$500,000 to be al­lot­ted for data­base of deals

The Buffalo News - - CON­TIN­UED FROM THE COVER -

be for dis­tricts’ op­er­at­ing aid. He also said the fi­nal bud­get will re­quire public and pri­vate em­ploy­ers to give work­ers three hours of paid time off on elec­tion days as a way to boost voter turnout.

Eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment

Cuomo will be get­ting an­other round of $750 mil­lion to spend through 10 re­gional coun­cils that draw up plans each year for how they would like to spend their al­lot­ments.

Law­mak­ers be­gan push­ing for new trans­parency mea­sures in the wake of the Buf­falo Bil­lion bid-rig­ging scandal, which last year saw the con­vic­tions of Buf­falo executive Louis Ciminelli and oth­ers in a scheme in­volv­ing up­state pro­jects led by the $750 mil­lion RiverBend so­lar fac­tory project.

The Leg­is­la­ture again this year pro­posed a “data­base of deals,” in which the public could go to a state web­site to get de­tailed in­for­ma­tion about ev­ery eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment con­tract, in­clud­ing re­cip­i­ent, num­ber of promised – and realized – jobs and a break­down of tax­payer in­cen­tives.

In the end, the 2019 bud­get will al­lot $500,000 for Cuomo to cre­ate a data­base – but with no spe­cific re­quire­ments about what the data­base must con­tain.

“It looks like we’ll just have to trust the governor’s ob­jec­tiv­ity,” said Assem­bly­man Robin Schim­minger, a Ken­more Demo­crat and chair­man of the Assem­bly Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Com­mit­tee.

Schim­minger said the public, par­tic­u­larly af­ter the Buf­falo Bil­lion scandal, is “en­ti­tled to know about the in­nards of eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment deals.”

David Fried­fel, state stud­ies di­rec­tor at the Cit­i­zens Bud­get Com­mis­sion, a fis­cal watch­dog group, said the cri­te­ria for what gets in­cluded in a data­base of deals should be set in law and ob­jec­tively writ­ten.

“It’s great to have a data­base of deals, but it’s more im­por­tant to have a good data­base of deals. Hav­ing win­dow dress­ing is in some ways more prob­lem­atic be­cause then you think you’re see­ing all the deals and agree­ments, but if the public is not then there is a mis­per­cep­tion,” he said.

Crim­i­nal jus­tice

Be­sides agree­ing to close two prisons some­where up­state, law­mak­ers and Cuomo also are clos­ing in on a three­part deal to make changes in crim­i­nal dis­cov­ery pro­ceed­ings, en­sure more speedy trials for de­fen­dants and end the cash bail sys­tem that crit­ics say has kept lower-in­come in­di­vid­u­als in­car­cer­ated when they do not pose a flight risk.

“What we’re try­ing to do is make the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem more just,” said Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader An­drea Ste­wart-Cousins, a Westch­ester County Demo­crat. She added: “We’re try­ing to make sure peo­ple are not held when they don’t have to be” while pro­tect­ing public safety.

Se­nate Deputy Ma­jor­ity Leader Michael Gia­naris, a Queens Demo­crat, said ne­go­tia­tors are work­ing on a list of spe­cific serious felony of­fenses that would still be sub­ject to a mone­tary bail sys­tem.

Assem­bly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Demo­crat, es­ti­mated that 85 per­cent of peo­ple ar­rested will no longer have to come up with cash to get out of jail while await­ing a trial or set­tle­ment.

Cuomo, who has ad­vo­cated for the end of the cash bail sys­tem, said Fri­day even­ing that deals are at hand on end­ing cash bail for mis­de­meanor and non­vi­o­lent felony ar­rests, but that there is still a “con­cep­tual dis­agree­ment” about a new bail sys­tem for vi­o­lent felony ar­rests.

Dozens of policy items have been ejected from the bud­get talks, in­clud­ing every­thing from le­gal­iz­ing mar­i­juana to ex­pand­ing op­tions for bet­ting on pro and college sports.

Also ex­pected in the fi­nal deal: mak­ing the state’s property tax cap pro­gram per­ma­nent in state law. Fu­ture gov­er­nors and leg­is­la­tors, as with any law, can al­ways make changes to the pro­gram down the road.

Af­ter a stretch limo crash last Oc­to­ber in Schoharie County that left 20 peo­ple dead, the new bud­get deal also is ex­pected to in­clude limo-safety pro­vi­sions, in­clud­ing ad­di­tional penal­ties for com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles op­er­at­ing out of ser­vice, tougher crim­i­nal penal­ties for re­moval of fed­eral safety cer­tifi­cates, higher in­surance cov­er­age on limos, and driver cer­tifi­cates posted in limos for pas­sen­gers to view.

The ten­ta­tive deal also in­cludes new com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle crash re­port­ing rules, ad­di­tional safety re­port­ing re­quire­ments on in­spec­tion sta­tions, U-turn ban for stretch limos and a state study on U-turn and wrong-way crashes.

The Cuomo ad­min­is­tra­tion con­firmed new limo safety rules will be part of the bud­get.

“This is go­ing to save lives,” said Sen. Tim Kennedy, a Buf­falo Demo­crat and chair­man of the Se­nate transportation com­mit­tee.

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