The recent political chatter about “Obamacare” before the Supreme Court of the United States got a great deal of media attention. President Obama added fuel to the fire when he declared, “Ultimately, I am confident the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.”
For someone who was a law professor those words were absurd. Even if a bill passed unanimously in the house and senate, it could still be overturned – if the law was in violation of the Constitution.
Giving up is not “reform.” County Executive Ed Mangano’s proposal to transfer property assessment from the county to the towns might possibly speed up assessment decisions by replacing one large and overwhelmed bureaucracy with several somewhat smaller ones. It will likely recreate problems that were major motivations in creating our highly centralized county government 75 years ago.
The 1938 county charter merged the town Boards of Assessors and the County Board of Equalization, ending three decades of complaints, lawsuits and hard feelings about the lack of specific, uniform levels of property assessments between the towns. In a tax system screaming out for simplification, clarification and a sense of certainty, spinning off assessments to the towns will reintroduce “equalization” as an annual issue. Tens of thousands of residents are still trying to figure out why their assessment went down but their tax bill still went up. The division of taxes heading up the tax food chain in an equitable manner is the most complex subject in local government, and it’s all going to make people very sad, particularly in villages and school districts that are split between townships.
Manhattan District Attorney (D.A.) Robert Morgenthau was facing a spirited Democratic primary challenge from a former judge in 2005, but his opponent had trouble finding anything substantively negative to say about Morgenthau.
The reason I know this: a city-based tabloid newspaper reporter called me weeks before the election, asking whether it was legal to have a Manhattan driver’s license while at the same time registering and insuring a car in Dutchess County, where auto insurance premiums are much lower. The answer: yes, so long as the insured vehicle is primarily garaged in Dutchess County. I was the director of public affairs for the New York State Insurance Department at the time and knew immediately the question pertained to Morgenthau because he met those criteria.
Written by Mike Barry Friday, 28 December 2012 00:00
Few New Yorkers entered the polling booth on Election Day wondering who was going to control the state Senate next year. That’s a good thing because a couple of state senators have decided such matters are too important for voters to decide.
At least 32, and perhaps 33 (depending upon the outcome of still-contested race in an upstate district), of the 63 Democrats who sought election to the state Senate in November won, giving the Democrats, on paper at least, a majority in the state Senate. The Republicans controlled the state Senate in 2011 and 2012.
State Senator Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) and state Senator Jeff Klein (D-Bronx), recognizing that the voters’ collective decision was a problematic one for them, have decided to share power in the state Legislature’s upper chamber. As such, Long Island is at the center of the new, bi-partisan state Senate, where about 30 Republicans, nine of them from Nassau and Suffolk, have joined forces with five breakaway Democrats to form a governing majority. You may recall the bi-partisan state Senate coalition of 2009 crashed and burned weeks after its formation. But this time it is going to be different, I say [in my sarcastic voice]. Had the voters’ choice been implemented in January 2013, Albany would again have been the one-party town it was for most of 2009 and 2010, because New York has a Democratic governor and a sizable (107-43) Democratic majority in the state Assembly.
Readers of this space know I believe a Republican-controlled state Senate has been the only thing keeping New York from going the way of California, a place where one-party Democratic rule has led to strong pushes for greater access to marijuana, perhaps to offset the pain these same lawmakers inflict through higher taxes.
“Albany doesn’t do out of the box very well,” said Robert Bellafiore, who was Governor Pataki’s press secretary and is the founder and president of Stanhope Partners, an Albany, NY-based public affairs firm as well as a frequent commentator on Capital Tonight, a well-regarded political news program on Time Warner Cable’s Your News Now (YNN). Bellafiore did credit the Republicans for months ago laying the groundwork for this type of collaboration.
Senator Klein, for instance, had warm feelings about the GOP prior to Election Day 2012 because they gave him the Republican nomination, giving Klein a free pass to another two-year term. State Senator Malcolm Smith (D-Queens) had a different motive for crossing the aisle. Senator Smith met with GOP party leaders this year about securing the GOP’s support for his possible New York City mayoral bid in 2013, a plan that became more complicated last week when MTA chairman Joseph Lhota indicated he’d like to be the GOP’s mayoral nominee, too. Let’s not forget the part about actually governing the state. Senators Klein and Smith are likely to favor legislation next year that would raise the minimum wage, allocate taxpayer monies to pay for state political campaigns, and decriminalize marijuana possession. Way back in the spring of 2012, the GOP-controlled state Senate had little interest in passing those bills but now that political survival is their highest priority, who knows where Albany’s Republicans will stand on any issue?