Liz Benjamin

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Homepage: http://nystateofpolitics.com


Posts by Liz Benjamin

Extras

Democrats will grind U.S. Senate business to a halt tonight in a protest against Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare.

The Democrats will use this “talk-a-thon” to discuss a potential bill they haven’t seen and can’t stop without the votes of at least three GOP senators if and when it reaches the floor.

President Trump may have tweeted last week that he was being investigated for firing former FBI director James Comey, but that doesn’t mean he meant it, according to White House adviser Kellyanne Conway.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled today a disparagement provision of federal trademark law violated the First Amendment in what could be a major win for the Washington Redskins.

Renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement could spill into next year, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said.

Megyn Kelly’s controversial interview with Alex Jones on NBC ended up a distant third in the network ratings race during its first half hour last night.

Former Vice President Joe Biden tops a list of prospective Democratic candidates for the 2020 presidential race in a new survey.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged transit officials to discount fares for some Long Island commuters because of disruptions planned during Amtrak’s summer repair program at Pennsylvania Station, the busiest U.S. train hub.

Cuomo once said the dilapidated Amtrak shaft carrying commuters under the Hudson River from New Jersey into Manhattan was “not my tunnel” when the federal government asked to put up state cash toward its repair, but today he insisted the project to refurbish the tube and construct a parallel conduit for trains is “desperately needed.”

Ex-lobbyist Todd Howe, likely to serve as the federal government’s key cooperating witness in a wide-ranging corruption trial this fall involving past associates of Cuomo, “has obtained employment and a residence in the District of Idaho,” his attorneys told a judge.

The state Senate unanimously passed an amended version of legislation that would provide for insurance coverage for cancers developed by volunteer firefighters during the course of their duties.

Hillary, Bill and Chelsea Clinton were spotted in the audience of “Come From Away,” a Tony Award-winning Broadway musical about the 38 planes forced to land in Gander, Newfoundland following the September 11 terrorist attacks.

New Yorkers like the revisions proposed for the “Common Core” learning standards, according to a survey released today.

Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara was in the market for a new BBQ grill this past weekend.

Cuomo today announced that the Great New York State Fair will host a professionally judged beer competition to further promote New York’s growing craft beverage industry.

In a Washington Post OpEd, Rep. Chris Collins said that he will carry a gun while traveling in his district not only to protect himself, but also to protect his constituents if “a threat to their safety, should it ever occur because of my presence.”

New York’s public water supplies need stronger protections to ensure clean drinking water and prevent contamination that could result in health problems, according to a report released today by state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office.

The DEC’s recently released unit management plan for much of the state land around the Tri-Lakes calls for sweeping changes to some popular camping areas, and for opening new campsites to offset the closure of others.

If Queens Sen. Jose Peralta jumps into the coming race to replace retiring NYC Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, he’s in for a fusillade of attacks over his membership in the IDC.

Peralta, furious after a Queens landlord sent letters to tenants demanding they prove they’re in the country legally or risk eviction, filed a complaint today with the state attorney general’s office.

This happened at the state Capitol today.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City and Albany.

The state Legislature is in session for the first day of the last scheduled week of the 2017 session.

At 11 a.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will deliver remarks at a rally on the City Hall steps in Lower Manhattan, urging the extension of mayoral control of the New York City school system immediately.

The mayor will be joined by NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina, labor leaders, clergy, business and civic leaders, advocates and elected officials

At 10 a.m., Cuomo makes an announcement, Penn Station, West End Concourse, Manhattan. (U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is also expected to attend).

At 7 p.m., de Blasio appears on NY1.

In D.C., Vice President Mike Pence will join President Donald Trump for a working luncheon with President Juan Carlos Varela of Panama.

In the afternoon, Trump will participate in an American Technology Council roundtable and reception.

Later, Pence will participate in a Tech Day CEO Working Session. In the evening, the Vice President and Second Lady Karen Pence will host House Speaker Paul Ryan and his wife, Janna Ryan, for dinner at the Vice President’s residence.

LG Kathy Hochul is also in Washinton, where continues to lead a state delegation at the U.S. ‎Dept of Commerce’s SelectUSA Summit in to promote New York to International Businesses and Trading Partners, participating in numerous meetings throughout the day.

A fuller calendar of the day’s events appears at the end of this post.

Headlines…

President Trump took to Twitter to boast about his poll numbers and progress on his agenda yesterday morning, despite what he says is a “witch hunt” against him.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security says Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke is no longer a candidate for a position in the agency.

Megyn Kelly presented a highly critical 19-minute piece on conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on her NBC newsmagazine “Sunday Night” after a week of harsh criticism over the decision to present his views on network TV.

In an era of deep partisan division, the U.S. Supreme Court could soon decide whether the drawing of electoral districts can be too political.

The governor last week painted a bleak picture of how the “big ugly” — Capitol speak for an omnibus deadline deal on unrelated bills — is shaping up with lawmakers set to leave town Wednesday.

The “meh” session is drawing to a close.

The bitter stand-off over mayoral control of city schools continued over the weekend with state Senate Republican Majority Leader John Flanagan slamming NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio for his resistance to charter schools and de Blasio arguing charters shouldn’t be part of negotiations.

Even de Blasio’s Republican opponent Paul Massey says Albany should extend mayoral control of city schools, though he charged Hizzoner has “utterly failed” at leading the public school system.

The expiration of mayoral control of city schools could cost the city up to $1.6 billion over 10 years — and the city would go after the state for the bill, according to a memo from de Blasio administration officials.

De Blasio said “corruption and chaos” await if mayoral control is allowed to sunset.

With the fate of mayoral control over the city school system hanging in the balance, insiders are amazed at how little behind-the-scenes negotiations there’s been.

With just three scheduled days left in the session and the corruption trial of several close associates of Gov. Andrew Cuomo for their roles in a bid-rigging scandal scheduled to commence in October, the Legislature has yet to pass any meaningful legislation to prevent such abuses of the procurement process.

Cuomo is set to nominate to the state Public Service Commission that oversees New York’s utilities Jim Alesi, a former state Republican senator who helped him pass gay marriage into law into 2011, sources say.

Senate Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco opposes opening a one-year legal window to revive old cases for child sex abuse survivors — yet he supports the concept for other victims.

A coalition of more than 100 groups from across the political spectrum has formed to oppose a convention to develop possible changes to the state Constitution. The coalition will run a “multifaceted” campaign starting with digital ads this week.

Add NARAL Pro-Choice America to the list of national groups urging a breakaway group of eight state Senate Democrats to break its leadership coalition with the Republicans.

As opioid-related deaths increase nationwide, Capital Region lawmakers and advocates said they fear proposed cuts to Medicaid would harm New York’s most vulnerable.

Though the Senate recently passed a bill to legalize online poker in New York, Assembly Democrats, who discussed the issue behind closed doors last week, are not expected to take it up before the legislative session’s scheduled end.

As commuters face what even Cuomo is calling a “summer of hell” because of track repairs at Penn Station, Massey is unveiling a transit infrastructure plan today to provide immediate and long-term commuter relief.

More >

The Weekend That Was

Happy Father’s Day to all you dads and granddads out there.

When President Donald Trump tweeted the exact words “I am being investigated” last week, he did not actually mean that he is being investigated, his lawyer claimed.

The denial by Jay Sekulow, one of several personal lawyers Trump has hired to represent him in the Russia case, is the latest of many examples in which the president’s aides and lawyers have scrambled to avert a public-relations mess created by the preident’s tweets, off-script remarks or leaked private conversations.

Six members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS abruptly resigned this week, citing the Trump administration’s neglect in fighting the health epidemic.

Trump on Saturday headed to Camp David, the government-owned complex he’s ignored since taking office five months ago. He has stayed away from the 82-year-old wooded estate in western Maryland in favor of his own resorts in Florida and New Jersey.

Rep. Steve Scalise has improved following another round of surgeries and is speaking with loved ones, officials said. His condition has been upgraded to “serious.”

Scalise was in “imminent risk of death” when he was flown to a trauma center last Wednesday after being shot during an ambush of a GOP congressional baseball team practicing on a Virginia field.

Former President Barack Obama’s Father’s Day message was very different from Trump’s.

After more than 50 hours of deliberations over five days, the jury in the Bill Cosby case was unable to reach a unanimous verdict on any of the three charges the entertainer was facing. With a deadlocked jury, Judge Steven T. O’Neill declared a mistrial.

Michael Caputo, a Western New York political adviser and former aide to Trump’s presidential campaign, reportedly has been contacted by the FBI regarding the special counsel’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

With just three days left before the end of the state legislative session, lawmakers are hopeful of passing a scaled-down version of the “Buy American” plan for state contracting proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in January.

Cuomo says he’s not buying Rep. Chris Collins’ call for political civility in the wake of the attack on a fellow GOP congressman.

State Sen. Fred Akshar, a former law enforcement officer, says he might consider arming himself in the future.

Only two members of a special panel put together by Cuomo voted against approving the use of familial DNA to solve violent crimes.

In what some believe is a first of its kind proceeding in Albany that starts Thursday, state Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia will hear arguments from both sides before issuing a ruling on the fate of Buffalo City School Board member Carl Paladino.

Two Paladino allies on the board – At-Large Board Members Larry Quinn and Patricia Pierce – were the only two who didn’t vote for his removal. They are expected to provide key testimony for his defense.

The effort to remove Paladino underscores the long-standing tensions that have dogged the factious Buffalo School Board, tensions that escalated after he was first elected in 2013.

Some blame recent flooding on the agency overseeing the Great Lakes, the International Joint Commission, saying that it failed to release enough water from the lake before spring’s arrival and that the consequences reflected the concerns raised by the plan’s opponents.

A Queens man put his health on the line to help remove hazardous material from Ground Zero — and now immigration authorities want him removed from the country over a 30-year-old criminal case.

No group in NYC has amassed more political clout than the teachers union, which has scored a new contract for its members, helped block charter schools from expanding, pushed for the renewal of mayoral control of city schools, and ensured the city education budget continues to soar.

All members of the Troy Police Department’s Drug Unit have been placed on administrative leave.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was scheduled today to announce a $1 million grant from Google.org, the internet giant’s philanthropic wing, to The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center, to start a project preserving the oral histories and human experiences of the people who stood up and fought back during those tense days in 1969.

Ginia Bellafante: “The lack of an African-American challenger in the mayoral race highlights the absence of a rising generation of black politicians in New York.”

Mayor Byron Brown said he was shocked to learn the FBI has raided Grassroots, a local political organization in Buffalo, the Urban Chamber of Commerce and its founder’s home.

The cast of the Public Theater’s “Julius Caesar” in Central Park has blood on its hands, according to the protester who broke up the show’s pivotal assassination scene Friday night.

One person is dead and six other people have been sickened in an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, the city health department announced.

A whistleblower triumphed in a 20-year battle with City Hall in NYC, winning more than $1 million to compensate for a pay cut and demotion he suffered after reporting corruption.

Three-quarters of the NYC subway lines are plagued by chronically late trains, and five lines are late more than 50 percent of the time, according to MTA data for the first three months of the year.

Several Long Island villages hold elections for mayor and board seats on Tuesday, including contested elections in six villages.

The Buffalo News and two New York City tabloids have gone to court seeking to unseal the legal documents surrounding efforts to dissolve the ubiquitous Cellino and Barnes law partnership.

Rep. Brian Higgins called on the Trump administration to avoid policy changes that would endanger Roswell Park Cancer Institute’s work on a promising lung cancer drug developed in Cuba.

More than 200 New Yorkers took to the streets of Harlem on Saturday to protest the acquittal of the Minnesota cop who fatally shot Philando Castile last year.

As some worry about market saturation, the discussion over the state’s gaming policy is heating up as lawmakers are pushing to legalize online poker less than a year after three casinos opened upstate.

Brooke Guinan, the FDNY’s first transgender firefighter, has been named one of three grand marshals at Manhattan’s Pride Parade, with the others being Gay Men’s Health Crisis Communications Director Krishna Stone and Geng Le, an LGBTQ leader in China.

Brooklyn’s Prospect Park boosters spent $2.34 million in taxpayer money to install four composting toilets, which will collect human waste that they hope can be spread around the park as fertilizer one day.

After heavy pressure from top Erie County Democrats, Common Council staffer Clayton Hoyt, son of former Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, said Friday that he will not seek the County Legislature seat soon to be vacated by Democrat Betty Jean Grant.

The economic pain from Penn Station’s crumbling infrastructure and the Long Island Rail Road’s service disruptions could last years, rippling beyond train riders and the businesses where they work.

The town of Oyster Bay has filed a lawsuit against two contractors that worked on the troubled Hicksville parking garage that serves the Long Island Rail Road.

An inmate at the Auburn Correctional Facility allegedly punched an officer in the face, temporarily knocking him unconscious, and fracturing the left side of his jaw, according to the state Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association.

RIP Larry Sutton, a 66-year-old former Daily News writer and a long-admired figure in city journalism circles, who died suddenly Saturday.

Extras

President Trump acknowledged publicly for the first time today that he was under investigation in the expanding inquiry into Russian influence in the election, and he appeared to attack the integrity of the Justice Department official in charge of leading it.

Trump is restoring some travel and economic restrictions on Cuba that were lifted as part of the Obama administration’s historic easing, and challenging the communist government of Raul Castro to negotiate a better deal for Cubans and Cuban-Americans.

Rep. John Katko says he will support Trump’s plan to impose new restrictions on travel between the United States and Cuba, rolling back efforts to normalize relations with the island nation.

Nearly two-thirds of Americans disapprove of the job Trump is doing in the White House, according to a new Associated Press/NORC poll.

Vice President Mike Pence has hired a lawyer known for defending government officials in high-profile investigations to help him with probes into whether there were ties between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia, his office said.

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has reached a settlement with what he termed a “shell” breast cancer charity that was raising lots of money but keeping 92 percent of the proceeds rather than administering medical care.

Western New York GOP activist Michael Caputo has hired former state AG Dennis Vacco to represent him in the Russia probe.

A HUD spokesman denied reports that the president had appointed Lynne Patton, an event planner who arranged Eric Trump’s wedding, to lead the regional office that oversees federal housing in New York.

Activist Akeem Browder, whose younger brother Kalief committed suicide at age 22 in 2015 after being locked for years on Rikers Island for a crime he didn’t commit, it running for mayor of NYC on the Green Party line.

As part of the jobs plan he announced yesterday, de Blasio wants to hire a nightlife ambassador, who would serve as a liaison between city government and local music venues and clubs.

In a historic move which could change the face of criminal investigations, a state panel has approved the use of familial DNA to solve crimes, officials said.

Kirk Jones, a Niagara Falls daredevil who made a splash in 2003 as the first person to take the plunge with no protection, has died after apparently making his second attempt at the stunt.

Former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg supports single payer health care, though he admits the politics of that don’t work at the moment.

For the first time, the FDA has asked that an opioid pain medication be pulled from the market due to “the public health consequences of abuse.”

The state Senate passed bills that would let several New York racetracks keep more tax revenue as a way to boost business amid growing casino competition, but it’s unclear if the package will be passed in the Assembly before the session ends.

Bill Hammond: “State legislators have taken their mania for insurance mandates to a new extreme: They’ve passed a bill that arguably accomplishes nothing other than covering unnecessary mammograms.”

Outgoing SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher is sticking around a little longer than originally planned.

Onondaga Nation School parents gathered this morning at the Longhouse, walked to the school as a group and removed their children from the building in protest as nation leaders declare that the school year is now over.

Syracuse just got one step closer to a toll-free Thruway. A bill from Sen. John DeFrancisco authorizing commuter permits unanimously passed his chamber, and now heads to the Assembly.

The Research Foundation for SUNY, which oversees nearly $1 billion in grants at SUNY schools, had to go back and correct its 2015 financial statements – to the tune of almost $250 million – after it uncovered a problem with a lease at SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Albany.

Cuomo announced the first Norwegian transatlantic flight to Stewart International Airport will arrive at 8 p.m. tonight from Edinburgh, Scotland.

ICYMI: Klein Weighs In On Procurement Reform

During a CapTon interview last night, IDC Leader Jeff Klein broke with his power-sharing allies, the Senate Republicans, on the subject of procurement reform, saying he doesn’t see the need for a key espect of a bill they have been pushing to overhaul the way the state awards millions upon millions of dollars worth of contracts.

First, Klein said he feels a three-way agreement on this, or any other issue, is always preferable because that, in his opinion, is “how we move legislation forward in a positive way.” He did not seem terribly keen on the idea that has been voiced by Deputy Senate Majority Leader John DeFrancisco and others that the Senate and Assembly should do a two-way deal before the session ends, and then attempt an override should the governor respond with a veto.

For the record, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has said he, too, would prefer to see a three-way agreement on this.

But the governor has not shown much interest in going along with that state lawmakers and good government groups are pushing on this issue in the way of the Buffalo Billion scandal – even though it touched his own inner circle – saying he would like to see an independent procurement officer that he would appoint, and not a restoration of pre-contract auditing power to the state comptroller’s office.

Klein voiced agreement with the governor on the comptroller issue, but was a little bit vague on who should be doing the contract oversight.

“The way we really police the procurement process is not necessarily giving the comptroller more power, because right now the comptroller of the state of New York has post audit ability,” Klein said. “So, I would assume if there’s a problem, anything you’d spot in a pre-audit you’d be able to spot in a post audit.”

“I think the better way to go is to have some type of independent prosecutor, independent advisory commission, or basically appoint somebody to make sure there’s no bribery in the contracting process, no favoritism in the process. And that sort of prosecutor or investigator of whatever you want to call them would then have the ability to refer that to the proper law enforcement.”

Klein didn’t elaborate on who would be doing the appointing of this independent watchdog, but neither did he specifically voice support for what the governor has proposed.

Extras

Trump complained on social media about the wide-ranging investigation of Russian interference in the U.S. election as Robert Mueller appeared to widen his probe to include whether the president tried to obstruct justice.

Senators on both sides of the aisle are criticizing the secrecy surrounding GOP leaders’ efforts in their chamber to craft legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

New York’s Conservative Party blamed the shooting of House Majority Whip Stephen Scalise on partisan media and anti-Republican “hate.”

Nestlé is considering a sale of its American candy business, the home of treats that include Gobstoppers, Nerds and Butterfinger and Crunch bars as demand for sweets has fallen off in the U.S.

The Boston Globe is floating former President Obama as a potential president of Harvard University.

Two Long Island legislators – Sen. Ken LaValle and Assemblyman Fred Thiele – have renewed a push for the state to recognize the Montaukett Indian Nation, four years after Gov. Andrew Cuomo vetoed a similar bill.

The contract between Cuomo’s office and Guidepost Solutions LLC, the firm of private investigator Bart Schwartz that was hired to probe the Buffalo Billion and nanotech-related state projects, was approved by the comptroller’s office on June 7.

The state Senate’s Ethics committee members met for the first time in more than eight years.

The Jamaica Estates house that was Trump’s childhood home, which was auctioned in December, was scheduled to be posted for rent today.

Fox News has traded “Fair and Balanced” for a new marketing slogan, “Most Watched. Most Trusted.”

More than 40 people alleged to be members of the MS-13 street gang have been indicted and many were arraigned in Nassau County Court this morning, following an arrest sweep targeting the criminal syndicate with ties to El Salvador and a reputation for brutal machete attacks.

State Sen. Robert Ortt and his predecessor, George Maziarz, are now taking issue with the enforcement counsel at the Board of Elections upon their return to court on fraud charges.

A woman is suing Resorts World Casino after it refused to pay her nearly $43 million slot machine win, claiming the machine had malfunctioned. The state Gaming Commission has sided with the casino, saying the machine’s maximum payout was programmed for $6,500.

Cuomo, citing a list of disruptions commuters will face when Amtrak cuts capacity at Penn Station to make track repairs, said “Amtrak must pay” for the preparations other agencies are making to cope.

The search for a CEO for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has come up empty.

HuffPost laid off over three-dozen employees yesterday, including a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, as part of broader corporate cutbacks.

NYC is committing a minimum of $1.35 billion to create 100,000 jobs over the next decade that pay at least $50,000, officials said.

NYC Public Advocate Letitia James called on Cuomo and the state Legislature to “step up” and take “bold and brave steps” to address the city’s homelessness crisis, arguing that the city is “just treading water” without the resources of state government.

The New York City Council Health Committee voted unanimously to ban the use of exotic animals in entertainment, approving a bill that is expected to come to a full council vote next week.

A New York kosher restaurant, Izzy’s Brooklyn Smokehouse, is under fire for employing the brother of Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour.

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman joined a coalition of nine attorneys general in filing a motion to intervene in a lawsuit by for-profit colleges regarding student loan debt regulations.

The union that represents state correction officers is putting $15,000 toward the reward for the capture of two Georgia inmates who allegedly killed two guards and escaped from a prison bus in that state.

Here and Now

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

The state Legislature is in session in Albany.

In D.C. this morning, President Donald Trump will then drop by the Governors and Workforce of Tomorrow roundtable, speak and sign an executive order.

In the afternoon, the president and First Lady Melania Trump will depart the White House en route to the U.S. Supreme Court to participate in the investiture ceremony for Justice Neil Gorsuch.

This morning, Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Miami, FL to deliver remarks at the Conference on Prosperity and Security in Central America at Florida International University.

After the conference, Pence, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly will participate in a series of bilateral meetings with President Juan Orlando Hernández of Honduras, President Jimmy Morales of Guatemala, Vice President Óscar Ortiz of El Salvador, and President Jovenel Moïse of Haiti.

This evening, the annual congressional baseball game, in which House Democrats and Republicans compete with the proceeds going to charity, will go on even after a gunman opened fire at GOP lawmakers’ practice session yesterday morning.

The game will raise money for one new organization in wake of the shooting: The Fallen Officers’ Fund.

A fuller calendar of the day’s events appears at the end of this post.

Headlines…

Robert Mueller, the special counsel examining Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, has requested interviews with three high-ranking current or former intelligence officials, the latest indication that he will investigate whether President Trump obstructed justice.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was in critical condition last night after being struck by bullets fired by a lone gunman said to be distraught over President Trump’s election opened fire on members of the Republican congressional baseball team at a practice field in this Washington suburb.

Trump and his wife, Melania, made an unscheduled visit to see Scalise in the hospital.

The shooter, James Hodgkinson, a former home inspector from Belleville, Ill., traveled to Virginia in March — three months before his failed attempt at mass murder.

Hodgkinson, 66, was described by neighbors as “obnoxious” about politics and “reckless” with his firearms. He was a supporter of Bernie Sanders and volunteered on the Vermont senator’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Rep. John Katko says he hopes Congress and the nation will tone down their partisan vitriol after the shooting, which wounded five people.

After initially appearing to cast some blame on Democrats for the shooting of the third-ranking House Republican and then vowing to start carrying a gun to protect himself, Rep. Chris Collins issued a statement saying “it’s time for all of us, including myself, to tone down our rhetoric and recognize that we are all of one country and all proud Americans.”

Hillary Clinton tweeted “we’re all ultimately on one team” in reaction to the shooting.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says his Flint water crisis investigation is shifting to the “the trial phase,” but before it gets there, he’s ramped up the stakes by charging five state and local officials with manslaughter for their actions related to the Flint water crisis.

As one of the longest economic expansions in American history chugs into its ninth year, the Federal Reserve said it was raising its benchmark interest rate to a range of 1 percent to 1.25 percent.

Carl Paladino is going on the offensive – a week before a state hearing seeking his removal from the Buffalo Board of Education, filing a lawsuit in federal court against the six members of the board who sought his removal.

Thirty-nine members of MS-13, a brutal gang with roots in Central America, were arrested by the immigration authorities in New York in the past month, officials said.

New York for the fifth year in a row spent more money per student than any other state, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

As the subway system has descended into crisis, Mayor Bill de Blasio has been noticeably absent underground, opting instead for a caravan of black sport utility vehicles to travel around the city. Yesterday, he made a rare appearance on the C train.

NYC is bolstering its separate, smaller system of domestic violence shelters by opening 54 additional apartment-style units for families next month. Another 150 emergency beds for individuals are to open later this year.

With just a week left in the legislative session, Gov. Andrew Cuomo introduced for the first time his own Child Victims Act bill, which mirrors the one passed by the Assembly last week.

As the state’s legislative session winds down, housing activists are taking their cause directly to Cuomo and camping outside his Manhattan office.

More >

Extras

The special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election is interviewing senior intelligence officials as part of a widening probe that now includes an examination of whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice, officials said.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said he was “sickened” by the carnage wrought by a gunman who opened fire on GOP lawmakers at a congressional baseball practice early this morning, as he confirmed the shooter “apparently volunteered” on his 2016 presidential campaign.

The suspect, James Thomas Hodgkinson, 66, of Belleville, Ill., died in a Washington hospital after a shootout with the police. He was distraught over the election of Trump and traveled to Washington in recent weeks to protest, his brother said.

Trump decried the shooting, deeming it a “very, very brutal assault” and calling for all Americans to set aside differences and pray for the recovery of the victims.

The 10-year-old son of Rep. Joe Barton, a Texas Republican, was at the game practice where the shooter targeted lawmakers and staffers.

In a show of bipartisan unity, Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan said on the floor of the House, “An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us.” The House’s top Democrat Nancy Pelosi echoed Ryan’s message.

Rep. Chris Collins told a Buffalo television station that after today’s shooting, he will start carrying a pistol while he’s out in public.

A former congressional aide who was among those shot today has ties to Staten Island. Matt Mika, now a lobbyist, once worked for former Rep. Vito Fossella.

Heavily armed cops with rifles and body armor were dispatched to City Hall and other New York government buildings after the D.C. shooting.

Former Rep. James Walsh says GOP members of Congress kept a strict routine for their baseball practices that would have made it easy for a gunman to target the group. (He played on the Republican team for 12 years).

Since Trump won the Republican nomination, the majority of his companies’ real estate sales are to secretive shell companies that obscure the buyers’ identities, a USA TODAY investigation has found.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has strong support to win a re-election bid in 2018, and would crush potential Republican opponents, including Donald Trump Jr., by more than 30 points, according to the latest NBC 4 New York/Marist Poll.

After demonstrators gathered outside of Cuomo’s Manhattan office yesterday to pressure him to increase minority appointments to the MTA and other state boards, his spokeswoman accused the protesters of “mind-numbingly dumb personal attacks.”

Cuomo took some hits on Twitter for touting self-driving cars from NYC residents who would like to see him focus on fixing the subway system.

Federal officials have rounded up close to 40 accused members of MS-13 in New York City and Long Island in the 30 days following vows by Trump and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to crack down on the gang, known for terrorizing immigrant communities.

New York’s public schools spent $21,206 per pupil in the 2014-15 school year, topping all states and exceeding the national average by 86 percent, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released today.

Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama and Sen. Kamala Harris made surprise appearances at the Women in Film’s awards ceremony in Beverly Hills, CA with special videos.

Not surprisingly, Clinton is a fan of Wonder Woman, who she says is “right up my alley.”

Uber said it sent “tens of thousands” of mailers this week to Suffolk residents thanking County Executive Steve Bellone for supporting ride-sharing services in the county.

Daniel Baldwin and his family bought a house in Cleveland, on Oneida Lake. He brought his wife, his two young children, and his passion: helping families struggling with addiction.

A bipartisan group of state lawmakers is looking to amend any reference to a firefighter or police officer throughout state law to be gender neutral, a change they see as fixing antiquated law that refers to the holders of such jobs as men.

Commuters taking NJ Transit trains into New York Penn Station on weekday mornings have experienced the worst on-time performance in recent memory, arriving late nearly 54 percent of the time during the month of May, the agency said.

A bill headed to the governor’s desk would name the Ballard Road bridge over the Northway in honor of State Trooper Timothy Pratt, a 55-year-old from South Glens Falls who was killed while helping a truck driver last fall.

Here and Now

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

The Legislature is in session in Albany.

In D.C. today, President Donald Trump is scheduled to give remarks at the Apprenticeship Initiative kickoff at the U.S. Labor Department, and also sign an executive order there before returning to the White House.

A fuller calendar of the day’s events appears at the end of this post.

Headlines…

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions refused to comment during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on whether he spoke to President Donald Trump about former FBI Director James Comey’s handling of the investigation into coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential race.

Sounding by turns wounded and defiant, Sessions, a former senator from Alabama, often infused his testimony with more emotion than specifics as he showcased his loyalty to Trump, but called any suggestion that he colluded with the Russians “an appalling and detestable lie.”

Nearly 200 Democratic members of Congress plan to file a lawsuit against Trump today, claiming that his business empire violates the Constitution. Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal is filing the suit in federal district court, joined by 196 colleagues as plaintiffs.

Several U.S. officials say Trump has given his defense secretary the authority to make decisions on U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan, amid repeated calls from commanders for more forces.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said he would be “surprised” if Trump fired Robert Mueller and encouraged him to allow the special counsel to “do his job independently.”

“While the president has every right to” fire Mueller, “he has no intention to do so,” the White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters late yesterday.

Trump told Republican senators that the House GOP health-care bill was “mean” and he expects the Senate to “improve” the legislation considerably, according to several Republicans familiar with the gathering.

Trump’s budget would wallop New York City with nearly $3 billion in cuts to transportation, homeland security, education and other services, according to a new analysis by Brooklyn Democratic Rep. Nydia Velazquez.

The Trump administration is dispatching immigration judges from around the country to courts that are closer to the southern border as part of its crackdown on illegal immigration. That decision is draining resources from New York City’s immigration court — the busiest in the nation, with a backlog of 80,000 cases.

Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara took to Twitter yesterday, poking fun at Trump’s “covfefe” typo in the latest of a string of sharply critical comments the ex-prosecutor has hurled at the current administration and Trump’s personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, in recent weeks.

Mayoral control of New York City’s schools is no closer to a resolution with just five days of the legislative session remaining. The Republican-led state Senate voted on a five year extension, but with conditions the Democratic-controlled Assembly refused to back.

Advocates pushing for passage of the Child Victims Act have begun running a digital ad campaign that largely targets those living in the district of state Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, who has kept the legislation from coming to the floor for a vote.

Uber drivers should legally be considered employees of the company — and entitled to all the benefits that come with that, a state labor judge has ruled.

Top NYPD officials are expected to strongly oppose a City Council bill requiring the police department to publicly release information about its high-tech surveillance tools during a hearing on the legislation today.

Seven months ago, state and federal authorities seized control of a Town of Tonawanda chemical supplier allegedly stockpiling thousands of tons of chemicals. Yesterday, the scene was safe enough for the EPA to offer reporters a safety-vest and hard-hat behind-the-scenes peek of the cleanup.

Asian, African-American and Hispanic business and religious leaders demonstrated outside Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Manhattan office to pressure the Democrat to diversify the leadership of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Jacob Javits Center board of directors and other state entities under the control of the executive branch.

Cuomo returned to Wayne and Monroe Counties to visit communities impacted by flooding and erosion damage from Lake Ontario, announcing the state will reimburse the Town of Greece and the Village of Sodus Point $500,000 each for infrastructure costs due to flooding.

A package of 14 measures to address the heroin and opioid epidemic, expected to pass the Senate yesterday and today, focuses on law enforcement efforts, following several years of legislation aimed more at prevention and treatment.

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Extras

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions started his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee with an emotional appeal to his former colleagues, and by calling any suggestion that he colluded with Russians during the election an “appalling” lie.

Chris Ruddy, CEO of the conservative Newsmax outlet, admitted he did not speak with President Trump about the idea of firing special counselor Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, after implying yesterday that Trump is “considering” that move.

The Kremlin says a meeting between President Donald Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and representatives from a Russian state-owned bank was a routine encounter.

Marc Kasowitz, Trump’s personal lawyer in the Russia investigation, has boasted to friends and colleagues that he played a central role in the firing of Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, according to four people familiar with the conversations.

Trump has blocked Stephen King on Twitter, the bestselling author said.

A New York state judge has upheld the legal authority of the Tenant Protection Unit, a key initiative of Gov. Andrew Cuomo to protect rent-regulated tenants from overcharges, harassment and intimidation by unscrupulous landlords.

Cuomo returned to two, flood-damaged shoreline communities on Lake Ontario today, promising local officials and residents more state help in dealing with their problems.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, under fire for the toxic work culture at the San Francisco company, will take a leave of absence from the ride-hailing company he founded in 2009, the executive announced in a companywide email.

Trump in a tweet accused former U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch of providing cover for Hillary Clinton during the probe into her use of an email server.

High levels of carbon monoxide spewed by a faulty oil burner that caught fire in the basement of a Lower Manhattan apartment building sickened 34 people this morning. None of the illnesses were life-threatening.

A capital firm that is public in Canada is set to acquire 100 percent of an applicant for a new state medical marijuana license ahead of the expected licensing of five additional companies sometime this month.

The Rockefeller Institute of Government released a report finding that state and local government tax revenues continue to grow at an extremely slow pace.

Looking to boost bus service, Sen. Kemp Hannon has proposed that ride-sharing services – such as Lyft and Uber – be permitted to operate in Nassau County if they collect a 50-cent-per-ride fee that would go to a dedicated NICE bus fund.

A bill that would legalize online poker in New York is quietly gaining momentum in the closing days of the legislative session.

As the state’s legislative session winds to a close, Cuomo has yet to announce his support for the Child Victims Act despite his promises to survivors that he’d help get a bill passed this year.

Truckers entering New York City by bridges and tunnels operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) will receive a 50 percent discount on tolls during overnight hours this summer.

Georgia Rep. John Lewis, an icon of the Civil Rights Movement, urged an audience in New York to get into “good trouble, necessary trouble” in order to fight racism, hatred and bigotry, and said that he plans to “to continue to speak out and speak up.”

A $1,000-a-head fundraiser has been planned for Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan at the Trump National Golf Club in Westchester.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew said that efforts in the state Senate to tie mayoral control of the New York City school system to an expansion of charter schools is “a load of crap.”

A state Department of Transportation engineer from Saratoga County is under arrest for allegedly having a road construction firm he was overseeing buy him nearly $10,000 worth of stuff and charging it to the state.

Reporting your neighbor’s rowdy Airbnb guests in NYC is as easy as dialing 311, but an anti-Airbnb group comprised of local legislators is streamlining the process even further, with a new hotline dedicated solely to complaints about illegal short-term rentals.

Essex County officials aren’t releasing final toxicology and autopsy reports on the cause and manner of death of bobsled gold medalist Steve Holcomb, because the late bobsledder’s family has threatened to sue the county coroner if he releases details.