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Assembly To Try Again On Merging Primaries

The Democratic-led Assembly next week will once again consider legislation that would merge the federal and state primaries into one date. 

A bill to merge the primaries for congressional elections -- now slated for the end of June -- with the September state and local party primary contests, will be before the Assembly Election Law Committee next week, according to an agenda released on Thursday. 

The measure comes as New York once again faces the costly prospect of three primaries, given the April 19 presidential primary for both Democrats and Republicans. 

New York's primary system was fractured in 2012 when a federal judge ordered the state hold its congressional primary in June in order to satisfy requirements under the MOVE Act, which requires timely access to absentee ballots for military and overseas voters. 

The court order came as state lawmakers were at an impasse over the primary date: Republicans wanted August; Democrats preferred June. 

In a bill memorandum attached to the measure, Assembly lawmakers estimate that merging the federal and state party contests into one date would save $25 million. 

The measure comes as multiple members of the Legislature are running for Congress, including Republican Assemblywoman Claudia Tenney, and Republican Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci. Democratic Assemblyman Keith Wright, Democratic Sens. Adriano Espaillat and Bill Perkins are all competing in a primary for the seat being vacated by longtime Rep. Charlie Rangel.  

GOP Sens. Jack Martins and Joe Griffo are also considering runs for open congressional seats this year as well. 

-Nick Reisman (@NickReisman)


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Report: Nassau GOP Backs McGrath For Skelos Seat

Nassau County Republicans on Thursday night backed the candidacy of Chris McGrath for the district left vacant by the corruption conviction of ex-Majority Leader Dean Skelos, according to Newsday.  

Capital Tonight reported earlier in the day that Republicans were turning to McGrath, a personal injury attorney who has given to the local county committee, to fill the Long Island Senate seat. 

McCarth is expected to face Democratic Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky, a rising star in the party who plans a "special announcement" on Sunday after forming a campaign committee ahead of the Senate bid. 

Kaminsky's candidacy was previously approved by Nassau County Democrats. 

A run by Kaminsky, a former federal prosecutor who has tried corruption cases, has been stoked by Democrats eager to win a Senate seat in either Nassau or Suffolk counties. 

The "Long Island 9" is a potent voting bloc for the Senate and, up until Skelos's departure last month following his felony conviction, was represented by Republican lawmakers across the board.

A special election to fill the district could be called for April 19 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, though he is yet to do so. 

-Nick Reisman

Community Rallies Around Buffalo Non-Profit After Comptroller Questions Practices

Last month, Republican Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw released a contract compliance review of the Buffalo Urban League.

According to the audit, the non-profit had failed to honor its contract with the county.

The audit also claimed the community organization failed to train employees, protect children’s privacy and outrageously overbilled the county. Many people raised questions about why the County Comptroller would be so harsh on the Urban League, voices that got even louder, when days later, news of Mychajliw’s ethics violation came out.

Thursday, the fourth floor of Buffalo’s Old County Hall was at capacity with people supporting the Urban League. One person was noticeably absent from the legislature meeting to discuss the audit findings.

Read more here.

-Ryan Whalen (@RyanTWCNews)  

Senate Democrats Blast Defund Planned Parenthood Bill

Democratic Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins on Thursday blasted a measure proposed by a Republican assemblyman that would block state funding of Planned Parenthood.

The bill proposed by Assemblyman Steve Katz, who is due to retire at the end of the year, stands little chance of clearing the Democratic-dominated chamber.

But Stewart-Cousins said the bill introduced this week by Katz is an example of how abortion rights are under fire not just nationally, but in New York as well.

Read more here.

-Nick Reisman

What We're Reading Elsewhere

NYC officials are trying to ease the fears of New Yorkers about the Zika virus, even as they confirmed that a third person – a pregnant woman – has contracted the disease in the city, and seven people have received a diagnosis statewide.

Unsatisfied with proposed 23 percent pay hike, NYC Council members are planning to overrule a mayor-appointed panel and vote themselves a whopping 32 percent raise next week. The Council plans to boost members’ base salaries from $112,500 to $148,500, retroactive to Jan. 1. Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s salary would increase to $164,500.

The machinations to sign off on the pay bill were occurring under a deadline of sorts: Because the bills were finalized by the end of the day yesterday, they could be voted on next Friday, the same day the Council is expected to vote on the mayor’s controversial horse-carriage plan.

Residents of Hoosicks Falls say they are relieved action is being taken to address the water contamination in the village after the state declared the area a superfund site, which can begin the remediation process. 

READ MORE IN OUR EXCLUSIVE MORNING ROUND-UP OF NEWS HEADLINES: "Here and Now."

Last Night on CapTon: 

- Batting for the Democrats. Former AAA umpire-turned-labor organizer Shaun Francis was in the studio following the official kick off of his long-simmering campaign against GOP Sen. Kathy Marchione.

Francis, a Democrat who has never before held elected office, says he decided to run after realizing that Marchione is too conservative and doesn't represent his values - or those he believes many others in the district hold.

(In a somewhat ironic twist, Francis used to ump at Joe Bruno Stadium, and now he's running for the seat perhaps best known as being the one Bruno, the former Senate majority leader, held for many years). 

Francis is making campaign finance reform - specifically, closing the LLC loophole - a central focus of his campaign. However, he won't commit to not accepting any LLC money himself, though he did say he won't take cash from anyone who is clearly trying to skirt contribution limits by giving through multiple LLCs that they control. 

Francis also discussed the SAFE Act. He said he doesn't want to take away anyone's firearm, but does have questions about how the controversial gun control law was passed - a position that's very popular among Democratic candidates these days. 

Francis declined to issue a full throated endorsement of NY-19 candidate Zephyr Teachout, though he did say he believes that House race will boost turnout in his Senate contest, which he thinks would be to his advantage. 

- Green Day. Peter Iwanowicz of Environmental Advocates of New York joined us following yesterday's budget hearing on the environmental conversation proposals in Cuomo's executive spending plan.

Iwanowicz has been critical of the governor for failing to have an over-arching blueprint to address climate change, the lack of which has sometimes resulted in plans that seem to compete with or undercut one another.  

He also briefly discussed the water debacle in Hoosick Falls, which came up during the hearing. 

- Budget Bulldog. If you've been following the (seemingly endless) budget hearings, you might have noticed some tenacious questioning of witnesses by Assemblyman Tom Abinanti, a Hudson Valley Democrat.

Abinanti used to be an attorney before he became a state lawmaker, and he's putting his interrogation skills to work during these hearings, grilling administration officials - and others - about salient (yet sometimes obscure) details of the governor's plan.

Abinanti took a break from yesterday's environmental hearing to talk to us from our Capitol Bureau. 

- How Much Change is Too MuchThe state Education Department and Board of Regents have already taken steps to address some of the more controversial issues related to the Common Core - teacher evaluations, testing - but some advocates who like the standards worry about the possibility they'll be jettisoned altogether. 

A complete rejection of the Common Core hasn't gone well in the states that have undertaken it, according to a report by High Achievement New York. The organization's Stephen Sigmund  and Kevin Rothman from the Excelsior Academy in Newburgh (a P-TECH school) were in the studio earlier this week to explain. 

Coming Up on CapTon: 

- It's Friday, which means the Reporters of the Roundtable will be in the studio to review the week's events. 

- We'll check in with New York Farm Bureau President Dean Norton about his organization's top priorities for 2016. Chief among them: An uphill battle to try to block the governor's push for a statewide $15-an-hour minimum wage. 

Happening Today

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will be in New York City today, hanging with his buddy, Vice President Joe Biden, for an event that sources tell us will be about Paid Family Leave, though technically speaking, they’ll be discussing “the economy.” 

LG Kathy Hochul is in Washington, D.C. with no public schedule. 

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife, NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray, are headed to Iowa to campaign for Hillary Clinton ahead of Monday’s caucuses. They’re due back in the Big Apple Tuesday evening. 

At 10:30 a.m., state Liquor Authority Chairman Vince Bradley will outline Cuomo’s 2016 State of the State agenda, Clarence Public Library, 3 Town Pl., Clarence. 

At 11:05 a.m., de Blasio will appear live on WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show to discuss New York City’s progressive agenda, Iowa, and the snowstorm aftermath.

At 12:30 p.m., state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli keynotes the Environmental Law Section luncheon of the state Bar Association’s ongoing annual meeting, New York Hilton, 1335 Ave. of the Americas, Manhattan. 

At 1 p.m., Cuomo holds an event with VP Joe Biden, McBurney YMCA, 125 West 14th St., Manhattan. 

Also at 1 p.m., Rep. Elise Stefanik visits Mold-Rite Plastics, 1 Plant St., Plattsburgh. 

Also at 1 p.m., Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy will be in conversation on U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East at the Council on Foreign Relations, 58 E 68th St., Manhattan. 

At 2:30 p.m., Stefanik visits SpencerARL, 3 Area Development Dr., Plattsburg.

At 3 p.m. Canal Corp. Director Brian Stratton outlines Cuomo’s 2016 State of the State agenda, SUNY Orange, Gilman Center Library, 115 S. St., Middletown. 

Also at 3 p.m., Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara will join parents, family, friends, professionals and people with Autism Spectrum Disorder to unveil a significant package of legislation meant to enhance the quality of life for New Yorkers living with autism, Autism Society of the Greater Capital Region, 101 State St., Schenectady.

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