Liz Benjamin

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Burning the Weekend Oil?

From the Morning Memo:

Assembly Democrats will be returning to the Capitol today and staying through tomorrow – their effort toward trying to get agreed-on budget bills into print before midnight Saturday in order to meet the three-day aging requirement and hit the April 1 deadline.

The fact that members of the majority conference will be sicking around in Albany on a Friday night is worth noting as yet another example of just how much things have changed in the post-Sheldon Silver era.

Silver, as longtime Capitol watchers are well aware, is an observant Jew. That meant he was routinely out of pocket from sundown Friday until sundown Saturday in order to observe the Jewish sabbath known as Shabbat.

Though central staffers worked through this 24-hour pause, no significant decisions could be made until Silver checked back in on Saturday night. And, as such, the members of his conference generally took a break right along with him.

It was not unusual for complaints to be lodged over someone trying to jam the Assembly just before – or worse, during – Shabbat, knowing the speaker would have a difficult time responding until his religious obligations were fulfilled.

Silver’s replacement, Carl Heastie, is not Jewish, and so is not held to the same negotiating constraints as his predecessor. He’ll be working through Friday and into Saturday, right along with his members, who are expected to attended closed-door conferences.

During a CapTon interview last night, Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle acknowledged that this is a significant shift, though he also said accommodations will be made for observant Jewish rank-and-filers – of which Silver is now one. They will not be expected to attend conference, he said, and materials will be provided to them to keep them abreast of developments in budget talks (assuming any breakthroughs are made).

Working weekends is just a small example of the seismic shift that has taken place in the Assembly.

Lobbyists, lawmakers and staffers who have long been involved in the budget back-and-forth all admit that this year is vastly different in large part due to the change in leadership style between Heastie and Silver.

Mindful of the unhappiness among rank-and-file lawmakers about Silver’s top-down management technique, Heastie has been careful to involve his conference as much as possible as he tries to negotiate his first ever budget deal with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos.

This empowerment has been good for legislators – and also for lobbyists and activists who were quick to adapt to the new reality – but it has also slowed the pace of budget talks considerably, participants admitted.

Add to that Cuomo’s newfound sensitivity to the highly public criticism from US Attorney Preet Bharara and others of the traditional “three-men-in-a-room” budget negotiation model, which has led to the governor’s unusual in-person visits to the Capitol’s third floor, and you get the diffuse and sometimes chaotic situation that we’ve witnessed over the past several days.

For a while there, proposals were falling off the table and being put back on so quickly, it was often hard to tell where things stood.

It looks like legislative leaders and the governor are making progress, however.

They’re reportedly close to an ethics disclosure deal – though it should be noted that the word “close” has been employed for a good 48 hours now. Already, good government groups are criticizing what they’ve seen, with NYPIRG’s Blair Horner publicly panning the reforms under consideration as “weak tea.”

Education continues to be a sticking point, with a lot of finger-pointing and chest-beating over the apparent loss of the DREAM Act and Education Investment Tax Credit, though several eleventh-hour compromise solutions have been floated.

The teacher evaluation system also remains an open question. The independent commission idea looks to be dead, and talk is now centered on getting the Board of Regents to propose changes before the session ends in June. Neither the Assembly Democrats nor the Senate Republicans like the idea of tying the changes to state school aid, which could force districts to hold their May budget votes without a clear picture of how much support they’ll be getting from the state.

Morelle noted last night that districts have been in this place before, thanks to Albany’s decades-long history of late budgets. No one wants to return to those bad old days, he said.

As for the governor, he made no appearances yesterday, but issued yet another lengthy statement insisting he won’t sign off on more state education aid unless the budget includes reforms that address “accountability, performance and standards.” Cuomo also said he’s standing firm on ethics reform, and called debate over the inclusion of policy proposals in the budget a “red herring.”

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany with no public schedule. Assembly Democrats and Senate Republicans say they’ll be returning to the Capitol for more budget talks today.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is in the city with no public schedule as of yet.

At 8:30 a.m., alcony holds its Women’s History Awards Networking breakfast, Hard Rock Cafe, 1501 Broadway, Manhattan.

At 9 a.m., more than 450 experts from a variety of scientific, psychological, social service and educational communities will gather at the UAlbany Performing Arts Center to deliberate the emerging connections between trauma, the science of brain development and lifetime health, 1400 Washington Ave., Albany.

At 9:30 a.m., Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis holds a press conference to release a report on the Access-a-Ride program, Arrochar Friendship Club, 44 Bionia Ave., Staten Island.

At 10 a.m., Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli speak while hosting an event where state employees will help Bronx residents investigate whether they are entitled to unclaimed funds; rotunda, Bronx County Building, 851 Grand Concourse Ave., the Bronx.

Also at 10 a.m., Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks will honor local Vietnam Veterans, Olmstead Lodge, 171 Reservoir Ave., Rochester.

Also at 10 a.m., Assemblyman Keith Wright holds a press conference with Building and Construction Trades Council President Gary LaBarbera on NYCHA funding, Lincoln Houses, 2130 Madison Ave. at 133rd Street, Manhattan.

Also at 10 a.m., during a ceremony at CUNY’s Hunter College, officials and relatives of a woman killed in an East Harlem building explosion display a memorial plaque and accept funds raised at the college for her family and for the not-for-profit housing organization Hope Community Inc.; lobby, Silberman School of Social Work, 2180 Third Ave., Manhattan.

At 10:15 a.m., NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito joins elected officials, unions and community groups to call on Albany to raise the minimum wage, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

At 10:30 a.m., Sen. Marc Panepinto will tour Black Squirrel Distillery and highlight the benefits of strengthening the maple syrup industry in upstate as well as his overall legislative plan for boosting the state’s agricultural economy, 1595 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo.

At 10:45 a.m., Rep. Nita Lowey joins officials from Westchester Community College for a roundtable discussion on impact of proposed Pell Grant cuts for local college students, Hartford Hall, 75 Grasslands Rd., Valhalla.

At noon, acting state Tax Commissioner Ken Adams discusses Cuomo’s property tax proposal, home of Claudia Blumenstock, 407 Taylor Rd., Honeoye Falls.

Also at noon, representatives of Jewish advocacy organizations call for US Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer to support overriding an anticipated presidential veto of the “Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act,” during a news conference near the district offices of the lawmakers; 780 Third Ave., Manhattan.

At 12:30 p.m., Sen. David Carlucci holds a press conference on paid family leave at the “For Kids Only” Daycare facility, 577 North State Rd., Briarcliff Manor.

At 1 p.m., NYS Broadband Program Office Director David Salway discusses the governor’s New NY Broadband Program, Sullivan County Government Center, Legislative Hearing Room, 100 North St., Monticello.

At 6 p.m., Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, NYC Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo, state Sen. Jessie Hamilton, the Democratic party district leader of the Assembly’s 43rd District, Shirley Patterson, and Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon host a “Shirley Chisholm Women of Excellence Awards” presentation and reception, marking the March observance of Women’s History Month; First Baptist Church of Crown Heights, 450 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn.


A fiery explosion yesterday afternoon in Manhattan’s East Village injured at least 19 people, damaged four buildings and led to the collapse of at least one of them. Four people were in critical condition; they were among 15 taken to area hospitals, including four firefighters, who sustained minor injuries. Four people were treated at the scene. AS of last night, officials knew of no one killed in the incident.

Nicholas Figueroa, a 23-year-old man who took a co-worker to lunch at the sushi restaurant whose basement was the site of the blast, has not been heard from since the explosion. His date is being treated for injuries she sustained during the explosion at Bellevue Hospital.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders appear close to an agreement on ethics policies that would increase what legislators have to disclose about the money they make on top of their government salaries. Cuomo said the effort made good on his pledge to bring more sunlight to Albany, but critics say what they’ve seen so far falls short of full disclosure.

In the latest sign of Albany ethics madness, lawmakers were forced to turn over Lou Gehrig bobblehead dolls given to them by the ALS Association this week because they’re deemed a violation of the Legislature’s gift ban.

The collapse earlier this week of a two-pronged plan to include in the state budget an education tax credit and the Dream Act, which extends tuition assistance programs to undocumented immigrants, has led to finger-pointing and a last-minute scramble for some kind of alternative plan before budget bills are signed on Saturday.

Eleanor Randolph on the budget negotiation process: “The real mockery, of course, is that the insiders’ club can exclude even insiders. The four men in that back room should make room for two more, one of them a woman. Six people is not a crowd by anybody’s count.”

The final budget will include nearly $440 million for anti-homeless services over the next four years.

Cuomo’s campus sexual-assault proposal faces an uncertain future, with lawmakers from both parties saying it shouldn’t be included in the state budget. The Legislature wants the governor to change his plan, and let them vote on it later on in the session.

Another point of contention in budget talks: How to spend the state’s $5.4 billion (and growing) windfall from financial settlements. A Cuomo spokesman said using the money is “central to the finances of the state and a core component of the budget.” Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos wants more detail.

In yet another chapter of the ongoing push and pull between NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and Cuomo, a new front has opened, this time over public housing funds in the state budget. While the figure is $100 million from the state to the city in the state budget for much-needed repairs, Cuomo wants a state agency to control how that money is administered. The mayor believes the funds should go directly to the housing authority.

With legislators holding closed-door meetings on the new state budget, teachers rallied against Cuomo at the state Capitol yesterday, stopping short of declaring victory in the fight with him over tenure and union rights.

A plan to task the Board of Regents with developing a new teacher-evaluation system was a step in the right direction as Cuomo and lawmakers negotiate a series of education reforms, NYSUT President Karen Magee said.

Negotiations over the Brownfields tax credit program have stalled because of a disagreement over a proposed affordable housing requirement.

Thoroughbred racing in New York could remain under Cuomo’s control for another year, as the state’s April 1 budget deadline approaches without discussion of the New York Racing Association.

More >


An explosion at a building on Second Avenue and East 7th Street in Manhattan this afternoon sent huge clouds of smoke billowing into the air and caused the building to partially collapse. More here.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan says he’s looking to the Assembly for “leadership” on the Education Investment Tax Credit, though: “if this doesn’t work out, there’s a lot of blame to go around.”

US Sen. Chuck Schumer is leading a group of Democratic senators from states that have heavy oil train traffic to push for the immediate strengthening of federal regulations on oil tanker cars.

US Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand says taxes on soda and other “junk” foods are regressive, and while she will push policies aimed at lowering the obesity rate, taxes are not the way to change behavior.

Two bills recently introduced in the Assembly would restrict what the living could do with the previously living.

Due to the governor’s refusal to release school aid runs, the Watertown School District has proposed cutting about 15 instructional and maintenance staff postitions.

Sen. Martin Dilan: “If DREAM comes out it should all come out. The budget is where we have leverage. Outside of the budget (the DREAM Act) is dead.”

Cuomo’s raise-the-age-proposal has a variety of provisions that actually create stricter sentencing schemes, particularly for kids charged with violent crimes.

The NYT hosted an online debate over whether spending more on education is the best way to improve schools.

A new AQE video targets the Senate Republicans for failing to “walk the walk” when it comes to increasing education aid.

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter will embark next week on his first domestic trip since taking office, and Fort Drum is on his itinerary.

Democratic Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. wants Texas Senator and GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz to visit the South Bronx.

A majority of the Chautauqua County Legislature approved a sales tax hike that will bring the combined local and state tax to 8 percent. The state Legislature must sign off on this.

Cuomo announced that David Rockefeller has donated $4 million to establish an operating endowment supporting the Rockefeller State Park Preserve in Westchester County.

DFS Superintendent Ben Lawsky, “no cape, but lots of crusades.”

Who were NYC’s top 10 lobbyists in 2014? Find out here.

The Commission on Judicial Conduct found Mansfield Town Judge Randy Alexander “acted realistically” by resigning his position and agreeing never to run for or accept an appointment to a judgeship again.

The Albany metro area added 5,300 private-sector jobs from February 2014 to February 2015. It was second most jobs of any city in upstate New York following Buffalo, which added 9,100 private sector jobs from year to year.

Troy gets some love from the New York Times Travel section.

The chairman of the Fulton City Republican Committee is withdrawing his support for Rep. John Katko, saying the congressman has abandoned his conservative and Tea Party supporters.

Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel, currently fighting for his political life in a heated run-off campaign, floated the idea of naming an airport after the Windy City’s favorite son: President Barack Obama.

The Skidmore student accused of sexually assaulting another student back in April of 2014 will not be allowed to return to the college for several years.

This happened.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany with no public schedule. The Assembly is in session at 9:30 a.m., the Senate at 11:30 a.m. NYSUT is holding a big protest at the Million Dollar Staircase at 4 p.m.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will attend an event hosted by the Campaign for One New York, which is closed to members of the press.

At 10 a.m., the NYC Council Public Housing Committee will be holding a preliminary budget hearing to review the Authority’s current and future expenses, revenue, and operations, Committee Room, City Hall, Manhattan. (Public comment period begins at noon).

Also at 10 a.m., state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. host a community event at Bronx Borough Hall to bring attention to unclaimed funds, 851 Grand Concourse, 3rd Floor, the Bronx. (UPDATE: This event is taking place tomorrow).

At 11:30 a.m., NYPD Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and the Police Athletic League of New York City officials participate in the league’s 17th annual “Legal Profession Luncheon”; The Pierre hotel, 2 E. 61st St., Manhattan.

Also at 11:30 a.m., the Thruway Authority holds a board meeting, 200 Southern Blvd., Albany.

At noon, acting state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, state Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball and Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren hold a press conference at the Rochester Public Market to commemorate the beginning of spring farmers’ market season in New York, 280 N. Union St., Rochester.

At 2:45 p.m., NYS Broadband Program Office Director David Salway discusses the governor’s New NY Broadband Program, 26th Annual Local Government Conference, Jefferson Community College, 1220 Coffeen St., Watertown.

At 4:45 p.m., acting state Tax Commissioner Ken Adams discusses the governor’s property tax proposal, home of Norman Ungermann, 8917 Ungerman Rd., Cuba.

At 5 p.m., Washington Heights residents demonstrate against Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposals; in front of Gregorio Luperon High School, 165th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, Manhattan.

Also at 5 p.m., Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz will deliver his third State of the County address, Mason O. Damon Auditorium, downtown Central Library, 1 Lafayette Square, Buffalo.

At 6 p.m., Sen. Brad Hoylman and Fordham Law Prof. Zephyr Teachout speak to members of the Downtown Independent Democrats; downstairs meeting room, Von Bar, 3 Bleecker St., Manhattan.

At 6:40 p.m., Diaz Jr. discusses visiting Israel with Latino officials in January as part of a trip sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York Inc., and participates in a question-and-answer session; Riverdale YM-YWHA, 5626 Arlington Ave., the Bronx.

At 7 p.m., Sen. Leroy Comrie will host a forum on Consumer Protection at the Allen Community Senior Center, 166-01 Linden Blvd., Queens.


Under fire for letting the Education Investment Tax Credit and the DREAM Act fall off the budget table, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called on the Legislature in a Daily News OpEd to move forward with stand-alone votes on both bills.

Cuomo and lawmakers are in talks to finalize the terms of what he has named as his top priority: a package of ethics overhauls designed to, among other things, shed more light on legislators’ outside income. Much of the rest of the governor’s agenda, as laid out in his executive budget and 30-day amendments, will now be addressed after the budget deal is reached.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said the chamber’s majority Democrats take “major issue” with Cuomo’s plan to withhold a boost in school funding until lawmakers agree to reforms to the state’s education system. Senate Republicans aren’t thrilled with the idea, either.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos blamed Assembly Democrats for legislation to address sexual assault on college campuses apparently falling out of the state budget.

Cuomo has highlighted of his inclusion in this year’s budget of a ban on the personal use of campaign funds, as he promotes his commitment to ethics reform. But it is difficult to identify a single currently legal expense made by a legislator in the past decade that would not still be allowed if governor’s proposal is approved.

The state Legislature’s Black, Puerto Rican and Hispanic Caucus called on Cuomo to publicly apologize for reportedly saying that the indicted former Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, is still running the chamber behind the scenes, saying the governor’s alleged comments show a “disturbing” lack of respect for the first black speaker, Carl Heastie.

Lawmakers have agreed to put $18 million of the revenue earned by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in to the Environmental Protection Fund, according to sources close to the talks. An additional $23 million will go toward other programs, sources said. This goes beyond the $36 million Cuomo initially proposed diverting.

Hundreds of public school teachers organized by NYSUT are expected to protest Cuomo’s education reform proposals at the Capitol today as closed-door budget negotiations continue.

Voting largely along party lines, the Assembly approved the most-debated individual measure of the 10-point Women’s Equality Act, but it’s not likely going anywhere in the Republican-controlled Senate.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio urged Cuomo and the Legislature to reauthorize mayoral control of New York City’s public schools, ratcheting up public pressure as his aides scrambled behind closed doors on several budget-related education issues.

If de Blasio wants to see mayoral control renewed in the state Senate, he’s going to have to accept letting the charter cap rise, according to Sen. Simcha Felder.

Assemblyman Dan Stec, a Republican from the southern Adirondacks, has signed on to an Assembly bill mandating the state keep emails for at least seven years, which would reverse a Cuomo administration policy of automatically deleting messages after 90 days.

Two internal investigators with the state Thruway Authority were “separated” from their jobs in the past week following a state Inspector General’s office probe that prompted the abrupt resignations of two authority leaders in December. Neither of the investigators was accused of wrongdoing or told why they were being terminated, both were involved in the investigation of whether a former top authority official’s government cellphone had been used to contact a suspected prostitute.

More >

EffectiveNY Joins Education Debate

From the Morning Memo:

An organized funded by liberal Democratic donor/activist Bill Samuels is launching an online campaign in opposition to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s education reform agenda that uses the governor’s own words against him.

The campaign is centered around a web video that highlights the disparities between high-income and high-needs school districts, and features Cuomo saying when he was first a candidate for governor back in 2010 that education is the “civil rights issue of our time.”

“There are two education systems in this state,” Cuomo says, “not public-private, but one for the rich and one of the poor; they’re both public systems.”

Samuels then appears on the screen, accusing Cuomo of “discriminating” against poor students across in New York and adding: “Stop blaming our teachers for your failed policies.”

“On Cuomo’s watch, the gap in spending between New York’s 100 richest schools and 100 poorest schools has increased by a deplorable degree,” Samuels says in a press release that will announce the online campaign – an early copy of which was provided to CapTon.

“Every child deserves an equal chance but Cuomo has abdicated the state’s fiscal responsibility to provide all of New York’s students with an equal opportunity for an excellent education,” he continues.

“I applaud all the parents, teachers, and children who are rising up across the state to defeat Cuomo’s discriminatory education agenda in the current legislative session.”

At this point, there are no plans to air the video as a TV ad, according to a source familiar with Samuels’ plans, but it will be widely circulated today by education activists and the teachers unions.

This is the first time Samuels had waded into this year’s budget battle, but he has been sharply critical of Cuomo on all manner of issues – from redistricting and campaign finance reform to ethics and constitutional amendments – for years now.

Samuels has long been closely allied with the Senate Democrats, and even served as their finance chairman in the 2008 elections. He was very critical of Cuomo for failing to support the Democrats’ efforts to re-take the Senate majority, and even suggested the governor should seek re-election in 2014 as a Republican.

Samuels briefly sought a primary challenger to Cuomo, and considered running for lieutenant governor himself. He provided some support to Cuomo’s liberal opponent, Zephyr Teachout, but ended up more or less backing the governor’s successful re-election bid.

"Every Child" from EffectiveNY on Vimeo.

Here and Now

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

At 8 a.m., Sen. Jack Martins holds a $400-a-head breakfast fundraiser at The Fort Orange Club President’s Room, 110 Washington Ave., Albany.

At 9:30 a.m., NYC Public Advocate Tish James holds a news conference before touring two apartment buildings included in her office’s list titled “The 100 Worst Landlords in New York City” released Wednesday, Oct. 8, as part of her series of “six month check-in” visits to properties on the list, 14 E. 125th St., Manhattan.

At 10:15 a.m., NYC Councilman David Greenfield and representatives of the Food Bank For New York City and the Masbia Soup Kitchen Network publicize the phone number of a citywide telephone hotline to request kosher emergency food packages leading up to the Jewish observance of Passover; 10th floor, 39 Broadway, Manhattan.

At 10:30 a.m., the PSC will hold its regularly scheduled board meeting, 9th Floor Board Room, 3 Empire State Plaza, Albany.

At 11 a.m., Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie holds a press conference regarding access to women’s reproductive health services; he’ll be joined by bill sponsor Assemblywoman Deborah Glick and advocates, Speaker’s Conference Room (342), state Capitol, Albany.

At 11:30 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, NYPA and ESDC launch the 43North 2015 Business Idea Competition and Grand Opening of 43North Business Incubator Hub. Innovation Center, 640 Ellicott St., Buffalo.

Also at 11:30 a.m., Sens. Marc Panepinto, Leroy Comrie and Jesse Hamilton will speak about their support for raising the minimum wage, outside the Senate chamber, Third Floor, state Capitol, Albany.

At noon, supporters of the New York Immigration Coalition hold a rally to publicize a hunger strike seeking passage the DREAM Act in Albany; outside 250 Broadway, Manhattan.

Also at noon, prents and members from New York Hispanic Clergy Association will host a press conference, urging elected officials in Albany for bold action fixing a statewide crisis that fails close to 800,000 students every year, LCA Press Room (130), LOB, Albany.

Also at noon, members of AQE, Citizen Action, NYSUT, UFT and the WFP will hand-deliver a petition to Cuomo’s office asking him to end his policies that have led to the most racially and economically segregated schools in the nation, War Room, Second Floor, state Capitol, Albany.

Also at noon, president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City, Kathryn Wylde, delivers a keynote speech to New York City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce members during the business organization’s annual luncheon to mark the March observance of “Women’s History Month”; Tosca Marquee catering facility, 4034 E. Tremont Ave., the Bronx.

At 1:45 p.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina hold a press conference at Automotive High School, 50 Bedford Ave., Brooklyn.

At 7:30 p.m., Queens GOP Chairman, Bob Turner, Deputy Chief Clerk Queens Board of Elections Bart Haggerty, State Committeewoman AD 29, Scherie Murray, and candidate for state committeeman for AD 29, Samuel Benoit hold a rally, American Legion – Rosedale Laurelton Post 483, 240-08 135th Avenue, Rosedale.


Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders are talking about creating a commission to craft a teacher evaluation system – a signal the governor is giving ground on another of his top budget priorities. The teachers unions are reserving judgment until they see the details.

Tom Precious: “Criminal justice, education, infrastructure, immigration and tax issues all started falling off the budget table as (Cuomo) and lawmakers erased their previous lines in the sand. It was a sure sign of a desperate push for an on-time state budget by next Wednesday.”

Plans to increase the state oil spill fund may fall by the wayside during the state budget process, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the closed-door talks. Cuomo has proposed increasing the fund from $25 million to $40 million.

As a former assistant US attorney in scandal-ridden Albany, freshman Assemblyman Todd Kaminsky is viewed with suspicion by some of his colleagues. He was recently toasted at his 37th birthday party by a fellow lawmaker as “our favorite spy.”

In an act of open defiance toward Albany and Cuomo’s education reform agenda, the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School Board voted unanimously to “seriously consider” boycotting teacher evaluations and standardized testing in the district.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio has kept a lower profile in Albany this year, making few public trips to the state Capitol and working with his staff behind the scenes to advance his agenda.

He now calls it an experiment worthy of just a three year-extension, but it wasn’t that long ago that Cuomo hailed mayoral control of the NYC schools as the ultimate form of accountability.

The New York Times calls mayoral control “among the most successful contributions the Legislature has made to education in New York City in recent history,” and says it needs to be extended – or “ideally” made permanent – now, “while the budget pressure is on, and not put off for another day.” Other issues of importance: ethics reform, the DREAM Act, EITC, raise the age, minimum wage and public campaign financing.

The Jewish community is ramping up pressure on Cuomo not to abandon the EITC, though he said yesterday that both the tax credit and the DREAM Act, which he had linked in his budget proposal, have been dropped from budget talks.

Michael Goodwin: “The continuing Moreland fiasco and the education collapse are also linked in another way — they show his nightmare is coming true. Nobody in Albany is afraid of Andrew Cuomo anymore.”

AG Eric Schneiderman is investigating financial decisions at Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art that led to the school’s move to charge undergraduate tuition for the first time in its history, according to board members.

More >


Gov. Andrea Cuomo’s teacher evaluation overhaul that would rely on outside evaluators is just “another way to privatize education,” NYC Chancellor Carmen Fariña said.

A bill to legalize MMA in New York – the last state where the sport is still banned – was approved for the sixth time in the state Senate.

A budget bill – debt service, the least controversial portion of the annual spending plan – is moving.

As the budget clock ticks down, Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner this morning hosted a news conference to repeat her call to increase funding for roads, water lines and other infrastructure.

“(I)t’s really not three men in a room anymore – it’s Cuomo, Skelos and 109 Assembly Democrats.”

Buzzfeed explored the option of moving 200 of its employees to New Jersey before New York’s chief economic development agency entered into an agreement giving the company $4 million in tax credits.

If you’re headed to Sunday Mass for Palm Sunday, there will be a message from Cardinal Dolan and the New York bishops on the need for Cuomo and the state Legislature to pass the EITC.

Tomorrow, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer will call for stockbrokers and financial advisers operating in New York state to be required to disclose whether they are obligated to put their clients’ interests ahead of their own.

US Sen. Chuck Schumer tweeted brithday greetings to SU.

US Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand called the backlash against the University of Virginia woman who said she was raped in the Rolling Stone article “inappropriate” and an example of victim-blaming.

The last time she ran for president, Hillary Clinton did not have to take a position on the Common Core, teacher evaluations or Race to the Top. Now, as she prepares for another likely White House run, she’s being pulled in opposite directions on education policy.

New York ranks third in the United States for number of active hate groups according to an interactive map and report from the non-profit Southern Poverty Law Center advocacy group.

Even as NYU Langone Medical Center moves forward on building an emergency department on the former site of Long Island College Hospital, litigation over its development continues.

Rep. Pete King doubled down on his statement that compared Sen. Ted Cruz – the GOP’s first official 2016 candidate – to a “carnival barker,” saying: “Ted Cruz may be an intelligent person, but he doesn’t carry out an intelligent debate.”

Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano opposes the Senate Republicans’ move to eliminate authorization for school-zone speed cameras on Long Island.

Warning that the nation’s security is at risk, Rep. John Katko says he is concerned that President Barack Obama has not yet nominated a new administrator for the TSA.

ESPN personality Keith Olbermann recently included those pushing to have the “Redskins” nickname restored at Lancaster High School on his “World’s Worst” list.

The Redskins still have the right to use the name, but according to a Department of Justice argument filed in a federal court, so does everyone else.

Maryland might follow in New York’s fracking ban footsteps.

Brooklyn Councilman Vincent Gentile jabbed at his Congressional rival, Staten Island DA Daniel Donovan, for taking off early from a candidate forum last night to attend a fund-raiser nearby instead of sticking around for a full-length debate.

No words exist to adequately describe this.

Heastie’s Price

From the Morning Memo:

When Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced his two-way ethics reform deal last week with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, there was some head scratching in the CapTon office.

It was clear enough what was in it for Cuomo.

His agreement with Heastie was a clear attempt to box in Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, whose GOP conference has been unwilling to bend on certain aspects of the governor’s reform proposals – most notably, the disclosure of outside income and client lists.

But what was Heastie’s motivation for cutting a side deal with his fellow Democrat, angering Skelos and looking, let’s admit it, a little bit weak in the process – especially after the photo of the now-infamous hug appeared on the governor’s Flickr page.

It wasn’t immediately clear what the new speaker was getting out of his agreement with Cuomo, other than some gubernatorial goodwill, which doesn’t generally go that far (or last that long) at the Capitol.

Yesterday, however, it became clear what Heastie’s price might have been, as word started circulating around the Capitol that certain elements of Cuomo’s heretofore “my way or the highway” education reform plan had been dropped during ongoing budget talks.

The situation remains far from perfect for Heastie’s members, especially those – like Queens Assemblyman Francisco Moya – who have been pushing very hard for the DREAM Act to be included in the final budget deal, and are not at all happy that both DREAM and the Cuomo-linked Education Investment Tax Credit have been pushed off the budget table to be addressed at a later date.

Cuomo is still pushing for some of his education agenda – including an overhaul of the teacher evaluation system, a plan to deal with so-called “failing” schools (though there’s a compromise in the works on that), tenure reform, teacher performance bonuses and teacher scholarships.

“If those reforms are passed, the governor will support a significant funding increase,” Cuomo spokeswoman Melissa DeRosa said in a statement released yesterday afternoon.

DeRosa also made it clear (ahem, Senate Republicans) that Cuomo is sticking to his guns when it comes to ethics, saying: “The governor has stated repeatedly and clearly that ethics reform was a top priority and that he wouldn’t sign a budget without ethics reform. Nothing has changed.”

But it’s clear now that Cuomo is not willing to let hangups over education policy be the cause of a late budget.

As Zack Fink noted on State of Politics yesterday, the governor got out-worked this budget season by the teachers unions – a longtime political ally of the Assembly Democrats – which had a dramatic impact on public opinion. Several polls have now shown New Yorkers siding with the unions over the governor when it comes to forging education policy.

The same polls showed voters prefer significant education – and ethics – policy issues handled outside the budget process. And they found Cuomo’s job approval rating has taken a hit, though that’s fairly standard for governors embroiled in highly charged budget talks.

What’s more, as Siena poll spokesman Steve Greenberg noted on CapTon last night, unlike in previous years, in which the state Democratic Party or the now-defunct Committee to Save NY spread Cuomo’s message, there was no pushback this time to the unions – with their well-orchestrated social media campaign, statewide rallies, billboards and TV ads – by either the governor or his allies.

The reality is that education reform was Cuomo’s top priority this year – even dating back before his successful 2014 campaign for re-election to a second term – until it wasn’t, thanks to Assemblyman Sheldon Silver’s corruption scandal, and US Attorney Preet Bharara’s ominous “stay tuned”.

Cuomo felt the need to respond to these developments – hence his newfound focus on ethics reform as this year’s top budget priority.

What we’re looking at now is an extremely active post-budget session, with everything on the table – from the charter cap and DREAM/EITC to the NYC rent laws and mayoral control over the NYC school system, both of which sunset early in the summer.

Here and Now

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

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is in the city with no public schedule.

At 10 a.m., NYS Broadband Program Office Director David Salway discusses Cuomo’s New NY Broadband Program, Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension Building/4-H Fairgrounds, Education Center, Harrington Room, 12690 State Highway 31, Albion.

At 10:30 a.m., clergy members and education activists from around the state will deliver 800+ petition signatures to Cuomo calling for “full and fair” school funding ($2.2 billion in additional state aid), governor’s office, 2nd Floor, state Capitol, Albany.

At 11 a.m., the Senate Labor and Social Services committees hold a joint public hearing examining ways to address issues affecting families in the workforce, on the agenda: paid family leave, childcare subsidies, facilities enrollment, and dependant care tax credits, Hearing Room A, LOB, Albany.

At noon, AARP members deliver hundreds of postcards from constituents urging Senate Energy Committee Chair Joe Griffo to push for inclusion of an independent utility consumer advocate as part of the final state budget, Utica State Office Building, 207 Genesee St., Utica.

At 12:30 p.m., Syracuse Police Chief Fowler and NYSAN Director Niedzielski-Eichner join former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for a live webcast to discuss the importance of afterschool programs and the unmet need for affordable, quality care. The National Afterschool Summit can be seen here:

At 1:30 p.m., Assemblyman Joe Lentol; Justin Kalifowitz, co-founder of NY is Music; Maya Kremen of Local 802; musicians, producers, and music industry professionals from across New York call for inclusion of a music industry tax credit in the budget, Million Dollar Staircase, state Capitol, Albany.

At 2 p.m., as part of her five-borough effort to #ShattertheStigma around mental health, NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray will team up with Health Commissioner Mary Bassett and Chiara de Blasio to announce the launch of NYC Teen Text, a new mental health resource for teens, Millennium Brooklyn High School – 2nd Floor Library, John Jay Educational Campus, 237 7th Ave., Brooklyn.

At 3:20 p.m., a delegation of community and Jewish day school leaders, as well as Jewish day school students, from Brooklyn, Queens, Long Island and Staten Island, in Albany to appeal for passage of the Education Investment Incentives Act, will be recognized on the Assembly floor, state Capitol, Albany.

At 6 p.m., Assemblyman Peter J. Abbate, Jr. holds a $300-a-head fundraiser, The State Room, 100 State St., Albany.

Also at 6 p.m., Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci holds a $50 per person fundraiser, The Fort Orange Club Library, 110 Washington Ave., Albany.

Also at 6 p.m., Assemblyman Joseph Saladino holds a $400-a-head fundraiser, Bongiorno’s Italian Restaurant, 23 Dove St., Albany.


In a late-afternoon statement, Cuomo Communications Director Melissa DeRosa dropped hints that the governor would sign a budget that lacked key education initiative pieces like the DREAM Act and the Education Investment Tax Credit – proposals that continue to divide the two majority legislative conferences. She doubled down, however, on Cuomo’s pledge to reject any budget deal without ethics reform.

“The key education reforms are dealing with the epidemic of failing schools, improvement to the teacher evaluation system, tenure reform, teacher performance bonuses and scholarships to attract new teachers. If those reforms are passed, the governor will support a significant funding increase,” DeRosa said.

Tom Precious: “The administration statement, offering threats and olive branches of sorts, served one purpose: It signaled areas of the budget likely still open, from a proposed increase in the minimum wage to the $1.5 billion upstate fund.”

Assemblyman Francisco Moya, a Democrat from Queens who sponsored the DREAM Act, released a statement accusing Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos of being motivated by “xenophobia” and “lack of foresight.” Moya called on Cuomo to “show true leadership” and bring Skelos back to the table to negotiate this measure.

Alternate methods of teacher evaluations are under discussion at the state Capitol, including a “matrix” or “grid,” which include a variety of “boxes” or categories for measuring educators’ performance.

Hours after a joint letter calling for the extension of mayoral control in NYC was issued by the unlikely alliance of NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, state Republican leaders and Cuomo’s office signaled that the issue would be put off until after the state budget was finalized, opening the door to months of protracted negotiations.

Top music industry executives and songwriters banded together in a last-minute push for a $25 million tax credit designed to help save the industry in New York. They want the credit included in the state budget deal.

With no comment or debate, the New York state Gaming Commission signed off on a plan to seek bids on what would be a fourth upstate casino yesterday – the same day that a new study indicated that tax revenues nationwide from such facilities are slowing.

Ronda Rousey, the UFC’s world bantamweight champion, met separately yesterday with Cuomo and top lawmakers, making the pitch for the state to lift its ban on professional mixed-martial arts bouts. Also a model and an actress, Rousey squeezed in a trip to the state Capitol – her third overall, but first since 2013 – between appearances on “The View” and Tuesday on “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon”.

The long-time head of the Dominican Day Parade, Nelson Pena, will be ousted under a deal with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman after a probe found financial improprieties, officials plan to announce today.

More than two years after the New York Cosmos proposed a 25,000-seat soccer stadium, hotel and retail complex at Belmont Park, inaction by state officials has prompted the team to consider alternative locations for the $400 million privately funded project.

A state Supreme Court justice has dismissed a lawsuit brought by a state teachers union in an attempt to force the state to scrap its property tax cap and tax freeze.

More >


The new, unauthorized biography of Gov. Andrew Cuomo paints the governor as a lonely, obsessive executive with a skill for manipulation and an endless appetite for vengeance.

A second attempt by the state’s teachers union to get New York’s property-tax cap tossed was rejected in state Supreme Court.

Warning the US will fall behind without more federal transportation funding, mayors from across the country will push Congress for additional dollars, lobbying in the nation’s capital during the week of May 11.

The NFL said that it is suspending its blackout rule, which has been in place since 1975, for one season.

Former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg declined to sign onto a joint letter from de Blasio and ex-Mayor Rudy Giuliani asking Cuomo and state legislators to make mayoral control permanent in the five boroughs, so that it would not have to be routinely renewed.

Former Gov. David Paterson was upset by an offhanded slight made by former state Comptroller/SUNY Board of Trustees Chairman Carl McCall on Capital Tonight last week.

Troy Mayor Lou Rosamilla, a Democrat who has faced controversies over city demolitions, municipal finances and frozen municipal pipes, will not seek re-election this fall.

Binghamton Police Chief Joseph Zikuski has been placed on paid administrative leave, effective Tuesday, in the wake of accusations that he made sexual advances toward his subordinate.

New York added 17,000 jobs in low-wage industries in 2014 after the state’s minimum wage rose to $8 an hour, according to an analysis by the Fiscal Policy Institute.

A group of clergy and lay people from around New York is writing to government leaders in Albany asking them to reject Cuomo’s education proposals and to urge them to approve a sizeable increase in state spending on public education.

The Cuomo administration is spending nearly $1 million for expert witnesses and another $700,000 for contracted private attorneys in a case the state is fighting to avoid spending more money on schools.

Potential GOP 2016 candidate and former Helewtt-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina will headline a NY GOP event at the home of donor/fund-raiser Georgette Mosbacher on April 27.

On the hug-heard-’round-the-world: “The governor inappropriately lifted the speaker off his feet in a show of dominance,” said Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, a Manhattan Democrat.

Brooklyn Councilman Brad Lander marshaled his troops ahead of what is being called the “Battle of Bag-dad” – the fight to pass a measure that would obligate store owners to charge customers a 10-cent fee for plastic carryout bags.

This week’s New Yorker cover mocks Hillary Clinton’s email controversy.

Citing Democratic “division” over fracking, GOP Rep. Tom Reed is calling on Cuomo to reserve his ban on the controversial drilling process.

The effort to assist youth in foster care gain secure access and resources that will help them succeed in college continued at the Capitol today. Thus far, the Assembly has included $1.5 million in funding as part of its one-house budget

NT2 revises its (their?) take on the now infamous “feet off the floor” hug between Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

According to WalletHub, New York is the worst state for rich people – when it comes to taxes.

Weather be damned, it’s definitely spring.