Extras

The US Justice Department has cleared a Ferguson, Mo., police officer of civil rights violations in the shooting of Michael Brown, a black teenager whose death set off racially charged and sometimes violent protests last year.

The computer server that transmitted and received Hillary Clinton’s emails — on a private account she used exclusively for official business when she was secretary of state — traced back to an Internet service registered to her family’s home in Chappaqua.

The House Select Committee on Benghazi, which first discovered Clinton’s use of a personal e-mail, plans to issue a subpoena for all e-mails related to the attack from all Clintonemail.com accounts and any other staff members’ personal accounts.

The revelation about Clinton’s emails has blindsided the Democratic establishment.

Zephryr Teachout thinks Clinton needs to come clean on her email practices. “She shouldn’t have done it,” the Fordham Law School professor and 2014 gubernatorial candidate said.

Ex-NYC Councilman Dan Halloran was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in former Sen. Malcolm Smith’s scheme to bribe his way onto the GOP line in the 2013 NYC mayor’s race.

Representatives for Families for Excellent Schools said some 13,000 people attended the pro-charter school “Don’t Steal Success” rally today – unlike last year, the governor was not one of them.

…and, in case you were wondering, it wasn’t actually a rally, but a “civic field trip.”

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio defended Clinton, a longtime ally, noting she released 55,000 pages of emails from her personal account to the State Department upon stepping down in 2013.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is “100 percent supportive” of an effort by upstate business leaders, including many of his top allies, to increase an upstate economic development fund from $1.5 billion to $2.5 billion.

Cuomo has yet to offer the full-throated public support for MMA that the sport’s promoters claim he has expressed in private, but continues to make generally supportive comments about its potential economic benefits.

De Blasio announced that the Muslim holidays of Eid al-Adha and al-Fitr have been added to the NYC public school schedule, calling it “a change that respects the diversity of our city.”

Cuomo’s case for investing $500 million of the $5.4 billion financial settlement windfall cash on broadband is “less than compelling,” says the Empire Center’s Kenneth Girardan.

Actress and TV host Whoopi Goldberg joined the Cuomo administration’s “Enough is Enough” campaign to eliminate sexual assaults from college campuses.

NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña tore into Cuomo’s proposal to base public school teachers’ ratings and retention on standardized testing.

Check out images of Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney’s idea for a rebranded New York State Fair.

Both state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and the New York Building Congress gave a thumbs up to de Blasio’s latest budget.

Cuomo has been the top recipient of hedge fund campaign contributions, taking in $4.8 million in donations during his time as state attorney general and governor, a new “Hedge Clippers” report found.

Georgina Bloomberg is likely going to support Clinton in 2016 “just to be able to say that I voted for the first woman President.”

De Blasio doesn’t plan on marching in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Fifth Avenue because the event’s organizers haven’t done enough to include gay groups.

The state’s Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers Inc. called on the state Legislature to invest $350 million in new funding for heroin and substance use prevention, treatment and recovery programs.

Cuomo Doesn’t Shut Door On MMA

A bill that would legalize mixed-martial arts in the state is a “controversial” one, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo acknowledged the sport is growing elsewhere across the country.

“I look at it more from an economic development point of view,” he said. “It’s a big sport, it’s growing. If it can create jobs, then I’m interested in it.”

Cuomo today in Rochester would not rule out backing the MMA legalization measure if it meant creating jobs.

“Mixed-martial arts, MMA, is a growing sport,” Cuomo said. “I believe it’s legal in every part of the country except New York state.”

The governor added he understands the concerns being raised by MMA legalization foes, who have raised concerns with the sport’s violence.

“I understand the point. I focus on that less,” Cuomo said. “Football is a violent sport, rugby is a violent sport. Some people state politics is a violent sport. But I’m more focused on the economics of it.”

Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle last month re-introduced his MMA legalization measure, which is yet to pass his chamber.

Supporters of MMA have renewed hope, however, given that newly elected Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie had backed the legalization bill in the past.

Heastie said last month he would support whatever decision his conference makes on whether to allow a vote on the bill and that his support for the sport remains a personal one.

Skelos: Lawsuit Over Amendments Not Necessary

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos was skeptical on Wednesday afternoon that a legal challenge to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 30-day budget amendments was needed and was optimistic there would be a compromise on the $142 billion spending proposal.

“I don’t believe there are lawsuits that are necessary,” Skelos said. “We’re going through the 30-day amendments, whatever you want to call them, they’re very complicated. I know the Legislature, the speaker, we’re all looking at them.”

Skelos, along with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein met with Cuomo privately for more than a hour on Wednesday afternoon.

The meeting came as state lawmakers have so far not introduced Cuomo’s 30-day budget amendments, which tie appropriations in the proposal to new outside income disclosure proposals as well as reforms to the legislative per diem system.

The move is an effort to jam the Legislature in either approving the ethics legislation or voting them down. Cuomo has said he will not support a budget that does not include ethics reform in the wake of former Speaker Sheldon Silver’s arrest.

But Cuomo’s posture on inserting ethics legislation into spending bills has met opposition in the Legislature, where lawmakers want to be able to negotiate the finer points of the agreement.

Not introducing the bills, in essence, keeps the GOP conference’s options open in discussing the ethics issues with Cuomo.

So far, Skelos gave no indication the amendments would be introduced.

“We talked about a result,” Skelos said. “We didn’t talk about introducing, not introducing.”

Klein, the IDC leader, called the meeting a productive one.

“We really discussed about many of the issues that are in the 30-day amendments, trying to come up with an agreement,” Klein said.

Cuomo earlier in the day downplayed the disagreement with lawmakers.

“I will wager you there is no lawsuit,” Cuomo told reporters. “We have different points of view and we’re arguing it and working it through.

Assembly Republicans Unveil Ethics and Transparency Proposals

Assembly Republicans will introduce 17 proposals that would change day-to-day functions of the State Assembly Monday.

The conference spoke about five of the most significant proposals included in the full list. If passed, term limits for legislative leaders, committee chairpersons and the Assembly Speaker would be limited to 8 years.

All committee meetings would be televised, recorded, and made public on the Assembly website. There’s also a bill included from Assemblyman Marc Johns that would allow members to choose one piece of legislation to bypass committee and come to the floor for a vote.

“What we’re trying to do is instead of having embedded power, power of the few is to empower the hands of many. Each and every one of the 150 members of this Assembly needs more say, more voices in how state government operates.”

The reform proposals also include more additions to LRS – the state’s legislative retrieval system – by making committee votes available as well as roll calls of floor amendments and motions to discharge a bill.

Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb said earlier today that while he hasn’t received any notions of support directly by democrats in the chamber, he remains optimistic about their chances given the latest scandal involving former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

“When they had to change with the speakership, there were many members of the Assembly majority talking about change, opening up the process, obviously having more member participation … I don’t think there’s a legitimate reason not to support each and every one of these 17 reforms because it’s going to empower them as much as it’s going to empower us.”

The conference will introduce each of the 17 reforms separately instead of including them in an all-or-nothing package. The State Senate has actually already passed one of those – a bill limiting leadership positions to eight years in both chambers.

Cuomo Expects Lawmakers Will Back Down On Amendments

Gov. Andrew Cuomo does not expect a legal challenge to his 30-day budget amendments, which state lawmakers so far have not introduced in the Legislature.

Cuomo’s budget amendments this year tie spending to his ethics proposals, which include new disclosure requirements for state lawmakers as well as controls over travel reimbursements.

The amendments also yoked the DREAM Act and the education tax credit — a bill seen as benefiting private schools — to funding for the Tuition Assistance Program.

Senate Republicans have quietly discussed their legal options, including challenging Cuomo’s authority to tie policy to spending measures.

Cuomo in Syracuse today, however, said he is doubtful it will come to that.

“I will wager you there is no lawsuit,” Cuomo said. “We have different points of view and we’re arguing it and working it through.”

Cuomo added that he’s been able to work with the Legislature despite differences on key issues in the budget.

“In Albany, we’ve had differences, but we’ve been able to reconcile and compromise,” Cuomo said. “We will reconcile and we will compromise and we will move forward.”

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, meanwhile, was more pointed when asked about the amendments not being introduced.

“They have a responsibility to introduce the amendments,” Hochul said. “We expect it will happen in a timely fashion. The people of New York deserve an on-time budget.”

Cuomo has secured budget agreements before the March 31 deadline for the last four years, reversing a trend of increasingly late spending plans.

The on-time budget passage has been a hallmark of Cuomo success in Albany during his first term.

But this year, Cuomo has said he would hold up a budget agreement if lawmakers do not approve what he considers meaningful ethics reform in the wake of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s arrest on corruption charges.

“By and large a lot of the governor’s proposals I agree with wholeheartedly,” said Sen. Jeff Klein, the leader of the five-member Independent Democratic Conference. “But sometimes tying things together really prevents meaningful negotiations for everyone to get on the same page. I’m confident if we break apart some of the governor’s 30-day amendments, I think we can come up with an agreement on a lot of those issues.”

Sen. John Flanagan, a Republican from Long Island, told reporters a legal challenge to the governor’s amendments would be a “last resort” and that he hoped the concerns they’re raising would ultimately be deemed moot in the wake of a compromise.

In tying the non-budgetary policy to spending, Cuomo is hinging his authority on Silver v. Pataki, a Court of Appeals ruling that granted the governor wide authority over the budget-making process.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, meanwhile, downplayed the significance of the amendments not being introduced, an unusual step in Albany’s budgetary tradition.

“There were so many different arrows that the governor drew, we’re trying to figure them out, so we can have an appropriate legislative response,” he said.

Asked if he believed there would be an on-time budget, Skelos said, “Oh, yeah.”

Assembly Dems Share ‘Troubling’ NYC Charter Data With Heastie

As a throng of charter school students, advocates and parents hold a rally at the Capitol on Wednesday, Assembly Democrats are raising concerns with Speaker Carl Heastie on the alternative public schools.

In letter sent by Assemblyman Walter Mosley and backed by nearly two dozen of his fellow Democratic conference members, lawmakers write that “it is clear that many of the charter schools in New York City are serving much lower proportions of high need students than public schools within the same communities.”

In particular, the lawmakers point to the “free space” provided to charters in public school buildings, a practice known as co-location.

Meanwhile, the lawmakers write they are “deeply concerned” that charter schools in the city have student discipline guidelines that are inconsistent with legal protections and policies for regular city schools.

Charter schools, they write, have suspended over 10 percent of their students in 2011-12, compared to an average of 1 percent suspension rate in traditional public schools.

The letter comes as Gov. Andrew Cuomo seeks to raise the cap on charter schools statewide and provide more per pupil tuition assistance in his $142 billion budget proposal.

Cuomo has spoken of the effort to end the “public monopoly” of public education in the state through a strengthening of charter schools in the state budget.

Assembly Dems letter on charters by liz_benjamin6490

Chris Moss Files Campaign Committee With Statewide Bent

Republican Chemung County Sheriff Chris Moss on Wednesday launched a new campaign committee that will face a statewide focus.

Moss, who ran for lieutenant governor on Rob Astorino’s gubernatorial ticket last year, has made little secret of his desire to run for statewide office again.

The formation of a new committee also coincides with the launching of a website for Moss.

Moss made history in 2014, being the first African-American to run statewide on a GOP ticket.

The new committee, Sheriff Moss for New York, will back candidates “who are interested in reducing taxes, creating jobs by producing a friendlier business atmosphere, opposing infringements on our 2nd Amendment rights, as well as bringing meaningful ethics reform to Albany.”

Astorino is expected to make a second run for governor in 2018, while GOP Rep. Chris Gibson, who retires at the end of his current term, has said he is interested in running for an unspecified statewide office as well.

In Rochester, Cuomo Talks Of Minimum Wage ‘Crusade’

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in Rochester this morning called the latest effort to hike the state’s minimum wage a “crusade” that will help stimulate the state’s economy.

“Our definition of success is different,” Cuomo said at a rally, the first of two he plans today. “We believe it has to work for all New Yorkers or no New Yorkers.”

Cuomo kicked off his minimum wage campaign in Buffalo earlier this week, and he plans to hold another rally in the Syracuse area later today.

Cuomo’s own minimum wage posture this year is different than in previous years.

In the past, Cuomo embraced a minimum wage increase that had been first proposed in the Legislature.

This year, Cuomo, re-elected to a second term last year, has been more assertive in his own wage hike plan, which would provide for a $11.50 minimum wage in New York City and $10.50 wage elsewhere.

The minimum wage is due to increase from $8.75 to $9 an hour by the end of this year if lawmakers do nothing.

Cuomo today, however, called that previous wage deal not enough.

“What I’m saying to the Legislature is $9 is not enough,” Cuomo said. “Yes, we raised it, but the economy has come roaring back.”

Poverty advocates have been critical of the minimum wage law now in effect, which they contend moves too slowly and included detrimental tax breaks for businesses.

Republicans, too, are skeptical of having a second wage hike since 2013.

Cuomo on Tuesday indicated he’d be willing to compromise with lawmakers on the bill, and even deal with the measure outside of the budget.

Onondaga County GOP Chairman Tom Dadey criticized Cuomo’s minimum wage tour.

“Instead of a taxpayer-funded rally to call for a minimum wage increase when one is already being phased-in, the Governor should concentrate more on winning passage of initiatives that will create new jobs in Syracuse and Central New York and help revitalize our struggling economy,” Dadey said.

Astorino: Senate’s Term-Limit Bill A ‘Half-Measure’

Rob Astorino, the Westchester County executive who challenged Gov. Andrew Cuomo last year in his bid for re-election, called the bill limiting the terms of legislative leaders and committee chairs a good first step.

But he criticized the bill, which passed the Senate this week, for not going far enough. Namely, Astorino believes all 213 legislative seats in both the Republican-led Senate and Democratic-controlled Assembly should be term limited, as well as the statewide offices.

“Senator Dean Skelos and his conference are to be commended for passing a term limit bill for legislative leaders,” Astorino said in a statement. “It is a move in the right direction, but ultimately a half measure. The culture of corruption in Albany is seated in the coziness between elected officials and monied interests that longevity in office invariably brings. Term limits empower the little guy — the voter — by reducing the grip of special interests on legislators.”

Astorino clashed with Senate Republicans during the gubernatorial campaign last year, with the top of the GOP ticket calling for sweeping ethics reform in Albany and knocking the majority conference in the Senate as being part of the problem in state government.

Advocate to Senate: No Stand-Alone DREAM Act, Please

Generally speaking neither side of the DREAM Act/Education Investment Tax Credit debate is terribly thrilled to have been linked together in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive budget and then seen that questionable marriage further cemented by being tied to TAP funding in the 30-day amendments.

Some advocates on both sides have been calling for the two issues to be uncoupled, even though doing do would almost certainly weaken the chances of either passing before the 2015 session ends, thanks to the Senate GOP’s staunch opposition to the DREAM Act and the Assembly Democrats’ general dislike (following the teachers unions’s lead) of the tax credit.

Last week, the Assembly Democrats again passed a stand-alone version of the DREAM Act, and Speaker Carl Heastie said in no uncertain terms that he does not believe these two otherwise unrelated issues should be linked.

“That was the governor’s choice,” said Heastie, who was a past co-sponsor of the tax credit bill, but – as with all other bills – has removed his name from the measure since he rose to the speaker’s post. “The governor did that. We’re moving forward today with the Dream Act, and we hope that it will passed on its own merits in the State Senate.”

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos has called the DREAM Act a nonstarter in his house, and with good reason – politically speaking – considering the fact that a number of his new members actively campaigned against the measure during the 2014 elections and were successful at the ballot box as a result of their opposition.

Skelos, too, wants the DREAM Act and tax credit uncoupled, arguing that the tax credit, which matters a lot to a number of his members and their conservative constituencies, should be allowed to rise or fall on its own merits.

As for the DREAM Act, no matter how much supporters would like to see a “clean” bill pass, at least one member of the immigrant advocacy community recognizes the reality of the situation, which is that letting the measure come up for a vote in the Senate is likely a recipe for disaster – an all-but certain repeat of the bill’s 2014 failure.

Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, said last night on CapTon that while he did not disagree with the Assembly’s action on the DREAM Act, he doesn’t want the Senate to follow suit.

“Do I think it’s a good idea that it gets introduced in the Senate? I’ll be honest, No,” Choi said. “I think passing it in the Assembly was enough of a way to say: Look, we are dug in on this. It’s an important issue for us. I think it’s important as a signal to send out before the budget battle begins.”

Choi said the DREAM Act community is counting on the governor to deliver on his promise that the DREAM Act will become a reality this year, and will be deeply disappointed if that does not occur.

“Folks really lined up behind the governor,” in the 2014 election, Choi said. “Our message to him has been: Stay on target. Don’t deviate off course.”