Liz Benjamin

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Posts by Liz Benjamin

Here and Now

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

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner – both of whom are at odds with Cuomo at the moment for different issues – are meeting privately today at City Hall in Lower Manhattan.

At 9 a.m., Fordham Law School kicks off a conference called “Fighting Corruption in America and Abroad.” Professor and 2014 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout speaks at 9:30 a.m., US Attorney Preet Bharara delivers the keynote address at 12:15 p.m., Fordham University School of Law, Skadden Conference Center, 150 West 62nd St., Manhattan.

At 9 a.m., a community breakfast precedes a 9:50 a.m. rally at which elected leaders and community groups called for immediate passage of the Education Investment Tax Credit, St. Athanasius School, 830 Southern Blvd., the Bronx. (Assemblyman Marcus Crespo, Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr., and IDC Leader Jeff Klein are scheduled to attend).

At 9:30 a.m., NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray speaks to the Staten Island Mental Health Council on the Mental Health Roadmap Initiative, Li Greci’s Staaten, 697 Forest Ave., Staten Island.

At 10 a.m., Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks and United Way CEO Peter Carpino will kick-off Monroe County’s 2015 United Way Campaign, Watts Conference Center, 47 S. Fitzhugh St., Rochester.

Also at 10 a.m., the Charter Schools Committee of the SUNY Board of Trustees meets, State University Plaza, 353 Broadway, Boardroom, Albany.

Also at 10 a.m. (and running until 4 p.m.), NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, Councilman Andy King and Food Bank for New York City will host a free tax preparation service for low-income families and individuals, 2049 Bartow Ave., Community Room 28, in Co-op City, the Bronx.

At 10:30 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul unveils a new battery prototyping lab, Rochester Institute of Technology Institute Hall – Fourth Floor, 1 Lomb Memorial Dr., Rochester.

At 10:45 a.m., de Blasio and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown make an announcement, FDNY Special Ops Command Center, 750 Main St., Roosevelt Island.

At 11 a.m., Bronx BP Ruben Diaz Jr., the commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, Cynthia Lopez, filmmaker Baz Luhrmann and Ghetto Film School representatives outline plans for a worldwide casting call for online video service Netflix Inc.’s planned original series “The Get Down”; suite 41A, fourth floor, South Bronx Post House, 79 Alexander Ave., the Bronx.

At 1:30 p.m., Hochul speaks at the Finger Lakes Community College Viticulture & Wine Center ribbon-cutting ceremony, 100 Empire Dr., Geneva.

At 2:30 p.m., Hochul tours the National Women’s Hall of Fame in celebration of Women’s History Month, 76 Fall St., Seneca Falls.

At 3 p.m., Assemblywoman Shelley Mayer and Assemblyman Gary Pretlow will join the New York State Afterschool Network and The After-School Corporation for a tour of the new state-funded afterschool program at Cross Hill Academy, a K-8 Public school in Yonkers, 160 Bolmer Ave.

At 6 p.m., Rep. Chris Gibson will deliver remarks and meet with veterans and their families at the Renssealer County-based STRIDE Wounded Warrior Snowfest welcome ceremony, Hilton Garden Inn, Hoosick Street, Troy.

Headlines…

The office of Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, asked a federal judge to deny a motion by Assemblyman Sheldon Silver to dismiss his indictment on grounds that Bharara orchestrated a “media firestorm” around the arrest of the former speaker.

Bharara maintains he actually went out of his way to spare Silver undue embarrassment by having him surrender in the basement of the Javits Federal Building before being driven to the courthouse rather than subjecting him to a typical “perp walk.”

Prof. Bennett Gershman, the Pace Law School professor who has been critical of Bharara’s speech-making and TV appearances in the wake of Silver’s arrest, has ties to the assemblyman’s lawyer, Joel Cohen. The two are longtime friends.

Albany Law School Prof. Vin Bonventre has also been critical of Bharara, writing on his blog: “The United States Attorney owes it to his office, and to the justice system he is entrusted to serve, to conduct himself less like a crusading politician and more like an ethically restrained prosecutor.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s new 90-day email deletion policy for all state agencies is being met with widespread disapproval. Experts say it is terrible for transparency; the people who have to abide by the mandate say they don’t feel qualified to implement it and that it isn’t good for their productivity.

Cuomo said he won’t rush for the completion of a stalled database for background checks on ammunition sales that was part of New York’s controversial gun-control law in 2013.”The State Police are working on it, but it also has to be right,” the governor said. “I’d rather they do it right than they rush it and waste money and come up with bad information.”​

Facing resistance in Albany over his calls for a minimum wage exceeding $13 an hour in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio took his case directly to business leaders, urging them to raise workers’ pay to that level voluntarily. “I need you — we all need you — to take responsibility,” the mayor said.

Obtaining an account from Hillary Clinton’s private email domain became a symbol of status within the family’s inner circle, conferring prestige and closeness to the secretary. Chelsea Clinton was given one, but under a pseudonym, Diane Reynolds, which she frequently used when she checked into hotels. Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton’s longtime aide and surrogate daughter, was also given a coveted clintonemail.com address.

The government will examine thousands of Clinton’s emails for public release — and for possible security lapses — after revelations she used her private account to conduct official business as secretary of state, a senior State Department official said.

A lawyer with the state attorney general’s office said in court papers that neither top officials at the state Office of General Services nor a former adviser to Cuomo should be sanctioned for the automatic deletion of emails concerning the ouster of the Wandering Dago food truck from Saratoga Race Course.

More >

Extras

Cardinal Edward Egan, the former archbishop of New York who oversaw a broad and sometimes unpopular financial overhaul of the archdiocese and played a prominent role in the city after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, died at the age of 82.

A Delta Air Lines flight landing at La Guardia Airport skidded off the runway, crashed over a berm and through a fence during a snowstorm this morning, forcing passengers to evacuate by climbing out onto a broken wing.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo rolled out 42 city mayors from around the state who support his plan to crack down on college sexual assault, but failed to win over the woman who leads the state’s fifth largest city: Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner.

Sen. John DeFrancisco is “very confident” there will be changes to Cuomo’s budget to ensure Centro will not have to cut bus services or routes in Central New York.

In a speech to some of NYC’s most powerful business leaders, Mayor Bill de Blasio called on the private sector to voluntarily hike the minimum wage to $13 an hour.

Unlike many of his more wary real estate brethren, Rob Speyer moved quickly to build a strong relationship with de Blasio, but the two aren’t on the same page on affordable housing.

Owners of the struggling FitzPatrick nuclear plant are suing New York utility regulators over a deal announced last year by Cuomo that requires National Grid customers to subsidize a Western New York power plant.

Former Sen. Seymour Lachman praised Cuomo in a NYT letter to the editor for using the budget to push for ethics reform.

NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton: “Race is something that’s always haunted American policing. It’s our intention to have a lot of the issue resolved here….It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be damn hard.”

The Bronx Democrats are scheduled to elect Assemblyman Marcus Crespo as their new chairman, replacing Carl Heastie, who gave up the post when he became speaker.

A marketing company known for its Snuggie infomercials settled state and federal claims that it stuck consumers with hidden charges that almost doubled the cost of the product, AG Eric Schneiderman announced.

A deaf Syracuse alum has developed a following on Twitter for posting quotes from Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim that he lipreads off the TV set during games.

Brooklyn Councilman Vincent Gentile has hired former Assemblyman Carim Karma’s spokesman to manage his campaign for the NY-11 seat vacated by ex-Rep. Michael Grimm.

Former New York gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout has agreed to sit on the advisory board of the embryonic Albany Museum of Political Corruption.

Rep. Chris Gibson will be honored at the Queens Village GOP Lincoln Dinner on March 22.

Rep. Pete King is hopeful Dan Donovan will join him in the “common-sense wing” of the Republican Party if the Staten Island DA is elected to replace Grimm.

Adding pressure to the state Legislature, the AQE released a report that shows how much they believe the state owes each of the 700 school districts in aid—and links it to each lawmaker’s district.

Cuomo today announced the return of the Craft New York Brewers Festival to the Desmond Hotel and Conference Center in Albany this Saturday.

The former clerk of the town of Rosendale justice court will make full restitution after admitting to stealing nearly $6,000 in cash from bail collections as a result of an audit and investigation by state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office.

Judge Nixes Grimm’s Euoprean Travel Request

A federal judge has rejected frormer Rep. Michael Grimm’s request to modify the terms of his bail so he could travel to Europe this spring for a job opportunity while awaiting sentencing on his tax fraud conviction.

Judge Pamela Chen determined that the ex-Staten Island lawmaker is too much of a flight risk to be allowed to leave the country for a week, which would open the possibility that he would travel still further to a country that does not have an extradition agreement with the US.

“Even though Grimm has posted his home as security for his pre-sentence release bond, the Court does not find that the loss of that property provides sufficient suasion if Grimm decides to leave the United States to avoid a possible prison term,” Chen wrote.

“Obviously, if Grimm chose to flee, he would not need a house in the United States. Furthermore, the Court does not find the reason for Grimm’s motion, i.e., to qualify for a potential job opportunity, sufficient to justify lifting the travel restriction. While Grimm is certainly entitled to seek future employment, his desire to obtain a particular job does not trump the need to ensure his appearance for sentencing.”

Grim faces a maximum prison sentence of up to three years as a result of the guilty plea he entered last December. That plea came after he successfully stood for re-election, defeating former Democratic Brooklyn Councilman Domenic Recchia despite the mutli-count federal indctment hanging over his head.

Ex-Rep. Michael Grimm denied required to modify bail to travel to Europe. by liz_benjamin6490

Strength In Numbers

ICYMI from the Morning Memo today:

Upstate Democrats’ numbers have been steadily increasing in the Assembly majority conference, but they remain outnumbered by the downstate members, who continue to control much of the agenda in the Legislature’s lower house.

Case in point: The downstaters and Democratic party leaders in the five boroughs recently used their clout to select a new speaker, Carl Heastie, who hails from the Bronx, over Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle, a Rochester Democrat.

A handful of upstate members have realized they’re likely to have better luck at seeing results on their priorities, which often differ from those of their more liberal downstate counterparts, if they band together – much like the black and Latino members have done by creating their own caucus.

Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, a Utica Democrat, says a small group of upstaters – maybe five or six who hail mostly from urban areas – started meeting last year to strategize about education funding.

This year, Brindisi said, the number has grown to about 15 or so members from several regions – including the Upper Hudson Valley, Capital District and Buffalo – who have met several times so far to discuss a wide range of topics. They’re currently holding their meetings in the office of Central NY Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli.

Brindisi was reluctant to call this loose coalition a formal “delegation,” noting the formation of such a group was frowned upon under the former speaker.

“Any time you had large groups of member meeting, it certainly was cause for concern,” Brindisi recalled. “We lost out on certain things because of that.”

But the new speaker, Carl Heastie, doesn’t seem to have a problem with the idea of Democratic conference members forming special interest groups.

In fact, several of these coalitions formed during the brief but intense fight for the speakership after Assemblyman Sheldon Silver’s corruption scandal cost him the post, and Heastie even met with some of them. (The newer members, the so-called “reform” caucus, etc.)

Brindisi said the upstaters have broadened their focus to include transit – “something we all agree could use more funding” – and addressing the needs of immigrant/refugee populations that have popped up in certain urban centers.

“We don’t want this to look like a downstate versus upstate effort; it’s not,” the assemblyman said. “It’s just that we have common issues – particularly in our urban areas – and we realized that when we work on the budget, it’s helpful for members to work together and advocate as one voice.”

Here and Now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Headlines…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More >

Extras

The US Justice Department has cleared a Ferguson, Mo., police officer of civil rights violations in the shooting of Michael Brown, a black teenager whose death set off racially charged and sometimes violent protests last year.

The computer server that transmitted and received Hillary Clinton’s emails — on a private account she used exclusively for official business when she was secretary of state — traced back to an Internet service registered to her family’s home in Chappaqua.

The House Select Committee on Benghazi, which first discovered Clinton’s use of a personal e-mail, plans to issue a subpoena for all e-mails related to the attack from all Clintonemail.com accounts and any other staff members’ personal accounts.

The revelation about Clinton’s emails has blindsided the Democratic establishment.

Zephryr Teachout thinks Clinton needs to come clean on her email practices. “She shouldn’t have done it,” the Fordham Law School professor and 2014 gubernatorial candidate said.

Ex-NYC Councilman Dan Halloran was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in former Sen. Malcolm Smith’s scheme to bribe his way onto the GOP line in the 2013 NYC mayor’s race.

Representatives for Families for Excellent Schools said some 13,000 people attended the pro-charter school “Don’t Steal Success” rally today – unlike last year, the governor was not one of them.

…and, in case you were wondering, it wasn’t actually a rally, but a “civic field trip.”

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio defended Clinton, a longtime ally, noting she released 55,000 pages of emails from her personal account to the State Department upon stepping down in 2013.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is “100 percent supportive” of an effort by upstate business leaders, including many of his top allies, to increase an upstate economic development fund from $1.5 billion to $2.5 billion.

Cuomo has yet to offer the full-throated public support for MMA that the sport’s promoters claim he has expressed in private, but continues to make generally supportive comments about its potential economic benefits.

De Blasio announced that the Muslim holidays of Eid al-Adha and al-Fitr have been added to the NYC public school schedule, calling it “a change that respects the diversity of our city.”

Cuomo’s case for investing $500 million of the $5.4 billion financial settlement windfall cash on broadband is “less than compelling,” says the Empire Center’s Kenneth Girardan.

Actress and TV host Whoopi Goldberg joined the Cuomo administration’s “Enough is Enough” campaign to eliminate sexual assaults from college campuses.

NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña tore into Cuomo’s proposal to base public school teachers’ ratings and retention on standardized testing.

Check out images of Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney’s idea for a rebranded New York State Fair.

Both state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and the New York Building Congress gave a thumbs up to de Blasio’s latest budget.

Cuomo has been the top recipient of hedge fund campaign contributions, taking in $4.8 million in donations during his time as state attorney general and governor, a new “Hedge Clippers” report found.

Georgina Bloomberg is likely going to support Clinton in 2016 “just to be able to say that I voted for the first woman President.”

De Blasio doesn’t plan on marching in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Fifth Avenue because the event’s organizers haven’t done enough to include gay groups.

The state’s Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers Inc. called on the state Legislature to invest $350 million in new funding for heroin and substance use prevention, treatment and recovery programs.

Advocate to Senate: No Stand-Alone DREAM Act, Please

Generally speaking neither side of the DREAM Act/Education Investment Tax Credit debate is terribly thrilled to have been linked together in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive budget and then seen that questionable marriage further cemented by being tied to TAP funding in the 30-day amendments.

Some advocates on both sides have been calling for the two issues to be uncoupled, even though doing do would almost certainly weaken the chances of either passing before the 2015 session ends, thanks to the Senate GOP’s staunch opposition to the DREAM Act and the Assembly Democrats’ general dislike (following the teachers unions’s lead) of the tax credit.

Last week, the Assembly Democrats again passed a stand-alone version of the DREAM Act, and Speaker Carl Heastie said in no uncertain terms that he does not believe these two otherwise unrelated issues should be linked.

“That was the governor’s choice,” said Heastie, who was a past co-sponsor of the tax credit bill, but – as with all other bills – has removed his name from the measure since he rose to the speaker’s post. “The governor did that. We’re moving forward today with the Dream Act, and we hope that it will passed on its own merits in the State Senate.”

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos has called the DREAM Act a nonstarter in his house, and with good reason – politically speaking – considering the fact that a number of his new members actively campaigned against the measure during the 2014 elections and were successful at the ballot box as a result of their opposition.

Skelos, too, wants the DREAM Act and tax credit uncoupled, arguing that the tax credit, which matters a lot to a number of his members and their conservative constituencies, should be allowed to rise or fall on its own merits.

As for the DREAM Act, no matter how much supporters would like to see a “clean” bill pass, at least one member of the immigrant advocacy community recognizes the reality of the situation, which is that letting the measure come up for a vote in the Senate is likely a recipe for disaster – an all-but certain repeat of the bill’s 2014 failure.

Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, said last night on CapTon that while he did not disagree with the Assembly’s action on the DREAM Act, he doesn’t want the Senate to follow suit.

“Do I think it’s a good idea that it gets introduced in the Senate? I’ll be honest, No,” Choi said. “I think passing it in the Assembly was enough of a way to say: Look, we are dug in on this. It’s an important issue for us. I think it’s important as a signal to send out before the budget battle begins.”

Choi said the DREAM Act community is counting on the governor to deliver on his promise that the DREAM Act will become a reality this year, and will be deeply disappointed if that does not occur.

“Folks really lined up behind the governor,” in the 2014 election, Choi said. “Our message to him has been: Stay on target. Don’t deviate off course.”

Who Blinks First?

Today is March 4. Gov. Andrew Cuomo released his 30-day budget amendments, which jammed the Legislature by stuffing ever more policy (particularly ethics reforms) into appropriations bills, on Feb. 21 – almost two weeks ago.

So far, neither the Senate nor the Assembly has introduced Cuomo’s amendments – a move required before they can be formally considered by state lawmakers.

As Newsday’s Mike Gormley reported, the Assembly issued a statement Sunday night pledging to get the introduction process started, but gave no timeline for doing so. And, as of last night, the chamber still had yet to take action.

In a statement given to Gormley over the weekend and re-issued to me last night, Mike Whyland, spokesman for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, said the amendments would “of course” be printed “because the Constitution requires us to act on them as submitted.”

“We are reviewing them with members,” Whyland continued, “and we continue to negotiate in good faith on all of the issues – including the ethics reform package. We will be meeting with the governor to further discuss the budget this week.”

Sources familiar with the Senate Republicans’ thinking say they are holding back on introductions because they’re reviewing “all options” in response to the governor’s hardball budget tactics – including a possible lawsuit revisiting the landmark 2004 Court of Appeals decision on the division of budget power between the executive and legislative branches.

That decision is commonly referred to in Albany as “Silver v. Pataki,” and it’s actually the result of two separate cases brought against then-Gov. George Pataki by the Assembly, which believed he was overstepping his executive powers by inserting policy into appropriations bills, over which the Legislature has very little control.

I wrote about this issue for Capital NY a few weeks back, speaking to a number of key players in the Silver v. Pataki cases – including former Judge Robert Smith, who wrote the plurality opinion under which the Capitol is currently operating.

Most legal experts and Capitol observers agree the decision is ripe for revisitation, especially since the judges determined there is indeed a line over which the governor might step when it comes to using the budget as a policy-making vehicle. The trouble is, the court declined to define where that line is.

Most agree that the governor’s insertion of ethics reform – specifically tying per diem changes and disclosure requirements to the state comptroller’s budget – is a stretch of even the limited boundaries defined in Silver v. Pataki.

Just today, Daily News columnist Bill Hammond wrote of the “dangerous precedent” being set by Cuomo’s use of his sweeping budgetary authority, raising concerns that future governors could “easily” abuse this power.

The problem is, challenging the governor’s ethics reform push in court would be terrible for the Legislature from an optics standpoint.

The scandal-weary public is highly unlikely to understand the esoteric argument about restoring a balance of power in Albany – especially when that involves giving more of a say to the Legislature, of which most New Yorkers don’t have the highest opinion these days.

Cuomo is well aware of this, and he also believes he’s on sound legal footing, having consulted with a number of attorneys – including Pataki’s former counsel, Jim McGuire, who is widely acknowledged as the architect behind the then-governor’s winning strategy in Pataki v. Silver.

The Assembly is no happier than the Senate with Cuomo’s budget bullying, but seems a bit less anxious to challenge his authority here – perhaps due to the fact that it is still reeling from the change in leadership and trying to get its sea legs under the new speaker, Carl Heastie.

Generally speaking, lawmakers are trying to determine whether it’s worth going to war with Cuomo now, or waiting to see if he’s really serious about being willing to risk a late budget – and a government shutdown – to get what he wants in ethics reform.

In the past, Cuomo has been willing to make deals, calling half a loaf a victory. But if he deviates from his track record this time and refuses to submit new, re-negotiated budget bills before the April 1 deadline, the Legislature could be in trouble.

WFP Gains Gala Support (Updated)

Fresh off a win in its multi-year legal battle with a special prosecutor, the Working Families Party is attracting some big-name support for its 17th annual gala, which will be held in June.

Over 100 politicians, labor leaders, progressives and celebrities – from hip hop mogul/activist Russell Simmons and Planned Parenthood Federation President Cecile Richards to Fordham Law Professor and 2014 gubernatorial candidate Zephyr Teachout and WFP co-counder Bertha Lewis – have signed on as members of the gala host committee.

Also on the host committee list: US Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, who are new additions to the event since last year.

NYS Working Families Party Director Bill Lipton said he is “thrilled” about the host committee, which is the “most impressive…we’ve ever had.”

The renewed interest in the WFP could be seen as a testament to the labor-backed party’s success in rebuilding its political brand. That’s thanks not only to the end of the legal cloud that has hung over the WFP’s head since the 2009 NYC elections; but also to the success of its longtime ally, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, and renewed national focus on its top agenda item: Bridging the income equality gap.

The WFP is also poised for another potential victory: Electing the first-ever WFP-only member of the state Legislature.

Thanks to a paperwork problem, there is no Democratic candidate in the four-way May 5 special election battle for former Assemblyman Karim Camara’s Brooklyn seat. The WFP is backing community board member Diana Richardson, who is gaining support in the race.

UPDATE: Here’s a copy of the gala invite:

WFP Gala invite by liz_benjamin6490

Catsimatidis, Tabloid King?

From the Morning Memo:

During an appearance on NY1’s “Wise Guys” segment last night, supermarket mogul, campaign contributor and sometime candidate John Catsimatidis confirmed his interest in adding one more title to that list: Newspaper owner.

Asked about reports that he is in talks with Daily News owner Mort Zuckerman to purchase the NYC tab, Catsimatidis replied:

“There’s many people that are interested in buying, I think. It’s a New York institution that deserves to live. And I don’t think anybody could buy it unless they have a vision for 21-sf Century newspapers, and that’s what you need.”

“What is the newspaper of 2030 going to look like? We have some ideas. If all the dominoes fall in the right direction, we have definite interest.”

Pushed on what those “dominoes” might be, Catsimatidis mentioned the need to make deals with the “unions”, adding: “I’ve dealt with unions all my life, and we’ve always made satisfactory deals with unions.”

He also spoke of the necessity of convincing the reporting and editorial staff that he could run the day-to-ay operation of a daily newspaper, and noted that the DN has a sizable printing operation.

Though the paper is losing money – reportedly around $20 million a year – Catsimatidis seemed bullish about the idea that there’s a “home run for all” to be had here.

One thing Catsimatidis would not do is dish on who approached whom and whether the DN had been on the market before he expressed interest in potentially purchasing it.

“I really can’t comment on that,” he said. “Mort is a fine gentleman, and I’m sure he wants the newspaper to go…to good hands where it’s going to survive and prosper.”

Catsimatidis is not a newspaper man, though he has dabbled in politics for some time. The Democrat-turned-Republican ran an unsuccessful campaign for NYC mayor in 2013, losing the GOP primary to Joe Lhota, who, in turn, lost to Democrat Bill de Blasio.

As recently as this past January, Catsimatidis was saying he wouldn’t rule out another run in 2017. Catsimatidis is reportedly not the only rich guy interested in adding the DN to his portfolio. Other potential buyers mentioned include Cablevision’s James Dolan and former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg.