Liz Benjamin

This user hasn't shared any biographical information

Homepage: http://nystateofpolitics.com


Posts by Liz Benjamin

Extras – Groundhog Day Edition

For the second day in a row, I am compiling “Extras” as my tireless colleagues stake out another confab of the Assembly Democrats, who are trying to figure out how to handle the “Shelly situation” – whether he will resign, as many of them have called on him to do, or if they will have to try to force him out, and if so, how they will go about doing that.

So far, there has been no decision about a Silver successor, but lots of jockeying for position by his would-be replacements and various factions – did you know ther’s a “Reform Caucus” in the Assembly now? Assembly spokesman Mike Whyland tweeted that some Thai food is being ordered, which is nice for those who are going to consume it, but not so nice for reporters trying to cover this mess, because it could be another late night is in the offing.

We’ll be keeping you up to date as best we can, reporting on this extremely fluid situation. In the meantime, here are some non-speaker-related headlines…

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said his administration was frozen out of the decision by Cuomo and the MTA to shut the city’s subways last night. “We did not get a lot of advance notice.”

Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani defended de Blasio for being over prepared for the Sno’reaster, saying a city official never can be too cautious in the face of a major weather event.

To the amusement of the NYC press corps, de Blasio did a dramatic reading of this Onion story.

Cuomo said he learned from his experience with the Buffalo snowstorm that it’s best to err on the side of caution when dealing with a potentially big storm.

“When dealing with Mother Nature, you win some and you lose some, but politicians almost always lose.”

Matthew Libous’ conviction on tax-fraud charges was a “just conclusion,” according to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

Speaking of Bharara, here’s a nightmare scenario that’s scary to contemplate.

The state’s leading school groups says Cuomo is making it impossible for districts to develop their budgets for the fiscal year that starts July 1 because he has refused to release aid projections.

PBA President Pat Lynch wants NYC officials to move up the date for purchasing new bulletproof vests, and asking the city to find “a permanent funding source” for new vests in the future.

Brooklyn Councilman Vincent Gentile will likely be the candidate to take on Staten Island DA Daniel Donovan to replace former Rep. Michael Grimm.

The Citizens Budget Commission says there are more hits than misses in Cuomo’s 2015-16 budget.

John Adler was named chief pension investment adviser and director of the New York City mayor’s office of pensions and investments.

For the second consecutive month, the Binghamton region tied Utica-Rome for the highest unemployment rate among the 11 upstate New York metropolitan areas.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, whose speech to activists in Iowa last weekend drew strong reviews, formed a committee in preparation for a 2016 presidential bid.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi says Democrats can recapture control of the House in 2016 by riding Hillary Clinton’s coattails.

Thanks to The Fix for the recognition. And kudos to my fellow New York political reporters singled out for praise – you are, indeed, worthy.

De Blasio: ‘Crucially Important’ Assembly Leadership ‘Fair’ To NYC

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio refused today to pick a favorite in the ongoing speakership tussle taking place in the Assembly Democratic conference, though he stressed that whoever is ultimately selected to lead the chamber must be “fair” to the five boroughs and keep his city’s best interests in mind.

“It’s crucially important New York City have leadership in the Assembly that wants to be fair to New York City,” the mayor told reporters. “And let’s be clear, we often don’t get our fair share from state government.”

“Looking at the education funding dynamic. Look at the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit, and the court settlement there and the fact that to this day we still are owed billions and billions of dollars in education funding. That’s not the only area where there’s that kind of disparity. I think historically, the Assembly leadership has tried to defend the valid interests of New York City, and it’s very important that that continue.”

An upstate-downstate divide is just one of several rifts within the conference that have emerged since Speaker Sheldon Silver’s arrest on federal corruption charges last week touched off a furious round of discussions – both public and private – about whether the Manhattan Democrat is too damaged to continue in his leadership role.

Last night, after a marathon closed-door session, the Assembly Democrats emerged to announce that they agreed Silver must go – though whether he will voluntarily heed a growing call for himto resign or they will be forced to actively seek his removal remains an open question. They remain far from an agreement, however, on who should replace Silver once he’s out of the picture.

The possibility that Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle, of Rochester, might succeed Silver – even on a temporary basis – is believed to make the de Blasio administration nervous. Not only is Morelle an upstater, but he is a more moderate Democrat than the very liberal NYC mayor, who has become an outspoken champion of the left since his election in the fall of 2013.

Observers and insiders believe that the mayor’s preferred speaker candidate is Bronx Assemblyman Carl Heastie. But de Blasio insisted – just as Gov. Andrew Cuomo repeatedly has – that this decision rests with the Assembly Democrats, and them alone. He did not deny that members of his administrastion are making calls up to Albany about the speaker situation, but said those calls aren’t intended to try to influence the outcome.

“I’m not talking to Assembly members at all,” the mayor said. “We’re trying to keep abrest of what’s happening because we have a lot of things that matter to us…We’re trying to stay close to what’s happening so we are able to act on the substance of the situation. We’re just trying to gather information.”

The perception that de Blasio might be trying to ivolve himself in this battle is not sitting well with Assembly Republicans, who, no doubt, recall the Democratic mayor’s heavy – and ultimately unsuccessful – involvement in last year’s fight for control of the state Senate, in which he raised campaign cash for the Democrats to aid their effort to re-take full control of the upper house.

Yesterday, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., a former assemblyman himself, issued a statement demanding that the next speaker be from NYC, noting there will be no legislative leader from the five boroughs if that does not occur.

(Also note that a NYC speaker has long been the tradition. The last upstate speaker was Binghamton’s James Tallon, who only held the position for a few days after the conviction on federal fraud charges of former Speaker Mel Miller, who was later exonerated. Tallon, as majority leader, automatically rose to the position of interim speaker when Miller was convicted, but he was quickly deposed by Assemblyman Saul Weprin, of Queens).

De Blasio was taken some heat for defending Silver in the wake of the speaker’s arrest. The mayor reiterated today that his comments praising Silver were “about my own experience” and were made based on the “consistency” the speaker has displayed over the 20 years de Blasio has known him.

“He has done everything he said he was going to do,” explained de Blasio, who said he has not read the US attorney’s complaint outlining the charges against Silver. “Obviously, I’ve made very clear that we would not have achieved pre-K for all qwithout him. and that’s very important to me. So, I’m talking about my own experience and the consistency I’ve seen in him in that experience.”

Gibson ‘Digusted’ By Silver Scandal, Touts Term Limits, Dings Cuomo

Republican Rep. Chris Gibson, who recently announced he won’t seek re-election to Congress in 2016 to focus on a possible run for statewide office, weighed in on Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s corruption scandal, using it as yet another opportunity to advocate for term limits for officials at both the state and federal level.

Gibson, speaking to our TWC News D.C. Bureau, said he was “digusted” but not surprised by Silver’s arrest last week. He called Albany a “cesspool of corruption” in desperate need of reform, and said Silver should be “fired” ASAP.

“Since I’ve returned from the Army in 2010, it seems like every several months there’s just another case of a legislator being indicted, sexual harassment, abuse of power, corruption,” the congressman said. “…We need serious reform. We need term limits.”

“You see with the case with Sliver; here’s somebody who accumulated all this power over time such that when these revelations first came to light, the Democratic conference in the Assembly strongly supported him. Same comments coming from the mayor of New York City and also the governor. And this is really because one individual has been able to amass too much power.”

The congressman also took a swipe at Gov. Andrew Cuomo, saying the Democrat who was just elected to his second four-year term ran in 2010 on a reform platform, promising to clean up the state Capitol, and failed to deliver.

“The governor said he was going to clean this up; that was one of the things he ran on in 2010,” Gibson said. “By any reasonable standard, he has failed. Prematurely shutting down the Moreland Commission, the US Attorney is looking into that…That was the point of the commission is that there was a series of abuses over a period of time that there was a need for very a thorough investigation and action that comes out of that investigation. And then to prematurely shut it down, well we’re going to get to the bottom of that too.”

Gibson also made the case for campaign finance reform – including a cap on spending, which likely wouldn’t pass constitutional muster – noting that while he withstood a challenge last fall from a very wealthy opponent who spent millions of his own money (Democrat Sean Eldridge), most “hard-working Americans” are increasingly being priced out of running for office.

In addition, Gibson said, lawmakers who found guilty wrongdoing should not be entitled to their public pensions. “Why should the taxpayer continue to pay benefits to somebody who’s been convicted,” he asked.

The Republican congressman, who likes to portray himself as a moderate and a pragmatist, was first elected in 2010, defeating Democratic incumbent Scott Murphy with 55 percent of the vote.

He was re-elected in 2012 and 2014. Gibson initially said he would self-impose term limits on his congressional career and serve no more than four terms, but he has decided to cut that tenure short, leaving the door open for a potential statewide run – a bid for the governor’s office is widely speculated – in 2018.

Here and Now

Good morning. After a marathon closed-door session of more than five hours, Assembly Democrats have not resolved their leadership crisis, though they do agree on one thing: Sheldon Silver needs to either resign immediately as speaker or step aside with the potential to return if he is acquitted, (though few believe that’s actually possible).

The members didn’t accept Silver’s effort to retain his title by relinquishing power to a five-member – or two-member – leadership team while he fights the federal corruption charges lodged against him last week by US Attorney Preet Bharara.

Silver left the Capitol late last night insisting he’s still speaker, but not ruling out a possible resignation.

“I’m standing, and I’m going to be standing for a long time,” Silver told reporters.

Discussions will continue at noon today, and members have plenty of time on their hands, since today’s session and the first scheduled joint budget hearing were cancelled due to the snow storm, and many roads and public transportation were shut down last night, making return home for downstaters impossible.

Assemblyman Sean Ryan, of Buffalo, said the purpose of the noon meeting is to work on a process to pick a successor to Silver. “No one is trying to force the process or force someone into being the next speaker,” he said.

Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans to hold an 8 a.m. press conference with MTA Chairman and CEO Tom Prendergast, PANYNJ Executive Director Pat Foye and other state officials to update New Yorkers on the storm. That will be held at 633 3rd Ave., 38th Floor, Manhattan.

Snor’easter? The snowfall totals for New York City were significantly downgraded, as forecasters changed their predictions to say that New England will likely bear the brunt of this storm. Heavy snow also fell east of the city.

Also at 8 a.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio appears on CNN’s “New Day,” which just so happens to be hosted by Cuomo’s brother, Chris.

At 10 a.m., the New York Farm Bureau will discuss its 2015 NYS priorities during a conference call with reporters.

At 11 a.m., Deputy Secretary of State for Local Government Dede Scozzafava delivers a regional version of Cuomo’s 2015 Opportunity Agenda address, Dulles State Office Building, First Floor Conference Room, 317 Washington St., Watertown.

At 11:30 a.m., de Blasio holds a storm briefing, Blue Room, City Hall, Manhattan.

Headlines…

Silver has frequently protected his members during his tenure, but Queens Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi said that “this time he has to protect his members by resigning,” adding: “There’s an element of courageousness to it.”

“We think it’s a great difficulty for him to continue to operate,” said Assemblyman Jeff Aubry, also of Queens. I think he recognizes that it’s a great difficulty for him to continue to operate…It’s not a time that anybody is feeling good about.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo panned Silver’s five-member management plan, saying: “Management by committee I’ve never been a fan of, and I’ve never seen it work well.”

The DN argues that Silver really hasn’t been all that good for NYC, noting he agreed in 1999 to do away with the commuter tax, costing the Big Apple $10 billion worth of revenue.

More >

Extras

The Assembly Democrats are still behind closed doors trying to figure out what they want to do about Speaker Sheldon Silver, who made his case to the membership and then left them alone to hash things out amongst themselves. (He’s in his office at the back of the chamber). While we await an outcome, which will hopefully come sometime tonight, here are some headlines…

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a travel ban on all state and local roads in thirteen downstate counties effective at 11 p.m. tonight. All MTA and Port Authority systems will also be suspended at that time until further notice.

The governor and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio held dueling pre-storm press conferences.

A federal court convicted the son of Senate Deputy Majority Leader Tom Libous on charges that he under-reported his income on federal tax returns.

Speaker math.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has a considerable pool of money to draw on in his legal battle: $3.3 million in his campaign account.

Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said an Assembly led by a five-member team would be ‘chaotic’ and urged her colleagues in the lower house to ‘resolve the leadership issue’ as quickly as possible.

Blake Zeff explains how Silver’s scandal puts Cuomo between a rock and a hard place.

After taking heat for raising prices during past storms, Uber has capped how much prices can rise in U.S. cities during disasters or emergencies.

Another big snowstorm bearing down on NYC, another sign language interpreter getting noticed on social media.

Cuomo said ”the changing climate” is responsible for extreme weather events like the snowstorm set to hit the Northeastern U.S. this week.

The first budget hearing – local government – which was supposed to take place tomorrow, has been cancelled due to the storm. It will be held Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015 at 9:30 a.m., in Hearing Room B of the LOB.

US Attorney Preet Bharara is investigating massive tax breaks granted to a luxury condo building in Manhattan, where a mystery buyer just paid a record $100 million-plus for the duplex penthouse.

Bharara, US Attorney General Eric Holder and other federal law enforcement officials announced charges against alleged members of a Russian spy ring.

IBM workers in New York are again expected to be held harmless in another round of layoffs.

A bill that would require biometric testing for travelers leaving the US found itself under attack from all directions, as Rep. Chris Collins introduced a proposal to potentially weaken the requirement.

Is New York’s public education system really as bad as Cuomo says?

A state official admitted in court that she stole thousands of dollars from trust fund accounts held for Cayuga Indian Nation minors, which she oversaw.

County Executive Mark Poloncarz has withdrawn his appointment of Carol Dankert-Maurer as commissioner of the Erie County Department of Mental Health.

And Then There Were Two?

In the face of growing opposition to the five-member leadership team idea floated by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver among rank-and-file conference members, Silver loyalists are now floating a scaled-back version of that plan that involves just two of the five, according to a source familiar with the ongoing discussions at the state Capitol.

Under this proposal, the two-man leadership team would feature Assembly Ways and Means Committee Chairman Denny Farrell Jr., of Manhattan; and Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle, of Rochester.

The idea has been pitched to members of the influential Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic, and Asian Legislative Caucus, many of whom were unhappy with the original five-person plan, in no small part because it included Assemblyman Carl Heastie, of the Bronx; but not Assemblyman Keith Wright, of Manhattan.

Heastie and Wright have both been mentioned for some time as potential permanent successors to Silver. They also had a falling out in 2012 over the redrawing of the district currently held by veteran Harlem Rep. Charlie Rangel, who says this will be his last two-year term in Washington.

Wright has long been interested in Rangel’s seat, but has declined to challenge his long-time ally even as others mounted (failed) primary campaigns against him. Now that Rangel is planning his retirement, Wright is among those throwing his hat into the ring for 2016, and said during a recent CapTon interview that he is forming an exploratory committee to prepare for a potential run.

Not long after news of Silver’s five-member leadership scheme broke, and Wright’s name was not among those tapped by the speaker to run things in his stead, the Manhattan Democrat put out a lengthy public statement calling for Silver to step aside.

Also jettisoned under the new two-person model would be Queens Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan and Codes Committee Chairman Joe Lentol, of Brooklyn. Lentol, like Farrell, had been viewed as a potential “caretaker” speaker until the conference can agree on a permanent successor for Silver. Nolan, the Education Committee chair, was floated by the 18-member Queens Democratic Party, which ostensibly would be able to deliver most of its members in a bloc, making the borough’s support a potential game-changer for any speaker candidate.

Morelle has been mentioned as a long-shot candidate to permanently replace Silver, but the fact that he is male, white and an upstater – and also is viewed as an ally of Gov. Andrew Cuomo – potentially count against him in the downstate-dominated conference.

Some members of the caucus have expressed more comfort with tapping only Farrell to serve on an interim basis while Silver fights the federal corruption charges lodged against him last week by US Attorney Preet Bharara. Farrell, who turns 83 next week, is not viewed as a long-term speaker candidate, which ostensbily means he wouldn’t get in the way of any of the other potential speaker candidates if and when they manage to put together enough votes to make a play for the position.

This new two-man idea was floated after Cuomo publicly rejected what he called the “management-by-committee” model that would allow Silver to keep his title – and his lulu. While insisting he doesn’t want to meddle in the business of the Assembly, Cuomo also made it clear he believes it’s time for the “distraction” of the speaker’s legal troubles to end, adding: “To the extent that there’s going to be a replacement to run the Assembly, I think that’s a good thing.”

The Democrats are right now behind closed doors with Silver for a conference that was originally supposed to take place at 1:45 p.m. – just before the scheduled 2 p.m. session. One by one, various members have been publicly declaring their desire for a change in leadership – Assemnlyman Brian Kavanagh, a Manhattan Democrat, was scheduled to make an announcement at 5 p.m. that was abruptly cancelled without an explanation.

In short, things are very fluid at the moment, and this meeting could take a while.

Cuomo Pans ‘Management By Committee’

While insisting he doesn’t want to meddle in how the Assembly Democrats run their conference, Gov. Andrew Cuomo today panned the five-member leadership team floated by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver in lieu of completely relinquishing his leadership post following his arrest last week

“The Assembly, the Legislature is a different branch of the government, and the governor runs the executive, so I’m not going to tell them how to run the Assembly,” Cuomo said during a brief Q-and-A with reporters following the first of two briefings he’ll hold today on the storm that is heading toward New York.

“To the extent I have to interact with the Assembly, committees, management by committee, I’ve never been a fan of, and I’ve never seen it work well,” the governor continued. “So, I’d like to see what the actual configuration is that they’ve come up with, when they come up with it. And then I’ll have an opinion.”

“…I’m focused on the functionality of government, and I want to know what the mechanism is that will replace the spaker…the quote, unquote committee. I don’t know what that means. I can’t negotiate with a committee, so I have to see what they actually come up with. From my own selfish point of view, I don’t understand how you negotiate with a commitee, how I negotiate with a committee.”

Cuomo reiterated that this is a “terribly unfortunate situation” – both for Silver, personally, and for the people of New York, since corruption scandals (especially one of this magnitude) only serve to re-enforce negative and cynical views about government.

The governor said his main goal is to keep government functional, and to that end, “the distraction of what’s going on with the speaker” needs to be resolved.

“So, to the extent that there’s going to be a replacement to run the Assembly, I think that’s a good thing. Because from my point of view, my job is to get things done, to get the government working. And the Assembly is an important part of that,” Cuomo said.

“…We have to negotiate a budget. I laid out a State of the State that probably had 70 proposals. How do we reform education? How do we bring broadband to people across the state. How do we do a tax cut. This is all important information, and these are all real-life decisions that make a difference in people’s lives. You’re talking about their health care. You’re talking about their security. So that the government works matters.”

There has been a lot of speculation about Cuomo’s relationship with Silver over the years, and it was breifly speculated when the governor first took office that he might seek to take the speaker out. But in the end, he didn’t make a move against the Manhattan Democrat, perhaps determining that he was simply too entrenched to move against.

Despite what Cuomo says about the governor needing to stay out of a dealings of the legislative branch, it would not be unheard of for a governor to seek to influence the selection of a legislative leader; former Gov. George Pataki helped his preferred Senate majority candidate, Joe Bruno, during the infamous “Thanksgiving coup” during which Bruno unseated Ralph Marino, who had not been a Pataki supporter.

Cuomo is speculated to prefer Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle, of Rochester, to replace Silver. But one of the chief roles of a speaker is to defend his conference against the governor, and to take bullets on the behalf of his members. The failure of last year’s pay raise talks left a bad taste in a lot of members mouths – especially downstaters, who have been pushing hardest for a bump in their base salary of $79,500 – and a number of them are not at all pleased with Cuomo’s assault on the public education system.

Being perceived as too close to Cuomo could hurt a speaker candidate, adding to the existing complication (in this case) of the fact that Morelle is an upstater and the conference is dominated by downstate members, though it is far more diverse, geographically speaking, that it was back when Silver first took control in 1994.

A Defection in the Bronx

Assemblyman Luis Sepúlveda, a Bronx Democrat, has added his name to the slowly growing list of Speaker Sheldon Silver’s conference members publicly calling for him to fully relinquish power in the wake of reports that he will try to retain his leadership title (and its accompanying stipend) while tapping a five-member leadership team to run the chamber while he focuses on his legal defense.

In a statement released by his Assembly office, Sepulveda acknowledged that this is a “difficult time” for Silver and his family, and said Democrats should be “grateful” to the speakaer for his service in his current role since 1994 – a period that saw the institution of universal pre-K for the state, the end of the Rockefeller drug laws, passage of the SAFE Act, passage (in the Assembly only) of the DREAM Act, “and so much more.”

“With a strong belief in the presumption of innocence I believe that Speaker Silver deserves his day in front of a jury before we pass judgment on his alleged actions,” Sepulveda said.

“However, as this body moves into budget negotiations, one of the most important parts of the year, the criminal complaint filed against the speaker has clearly become a distraction and has taken the spotlight away from so many of the important issues we should be debating. Issues like education, criminal justice reform, and infrastructure, among others, have now taken a back seat due to the speaker’s unfortunate situation.”

“The focus of this body right now must be budget negotiations, an area where the Speaker is an instrumental component. In light of these recent issues his position as a negotiator has been greatly compromised. The governor’s proposed budget will have an impact on every New Yorker, and our job as legislators is to ensure that our communities are represented in this budget. Our constituents are our first and most important duty.”

“There comes a time when an institution must come before any individual, and it is for these reasons that I believe that Speaker Silver should step down as speaker and allow for this body to get to work on these issues without being distracted,” the assemblyman continued. “Already since the speaker’s arrest the Assembly was forced to cancel session on a day that we should have been honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”

“It is likely that distractions like this will continue throughout the legislative session period if Speaker Silver remains in his leadership position.”

Sepulveda said he hopes he and his colleagues can elect a “new speaker,” but he did not express a favorite candidate for the post.

Sepulveda is one of the younger members of the Assembly Democratic conference. He was elected in November 2012 to fill the seat left vacant by Peter Rivera when he departed to take a job with the Cuomo administration as labor commissioner – a post from which Rivera has since retired.

Silver’s arrest late last week on federal corruption charges exposed a number of rifts within the Democratic conference – including the gap between the veteran members who have a long history with the speaker and perhaps owe him for favors, assistance and/or protection, and newer members who haven’t had much time to build a long-standing relationship with Silver, though he may have helped elect them through DACC, which he controls.

A number of these newer members are marginals and/or were elected on reform platforms, and their ongoing support of the damaged speaker could come with a political cost when the next elections role around.

Sepulveda is the third Democrat to defect publicly from Silver’s side, following Buffalo’s Mickey Kearns (never a Silver supporter to begin with) and Manhattan’s Keith Wright (who got left out in the cold when five other potential Silver replacements forged the leadership-sharing deal Silver is now floating).

But it’s worth noting that Sepulveda hails from the Bronx, which is home to one of the five members of the leadership team: Assemblyman Carl Heastie, who is also chair of the Bronx Democratic Party.

Part of the reason Silver chose the members he did was to create a delicate balance of would-be successors, such that none of them would be able to put together a coalition to mount an outright coup. There’s a member from each of the four major NYC boroughs – Heastie from the Bronx, Denny Farrell from Manhattan, Cathy Nolan from Queens and Joe Lentol from Brooklyn – (Staten Island is not represented, but it has just two Democratic members, and isn’t home to a potential speaker candidate), and also one upstater (Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle).

Assumedly, each of these leadership team members would be responsible to selling this idea to colleagues in their respective boroughs. Some boroughs – like Brooklyn – are known for their infighting and inability to unify all of its 20 assembly members, while others – like Queens, with 18 Democrats – are known for voting in a bloc on political matters. The fact that Heastie lost a member in the Bronx (one of 11 seats in that borough, including his own) isn’t a deal breaker, but it doesn’t look good, either.

Here and Now

Two main story lines today: The Assembly and the snow.

Politically speaking, all eyes will be on Albany, where Assembly Speaker Silver is scheduled to meet behind closed doors with members of his conference for the first time since his arrest on corruption charges last week.

He’ll try to sell his colleagues – some of whom are skeptical – on his plan to remain as speaker while appointing a five-member leadership team to run things in the chamber while he’s focused on his legal battle.

“This is a top-down approach,” one anonymous Assembly member told the New York Times. “We weren’t consulted, and it’s wrong.”

The full Assembly is scheduled to be in session at 2 p.m.

Meanwhile, down in New York City, residents and officials are bracing for that a storm Mayor Bill de Blasio says is potentially the largest ever to strike the Big Apple. He urged people to stay indoors to avoid powerful winds, low visibility and “treacherous” road conditions.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued a statement asking NYC-area commuters to stay home if they can, noting the snow will intensify through the day and could cause the closure of roads and mass transit.

Cuomo is in New York City with no public schedule. He’ll be monitoring the storm.

Also today…

At 8 a.m., NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer discusses his year in office and planned initiatives while speaking to ABNY members as part of the association’s breakfast forum series; Grand Central Ballroom, The Westin New York Grand Central hotel, 212 E. 42nd St., Manhattan.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the March of Dimes will host an early birthday celebration for founder Franklin D. Roosevelt, LOB, first floor (near the concourse), Albany.

Family Planning Advocates of NYS is holding its annual Day of Action, start at 11 a.m. in the Well of the LOB, Albany.

At 11:30 p.m., de Blasio holds a press conference to update New Yorkers on the storm, OEM Headquarters
165 Cadman Plaza East, Brooklyn.

At noon, New York Building Congress members hold their annual construction industry luncheon forum and membership meeting, where MTA Chair and CEO Tom Prendergast will promote government funding for the authority’s five-year construction and renovation program; 36th floor, Mandarin Oriental New York hotel, 80 Columbus Circle, Manhattan.

Also at noon, Moral Mondays organizers and participants react to Cuomo’s 2015-16 budget, NYS Capitol, War Room, Albany.

The Senate is in session at 3 p.m.

At 5:30 p.m., three Republican lawmakers – Sen. Richard Funke, Sen. Patrick Gallivan and Assemblyman Jim Tedisco – hold fundraisers in different rooms at the Fort Orange Club, 110 Washington Ave., Albany.

Also at 5:30 p.m., Democratic Assemblyman Michael Benedetto holds a fundraiser at the Albany Room, Empire State Plaza, Albany.

At 6 p.m., Manhattan BP Gale Brewer and civil rights attorney Norman Siegel host one in a planned series of “town hall” meetings to discuss efforts to improve relations between the NYPD and residents, second floor, Alianza Dominicana Triangle Building, 530 W. 166th St., Manhattan.

Also at 6 p.m., Sen. George Latimer (a Democrat) holds a fundraiser at the Albany Pump Station, 19 Quackenbush Sq., Albany.

Also at 6 p.m., Democratic Assemblyman Gary Pretlow holds a fundraiser at the University Club, 110 Washington Ave., Albany.

Headlines…

Most major airlines are allowing customers whose flights are canceled in the next few days due to the storm to book new flights without paying a penalty. Customers ticketed on flights to dozens of Eastern airports are generally eligible for the allowance, though specific terms vary by airline.

Developer Lenoard Litwin, who is in his 101st year and never sought the limelight (other than to contribute large sums of campaign cash to a variety of candidates and committees), is embroiled in the Silver scandal.

Silver could be facing a state probe, too. He has not responded to a state ethics committee inquiry as to why he did not publicly reveal income he received from a small New York City law firm for about a decade on his annual financial disclosure forms as required by law.

More >

Silver to Retain Speaker Title, But Cede Control to 5 Members

Embattled Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has bowed to pressure coming from both from his own members and outside his Democratic conference and agreed to cede control of the chamber while he battles the legal charges against him, a spokesman confirmed.

“The Speaker is not stepping down,” Silver spokesman Michael Whyland insisted in a statement released late yesterday. “He is appointing a group of senior members to undertake various responsibilities such as budget negotiations to ensure a timely spending plan for the state.”

“This will give him the flexibility he needs so that he can defend himself against these charges, and he is confident that he will be found innocent.”

According to the Daily News, which first reported the deal, the five members are: Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle, of Rochester: Ways and Means Committee Chairman Denny Farrell, of Manhattan; Queens Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, who chairs the Education Committee; Brooklyn Assemblyman Joe Lentol, chair of the Codes Committee; and Assemblyman Carl Heastie, who does double duty as chair of the Bronx Democratic Party.

Whyland said Silver will not be relinquishing his title as speaker.

The agreement came at the end of a weekend of furious behind-the-scenes maneuvering in which Silver’s members, many of whom pronounced their continued support of him following his arrest on corruption charges late last week, increasingly questioned his ability to lead in what’s shaping up to be a difficult budget season.

As newspaper editorial boards called for Silver to resign his leadership post, the speaker initially dug in, refusing to do so. He was benefitted by the fact that he has no clear successor and – clearly, given the nature of this deal – no consensus among his membership as to who, if anyone, should replace him.

Each of the five-member leadership team has been mentioned as a potential Silver successor, with Farrell and Lentol – both veteran members and longtime Silver loyalists – floated as so-called “caretakers” who might lead until the conference could agree on a long-term replacement.

Nolan was floated last week by the Queens Democratic Party, which has managed to consolidate power by having almost all of its 18 members hang together to vote in a bloc.

As majority leader, Morelle is technically next in line should Silver step down. He is well-liked inside the conference, but the fact that he hails from upstate and is close to Gov. Andrew Cuomo had been seen as a detriment to observers trying to game out the speakership race in recent days.

Heastie, who ostensibly controls 11 votes as Bronx Democratic chairman, has long been mentioned as a potential Silver successor, along with Assemblyman Keith Wright, chair of the Manhattan Democratic Party.

Both Heastie and Wright are African American, and would make history as the first black leader of a majority legislative conference if they were to rise to the position of speaker. Similarly, Nolan would be the first woman to hold the post.

(In December 2012, Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins became the first black woman ever to hold a legislative leadership at the state Capitol. Former Senate Minority Leader/Gov. David Paterson, who is also black, was the first to break the color barrier when he was the first non-white member elected to head the Democratic conference in the Senate in November 2002).

Wright is the lone member seriously mentioned as a potential Silver successor who was not included in the five-member leadership team.

According to Capital NY, none of the five members who will be taking charge of the chamber have commented on their new roles.

The division of power and responsibilities has not yet been explained, though the NY Post reported that Morelle and Farrell, who, as Ways and Means Committee chair has long headed up budget debates and hearings for the Democrats, will be overseeing budget negotiations.

This power-sharing idea still has to pass muster with the rest of the conference, and there’s been at least one report that rank-and-file members are skeptical the idea will work.

Silver is scheduled to meet with the conference later this morning for the first time since his arrest. A number of downstate members traveled to Albany last night to get ahead of the massive snowstorm that is scheduled to hit New York City and move northward.

The Assembly is expected to go into session in the afternoon, and Democrats have been worried that the Republicans might try to force a procedural vote on Silver, putting members on the record in a way that could be used against them in the next election cycle.