Liz Benjamin

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Posts by Liz Benjamin


Hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants could become eligible for New York’s Medicaid program in 2015 under the immigration executive order President Obama is scheduled to announce tonight.

Seven questions about the president’s executive order, answered.

More New York City voters approved of the way NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio handled an Ebola outbreak last month than Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a new Q poll showed.

It’s official: The Bills-Jets game will NOT be played at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park this Sunday. (Team members are going a little stir crazy).

The game will be moved to either Detroit or Washington and probably be played on Monday night.

The National Hockey League has announced that the Sabres’ game Friday night against the New York Rangers in First Niagara Center has been postponed due to “the continuing weather-related difficulties in the Greater Buffalo area and out of respect” for the team’s fans.

The WNY storm-related death toll keeps rising.

Former Assemblyman Richard Brodsky predicted the ABO report on the EFC’s Tappan Zee loan “will reverberate well beyond this case.”

During a “Morning Joe” appearance, Cuomo said Democrats “paid the price” in the midterms for being the public face of an ineffective government.

Cuomo’s office believes LG Bob Duffy would fall under a two-year ban on lobbying the executive branch in his new position.

Rep. Tammy Duckworth’s new baby was born the same day House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi was reelected after refusing Duckworth the chance to vote for party leadership by proxy.

Former Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia is forming a presidential exploratory committee, becoming the first prominent Democrat to make a formal foray into the 2016 contest.

Changing the name of the William J. Clinton Foundation to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation in 2013 helped boost donations by $93 million.

Reeling from revelations of long-term tax troubles and controversy surrounding the personal life of a former aide, the Rev. Al Sharpton insists he’s not becoming a distraction for de Blasio.

Members of Families for Safe Streets met with a Cuomo administration representative to discuss DMV reforms regarding reckless driving and justice for crash victims and their families.

Goldman Sachs wanted to build the new Tappan Zee Bridge and operate it. Former Gov. David Paterson thought that was a swell idea; ex-LG Dick Ravitch, not so much.

Lebanon’s most outspoken politician, 65-year-old Walid Joumblatt, has joined Twitter and makes an effort to reply to tweets from his 25,000+ followers, even using Emojis.

Could Rebekah Brooks, famous for her role in the News of the World phone-hacking scandal, be editor-in-waiting at the NY Post?

A state Supreme Court justice has dismissed Empire Wines’ lawsuit against the State Liquor Authority.

This ought to be interesting.

Slaughter 2016?

Despite surviving the toughest re-election battle of her career this fall – a surprisingly close fight with little known and under-funded Republican Gates Town Supervisor Mark Assini – Democratic Rep. Louise Slaughter is not ruling out seeking a 16th term in 2016.

Slaughter, 85, said last night during a CapTon interview that her near loss to Assini did not cause her to reassess her future.

“Not a whit; not a bit,” the veteran NY-25 representative said.

Slaughter admitted she “could have done a better job” during this election cycle, though she suggested her weak spot was “messaging” and not necessarily a failure to perform on behalf of her district.

Asked if she’ll run again in two years, the congresswoman, who recently lost her husband and has been reluctant to discuss when – and if – she might retire from public life, responded:

“Look, I plan on doing the very best job I can.”

“The way I see this, Liz, is I work as hard as I can for two years, doing everything I can for my constituents and my district, and then put myself up for them to judge whether they think that’s good or not.”

“You know, when people talk about term limits, that’s the ultimate term limit. It’s up to the constituents.”

Slaughter was widely expected to face her toughest challenge two years ago after redistricting placed almost all of Monroe County into NY-25 and spurred the local county executive and GOP rising star, Maggie Brooks, to throw her hat into the ring.

After a multimillion dollar campaign, Slaughter emerged victorious.

She was not viewed as vulnerable this year. But a combination of lingering anger upstate over the SAFE Act and low turnout proved toxic for Slaughter, providing an in for Assini.

The 2016 race will have a very different dynamic, thanks to a wide open presidential race that will boost turnout in this Democrat-dominated state – especially Westchester County resident Hillary Clinton is the party’s nominee.

Assini has managed to raise his profile considerably, however. If he decides to run again in two years, he will no doubt receive at least some support from the state and national Republican parties – a far cry from the under-the-radar campaign he ran this past year.

Here and Now (Updated)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Erie County; he’s staying in Buffalo to monitor the storm recovery process. UPDATE: The governor is doing a round of TV interviews this morning, and will host a storm briefing.

At 7:10 a.m., Cuomo is a guest on CNN’s “New Day”, co-hosted by his brother, Chris Cuomo.

At 7:20 a.m., Cuomo will appear on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

At 7:30 a.m., Cuomo is on AMHQ with Sam Champion on The Weather Channel.

At 8:30 a.m., Regent Harry Phillips and staff from the state Education Department will visit Saunders Trades and Technical High School, 183 Palmer Rd., Yonkers.

Also at 8:30 a.m., NYC Public Advocate Tish James speaks at the New America Alliance 14th Annual Wall Street Summit, at 301 Park Ave., Manhattan.

At 9 a.m., Cuomo holds a storm briefing, Thruway Authority Facility, 1870 Walden Ave., Cheektowaga.

Also at 9 a.m., NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer speaks at the New America Alliance Pension Fund Diversity Day, in the Vanderbilt Room of the Waldorf Astoria, 301 Park Ave., Manhattan.

At 10 a.m., members of the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission hold a monthly public meeting; 19th floor, 33 Beaver St., Manhattan.

At 11 a.m., Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins will be a guest on “The Capitol Pressroom” with Susan Arbetter.

Also at 11 a.m., Environment New York’s campaign director, Heather Leibowitz, Sen. Kevin Parker, Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal and a representative of the New York Solar Energy Industries Association discuss a new report titled “Star Power: The Growing Role of Solar Energy in New York”; The Solaire apartment complex, 20 River Terrace, Manhattan.

Also at 11 a.m., research by the Healthy Schools Network is released, illustrating the risk that crude oil trains pose to children in the Hudson Valley, Kingston Home Port and Education Center on the grounds of the Hudson River Maritime Museum, 50 Rondout Landing, Kingston.

At 11:45 a.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio hosts a media roundtable with Corrections Commissioner Joseph Ponte to discuss reforms to the Corrections Department, Blue Room, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 12:30 p.m., Glenn Coleman, editor of Crain’s New York Business will join NYC Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen for an “armchair discussion” on the city’s future, followed by her keynote speech, Sheraton New York Times Square, 811 Seventh Ave., Manhattan.

At 1:30 p.m., the Suffolk County Human Rights Commission hosts a free public forum entitled “Children: Protecting our Future” to coincide with the UN’s Universal Children’s Day, Suffolk County Community College, Brentwood.

At 4 p.m., Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance participates in multiple panel discussions at the two-day “Justice, Race, and Prosecution” symposium convened by Harvard Law School and the Vera Institute of Justice, Harvard Law School, Cambridge, MA.

At 5 p.m., the Brooklyn Community Pride Center hosts 4th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance, including a march across the Brooklyn Bridge, Columbus Park North Plaza (in front of the U.S. District Court Building), Manhattan.

At 5:30 p.m., advocates and community leaders host a “teach-in” on minimum wage laws, Westminster Presbyterian Church 262 State St., Albany.

At 6 p.m., retiring Sen. Greg Ball holds a “hall of fame” night for local veterans, Mahopac Falls Elementary School, 100 Myrtle Ave., Mahopac.

Also at 6 p.m., US Attorney and US AG nominee Loretta Lynch receives an award presented by NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray during the Peace Islands Institute’s benefit gala; The Plaza hotel, 768 Fifth Ave., Manhattan.

At 7 p.m., the Chelsea Reform Democratic Club hosts Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh to discuss his election reform legislation, which includes the Voter Friendly Ballot Act, Hudson Guild, Elliott Center, 441 West 26th Street between 9th and 10th avenues, Manhattan.

At 8 p.m., former NYC Mayor David Dinkins receives Ted Weiss Lifetime Achievement Award, Schwab House, West End Avenue between 73rd and 74th streets, Manhattan.

Also at 8 p.m., New Yorkers for Immigration Reform holds watch parties to coincide with President Obama’s speech on the subject, 32BJ, 25 West 18th St., Manhattan.


Gov. Andrew Cuomo traveled to Buffalo to view the storm clean-up process first hand, and said it will likely take four to five days to fully dig out from the “historic” amount of snow the area received.

“There is going to be a bit of work ahead of us in the next few days,” Cuomo said. “This is a very difficult situation to deal with.”

Another two feet of snow is expected to accumulate on the already snow-smothered heart of Erie County by the end of the day.

Cuomo toured the shut down Thruway and visited stranded truckers. He went from a Thruway Authority facility near the Walden Galleria in Cheektowaga west down the Thruway to just past the exit to Route 219.

After a similar incident on the Thruway four years ago, state officials had promised that motorists never again would be stranded on the highway during a snowstorm. Those who were this time had no one to blame but themselves, Cuomo said. That didn’t sit well with the stuck motorists or their families.

The local Thruway director in WNY contradicted Cuomo’s claim that the highway was closed in a timely manner. “If we knew those bands were going to hit (Tuesday morning) at that time and they were going to be that heavy, then certainly we would have made that decision,” Tom Pericak said.

At least seven people have died as a result of the storm. (An eighth death was confirmed this morning).

Whether the Bills-Jets game will take place as scheduled at Ralph Wilson Stadium Sunday remains an open question.

New York saw a significant drop in the number of candidates who passed teacher certification tests last year as tougher exams were introduced. Officials portrayed the results as a long-needed move to raise the level of teaching and the performance of teacher preparation schools.

Nicole Gelinas, an analyst with the fiscally conservative Manhattan Institute, said the new Tappan Zee Bridge “really threatens to overwhelm the Thruway’s capital plan over the next decade,” and will require double-digit tolls.

In a written response to the warnings, Thruway Executive Director Thomas Madison said motorists using other parts of the highway won’t be tapped for Tappan Zee bridge costs.

Looming fare and toll increases by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will likely be overshadowed by a bigger battle over overall transit funding next year.

More >


Buffalo’s reputation as America’s blizzard capital is now solidified.

More snow is on the way.

Watch all of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s media briefing on the WNY storm here.

The Buffalo Bills are snowed in, and it’s unclear whether they’ll be able to clear 4 feet of snow at Ralph Wilson Stadium in time to host the New York Jets on Sunday.

“If the Buffalo Bills were truly that dedicated to the community they serve, they would offer residents $10/hour to help dig out their neighbors who can’t help themselves.”

The members of the NYC rock band Interpol are among those stranded in Buffalo storm. They’re relying on “dry goods and vodka” for sustenance.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio advised the eventual 2016 Democratic presidential nominee – which could “well be” Hillary Clinton – to shift leftward by embracing a platform of resolving income inequality.

“A lot about her history and origins suggest it’s natural for her. If you go back to the work she did originally, it gets to these same issues, what she did with the Children’s Defense Fund, what she did on family medical leave, what she did on health-care reform,” de Blasio said of Clinton.

President Obama released a Facebook video previewing his immigration announcement, which is expected tomorrow.

Oswego’s former mayor John Gosek got a lighter prison sentence eight years ago because he tipped off the FBI to possible corruption involving a public official.

Cuomo administration officials have asked David Wick to resign from his post as executive director of the Lake George Park Commission, and are urging commissioners to fire him if he refuses to step down.

The state’s Medicaid Inspector General, James Cox, will join a number of first-term Cuomo appointees who are departing the administration.

LG Bob Duffy’s hire as the new president of the Rochester Business Alliance raises ethical questions, according to NYPIRG’s Blair Horner.

Duffy said he’s been in regular contact with the state’s ethics bodies, and they’ve advised him there has been and would not be any conflicts with his new post.

What will Team Cuomo look like in Term II after all these high level departures?

A massive free health care clinic scheduled for Black Friday at the Javits Center in Manhattan was cancelled because Cuomo refused to grant the organization running it a required waiver.

Less than a quarter of NYC voters think the mayor’s spouse should have a “major role” in developing public policy, and more than 60 percent say she doesn’t need a chief of staff, a new Q poll found.

De Blasio dismissed the poll, which showed a racial divide in the city over his performance at City Hall. He questioned the validity of the survey and blamed the media for any racial disparity.

US Sen. Charles Schumer says teachers across the nation deserve to have an expired tax break brought back to life by Congress before its lame-duck session ends.

Actor Robert De Niro says he’ll reimburse a town nearly $130,000 in legal fees it incurred defending its assessment of his Hudson Valley property.

The Rev. Al Sharpton blasted a New York Times story detailing years of unpaid taxes, accusing the newspaper of writing a “misleading” and blatantly political piece about past issues that he claimed were long resolved.

Timothy Killeen, who for the past two years has served as the president of the SUNY Research Foundation, will leave New York to become the next president of the University of Illinois.

Cuomo shot down former LG Richard Ravitch’s suggestion that a new gas tax could be used to pay for the state’s mounting infrastructure needs.

De Blasio said he hasn’t smoked pot since college, and couldn’t these days due to the 24/7 nature of his job.

Over the past four years, New York voters have drifted away from the major parties.

Two of the honorary chairs of NewDEAL – Govs. Martin O’Malley and Jack Markell – announced the finalists of the group’s New Ideas Challenge.

Here and Now

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

At 9:10 a.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio delivers remarks at the M/WBE citywide procurement fair, West Conference Room, 10th Floor – BNY Mellon, 101 Barclay St., Manhattan.

At 10 a.m., Assemblyman Karim Camara and health experts to announce to require health warning labels on certain beverages with added sugar, the size of the warning label being dictated by the size of the drink, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

Also at 10 a.m., the New York City Public Campaign Finance Board holds a public meeting, 100 Church St., 12th Floor, Manhattan.

Also at 10 a.m., the Assembly will hold a public hearing to examine the status of inmates with mental illness in the state’s prisons and local jails and to determine whether changes may be needed to appropriately address the treatment of mentally ill prisoners, Legislative Office Building, 2nd Floor, Hearing Room C, Albany.

Also at 10 a.m., The Educational Conference Board, a coalition of major statewide education organizations, will hold a news conference in the LCA Press Room to release a report, “Turning the Corner: With an improved fiscal condition, New York can lead the way for sustainable educational progress.”

Also at 10 a.m., Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz receives his flu shot, Edward A. Rath County Office Building, 16th Floor, 95 Franklin St., Buffalo.

At 10:30 a.m., the Public Service Commission meets, Empire Plaza, Agency Building 3, 19th floor, Albany.

At 11 a.m., as the governor’s wage board holds its third public hearing, workers and advocates will call on the Wage Board to eliminate the sub-minimum wage for the 230,000 tipped workers in New York State, Mahoney State Office Building, Hearing Room Part 6, 65 Court St., Buffalo.

Also at 11 a.m., officials from NYPA, NYC HHC, Coney Island Hospital and National Grid will be joined by state and local officials to announce the completion of a $21 million storm resiliency and energy efficiency project at the hospital, Hospital Auditorium, 2601 Ocean Pkwy., Brooklyn.

Also at 11 a.m., the Food Bank For New York City distribute Thanksgiving turkeys and other holiday trimmings to local residents hit the hardest by Sandy, NYCHA Parking lot, 14-64 Beach Channel Drive, Far Rockaway, Queens.

At 12:30 p.m., local elected officials, NYSEG ratepayers, and anti-fracking climate activists hold a press briefing on the proposal to keep the Cayuga Power plant functioning by converting it to natural gas, state Capitol, 3rd floor (outside LCA offices), Albany.

At 1 p.m., Rockefeller College of Public Affairs & Policy at the University at Albany will present a symposium on U.S. immigration reform and state-level immigration policymaking, Rockefeller Institute of Government, 411
State St., Albany.

At 1:45 p.m., Sens. Michael Gianaris and Joe Addabbo and Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas and community and veteran leaders will hold a press conference to announce passage of their bill offering increased property tax relief to veterans throughout the state, which has been signed into law by the governor, Veterans Memorial at Astoria Park, Queens.

At 8 p.m., de Blasio speaks at the Sansone Foundation Dinner, Dyker Beach Golf Course, 1030 86th St., Brooklyn.


Andrew Barovick has finally departed the city’s prestigious bar association after making racist tweets against Chris Moss, the GOP’s black candidate for lieutenant governor.

The head of New York’s health insurance exchange says the state is ready for the second round of annual enrollment, which kicks off Saturday for plans offering coverage in 2015.

New York has committed $206 million to four large upstate clean energy projects.

Seven women who worked as legislative aides for former Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak and suffered from unchecked workplace abuse are going to court, according to interviews and litigation papers scheduled to be filed on Thursday by six of the plaintiffs.

Mayor Bill de Blasio offered some unsolicited advice to red-state Democrats on Wednesday, suggesting they might have survived a Republican wave last week if they had only stuck to the “core principles” that helped him win in New York City last year.

The use of chokeholds to restrain police suspects should not be made illegal, even though they are “not an appropriate tool,” Mayor de Blasio said Wednesday.

New York City recorded the largest quarterly increase in private-sector jobs in 24 years during the third quarter, according to a report to be released Thursday from city Comptroller Scott Stringer.

Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney, announced a program on Wednesday under which $35 million in civil forfeiture assets will be used to help other cities and states tackle their own (rape-kit) backlogs, which, nationally, total in the hundreds of thousands.

President Obama’s landmark agreement with China to cut greenhouse gas pollution is a bet by the president and Democrats that on the issue of climate change, American voters are far ahead of Washington’s warring factions and that the environment will be a winning cause in the 2016 presidential campaign.

With so many traditionally appealing snack foods prohibited during the school day, students are having a hard time raising funds for their extracurricular activities.

Rochester city officials have intervened in the Democrat and Chronicle‘s lawsuit seeking access to certain license plate records. The Democrat and Chronicle filed suit against Monroe County in October after the county refused to honor a Freedom of Information request for police license-plate records stored in a county database.

While holding the property tax rate flat for the 11th straight year and closing a project $31 million budget shortfall, Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks on Wednesday again proposed cuts to daycare subsidies for the working poor.

A top U.S. health official says long-anticipated clinical trials of a possible Ebola vaccine will start soon in West Africa.

Next year, House Republicans will try again to transformMedicare and Medicaid, repeal the Affordable Care Act, shrink domestic spending and substantially cut the highest tax rates through the budget process. Then they will leave it to the new Senate Republican majority to decide how far to press the party’s small-government vision, senior House aides said this week.

If you pick up this month’s issues of Food & Wine, Saveur, Martha Stewart Living, and Cooking Light, you won’t find turkey on any cover.


New York City firefighters this afternoon rescued two window washers who became suspended 69 stories above the street while working at the newly completed 1 World Trade Center.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver shot down calls from some advocates that any potential legislative pay raise be linked to passage of a bill to again hike the state’s minimum wage.

Sen. John DeFrancisco said he would vote for a raise if the legislation was proposed – as long as it wasn’t tied to anything else. Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton would vote “yes” on either a linked or unlinked pay raise bill.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the launch of the state’s official website,, which has been redesigned for the first time in 15 years to be more user-centric.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio was close to 20 minutes late to a memorial service commemorating the 14th anniversary of the crash of Flight 587 in Belle Harbor, infuriating grieving relatives.

According to his office, the mayor traveled to the ceremony by boat from Gracie Mansion, in Manhattan, “and the boat was delayed due to heavy fog.”

New York City has enrolled 53,230 students in pre-kindergarten centers this year, reaching its enrollment target of 53,000.

De Blasio, in an election post mortem for the Huffington Post: “(A)s a progressive, I know my party need not search for its soul – but rather, its backbone.”

Senate Republicans, fresh off their victory on Election Day, will be in Albany on Monday for a conference. (Sen. Simcha Felder will attend, but the IDC members apparently won’t be there).

Echoing one of her dad’s bedrock campaign themes, Chiara de Blasio said a lack of resources can prevent young people from getting the care they need to fight depression and addiction.

The House freshman class of 2015 is in D.C. for orientation, and they have a lot of work ahead of them just to learn the ropes.

Shares of Ocwen Financial closed up 4.92 percent after Bloomberg reported Financial Services Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky plans to leave for a private sector post. (He’s investigating the company).

NYRA Chairman Christopher Kay said that racing operations will produce $1.5 million in surplus this year and even more in the next two years.

The state Public Service Commission is once again putting off a vote on the proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie doesn’t intend to resign if he decides to run for president in 2016, a top aide said.

Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman is creating a committee to study possible changes to the way New York tests candidates for admission to bar. The NYS Bar Association approves.

Rep. Charlie Rangel, long opposed to military interventions abroad, said that if President Obama can show him how exactly ISIS directly threatens his constituents, he’ll volunteer for the war effort.

Next up on the 2016 hopefuls’ book list: Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s second tome, “American Dreams: Restoring Economic Opportunity for Everyone,” which will be released in January.

Public Advocate Letitia James told a business group this morning she’d seek to create a pooled retirement fund for any New Yorker whose employer doesn’t offer a pension plan.

Former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg in a wrap dress. (Sorta)

Senate Democrats Ding Republicans On ‘Affirmative Consent’

The election is over, but the Senate Democrats have not given up on accusing their Republican counterparts of being out of touch with the needs of New York women.

At issue this time is Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to redefine “consent” for adjudicating sexual assault allegations on college campuses. The use of an “affirmative consent” standard, which requires passivity or the absence of the word “no” to be interpreted as a lack of consent to sexual activity, has been questioned by conservatives and libertarians both in New York and nationally.

At Cuomo’s urging, SUNY recently adopted a new sexual assault policy that includes affirmative consent, and the governor is expected to push for legislation in the 2015 session that would extend that to all campuses across the state.

Sen. Ken LaValle, a Long Island Republican who chairs the Senate’s Higher Education Committee, raised questions about affirmative consent during an interview with Capital’s Jessica Bakeman.

“(S)o, two people have sexual intercourse, and consent has been given,” the senator said. “Does that consent have to be given again? Is it a lifelong consent? Or is it consent on Friday? On Saturday, it has to be renewed? So there are a lot of questions here. And to those people who say it has to be ongoing, it’s not a practical matter to say in a half-an-hour event, that you have to give it five or six times along the way. It’s just not practical.”

Bakeman’s story sparked a quick response from Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky, a Queens Democrat and the ranking minority member of the Higher Ed Committee.

“The Senate Republicans have once again proven that they are completely out of touch with the needs of New York’s women,” Stewart-Cousins said. It is offensive that they are questioning these common sense protections​. ​There has been an epidemic of sexual violence in this country that is truly disturbing and it is plaguing​ ​college campuses​.”

“​New York​ ​must lead the way on this important issue and ensure the safety and safeguard the rights of ​all​ our students.​”

Stavisky said the Legislature has a responsibility to address the issue of sexual assault on campus and protect female students in New York. She accused the Senate Republicans of “again putting their extremist views ahead of serving the public,” adding:

“The Senate Republicans should stop opposing common sense initiatives to combat sexual abuse and work with the Governor, State Assembly and the Senate Democratic Conference to ensure all New York students are safe and secure on college campuses.”

Women’s issues – particularly abortion rights – were a main focus of contested races that determined control of the Senate this past election cycle. Democrats – including Cuomo – hammered Republicans for refusing to pass the governor’s full 10-point Women’s Equality Act due to the presence of a controversial abortion rights plank, and Cuomo even created a new party (the Women’s Equality Party) to woo this key voting bloc.

Cuomo’s WEA does not specifically address sexual assault on college campuses, though it does have two provisions designed to crack down on domestic violence and one to combat human trafficking.

NYS Veterans Affairs Director: Pension Sweetener ‘Not Dead’

The governor has been under fire for vetoing a bill – just in time for Veteran’s Day – that would have boosted the pensions of public employees who served in the military.

The measure, which passed both houses of the Legislature with near-unanimous support earlier this year, would have allowed veterans from any era and during peacetime to buy back up to three years of service credit in the state retirement system.

The buy-back program is currently only available to veterans who served in specific conflicts, but not – most notably – Iraq and Afghanistan.

Cuomo said the legislation, approved in the final days of the 2014 session, would run “roughshod” over the pension reforms put in place on his watch, and also saddle local governments with “additional, unmanageable burdens.”

Appearing on CapTon last night, NYS Director of Veterans Affairs Eric Hesse offered some hope to those who would have been impacted by the bill Cuomo nixed, saying it could still get done as part of next year’s budget.

Hesse said he hasn’t heard a significant backlash from the veterans served by his agency, and admitted he initially had “some questions” about the governor’s veto.

“I’m glad I’m not in a position where I have to veto legislation,” Hesse said.

“But I have had to make tough decisions, and when the New York State Mayors Association and counties and municipalities are saying this tax burden becomes ours – in the near term $57 million (a year), and to the City of New York potentially $18 million a year – you know, it’s in my opinion the right decision.”

“The way the governor said that we should do this is to look at it as part of the budget process,” Hesse continued.

“So, the idea is not dead. The idea still has potential. Let’s just do it as part of the budget rather than passing these unforseen costs off to the counties and municipalities that really can’t afford them.”

Fighting Words

Two nights ago on Capital Tonight – and subsequently highlighted on SoP – two progressive leaders warned of a significant backlash if state lawmakers dare to raise their own pay without also giving another boost to New York’s hourly minimum wage.

Strong Economy for All’s Mike Kink said there would be “widespread civil disobedience” if the Legislature doesn’t link these two issues together. He appeared on the show with Karen Scharff, executive director of Citizen Action of New York and co-chair of the labor-backed Working Families Party.

Kink’s words did not sit well with one New York City assemblyman, who, unlike many of his colleagues, was willing to speak publicly – and strongly – in favor of raising the $79,500 base pay for state lawmakers, who haven’t seen an increase since early 1999.

“I would have NO problem voting for an increase in the base pay for NYS legislators,” Assemblyman Michael DenDekker, a Queens Democrat wrote in an email.

“In fact, if legislators’ base pay was indexed to the increases to the minimum wage, (from 4.25 an hour to 8.00 an hour), the current salary would be $149,647.05.”

“As someone who is a staunch advocate for labor, there is absolutely no job title that has never received a cost of living increase for 16 years,” the assemblyman continued.

“I am completely supportive of increasing the minimum wage, as well as fair cost of living increases for NYS legislators.”

DenDekker is a relatively new member of the Assembly, first elected in 2008. He hails from a city with a high cost of living, where the base pay for a NYC Council member is $112,500 – thanks to the 25 percent increase the body approved in 2006.

The Assembly is a seniority-driven chamber, and there are far more members in the Democrats’ majority conference than there are committee chairmanships and leadership posts to go around.

That means most Assembly members have to wait years before they get a title that affords them a stipend – known in Albany as a lulu – on top of their base pay.

Of course, there’s always per diems that help offset the costs of travel, lodging and meals when lawmakers are in Albany. But the per diem system is under fire, with widespread calls for reform, thanks to abuse by several members that lead to criminal charges.

DenDekker said he was offended that any advocate could “even suggest” a worker should go 16 years without a pay raise – especially one who has, as he put it, “rallied for workers pay, walked picket lines and voted to increase the min wage in my current position.”

“I would also ask all the advocates: What was your pay 16 years ago?” the assemblyman concluded.

Kink and Scharff added their voices to a call for legislators to return to Albany before the start of the January 2015 session – when the Senate will officially be under GOP control – to take action on a measure that would raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, index future increases to the rate of inflation and also give municipalities the power to hike their own hourly wages as much as 30 percent higher than the state set “floor.”

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, who did not endear himself to the Senate Republicans by helping the Democrats in their failed attempt to re-take the majority, yesterday called for the Legislature to approve an increase in the state minimum wage “whenever it first can be done.”

“I certainly look forward to talking to the governor about whether there will or will not be” a special session,” the mayor said.

But in a radio interview last week, the governor said he didn’t believe a special session was needed – not even to confirm his latest Court of Appeals nominee, Judge Leslie Stein.

A Cuomo aide told the Wall Street Journal: “We have not heard from any legislative leader that they have the votes or desire to pass anything.”

Here and Now

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

At 8 a.m., NYC Public Advocate Tish James addresses ABNY members during a breakfast event; Alvin and Carnegie rooms, conference level, Grand Hyatt New York hotel, 109 E. 42nd St., Manhattan.

Also at 8 a.m., the blue spruce that will light up Empire State Plaza this holiday season begins its journey to Albany from its current home at 834 Woodland Ave., Schenectady. (The tree is being donated by the VanAken family).

Also at 8 a.m., to introduce a nonprofit journalism project at New York Law School’s Impact Center for Public Interest Law that will report on the criminal justice system, officials from “The Marshall Project” – including the project’s founder and chairman, documentary filmmaker Neil Barsky, and the project’s editor, former The New York Times executive editor Bill Keller – speak during a news conference; 185 W. Broadway, Manhattan.

At 9:05 a.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio delivers remarks at the Flight 587 13th annual memorial service, Flight 587 Memorial Park, Beach 116th Street, Queens.

At 11 a.m., online publisher AOL Inc. CEO Tim Armstrong, NYC Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen, the dean and vice provost of Cornell University’s Cornell Tech graduate school in Manhattan, Daniel Huttenlocher, and EDC President Kyle Kimball discuss the formation of a “Connected Experiences Laboratory” at the graduate school; third floor, 111 Eighth Ave., Manhattan.

Also at 11 a.m., SUNY Commissioner Bruce McBride and Deputy Commissioner Paul Berger will honor officers from campuses across SUNY for heroism and professional service, SUNY Plaza, Federal Building, Small Courtroom, 353 Broadway, Albany.

Also at 11 a.m., Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle and Monroe County Legislator Justin Wilcox announce the launch a three-part Cybersecurity Panel Series, Ebenezer Watts Conference Center, Large Conference Room, 49 South Fitzhugh St., Rochester.

Also at 11 a.m., MTA officials will join disabled subway customers to challenge app developers to build apps that can help transit riders – particularly the disabled – better navigate the MTA transit system, Grand Central, 42nd Street Subway Station, Manhattan.

Also at 11 a.m., state Education Commissioner John King delivers keynote at forum on pre-kindergarten, Rockefeller Institute of Government, 411 State St., Albany.

At 12:30 p.m., LG Bob Duffy attends a groundbreaking ceremony for the Robert Moses Parkway Reconfiguration, between John Daly Boulevard and 4th Street, Niagara Falls.

At 1:20 p.m., de Blasio appears on “Keepin’ It Real” with the Rev. Al Sharpton. Listen live:

At 1:30 p.m., NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray will attend the Hope for Depression Research Foundation’s Annual Hope Luncheon Seminar, where her daughter, Chiara de Blasio, will be honored, 583 Park Ave., Manhattan.

At 2:00 p.m., de Blasio and NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina tour a classroom and then make an announcement, Spruce Street School, 12 Spruce St., Manhattan.

At 4 p.m., anti-frackers will protest the Independent Oil & Gas Association of NY’s annual event to tell keynote speaker Jack Hubbard – an oil and gas industry lobbyist – to “go back to Washington,” Hyatt Regency, Pearl and W. Huron Streets, Buffalo

At 6:15 p.m., former NYC Mayor Bloomberg, architecture critic Paul Goldberger and New Museum Director Lisa Phillips speak during The Dorothy & Lillian Gish Prize award ceremony and reception honoring artist, designer and environmentalist Maya Lin; The Museum of Modern Art, 11 W. 53rd St., Manhattan.

At 6 p.m., Manhattan BP Gale Brewer and Farina hold a town hall meeting on getting involved with Community Education Councils, discussion of new initiatives, technology in schools (post passage of Prop. 3), John Jay College, 524 West 59th St., Manhattan.

At 6:30 p.m., members of the NYC Civilian Complaint Review Board hold a monthly public meeting; Adult Lounge, main floor, Mosholu Montefiore Community Center, 3450 Dekalb Ave., the Bronx.

At approximately 8 p.m., de Blasio appears live on “All In With Chris Hayes” on MSNBC.


New York City’s defense against the Ebola epidemic — and at least the hypothetical threat that it will percolate through the city’s mass transit system, schools and dense neighborhoods — is a 24-hour-a-day operation now keeping track of almost 300 people, believed to be the largest monitoring effort in the country.

In the days before his release from New York’s Bellevue Hospital Center, Dr. Craig Spencer was able to enjoy some small luxuries as he completed his course of treatment for the Ebola virus. He played the banjo, communicated with friends and family electronically, and watched sports on TV.

Spencer’s fiancee has been released from quarantine.

Like other recovered Ebola patients before him, Spencer faces an uncertain welcome from his Harlem community and neighbors upon his return.

Health workers on the front line of the Ebola crisis say the need for urgent help isn’t letting up, as Congress begins considering President Barack Obama’s $6.2 billion emergency aid request to fight the disease.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio pushed the state Legislature to approve an increase in the state minimum wage “whenever it first can be done” – a request that comes as labor advocates and some elected officials encourage Gov. Andrew Cuomo to call a special legislative session before the year’s end.

Pro-charter groups who spent millions on advertising, lobbying and campaigns in the fall want favorable treatment from the Legislature and Cuomo. They seek to limit de Blasio’s control of charter schools, expand funding and lift the cap on charters in New York, allowing for the creation of more such schools both in the city and across the state.

Cuomo’s plan to redefine “consent” for adjudicating sexual assault allegations on college campuses has presented a political dilemma for New York’s Republican leaders, some of whom have substantive problems with his proposal but risk fueling claims that they are anti-woman if they oppose it.

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