached out to Nozzolio’s office a bit ago to find out why the Senator didn’t mention the work done by Assembly Democrats and to find out what, exactly, would impede his colleagues in the Senate from accepting their methodology. I’ll post their response.

After the jump are the Assembly's documents describing the process they used for reallocating prisoners.

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The Empire

State Senate Dems: Creating a new district is illegal

Monday, September 19, 2011

Pushing back on reported Republican attempts to create a new seat in the New York State Senate, Senate Democrats are rebutting the idea, calling the move illegal under the law.

"What the Senate Republicans are doing is illegal and no reading of the State Constitution would allow a new seat to be created. We are witnessing the depths that the Republicans will go to hold onto power," Mike Murphy, spokesperson for the Senate Democrats, said in a statement. "They are playing a dangerous game with the state constitution and the redistricting process."

The Dems are arguing the state's constitution explicitly states how to count the number of senate districts and that, however you count it, the state's population dictates 62 districts.

The Republicans, however, are vehemently denying any such plan exists. Scott Reif, spokesperson for the Senate Republicans, has called the suggestion "pure speculation."

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The Empire

New York likely to miss another Federal health exchange deadline

Friday, September 16, 2011

By Karen DeWitt, WXXI Capitol Bureau Chief

Health advocacy groups say it’s likely that New York State will miss another deadline to implement the new Federal health care law. Republicans in the State Senate, who control the chamber, are expressing new reservations about the health care exchanges, based on policy differences, not political opposition.

Scott Reif, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, says Senators are taking a “cautious, wait-and-see approach”, and have concerns that the federal program could result in New Yorkers paying $3.75 billion dollars more in taxes, thanks to new higher Medicare taxes for upper-income earners.

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The Empire

Embattled Sen. Kruger's Chief of Staff pulls highest pay (updated)

Friday, August 05, 2011

The state senate released its twice-a-year report on expenditures today. One of the most interesting things that popped out? Embattled Senator Carl Kruger's chief of staff, Jason Koppel, was by far the highest-paid staffer for any individual member, raking in just over (like, literally, by one cent) $81,000 for his services.

The next closest member--Senator Kevin Parker's counsel Richard Berkley--was paid about $18,500 less.

The Senator's office didn't immediately provide comment on the expenditure. Sen. Kruger An associate of Senator Kruger this past week was was given three years probation and fined $15,000 for lying to FBI agents. The senator has been caught up in a bribery scheme since 2009.

More soon.

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The Empire

Senate Republicans continue to dominate Dems on fundraising

Monday, July 18, 2011

NYPIRG's Bill Mahoney continues to crunch the recent financial disclosure reports:

While disclosure reports for eight active committees controlled by senators have yet to appear online, the recent arrival of the DSCC’s housekeeping committee means that some general trends can be noted. Republican candidates and their conference committee ($6,619,296.70) raised more than three times as much as Democrats ($2,172,168.86).   Democrats, however, spent more ($2,818,717.30) than Republicans ($2,187,133.82).  Republicans have $10,568,859.83 in the bank; Democrats have $4,254,488.47, but their party committee’s debt load means that their actual balance is closer to $1,915,520.94.

The three Independent Democratic Conference members who have filed with the state board of elections reported raising $695,572.59--of which Mayor Michael Bloomberg provided $30,900.

We're still waiting on the filings of Senators Flanagan, Dilan, Sampson, Parker, Diaz, Carlucci, Seward, and Ball. Check out NYPIRG's breakdown below.

Senate Breakdown, July 2011

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The Empire

New York State legislators get big boost as Cuomo's favorable ratings inch even higher in latest Siena poll

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Mr. Popularity, Governor Andrew CuomoHalf of all New Yorkers believe the 2011 state legislative session put New York on the right track according to the latest Siena Research Institute poll released this morning.

Governor Andrew Cuomo's approval ratings squeaked up even higher to 71 percent after what many have hailed as a highly successful first session, while the oft-maligned state legislature managed to improve in the eyes of a sizable number of New Yorkers.The state senate's favorable rating improved by 11 points, from 30 percent to 41, while the assembly shot up by 12 points, from a 26 percent favorable rating to 38. Of course, both houses are still unfavorable rating by a plurality of New Yorkers according to poll results.

“For years, the word most often heard to describe state government generally and the Legislature specifically has been ‘dysfunctional.’ In voters’ minds, the Governor and  Legislature took a step forward this year to change that,” Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg said in a press release. “Nearly half--including at least 45 percent of Democrats, Republicans and voters from every region--said this year’s session shows that state government has become less dysfunctional, while only 18 percent said it has become more dysfunctional and 28 percent said the level of dysfunction remains unchanged.”

Both ethics reform and tax cap legislation scored big points for putting the state on the right track according to the poll. A plurality of voters--46 percent--said the same for same-sex legislation, while 23 percent--the most for any of the pieces of legislation in the poll--thought it made no difference at all.

While Cuomo remains very popular, New Yorkers said the governor should give potential presidential ambitions a break. “Presidential speculation is nothing new for New York governors, however, voters think it is way too early to start printing Cuomo 2016 bumper stickers,” Greenberg said in the release.  “At least 80 percent of voters from every party and region say that the speculation is premature and he should focus on his responsibilities as governor."

Overall, 48 percent of New Yorkers say we're headed on the right track--the best numbers since February 2007 according to the press release. The poll had a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percent.

PDF of the poll results below.

SNY0711 Crosstabs

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It's A Free Country ®

Where Prisoners Get Counted as Citizens and Why it Matters

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Justice Department just approved New York's right to count prisoners in their home districts, rather than in their county of incarceration. How will that change the state legislative map in a year when redistricting reform already has blood boiling in Albany?


It's A Free Country ®

Gay Marriage in NYS: Who are the Republican Targets?

Friday, May 06, 2011

New Yorkers United for Marriage, the gay rights advocacy supergroup that formed last month to fight for marriage equality legislation in the state, has identified at least 12 Republican state senators that they're trying to turn into "yes" votes. (The State Assembly has never had trouble passing a gay marriage bill; still safely held by Democrats, consensus is that garnering votes in that chamber is a non-issue.) In the Senate, they'll need every single Democrat and as many members of the GOP as they can muster if a bill has any chance of surviving; similar efforts died on the Senate floor in 2007 and again in 2009, with every Republican voting against it.

Here's a quick look at four senators on the list, and why they're there.

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It's A Free Country ®

What's Stopping Gay Marriage From Being Legal in New York?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Public support for same sex marriage in New York state is at an unprecedented 58 percent. Only 36 percent of New Yorkers are opposed. Taking those numbers along with Governor Andrew Cuomo's recent insistence upon marriage equality legislation getting passed this year, it suddenly seems likely that the state could see another vote on the issue sooner rather than later.

But we've been down this road before, and same sex marriage can't seem to get past the State Senate. With the Assembly perennially in favor, and public support ever increasing, what seems to be the trouble? 

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Critics Call New York Senate Redistricting Bill Inadequate

Monday, March 14, 2011

A partisan argument broke out Monday in the New York State Senate over the issue of redrawing district lines, as pressure mounts on the chamber's Republican conference to adopt a plan for an independent commission soon.