Liz Benjamin

This user hasn't shared any biographical information


Posts by Liz Benjamin


Following Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s demise, restoring the public trust in government through a robust reform agenda should be Cuomo’s top priority, the NYT says.

Here’s what Assembly Speaker-in-Waiting Carl Heastie looked like in 1985.

Heastie will meet with a caucus of reform-minded lawmakers on Monday.

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill slammed the potential Thruway Authority-Bridge Authority merger, saying the Bridge Authority shouldn’t subsidize a new Tappan Zee Bridge.

The Senate Republicans released their analysis of the governor’s 2015-16 budget.

A long-sought measure to permit Buffalo to handle traffic violations within city limits and keep the revenues has been vetoed by Cuomo. He pledged to adress the issue in the budget.

The end of an era: There are plans at the Daily News to close down the Brooklyn, Bronx and Queens bureaus in the coming weeks.

Sen. Simcha Felder tried to chase down a shoplifted, who was later taken out by three NYC sanitation workers.

Public service commissioner Garry Brown has submitted his retirement papers and will step down next week.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged not to harm any groundhogs next week, though it’s unclear if he’ll be on Staten Island for Groundhog Day.

Cuomo has made his first pocket veto by failing to act on a 2014 bill that would have made the disciplinary process for police officers a matter to be worked out in labor negotiations.

…”Better late than never,” says EJ McMahon.

The governor also rejected a bill that would have allowed Nassau County Off-Track Betting Corp. to get a share of revenue from a local competitor – Belmont Park.

Former Sen. Greg Ball appears to have spent campaign funds on his new consulting business in Texas.

The Mohawk Council of Akwesasne says Rep. John Katko’s bill calling for a security study of the northern U.S./Canadian border “appears to be purely political.

Mitt Romeny won’t be making another presidential run in 2016.

Hillary Clinton took more than 200 privately chartered flights at taxpayer expense during her eight years in the U.S. Senate, sometimes using the jets of corporations and major campaign donors as she racked up $225,756 in flight costs.

Add Manhattan Sen. Liz Krueger to the long list of people with questions about Cuomo’s $450 million plan to build an elevated train to LaGuardia Airport.

Cuomo wants to pull the plug on a free state website that provides details about New York doctors’ medical malpractice records, hospital affiliations and other background information.

This weekend’s Super Bowl won’t only be showcasing the NFL’s top football teams. It will also show off a new stadium lighting system that was created in Syracuse.

Never before seen footage shows the New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie falling out of a chair last June during a visit to the WIP Morning Show.

Andrew Doba, who was communications director to Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy, has joined New York City-based Stu Loeser & Co. to expand into the Nutmeg State.

Great profile of veteran New York Daily News reporter Kerry Burke. (AKA a NYC “tabloid warrior”).

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany with no public schedule.

At 10 a.m., ESDC Chairman Ken Adams delivers a regional version of Cuomo’s 2015 Opportunity Ageda, Staten Island Chamber of Commerce, Old Bermuda Inn, 2512 Arthur Kill Rd., Staten Island.

At 10:30 a.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will tour the new Jobs Plus center at Brooklyn’s Van Dyke Houses, which provides training, job placement and financial counseling services, 330 Powell St., Brooklyn. (A press conference will follow).

Also at 10:30 a.m., Sen. David Carlucci will be joined by local and statewide organizations to support the “Raising the Age” initiative, which would allow 16 and 17 year old offenders to be treated as juveniles in the criminal-justice system, Sing Sing Correctional Facility, “18 Grounds” rear entrance, Spring Street, Ossining.

Also at 10 a.m., NYS Division of Veterans Affairs Director Eric Hesse will be delivering a version of the same speech at the Cazenovia Library, 100 Albany St., Cazenovia.

At 11 a.m., OGS Commissioner RoAnn Destito gives a regional version of the 2015 Opportunity Agenda, Herkimer College, McLaughlin College Center, 100 Resevoir Rd., Herkimer.

At 11:30 a.m., NYS Department of Civil Service Director Jerry Boone gives a version of Cuomo’s 2015 Opportunity Agenda, Hudson Valley Community College, Bulmer Telecommunications Center, Room 3, 80 Vandenburgh Ave., Troy.

At 12:30 p.m., Hesse delivers his second Opportunity Agenda speech of the day at the Onondaga County Workforce CNY Works Board Meeting, SUNY EOC Board Room, 100 New St., Syracuse.

At 1 p.m., NYS Office for the Aging Director Corinda Crossdale gives a regional version of the governor’s 2015 Opportunity Agenda speech, Dresser Rand Group, Inc., 500 Paul Clark Dr., Olean.

Also at 1 p.m., Rep. Lousie Slaughter will discuss the selection of the Rochester-led New York application as one of three finalists to compete for a federal Institute for Manufacturing Innovation devoted to photonics, KBK Federal Building, 100 State St., Rochester 14614, Basement Room 350

Also at 1 p.m., community and religious officials and other supporters of The Coalition to Protect Interfaith Medical Center hold a rally at the Kings County DA’s office; 350 Jay St., Brooklyn.

At 1:30 p.m., the Wage Board appointed by the State Labor Commissioner will meet, Classrooms D and E in Building 12 at the Harriman State Office Campus, Albany.

At 2 p.m., NYS Canal Corp. Director Brian Stratton gives a regional version of the 2015 Opportunity Agenda, Genesee County Community College, Conable Technology Building, Room T-102, 1 College Rd., Batavia.


Assemblyman Carl Heastie is “tantalizingly close to” – if not already past – the magic 76-vote threshold necessary to secure the speakership when his conference votes Feb. 10.

The deal to make Heastie the new speaker is “about done,” according to a source involved in the negotiations.

The fact that Heastie is on the verge of becoming one of the most powerful men in New York politics is “an astonishing feat for a guy most New Yorkers never heard of,” Juan Gonzalez says. Heastie isn’t ready to claim victory as he wants to “personally ask” each of his colleagues for his or her vote.

So far, Assemblymen Keith Wright and Joe Lentol have quit the speaker’s race and announced their support for Heastie. Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle and Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan remain contenders, though Nolan didn’t get the support of most of her own Queens delegation.

About Nolan: “there are few in public life who can, like her, reel off complete, properly punctuated sentences with dependent clauses at 60 miles per hour.”

Heastie’s rapid mobilization of Democratic lawmakers, mostly from New York City, left some lawmakers openly grumbling that the Bronx lawmaker and his supporters had not adhered to a process that Assembly Democrats publicly insisted, after outgoing Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s fall from power this week, would be more deliberative.

Heastie would be the first black speaker in history if he’s elected by his colleagues to succeed Silver. He told NY1′s Zack Fink that he “loves being a person who breaks the glass ceiling.”

The DN calls Heastie a “man with blemishes,” noting his name appeared in the files of the Moreland Commission for having failed to properly account for $25,000 in campaign spending. He also claimed almost $21,000 from the Assembly’s notoriously lax travel expense account during just the first six months of 2014 — more than any other member.

US Attorney Preet Bharara is reportedly investigating Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos’ outside business interests, with a particular focus on the Long Island Republican’s ties to the real estate industry.

A Skelos spokeswoman had no immediate comment on the report. A top Skelos aide said he was unaware of a probe into the majority leader. “I don’t know anything about it,” the aide said.

IBM plans to boost its research and development at the nanocenter in Albany by moving more than 220 engineers at the facility into a research division aimed at helping its $3 billion pledge to bolster its chip development mainly in New York.

The state Thruway Authority is conducting an internal review into the problems that hit the highway system during the November lake- effect storm, the new head of the agency, Bob Megna, said.

More >


Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan said she’s continuing with her speaker bid even though support is consolidating behind Assemblyman Carl Heastie.

A former Moreland Commission attorney has some questions for speaker candidate Heastie.

Heastie’s potential hurdles to locking up the speakership: The reformers and women.

Not surprisingly, Bronx Borough President (and former Assemblyman) Ruben Diaz Jr. is pushing for Heastie to become speaker.

The speaker candidates’ financial filings with JCOPE are not terribly revelatory.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is going in the opposite direction from much of the rest of the country when it comes to the reliance on test scores for teacher evaluations.

Tom Wrobleski wonders what’s preventing Cuomo from calling a special election to replace former Rep. Michael Grimm.

US Sens. Chuck Schumer and Richard Blumenthal demanded Metro-North investigate the derailment outside of Grand Central Terminal Wednesday night that led to delays.

A new study co-authored by a University of Kansas researcher finds men are indeed more to blame for political gridlock than women.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has set no dates for confirmation hearings for the governor’s two Court of Appeals nominees.

New Yorkers Against Gun Violence touted new CDC data that shows gun deaths in the state are down since Cuomo signed the SAFE Act into law.

Cuomo’s proposal to create an independent review of police-related deaths of civilians if an officer is cleared by a grand jury has hit opposition from the state troopers’ union.

Onondaga County Attorney Gordon Cuffy will be leaving his post to become the state Thruway Authority’s general counsel.

Tom Connellan, who retired as a Syracuse police sergeant on Jan. 15 to serve as district director of Rep. John Katko’s local office, will receive both his $62,000 pension and a $70,000 federal salary.

New York’s per pupil spending was 82 percent above the national average in 2012 – the highest among the 50 states and 82 percent above the national average, a federal report found.

New Paltz Town Supervisor Susan Zimet is replacing Mark Dunlea as executive director of the NYS Hunger Action Network.

Hillary Clinton, expecting no major challenge for the 2016 Democratic nomination, is strongly considering delaying the formal launch of her campaign until July - three months later than originally planned.

Secretary of State John Kerry got a ticket for failing to shovel his sidewalk in Boston.

Lentol Claims Brooklyn Support (Updated)

Assemblyman Carl Heastie’s team is working overtime to make him look like the inevitable winner of the speaker’s race, and while he is indeed perceived as the frontrunner at this point, his fellow contenders aren’t quite ready to throw in the towel.

Assemblyman Joe Lentol, chair of the Assembly Codes Committee, sent out a statement this afternoon announcing that after speaking to his fellow Brooklynites, he has secured the “support of the delegation” to continue his effort to succeed Assemblyman Sheldon Silver.

Lentol didn’t get into specifics – like exactly how many of the delegation’s members have given him their assurance of support. (I assume he supports himself, so that’s one certain vote). Also, he didn’t mention Brooklyn Democratic Chairman Frank Seddio, who is himself a former member of the Assembly – much like Queens Democratic Chairman Joe Crowley, who is now a congressman).

A Democratic county chair who is supporting one of Lentol’s rivals, Assemblyman Carl Heastie (chair of the Bronx Demoratic Party), told me last night that the Brooklyn Democrats were poised to annonuce their support of Heastie, who already counts his former opponent and fellow county chair (Manhattan) Assemblyman Keith Wright among his backers.

Maybe Lentol is trying to get out in front of that announcement? Unclear.

Also, we’re expecting to hear something from Queens today. Crowley is back from his overseas travels with President Obama and called a noon meeting at party HQ of the borough’s Assembly delegation to discuss the speaker race. Queens has 18 members who tend to vote in a block. There has been considerable speculation about where Crowley might land, but the safe money at this point is on Heastie – especially when you consider the fact that a sizable chunk of Crowley’s own district is in the Bronx.

UPDATE: Well, minus one Brooklyn member for Lentol. Assemblyman Walter Mosley sent out a statement not long ago declaring his support for Heastie. Mosley, who was elected in 2012, identified himself in the statement as the second vice chair of the Black, Hispanic, Puerto Rican and Asian Legislative Caucus, which has some 30 members, and will be a significant force in the speaker’s race – should its members decide to all unite behind one candidate.

Mosley also signed the reform caucus letter than went out earlier today. He was one of 23 members to do so.

“I am proud to endorse Assemblyman Carl Heastie for Speaker of the New York State Assembly,” Mosley said. “I am confident that he will usher in reforms that will serve as a catalyst to make Albany work even better for New York.”

“This legislative session is filled with difficult decisions and with Assemblyman Heastie’s vision and leadership the Democratic conference will benefit exponentially. Carl has a history as a consensus builder and my colleagues need only look towards him to see that he is the diversity that is needed in Albany’s leadership.”

Reform Caucus Pressures Speaker Candidates

A group of 23 Assembly Democrats – most of them either freshmen or members with just a few years on the job – today sent a letter to the candidates seeking to replace Assemblyman Sheldon Silver as speaker, seeking their support for changes in the chamber that will increase the clout of the rank-and-file, change hiring and appointment practices and bring additional “transparency” to an organization that has long seen the consolidation of power in the hands of a single individual.

The letter, which was sent out shortly after noon, urges the speaker candidates to “commit to reforming and modernizing our institution” and also seeks their input on a host of reform proposals, touching on everything from the possibility of wirelss access in the Capitol (personal opinion: YES, YES!!) to potential term limits for the speaker and committee chairs.

The Assembly has long been a seniority-driven institution, ruled almost single-handedly by Silver, who made unilateral decisions about committee assignments and the hiring and firing of central staffers. The speaker infamously used committee and leadership posts – and the lulus thay carry, which has become increasingly important as the base pay of $79,500 has remained flat since 1999 – to reward or punish members.

“We recognize that implementation of many of these reforms will require extensive thought, discussion, and further detail,” the members wrote. “Therefore, we ask that the candidates for Speaker commit to appointing a task force on reform, representing the diversity of the conference.”

“This task force would develop specific proposals on these and other reforms. In addition, we ask that all meetings of the task force be open to all members of the conference. We believe that these reforms are the best way to restore faith in our ability to serve the public.”

“Any change in leadership must be accompanied by substantial reform in the way the State Assembly functions. Now is the time to move forward to build a better, stronger Assembly.”

One of the reform caucus members, Bronx Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda, was among the first Democrats to publicly call for Silver to resign his leadership post in the wake of his arrest last week on federal corruption charges, rejecting the speaker’s effort to retain his title and allocate the bulk of his leadership responsibilities to a five-member team of senior members.

Sepulveda told the Wall Street Journal that he and his fellow reform caucus members would be drafting a list of policy demands, and would not be committing their support to anyone who did not agree to them.

This letter doesn’t go quite that far, but it does lay down a marker of sorts for the next speaker. So far, all the candidates for the job – Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle, Bronx Assemblyman Carl Heastie, Brooklyn Assemblyman Joe Lentol and Queens Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan – have all pledged to change the way the chamber operations, though they have not made any specific promises.

UPDATE: The demands of this reform caucus aren’t sitting well with at least one member of the Democratic conference. Assemblyman Mike DenDekker, of Queens, sent me an email earlier today after seeing Sepulveda’s comments in the WSJ, saying that the majority of members – not a small group – will ultimately determine what’s best for the body moving forward.

“I would remind Assemblyman Sepulveda two things,” DenDekker wrote. “One: This is a democracy. The majority of the members will institute reform…Two: most members have spent more time in conference working as a team than he has been in elected office. Hence, if he or any member has suggestions they should bring them to the entire conference not try to hotdog in the media.”

23 members of Assembly “reform caucus” letter to speaker candidates by liz_benjamin6490

Here and Now

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

At 8:15 a.m., Rep. Chris Gibson will be the keynote speaker at the Ulster County Regional Chamber of Commerce Breakfast, Garden Plaza Hotel, Washington Avenue, Kingston.

At 8:30 a.m., Howard Zemsky, the governor’s nominee to head ESDC, delivers a regional version of Cuomo’s 2015 Opportunity Agenda, Niagara Falls Convention and Civic Center, Governor’s Room, 101 Old Falls St., Niagara Falls.

At 8:45 a.m., New York State Bar Association members and officials are attending the association’s 138th annual meeting, scheduled to continue through Saturday, Jan. 31; newsroom located in Rhinelander Gallery North, second floor, New York Hilton Midtown hotel, 1335 Sixth Ave., Manhattan.

At 9 a.m., a march and rally are held to call for the public release of minutes from proceedings of a grand jury that decided not to indict an NYPD officer in connection with Eric Garner’s chokehold death, start at Staten Island Ferry’s St. George Terminal, 1 Bay St., Staten Island, march to the Staten Island Criminal Courthouse, 67 Targee St.

Also at 9 a.m., before a 10 a.m. oversight hearing where members of City Council’s Committee on Housing and Buildings will receive testimony about proposals to change or end the state’s 421-a real estate tax abatement program, critics of the program call for state officials to end the program, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

At 9:30 a.m., the joint legislative budget hearing on the transportation portion of Cuomo’s 2015-16 executive budget proposal is held, Hearing Room B, LOB, Albany.

At 10 a.m., former NYC Mayor David Dinkins reads to children and speaks to children about his time as mayor while visiting the Archdiocese of New York’s St. Charles Borromeo School; 214 W. 142nd St., Manhattan.

At 10:30 a.m., LG Kathy Hocul tours Northern Eagle Beverages, 7 Railroad Ave., Oneonta.

At 11 a.m., Deputy Secretary of State for Local Government Dede Scozzafava delivers a regional version of the 2015 Opportunity Agenda, Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority, Board Room, 1 Bridge Plaza, Ogdensburg.

Also at 11 a.m., LIRR President Patrick Nowakowski, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Richard O’Kane, President of Building and Construction Trades Council of Nassau and Suffolk open the LIRR’s Mid Suffolk Yard information center, Ronkonkoma Station near the LIRR ticket office, Long Island.

At 11:30 a.m., Director, NYS Division of Veterans Affairs Eric Hesse delivers a regional version of the 2015 Opportunity Agenda, Schenectady County Community College, Elston Hall, Van Curler Room, 78 Washington Ave., Schenectady.

Also at 11:30 a.m., during a ribbon-cutting ceremony, Bronx BP Ruben Diaz Jr., state Sens. Ruth Hassell-Thompson and Gustavo Rivera, NYC Correction Commissioner Joseph Ponte and others mark the transfer of the state’s former Fulton Correctional Facility to an organization that assists former inmates, The Osborne Association; 1511 Fulton Ave., the Bronx.

At 12:30 p.m., OGS Commissioner RoAnn Destito delivers a regional version of the 2015 Opportunity Agenda, John J. Hazlett Building, 203 Lake St., Elmira.

At 1 p.m., Hochul attends the Mohawk Valley Regional Economic Development Council meeting, SUNY Oneonta, Morris Complex – Craven Lounge, 1 Ravine Pkwy., Oneonta.

At 1:30 p. m., Zemsky delivers a second speech, Seneca Falls Community Center, 35 Water St., Seneca Falls.

At 2 p.m., state Office for the Aging Director Corinda Crossdale delivers a regional version of Cuomo’s 2015 Opportunity Agenda, Jamestown Community College, Weeks Room, Arts and Sciences Center, 525 Falconer St., Jamestown.

Also at 2 p.m., ESDC Regional Director Sam Hoyt delivers a regional version of the 2015 Opportunity Agenda, Niagara Falls Convention and Civic Center, Governor’s Room, 101 Old Falls St., Niagara Falls.

At 3:30 p.m., UFT President Michael Mulgrew will release a report containing a district-by-district, school-by-school analysis demonstrating how charter schools fail to admit and retain the highest-need students, compared to the public schools in their neighborhoods; the union will call for a freeze on the charter cap, 52 Broadway, 12th floor, Manhattan.

At 6:10 p.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio delivers remarks at the at Mobility Ventures’ showcase of the first-ever purpose-built wheelchair accessible vehicle, the MV-1, Manhattan Classic Car Club, 250 Hudson St., Manhattan.

At 6:30 p.m., Rep. Hakeem Jeffries delivers a “State of the District” address; Arnold and Marie Schwartz Athletic Center, Long Island University’s LIU Brooklyn campus, One University Plaza, Brooklyn.

Also at 6:30 p.m., the Bronx Democratic Party, headed by Assemblyman and speaker candidate Carl Heastie, holds a winter reception fundraiser, Michaelangelo’s, 2477 Arthur Ave., the Bronx.


Assemblyman Carl Heastie’s chances of succeeding embattled Speaker Sheldon Silver got a boost on when a key rival – Assemblyman Keith Wright – dropped out and backed the Bronx Democrat’s bid. Heastie’s team called Wright’s endorsement a “game changer.”

Heastie, who would be the first black speaker in Assembly history, has promised reforms if he’s elected. He also revealed his favorite term when it comes to the press: “No comment.”

Calls, meetings, texts, promises and head fakes were the rage as the competitors for Silver’s speakership raced to put together a coalition ahead of their competition.

Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle Morelle, who is trying to defy history by becoming the first upstate speaker in decades, is in New York City to meet with colleagues over the next several days and will continue to press his case for the job across the state. He said he should not be discounted by New York City leaders because he’s from upstate.

Bronx Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda said he and more than a dozen other members are drafting a list of policy demands they want the next speaker to abide by. Among them are term limits on the speaker job and on committee chairmanships. Until the candidates respond, the group isn’t committing their votes.

Interviews with more than a dozen legislators indicate that it was an idealistic new wave of Assembly members who helped galvanize opposition to Silver, prodded a loyal old guard and cleared the way for an election of a new speaker and, they hoped, a new start.

History will record Silver as having ruled his 105-person conference with an iron fist, quashing coup attempts and marginalizing potential enemies. But his ability to remain in power for two decades, until he was forced to step down this week, stemmed as much from his careful consideration of the conference’s needs as from his occasional ruthlessness.”

More >

Wright Withdraws From Speaker Race, Backs Heastie

Just hours after he confirmed his candidacy to replace departing Speaker Sheldon Silver in the long term, Assemblyman Keith Wright issued a statement this evening announcing he is withdrawing from the race and will back his friend (and sometime political rival) Assemblyman Carl Heastie for the post.

“After thoughtful consideration, I have decided not to run for this office and instead to give my full endorsement to my friend and colleague, Assemblyman Carl Heastie, who I believe will lead our chamber back to the task of addressing the important and pressing needs of the citizens of this state,” Wright said.

“Throughout my time of service in this Assembly, I have come to know Carl as an exceptionally effective legislator. He leads by building consensus, listening to good ideas and serving all New Yorkers. As our chamber’s next Speaker, Carl Heastie will re-energize our institution by ushering in the bold reforms we need to make our role in government more transparent and more accountable to the voters.”

“Today, in this moment of crisis, we have a tremendous opportunity to make our Assembly more vital and inclusive for all of its members. I am committed to working with Carl and with all my colleagues from across New York to restore the voters trust in this institution and to ensure that the people’s work is done.”

This is a significant development since it leaves a single African-American candidate in the running for the speakership. If Heastie is able to put together sufficient votes to be elected on Feb. 10 when his colleagues hold an election for a permanent replacement for Silver, he will be the first black speaker in the chamber’s history.

It also potentially consolidates the boroughs of Manhattan (where Wright is Democratic Party chair) and the Bronx (where Heastie is Democratic Party chair), potentialy giving Heastie as many as 23 votes. (There are 11 Assembly seats in the Bronx, including Heastie, and 12 in Manhattan, including Wright. It’s likely Heastie can get all his members to vote in a bloc, though it’s not entirely clear Wright could do the same.

Many observers are waiting to hear where Queens Democratic Chairman/Rep. Joe Crowley lands in this leadership fight. Queens has 18 seats, and usually votes in a bloc – or darn close to it. Crowley and Heastie have had a good working relationship, and it has been widely speculated that the congressman will side with the Bronx assemblyman in the end.

There is the complication of Queens Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan’s candidacy for speaker, which she formally announced earlier today. Nolan hasn’t always seen eye-to-eye with Crowley, and it’s unclear if her bid is 100 percent supported by the party. Nolan, if elected to replace Silver, would be the chamber’s first woman speaker and also the first woman to head a majority legislative conference at the Capitol.

Brooklyn is home to 20 Assembly members. The borough has its own speaker candidate, Assemblyman Joe Lentol. But there are usually a lot of political divisions in Brooklyn, so the delegation can’t be counted on to vote as one.

Wright’s decision to pull his name out of consideration also could boost his congressional hopes. He has made clear his interest in running for Harlem Rep. Charlie Rangel’s seat in 2016 when the veteran Democratic lawmaker has said he will not be seeking re-election.

Heastie and Wright fought over the redrawing of Rangel’s district lines during the last round of redistricting, and landing Heastie’s promise of support for his campaign in 2016 would no doubt assist Wright – especially since the Democratic primary field is expected to be quite crowded, with a number of candidates already signaling their intent to run.

There will no doubt be considerably jockeying for position between now and Feb. 10. On Monday, the Democrats are expected to vote to make Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle, of Rochester, interim speaker (technically, I believe the term is “acting” speaker).

Unlike his fellow speaker contenders, Morelle did not issue a formal declaration of his candidacy today. But he told me during an interview that will air on CapTon tonight that he is indeed running for the job. Morelle rejected the idea that an upstater can lead the NYC-dominated conference, but he did allow that he has a challenge ahead of him to convince some of his colleagues of that.


Sheldon Silver was the fourth speaker in the nation to enter into legal peril over the past 10 months.

If Silver remains a rank-and-file legislator after stepping down as Assembly speaker, he will be losing money on the deal, according to the Empire Center’s pension calculator.

A fund-raiser for Silver scheduled for Feb. 9 has been cancelled.

The corruption case against Silver raises questions about whether he pulled his punches in negotiations on that 2011 bill, potentially at the expense of NYC residents in rent stabilized apartments.

Westchester Assemblyman Tom Abinanti thinks the new suburban caucus could be a pivotal “swing constituency” in the race for speaker.

DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said the state could reevaluate its fracking ban at some point in the future – but probably not anytime soon.

Martens has selected the Hudson Valley Hasidic Jewish village of Kiryas Joel to lead the review of its request to annex 500 acres in an adjacent town.

Lessons from #Blizzard2015, as seen by the de Blasio administration.

“Cuomo established something you might call impending-cataclysmic-emergency (ICE) law.”

The New York Times is shutting down its national race and ethnicity beat, naming reporter Tanzina Vega its first-ever full-time Bronx courthouse reporter.

Cuomo is still pushing the creation of a high-tech, state-run weather detection system that he says will give more accurate real-time warnings of major storms.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has agreed to testify to the House’s select committee investigating Benghazi.

Potential 2016 GOP presidential contender and former NY Governor George Pataki is headed back to New Hampshire.

Environmentalists say Cuomo’s executive budget fails to sufficiently invest in clean water. They’re calling for an infrastructure bank.

New York parks and historic sites had a 3 percent increase in visitors last year compared to 2013, and the number of overnight stays at state campgrounds hit a new record.

Ex-NYC Councilman Erik Dilan was slapped with a $9,000 fine for taking an affordable apartment for which he didn’t qualify from a crooked developer with business before the Council.

On Tuesday night, when much of the northeast was digging out from a snowstorm, Bloomberg LP quietly launched its much-delayed Bloomberg Business web site.

Andrew Sullivan is going to stop blogging soon.

In case you were curious, US AG candidate Loretta Lynch does not support the legalization of marijuana.

Lynch made her first significant policy break with President Obama on the subject of pot, disputing his view that the drug is no more dangerous than alcohol.

Buffalo is cool.

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and New York Sen. Carl Marcellino will lead The Council of State Governments in 2015 as the national president and chairman.

Rick Perry Coming to Rochester

Former Texas Governor and potential 2016 GOP presidential contender Rick Perry will headline an event for the Monroe County GOP in March.

Monroe County GOP Chairman Bill Reilich announced earlier today that Perry, who was a presidential contender in 2012, will be the guest speaker at a luncheon to be held on March 2 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. There will be a private VIP reception prior to the lunch. Ticket prices were not immediately available.

According to Reilich, Perry will be sharing some of his “success stories and challenges” as former governor of the Lone Star State.

“The State of Texas is experiencing an economic boom,” the chairman said. “Governor Perry promised residents he’d work to transform Texas into a haven of opportunity, prosperity and progress and he delivered. I invite everyone to experience his enthusiasm and proven methods of success.”

Just today, Perry said he still plans a “May/June” timetable to make an announcement about a possible 2016 presidential run, despite a judge’s refusal to dismiss an indictment against him on abuse of power charges. He has been making the rounds of early primary states, and says he’s getting a warm reception on the hustings.

Perry was indicted in August. The accusation stemmed from his 2013 veto of state funding for a Texas district attorney’s office after she was convicted of drunk driving but refused to resign. The former governor’s team is appealing the decision.

During his time in office, Perry was a frequent critic of New York, which is known for its high taxes and difficult business climate – both issues Gov. Andrew Cuomo has tried to tackle over the past four years and continued to address in his 2015-16 executive budget.

Perry made trips to New York in hopes of luring frustrated business owners to his state, and even went so far as to run ads here (and in other states), urging Empire State residents to “get out while there’s still time.” Last April, Perry challenged Cuomo to a debate on economic policy – an invitation Cuomo turned down. And in his final speech as governor, Perry took a swipe at Cuomo for banning fracking, accusing the Democratic governor of appeasing his political base at the expense of people who need jobs.

Monroe County GOP to host Rick Perry by liz_benjamin6490

Here and Now – The End of the Silver Era is Near

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver left the state Capitol for what may be the final time in his current incarnation accompanied by a phalanx of reporters demanding to know whether he intends to resign before his Democratic colleagues take formal action to remove him when session resumes on Monday.

Silver, Sphinxlike until the end, insisted he would not “hinder” the process to replace him, and even suggested he would be in the chamber to help elect his successor, though he declined to say who he’s supporting.

“I’m a member of this house and I will be a member of this house,” Silver said. “I don’t know what decision my colleagues made. I made a decision that I will not hinder this process.”

“…I believe very deeply in the institution. I hope that they can have somebody here who can carry on the good work that has taken place.”

But Silver did not say whether he will formally resign his leadership post prior to Monday’s session, or if he will force his soon-to-be-former members to vote to oust him before electing Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle, of Rochester, to the position of interim speaker.

It does not appear Silver intends to give up the seat he has held since 1977 altogether, nor does he have to, unless he is actually convicted of a felony.

As for the speakership, Morelle is intended to be a short-term fix. An election for a permanent replacement to Silver will be held Feb. 10 – just before the Legislature breaks for its mid-winter vacation.

The Assembly will adopt a new rule that the speaker serves at the “leisure” of the Assembly, instead of an automatic two-year term – with no succession process. Under this new rule, Morelle can continue to serve for 90 days if on Feb. 10, there is no agreement on a permanent speaker.

The upstate Democrat is also a speaker contender in the long-term – albeit a long-shot to defeat one of his downstate colleagues for the position, given the NYC-dominated make-up of the conference, concerns about his moderate positions and perception as an ally of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The two leading candidates for the speakership continue to be Assemblyman Keith Wright, the Manhattan Democratic chairman; and Assemblyman Carl Heastie, the Bronx Democratic chairman; who have been on-and-off political rivals for some time.

As the behind-the-scenes politicking continued yesterday, allies of both Heastie and Wright insisted their respective candidate was close to amassing the votes necessary to take the speakership.

But so far, most members are not publicly declaring their loyalty, and, as one observer noted: “Two weeks is an eternity” in politics. Did we expect US Attorney Preet Bharara’s splashy announcement about Silver’s arrest last week – one day after the governor’s State of the State/budget address? No.

In other words, the speaker’s race is wide open at the moment.

Also in the mix to varying degrees: Brooklyn Assemblyman Joe Lentol, chair of the Codes Committee; and Queens Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, chair of the Education Committee.

So, the jockeying will continue through Feb. 10, and in the meantime, the Assembly will try to return to some semblance of order. The first joint legislative budget hearing will be held today on Environmental Conservation, despite the fact that there is no Environmental Committee chair in the Assembly.

(The position was left vacant when former Long Island Assemblyman Robert Sweeney declined to seek re-election last fall. Manhattan Assemblywoman Deborah Glick was seen as a leading contender for that position. She was also mentioned as a possible speaker candidate in the wake of Silver’s arrest last week on federal corruption charges).

The hearing will take place at 9:30 a.m. in Hearing Room B of the LOB in Albany.

Cuomo, meanwhile, has no yet commented on the latest turn of events in the Assembly leadership battle. He will be in New York City today with no public schedule.

Also happening today…

At approximately 8:45 a.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will appear live with (his sometime critic) Al Roker on NBC’s Today Show, Today Show Plaza, 48th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues, Manhattan.

At 11:45 a.m., NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray will deliver remarks at the From Punishment to Public Health (P2PH) 2015 Conference, speaking from a personal perspective about the need to expand the quality and array of mental health services, Brooklyn Borough Hall.

Also at 11:45 a.m., EDSC Regional Director Sam Hoyt delivers a regional version of Cuomo’s 2015 Opportunity Agenda, West Seneca Senior Center, 4620 Seneca St., West Seneca.

At noon, LG Kathy Hochul attends the Southern Tier Regional Economic Development Council meeting, Binghamton University, Innovative Technologies Complex, Room 2008, 4400 Vestal Pkwy., East Binghamton.

At 3 p.m., Secretary of State Cesar Perales delivers a regional version of Cuomo’s 2015 Opportunity Agenda, Centro Civico of Amsterdam, 143 East Main St., Amsterdam.

At 6 p.m., Assemblywoman Carrie Woerner will hold a press conference to unveil her legislation to repeal the Gap Elimination Adjustment, Greenwich Junior Senior High School Auditorium, 10 Gray Ave., Greenwich.


Amid the behind-the-scenes wrangling over the Assembly speakership, there were intimations of maneuvering by officials including Gov. Andrew Cuomo (said to be a Morelle supporter…or maybe Wright?) and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio (believed to back Heastie), though both said they were not getting involved.

More >