Liz Benjamin

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Posts by Liz Benjamin


The president of the Boy Scouts of America called for an end to the group’s blanket ban on gay adult leaders.

Robert Zimmerman, a Democratic national committeeman and Long Island PR executive, was nominated by President Obama to be a member of the National Council on the Humanities.

Just hours after Letterman said farewell last night, Ed Sullivan Theater crews hauled off blocks of blue stage and hacked up pieces of the iconic New York City bridges that made up the set of the “Late Show.”

Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch said the board is “tinkering” with how to weigh a new rating system for teacher ahead of a June 30 deadline for the board to have regulations in place.

Reclaim New York, a conservative nonprofit group tied to hedge funder Robert Mercer, is planning to expand next month.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio today echoed the frustrations of many an aggravated New York City driver stuck in traffic: the Cross Bronx Expressway is the worst.

Sandra Lee, still in the hospital recovering from her double mastectomy, is not feeling so great today. But she has reiceved a lot of (white) flowers.

In the face of a court challenge from a broad coalition of environmental and community groups and massive community opposition, the DEC today halted Global Companies’ proposed expansion of its massive Albany oil train facility to handle tar sands oil.

Hillary Clinton, the leading Democratic candidate for president, will attend a fundraiser at an unspecified location in Queens on June 1.

She’s also due for a $2,700 per person fundraiser on the same day in the Laurel Hollow home of Nassau Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs.

Protests at the Council testimony of NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton today grew so intense that police and building security ejected more than a dozen members of the public from the chambers. The commissioner called the demonstrators “selfish.”

Clinton has joined LinkedIn, the social network intended to help people expand their professional network, and, occasionally, get a job.

The State Department is expected to release the first batch of emails from Clinton’s private email address in the coming days. They will be drawn from some 55,000 pages and focused on Libya.

Rep. Louise Slaughter has revamped her congressional website.

For the first time in its history, Rochester does not rank among the 100 largest cities in the nation, according to new population estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

Upcoming budget decisions by Congress – more than ISIS or China or any other international crisis – present the current No. 1 concern for the secretary of the U.S. Army, John McHugh.

RG&E is asking New York state regulators to approve rate changes that would cost consumers a net of about $10 million a year, in what would be the first rate hike for the company since 2012.

The Board of Regents that will choose the state’s next education commissioner is a lot different than the panel that was in place when the previous leader left last year.

LG Kathy Hochul penned an OpEd for the Syracuse Post-Standard in suppotr of the governor’s Parental Choice in Education Act.

Rep. John Katko took to the floor of the House to honor the life of the beloved Central New York radio host, Joe Galuski, who passed away last week following a battle with cancer.

New York State’s population increased by more than 50,000 in the year preceding July 2014, according to new estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Sen. Brad Hoylman recently introduced a bill banning “the importation, breeding or introduction into the wild of Chinese fire belly newts.”

After months of searching, Suffolk Republicans leaders finally screened three potential candidates willing to run against Democratic County Executive Steve Bellone in November.

IPPNY, a trade group of the state’s power generation plants, is hosting a fund-raiser for Sen. Joseph Griffo, chair of the Senate Committee on Energy and Telecommunications.

PR consultant Lis Smith, and her live-in boyfriend, former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, adopted a kitten named Silk.

Here and Now

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

At 8 a.m., the commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, Nisha Agarwal, NYC Councilman Rafael Espinal, NYC Consumer Affairs Commissioner Julie Menin and volunteers mark the start of citywide “Nail Salon Day of Action” events to distribute flyers in multiple languages about health concerns, labor practices, regulations and wages at nail salons; inside the Flushing-Main Street station of the 7 subway train, Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue, Queens.

Also at 8 a.m., Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch discusses charter schools, mayoral control of city schools, standardized testing, teacher evaluations and other education issues in the state during a breakfast forum presented by the news organization Crain’s New York Business; The Yale Club of New York City, 50 Vanderbilt Ave., Manhattan.

At 9 a.m., NYC Mayor Bill e Blasio will host a roundtable with senior military officers, Veterans’ Affairs Commissioner Loree Sutton and Veterans’ Advisory Board members to discuss veterans’ issues in honor of Fleet Week, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 9:30 a.m., Sen. Marty Golden presents military decorations to veterans during the lawmaker’s annual award ceremony and breakfast marking the Monday, May 25, observance of Memorial Day; The Bay Ridge Manor catering facility, 476 76th St., Brooklyn.

At 10 a.m., Sen. Rich Funke will announce he is working to deliver a new traffic signal at the intersection of Route 250 and the shared-use entrance to the Eastside Family YMCA and Wickham Farms, 1835 Fairport Nine Mile Point Rd., Penfield.

Also at 10 a.m., Sen. John DeFrancisco, Onondaga County GOP Chairman Tom Dadey, Syracuse GOP Chairwoman Janet Berl Burman and others attend a press conference where Joseph Carni will make an announcement regarding the 2015 City of Syracuse elections, Thanos Import Market, 330 North Salina St., Syracuse.

Also at 10 a.m., the Assembly will hold a public hearing to solicit comments on fishery management, Montauk Point Room, Babylon Student Center, 2nd floor, Suffolk County Community College, Ammerman Campus, 533 College Rd., Selden, Long Island.

At 10:30 a.m., state Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services Commissioner Arlene Gonzalez-Sanchez and the president and chief executive of the Mental Health Association of New York City, Giselle Stolper, introduce a text messaging service as part of the free, confidential “New York State HOPEline” referral and support telephone hotline; 11th floor, 50 Broadway, Manhattan.

Also at 10:30 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul speaks at the Wingate by Wyndham Niagara Falls Ribbon Cutting, Wyndham Hotel, 333 Rainbow Blvd., Niagara Falls.

Also at 10:30 a.m., Empire State Health Solutions will announce plans to produce cannabis-derived medications at a facility at the Tryon Technology Park and Incubator Center in Perth, LCA Press Room (130), LOB, 198 State St., Albany.

Also at 10:30 a.m., Assemblyman Jim Tedisco joins with Doug and Mary Lyall of the Center for Hope, and DeCrescente Distributing Company, to launch a new round of “Coasters for Hope” to help find Capital Region missing persons and find answers to several unsolved homicides, Ravenswood, 1021 Route 146, Clifton Park.

At 11 a.m., community leaders and local district representatives will call on the state to pass legislation delivering $11.5 million to support schools’ ability to provide a quality education for all students, The Health and Welfare Council of Long Island, 150 Broadhollow Rd., Suite #118, Melville.

At 11:30 a.m., de Blasio holds a press conference to make an announcement, corner of Tysens Lane and Primrose Place, Staten Island.

At 11:45 a.m., NYC Councilman Robert Cornegy, local drivers for Uber Technologies Inc., the company’s regional general manager, Josh Mohrer, and other local government officials hold a rally to express support for the service; 26 Bridge catering facility, 26 Bridge St., Brooklyn.

At 1 p.m., Hochul convenes a roundtable at Rochester Institute of Technology to discuss combatting sexual assault on college campuses, 1 Lomb Memorial Drive, University Services Center, Building 87, Rochester.

At 1 p.m., Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. and others hold a press conference to announce an agreement that the elected officials have reached with the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission to alleviate some of the financial burdens and fines that taxi drivers have been facing, KISS Car Service, 2774 Webster Ave., the Bronx.

At 3 p.m., Sen. Terrence Murphy will be joined by county and local officials to highlight water safety and new ways to acquire the necessary training to obtain boating licenses, il Laghetto Restaurant, 825 South Lake Blvd., Mahopac.

At 3:30 p.m., NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina attends a Teen Thursdays event with PS 7 students, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Ave., Manhattan.

At 6 p.m., a supervising attorney for legal aid organization Brooklyn Defender Services, Michael Baum, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries and nonprofit youth writing organization 826NYC will be honored by officials from the legal aid organization during the organization’s annual award ceremony and gala; 22nd floor, Feil Hall, Brooklyn Law School, 205 State St., Brooklyn.

At 7 p.m., Rep. Chris Gibson will join Sen. Sue Serino and the Council on Addiction, Prevention and Education of Dutchess County for a conversation on the dangers of heroin and what citizens can do to combat drug use, Haviland Middle School, Hyde Park.


Court of Appeals Judge Susan Read, one of two Republicans on the court, said she may not complete the remainder of her 14-year term that expires at the end of 2016. Her departure would open the door to Cuomo appointing his fifth and sixth high court judges since taking office in 2011. Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman is leaving at the end of the year.

Soon-to-depart state Financial Services Superintendent Ben Lawsky plans to split his time between New York, where he wants to open his own legal and consulting firm, and California, where he’ll serve as a visiting scholar at Stanford University’s new cyber initiative focusing on cyber security.

News of Lawsky’s imminent departure was announced just hours after he and other U.S. authorities announced a near-$6 billion settlement with major global banks over manipulation of foreign exchange rates.

Cuomo tapped Steve Cohen, a longtime adviser and former aide, to join the board of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. If confirmed by the state Senate, Cohen would become the sixth New York appointee on the board, balancing an equal number of commissioners from New Jersey.

Across New York, a small if vocal movement urging rejection of standardized exams took off this year, maturing from scattered displays of disobedience into a widespread rebuke of testing policies. At least 165,000 kids, or one of every six eligible students, sat out at least one of the two standardized tests this year – more than double and possibly triple the number who did so in 2014.

A much-anticipated bill giving ultimate control of the Buffalo school system to the mayor has been finalized in the Assembly. The bill’s sponsor, Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes is looking to push the legislation through both houses before the legislative session ends next month.

The state Education Department told all 15 groups that submitted plans to open new charter schools that they did not meet the state’s standards, marking the first time since at least 2010 that an open application period will end without an approval for a New York City applicant. More here.

Cuomo’s summit on transparency and email retention will take place tomorrow at 2 p.m. in Manhattan. The Assembly GOP will be the only legislative conference represented there.

Federal safety investigators said they are examining cellphone records, a locomotive event recorder, surveillance video and other data to determine whether the engineer involved in a fatal Amtrak derailment earlier this month in Philadelphia was using his phone while operating the train.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to hire Karen Hinton, a longtime communications executive and strategist and wife of former top Cuomo aide Howard Glaser, as his new press secretary. She will be in charge of the day-to-day dealings of the mayor’s office with the news media.

Hinton, 56, who lives in Westchester County, would fill a position left vacant when Phil Walzak, the mayor’s former press secretary, became the mayor’s senior adviser earlier this year.

More >


Sawyer Fredericks, the 16-year-old winner of “The Voice” Season 8, has no plans to move to L.A., and is looking forward to getting back to his family’s farm in Fultonville.

Former state Supreme Court Justice Anthony Giacobbe is one of several meeting with the GOP to discuss a potential run for the Staten Island DA post vacated by Rep. Dan Donovan.

Here’s video of the fast food wage board’s initial public meeting held in NYC today.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to convene this wage board has improved Working Families Party’s opinion of the usually fiscally conservative Democrat.

The M.T.A. can learn from last week’s fatal Amtrak derailment outside Philadelphia, M.T.A. chairman Tom Prendergast said.

President Obama argued that global warning poses a threat to national security, and said “it will impact how our military defends our country.”

Secretary of the Army John McHugh, the former eight-term congressman from Jefferson County, will visit Syracuse University tomorrow to learn more about its work with veterans and the military.

Ben Lawsky’s imminent departure from his post as superintendent of the state Financial Services Department has sparked speculation about his successor. So far, five names are in the mix.

Sen. Phil Boyle has launched an online campaign to “keep the cap” – the 2 percent property tax cap, that is, which the Senate GOP has voted to make permanent.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will be in Staten Island tomorrow – only the third time this year that he has made a public appearance in the borough.

Sandra Lee tweeted a post-op photo of her in bed, being attended to by the governor. (Also, she’s eating lots of blueberries, which are high in antioxidants).

The state Senate is now paperless.

Hector Ramirez, a Bronx Democrat, was arrested on massive voter fraud charges in his failed 2014 Assembly bid.

A coalition pushing for a “prevailing wage” for building trades workers at developments getting 421a tax breaks has lined up the support of the New York State AFL-CIO, the state’s 2.5 million-member umbrella labor group.

A judge has recommended that Matt Libous, son of Deputy Senate Majority Leader Tom Libous, spend his prison term at FCI Fort Dix in New Jersey – the same min-security facility housing ex-Sen. Carl Kruger.

In a Newsday OpEd, Cuomo pitched his “Enough is Enough” campaign to combat sexual violence on college campuses.

Buyouts are underway in The Wall Street Journal newsroom, signaling a shift in resources at News Corp’s U.S.-based broadsheet as it heads into a new budget year.

Ali Najmi, a Queens attorney and activist, will run for Councilman Mark Weprin’s soon-to-be-vacant seat. If he wins, he would be New York City’s first elected official of South Asian descent, and only the third Asian lawmaker in the 51-member Council.

Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton is headed to Atlanta next week to raise some cash and shake some hands, her first visit to Georgia this campaign season.

After 33 years and 6,028 broadcasts of his late-night show, David Letterman is signing off tonight.

Clinton’s national director of Latino outreach is a DREAMer.

Suffolk Democrat DuWayne Gregory says he’s running against Republican Rep. Peter King in 2016.

Advocates Counter Cuomo On Criminal Justice Reform

From the Morning Memo:

In recent days, the governor has stepped up his efforts to get the Legislature to pass his criminal justice reform package before the session ends, even going so far as to publicly goad them through a letter published on The Huffington Post.

But lawmakers are getting an entirely different message from progressive advocates and family members who have lost loved ones to police violence.

What Cuomo views as a threat – going his own way if the Legislature doesn’t act by appointing a special prosecutor to handle cases of individuals who die at the hands of police – is exactly what the advocates want, and so they are urging lawmakers to ignore the governor’s call for action.

“What we are telling legislators at the state level is to not act on the independent monitor proposal because what the families are calling for, and what we think the next step should be, is a special prosecutor in these cases,” Jose Lopez, a lead organizer with Make the Road New York, said during a CapTon interview last night.

“We would prefer the legislature to not act so that the governor can act on his promise to the families.”

Lopez said the families don’t like Cuomo’s independent monitor idea, which creates a drawn out process for getting to a special prosecutor – if, in fact, one is appointed at all.

In short, what Cuomo wants to do is have the monitor review cases after they have played out at the local level and come to what might be seen as an unsatisfactory conclusion – likely a “no bill” decision by a grand jury, like we saw in the Eric Garner case.

If the monitor determines that a special prosecutor is warranted, then he or she would make that recommendation.

Lopez said the families and their allies would prefer the immediate appointment of a special prosecutor – preferably the state attorney general – which is what AG Eric Schneiderman himself has advocates.

They made that preference clear during a recent meeting at the Capitol with Cuomo, and received his assurance that their desire would be realized if the Legislature failed to act.

I asked Lopez if he believes Cuomo will indeed keep his word on this issue, noting that in the past, some of the governor’s promises – like a pledge not to sign a politically-driven redistricting plan, or to push hard for campaign finance reform – have not been realized. His response:

“I can only hope that if he sat in the room across the table from eight families who lost their sons and daughters at the hands of police violence who are saying: This is not about our sons and daughters. This is not retroactive. We’re doing this for future New Yorkers who we may lose, and their moms and their dads. If he sat in that room and told those mothers he would act, I would hope that he does.”

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with no public schedule. He said last week he would take some “personal time” as his girlfriend, Sandra Lee, recovers from breast cancer surgery.

The Assembly is in session at 10 a.m., the Senate at 11 a.m.

At 7:30 a.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio appears live on CBS This Morning to discuss the historic opening of One World Observatory. The show will be broadcasted from the top of One World Trade Center in advance of the observatory’s public opening on May 29.

At 8:40 a.m., NYC Councilman Ben Kallos, joined by PS 290 kindergarten and 1st grade students, will announce planned pesticide legislation, P.S. 290, 82nd Street between 1st and 2nd avenues, playground in back, Manhattan.

At 8:45 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul speaks at New York State’s First Cancer Prevention Summit, Midtown Hilton, 1335 Ave. of the Americas, 2nd Floor Ballroom, Manhattan.

At 10 a.m., Hochul speaks at a rally being held prior to the fast food wage board’s first public meeting, sidewalk at 75 Varick Street
(Between Grand and Watts Streets), Manhattan. A similar “Fight for $15″ rally will be held outside the Senate chamber on the Capitol’s 3rd Floor).

From 10 a.m. to noon, Cuomo’s Nail Salon Industry Enforcement Task Force hosts an information forum for salon owners and workers about new and existing industry regulations, counsel Alphonso David; Secretary of State Cesar Perales; Deputy Secretary of Labor Elizabeth de León Bhargava; NYC Public Advocate Letitia James; nail salon owners and workers will attend, New York Public Library, 455 Fifth Ave., Manhattan.

At 11 a.m., the fast food wage board meets for the first time, 75 Varick St., 7th floor, Manhattan.

Also at 11 a.m., Sen. David Carlucci, president of the state Conference of Italian-American State Legislators, will be hosting a briefing with the Italian Counsul General, Natalia Quintavalle, Room 124, state Capitol, Albany.

At 6 p.m., the NYC Department of Education holds a public meeting on educational policy, 883 Classon Ave., Brooklyn. (Schools Chanellor Carmen Farina will attend).

Also at 6 p.m., Monroe County Republican Chairman Bill Reilich and the Monroe County Republican Committee will be endorsing candidates for the 2015 election, Radisson Hotel Rochester Riverside, 120 East Main St., Rochester.


Gov. Andrew Cuomo dressed in scrubs and accompanied his longtime girlfriend, Sandra Lee, into the operating room yesterday, where she underwent a double mastectomy as part of her treatment for breast cancer. In a statement after the surgery, Cuomo said Lee was doing “as well as can be expected.”

As Assembly Democrats finalized their changes to the state’s new teacher evaluation system, state Senate Democrats called for passage of an education package that also includes evaluation fixes. The calls come with just 13 session days left on the legislative calendar.

The Democrat-controlled state Assembly approved legislation to extend and strengthen city rent regulations, setting up a battle with the state Senate.

The Assembly majority has decided to prioritize strengthening rent regulations, opting to take the path of least resistance on mayoral control, passing a law extending the power for three years – not the seven years originally proposed, let alone the permanent extension NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio has sought.

Schools budgets were overwhelmingly approved in WNY, though turnout was – as predicted – quite low, and has been dropping since the 2 percent tax cap was enacted.

A coalition of business groups argue the four-year-old cap has saved New York taxpayers an estimated $7.6 billion since it first took effect. The Senate Republicans passed a bill introduced by new Majority Leader John Flanagan to make it permanent.

Cuomo’s end-of-session priority list apparently does not include the DREAM Act, through it does include the education tax credit he initially linked – unsuccessfully – to DREAM during the budget battle.

The Los Angeles City Council approved a $15 an hour minimum wage, prompting de Blasio to say New York needs to follow suit.

Public housing residents are wary of de Blasio’s plan to turn around the financially-troubled NYCHA.

The search for a new Buffalo superintendent is on, and already members on both sides of the board’s ideological divide are collecting names and recruiting potential candidates.

Lancaster School District voters, angry about the abrupt retiring of their mascot, tossed out two incumbents who voted to do away with the mascot that was beloved by many and deemed racist by others.

More >


Hillary Clinton has broken her 28-day streak avoiding the press. Following a campaign event in Iowa, the Democratic presidential candidate meandered over to the rope line to greet the media answering a total of six questions from reporters.

Clinton called on the State Department to “expedite” the release of the records from her time in office after news that it might take until January to publish the cache recently turned over by her office.

American Crossroads released a new web ad calling out Clinton for refusing to answer more questions and for dodging those to which she has agreed to respond.

The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced it had begun a special inspection at Indian Point Energy Center following a transformer failure that sparked a fire in the plant’s nonnuclear section earlier this month

Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest city, voted to increase its minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020, in what is perhaps the most significant victory so far in the national push to raise the minimum wage.

New York officials are banning all feathered fowl from all fairs across the state this year, a reaction to the latest outbreak of avian influenza.

Cuomo wore a “neat tie” underneath his scrubs to attend to his girlfriend, Sandra Lee, during her breast cancer surgery. “If it’s possible to look red carpet-ready in scrubs, they were THAT couple.”

Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg criticized both Democrats and Republicans for failing to boost the nation’s infrastructure.

Thank super lawyer Alan Dershowitz — at least in part — for Rep. Charlie Rangel suddenly reversing his decision to skip Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s contentious March 3 address to Congress.

AG Eric Schneiderman announced his office would use $1.2 million in money from its myriad settlements with large financial institutions to stem the city’s ballooning homelessness crisis.

Sen. Jose Rivera has added a selfie stick to his infamous collect of recording equipment.

NYCHA plans to offer private developers a chance to build mixed-income towers on underused parcels to stabilize the agency’s finances and create apartments for poor tenants.

Mark J Tierno, the president of Cazenovia College for the past 15 years, is leaving to take a new job as president of MacMurray College in in Jacksonville, Ill.

A personal account of the deadly Amtrak derailment by NY Obsverer reporter Jill Jorgensen.

Buffalo is about to participate – in a small way – in a growing national trend that gives residents a direct vote on how a slice of their tax money is spent.

Rep. Kathleen Rice has passed her first bill as a member of Congress, a measure that would allow the Department of Veterans Affairs to give preference in awarding contracts to companies with high concentrations of veteran employees.

Emma Sulkowicz, the Columbia University student who carried a mattress around the school all year to raise awareness of campus sexual assault, attended her college graduation ceremony today while carrying the mattress.

Hundreds of Yonkers education advocates said at the Capitol today that the district needs an additional $26 million from the state to avoid a Board of Education plan that would cut all sports, limit supplies, reduce special education and eliminate as many as 200 staff members.

Fast Food (Wage) Fight Is Joined

From the Morning Memo:

The wage board convened at the direction of Gov. Andrew Cuomo to consider raising the hourly pay of the state’s fast food workers will hold its first meeting tomorrow in New York City.

In conjunction with that meeting, labor advocates are kicking off what they say will be an “aggressive” and multi-pronged campaign to make New York the epicenter of the so-called “Fight for $15″ movement.

Rallies that are expected to draw over 1,000 fast food workers and their allies will take place tomorrow in New York City, Albany, Buffalo and on Long Island to mark the start of the wage board’s deliberations, which are set to conclude with final recommendations delivered in July.

Over the course of the board’s tenure – (it plans to hold four public hearings next month) – the labor campaign plans to organize and petition at fast food restaurants across the state, and also pack the board’s hearings with economists, activists, and local elected officials who side with the unions in their push for a higher hourly wage for these workers.

Eventually, according to a source familiar with the campaign’s plans, there will also be a “robust” paid media component, which will include TV, radio and online ads. All told, this campaign will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 million – a bill that will be largely covered by SEIU.

In addition, SEIU plans to bring 25 top organizers from around the country – the same people who have been working on the national “Fight for $15″ campaign – to New York for the duration of the wage board’s deliberations to lead a worker organization and mobilization program.

Organizers believe a win in New York – hopefully a boost to the fill $15-an-hour they’ve been seeking – will be a seminal moment in this national movement, setting a new standard that will galvanize similar efforts elsewhere across the country.

Several cities – Seattle, San Francisco – have voted to boost their local minimum wage to $15, but New York would be the first state to do so – assuming the board goes in that direction – albeit only in a single sector.

Cuomo has not specifically said he’s looking for an increase to $15 an hour. He tried unsuccessfully in his executive budget to raise the hourly wage to $11.50 in New York City and $10.50 elsewhere in the state, meeting strong opposition from the Senate Republicans and their business allies.

In announcing his plans for a fast food wage board in a recent NYT OpEd, Cuomo said the disparity between fast food industry CEOs and rank-and-file workers is the most “extreme and obnoxious” example of the country’s income inequality gap.

He also accused the industry of draining taxpayer dollars by forcing their low paid workers to rely on public assistance to make ends meet and provide health care coverage.

This board – the second Cuomo has convened in less than a year (the first raised hourly wages for tipped workers) – is being chaired by Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown.

Its other members are: Mike Fishman, secretary-treasurer of SEIU, who is representing organized labor; and Kevin Ryan, a tech entrepreneur and vice chairman of the Partnership for NYC, who is (ostensibly) representing the business sector.

I say “ostensibly” because some in the business community are apparently unhappy with Ryan’s selection, saying it signals that a fast food worker wage boost is a foregone conclusion, due to the fact that he supported Cuomo’s push for an overall minimum wage increase during the budget battle.

During a recent CapTon interview, NYS Business Council CEO and President Heather Briccetti, who served on the first wage board and was the lone “no” vote on raising tipped worker wages, said she had never heard of Ryan, and questioned whether he could adequately represent the business community’s interests – especially franchise owners upstate.

Briccetti also said that her experiencing serving on the first wage board was “frustrating,” and had she been asked to participate on this one, too, her answer would have been: “No.”

Briccetti also said the Business Council believes the appropriate way to address the state’s minimum wage is through an action by the Legislature, and it is considering a legal challenge to this wage board – through she did admit the statute does not prohibit the governor from going this route.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with no public schedule. Voters across the state head to the polls today to cast their ballots on school budgets and in school board races. Poll opening times vary, check with your local Board of Elections for more information.

The Assembly is in session at 1:30 p.m., the Senate at 3 p.m.

The State Board of Regents continues to meet throughout the day, Education Department Building, 89 Washington Ave., Albany.

At 9 a.m., Sen. Brad Hoylman will hold a forum on New York’s efforts to combat climate change, LOB, Hearing Room A, 198 State St., Albany.

Also at 9 a.m., Sen. Patty Ritchie and Assemblymember Shelley Mayer hold a news conference pushing legislation to address obstacles in the recovery of missing children, room 130, Legislative Office Building, 198 State St., Albany.

At 9:10 a.m., state Financial Services Superintendent Ben Lawsky will deliver remarks on reforming New York’s foreclosure process at Mortgage Bankers Association’s National Secondary Market Conference & Expo, New York Marriot Marquis, 1535 Broadway, Manhattan.

At 9:15 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul meets with representatives from the Capital Region Chamber of Commerce, Albany-Colonie Chamber of Commerce Office, 5 Computer Dr. South, Albany.

At 10 a.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio holds a press conference to make an announcement, Blue Room, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 10:30 a.m., Sen. Joe Griffo and Assembly members Phil Steck and Didi Barrett, along with local leaders, announce the Municipal Health Insurance Savings Act, room 130, Legislative Office Building, 198 State St., Albany.

At 11 a.m., Hochul tours downtown Saratoga Springs with Mayor Joanne Yepsen, Pavilion Grand Hotel, 30 Lake Ave., Saratoga Springs.

Also at 11 a.m., Climate justice advocates will hold a news conference to announce the introduction of legislation to go to 100% clean energy in NYS by 2030, LCA Press Room (130), LOB, 198 State St., Albany.

Also at 11 a.m., AG Eric Schneiderman will make an announcement on a new affordable housing initiative, Two Bridges Tower, 82 Rutgers Slip, Manhattan.

Also at 11 a.m., employer/business groups unveil an interactive property tax cap savings website, Legislative Office Building, 3rd floor terrace, agency side, 198 State St., Albany.

At 11:30 a.m., Hurricane Sandy survivors, Environmental Advocates of New York, Make the Road New York, New York Communities for Change, Working Families Organization, Working Families Party, 32BJ SEIU and the coalition deliver scientific studies on climate change to Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan’s office, Room 332, state Capitol, Albany.

At 12:30 p.m., Sen. Adriano Espaillat and advocates for New York’s farmworkers will march to the Capitol from Westminster Presbyterian Church and call for the passage of the Farmworkers Bill of Rights during a press conference at the Million Dollar Staircase, 3rd Floor, Capitol, Albany.

At 1 p.m., Hochul speaks at the EMS Memorial Dedication Ceremony, EMS Memorial, Empire State Plaza, Albany.

Also at 1 p.m., Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Assembly Housing Committee Chairman Keith Wright, members of the Democratic conference and housing advocates hold a press conference on rent regulations, Speaker’s Conference Room, Room 342, state Capitol, Albany.

At 2 p.m., de Blasio and city officials hold another press conference to make another announcement – this one related to NYCHA, Gymnasium, James Weldon Johnson Community Center, 1833 Lexington Ave., Manhattan.

Also at 2 p.m., Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, Sen. Kemp Hannon, animal rights advocates, restaurateurs and dogs hold a news conference on her bill, A.5956-A, which would lift New York’s longstanding ban on dogs in outdoor food establishments and empower restaurant owners to permit animals in outdoor dining areas, LCA Press Room (130), LOB, 198 State St., Albany.

At 4:45 p.m. the vice chairman of payment processing firm First Data Corp.’s board of directors, Joseph Plumeri, Manhattan DA Cyrus R. Vance Jr. deliver keynote speeches during New York Law School’s 123rd commencement ceremony; Carnegie Hall, 161 W. 56th St., Manhattan.

At 5:30 p.m., the Dutchess County Democratic Committee introduces its 2015 candidate for county executive, College Hill Park, N Clinton Street, Poughkeepsie.


LG Kathy Hochul and former Gov. David Paterson, Cuomo’s hand-picked state Democratic party chairman, rallied around the governor’s agenda, saying a recent slump in his approval rating is nothing to worry about.

As they began discussing complex calculations for rating the performance of public school educators, some members of the State Board of Regents aired their broader concerns about the future of the teaching profession in New York.

The bruising battle between Cuomo and public education advocates is going another round as the end of the legislative session nears.

Cuomo is putting his political energy into a proposal to enact a $150 million education tax credit program to benefit mostly private and religious schools before the session ends – despite his veto lectures to lawmakers against such matters coming up after the budget.

The state Thruway Authority’s board of directors passed an amended budget that calls for no toll hikes in 2015 and allocates $750 million from a $1.3 billion bank settlement windfall to help pay for the Tappan Zee bridge replacement. Still unknown, though, is precisely how the state will pay all the costs for the approximately $3.9 billion bridge.

Cuomo announced that the group of banks, credit unions and mortgage companies will take action to maintain properties that have been foreclosed upon, but officials said legislation to hold banks accountable for property maintenance is still needed.

A Brooklyn man and New Jersey woman are among the first injured passengers from the May 12 Amtrak crash to file lawsuits over the deadly derailment outside Philadelphia. The series of suits filed yesterday mark the start of many expected lawsuits to arise from the crash that killed eight and injured more than 200.

Despite a recent poll showing his approval rating dropping among blacks, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said he’s not worried about losing the African-American voters who helped sweep him to City Hall in 2013.

De Blasio is poised to lay out his 10-year plan on how to fix New York City’s public housing authority. He’ll call for significant new financial help from the city and for squeezing more revenue out of the housing projects and their residents.

The Assembly voted to extend mayoral control of NYC schools by three years, as Cuomo has suggested, but the issue remains unresolved in the GOP-controlled Senate.

A bill that would establish a state monitor for the East Ramapo School District, where a school board dominated by Orthodox Jews has drawn criticism for diverting money from public schools to children in local yeshivas, faces an uncertain future after running into resistance in the Legislature.

President Obama joined the Twitterverse, promising to engage personally — not through a staff member — with the American people in the often chaotic forum, which has become a kind of global town square for the Internet age.

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In an open letter to state lawmakers on the Huffington Post, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called again for passage of criminal justice reforms before the session ends next month.

The state Thruway Authority, flush with a $1.3 billion cash infusion from Cuomo’s budget, won’t issue debt this year for the first time since at least 2011, according to a mid-year modification its board approved today.

Several members of the state Board of Regents sharply criticized a new teacher evaluation system forced on them by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Legislature a month ago. Much more here.

The NYT says the fast food wage board, which meets for the first time Wednesday, “may not be able to get to $15 in one step, but…should chart a path to that level.”

The state Education Department recommended a new matrix to evaluate teachers and principals based on student performance and in-class observations, and also proposed allowing schools to seek a two-month waiver to delay the implementation of the evaluations.

State economic development officials approved spending an additional $25 million on business and tourism commercials despite an independent audit that found they had achieved nothing.

Matthew Libous, son of Senate Deputy Majority Leader Tom Libous, has been sentenced to six months in prison, 100 hours of community service and a $25,000 fine in relation to his tax fraud conviction. He faced up to nine years behind bars.

Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. accused NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer of rescinding a job offer to the Bronx lawmaker’s wife because she appeared with him at an anti-gay marriage rally.

Citing a deadly increase in the use of heroin laced with a dangerous additive, US Sen. Chuck Schumer called on Congress to increase funding for a key anti-drug effort – rather than cutting it, as President Obama suggested in his budget.

Abtech Holdings, Inc., the company at the center of federal charges against State Senator Dean Skelos and his son, has suffered a “tremendous setback” due to the suspension of its work in Nassau County, a company executive said.

Hillary Clinton is making her second trip to Iowa as a 2016 presidential candidate today, headlining a small “house party” in Mason City.

AG Eric Schneiderman lauded Cuomo’s announcement today regarding a crackdown on so-called “zombie” properties, though the attorney general is still pushing for legal changes that would apply to all lenders.

Chris Quinn, former NYC Council speaker-turned-Cuomo aide, defends Clinton’s evolution on same-sex marriage in an Out magazine OpEd.

The Green Party’s Howie Hawkins will challenge Syracuse City Auditor Marty Masterpole, a Democrat, in November.

Republican Assemblyman Joe Borelli has opened a campaign committee to run for the Staten Island seat of retiring NYC Council Minority Leader Vincent Ignizio.

GOP Sen. Michael Nozzolio and Democratic Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther were joined by families of victims of domestic violence to push for a bill that would create a statewide registry of anyone convicted of a violent felony.

New York’s IDAs provided $660 million in net tax exemptions in 2013, up $105 million from 2012 but estimated job gains were nearly 23,000 lower than the previous year, according to a report issued today by state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

Aaron Mair, a longtime environmental activist from Schenectady, will become the first African-American president of the Sierra Club.

John Flanagan’s ascent to Senate majority leader marks the first time in more than four decades a Suffolk official has held a leadership post in Albany. The last was Republican Assembly Speaker Perry Duryea, who led the lower house 1969 to 1974.

Syracuse University has gone to court to find out what happened to nearly $2 million that a late professor set aside to fund three professorships.

Bristol Palin and fiancé Dakota Meyer are calling off their wedding, which was poised to take place this weekend. (This might have been part of the problem).

The Final Countdown

From the Morning Memo:

Counting today, there are 15 days remaining in the 2015 legislative session, and things are heating up, with the Senate and Assembly and Gov. Andrew Cuomo starting to lay out their respective agendas for the mad dash to the finish of what has been a very rocky year in Albany.

Yesterday, new Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan released a list of his end-of-session priorities, while Gov. Andrew Cuomo did a whirlwind tour of four Brooklyn churches and a yeshiva to tout his latest version of the Education Investment Tax Credit, now known (with some additions and changes) as the Parental Choice in Education Act.

Also over the weekend, Flanagan introduced a bill that would make the 2 percent tax cap permanent – a top priority for the Senate GOP’s conservative and business allies. The Assembly Democrats, meanwhile, introduced a bill to extend the New York City rent laws for another four years and make them more tenant-friendly.

These two issues are linked, though the rent laws are scheduled to expire next month, and the cap won’t do so until next year.

When he ascended to the speaker’s post back in February, Carl Heastie said renewing and strengthening the city’s rent laws would be his “No. 1 priority” this session.

The “renewing” part is probably not going to be a problem with the Senate Republicans. With the exception of two lone NYC lawmakers – Sens. Marty Golden, of Brooklyn; and Andrew Lanza, of Staten Island – the members of the GOP conference don’t have many (if any) constituents directly impacted by the laws.

But they did collectively benefit from well over $1 million from REBNY during the 2014 elections, which spent big to help the Republicans re-take the majority with an eye toward getting a clean extension – in other words, no pro-tenant changes – of the rent laws this year.

Also up for discussion is the controversial 421-a tax abatement program, which has been a boon to big NYC developers, who, in turn, have given big bucks across the board in Albany.

With the role played by developer Glenwood Management in the federal corruption scandals of both ex-Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, advocates are hoping some rent law reforms could be had.

But the fact that Flanagan did not mention the issue in his priority list statement released yesterday was not a good sign, though he has said since ascending to the majority leader’s post that he expects both the rent laws and New York City mayoral control, which is also set to sunset next month, will likely be extended before the session’s scheduled end on June 17.

The Senate Republicans are likely going to push for unspecified changes to mayoral control to improve transparency and accountability, which is not going to sit too terribly well with NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and his allies in the Assembly Democratic conference.

Flanagan did include “common sense” reforms to the SAFE Act on his to do list – a nod to the conservative upstaters who did not support him during the battle to replace Skelos as leader because of his “yes” vote on the controversial gun control law.

The likelihood of the governor and Democrat-controlled Assembly signing off on any SAFE Act modifications is fairly low.

One conservative Republican lawmaker, Assemblyman Bill Nojay, of Livingston County, is suggesting Flanagan hold the rent laws hostage in exchange for SAFE Act reforms. But that seems like an extreme, playing-with-fire sort of approach that would not benefit the newly-minted majority leader – especially not as he looks toward what will be a difficult election year in 2016.

The Senate Republicans and the governor are on the same page – at least conceptually – when it comes to the education tax credit. This issue creates a problem for Heastie, who used to be a sponsor of legislation to enact the credit, but took his name off that – and all other bills – when he became speaker.

Mike Whyland, spokesman for the Assembly Democrats, is quoted in the NY Times this morning that there has “not been sufficient support” in the conference for the tax credit, though some members – especially in poorer, urban areas – have been under intense pressure to back it.

Whyland also said Heastie would not allow the tax credit to be linked to passage of any other legislation – like, say, mayoral control of the New York City school system, which some are suggesting could be linked to raising the charter school cap, another issue pushed without success by Cuomo during the budget battle.

Cuomo tried unsuccessfully during the budget to link the education tax credit, which is a problem in the Assembly majority conference; to the DREAM Act, which is a problem in the Senate majority conference. Playing the two sides against one another didn’t work in that instance. We’ll see what ends up in the so-called, end-of-session “big ugly.”

The Assembly Democrats and Senate GOP are in agreement – again, conceptually – when it come to revisiting the education reforms, especially the teacher performance evaluation system, they agreed to in the budget deal. This is likely to be an uphill battle with Cuomo, for whom the education reforms were a bright spot in a budget that saw many of his policy priorities shunted aside.