Extras

House lawmakers approved a stopgap spending bill to keep the government running through April, but the bill faces an unclear path in the Senate with a Saturday deadline looming.

Trump reportedly intends to nominate Andrew Puzder, chief executive of the company that owns the Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. burger chains, as labor secretary.

Puzder has been an outspoken critic of the worker protections enacted by the Obama administration, opposing efforts to expand eligibility for overtime pay, while arguing that large minimum wage increases hurt small businesses and lead to job loss among low-skilled workers.

As an employer of many immigrant workers, Puzder has spoken in favor of immigration reform.

Senate Democrats immediately blasted Trump’s selection of Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt as EPA administrator and vowed to try to block his confirmation. “We have a fight on our hands and Republicans have to do a moral gut check and a political one,” said Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz.

The Women’s March on Washington, scheduled for the day after Trump’s inauguration, will have very limited access to large swaths of the national mall and Pennsylvania Avenue, thanks to a “massive omnibus blocking permit” filed by the National Park Service, acting on behalf of the Presidential Inauguration Committee.

Retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid is leaving the U.S. Senate a very different politician from when he entered in 1987.

At a portrait unveiling ceremony for Reid, Hillary Clinton said fake news is an “epidemic” and “a danger that must be addressed and addressed quickly.”

David Rubin, longtime former dean of the Newhouse School, has retired from SU.

The Capital Region received $83.1 million as a “top finisher” in the sixth round of annual Regional Economic Development Council awards, which were announced today at The Egg with Gov. Andrew Cuomo in attendance.

The executive director of New York’s ethics and lobbying watchdog said that since he was appointed in March, no one from the Cuomo administration has ever spoken to him about major policy matters before the panel.

Los Angeles schools this week launched a hotline to help students cope with increased anxiety about Trump’s election victory and how it might impact their families.

Rockland officials aren’t giving up on efforts to pass a law that would let school districts collect their own taxes, potentially lowering costs and saving taxpayers thousands of dollars, which was vetoed recently by the governor.

Ross Barkan: “Though political dynamics always change, it’s hard to fathom a politician more ill-suited for this populist moment than Andrew Cuomo.”

“Hillary Clinton, formerly your Presidential front-runner, now your flaxen-haired Sasquatch of Chappaqua.”

A Los Angeles-based lawyer who gained notoriety by reclaiming Jewish-owned art looted by the Nazis has filed a lawsuit in New York against the FBI seeking information on the warrant that led to its seizure of Anthony Weiner’s computer in the Hillary Clinton email case.

Cuomo and Consul General Peter Helder Bernard, Esq. of the Consulate General of Haiti, announced food, water, medical supplies and other donations from New Yorkers will be delivered to assist those devastated by Hurricane Matthew in Haiti.

George Marlin gets a jump on his annual winners and losers list for Nassau County in 2016.

President Barack Obama’s Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, a Buffalo native, is “looking seriously” at running for chairman of the Democratic National Committee, saying the party could use someone who could help unify it.

Buffalo began last year with 25 schools – nearly half the district – on a state watch list that threatened them with takeover if their academic performance didn’t improve in a hurry. A year later, that picture doesn’t look nearly as dire.

RIP, John Glenn, former astronaut and Ohio senator.

Cuomo Unsure If Ride-Hailing Will Be Included In Budget

After his top economic development czar made a lengthy joke about trying to catch an Uber in Albany, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday reaffirmed his support for expanding ride hailing services outside of New York City.

The issue was reignited in Albany as Empire State Development Corp. CEO Howard Zemsky opened his remarks at the annual Regional Economic Development awards presentation with a deadpan story about calling for an Uber in the state’s capital city, only for it to take 2-1/2 hours to arrive from New York City.

With Cuomo at the lectern, he gave a faux exasperated response, saying, “I support Uber, I guess.”

Later, speaking with reporters, Cuomo said he had backed an upstate ride-hailing effort earlier, only for the legislation to have fallen apart amid Senate and Assembly negotiations.

Still, Cuomo is unsure if he would include the measure in his budget presentation, where it would have a greater chance of being approved intact.

Opponents of ride hailing were quick to pounce, however.

“It would be irresponsible to let Uber expand upstate without requiring fingerprint background checks and other safety regulations it already follows in New York City,” said John Tomassi, president of the Upstate Transportation Association. “Upstate residents have a right to the same ridesharing experience as their downstate counterparts – and that includes fingerprinting for drivers. If state officials fail to make public safety a priority, violent criminals driving on the Uber platform could put millions of upstate riders at risk.”

Once Again, Cuomo Steering Clear Of Senate Fray

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has no desire to become publicly involved in the battle over control of the state Senate, saying Thursday in Albany the fractious Democrats in the chamber need to sort their own issues out.

Cuomo’s comments come after several days of public pressure from mainline Democrats and left-leaning groups that have pushed him to broker an agreement that would see the seven-member Independent Democratic Conference and Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder break from an alliance with Republicans.

“I supported the Democrats for the Senate,” Cuomo said. “I worked very hard during the election year and supported Democrats for the Senate. That was obviously not successful.”

Senate Democrats have argued the potential victory in a Long Island Senate race will give them 32 enrolled party members in the chamber, or enough to form a working majority.

But Felder, a Brooklyn Democrat who has conferenced with Republicans since his election, has indicated he will stay within the GOP ranks.

More broadly, Cuomo indicated the divide within the Senate was too difficult on a personal level for him to bridge.

“They have tensions and personal animus and factions that pre-date my election that have nothing to do with me and they’re going to have to work that out themselves,” he said.

Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein earlier in the day in a statement blasted the efforts to have Cuomo intervene in the Senate’s leadership.

Cuomo has been accused by liberals of preferring a Republican-led Senate as a way of triangulating with Assembly Democrats when it comes legislation.

Cuomo repeatedly noted Thursday he campaign for a handful of Democrats in key Senate races in the New York City suburbs.

“The situation in that caucus — you have personal rifts, you have personal agendas — that have gone back for years,” he said. “That they’re going to have to work through if it’s going to be worked through. That I will leave to them. It’s not my place to get involved and I have no desire.”

Cuomo Says He Spoke With Prosecutors After Percoco Was Charged

Gov. Andrew Cuomo was interviewed by federal prosecutors after one of his top former aides was charged along with seven others with bribery, fraud and bid rigging.

“I have talked to them about the case they brought,” Cuomo told reporters on Thursday.

Joe Percoco, a former confidant to the governor and a longtime aide, was charged along with prominent upstate developers and ex-president of SUNY Polytechnic, Alain Kaloyeros, in September. They were indicted by a grand jury last month.

Cuomo said the conversation, which he was not under oath for, came after the criminal complaint was filed in September.

“It was preparation for Joe’s case,” he said.

Cuomo said he is not a target in the case.

He is unsure, meanwhile, if he’ll be called as a witness in the case.

“I could be, I don’t envision it,” he said. “No one has suggested that.”

Updated: Cuomo spokeswoman Melissa DeRosa in a statement said the governor volunteered to speak with federal prosecutors.

“As part of our continuing cooperation, the Governor voluntarily made himself available and shared his knowledge of facts potentially relevant to the case,” she said. “Out of respect for the pending matter, we will have no further comment, and refer any additional questions to the Southern District.”

Cuomo: ‘Certain Issues’ Must Be Taken Up In Special Session

As state lawmakers weigh whether to return to Albany in a special session of the Legislature this month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday said “certain issues” such as term limits and a ban on outside income must be addressed.

“My point is issues have to be addressed. Reform issues have to be addressed,” Cuomo told reporters during a question and answers session in Albany after an economic development awards ceremony. “The issue of outside income has to be addressed.”

Cuomo has said he wants lawmakers to back a pair of constitutional amendments that would set term limits for state elected officials and ban private-sector employment of lawmakers. Cuomo on Thursday pointed to the amendment creating a “full-time” Legislature, adding that a constitutional amendment “can take years.”

Cuomo did not mention the term limits proposal he unveiled last week.

Limiting how long lawmakers can serve is considered a non-starter for majority Democrats in the state Assembly, where members from the New York City area have been pushing for a pay increase, up from the current $79,500. Lawmakers last received a pay raise in 1998.

Lawmakers could return at some point this month to set the pay raise in motion by reauthorizing a pay commission to reconvene before the end of the year. There has been talk — seemingly since scuttled — that lawmakers could approve a salary increase straight up, challenging Cuomo whether to veto the bill.

Cuomo in his gaggle with reporters on Thursday hedged on whether lawmakers deserve a pay hike. Cuomo has previously said the Legislature is the best in the country, but since then it has been rocked by a series of corruption scandals, including the arrests and convictions of the top legislative leaders in the Senate and Assembly.

“I think there have been negatives and there have been scandals,” Cuomo said. “At the same time, you have six budgets passed in a row and you have economic development and this state moving in the right direction. These are fundamentally different parameters.”

Cuomo also wants lawmakers to take up funding for affordable housing and a hate crimes task force, in addition to the constitutional amendments.

“I think the people of the state want to see performance for their raise,” he said.

As for the progress of the talks with the Assembly and Senate, Cuomo said they are ongoing.

“We’re talking,” Cuomo said. “You keep talking and the question is whether you reach consensus on critical issues.”

Klein: Senate Leadership Debate ‘A Circus’

Decrying that the fight over control of the state Senate has devolved into “a circus,” Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein blasted the efforts from mainline Democrats in getting Gov. Andrew Cuomo to intercede in who controls the chamber.

Klein, a Bronx Democrat who leads the growing, seven-member conference, sharply rebuked the efforts over the last several days by mainline Democrats to unify the conference by involving Cuomo and putting public pressure on him through various left-leaning advocacy groups and the Working Families Party.

“The debate over who controls the New York State Senate has become a circus,” Klein said. “I will not have any part of it. It is the kind of dysfunctional public display that has voters asking where is the leadership needed to get this state moving forward.”

Klein is a key individual for mainline Democrats to win over should they achieve a governing, 32-member majority. But the party is split among various factions within the chamber, even if Republican incumbent Michael Venditto ends up losing a razor-thin Senate race on Long Island to Democrat John Brooks, which is now the subject of a court challenge.

With a Brooks win possible, Senate Democrats have publicly pushed Cuomo to broker a compromise with the IDC and Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder, a Democrat who has signaled he will once again align himself with Republicans in the chamber.

But Klein in his statement blasted that approach, saying it’s not up to a separate branch of government to determine who is in control of the Senate.

“I find it embarrassing for anyone to suggest that the New York State Senate is incapable of choosing its own leadership,” Klein said.

“Asking the executive branch to step over its boundaries and dictate control of the State Senate runs counter to the separation of powers that is necessary in a functioning state government. The role of each Senator elected by their constituents is to make the difficult decisions to ensure the New York State Senate is ready to meet the challenges that lie ahead. I intend to fulfill that responsibility.”

Klein formed the IDC in 2011, citing frustrations with the Democratic conference in the Senate. He has worked closely and allied the conference with the Senate Republicans, forming a governing majority when the GOP fell into a numerical minority for two years.

But even if Republicans end up a net gain of a seat in the 63-member Senate, the GOP conference will likely continue to need the IDC as key allies on issues.

DiNapoli: DOH Made $16.6M In Improper Medicaid Payments (Updated)

The state Department of Health over a 3-1/2 year period incorrectly paid more than $16.6 million in Medicaid payments to 96 home health providers, according to a report released Thursday by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office.

The pointed to the DOH have made the payments by paying mistakenly for more days of care than what was provided.

“Home health care providers fill a great need by allowing patients to stay in their homes and avoid costly placement in hospitals or rehabilitation centers,” DiNapoli said. “However, my auditors found numerous instances where the state

Auditors reviewed the period of May 2012 through the end of 2015, finding that of the total improper payments, most of the money — some $15.4 million — went to certified home health agenices.

DiNapoli’s office recommended the DOH review the improper payments made and seek to recover the money as appropriate. At the same time, DiNapoli urged the DOH to develop mechanisms that would identify overpayments when they happen.

Updated: Department of Health spokesman Jim Plastiras responded.

“Once again, what the Comptroller fails to acknowledge is that the Department has saved more than $170 million annually thanks, in part, to the implementation of the MRT Certified Home Health Agency Episodic Payment System initiative. Prior to this initiative, Certified Home Health Agency spending was rising at an uncontrollable rate despite the fact that the number of recipients was declining. OMIG will work to recover and fully recoup any potential overpayments totaling $16.6 million found during the audit period of May 1, 2012 through December 31, 2015.”

Dems Continue To Press Unity Argument, Point To History

From the Morning Memo:

A day after Senate Democrats huddled at a hotel and catering house outside of Albany amid a public pressure campaign to bridge the divide within the party in the chamber, black Democratic officials are joining the push.

Mainline Senate Democrats today are releasing statements from former Manhattan Borough President Virginia Fields, Westchester County Legislator Ken Jenkins and Sen. James Sanders.

Their argument: A Democratic-controlled Senate would make history with Andrea Stewart-Cousins as majority leader.

Steawart-Cousins would be the first African-American woman to lead a majority conference in state government.

The overall push to unite the Democratic factions — and pressure Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the process — began last week after John Brooks declared victory in the hotly contested 8th Senate district over Republican Michael Venditto.

Senate Republican officials are challenging the results in court and the race may not be decided for the next several weeks.

Still, Democrats are using the paper ballot results in the race to point to 32 enrolled party members in the chamber — potentially a working majority.

“The elections are over and there are 32 Democrats in the Senate,” Fields said in a statement. “New York is on the cusp of making history, Andrea Stewart-Cousins should be the first woman, and first African American woman, to ever lead a Majority Conference in the New York Legislature. Her accession would send a strong message to the rest of the state and the Country that we are a party that respects diversity and are ready to stand up for all New Yorkers.”

She added, “The time has come for every Democrat in the State Senate to unify, stand and work together to ensure our state leads in progressive governance, fairness and the respect of voters’ decisions.”

Jenkins, a potential candidate for county executive against Cuomo rival Republican Rob Astorino, said it was “vital” for Democrats to gain power in Albany given the GOP’s empowerment in Washington.

“There is a numerical majority of Democrats in the Senate, but it will take real leadership from the party establishment to ensure they all work together,” he said. “Andrea Stewart-Cousins has proven that she will be a terrific Senate Majority Leader, and we must not allow petty agendas to deprive New Yorkers of the Senate Democratic Majority which they overwhelmingly voted for.”

Sanders, meanwhile, took specific aim at both Cuomo, the seven-member Independent Democratic Conference and Brooklyn’s Simcha Felder, a Democrat who plans to align with Republicans.

“It’s time for the eight breakaway Democratic Senators to take a decisive stance against the Trump Republican agenda and join with their Democratic colleagues to form a majority,” he said. “It is time for Governor Cuomo to provide the leadership needed to unite us. We have the power to overcome this hate, but it can only be done if we have all hands on deck.”

Paladino Discusses His NYC Meeting With Trump

From the Morning Memo:

Former Trump NY honorary co-chair Carl Paladino quietly visited the president-elect in New York City earlier this week. The Buffalo real-estate developer spoke Wednesday with TWC News reporter LaMonica Peters about the get-together.

While he didn’t want to go into too many details, Paladino clearly hasn’t lost his enthusiasm for Trump.

“I think you’re going to see a president with so many talents,” the onetime gubernatorial candidate and current Buffalo School Board member said. “To even imagine him not being president is going to become difficult, because he’s going to do so many good things.”

The meeting also included Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is helping lead the transition team. Paladino said the question of whether he would be interested and/or willing to serve in the administration in some capacity did come up.

The businessman insists he’s keeping an open mind on the matter, but isn’t actively lobbying for a position.

“You know, I’ve got a pretty good situation right now,” he said. “I’m a happy guy. But if they gave me something that would light my spark, yeah I’d probably strongly consider it.”

Paladino said he learned the transition team has received 50,000 applications for about 4,500 positions. He said he’ll continue to support the president-elect in whatever way he’s asked, regardless of whether that includes a formal, paid position in the administration.

Spending to Promote Ride-Hailing Divides Erie Co. Lawmakers

From the Morning Memo:

Perhaps Democratic Erie County Legislator Pat Burke would’ve made a bigger stink if he had known what was happening. On the surface, the 2017 budget proposal looked good – including that extra $100,000 allocation for tourism.

“Quietly, it wasn’t a general increase to Visit Buffalo Niagara, but unbeknownst to us it was for a specific purpose – to lobby Albany to bring ride-sharing to Western New York,” he said.

That’s something Burke just couldn’t get behind. When the Legislature voted Tuesday, he tried to separate the allocation in question from the general budget package.

“If the $100,000 could guarantee that ride sharing was coming here in an equitable way, I would say maybe it’s money well spent,” Burke said. “But it’s just a Hail Mary pass.”

His Republican colleagues didn’t agree, and Burke ultimately voted in favor of the budget, but “under protest.” As a result, the measure passed unanimously.

Burke was one of a chorus of Western New Yorkers who have been critical of the pro-ride-hailing measure, which at first appeared to be popular. Legislators introduced it at a Tuesday morning press conference, receiving support from the chamber of commerce, the local tourism agency, and even the Buffalo Bills and Sabres.

But by late-afternoon, members of the Twitter-verse were openly questioning the expenditure, putting Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz on the defensive. He noted the money is not exclusively to promote ride-hailing, though that’s how it as initially cast.

“My hope is that the governor, Assembly and Senate can resolve this issue very soon, so Visit Buffalo Niagara can use the additional resources allocated in the 2017 Budget for purposes which will generate additional revenue to our region by attracting additional tourists,” the county executive said.

Then there’s local cab company owner Bill Yuhnke, who wanted to know why the Legislature was putting money toward the already heavily funded lobbying effort of deep-pocketed companies like Lyft and Uber. He believes ride-hailing should have the same regulatory standards as the taxi industry.

“No one ever gave me any money to promote this,” Yuhnke said, referencing his Curb smart-phone app, which like with Lyft and Uber, connects passengers and drivers.

Burke insisted he’s not against legalizing ride-hailing, per se, but believes the $100,000 would have been better spent fighting the opioid crisis, or directly on improving public transportation.