Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with no public schedule.

At 8:45 a.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks at the ABNY Breakfast, The Pierre Hotel, 2 East 61st St., Manhattan.

At 10 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul holds a Western New York Roundtable with students to combat sexual violence on college campuses, Daemen College, Rosary Hall Parlor, 4380 Main St., Amherst.

Also at 10 a.m., the NYC Council Transportation Committee holds a preliminary budget hearing on transportation, Council Chambers, City Hall, Manhattan.

Also at 10 a.m., the NYS Thruway Authority hosts an Annual Drowsy Driving Awareness press conference, Guilderland Service Area, eastbound at milepost 153, between exits 25 (Schenectady) and 24 (Albany).

Also at 10 a.m., the New York National Guard hosts a US Chamber of Commerce Foundation Hiring Our Heroes Veterans’ Job Fair, Division of Military and Naval Affairs HQ, 330 Old Niskayuna Rd., Latham.

At 11 a.m., UUP holds a news conference calling for a major action regarding the state Education Department’s “highly flawed teacher certification process,” LCA Press Room (130), LOB, Albany.

At 1 p.m., Hochul convenes a Rochester anti-poverty task force meeting, SUNY Brockport, Rochester Educational Opportunity Center, 161 Chestnut St., Rochester.

Also at 1 p.m., Senators Patrick Gallivan and Timothy Kennedy and Assembly members Sean Ryan, Robin Schimminger and John Ceretto holds a news conference on infrastructure, LIUNA Training Site, 1370 Seneca St., Buffalo.

Also at 1 p.m., AQE releases a report, “Gubernatorial Delinquency: Cuomo’s Failure to Fund New York State’s Public Schools”, which gives a detailed accounting of how much the state owes schools in every Assembly and Senate district in New York, Sen. Neil Breslin and Assembly members Pat Fahy John McDonald and Angelo Santabarbara will attend, LCA Press Room, Legislative Office Building, 198 State St., Albany.

At 1:30 p.m., AG Eric Schneiderman makes an announcement, 120 Broadway, 25th Floor, Manhattan.

At 6 p.m., NYC Bar Association members and officials participate in a free public “New York Environmental Year in Review” panel discussion; 42 W. 44th St., Manhattan.

Also at 6 p.m., Monroe County Legislator Karla Boyce will be joined by representatives from the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, Anti-Drug Advocates, and medical experts for a panel discussion on the dangers of heroin and substance abuse, Mendon Fire Hall, 101 Mendon Ionia Rd., Mendon.

Also at 6 p.m., NYC Public Advocate Tish James holds a town hall on education, mayoral control of schools and community engagement, Lehman College, 250 Bedford Park Blvd., the Bronx.

At 7 p.m., Bronx residents and elected officials will participate in a major community forum about the re-zoning of 73 blocks along Jerome Avenue, Latino Pastoral Action Center (LPAC), 14 West 170th St., the Bronx.

Headlines…

Amid rising anti-Semitic violence abroad and his own political travails at home, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio has embarked on a furious campaign to define himself as an international spokesman for Jewish concerns, and to deepen his relationship with New York’s often fractious Jewish community. This summer, he’ll make his first trip as mayor to Israel.

This morning, de Blasio will bring his message of combating income inequality — and, in particular, his ambitious affordable housing plan — to a group of influential New York City business leaders whose support could prove vital.

State lawmakers said suing Gov. Andrew Cuomo over his bullying budget tactics would be a “last resort,” but they did not rule out that option completely.

Testifying at the year’s first NYC Council budget hearing, de Blasio’s Budget Director (and former top Assembly staffer) Dean Fuleihan said the city would be hurt by deep cuts proposed by Cuomo in funding for homeless services and insufficient education funding. “It has an enormous impact on our budget,” he said.

Former Queens Councilman Dan Halloran was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in two corruption schemes, including taking thousands of dollars in bribes to help Malcolm Smith, a Democrat and the former state Senate majority leader, run for New York City mayor in 2013 as a Republican.

New York City will become the nation’s first major metropolis to close its public schools in observance of the two most sacred Muslim holy days, de Blasio announced – a watershed moment for a group that has endured suspicion and hostility since the Sept. 11 attacks.

With the political winds seemingly at its back, New York City’s charter school movement staged a splashy rally in Albany with an enthusiastic mix of thousands of students, a raft of state leaders and a pinch-hitting pop star. At the same time, supporters of teachers’ unions, who had also traveled to Albany in an armada of buses, gathered at a convention center adjacent to the Capitol.

The students, many of them from Eva Moskowitz’s NYC-based Success Academy Network, got a day off school to take part in the huge rally on the steps of the Capitol that called for an end to the “failing schools crisis” and featured the hip-hop singer and WNBA star Lisa Leslie.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, IDC Leader Jeff Klein and LG Kathy Hochul attended the charter school rally, while Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie spoke to the teachers union members.

The pro-charter event, paid for by the pro-charter advocacy group Families for Excellent Schools, featured an performance by Ashanti. Organizers claimed attendance of 13,000, though that number seemed high by at least a third. State Police said the event was permitted for 7,500 people.

Teachers who turned up for Cuomo’s Syracuse event on raising the state’s minimum wage were not allowed to enter.

Contractors, highway superintendents and legislators are renewing their push for road and bridge funding, calling out Cuomo’s plan to split up a $5.4 billion one-time cash surplus into various corners. In response, the governor said he was opposed to “pork barrel” spending.

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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.