A Defection in the Bronx

Assemblyman Luis Sepúlveda, a Bronx Democrat, has added his name to the slowly growing list of Speaker Sheldon Silver’s conference members publicly calling for him to fully relinquish power in the wake of reports that he will try to retain his leadership title (and its accompanying stipend) while tapping a five-member leadership team to run the chamber while he focuses on his legal defense.

In a statement released by his Assembly office, Sepulveda acknowledged that this is a “difficult time” for Silver and his family, and said Democrats should be “grateful” to the speakaer for his service in his current role since 1994 – a period that saw the institution of universal pre-K for the state, the end of the Rockefeller drug laws, passage of the SAFE Act, passage (in the Assembly only) of the DREAM Act, “and so much more.”

“With a strong belief in the presumption of innocence I believe that Speaker Silver deserves his day in front of a jury before we pass judgment on his alleged actions,” Sepulveda said.

“However, as this body moves into budget negotiations, one of the most important parts of the year, the criminal complaint filed against the speaker has clearly become a distraction and has taken the spotlight away from so many of the important issues we should be debating. Issues like education, criminal justice reform, and infrastructure, among others, have now taken a back seat due to the speaker’s unfortunate situation.”

“The focus of this body right now must be budget negotiations, an area where the Speaker is an instrumental component. In light of these recent issues his position as a negotiator has been greatly compromised. The governor’s proposed budget will have an impact on every New Yorker, and our job as legislators is to ensure that our communities are represented in this budget. Our constituents are our first and most important duty.”

“There comes a time when an institution must come before any individual, and it is for these reasons that I believe that Speaker Silver should step down as speaker and allow for this body to get to work on these issues without being distracted,” the assemblyman continued. “Already since the speaker’s arrest the Assembly was forced to cancel session on a day that we should have been honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”

“It is likely that distractions like this will continue throughout the legislative session period if Speaker Silver remains in his leadership position.”

Sepulveda said he hopes he and his colleagues can elect a “new speaker,” but he did not express a favorite candidate for the post.

Sepulveda is one of the younger members of the Assembly Democratic conference. He was elected in November 2012 to fill the seat left vacant by Peter Rivera when he departed to take a job with the Cuomo administration as labor commissioner – a post from which Rivera has since retired.

Silver’s arrest late last week on federal corruption charges exposed a number of rifts within the Democratic conference – including the gap between the veteran members who have a long history with the speaker and perhaps owe him for favors, assistance and/or protection, and newer members who haven’t had much time to build a long-standing relationship with Silver, though he may have helped elect them through DACC, which he controls.

A number of these newer members are marginals and/or were elected on reform platforms, and their ongoing support of the damaged speaker could come with a political cost when the next elections role around.

Sepulveda is the third Democrat to defect publicly from Silver’s side, following Buffalo’s Mickey Kearns (never a Silver supporter to begin with) and Manhattan’s Keith Wright (who got left out in the cold when five other potential Silver replacements forged the leadership-sharing deal Silver is now floating).

But it’s worth noting that Sepulveda hails from the Bronx, which is home to one of the five members of the leadership team: Assemblyman Carl Heastie, who is also chair of the Bronx Democratic Party.

Part of the reason Silver chose the members he did was to create a delicate balance of would-be successors, such that none of them would be able to put together a coalition to mount an outright coup. There’s a member from each of the four major NYC boroughs – Heastie from the Bronx, Denny Farrell from Manhattan, Cathy Nolan from Queens and Joe Lentol from Brooklyn – (Staten Island is not represented, but it has just two Democratic members, and isn’t home to a potential speaker candidate), and also one upstater (Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle).

Assumedly, each of these leadership team members would be responsible to selling this idea to colleagues in their respective boroughs. Some boroughs – like Brooklyn – are known for their infighting and inability to unify all of its 20 assembly members, while others – like Queens, with 18 Democrats – are known for voting in a bloc on political matters. The fact that Heastie lost a member in the Bronx (one of 11 seats in that borough, including his own) isn’t a deal breaker, but it doesn’t look good, either.

Keith Wright Calls On Silver To Resign

Manhattan Assemblyman Keith Wright on Monday called on embattled Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to step down from his leadership position — a move he said should lead to “real reform” in the chamber.

“Based upon the extraordinarily disturbing events from last week, revelations and charges that will reverberate for months if not years to come, Sheldon Silver must resign as Speaker immediately,” Wright said in a lengthy statement. “I am deeply concerned about the weight this prosecution bears upon him and hope that justice prevails. Due process is a fundamental right, guaranteed to all no matter political status or public opinion. Consequently, these times demand a change in leadership in order for the people’s work to move forward free of distraction and the stink of scandal.”

Wright is the most prominent member of the state Assembly to call on Silver to step down as speaker.

The former Democratic Committee co-chairman and chair of the Manhattan Democratic Party was not included in the five-member leadership coalition that would assume Silver’s responsibilities as he fights back against five-counts of corruption and fraud charges.

Wright had been mentioned over the weekend as one of several potential replacements for Silver.

Up until now, some members of the Assembly had raised concerns quietly with the proposal to have five members negotiate the budget, with a team consisting of Joe Morelle, Joe Lentol, Carl Heastie, Denny Farrell and Cathy Nolan.

Wright’s statement underscores the ambivalence some members have signaled over the agreement to keep Silver in place as speaker.

Under that agreement devised by Silver, he would keep his leadership title and $41,000 stipend.

Wright’s call, coming from such a prominent Democrat in the Legislature, for Silver’s resignation represents a significant shift in the public push for Silver to step down.

“Without a complete separation of Sheldon Silver from the Speakership and its powers, and a real reform of our conference, we will as a body remain mired in the swamp of dysfunction and chaos which is being brought to light by the United States Department of Justice,” Wright said.

Wright pledged to outline his concerns when conference members meet privately later this afternoon.

“As I will explain in greater detail when I meet with my colleagues later this morning, this is not the time to step back or step aside. This is not the time for committees of five to serve as the alternative Speaker or the delegates of the Speaker. This is a time for the Speaker to resign his post – it is the only appropriate thing to do,” he said.

He added that the resignation of Silver should be “coupled with real reform of our conference.’

“Collectively, we must as a body not only choose a new Speaker — we must double down and reshape and reform our decision making process within our conference so that more members are heard and points and ideas are exchanged before conclusions are reached on the issues of the day,” he said. “Going forward, Democratic conference member input in legislative and conference decisions must be maximized regardless of seniority. To be clear, this governing crisis affects us all and every conference member should be included in the solutions to New York ‘s problems.”

Stringer To Silver: ‘Step Down’ Not ‘Step Aside’

New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, a Democrat and former member of the state Assembly, said this morning at the Association for a Better New York that Speaker Sheldon Silver should not “step aside” but “down down” from the post he’s held since 1994.

“I don’t think this is a time to step aside, I think this is a time to step down,” Stringer said.

The Assembly leadership, under a plan devised Sunday evening, would allow five members to assume Silver’s responsibilities when it comes to negotiating the state budget and other issues on a temporary basis.

The push to make the change comes as Silver faces corruption and fraud charges.

Stringer said today, however, that Silver should stay in power through the retention of his title.

“Allow a new leader to come forward, a new leader who can fight for the interests of working people,” Stringer said. “That’s what the assembly’s always been – it’s the people’s house. And I think we should stop trying to process this, make this a process game. And let’s get on to the budget, and the things we have to do. Were it not for the snow, I would be going to Albany with the mayor, testifying on the budget. that’s going to happen in the next few days. And when we get there, that’s the time we’ve got to roll up our sleeves and do some business.”

Stringer said that if Silver is cleared of the charges it’s up to the members to determine whether the Manhattan Democrat should get the post back.

But he was hopeful a strong leader could potentially emerge to take control of the Assembly during an unusually turbulent time.

“I think there’s a real chance that by the time we testify in Albany, it just seems to me that one strong leader will emerge,” Stringer said. “I’m not going to comment on who I would like. I think it’s really up to the members to caucus. As I said, we do not give credit to the talent that we have in the state assembly. Both members that are in leadership positions, but also if you look at the new leaders who are just getting elected. They are independent, they are ready to work in Albany. They worked very hard to get elected. I think we should give them a chance.”

Silver To Retain Speaker’s Stipend

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver may be yielded some duties to five members of his Democratic conference, but he won’t be giving up the lucrative perk that comes with it: A $41,000 stipend.

Silver spokesman Mike Whyland this morning confirmed Silver will retain the stipend, along with the powers of Assembly speaker.

Whyland also insisted Silver is not losing or ceding his power to the five members, but simply transferring some duties of budget negotiation as he prepares for a coming legal battle after being charged with five counts of felony corruption.

Silver, the speaker since 1994, will have five members assume some responsibilities: Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle, Codes Committee Chairman Joe Lentol, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Denny Farrell, Education Committee Chairwoman Cathy Nolan and Bronx Assemblyman Carl Heastie.

Silver is expected to outline the changes — which his office stresses are temporary — to rank and file lawmakers this afternoon in a closed-door conference.

It remains unclear for now which of the five members will be included in the budget talks with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.

Whyland indicated it would be up to the five members to determine who will represent the Assembly in the budget talks.

Source: Senate Cancels Tuesday Session

The state Senate will cancel its regularly scheduled session day on Tuesday as a blizzard bares down on much of the downstate region, a source confirmed.

Meanwhile, the regularly scheduled start time for today’s session activity in the chamber was moved to 1 p.m.

Tuesday was supposed to be a very busy day in Albany, with the start of the joint legislative budget hearings.

Local elected officials from around the state were due to testify at the hearing on the local government portion of the spending plan.

Commonly known in Albany parlance as the “Tin Cup Brigade” the hearing was expected to draw mayors like Bill de Blasio, who is currently contending with the impending snow.

It’s unclear whether that budget hearing, along with hearings examining the environmental conservation and transportation components of the budget that are scheduled for later this week, will be held.

For now, the state Assembly, currently rocked by the five-count corruption charges being leveled at Speaker Sheldon Silver, is due to hold its closed-door Democratic conference at 1:45 this afternoon.

Assembly Republicans Mull Way Forward

Assembly Republicans have only 44 votes in the 150-seat chamber that has long been dominated by Democrats.

But GOP lawmakers in the Assembly hope to move the needle on Monday as the chamber is scheduled to gavel back into session — the first since Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was hit with a five-count corruption complaint by the U.S. attorney’s office.

Republicans, who spent the end of last week calling on Silver to resign, can do little to move the needle.

But they can use the power of the bully pulpit to point our Silver’s still in power, despite the corruption charges.

Republican lawmakers spent the weekend mulling possible displays of disrespect to level against Silver.

The GOP complaints could ultimately prove moot, as five Democrats in the chamber move to assume some of his responsibilities in the Assembly as Silver fights the charges.

Still, Republicans may not be be pleased Silver will continue to retain the title of speaker.

“Quite frankly, he never takes the rostrum,” said Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin. “If he does, I will literally stand up and turn my back as the NYPD did on de Blasio. but when is he ever up there?”

Assemblyman Jim Tedisco compared the current situation to 2008, between the time when it was first reported then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer had solicited prostitutes and before his resignation.

During the interim, Tedisco sought Spitzer’s impeachment.

“I’m trying to research that right in terms of a sitting speaker if you can impeach a sitting member,” Tedisco said. “You don’t have to be guilty of anything to impeach somebody.”

Tedisco acknowledges it’s impossible for Republicans to unseat Silver on their own and Democrats wouldn’t back such an effort.

“Let’s face it we have only 44 votes, but that means their members have to say something,” he said. “I think it holds their feet to the fire.”

Here and Now

Two main story lines today: The Assembly and the snow.

Politically speaking, all eyes will be on Albany, where Assembly Speaker Silver is scheduled to meet behind closed doors with members of his conference for the first time since his arrest on corruption charges last week.

He’ll try to sell his colleagues – some of whom are skeptical – on his plan to remain as speaker while appointing a five-member leadership team to run things in the chamber while he’s focused on his legal battle.

“This is a top-down approach,” one anonymous Assembly member told the New York Times. “We weren’t consulted, and it’s wrong.”

The full Assembly is scheduled to be in session at 2 p.m.

Meanwhile, down in New York City, residents and officials are bracing for that a storm Mayor Bill de Blasio says is potentially the largest ever to strike the Big Apple. He urged people to stay indoors to avoid powerful winds, low visibility and “treacherous” road conditions.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a statement asking NYC-area commuters to stay home if they can, noting the snow will intensify through the day and could cause the closure of roads and mass transit.

Cuomo is in New York City with no public schedule. He’ll be monitoring the storm.

Also today…

At 8 a.m., NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer discusses his year in office and planned initiatives while speaking to ABNY members as part of the association’s breakfast forum series; Grand Central Ballroom, The Westin New York Grand Central hotel, 212 E. 42nd St., Manhattan.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the March of Dimes will host an early birthday celebration for founder Franklin D. Roosevelt, LOB, first floor (near the concourse), Albany.

Family Planning Advocates of NYS is holding its annual Day of Action, start at 11 a.m. in the Well of the LOB, Albany.

At 11:30 p.m., de Blasio holds a press conference to update New Yorkers on the storm, OEM Headquarters
165 Cadman Plaza East, Brooklyn.

At noon, New York Building Congress members hold their annual construction industry luncheon forum and membership meeting, where MTA Chair and CEO Tom Prendergast will promote government funding for the authority’s five-year construction and renovation program; 36th floor, Mandarin Oriental New York hotel, 80 Columbus Circle, Manhattan.

Also at noon, Moral Mondays organizers and participants react to Cuomo’s 2015-16 budget, NYS Capitol, War Room, Albany.

The Senate is in session at 3 p.m.

At 5:30 p.m., three Republican lawmakers – Sen. Richard Funke, Sen. Patrick Gallivan and Assemblyman Jim Tedisco – hold fundraisers in different rooms at the Fort Orange Club, 110 Washington Ave., Albany.

Also at 5:30 p.m., Democratic Assemblyman Michael Benedetto holds a fundraiser at the Albany Room, Empire State Plaza, Albany.

At 6 p.m., Manhattan BP Gale Brewer and civil rights attorney Norman Siegel host one in a planned series of “town hall” meetings to discuss efforts to improve relations between the NYPD and residents, second floor, Alianza Dominicana Triangle Building, 530 W. 166th St., Manhattan.

Also at 6 p.m., Sen. George Latimer (a Democrat) holds a fundraiser at the Albany Pump Station, 19 Quackenbush Sq., Albany.

Also at 6 p.m., Democratic Assemblyman Gary Pretlow holds a fundraiser at the University Club, 110 Washington Ave., Albany.

Headlines…

Most major airlines are allowing customers whose flights are canceled in the next few days due to the storm to book new flights without paying a penalty. Customers ticketed on flights to dozens of Eastern airports are generally eligible for the allowance, though specific terms vary by airline.

Developer Lenoard Litwin, who is in his 101st year and never sought the limelight (other than to contribute large sums of campaign cash to a variety of candidates and committees), is embroiled in the Silver scandal.

Silver could be facing a state probe, too. He has not responded to a state ethics committee inquiry as to why he did not publicly reveal income he received from a small New York City law firm for about a decade on his annual financial disclosure forms as required by law.

More >

Silver to Retain Speaker Title, But Cede Control to 5 Members

Embattled Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has bowed to pressure coming from both from his own members and outside his Democratic conference and agreed to cede control of the chamber while he battles the legal charges against him, a spokesman confirmed.

“The Speaker is not stepping down,” Silver spokesman Michael Whyland insisted in a statement released late yesterday. “He is appointing a group of senior members to undertake various responsibilities such as budget negotiations to ensure a timely spending plan for the state.”

“This will give him the flexibility he needs so that he can defend himself against these charges, and he is confident that he will be found innocent.”

According to the Daily News, which first reported the deal, the five members are: Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle, of Rochester: Ways and Means Committee Chairman Denny Farrell, of Manhattan; Queens Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, who chairs the Education Committee; Brooklyn Assemblyman Joe Lentol, chair of the Codes Committee; and Assemblyman Carl Heastie, who does double duty as chair of the Bronx Democratic Party.

Whyland said Silver will not be relinquishing his title as speaker.

The agreement came at the end of a weekend of furious behind-the-scenes maneuvering in which Silver’s members, many of whom pronounced their continued support of him following his arrest on corruption charges late last week, increasingly questioned his ability to lead in what’s shaping up to be a difficult budget season.

As newspaper editorial boards called for Silver to resign his leadership post, the speaker initially dug in, refusing to do so. He was benefitted by the fact that he has no clear successor and – clearly, given the nature of this deal – no consensus among his membership as to who, if anyone, should replace him.

Each of the five-member leadership team has been mentioned as a potential Silver successor, with Farrell and Lentol – both veteran members and longtime Silver loyalists – floated as so-called “caretakers” who might lead until the conference could agree on a long-term replacement.

Nolan was floated last week by the Queens Democratic Party, which has managed to consolidate power by having almost all of its 18 members hang together to vote in a bloc.

As majority leader, Morelle is technically next in line should Silver step down. He is well-liked inside the conference, but the fact that he hails from upstate and is close to Gov. Andrew Cuomo had been seen as a detriment to observers trying to game out the speakership race in recent days.

Heastie, who ostensibly controls 11 votes as Bronx Democratic chairman, has long been mentioned as a potential Silver successor, along with Assemblyman Keith Wright, chair of the Manhattan Democratic Party.

Both Heastie and Wright are African American, and would make history as the first black leader of a majority legislative conference if they were to rise to the position of speaker. Similarly, Nolan would be the first woman to hold the post.

(In December 2012, Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins became the first black woman ever to hold a legislative leadership at the state Capitol. Former Senate Minority Leader/Gov. David Paterson, who is also black, was the first to break the color barrier when he was the first non-white member elected to head the Democratic conference in the Senate in November 2002).

Wright is the lone member seriously mentioned as a potential Silver successor who was not included in the five-member leadership team.

According to Capital NY, none of the five members who will be taking charge of the chamber have commented on their new roles.

The division of power and responsibilities has not yet been explained, though the NY Post reported that Morelle and Farrell, who, as Ways and Means Committee chair has long headed up budget debates and hearings for the Democrats, will be overseeing budget negotiations.

This power-sharing idea still has to pass muster with the rest of the conference, and there’s been at least one report that rank-and-file members are skeptical the idea will work.

Silver is scheduled to meet with the conference later this morning for the first time since his arrest. A number of downstate members traveled to Albany last night to get ahead of the massive snowstorm that is scheduled to hit New York City and move northward.

The Assembly is expected to go into session in the afternoon, and Democrats have been worried that the Republicans might try to force a procedural vote on Silver, putting members on the record in a way that could be used against them in the next election cycle.

The Weekend That Have Been So Far – Will He Stay or Will He Go Edition

Assembly Democrats and political operators have been burning up the phone lines this weekend about whether Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver can remain in his leadership role after being slapped with corruption charges, and who should replace him if he goes.

The rumor mill is working overtime, and would-be Silver replacements are trying to express their interest to their colleagues without going so far as to actually declare themselves candidates for the job.

But so far, (which means as of mid-afternoon Sunday), there’s no consensus on a successor to Silver, though there appears to be growing agreement that his desire to remain in charge while his case plays out in court is untenable if the chamber is to continue to function in the long term.

Silver is set to return tomorrow to the Capitol for the first time since his arrest late last week. His fate could become clearer when he meets behind closed doors with members of his conference and tries to explain himself.

Some members are keeping their powder dry until hearing from their leader, but many are doubtful there’s much he would be able to say to improve his lot – especially with the freshman lawmakers, who don’t have as much history with Silver, and therefore don’t owe him as much.

Many of these newbies ran on reform platforms, and they’re getting very antsy about their continued support of the scandal-scarred speaker.

The Democrats’ main concern is that they’ll go into session tomorrow afternoon with Silver still in charge, and the Assembly Republicans will “raise hell,” as one member said, trying to embarrass Silver, or worse, seeking to force nervous Democrats to go on the record in support of him – a move that will no doubt spark the wrath of reform-minded editorial boards and constituents, alike.

It’s possible that after an ugly closed-door conference meeting, members will not have reached any conclusions on what to do next and move to cancel tomorrow’s session like they did last week.

They may get a brief respite thanks to some bad weather that’s forecast to hit NYC tomorrow and move north, which could provide them with some cover for a temporary delay.

But the snowstorm won’t last forever, and if there’s one thing the members – and, no doubt, Gov. Andrew Cuomo – agree on, it’s that the session cannot devolve into dysfunction and gridlock.

The first budget hearing is scheduled to take place Tuesday. (It’s local government, which means NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, who defended Silver in the wake of the speaker’s arrest last week, is traditionally expected to be in Albany to testify).

The names of the most mentioned potential Silver successors have been out there for days: Assemblyman Carl Heastie, the Bronx Democratic chairman; Assemblyman Keith Wright, the Manhattan Democratic chair; and Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle, of Rochester.

Each of those has weaknesses and flaws, as well as supporters and detractors who have been making their respective cases to the various members (and reporters) this weekend. None of them yet appears to have sufficient support – or, at the moment, the appetite – to force Silver from the speaker’s chair through a coup.

Also mentioned with various degrees of seriousness: Queens Assemblyman Jeff Aubry, Queens Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan; Manhattan Assemblyman Denny Farrell Jr., Brooklyn Assemblyman Joe Lentol, Staten Island Assemblyman Michael Cusick (ironically, a former aide to US Sen. Chuck Schumer, as is US Attorney Preet Bharara), Manhattan Assemblywoman Deborah Glick and Manhattan Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh.

Lentol and Farrell are both veteran lawmakers and Silver loyalists who are seen as a potential “caretakers” of the speakership until the conference can agree on a permanent replacement for Silver, or – and this is a long-shot, given the amount of time it will likely take – he’s exonerated like other legislative leaders accused of wrongdoing, including former Assembly Speaker Mel Miller, former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno and former Senate Minority Leader Manfred Ohrenstein.

Lentol said he would consider stepping up if necessary, but added: “I hate to think about stepping on somebody’s body who is dying before the body is even cold. It is not respectful to the man who has served as speaker for 20 years.”

Meanwhile, we’re still awaiting word from the governor, who declined last week to join the debate over whether Silver should go, and then promptly fell off the radar.

The DN says Cuomo would have “every cause” to refuse to negotiate with Silver should the Assembly Democrats decide to try to retain the Manhattan lawmaker as speaker.

Meanwhile, we learned that Brian Meara, a veteran lobbyist with longstanding ties to Silver, helped the feds bust the powerful pol in a multimillion-dollar bribery and kickback scheme.

Meara has reportedly been cooperating as a “fact witness” as part of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s investigation. He won’t be prosecuted.

Dr. Robert N. Taub’s obsession with raising money for research on a rare form of cancer helped set off a chain of events that culminated Silver’s arrest.

Taub created one of the nation’s few mesothelioma research hubs, the Columbia University Mesothelioma Center. Since the news of Silver’s arrest, it was announced that Taub is leaving his post and the center is being disbanded.

Silver used the Sept. 11 attacks to justify steering $500,000 in taxpayer dollars to Taub, who was secretly helping him pocket millions in bogus “referral fees,” according to a letter obtained by the Daily News.

Despite his involvement in this scandal, Taub is a giant in his field – respected by his peers, revered by the hundreds of cancer victims who flocked to him in search of a miracle.

The law firm where Silver has long been of counsel, Weitz & Luxenberg, gets its asbestos cases – and paydays – moved more quickly than those of other attorneys, and reaps a fortune from favorable rulings by friendly judges, charge lawyers and tort-reform advocates, the NY Post reports.

Former co-chair of the NYS White Collar Crime Task Force Daniel Alonso reveals how Silver blocked a proposed ban on undisclosed self-dealing, which is exactly what Bharara has accused him of.

The Silver scandal could either be a blessing or a curse for the Democratic governor. A weakened Silver, the longest serving leader at the Capitol, could help Cuomo’s centrist agenda in the liberal-leaning Assembly. Conversely, if Silver were to resign as speaker amid his serious legal troubles, it could send the Assembly into turmoil.

Bob McCarthy: “Assuming Silver’s legal problems and their origin in the investigations started by Cuomo’s Moreland Commission don’t drag him down, Albany is his town now and he knows it.”

Former Assembly Speaker Mel Miller, who was convicted on a federal fraud charge, forced to give up his seat and eventually exonerated, predicted Silver won’t resign, and said he also should not make public statements about details of the case, no matter the media pressure to do so.

In non-Silver news…

US Sen. Charles Schumer is calling on the FAA to install a new runway lighting system at JFK, LaGuardia and Newark airports that he says will help prevent plane collisions.

The president of the NYC Patrolman’s Benevolent Association called for an investigation into a music video released last month called “Hands Up” that depicts violence against the NYPD and features a Bronx legal aid group.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker appeared to be the early winner of high-profile conservative summit in the early-voting state of Iowa this weekend.

Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin told The Washington Post in an interview that she is “seriously interested” in running for the White House in 2016.

While at the Iowa Freedom Summit, Palin ripped director Michael Moore for his criticism of “American Sniper.”

Also in Iowa, Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina dinged Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton, looking to boost her own possible bid for the GOP nomination.

US AG nominee Loretta Lynch issued a behind-the-scenes ultimatum as Brooklyn’s top federal prosecutor in 2000 to then-NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, demanding he agree to federal oversight for the NYPD by the next day or face a lawsuit.

A group that advocates for parks and trails across New York says it likes what it sees in Cuomo’s budget proposal.

Niagara Falls didn’t get mentioned in Cuomo’s State of the State/budget address.

Stewart-Cousins: More Time To Be Spent On Ethics Reform

Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins in an interview on Capital Tonight Thursday evening said expects more time to be spent on ethics legislation following the arrest of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

“We’re were talking about the budget, but now we’re going to spend more time on talking about ethics reform and things that are quite frankly sad and disturbing,” the Yonkers Democrat said.

Stewart-Cousins, however, would not weigh in on whether Silver should step down as speaker as he faces five counts of corruption and fraud filed by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office.

“I think Preet Bharara said it best people are presumed innocent until proven guilty,” she said, adding that the leadership of the Assembly is up to the Democratic conference in that house. “They’re going to do what they’re going to do.”

Stewart-Cousins also said the now-shuttered Moreland Commission only came about because lawmakers refused to go along with ethics reform, even as her mainline conference was largely aligned with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, especially when it came to public financing.

“I can’t predict what we would see or would not see,” she said. “But the reality is the Moreland Commission was a creature of the governor because of the Legislature’s refusal — certainly in my house on the Senate side — to do any ethics reform.”

To be fair, the Assembly didn’t go along with all of Cuomo’s reform agenda, either, which led to the formation of the anti-corruption panel that would be closed less than a year later following a deal on ethics legislation.

“There were things that two houses agreed on on certain ethics reform, certain campaign finance reform, could never get a hearing on,” she said.