Former President Obama today made his first public comments since leaving the White House, but made only the most passing of references to his successor.

Vice President Mike Pence is cutting short a 10-day trip to Asia and Hawaii, returning to Washington by mid-week to help the president pass a spending bill to keep the government fully open past Friday.

Top Trump administration officials will hold a rare briefing on Wednesday at the White House for the entire U.S. Senate on the situation in North Korea, senior Senate aides said.

Actress and longtime education advocate Cynthia Nixon used her appearance on “The View” today to attack Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s education policies — and compared him to Trump’s controversial Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.

Cuomo will nominate NYSERDA CEO John Rhodes to head the PSC, replacing former Chair Audrey Zibelman, who left to head one of Australia’s grid operators earlier this year.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is staffing up for his re-election bid — starting with naming Rick Fromberg, the operative he previously tapped to create City Hall’s Public Engagement Unit, as campaign manager.

Seeking to double down on an effort — expanding early childhood education — for which he has been widely praised, de Blasio announced a plan today to offer free, full-day prekindergarten to 3-year-olds.

Former Broome County Executive Debbie Preston was scheduled to be arraigned on three counts of official misconduct this morning. Instead, she entered a guilty plea to just one of those counts.

On Holocaust Remembrance Day, Assemblyman Charles Lavine, also a Democratic Nassau County executive candidate, introduced an amendment to the SAFE Act that would prohibit any individual convicted of a hate crime from possessing a firearm.

The fierce lobbying battle in Albany that led to expansion of ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft statewide has now moved to Long Island and Westchester County, where taxi interests hope to persuade suburban counties to opt out of the app-based transportation.

Greek yogurt giant Chobani is suing right-wing radio host Alex Jones, accusing the conspiracy theorist of publishing false information about the company.

The last remaining Lottery game where you can get a ticket for a dollar will soon be no more. Tickets for Mega Millions will at the end of October go from $1 to $2, although Lottery officials say there will be more chances to win.

Dailykos takes a closer look at potential Democratic primary challenges to IDC members in the next election cycle.

Green groups and business interests don’t agree on much, but both view Cuomo’s recent decisions on natural gas infrastructure like pipelines as inconsistent and problematic, albeit for different reasons.

Former Fox host Andrea Tantaros filed a suit in federal court today alleging that network operatives hacked her phones and emails to conduct a smear campaign against her after she reported sexual-harassment complaints against former CEO Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly.

SUNY Appoints Its New Chancellor

The Board of Regents at the State University of New York on Monday formally elected Kristina Johnson as the sprawling system’s new chancellor, replacing the departing Nancy Zimpher.

“Throughout her distinguished career, Kristina Johnson has not only been a faculty member, administrator, and visionary in higher education but also a dedicated public servant, national energy czar, successful entrepreneur, and an acclaimed inventor,” said SUNY Chairman H. Carl McCall. “We are thrilled to welcome her to SUNY, where her range of experience will enable her to leverage the incredible work of our 64 colleges and universities.”

Johnson holds dozens of patents, and is the current founder and chief executive officer of Cube Hydro Partners, LLC, which develops hydroelectric generation facilities. She has served as dean of Duke University’s engineering school and served in the Obama administration as a deputy energy secretary.

“The State University of New York is a complex, captivating system like no other in higher education, and the opportunity to serve as its chancellor is the highest honor of my career,” Johnson said.

She is the 13th person to serve as chancellor of the SUNY system, which oversees and administers 64 public university and college campuses.

“From her groundbreaking research and her experience at some of the nation’s finest academic institutions to her service as Under Secretary at the U.S. Department of Energy, she has a proven track record of leadership and innovation,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “I applaud the Board of Trustees for this outstanding selection. New York is leading the way in public higher education, and Dr. Johnson will help maintain the upward trajectory of one of the nation’s largest systems of higher education.”

State GOP, Senate Dems, Spar Over Ellison

As The Daily News reported this morning, Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison is appearing at a fundraiser this spring for mainline Democrats in the state Senate — drawing the ire of New York Republicans in the process.

Ellison, who ran unsuccessfully for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee, has been complimentary of the Nation of Islam and its controversial leader, Louis Farrakhan, which he has since repudiated.

Ellison had faced similar charges of anti-Semitism during his bid for the DNC chairmanship, but had been supported by prominent Democrats like U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer.

“It’s shocking that Senate Democrats would invite and embrace someone who has a long history of anti-Semitic leanings to headline their event,” said New York Republican Chairman Ed Cox.

“Regardless of Party, New York is home to nearly two million Jews, and to embrace someone with that history is deeply offensive and disturbing. Mr. Ellison was caught making anti-Israel statements at a past private fundraiser–is that what the New York Senate Democrats are looking for? This invitation speaks volumes about their values, and is more proof they are wrong for New York.”

In response, Senate Democratic spokesman Mike Murphy blasted New York Republicans for supporting President Donald Trump.

“This is ironic coming from a party that embraces Donald Trump, who leads the most hateful administration in modern American history,” he said.

DeFran: Legislature Working On Comptroller Procurement Legislation

Deputy Senate Majority Leader John DeFrancisco has reached out to his counterpart in the Democratic-controlled Assembly to iron out differences on a bill that would restore oversight powers to the state comptroller’s office.

DeFrancisco, a Syracuse Republican who has been at odds with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, said he spoke with Democratic Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle during the Legislature’s break this month on the bill aimed at enhancing oversight to the governor’s key economic development programs.

“I think that’s a reform that’s important. I think it’s a reform because you have to have some type of oversight for that,” DeFrancisco said. “I don’t think we’ve worked out all the details, but I’m looking forward to dealing with the Assembly.”

He added, “Their house is interested in working something out.”

A Senate version of the bill is set to be considered on Tuesday before the chamber’s Finance Committee.

The bill would restore authority to Comptroller Tom DiNapoli to oversee procurement and contracting under certain economic development projects. At the time, DiNapoli was stripped of that oversight ability as lawmakers and Cuomo agreed to streamline the economic development spending process.

DiNapoli and Cuomo have had a tense relationship.

But a corruption scandal last year — engulfing a former close aide to the governor, prominent upstate developers and the ex-president of SUNY Polytechnic — has caused lawmakers to reconsider oversight.

“We limited that in some of the governor’s economic development programs,” DeFrancisco said. “That was a big mistake. Quite frankly, I don’t know if I voted for it. If I did I must have been sleeping at the time, because it’s something that I think is important.”

DiNapoli last week said he was disappointed the budget didn’t include any oversight reforms and was hopeful a push could be made in the post-budget portion of the legislative session.

Heastie Opposes Charter School-Mayoral Control Link

As Senate Republicans signal they will link expanding the number of charter schools in New York to an extension of mayoral control of schools in New York City, Speaker Carl Heastie on Monday said in an interview he was opposed to the idea.

“I think mayoral control should be extended on its own merits,” Heastie said. “We’re not interested in adding any other criteria to extend the governance of schools.”

Mayoral control of New York City schools is due to expire in June after Mayor Bill de Blasio was granted a 12-month extension of the policy.

Republicans and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have been generally supportive of charter schools and have had a tense relationship with the liberal mayor.

Assembly Democrats, meanwhile, have sought more than a year’s extension of the program.

As for the remainder of the session, Heastie said he plans to focus on what his conference members want done. Cuomo this month said he got most of what he wanted in the budget, indicating it will be up to the Legislature to shape the remainder of the session.

“It will just be going through the members priorities,” Heastie said. “If we’re going to have a two-way discussion and if the governor says he’s going to be led by what the Legislature, we’ll see if we can move them on some of priorities. We’ll see what we can do.”

Katko Declines AG Run

Republican Rep. John Katko will run for re-election and not state attorney general, his office said on Monday in a statement.

The Daily News reported this morning Katko, a moderate central New York Republican in a swing district, had been named as a possible opponent to Democratic incumbent Eric Schneiderman.

“Given his background as a federal prosecutor and record in Congress, Rep. Katko has been approached,” said spokeswoman Erin O’Connor. “He is honored to be considered but is focused on representing Central New York in Congress and will seek reelection in NY24 in 2018.”

Katko was first elected to the battleground House seat in 2014, which had reliably changed hands between the two parties for several election cycles. However, Katko, a former federal prosecutor, was able to win what has been an elusive second term for the district last year.

Albany Mayor Signs EO Affirming Sanctuary City Status

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan on Monday backed an executive order affirming the city’s police department will not question individuals on their immigration or citizenship status unless necessary to an investigation.

The order, according to the city, is aimed at crime victims, witnesses or those who are seeking assistance from law enforcement.

“I am committed to ensuring that equity and social justice guide all City of Albany decisions, and this Executive Order is another example of that commitment,” Sheehan said in a statement.

“It is a fact that our City is safer because of the trust, relationships, and partnerships cultivated in our neighborhoods as a result of community policing and 21st century policing strategies. The Albany Police Department works diligently to protect all individuals, and our residents and visitors should not be afraid to contact the police if they are the victim or witness of a crime because they are concerned the police will inquire about their immigration status.”

The order comes as the Trump administration has signaled cities that have declared themselves as so-called “sanctuary” communities could face a loss of federal funds should they not coordinate or bolster immigration enforcement.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has said punishing sanctuary communities is unconstitutional.

“The Albany community is proud of Mayor Sheehan for standing up for the rights of our immigrant community and proving once more that we are an inclusive, vibrant city,” said Melanie Trimble, Capital Region Chapter Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “Police officers have no business doing the work of federal immigration agents and they should not aid the Trump regime’s deportation force.”

SD-30: Benjamin Endorsed By 1199

Democratic state Senate candidate Brian Benjamin was endorsed on Monday by 1199 SEIU, the influential labor union.

Benjamin is running for the 30th Senate district in Manhattan that was vacated earlier this year by Bill Perkins, who is now on the City Council.

“Healthcare workers are excited to support Brian Benjamin, a candidate who will bring fresh ideas and a depth of experience to the New York State Senate” said Helen Schaub, New York State Policy and Legislative Director of 1199SEIU. “As an organizer and community leader in upper Manhattan, Brian has advocated for greater economic opportunity and affordable housing, better wages and a more level playing field for all. He’s made clear his commitment to New York’s working families, and we are proud to offer our support.”

Benjamin, who has publicly stated he will join the mainline Democratic conference in the chamber, is the odds-on favorite to retain the seat for the party.

“My mother and father both immigrated to America in search of opportunity, and they found it thanks to organized labor,” Benjamin said. “Years of hard work and union support enabled them to achieve their dreams and provide for our family. I’m honored to have the confidence and support of 1199SEIU, and look forward to fighting for quality healthcare and the promise that with hard work, everyone can achieve the quality of life they deserve.”

Ad Urges Senate GOP To Reject Nuke Subsidy

From the Morning Memo:

A group opposed to a subsidy aimed at supporting the state’s nuclear power plants is releasing an ad on Monday aimed at urging Senate Republicans to oppose the provision.

The ad, being released by Citizens Against Corporate Bailouts, will air on cable TV in New York City, Long Island and in Albany.

The subsidy is contained in a broader clean energy standard aimed at reducing the state’s reliance on fossil fuels over the next decade.

The subsidy was successfully pushed for in order to bolster the James FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant in Oswego, which Entergy Corp. had planned to close. The state negotiated a sale of the facility to Exelon Corp. in order to preserve the hundreds of jobs at the plant.

But the nuclear subsidy — paid for by utility ratepayers — has proven especially controversial for some environmental groups, which are split over the energy.

Citizens Against Corporate Bailouts is a conservative free market organization which the Cuomo administration has criticized as a “Beltway Astroturf” group.

“Governor Cuomo’s $8 Billion energy tax hike to prop up failing upstate nuclear plants is the largest middle class tax increase in decades,” said Gregg Keller, the group’s treasurer.

“New York Senate Republicans have done nothing to stop this disastrous tax and it’s past time for them to stand up and fight it. CACB’s significant television ad buy targeting New York City, Long Island, and Albany will ensure that citizens demand action from Senators Joseph Griffo, John Flanagan, Elaine Phillips, and Carl Marcellino on this crucial issue.”

Lawmakers during the budget talks had sought to delay the implementation of the subsidy through additional public hearings. Ultimately, that effort stalled and the budget not impact it.

Siena Poll: Cuomo Favorability Holds As Voters Mixed On Budget

Voters gave a mixed overall assessment of the finalized 2017-18 state budget, even as they backed some of the broad measures included in the spending plan such as spending on water infrastructure and free tuition to public colleges, a Siena College poll released Monday found.

The poll also found Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s favorability and job approval ratings are largely holding flat from last month despite the budget passing a week into the state’s fiscal year. More than half of New York voters, 51 percent, said they would re-elect Cuomo next year.

The budget season in Albany was an especially brutal and contentious one this April, and only 22 percent of voters found the spending plan approved to be excellent or good and 23 percent believe it is a “poor” budget.

Still, there’s support for the top-tier measures included in the agreement.

New Yorkers by a margin of 82 percent to 13 percent back a $2.5 billion fund for water quality programs; 80 percent to 17 percent support hiking education spending by $1.1 billion; 75 percent to 15 percent back an expansion of ride hailing apps to operate outside of New York City; 71 percent to 26 percent support the free SUNY and CUNY tuition program for families earning less than $125,000 — the latter of which has been criticized by newspaper editorial boards and columnists for falling short of expectations.

One of the more contentious issues in the budget talks — raising the age of criminal responsibility to 18 — is backed 56 percent to 40 percent, the poll found.

Cuomo’s favorability rating, meanwhile, remained more or less steady: 54 percent hold a favorable view of him while 37 percent of voters do not — up slightly from last month. He remains underwater when it comes to job approval, with 47 percent giving him a negative performance rating, though that is virtually unchanged from last month as well, the poll found.

His favorability rating is off set in part with the help from his fellow Democratic voters, where he garners 71 percent support. Fifty-eight percent of Republicans and 52 percent of independents give him a negative rating.

“It’s still a long way till the 2018 election, however, by a 12-point margin, voters say they are prepared to re-elect Cuomo, up from seven points last month,” said Siena pollster Steve Greenberg.

President Donald Trump, meanwhile, remains largely unpopular in New York.

While popular with a majority of Republican voters, he is viewed negatively by 53 percent of independents and 81 percent of Democrats. Overall, Trump receives a favorability rating of 34 percent in home state, the poll found.

The poll of 714 registered voters was conducted from April 17 through April 20. It has a margin of error of 4.1 percentage points.

SNY0417 Crosstabs by Nick Reisman on Scribd