The Weekend That Was

Following the death of US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid issued a warning to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: Don’t play politics with filling vacancies on the bench.

McConnell, meanwhile, said the Senate should not replace Scalia until the American people have chosen the next president, who could in turn nominate his successor.

Republican White House hopefuls insisted that President Obama step aside and let his successor nominate the next Supreme Court justice, in a raucous Saturday night debate that also featured harshly personal jousting over immigration and foreign policy.

Obama said he would make a nomination “in due time.”

Here’s a look at some of the leading possibilities to be Obama’s third Supreme Court nominee. Whoever is nominated might be in limbo for a year or more, if the Senate fails to act, but also might have a leg up on being nominated by Hillary Clinton, if she wins the Democratic nomination and the general election.

Clinton defended Obama’s right to appoint Scalia’s successor, saying: “Some might say that a confirmation process would take too long for this president to complete during his remaining days in office,” she said. “But the longest successful confirmation in the past four decades was Clarence Thomas, and that took roughly 100 days.”

Multiple news sources are reporting the official cause of Scalia’s death was myocardial infarction – a heart attack.

A public relations firm executive, Karin Murphy Caro, said that she has never exchanged private messages with Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano — let alone sexually suggestive ones — as she backed his assertion that alleged communications between the pair were fabricated.

“I am a victim here, I am being hacked. This is a lie and I will bring every legal action to catch this person and bring them to justice,” Mangano told CBS2’s Marcia Kramer.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is urging caution as temperatures plunge to record lows across the state, and his office established a hotline that provides cold-weather safety information.

A planned crackdown on housing discrimination across New York state could soon result in some Realtors losing their licenses, Cuomo told congregants this morning at a Harlem church.

State employee overtime has jumped to a record of $716 million in 2015, marking the sixth year in a row that it has increased among state agencies. That’s a $55 million increase over 2014, noted state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, who added it comes out to 16.8 million overtime hours.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio received a warm reception when he arrived in Albany Saturday for a day of schmoozing with his fellow Democrats at the Association of Black and Puerto Rican Legislators annual conference, known as Caucus Weekend.

De Blasio voiced support for the Assembly Democrats’ plan to raise taxes on the wealthy, putting himself at odds — once again — with Cuomo.

Cuomo’s office released 30-day amendments late Friday to his executive budget proposal, a series of technical and programmatic changes that left in place administration proposals to shift costs to New York City.

One amendment would significantly broaden the state’s power to control who operates homeless shelters in New York, allowing the Office of Temporary Disability and Assistance, which oversees shelters, to remove operators at shelters that are found to have financial and safety problems and directly appoint new ones.

Queens Sen. James Sanders put on free concerts, distributed flowers and gave seniors all-expenses-paid weekends in the Poconos — all with taxpayer dollars and the help of a local nonprofit whose mission was supposed to be senior housing.

If former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg is actually willing to commit 10 figures to a presidential run, he can compete on turf that has not been up for grabs in decades.

Jackie Mason made fun of Bloomberg’s gun control stance, saying: “He’s standing there with 12 bodyguards, telling you that you shouldn’t have a gun to protect you, while he has 12 guys protecting him! As if his life counts, but yours is not important?”

During the GOP debate this weekend – one week before the crucial South Carolina primary – former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush blasted Donald Trump for insulting the Bush family and ridiculed the idea that Trump could be commander in chief.

Trump and Clinton are leading their rival candidates by wide margins in South Carolina, according to the CBS News Battleground Tracker poll.

Trump denounced the Republican National Committee for using his popularity to shill for cash. The RNC sent an e-mail hours before Saturday’s South Carolina debate asking supporters to give between $35 and $250 to “Get on Trump’s List.”

NYC straphangers jittery over several recent subway slashings should holster their smartphones and pay more attention to their surroundings, the head of the city detectives’ union said.

Erie County Republicans overwhelmingly backed Trump in a straw poll the local party sponsored.

At the state GOP convention in Buffalo on March 4, Republicans will nominate Wendy Long (who opposed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in 2012) to face Democratic incumbent Sen. Chuck Schumer this November.

The Metropolitan Opera is weighing the future of James Levine, 72, its music director of four decades. He is struggling to hold onto a position that has defined his life — and shaped the company — after continuing health problems have made it difficult for many performers to follow his conducting.

Cuomo has gone to war with the owner of a Western New York power plant that closed in January after National Grid customers paid more than $110 million in surcharges to keep the plant open since 2012.

The TU accuses Cuomo of playing politics with Thruway tolls.

A fight over the ice rink at Buffalo’s Canalside involves state officials, the project’s designer and a local construction company, and has escalated to lawsuits and accusations that political donations influenced the award of a state contract worth millions of dollars.

The lead counsel for the 1,000 plaintiffs in the new round of Love Canal litigation has asked state Supreme Court Justice Richard Kloch Sr. to remove himself from the case, claiming he showed bias in remarks about past Love Canal cases in a newspaper article written by Kloch’s daughter, and seemed to act a little too favorably to the local attorney for Occidental Chemical Co. during a past court session.

The Buffalo Bills and elected officials are on the same page when it comes to holding off on building the team a new stadium.

Despite Cuomo’s public claim of ongoing support for SolarCity and its still-under-construction plant in Buffalo – the keystone of the Buffalo Billion – investors have demonstrated they don’t share the governor’s faith.

Angelo J. Morinello, a former Niagara Falls City Court Judge, received the endorsement Saturday from the Niagara County Independence Party in his bid for the 145th district State Assembly seat currently held by John D. Ceretto, D-Lewiston.

The chairman of the NYC Civilian Complaint Review Board, Richard Emery, says there is nothing improper about his civil rights law firm representing a Queens man suing the city and eight cops over an incident in which the agency validated the client’s allegation of excessive police force.

The NYC Department of Education overturned a principal’s firing and gave her more than a year’s back pay so she wouldn’t file ­legal actions charging ethics violations by the DOE’s new top lawyer, sources tell the NY Post.

Cuomo: ‘Frightening’ GOP Wants To Block Supreme Court Nomination

The resistance from Republicans in Washington to President Obama appointing a replacement for the late Justice Antonin Scalia is “frightening,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters on Sunday.

“I think there’s no doubt that the president should have the right,” the governor said following an affordable housing announcement. “That is clearly what the Constitution says and what the law says and this is an absurd extension that is the gridlock that is Washington.”

The 79-year-old Scalia died on Saturday after hunting in Texas, creating a vacancy on the court amid a heated presidential campaign.

Republicans in the U.S. Senate have said the next president, not Obama, should nominate Scalia’s replacement.

Scalia, who sat on the court since 1986, was the leading conservative justice on the bench.

Cuomo did praise Scalia’s time in public life, calling him a “dedicated jurist.”

“He happened to have a different philosophy than the philosophy I believe in, but that frankly pales as a second issue,” he said. “First issue is he was a great public servant.”

Cuomo railed against Republicans — including the GOP leadership in the Senate and presidential candidates — who have said Obama should not nominate a successor in his final 11 months in office.

He knocked Republicans for only wanting to follow laws when it is “convenient for them and their philosophy.”

“I mean, how can you possibly say, well, the president is getting to the end of his term we should wait? No! That’s just because they want to stop down government, period,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo’s late father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, was considered for the Supreme Court by President Bill Clinton, with the nomination ultimately going to Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Cuomo has long decried gridlock in Washington, and on Sunday he blasted what he said was an effort to spread gridlock to the judicial branch.

“It is frightening. They are endangering the basic machinery of government,” Cuomo said, adding, “The law is clear, the president is the president. President Obama is the president of the United States. If some people don’t like it, too bad.”

Cuomo: State Planning For Alternate Water Supply In Hoosick Falls

New York has started plans to provide an alternate water source for the village Hoosick Falls, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday announced.

State and federal officials since last month have advised residents of the village to not drink or use the water, which was found to have been contaminated with the hazardous chemical perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA.

“Protecting the health of New Yorkers is paramount,” Cuomo said in a statement. “My administration is taking aggressive action in Hoosick Falls because no one should have to question the safety of their water. We are working closely with our local partners, and will continue to take all necessary steps to safeguard the public health.”

The announcement came hours after high school students at the Hoosick Valley Central School District called on state officials to provide an alternate water source. In a news release, Cuomo’s office noted that no PFOA contamination has been found in the district’s water and the state has already put in motion plans to install a water filtration system at the school.

At the same time, the state plans to authorize an emergency allocation of $10 million from the Superfund for the water source, while also planning to purchase and install water filtration systems for 1,500 homes in Hoosick.

On Thursday, the Department of Environmental Conservation determined both Saint-Gobain and Honeywell were responsible for the contamination of PFOA in the water supply. The state’s investigation into the contamination continues.

State health and environmental regulators have defended the state’s response to the water contamination, insisting the moved as quickly and deliberately as possible when discovering the PFOA contamination.

The first results showing a contamination came in December 2014, with further tests being conducted in July.

Extras

Bundle up. It’s gonna be cold this weekend.

The Inner Harbor story gets weirder in Syracuse as a group of clergy say they never signed onto a letter to editor at The Post-Standard.

After a video of a charter school teacher angrily scolded a student was reported by The New York Times, Success Academy leader Eva Moskowitz blasted the paper and defended the incident as an “anomaly.”

Gawker is now looking to speak with former Success Academy teachers.

Glenwood has settled a lawsuit with U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara over disability access.

Students at Hoosick Falls are pressuring Gov. Andrew Cuomo over the village’s water supply issues.

Students and administrators at the College of St. Rose are butting heads over cuts to faculty, which includes 23 professors.

A Cheektowaga Democrat and councilman announced his plans to run for the 143rd Assembly District.

The pension costs for the state’s nearly 700 school districts will decline by 11.6 percent next year, the second year in a row contribution rates have fallen.

Mayor de Blasio doubts the manslaughter conviction of a NYPD officer will have a negative impact on the rest of the force.

Jurors in the case said the rookie officer had no reason for having his finger on the trigger of his service weapon.

After a crane crashed to the ground in Manhattan, the mayor plans an inspection “blitz” to prevent future incidents.

In the wake of the crane accident, the city is quadrupling penalties for builders who break serious safety rules from $2,400 to $10,000.

As a surrogate for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, de Blasio defended political fundraiser she’s been criticized for.

The city of Albany is getting support for a $12.5 million bailout from Gov. Cuomo after he initially didn’t include the money in his budget proposal.

Our interview with former Gov. George Pataki caught the attention of Sen. Ruben Diaz.

Did you know former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore was running for president? Well, he’s not anymore.

Could Erie County GOP Endorse Flaherty If Dems Don’t?

Erie County Democrats are expected to endorse Town of Tonawanda attorney John Flynn, Saturday, as their candidate for District Attorney but acting DA Michael Flaherty is not expected to back away from a primary. Even without the party’s backing, committee members believe Flaherty could have good chance at winning with $300,000 dollars already in his campaign coffers.

UPDATE: Flaherty said he’s open to all discussions but he hasn’t and won’t reach out to any other parties about an endorsement until after the ECDC makes its decision official. Erie County Republicans aren’t shutting the door on the idea.

“We are searching for the best possible candidate to be the next DA and to run on our line,” GOP Chairman Nick Langworthy said.

When I asked Langworthy if that candidate could be Flaherty he responded, ” The statement I have made is what I’m saying at this time. Feel free to speculate as you wish.”

It wouldn’t be the first time Erie County GOP has endorsed a Democrat for district attorney. Flaherty’s former boss Frank Sedita was cross-endorsed when he ran unopposed for re-election in 2012.

The Republicans have put together a panel led by former Attorney General Dennis Vacco to find and vet potential candidates.

Former State Senate Candidate And SAFE Act Critic Arrested For Weapon Possession

Former New York State Senate candidate Gia Arnold was arrested for criminal possession of a weapon and obstructing governmental administration. The Niagara Falls Police Department said officers found an AR-15 assault rifle and magazine, a handgun, a K-Bar combat knife and a black half ski mask in Arnold’s vehicle during a traffic stop.

Arnold ran for NY’s 62nd Senate District in 2014 on an anti-SAFE Act platform. Then a 24-year-old mother of three, she dropped out of the race after admitting she cheated on her husband but stepped back into the race a week later.

Niagara Falls police said Arnold was a passenger in her vehicle with 18-year-old Halim Johnson driving. Officers said they noticed both occupants moving around and one of them reaching under the seat as they approached the vehicle.

According to a friend who set up a crowd-funding page, Arnold’s bail was set at $5,000 when she was arraigned Thursday morning. Because of the government holiday, he said bonds are not available and she remains in the Niagara County Holding Center until the full bail can be posted.

The same friend said the AR-15 was non-compliant under the SAFE Act but would not have been illegal before the law was passed. He also alleged that the officers profiled Arnold’s boyfriend, Johnson, because he was black.

But some of Arnold’s supporters during her failed senate campaign were not as quick to back her up on Friday. Tea Party activist Rus Thompson said he was concerned for Arnold but didn’t want to make any comment about the situation until he had all the details about what happened.

Meanwhile, former gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino, who attended Arnold’s announcement when she entered the senate race in 2014, had even less to say. When called for comment, he asked who Arnold was.

Gabryszak Fined $100K By Legislative Ethics Panel

Democratic former Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak was fined $100,000 by the Legislative Ethics Commission on Friday after it was determined by a separate ethics panel he had violated the public officer’s law when he sexually harassed legislative aides in his office.

Gabryszak resigned from his western New York Assembly seat in January 2014 after eight women — including legislative staffers and a reporter — claimed he had sexually harassed them.

“The Commission considered the evidence submitted at the penalty assessment hearing by Mr. Gabryszak, through his attorney, and considered Mr. Gabryszak’s admission to his inappropriate
conduct, as evidenced, in part, by his prompt resignation from office, in determining the penalties,” the LEC report found.

The penalty includes $70,000 for the harassment of women who worked for the Legislature, as well as a $10,000 fine for misusing state resources for campaign purposes. An additional $20,000 was levied for the benefit he received as a result of the misuse of public property.

The resignation of Gabryszak was part of a string of harassment scandals that had engulfed the Assembly in recent years, which included the resignation of the late Housing Committee Chairman Vito Lopez.

In its report filed Friday, the LEC wrote that it “concurred” with the findings of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics that Gabryszak had misused public resources and harassed his aides.

Democratic Assemblyman Micah Kellner of Manhattan was also accused of harassment, but declined to seek re-election to Albany.

The initial allegations against Gabryszak came amid heightened awareness of sexual harassment in Albany and after then-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was roundly criticized for his handling of the Lopez scandal.

The Assembly has since retained an independent law firm to review sexual harassment complaints.

Gabryszak disposition final.pdf by Nick Reisman

IDC Unveils Education Plan

The Independent Democratic Conference unveiled on Friday a multi-million dollar package of education police measures that would be aimed at expanding after school offerings, create community schools and provide for universal access to full-day kindergarten.

“New York State’s students deserve rich learning opportunities that seal their future success,” said Sen. Jeff Klein, a Bronx Democrat. “Afterschool programs and the expansion of community schools place students in innovative learning environments well beyond traditional classroom hours, keeping them focused and performing at higher levels. The best investment we can make is in our children which is why the IDC wants to implement its 50 hour Learning Week proposal.”

The package includes $550 million for afterschool and a $155 million proposal for community schools. The full-day kindergarten plan would cost $60 million.

The conference also released a report on the education proposals, saying that spending $1 on education initiatives like afterschool would ultimately save $3 in the long run.

Here’s the full report:

IDC 50 Hour Learning Week Report by Nick Reisman

NYSUT Knocks King’s Advancement To Education Secretary

There’s little love lost for the New York State United Teachers union and John King, the former education commissioner and President Obama’s nominee to become the U.S. secretary of education.

Obama on Thursday signaled he would forward the nomination of King to the U.S. Senate for consideration to replace Arne Duncan. King has for the last several months been serving in an interim capacity as the education secretary following King’s departure.

This is distressing to NYSUT, which battled with King over the implementation of the controversial Common Core education standards and what the union saw as an over reliance at SED on testing.

“At a time when we are finally moving away from the disastrous era of test-and-punish, action to make John King’s interim appointment as U.S. Secretary of Education permanent is extremely troubling and sends the wrong signal to educators and parents nationwide,” NYSUT President Karen Magee. “During his tenure as New York’s education commissioner, the joy of teaching and learning was eroded by a wave of misguided top-down policies that focused on overuse of testing and punitive measures exacted upon teachers.”

NYSUT last year staunchly opposed Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s efforts to overhaul teacher performance reviews to test results as well as in-classroom observation. The Board of Regents later declared a moratorium on linking evaluations to Common Core-based examinations as the state studies potential changes to the standards.

“New York State is only just beginning to recover from the destructive policies of John King, who was subject to an unprecedented vote of no confidence delivered by delegates of the 600,000-member New York State United Teachers,” Magee said.

Rochester College Students Push For Ridesharing

The Rochester Intercollegiate Council is releasing on Friday a letter to state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo that urges them to expand ridesharing to upstate cities.

The organization comprises nine colleges and universities around the Rochester area, including Rochester Institute of Technology, University of Rochester, and SUNY Geneso among them.

In the letter, the students write that bringing ridehsaring options would not only help them get to class, but also reduce drink-driving incidents.

“A ridesharing study conducted by Temple University found a 3.6-5.6% decrease in drunk-driving incidents within nine to fifteen months of introducing transportation network companies in various US cities,” RICC said in the letter. “Car-sharing services provide cheap and easy alternatives to get home, which could help decrease Monroe County’s DWI conviction percentage – one of the highest rates among the large counties in New York State.”

The ridesharing push is being backed by companies like Uber and Lyft that want to expand into the upstate markets.

Ridesharing is currently allowed in New York City, but there’s no statewide regulatory framework in place for overseeing the relatively new business model in New York.

Cuomo has spoken favorably of having the state regulate ridesharing, which could potentially supersede the city’s oversight.

“The Internet has transformed the way people get around and interact, but New York’s outdated laws are struggling to keep up. Antiquated regulations that restrict Internet-enabled competition stifle innovation and new economic activity in our communities,” said Noah Theran, Vice President of Public Affairs & Communications at the Internet Association. “New York’s lawmakers have an opportunity now to listen to their constituents, who demand access to ridesharing as a transportation option.”

Dear Governor Cuomo and the Members of the New York State Legislature.pdf by Nick Reisman