Liz Benjamin

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Progressives Seek ‘Pause’ on Education

As the budget clock ticks down, a host of progressive/left-leaning organizations and the labor-backed Working Families Party is making what amounts to a Hail Mary attempt to stop the Legislature from passing the education portion of the budget deal.

The WFP issued a joint statement with its allies – the Alliance for Quality Education, Citizen Action of New York, Make the Road Action Fund, and New York Communities for Change – saying the Senate and Assembly should “hit the pause button on the education budget bill and get things right before voting.”

“Over 2.7 million public school students are counting on the Senate and Assembly to do their homework when it comes to education – not cram for the exam,” the statement continues. “We are asking the Senate and Assembly leadership to renegotiate the education budget bill before they bring it to a vote.”

“At a time when Governor Cuomo is making and breaking promises at lightning speed, it’s imperative that legislators demand the time to negotiate, clarify, and listen to the parents, teachers, and students they’re here to serve. Full funding for a sound basic education is a CFE mandate, not a bargaining chip.”

“…”So, let’s slow down and get this right. There’s no extra credit for rushing through bills that legislators haven’t even had time to read for the sake of a bad but on-time budget. That’s especially true for bills that impede our obligation to provide all of our students with a high-quality public education.”

This comes on the heels of a memo circulated yesterday by the state’s largest teachers union, NYSUT, that called on legislators to reject major provisions of the education reform proposals that are in the spending plan’s framework. The biggest sticking points for the union: Changes to the teacher evaluation system, tenure and the 3020A proceedings which make it easier for districts to fire poorly performing teachers.

And THAT memo came after NYSUT President Karen Magee issued a call for parents to opt their kids out of state tests, which, of course could – assuming enough people heed that call – undermine the results on which the teacher performance evaluation system is based.

It does not appear at this moment that the efforts to halt the budget proceedings will bear fruit. The education bill – known as ELFA – is in print. School aid runs are out. And lawmakers are moving forward with plans to start voting on the remaining budget bills later today in hopes of coming close to meeting the midnight deadline.

LGBT Lawmakers Asks Cuomo for Indiana Travel Ban

The Legislature’s five openly LGBT lawmakers (four Assembly members and one senator) have written to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, asking him to issue an executive order “immediately” barring any state-funded travel to Indiana in opposition to the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was signed into law last week by Gov. Mike Pence.

The RFRA prohibits state laws that “substantially burden” a person’s ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. The definition of “person” includes religious institutions, businesses and associations, which opponents say is effectively opening the door to state-sanctioned discrimination against LGBT individuals.

In their letter to Cuomo, Democratic Assembly members Deborah Glick (Manhattan), Matt Titone (Staten Island), Danny O’Donnell (Manhattan) and Harry Bronson (Rochester) and Sen. Brad Hoylman (Manhattan) wrote:

“These provisions make clear that Indiana businesses are permitted by law to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression in matters including housing, employment, and access to public accommodations.”

“Employees of the State of New York should not be placed in a situation where they are required to travel to a state where they face legalized discrimination. Likewise, New York State taxpayers should not be footing the bill for such travel. We urge you to bar state-funded travel to Indiana, thereby sending a strong message that New York will not stand for legalized discrimination and injustice against LGBT people.”

I’m not sure how much – if any – state-funded travel to Indiana is actually occurring these days. But an executive order would really be a symbolic gesture – one already undertaken by Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy and Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee.

It has been noted that Malloy’s order could impact Connecticut’s collegiate sports teams, and if this situation continues into next year, that could interfere with UCONN’s ability to participate in the NCAA Final Four women’s basketball tournament, which is scheduled to be held in Indianapolis. Malloy said he hopes the NCAA moves the tournament.

Pence has defended the RFRA, writing in a Wall Street Journal OpEd today that it has been “grossly misconstrued as a ‘license to discriminate.'” He insists that the act actually reflects federal law, as well as laws in 30 states across the nation.

I actually tweeted early this morning that I was surprised no one in New York had mentioned anything about this Indiana issue yet – especially given the state’s LGBT history, and Cuomo’s success at getting a same-sex marriage bill through the divided Legislature and signing it into law during his first term. Of course, lawmakers have been pretty busy with the budget deadline looming, so they were understandably distracted.

Dream Deferred

From the Morning Memo:

Last night, a number of Senate Democrats took their frustration with being excluded from the closed-door budget negotiations on the final product, voting “no” on part of the agreement that dealt with transportation, economic development and environmental spending.

There was some testy back-and-forth between Democrats and Republicans on the Senate floor during the debate, and you should expect more of the same – if not worse – when it comes time to take up legislation relating to the most controversial parts of this budget: Ethics and education.

It’s a fairly safe bet that Sen. Jose Peralta will be voting “no” on the education bill, if for nothing else than to demonstration his distress over the fact that the DREAM Act did not make it into the final budget deal.

Peralta, clad in his signature DREAM Act T-shirt, which he sports over his chamber-dress-code-appopriate shirt and tie, told me during a CapTon interview last night that he and his fellow Latino lawmakers in both the Senate and Assembly are in discussions to reject the education bill, even though they are well aware their “no” votes will be merely symbolic.

Many of the same lawmakers threatened to vote “no” on last year’s budget if the governor failed to include the DREAM Act, which would help undocumented college students pay for college by allowing them to apply for TAP.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo did not heed that call, and the DREAM Act ended up coming onto the Senate floor for a stand-alone vote, where it died without a single “yes” vote from any GOP senators.

This year, Cuomo included the DREAM Act in his executive budget for the first time, which advocates saw as a very positive development, but many were disappointed that he linked it to the Education Investment Tax Credit in hopes of forcing the Senate GOP’s hand.

This gambit did not work, in part because so many of the Senate GOP’s new – and most politically vulnerable – members specifically campaigned against the DREAM Act and providing any sort of taxpayer-funded support to undocumented immigrants during the 2014 election cycle.

Now Peralta, the main sponsor of the DREAM Act in his chamber, and others are looking to Cuomo to expend some political capital to push the Senate Republicans to pass the measure in the post-budget session.

But Cuomo’s main leverage is in the considerable power afforded to the executive during the budget process, and he declined to use in large part during this year’s talks. The DREAM Act was not the only policy initiative he proposed in his executive budget to fall off the table as the April 1 deadline drew near.

It is possible that the DREAM Act could get linked to something else during the end-of-session horse trading that comes before the so-called “big ugly” – the mishmash of bills passed in a mad rush before lawmakers depart Albany for the summer.

Linkage of a number of education initiatives that didn’t make it into the budget is already under discussion, including EITC, continuation of mayoral control in NYC and raising the charter school cap.

In the meantime, DREAM Act advocates are also planning to exert some pressure on a some of Republican lawmakers – especially on Long Island – whose districts have sizable Latino populations, staging rallies in their districts and engaging local religious leaders to help spread their message.

Senators Phil Boyle, (who was missing from the 2014 DREAM Act vote), and Jack Martins come up fairly frequently as potential targets of the DREAM Act advocates. (Martins voted “no” last year, saying the bill was drafted too broadly). Peralta said Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, another Long Islander, will also be targeted.

Boyle told City & State he’s not planning on altering his position on the DREAM Act, even if supporters launch a campaign against him. He plans to continue pushing for a non-taxpayer-funded alternative – several of which were floated to no avail during the budget talks.

Two Democratic senators – Rochester freshman Ted O’Brien, who was defeated by a Republican, Sen. Rich Funke, in last year’s election; and Brooklyn’s Simcha Felder, who conferences with the GOP, also voted “no” in 2014.

Later yesterday afternoon, Peralta issued a statement slamming Skelos for saying the DREAM Act would give undocumented students an unfair advantage over college students with legal immigration status who are forced to take out loans to pay for their education.

Peralta noted that TAP is an entitlement program, which means all students must meet residency and financial requirements to qualify, and to do that, they have to be paying taxes.

“Since Senator Skelos is in the majority, he is in a position to give those kids who take out loans an advantage by increasing the income eligibility from the current $80,000 per household per year to $150,000,” Peralta added.

“This means the kids’ parents would have to make under $150,000 combined to quality for TAP. Senator Skelos has the power now to make this happen but he is not using it.”

“He can help all college students, but he may rather give this money to the rich so they can get tax breaks when buying their private yachts and private planes.”

Expect a lot more where that came from.

The yacht tax break is going to be a very big focus for progressives as the budget battle winds down, even though, as Capital NY’s Laura Nahmias points out this morning, the sales tax exemption for expensive boats had its genesis in both houses of the Legislature, which means both Assembly Democrats AND Senate Republicans were on board.

The measure was not included in the governor’s executive budget proposal.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany with no public schedule. Midnight tonight is the constitutional budget deadline, and though they approved five budget bills late last night, lawmakers have yet to pass anything related to the stickiest parts of the spending plan: Ethics and education.

The Assembly is scheduled to be in session at 9 a.m., the Senate at 11 a.m. Depending on when the final budget bills are printed, it could be a long night.

At 8:30 a.m., Crain’s hosts an event with NYC Council members Julissa Ferreras, Brad Lander, Mark Levine and Jumaane Williams, New York Athletic Club, 180 Central Park South, Manhattan.

At 9 a.m., SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher and StriveTogether Managing Director Jeff Edmondson host a conversation about their recent book, The New York Times Conference Center, 620 Eighth Ave., 15th Floor, Manhattan.

Also at 9 a.m., NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray will deliver the keynote speech at OHEL Children’s Home and Family Services Legislative Breakfast, Bernstein Global Wealth Management, 1345 Ave. of the Americas. Manhattan.

At 10 a.m., NYC Council members Ben Kallos, Laurie Cumbo , Robert Cornegy and others rally to call on the city to assist parents seeking to return to the workforce through the announcement of a “Back to Work” bill and five-point plan, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

At 10:30 a.m., the Charter Schools Committee of the SUNY Board of Trustees meets, The SUNY Global Center, 116 East 55th St., Global Classroom, Manhattan.

Also at 10:30 a.m., JCOPE meets, 540 Broadway, Albany.

At 10:40 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul attends a speech by U.S. Department of Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter at the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, Syracuse University, Dineen Hall, Melanie Gray Ceremonial Courtroom, 950 Irving Ave., Syracuse.

At 11 a.m., NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer releases an audit, 704 Beach 67th St., Queens.

At 11:25 a.m., Hochul meets with Carter, and then tours the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, 150 Crouse Dr., Syracuse.

At 11:30 a.m., Rep. Nita Lowey hosts Federal Railroad Administration Acting Administrator Sarah Feinberg for a press conference about danger posed by grade crossings, Metro-North Rail Crossing at Roaring Brook Rd., Chappaqua.

At 1 p.m., advocates and members from New York Communities for Change, Citizen Action NY, Strong Economy for All, and Make the Road protest the so-called “yacht” tax break in the budget deal, North Cove Marina at World Financial Center, 285 South End Ave., Manhattan.

Also at 1 p.m., Chair of the NYC Council Committee on Public Safety Vanessa Gibson and NYC Councilman Corey Johnson hold a press conference in support of legislation to update and strengthen the Student Safety Act, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

At 2:30 p.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio holds a press conference with US Sen. Chuck Schumer, Red Hook East – Joseph Miccio Community Center, 110 W. 9th St., Brooklyn.

Also at 2:30 p.m., Rep. Chris Gibson visits the Hudson City School District after school program and meets with students and staff, M.C. Smith Intermediate School, Harry Howard Avenue, Hudson.

At 5:45 p.m., Local 372 President Shaun D. Francois I, will make a special announcement in regards to a living wage for Local 372 School Crossing Guards, DC 37 Headquarters, 125 Barclay St., Manhattan.

At 7:45 p.m., McCray hosts a Change Makers in the Arts Panel, Gracie Mansion, 88th Street and East End Avenue, Manhattan.


Tom Kaplan: “For all his aspirations, as the budget deadline neared, the governor blinked.” He abandoned most of the policy initiatives included in his initial spending proposal, and ended up with the fifth on-time budget in a row as a result – a move central to preserving the “core of his political brand.”

Legislation designed to expand transparency in government remained under wraps a day before it was scheduled to be passed as part of an on-time state budget. A Cuomo administration official recruited to provide the press with background information on the ethics fixes yesterday afternoon wouldn’t even confirm which of the still-gestating budget bills the reforms would be tucked into.

The new ethics measures, which the governor has hailed as transformational, got a tepid response from lawmakers and government watchdogs.

The budget deal budget does include Cuomo’s proposal to send $1.3 billion to the Thruway Authority, with about $900 million expected to go toward the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project.

That $1.3 billion will come from the $5.4 billion “windfall” cash realized from various settlements with financial institutions. Lawmakers and the governor also reached an agreement on how to spend the rest of the money, which will fund broadband access, an upstate economic development competition, and capital health care projects – among other things.

The final plan for a new statewide teacher evaluation system will require observations by an “independent” evaluator, according to a Cuomo administration official who briefed reporters in the absence of an introduced education budget bill.

The Cuomo administration said the increases in state aid funding of about $1.4 billion to districts will be linked to adoption of the new teacher evaluation program. Hours earlier, the head of the state’s big teachers union, NYSUT, called on parents to have their children opt out of taking the state’s Common Core-based standardized tests.

As NYSUT President Karen Magee was making her opt-out call, the governor’s office was preparing school “runs,” or charts showing how much state aid the various school districts will receive under the final budget plan. To get that money, lawmakers would have to approve the new testing program.

There’s no minimum wage hike or property tax relief in the final budget, but New York lawmakers did insert a tax cut for luxury yachts, which angered progressive advocates.

However, Jeff Strong, the president of Strong’s Marine on Long Island, said the credit would create jobs and tax revenue in New York, with money that is currently flowing out of state. “It is a big deal because we have so many people with expensive boats that use them in New York and Florida,” he explained.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio described the tentative deal on the state budget as “reasonably good” for the Big Apple, but his aides said there was disappointment on homelessness funding and concern that action on many of City Hall’s priorities in Albany had been postponed.

De Blasio said he was relieved that the Albany budget deal lessened the threat of state takeover of struggling schools, though it does not remove it altogether. Under the agreement, localities will first have a chance to try their own turnaround plan.

The budget does include an extra $2 million to help aging caregivers of family members with developmental disabilities. Advocates asked for $30 million for 3,500 people who are living at home to get support outside the family or move into residential care.

The NY Post: “Cuomo got a lot less out of this year’s state budget than he started out asking for — that much is clear even before we get to see the fine print. There are no immediate game-changers here.”

More >


AG Eric Schneiderman called the ethics reform deal Gov. Andrew Cuomo reached with legislative leaders “tinkering around the edges,” though he admitted he hadn’t yet seen the details.

“Preet Bharara’s office is not anyplace a guilty person wants to be, so you search your conscience and wipe your sweaty forehead before entering. The most powerful prosecutor in the country…occupies a four-square chamber flooded with relentless governmental ceiling light, which makes his charcoal suit all the darker and his white shirt, so stiff it could pour itself a glass of water, all the whiter.”

Cuomo’s unauthorized biographer Michael Shnayerson suggests the governor “put aside the echoes of the Cuomo men, to be the softer, gentler, kinder son you can be and sometimes were: Matilda’s son above all.”

The state budget deal includes a reprieve until 2017 for – a publicly-funded website that allows the public to look up licensed doctors and learn about their education and any legal actions taken against them.

Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney today became the first woman to chair the New York State Thruway Authority.

Reps. Lee Zeldin and John Katko are among 15 House Republicans being targeted in college newspaper ads by the DCCC for “making it harder” for students to afford a higher education.

Anti-Semitic incidents in New York rose 14 percent between 2013 and 2014 and were once again higher than any other state, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s annual audit.

A month after forcing four retailers to stop selling certain supplements, Schneiderman announced that GNC has agreed to implement safety and inspection standards stricter than those of the FDA.

John Catsimatidis, Democrat-turned-Republican supermarket mogul, invited supporters to a fund-raiser for Democratic US Sen. Charles Schumer at his swank Manhattan apartment next month, touting Schumer’s increasingly likely ascension to the position of Senate majority leader.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren isn’t interested in challenging Schumer for the Democratic leadership post, and she’s still not running for president in 2016.

At this point, it looks like retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s leadership job is Schumer’s to lose.

In a NYT letter to the editor, NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray suggests improving mental health services and screening for pilots following the Germanwings disaster.

If former Gov. George Pataki were a betting man, he would bet on himself running for president in 2016.

An AP story on the state’s Justice Center identifying hundreds of reports alleging abuse or neglect connected to sleeping on the job has drawn criticism from CSEA.

Manhattan Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez says he will donate a $30,000 settlement of his Occupy Wall Street-related lawsuit against the NYPD to the Center for Constitutional Rights.

The U.S. Supreme Court turned away an appeal from a Bronx church that said it has a constitutional right to keep holding worship services in a New York City public school.

A bill introduced by Manhattan Councilman Ben Kallos would mandate the use of recycled concrete in all new street construction projects.

Saying the military needs to do more to compete with corporate America for quality recruits, Defense Secretary Ash Carter opened the door to relaxing some enlistment standards – particularly for high-tech or cyber security jobs.

Former Assemblyman Richard Brodsky makes a pitch for changing the budget process altogether.

The number of people running NYC who are originally from Massachusetts is growing.

OMCE members will get the raises they were seeking under the 2015-16 budget deal, just not as quickly has they had hoped.

Gov. Chris Christie is bringing a slice of Iowa to New Jersey in June with the Republican holding a fundraiser for GOP Sen. Charles Grassley.

Meet 31-year-old South African comedian Trevor Noah, Jon Stewart’s replacement as host of “The Daily Show.”

A Lancaster town councilman was charged with driving while intoxicated and leaving the scene of a property-damage accident after hitting a parked car Sunday night.

Pelosi Makes Fundraising Push for Slaughter

Taking a breaking from the budget madness for a moment to focus on the 2016 congressional elections…(yes, I know they’re far away).

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi sent out a fundraising appeal over the weekend on behalf of veteran Rochester Rep. Louise Slaughter, whose near loss in the 2014 general election by her under-funded and little-known Republican challenger, Gates Town Supervisor Mark Assini, took Democrats both in New York and across the nation by surprise – especially after Slaughter survived a tough challenge in 2012 from a far better known GOP opponent, Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks.

Clearly, the Democrats do not intend a repeat of this experience when they try to re-take the majority in 2016, should the 85-year-old Slaughter seek yet another term. Assini has already signaled an interest in a rematch, and Slaughter has not ruled out running again.

In her email sent Sunday morning, Pelosi said she needed to talk about “my friend Louise,” who “won by just 871 votes last year, attracting the attention of Speaker Boehner and every mega Tea Party donor across America.”

“The first FEC deadline of the year is arguably the most important one, especially after such a close call in November,” Pelosi continued. “Louise’s opponent will be scouring this FEC report for any sign that Louise is weak. She must shatter records before her deadline on Tuesday.”

“Louise needs our help…We need more people like Louise in Congress. But apparently Republicans think we need less—and they’re prepared to put their money where their mouth is. That’s why I’m asking you to help Louise fight back now – before it’s too late.”

According to Pelosi, the DCCC is matching all contributions to Slaughter of $3 or more – yet another sign that the Democrats aren’t fooling around this time, taking this race seriously.

And if Slaughter doesn’t run, they’ll have to defend an open seat. Technically speaking, that should be a fairly easy lift for the Democrats in a presidential year, since they enjoy an enrollment edge in NY-25, but it all depends on who the candidates are – and, of course, you can’t forget that all politics are local.

It’s also worth noting, though this is completely unrelated, that Slaughter is appearing today with US Sen. Chuck Schumer, who is the favorite to succeed retiring Sen. Harry Reid as the next Democratic caucus leader in the upper house. The duo is together for a dedication ceremony at the Rochester Main Post office in honor of SPC Matt Glende

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany with no public schedule. More details of the three-way framework budget deal announced last night between the governor and legislative leaders are expected today. The Senate Republicans are scheduled to hold a closed-door conference on the deal at noon.

At 8 a.m. PST, NYS Financial Service Superintendent Ben Lawsky will attend the National Governors Association Resource Center for State Cybersecurity’s Summit on State Cyber Security, Dolce Hayes Mansion, 200 Edenvale Ave., San Jose, CA.

At 11 a.m., AG Eric Schneiderman makes an announcement, Office of the New York State Attorney General, 120 Broadway, 25th Floor, Manhattan.

At noon, attorney Leo Glickman and NYC Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez discuss a $30,000 legal settlement Rodriguez received from the city to resolve a lawsuit concerning his treatment during the Occupy Wall Street movement’s 2011 protests; steps, City Hall, Manhattan.

Also at noon, NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina and others introduce a pilot literacy program to be offered at 20 family shelters, including the creation of libraries at each shelter offering donated reading materials expected to be used by about 1,000 families and more than 4,000 children; 785 Crotona Park North, the Bronx.

At 2 p.m., Rep. Hakeem Jeffries discusses efforts to promote technological innovation locally and nationally, and his work in Washington, during a free public event presented by New York Law School’s Institute for Information Law and Policy; room W401, 185 W. Broadway, Manhattan.

At 3 p.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will hold public hearings for and sign Intro. 685, in relation to extending rent stabilization laws; Intro. 435-A, in relation to reporting of special education services provided by the Department of Education; and Intro. 485-A, in relation to requiring the Department of Consumer Affairs to provide outreach and education for young adults, Blue Room, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 5 p.m., a meeting will be held to discuss these questions and explore what worked and what can be improved on last year’s Mobile Food Vendor Pilot Program, which ran from August to October 2014, Albany City Hall rotunda, 24 Eagle St., Albany.

At 6 p.m., the interim president and chief executive of the Queens Library, Bridget Quinn-Carey, and members of the library’s board of trustees discuss the library’s proposed operating budget for the next fiscal year during a public hearing; Queens Library at Flushing, 41-17 Main St., Queens.


The framework budget deal reached last night by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislators clears a path for the governor to enact a spending plan before the April 1 start of the fiscal year for the fifth time in a row, though he will have to issue messages of necessity to circumvent the three-day bill aging requirement.

In a joint statement issued last night, Cuomo said: “With this agreement, we address intractable problems that have vexed our state for generations…This is a budget that all New Yorkers can be proud of. I commend Speaker Heastie and Majority Leader Skelos and their colleagues in the Legislature for their hard work and leadership on reaching this agreement.”

The agreement will make teachers wait an extra year (four, not three) to become eligible for tenure, establishes a state-imposed model for turning around struggling schools, and increases education spending (though by how much, it remains unclear, somewhere between $1.4 billion and $1.6 billion).

Lawmakers were still working out exactly how school aid would be distributed; Heastie said there was yet not a deal over how much money would flow through the Foundation Aid formula, which prioritizes need and so helps urban districts, as opposed to restoring cuts from the Gap Elimination Adjustment, which hit suburban areas hardest.

The ethics deal is not anywhere near what watchdog groups say is needed to bolster Albany’s tattered image. It allows either of two state agencies to provide exemptions for a host of reasons, including keeping client information secret if disclosing the name of a client would amount to an “invasion of personal privacy” or if “undue harm” would be done to lawyer-client confidentiality.

For example, under the new ethics rules, legislators will be able to apply to the state’s Office of Court Administration for exceptions to disclosure of their law clients. Blanket exemptions are offered for clients on matrimonial cases, non-public criminal investigations, family court cases as well as wills and trusts.

Also new: A requirement that lawmakers swipe in to prove that they are in Albany to collect their $172 a day per diem.

This is the third ethics overhaul in the four years since Cuomo took office in January 2011.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will name Thomas Snyder, a labor organizer who was the “right-hand man” to former Boston Mayor Raymond Flynn, as his new chief of staff. Snyder, 62, will replace Laura Santucci, who is heading to Rome, where she will work for the United Nations.

“If you believe in mayoral control, it shouldn’t matter who’s the mayor,” state Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch told the Daily News. “It’s the concept. It’s about ultimate accountability.”

The medical marijuana program regulations being drawn up by the state Department of Health are even more restrictive than some supporters had feared. “The administration continues to operate as though medical marijuana programs have never been operated before,” said Gabriel Sayegh, of the Drug Policy Alliance.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said federal laws on political corruption are far ahead of state codes, allowing US Attorney Preet Bharara to clean up messes the state could just as easily be handling.

More >

The Weekend That Has Been (So Far)

While we’re waiting for the white smoke to emanate from the state Capitol, indicating a budget deal has been reached, here are some headlines – most, but not all, of which are non-budget related – to peruse:

First responders recovered two bodies from the wreckage of Thursday’s explosion in the East Village. The mayor’s office and NYPD said they haven’t positively identified the remains and the notification was ongoing. Two people were reported missing following the fire, which destroyed three buildings on Second Avenue.

The Cyclone at Coney Island got stuck at the top of its track today, marring its season debut and forcing passengers to walk down the tracks to safety, according to images and accounts posted on social media.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio scrambled to the aid of a mounted NYPD officer after the cop’s horse flung him onto the pavement in the middle of today’s Greek Independence Day Parade. The officer suffered minor injuries to his right ankle and is in stable condition at Bellevue Hospital.

Cuomo and legislative leaders have reached an agreement on the health and mental hygiene portion of the state’s 2015-16 fiscal year budget, but still have yet to reach an agreement on some of the most controversial health care proposals elsewhere in the state’s $141.6 billion spending plan.

Comedian Louis C.K. and “Nightly Show” host Larry Wilmore added some heft to de Blasio’s patented dad humor Saturday night at the annual Inner Circle dinner.

Much of de Blasio’s act mocked his liberal agenda, including universal pre-kindergarten and a new relaxed marijuana policy. He also poked fun at rumors of the mayor’s marijuana use, quipping that he and his wife, Chirlane McCray, used celery every day at 4:20 p.m.

Potential Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley said the country needs fresh perspectives for confronting its problems, adding: “The presidency of the United States is not some crown to be passed between two families.” (In other words, the Bushes and the Clintons).

Former secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton decided to “wipe her server clean” and permanently delete all e-mails from the personal server, according to the head of a House committee investigating the terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya.

Hillary dvisers are once again grappling with how to deploy former President Clinton, a strategic imperative that was executed so poorly in 2008 that it resulted in some of the worst moments of her campaign.

Fred LeBrun: “The real red herring here is the entire daft preoccupation during Cuomo’s tenure with formalizing ethical standards for the Legislature of a sufficient sort to pass some mythical muster. The trap here is obvious. We’ve been down this road so many times we know all the landmarks.”

As local school districts await word from Albany on state aid, some are developing multiple budget proposals based on best, worst and most likely scenarios.

Buffalo stands to benefit in several ways in the final budget deal, based on talks that are ongoing at the Capitol.

The retirement of US Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid could come with a gift to New York: the possibility Sen. Charles Schumer may succeed him in a role almost certain to bring increased influence to the state.

Schumer confirmed his is indeed a candidate for Reid’s leadership post, but told reporters: “I want to tell my constituents, that I will continue to work as hard as I always have for New York. It’s in my bones and it will not diminish in any way.”

Schumer is calling for passage of legislation to outlaw gender-based pay discrimination. He says a recent study shows that unfairness even extends to nursing, where males are paid more than female counterparts.

Wayne Barrett reveals 70 backers of former MetCouncil head Willie Rapfogel, who is in prison for looting some $9 million from the non profit – including 19 rabbis, several politicians, and some of the city’s and country’s most prominent leaders of Jewish organizations – petitioned Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to go easy on Rapfogel.

Slated for release Tuesday, “The Contender” (Twelve, $30, 539 pages), the unauthorized biography of Cuomo, probably isn’t the book employees of the executive chamber want to be spotted reading on their lunch hour.

The state Board of Elections, even though it voted more than a year ago to investigate the WNY Progressive Caucus, refuses to discuss the case because it was referred to its enforcement counsel.

A New York City law firm says it has filed a class action lawsuit accusing the Syracuse-based Dinosaur Bar-B-Que chain of failing to pay its tipped workers fair wages.

After an outcry over a plan to install a boldly colored, government-financed sculpture in Queens, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer intends to submit a bill to the City Council this week that would allow for more public comment on public art commissions.

De Blasio has scheduled press conferences, speeches or public events before 11 a.m. just 23 of 87 days this year. The mayor has admitted he’s “not a morning person.”

Cuomo’s signature economic development program, Start-Up NY, has been slow to start up in the Syracuse area. Just three companies of the 93 approved for the program so far are located in Central New York.

Queens Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz and Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder are looking to change a law that requires morgues and hospitals to hand over unclaimed bodies to educational institutions after as little as 48 hours.

Diplomats have 529 legal places to park in New York City — but still racked up more than $16 million in parking tickets. The city has issued 219,902 parking violations to diplomatic vehicles including 18,008 alone to Egypt which owes $1.97 million – the most of any country.

Rep. Grace Meng, who is Chinese-American, said she was “deeply troubled” by NYC Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo’s bizarre comments about a wave of Asians moving into NYCHA developments in her district.

A new NYC Council bill to be introduced by Manhattan’s Dan Garodnick would require the NYPD to publish its official patrol guide on its website.

Ginia Bellafante: “The Hedge Clippers will accomplish a great deal if they can simply turn the secretive few into the widely infamous.”

In an excerpt from his forthcoming memoir, former NYPD Commissioner Bernie Kerik recalls the disappointment and hurt experienced by he and his daughters when former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani rebuffed him due to his legal troubles.

Robert Moses, the bureaucrat-visionary who shaped the modern face of New York City, is the subject of a 105-page graphic biography published in English in December by Nobrow. It comes from France, where serious subjects often get the graphic-book treatment.


Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid announced he won’t seek re-election in 2016, and endorsed US Sen. Chuck Schumer, the No. 3 Democrat in the chamber as his leadership successor.

Reid insisted the injuries he sustained during a January exercising accident were “nothing” compared to what he sustained in the ring as a young boxer, and said the incident did not motivate his decision to retire.

Reid said he believed the No. 2 Democrat, Sen. Dick Durbin, would stand aside for his former roommate, Schumer.

As predicted, Durbin is indeed backing Schumer to succeed Reid, and he plans to run for minority whip again.

US Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said she supports Schumer, though he might face a challenge from a female member of the Democratic conferene: Sen. Patty Murray, of Washington.

For Schumer, this is “the culmination of a ten-year climb through the leadership ranks of the Senate Democrats.”

Four major banks are threatening to withhold campaign donations to Senate Democrats in anger over Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s attacks on Wall Street.

A new gas main was being installed without city permission at the East Village building where a massive explosion and fire injured at least 25 people and left two missing.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio toured the blast site for about 30 minutes earlier today with top administration officials to assess the damage.

Buffalo made Men’s Journal’s list of America’s 50 Best Places to Live.

Sen. John Flanagan has some fans at NT2.

Rep. Pete King, who’s mulling a 2016 presidential run, released a statement accusing supporters of announced candidate Sen. Ted Cruz of hurling “vulgar, rabid and adolescent type” attacks at his office.

“There’s nothing good to come of a late budget,” said state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, though his office is prepared, should that scenario occur.

The post-budget fight over extending NYC mayoral control could get ugly.

Sen. Brad Hoylman credited singer Miley Cyrus for the $4.5 million in funding for homeless youth shelters included in this year’s state budget – the first significant increase in seven years.

A law firm headed by state Sen. Marc Panepinto has purchased a historic mansion on Buffalo’s Delaware Avenue for $1.21 million with the intent of moving into the property this summer

Syracuse firefighters will get retroactive 2 percent raises for the past two years but will begin paying 70 percent more for health care under an arbitration panel’s award issued this week.

The Greater Glens Falls Democracy for America chapter wants Cuomo to direct that all five medical marijuana growing licenses the state plans to issue be located in upstate New York.

Sen. Diane Savino did some hula hooping at Astroland’s opening day.

This year, the New York State Fair is seeking a vendor to operate a vegetarian/vegan restaurant in a dedicated space inside the International Building.

How liberals are hoping to nudge Hillary Clinton to the left.

Burning the Weekend Oil?

From the Morning Memo:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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