Over the weekend, Republicans in the New York State Senate rolled out a plan to address gun laws, which received criticism from Democrats due to its focus on increasing penalties for illegal guns rather than restricting access to assault weapons. A spokesman for Governor Andrew Cuomo quickly shot it down, however, and Mr. Cuomo reiterated his position that the Republicans’ policy proposals are a non-starter at a press conference this morning.
“I don’t think their plan goes far enough,” Mr. Cuomo said. “I think it misses the mark, pardon the pun, to put out a plan that doesn’t ban an assault weapon with what we’ve seen.”
Over the weekend, The Journal News newspaper published maps with the addresses and names of pistol permit holders in Westchester and Rockland Counties. The information for the map was legally obtained by the paper through a Freedom of Information Act request, but it sparked a nationwide controversy among those who considered the map a privacy violation. This morning, State Senator Greg Ball weighed in by proposing legislation to keep gun records private and prevent the publication of similar stories in the future. He also blasted “the asinine editors at The Journal News” who published the map.
“The asinine editors at The Journal News have once again gone out of their way to place a virtual scarlet letter on law-abiding firearm owners throughout the region. The immediate elimination of the information posted on the Journal News website is the only way we can ensure the safety and liberty of these New Yorkers,” said Mr. Ball in a statement. “This is clearly a violation of privacy, and needs to be corrected immediately. The same elitist eggheads who use their editorial page to coddle terrorists and criminals are now treating law-abiding citizens like level three sexual predators.”
What You Should Know
State Senator Ruben Diaz sent a special New Year’s-themed edition of his regular “What You Should Know” email newsletters this morning. In his year-end missive, Mr. Diaz took a series of shots at the State Senate with backhanded “political wishes” for the new IDC/GOP leadership coalition, “Uncle Tom” State Senator Malcolm Smith and State Senator Adriano Espaillat.
Newly-elected State Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins sidestepped radio host Fred Dicker’s repeated attempts to get her to say whether or not she agreed with State Senator Bill Perkins’ demand that Governor Andrew Cuomo stand up against “the plantation politics of backroom deals.”
Mr. Perkins, a Harlem Democrat, blasted the statement out yesterday, alluding to the power sharing agreement between the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference and Senate Republicans. Democrats were locked out the majority yet again when the IDC agreed to govern with Republican State Sen. Dean Skelos, angering Democrats who believed the Democratic governor of New York should have done more to return them to the majority and were upset by the fact the new Senate majority has just one minority member.
Earlier this week, State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins was elected to be the next leader of the Senate’s Democratic conference, but, even though Democrats will have a numerical majority in the chamber, a breakaway group of Democrats will place Ms. Stewart-Cousins’ caucus in the minority. Some partisans and activists have criticized New York’s top Democrat, Governor Andrew Cuomo for not intervening in the matter or even expressing support on his party’s behalf, but in a pair of TV appearances last night, Ms. Stewart-Cousins argued attention should instead be focused on his agenda, which “coincidentally” is hers as well.
“I met with the governor today, he wanted to talk to me and I brought colleagues with me,” she said on Inside City Hall. “We did have a good conversation, we had an open discussion. We talked about the state of the state. We talked about his legislative priorities. Coincidentally, many of his priorities are ours as well. There wasn’t a conversation about anger; there was a reality about the fact that Democrats are in a position to, again, to create an agenda and make it happen. I think he wants to make sure it gets done.”
changing the guard
Earlier this evening, the Senate Democratic Conference officially gave the boot to John Sampson and handed their top leadership position to Westchester’s Andrea Stewart-Cousins. In order to stress their unity, the Senate Democrats sent out a press release with almost every member of their conference touting Ms. Stewart-Cousins’s credentials and prospects going forward. They even included a statement from “Senator-Elect Cecilia Tkaczyk,” whose opponent just declared victory in a race the Democrats are still contesting.
For his part, Mr. Sampson took the news humbly, simply saying, “I look forward to working with Leader Stewart Cousins as we move the Democratic Conference forward serving all New Yorkers. The people of New York want a progressive and democratic agenda and that is what the Democratic Conference under the leadership of Senator Stewart Cousins will provide.”
Hell hath no fury like a county organization scorned.
Multiple Democratic insiders confirmed to Politicker that Queens State Senator Malcolm Smith, the fifth member of the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference, could face a primary challenger in 2014. Mr. Smith, it should be noted, has flirted with running for mayor as a Republican and is not going out of his way to strengthen his Democratic bonafides.
“It’s clear that Malcolm Smith is on his last term in the Senate,” said one source. “Caucusing with Republicans is not a viable tactic.”
Inside The IDC
Governor Andrew Cuomo has made it absolutely clear that the new Senate leadership coalition between the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference and and the Republicans will draw his ire if they do not support certain items on his agenda. Yesterday, we noted that it seemed the IDC and the governor might not be seeing eye-to-eye on one of the item on the governor’s “litmus test” for the coalition, campaign finance reform. Last night, we received a call from one of the five IDC members, State Senator Diane Savino, seeking to clarify the conference’s position on the issue. She also discussed the IDC’s goal, the racial controversies that have dogged the group and revealed the one person she’s not sure she’d allow to join the conference.
Governor Andrew Cuomo threw down the gauntlet on the new State Senate leadership coalition between the Republicans and the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference with a stern warning for them to support all of his agenda items that he has declared his “litmus test” for the group on Fred Dicker’s radio show this morning. Mr. Cuomo drew his line in the sand when the host asked about indications the new coalition might be hesitant to back all of the agenda items on the governor’s list. Mr. Cuomo, who has taken some heat from progressives for not doing more to oppose the coalition and back Democratic control of the Senate chamber, made it clear his tolerance for the group will cease if they don’t pass his test.
“If that’s true, then we’re going to have a problem Fred and we’re going to have a problem sooner rather than later,” said the governor.
In yet another one of the scandals beleaguering New York State politics in recent years, former State Senator Hiram Monserrate was sentenced to 24 months in prison today after pleading guilty in May to mail fraud charges.
Mr. Monserrate was convicted of misusing $109,000 in City Council grants to fund a failed State Senate campaign in 2006. A member of the City Council at the time, Mr. Monserrate directed the money to a group in his Queens district, the Latino Initiative for Better Resources and Empowerment.