Liz Benjamin

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Posts by Liz Benjamin

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Clinton and Oneida counties.

At 8 a.m., London’s deputy mayor for policing and crime, Stephen Greenhalgh, discusses law enforcement budgets, reductions in crime and technology during an event as part of the Citizens Crime Commission of NYC’s “Milstein Criminal Justice Policy Forum” series; Sea Level Cafe, Emigrant Savings Bank, 6 E. 43rd St., Manhattan.

At 8:10 a.m., NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito appears live on PIX11 Morning News.

At 9 a.m., actor Gbenga Akinnagbe, NYC Councilman Robert Corny and representatives of the groups Black Lives Matter and The Coalition for African Peace and Justice hold a news conference to call for federal officials to send humanitarian aid and take further action in response to attacks in Nigeria by supporters of the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram; steps, City Hall, Manhattan.

9:30 a.m. the Assembly Education Committee continues interviews for the Board of Regents, Assembly Parlor, Capitol, Albany.

At 10:30 a.m., Cuomo discusses his 2015 Opportunity Agenda, SUNY Plattsburgh, Angell College Center, 101 Broad St., Plattsburgh.

At 11 a.m., IDC Leder Jeff Klein, Sen. Adriano Espaillat and NYC Councilman Ritchie Torres unveil a joint investigative report detailing “deplorable” conditions in NYCHA buildings, and outline reform and funding plans for the agency, 250 Broadway, Room 2009, Manhattan.

At noon, NYS Office for the Aging Director Corinda Crossdale delivers a regional version of Cuomo’s 2015 Opportunity Agenda speech, Town of Tonawanda Senior Center, 291 Ensminger Rd., Tonawanda.

At 12:30 p.m., OGS Commissioner RoAnn Destito delivers a regional version of Cuomo’s 2015 Opportunity Agenda, Commerce Chenango, Northeast Classic Car Museum, 24 Rexford St., Norwich.

Also at 12:30 p.m., LG Kathy Hochul addresses the United Steelworkers Conference lunch, Holiday Inn, 441 Electronics Pkwy., Liverpool.

At 1 p.m., Cuomo discusses his 2015 Opportunity Agenda, Mohawk Valley Community College, Alumni College, Center Room 116, 1101 Sherman Dr., Utica.

Also at 1 p.m., Sen. Brad Hoylman, the Empire State Pride Agenda and the Coalition for Homeless Youth will be joined by elected officials and advocates to call for increased funding in the state budget for homeless youth shelters, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

At 1:15 p.m., Hochul tours the Sky Armory, 351 Clinton St., Syracuse.

At 3 p.m., community activist Jamaal Bailey, Kings County DA Kenneth Thompson and urban farmer Karen Washington will be honored by Bronx BP Ruben Diaz Jr. during an annual event marking the observance of “Black History Month”; Dreiser Loop Community Center, Co-op City, 177 Dreiser Loop, the Bronx.

At 7 p.m., Office for New Americans Director Jorge Montalvo delivers a regional version of Cuomo’s 2015 Opportunity Agenda, Knights of Columbus Hall, Lincoln Shopping Center, 2985 Kenneth Pl., Oceanside.

Also at 7 p.m., EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck will address climate change, the scope of the problem, major steps that EPA is taking to fight climate change and tips on how people can help, The College of St. Rose, Thelma P. Lally School of Education, Touhey Forum, 1009 Madison Ave., Albany.

At 7:30 p.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray attend the “home going service” for Alfonso Bernard, Jr., Christian Cultural Center, 12020 Flatlands Ave., Brooklyn.

Headlines…

Never an easy collaboration, the relationship between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, who describe themselves as friends, has become steadily more strained, according to close associates of both.

For four minutes, the NYPD police officer who had just fired his gun into a darkened housing project stairwell argued with his partner over whether to tell their superiors about the shot. “I’m going to be fired,” said the officer, Peter Liang, whose bullet killed Akai Gurley. Liang has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter.

While unveiling the six-count indictment against Liang, Brooklyn DA Kenneth Thompson said this case had nothing to do with the Michael Brown (Ferguson) or Eric Garner (Staten Island) cases.

A judge who since Sheldon Silver’s arrest has come under scrutiny for the sky-high damages that juries in her court have awarded to Weitz & Luxenberg clients recently slashed a record $190 million asbestos-poisoning payout to less than $30 million.

A legal ethics expert hired by Weitz & Luxenberg found Silver had a legitimate “of counsel” relationship to the firm, allowing it to give him unlimited referral fees without breaching professional conduct rules.

In her State of the City speech, NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito took aim at the “broken windows” approach to policing, proposing a significant easing of penalties for certain minor quality-of-life offenses like jumping turnstiles.

Republican Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney, who has critics within her own party due to her close relationship with Cuomo, started 2015 with $656,000 in her campaign account and no opponent as she prepares to seek re-election this fall.

More >

Extras

Peter Liang, the NYPD officer who last year killed Akai Gurley, pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide charges in the death of the unarmed 28-year-old man.

Sen. John Defrancisco will almost double his base salary with his pension when he double dips this year.

A lobbying firm with close ties to new Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and other minority politicians has been hired to push a controversial bill that would allow check cashers to make high-interest loans.

Mike Boland, who left the Working Families Party to run Zephyr Teachout’s gubernatorial campaign, has returned to the progressive organization.

Liberal organizations just won’t take “no” for an answer from US Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

New York politics has given Jon Stewart a lot of show fodder.

More on why Stewart is calling it quits now…and what might be next for him. (Spoiler alert: Likely not NBC’s Nightly News).

In her State of the City address, NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito proposed creation of a Civil Justice Coordinator and an Office of Labor.

UFT President Mike Mulgrew rallied teachers against Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s education reform proposals during a town hall meeting, asking them to prepare for a “tough road” ahead during budget negotiations.

Erstwhile Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Warren Redlich is making headlines in his new home state of Florida.

Mayor Byron W. Brown said his city is issuing a formal request for proposals as it looks for a consultant to help grow Buffalo’s film industry.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman John Bonacic discusses the dynamics during the confirmation hearings of Cuomo’s two newest Court of Appeals judges.

If she’s indeed looking for campaign HQ space in Brooklyn, Hillary Clinton’s options are limited.

One of the first bills passed by the state Assembly this session will help small farmers fight large agribusinesses that sue over seed patents.

Final disclosure reports for the 2014 midterms reveal at least 10 races where one House candidate – including ex-Reps. Dan Maffei and Tim Bishop and Sean Eldrirdge – outspent their opponent by more than $1 million – and still lost.

New York will lend a hand as Massachusetts continues to dig out from record-breaking amounts of snow that has fallen over the past couple of weeks.

Cuomo’s budget calls for a $10 million boost to the Environmental Protection Fund – to $172 million – and for using $5.7 million of that for invasive species control.

Cuomo’s executive budget earmarks $1.4 billion for healthcare infrastructure, yet details remain vague.

London Mayor Boris Johnson once described Clinton as a “sadistic nurse in a mental hospital,” but now only has nice things to say about her.

Ex-NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who performed with the Broadway casts of Mamma Mia!, The Phantom of the Opera and Hair in Inner Circle shows, will receive The Actors Fund’s Medal of Honor at its annual gala.

The nonprofit Open Space Institute announced the purchase of 135 acres of rolling farmland along the western edge of the Town of New Paltz.

Flanagan: Don’t Let Ethics Eclipse Education

From the Morning Memo:

Before the latest ethics reform craze swept the state Capitol in reaction to the Sheldon Silver corruption scandal, education was the top topic of debate among lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo made it clear long before he unveiled his 2015-16 budget – and even before the November 2014 elections – that he had the teachers unions in his crosshairs, and intended to break the so-called “monopoly” he believed is to blame for most of the public education system’s woes.

As promised, Cuomo included a host of aggressive education reform proposals in his budget. And he told lawmakers that if they accepted his overhaul plan in total, districts would receive $1.1 billion in aid instead of just $377 million.

This set the stage for an epic education budget battle – perhaps the biggest Albany has seen for some time.

But it’s taking place alongside the ethics reform fight. Cuomo has said this is now his top priority – something for which he might even be willing to shut down the government if lawmakers don’t accept his five-point plan to clean up Albany.

Senate Education Committee Chairman John Flanagan said during a CapTon interview last night that while ethics reform is important, it shouldn’t distract lawmakers from the rest of the budget – and education in particular.

“I want to stay focused on what are our primary responsibilities,” Flanagan, a Long Island Republican, told me.

“Education is New York State’s number one obligation and responsibility, and I believe that’s dictated by virtue of our Constitution and a long historical perspective.”

“So, what we do on education – whether it’s funding or reform – has to be the focal point of the budget, and it has been for a long time.”

“Of course, there are great parallels to the health budget in large part because of federal funding. But New York State’s primary focus and obligation has to be on the proper and appropriate funding of education. The other issues…are real and they’re legitimate, and there’s going to be discussion on that.”

Flanagan is one of 16 state lawmakers who reported earning at least $100,000 from outside work in 2013. (Like a number of his Senate and Assembly colleagues, he’s an attorney).

The senator said yesterday that he does not support a full ban on outside income, which has been floated – though not formally proposed – by the governor, and endorsed by the IDC as part of a larger legislative reform package.

Flanagan said he believes Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, (also an attorney, whose outside income is reportedly the subject of a federal investigation), and the rest of the GOP conference will “support transparency and disclosure.”

But, Flanagan argued, a full ban on outside income would dramatically limit the Legislature’s talent pool, preventing anyone but career politicians and the very rich from entering public service.

“I believe there’s nothing wrong with people making money,” the senator said. “That’s one of the fundamental components of our democracy…I believe in government service…But I don’t think that should preclude me or anyone else from being able to earn money for our family.”

At the end of the day, Flanagan predicted that the Legislature and the governor will be able to come to a deal on an on-time budget that is “a good, solid product everyone can be proud of.”

But he allowed the process of getting there will likely be messy – to say the least.

One Ban Fits All

From the Morning Memo:

Unlike his GOP colleague, IDC Leader Jeff Klein is all for a full ban on outside income – as he demonstrated by announcing this week he’ll divest entirely from his private practice law firm.

Klein said he’s trying to lead by example, and though the main focus of the outside income discussion has been on the lawyer-legislators in Albany, he believes anyone with any sort of real world job should consider following his lead.

“A conflict is a conflict,” Klein told me during a CapTon interview last night.

“I mean, if you’re a teacher at a college, you’re still voting on a budget that may impact that college. If you’re a pharmacist, you may be voting on legislation that might impact that industry.”

It just so happens that Klein’s fellow Bronx Democrat, newly-minted Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, is an adjunct math professor at Monroe College. And Assemblyman John McDonald, a Capital Region Democrat, owns a pharmacy that has been in his family for years.

Heastie reported earning between $5,000 and $20,000 for his teaching post, but has said he’ll be giving up all outside employment to focus on his new leadership position in the Assembly, while McDonald is among those who reported earning $100,000 or more.

Klein hastened to say he doesn’t believe everyone who derives an income from somewhere other than the Legislature is doing anything wrong.

But he also believes a full-time Legislature – with a commensurate pay raise – is the only way to truly ensure there are no conflicts of interest among lawmakers.

” I think it’s important now,” the senator explained. “I don’t want to come back on your show a year form now after we do some half-baked ethics reform proposal and it’s not enough, and we’re back to where we started from.”

“I think we all thought at the time when we developed JCOPE that this was going to be the means to clean up corruption in Albany. Well, we were wrong.”

Here and Now

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

At 8:30 a.m., during a panel discussion about the MTA’s five-year plan for construction and renovation projects, representatives of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA and the Urban Land Institute New York introduce an initiative titled “Keeping NY on Track: The Importance of the MTA Transit Network in a Changing World”; Rosenthal Pavilion, 10th floor, Helen & Martin Kimmel Center for University Life, NYU, 60 Washington Square S., Manhattan.

At 9:45 a.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will speak at NetGain: Working Together for a Stronger Digital Society, Ford Foundation, 320 East 43rd St., Manhattan.

At 11 a.m. Secretary of State Cesar Perales delivers a regional version of Cuomo’s 2015 Opportunity Agenda, Stony Brook University, Wang Center Chapel, Stony Brook.

Also at 11 a.m., NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito delivers a “State of the City” address titled “Lifting Every Voice”; use side entrance, Johnson Community Center, 1833 Lexington Ave., Manhattan.

Also at 11 a.m., the New York Lottery will present an over-sized prize check worth $1,000,000 to a lucky Calcium resident who won the top prize on the Ice Bank scratch-off game, Kinney Drugs, 22056 US Route 11 – Seaway Plaza, Watertown.

At 11:30 a.m., ESDC WNY Region VP Sam Hoyt delivers a regional version of the 2015 Opportunity Agenda, Baldwinsville Rotary Club, (Baldwinsville First United Methodist Church), 17 West Genesee St., Baldwinsville.

At noon, LG Kathy Hochul speaks at the Susan B. Anthony Luncheon, Rochester Riverside Convention Center, 123 East Main St., Rochester.

At 12:30 p.m., OGS Commissioner RoAnn Destito delivers a regional version of the 2015 Opportunity Agenda, SUNY Delhi, Centennial Center – Sanford Hall, 454 Delhi Dr., Delhi.

At 1 p.m., NAN’s Northeast Regional Director Minister Kirsten John Foy, along with general counsel Michael Hardy, convene a meeting between major civil rights and police reform groups; along with NYPD officials to deliberate over the mission of the new strategic response unit and protest protocols, 106 W. 145th St., Manhattan.

At 2 p.m., Kings County District Attorney Kenneth P. Thompson meets with reporters and photographers following an arraignment as part of grand jury proceedings; conference room, 19th floor, 350 Jay St., Brooklyn.

At 2:30 p.m., attorney Scott Rynecki and Kimberly Ballinger, partner of Akai Gurley, hold a press conference following arraignment of Police Officer Peter Liang; in front of Kings County Supreme Courthouse, 320 Jay St., Brooklyn.

Also at 2:30 p.m., Hochul discusses Cuomo’s 2015 Opportunity Agenda, SUNY Brockport, Cooper Hall, New York Room, 350 New Campus Dr., Brockport.

Also at 2:30 p.m., Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb and Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis discuss state government corruption and promote proposals to change state government ethics regulations, during a roundtable discussion for reporters and photographers; Royal Restaurant, 7609 Fifth Ave., Brooklyn.

At 2:50 p.m., NYS Homes and Community Renewal Commissioner and CEO Darryl Towns delivers a regional version of the 2015 Opportunity Agenda, SUNY Old Westbury, New Academic Building, Room 3109, Old Westbury.

At 4 p.m., de Blasio meets with Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni, Blue Room, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 5:30 p.m., de Blasio delivers remarks at the MADE Fashion Week kickoff party, 450 West 15th St., Manhattan.

At 6 p.m., parents, community leaders, educators; the Rev. Mike Walrond; Manhattan BP Gale Brewer; former NYC Councilman Robert Jackson and others attend an AQE-organized town hall meeting criticizing Cuomo’s education budget proposals, Wadleigh Secondary School for the Performing & Visual Arts, 215 W. 114th St., Harlem.

At 7 p.m., Assemblyman David Buchwald will be kicking off his second annual Valentines for Veterans program, Veteran’s Memorial Building, 216 Halstead Ave., Harrison.

Headlines…

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said he’s “actively engaged” in talks with Gov. Andrew Cuomo to enact ethics reforms because “we need full transparency…to restore the public’s trust.” But the Long Island Republican has balked at providing a public list of his outside law clients.

Hours after the Daily News published the names of 16 lawmakers – including Skelos – who made more than $100,000 in outside income, the Senate GOP leader issued a statement saying he supported “full transparency.”

US Attorney Preet Bharara: “It doesn’t seem like business will be abating any time soon in the public-corruption department.”

Last year, the Civilian Complaint Review Board substantiated six complaints by people who said NYPD officers had restrained them with a chokehold – a banned maneuver used by an officer in death of Eric Garner last July. The number, while small, is a notable increase. From 2009 to 2013, the board substantiated a total of nine chokehold complaints.

An NYPD officer was reportedly indicted on multiple charges, including manslaughter, in the November shooting death of an unarmed black man in the darkened stairwell of a housing project.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposal to add about $54 million to the Correction Department budget was praised by inmates’ advocates and longtime department critics who said it demonstrated a commitment to rein in the brutality and corruption that have long plagued Rikers Island.

Afflicted with a cold, de Blasio took a sick day, calling off three events on his schedule – including a private meeting with Reps. Nydia Velazquez and Jerry Nadler and a speaking engagement at John Jay College.

The City Poll, conducted by NY1 and Baruch College, found that 58 percent – nearly six in 10 New Yorkers – approve of the mayor’s job performance. Twenty-four percent disapprove, while 16 percent say they are not sure.

Republican Sen. Joe Griffo is sponsoring legislation that would place term limits on legislative leaders (the Assembly speaker, temporary Senate president and minority leaders in both houses). If passed, legislative law also would be amended to limit the tenure of legislative committee chairs.

Brian Williams, the embattled NBC news anchor whose credibility plummeted after he acknowledged exaggerating his role in a helicopter episode in Iraq, has been suspended for six months without pay.

After 17 years on the job, Jon Stewart is stepping down as host of “The Daily Show.” The search is on to replace him.

“17 years has been the longest I have ever in my life held a job, by sixteen years and five months,” Stewart said at the end of his program last night. “In my heart, I know it is time for someone else to have that opportunity.”

More >

Extras

Only days after Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he won’t help fix Syracuse’s crumbling water pipes, Mayor Stephanie Miner heard a more receptive tone from U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer.

Onondaga County GOP Chairman Tom Dadey: “Cuomo, who seemingly gets more arrogant every day, was way out of line when he…more or less told the proud residents of the Salt City to ‘Drop Dead.'”

A rookie NYPD officer who who shot and killed a Brooklyn man in an unlit housing project staircase has been indicted.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 17-year-old daughter is raising awareness over sexual assault by selling T-shirts that read: “My having a good a– does not give you a right to be one.”

The IDC is taking a hardline approach to non-legislative income in its new ethics reform package, calling for a complete ban.

Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz has introduced a “Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Safety Warning Act”, which would require vendors to put tobacco-style warning labels on all sugary drinks.

Scott Walker, the Republican who leads the presidential pack in Iowa polling, is the first of the 2016 White House aspirants to open an office in the Hakweye State.

A bank teller who allegedly stole over $850,000 using customer data while working at JP Morgan Chase in White Plains pleaded guilty today to a felony charge in Westchester County Supreme Court.

Antipoverty advocates pushing to bring free breakfast to New York City classrooms said the program should have been included in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s preliminary budget.

Richard Esposito, the NBC investigator who has been fact-checking the network’s star anchor Brian Williams, provided a “progress report” to network executives on Monday night.

The Cuomo administration has upped the amount of money allocated for housing rehabilitation with another $7.3 million for re-building or construction of 500 affordable homes across the state.

Vermont Gas Systems says it is not going through with the second phase of a natural gas pipeline that would have extended underneath Lake Champlain to International Paper in Ticonderoga.

NARAL has launched an on-line petition urging Democrats to pick a pro-choice candidate for the yet-to-be-called special election to replace ex-Rep. Michael Grimm.

Staten Island DA Dan Donovan, the Republican running to replace Grimm, will visit Washington this week while Democrats continue seeking a candidate.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Hillary Clinton are scheduled to be in D.C. on the same day next month.

London Mayor Boris Johnson plans to meet with Clinton (and also NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, though not at the same time) in NYC tomorrow.

Ahead of that meeting, Johnnson apologized for once calling Clinton “a sadistic nurse in a mental hospital” and  alluding to conspiracy theories she was involved in a friend’s death.

New York Lottery officials announced that the jackpot for tomorrow’s Powerball drawing is now $485 million – the third-largest in Powerball history.

A study released today by Global Gateway Alliance ranks JFK and LaGuardia among the least public-transit accessible airports, compared with the rest of the world’s busiest airports.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany with no public schedule. This is the last day the Legislature is in session before lawmakers depart for a two-week mid-winter break.

At 8:15 a.m., the Board of Regents meets, 89 Washington Ave., Albany.

At 9 a.m., Brooklyn DA Kenneth Thompson delivers a keynote speech on “Race, Justice and Community: Can We All Get Along? (and How We Report It),” at the 10th annual “H.F. Guggenheim/John Jay College Conference on Crime in America,” 899 10th Ave., Manhattan.

Also at 9 a.m., Sen. Pat Gallivan addresses advocates asking Cuomo and the legislature to reform New York’s Scaffold Law and to include reform in the 30-day budget amendments, Empire State Plaza Concourse, Meeting Room 4, Albany.

At 9:30 a.m., a joint legislative hearing is held on the higher education portion of Cuomo’s 2015-16 budget, Hearing Room B, LOB, Albany. (SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher will testify).

Also at 9:30 a.m., the Assembly Education Committee interviews four Board of Regents candidates, Assembly Parlor, state Capitol, Albany. (UPDATE: These interviews will actually be held tomorrow and Thursday).

At 10 a.m., a Long Island man seeking exoneration after he pleaded guilty as an 18-year-old in 1988 to sexually abusing boys and served 13 years in prison, Jesse Friedman, attends oral arguments in a state appeals court hearing seeking Nassau County DA and police files in the case; 45 Monroe Pl., Brooklyn.

At 10:30 a.m., Senate Republicans hold a press conference to highlight their plan to fully abolish the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) enacted by Senate Democrats in 2010, Room 332, state Capitol, Albany.

At 11 a.m., NYC Coalition Against Hunger Executive Director Joel Berg, NYC Public Advocate Tish James, City Councilman Stephen Levin and other officials hold a news conference to criticize changes in participation of city schools in school breakfast programs; steps, City Hall, Manhattan.

Also at 11 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul speaks at the State Police graduation ceremony, Empire State Plaza Convention Center, Albany.

At noon, leaders from four municipalities will join Ratepayer and Community Intervenors at a press conference to cal on Cuomo to reject a proposal by Cayuga Operating Co. to continue burning coal at the Cayuga plant and to add gas-fired capacity, Town of Ithaca Town Hall, 215 North Tioga St., Ithaca.

At 12:10 p.m., cancer patients, survivors and advocates will ask lawmakers to restore the 15 percent cut Cuomo proposed as part of a consolidation of health programs including the Cancer Services Program, Hearing Room A, LOB, Albany.

At 12:55 p.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio delivers remarks at the 10th Annual John Jay/Harry Frank Guggenheim Symposium on Crime in America, Student Dining Hall – New Building, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, 524 West 59th St., Manhattan.

At 1 p.m., NYC Investigation Commissioner Mark Peters, New York County DA Cyrus Vance Jr. and NYPD officials discuss a bribery case during a news conference; fifth floor, Manhattan Family Justice Center, 80 Centre St., Manhattan.

Also at 1 p.m., NYS Canal Corp. Director Brian Stratton delivers a regional version of Cuomo’s 2015 Opportunity Agenda, Lewis County Courthouse, Legislative Chambers, 7660 North State St., Lowville.

At 2:30 p.m., the IDC will release a report outlining the financial challenges facing New York’s growing senior population and propose policy solutions that will help make life more affordable for seniors, Room 124, state Capitol, Albany.

At 3:30 p.m., ESDC WNY Regional VP Sam Hoyt delivers a regional version of the 2015 Opportunity Agenda, Wyoming County Office Building, 143 North Main St., Suite 220, Wyoming.

Also at 3:30 p.m., de Blasio meets with London Mayor Boris Johnson, Blue Room, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 5:30 p.m., Brooklyn BP Eric Adams will launch an effort with ECPAT-USA, the leading anti-trafficking policy organization in the US, to train hotels and their employees on how to identify and combat incidences of sex trafficking in advance of the NBA All-Star weekend, Borough Hall rotunda, 209 Joralemon St., Brooklyn.

Also at 5:30 p.m., Assemblyman Robin Schimminger holds a $500-a-head fundraiser at the Fort Orange Club, 110 Washington Ave., Albany.

At 6:55 p.m., de Blasio speaks at the opening of “The Italian Americans” at NYU, NYU Kimmel Center – Eisner & Lubin Auditorium – 4th Floor, 60 Washington Square S., Manhattan.

Headlines…

The Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, is back at full power, and with a decidedly liberal bent, following the confirmation of two of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s nominees by the GOP-controlled Senate.

Federal prosecutors have launched “an assault on the criminal opacity of Albany,” in the words of one Justice Department official, and could take the unusual step of producing a grand-jury report on systemic public corruption in the state Capitol.

After releasing his $77.7 billion preliminary budget, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio raised the issue of the $15.2 billion MTA capital budget deficit and the state’s failure to abide by the 2007 CFE settlement that promised additional education funds to the city, saying arguments about lean economic times no longer hold water.

De Blasio’s proposal represents an increase of $7.8 billion, or 11.2 percent, over the budget adopted by the Bloomberg administration in June 2013.

Public safety was a major theme in de Blasio’s budget, which includes more than $11 million toward new ambulance tours, $6.5 million for EMS dispatchers, $11.5 million to replace NYPD bullet-resistant vests and $10 million to expand the police cadet program.

The NYC Council is again urging de Blasio to add funding for 1,000 additional NYPD officers in his budget proposal.

With a focus on rooting out corruption in Albany, IDC Leader Jeff Klein is giving up all of his outside income, divesting himself from his law firm, Klein, Calderoni & Santucci, where he is an equity partner.

More >

Extras

Westchester County executive Rob Astorino told the state Conservative Party he hopes to be “in a position to run” again for statewide office in 2018.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled his preliminary budget plan for fiscal year 2016 – a $77.7 billion document that kicks off a budget process that won’t  wrap up until June.

Rob Reiner and Royal Pains co-creator/executive producer Andrew Lenchewski have acquired the rights to Rep. Steve Israel’s novel, political satire The Global War On Morris, to develop as a comedy series for cable.

Federal investigators from upstate are reportedly looking at voter fraud and financial mismanagement in the Bronx, which could prove embarrassing to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

Assemblyman Joseph Borelli, whose district overlaps the Staten Island House seat once held by Michael Grimm, proposed two bills that would create set time frames for calling special elections.

The NYS Catholic Conference debuted a new website on “end-of-life decision making” in the wake of a lawsuit that seeks to legalize doctor-assisted suicide.

Shortly after unveiling ads last week attacking Cuomo’s education plans, the heads of the NYC and state teacher unions met with aides to the governor, and may have agreed to temporarily halt the campaign.

About $5 million in grants that had been tied up in Westchester County’s housing battle with the federal government will be made available through the state, Cuomo and Rep. Nita Lowey announced.

More on why Cuomo won’t give Syracuse money to fix its aging infrastructure.

The state Senate debated the date of Flag Day.

It took more than a month, but the state Assembly has finally passed its first bill of 2015.

…Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver initially voted “no” – his first “no” vote in years, which caught colleagues by surprise – but he later amended that to a “yes.”

Eighty-four percent of municipal governments and 97 percent of school districts have maintained the 2 percent property tax cap that entitles residents to state tax credits.

A battle between Hillary Clinton and Sen. Elizabeth Warren for the 2016 Democratic nod could create a showdown that might split Hollywood and force A-list stars to choose sides.

Clinton is the prohibitive Democratic front-runner, David Axelrod says, but if she’s is going to win the White House she needs to campaign like an insurgent.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders outlines how he would run against Clinton – if he runs at all.

Carl Paladino was in rare form at the Conservative political action conference, taking aim at former Sens. George Maziarz and Mark Grisanti.

David Brock abruptly resigned from the board of the super PAC Priorities USA Action, revealing rifts that threaten the big-money juggernaut being built to support Clinton’s expected campaign.

Dr. Jill Stein is exploring a second presidential run on the Green Party line.

As tax revenue from sales of cigarettes continues to slide in New York, the state is planning to reauthorize a special joint task force to “aggressively” collect unpaid taxes.

Start-Up NY is doing well upstate, but NYC’s in Silicon Alley “it’s kind of an open joke” and is largely ignored, according to one venture capitalist.

MMA supporters are cheering ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s departure, saying it could be a step toward legalizing the controversial sport in New York.

The governor wants to eliminate $41 million in annual STAR breaks to affluent taxpayers in New York City.

Financial Services Superintendent Ben Lawsky released a report on cyber security in the insurance industry and measures that DFS will take to help strengthen cyber hacking defenses at insurers.

Here and Now

SNOW!!! (Again).

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany with no public schedule. This evening (not advised by his press office), he will host a reception at the executive mansion for the state’s mayors, who are in town for their annual NYCOM legislative conference.

At 9 a.m., Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, the 2014 GOP/Conservative gubernatorial candidate; and his LG running mate, Chemung County Sheriff Chris Moss, will address the state Conservative Party’s 48th annual political action convention, Holiday Inn, Wolf Road, Colonie.

At 9:15 a.m., AG Eric Schneiderman speaks at NYCOM’s annual winter legislative meeting, Albany Hilton, 40 Lodge St., Albany.

At 9:30 a.m., a joint legislative hearing will be held on the taxes portion of Cuomo’s 2015-16 executive budget, Hearing Room B, LOB, Albany.

At 9:45 a.m., Reps. Lee Zeldin, John Katko and Elise Stefanik are scheduled to participate on a panel at the state Conservative Party’s 48th annual political action convention, Holiday Inn, Wolf Road, Colonie.

At 10:45 a.m., representatives of groups supporting the Education Investment Tax Credit will testify before the legislative budget hearing, Hearing Room B, LOB, Albany.

At 11 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul attends the Capital Region REDC meeting, Union College, Nott Memorial, 807 Union St., Schenectady.

At 11:15 a.m., Office for New Americans Director Jorge Montalvo will deliver a regional version of Cuomo’s 2015 Opportunity Agenda speech, Rain Middletown Road Senior Center, 3033 Middletown Rd., the Bronx.

At 11:30 a.m., state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli speaks at the NYCOM conference, Albany Hilton, Albany.

At noon, 2010 Consevative/GOP gubernatorial candidate and current Buffalo School Board member Carl Paladino speaks at the state Conservative Party’s 48th annual political action convention, Holiday Inn, Wolf Road, Colonie.

Also at noon, Rep. Chris Gibson will host a press conference to discuss events commemorating the 150th anniversary of the death of President Lincoln and the passage of his funeral train through Columbia County, Hudson Amtrak station, 69 South Front St., Hudson.

Also at noon, Sen. Hugh Farley holds a $400-a-head fundraiser at the Albany Hilton, 40 Lodge St., Albany.

From noon to 2 p.m., Rebuild NY Now, a broad-based coalition seeking to raise public awareness about New York State’s infrastructure needs, will hold a rally and lobby day in Albany, LOB, 198 State St., Albany.

At 12:15 p.m., this week’s Moral Mondays vigil and press conference will focus on protections for immigrants – including passage of the DREAM Act, War Room, state Capitol, Albany.

Also at 12:15 p.m., Hochul speaks at NYCOM’s lunch reception, Hilton Albany, 40 Lodge St., Albany.

At 1 p.m., a joint legislative hearing will be held on the economic development portion of Cuomo’s proposed budget, Hearing Room B, LOB, Albany.

At 2 p.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio presents the FY 2016 preliminary budget, Blue Room, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 5:30 p.m., Sen. Carl Marcellino holds a $750-a-head fundraiser at the University Club, 141 Washington Ave., Albany.

Also at 5:30 p.m. Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb and Sens. Joe Griffo and John Bonacic host fundraisers at the Fort Orange Club (in separate rooms), for $750 per person, $500 per person and $750 per person respectively, 110 Washington Ave., Albany.

From 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., representatives of NYC agencies, departments and emergency services discuss a Saturday, Jan. 31, fire at a warehouse along Brooklyn’s Kent Avenue, during a “town hall” meeting hosted by state Sens. Martin Dilan and Daniel Squadron, NYC Councilman Stephen Levin, Assemblyman Joe Lentol and Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney; community room, Bushwick Inlet Park, 75 Kent Ave., Brooklyn.

At 6 p.m., Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins holds a $500-a-head fundraiser at Taste, 45 Beaver St., Albany.

Also at 6 p.m., Assemblyman Harry Bronson holds a $500-a-head fundraiser at Albany Hilton, 40 Lodge St., Albany.

Headlines…

Gov. Andrew Cuomo to the New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin on the art of dealmaking in Albany: “My job is to get to yes. If I don’t make a deal, I get nothing done. If I get nothing done, I am a failure. If the objective is to make a nice speech, it means nothing.”

As snow continues to blanket the region, Amtrak has canceled two of its trains from the Albany-Rensselaer station to New York City and two others from New York City upstate originally scheduled for travel today.

New Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio met yesterday at Ebbets Field Apartments in Brooklyn to discuss the urgent need to renew and strengthen rent regulations this legislative session and for more effective enforcement against violating rent laws.

Heastie promised that renewing and strengthening the rent-regulation laws that affect a million NYC apartments would be his “No. 1 priority.”

Heastie made his first public comments on a “sad chapter” in his life in which his mother was arrested and convicted in the mid-1990s on charges of looting a taxpayer-funded nonprofit that was supposed to help the elderly and sick.

The new speaker has retained several key aides to his disgraced predecessor Sheldon Silver, including Counsel James Yates and Program and Policy Secretary Lou Ann Ciccone.

By voting to encourage Sen. Elizabeth Warren to run for president in 2016, the Working Families Party became the latest liberal group to support her as a potential primary challenger to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has not formally announced that she will seek the Democratic nomination but is the presumed favorite.

Asserting that physician-assisted suicide is not “death with dignity,” Timothy Cardinal Dolan says the Church is launching an aggressive fight against efforts in New York to legalize the practice.

More >

The Weekend That Was

The FDNY will receive additional funding in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s upcoming budget to increase staffing in hopes of shaving precious seconds off ambulance response times to medical emergencies.

Tonight, the Working Families Party leadership will decide whether to back a campaign to draft Elizabeth Warren to run for president in 2016.

New Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie paid his respects Saturday to the Rev. Al Sharpton in one of the new speaker’s first New York City appearances since assuming the powerful post. He said he felt especially proud to “break the glass ceiling” in February – Black History Month.

The speaker told the mostly black audience: “All of you are going to be sitting at that (budget negotiating) table with me, for the first time in history.” He also insisted: “I’m still Carl.”

In a speech that lasted barely three minutes — Heastie is known to be a man of few words — he said he would not be discouraged by the scrutiny of his background that played out in the news media as he pursued the speakership.

As the new third man in the room, Heastie could upend the dynamics of the budget talks – especially since he’s not particularly close to the governor. “The speaker is his own man,” a source close to the speaker told the WSJ. “The campaign was just another example of how the speaker doesn’t owe the governor anything and vice versa.”

At the end of the NAN meeting, Bronx BP Ruben Diaz Jr. discreetly slipped Heastie some cash for the collection basket.

Heastie steered more than $600,000 to a Bronx nonprofit that had no official board, filed no tax forms for years while receiving taxpayer funding and ultimately went bankrupt.

During the mid-1990s, a federal corruption investigation was targeting Heastie’s mentor, Bronx politician Larry Seabrook. At the time, prosecutors were probing whether employees at a nonprofit Seabrook controlled and funded with taxpayer dollars were forced to work on his 1994 campaign for Assembly.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s increasing reliance on linkage on unrelated policy items is potentially dangerous for him. “He risks a relationship with the Legislature that, while far from warm and cozy, has come together on major issues the past four years. And if he caves, which he has been known to do in his first four years in office, he risks looking weak to both lawmakers and the public.”

The Schenectady Gazette: “Cuomo is wearing two sets of idiot mittens, by tying ethics reform in the Legislature to the state budget and education reform to school funding. If he’s not careful, he’s going to slap himself in the face.”

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who admitted to smoking pot in the 1969s, sharply criticized Colorado’s decision to legalize marijuana and called it a terrible idea. He said the drug is stronger and more damaging now than in his day.

In the little more than a year since de Blasio appointed her to lead the city’s Education Department, NYC Schools Chancellor Caarmen Fariña has presided over a methodical dismantling of the policies of Bloomberg’s first and last chancellors, Joel Klein and Dennis Walcott.

Though they speak often, it appears de Blasio and Sharpton don’t use email as their preferred method of communication.

Sen. Mike Ranzenhofer, a lawyer who handles personal injury, marital issues and justice courts, has “concerns” about Cuomo’s demand for full disclosure of legislators’ outside income. “I do family law and custody,” he said. “And that would be inappropriate for someone to have their name disclosed on a personal or business matter.”

The TU says now that the governor and the Legislature are talking about more ethics reform, it’s time for them to revisit the issue of JCOPE.

“NBC Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams announced that he would temporarily take himself off the air, leaving NBC’s signature evening newscast in the hands of Lester Holt “for the next several days,” he wrote in a memo to staff Saturday afternoon that was later published to the network’s press relations site.

A newly-released poll from Bloomberg Politics/Saint Anselm has former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush getting support from 16 percent of respondents, followed closely by Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s 13 percent. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (12 percent) and NJ Gov. Chris Christie (10 percent) round out the top of the GOP field.

With advice from more than 200 policy experts, Hillary Clinton is trying to answer what has emerged as a central question of her early presidential campaign strategy: how to address the anger about income inequality without overly vilifying the wealthy.

Some of the main contenders for the White House in 2016 – including Bush and Clinton – would be markedly older than President Barack Obama when they took office.

The Oneida Indian Nation still plans to build a $20 million “Yellow Brick Road” casino in Chittenango to honor the Central New York author L. Frank Baum, despite a report that he promoted Native American genocide.

“I think that’s a wonderful message — that we’re able to overcome by repentance and by forgiveness,” said Oneida leader Ray Halbritter. “It’s looking forward rather than backward.” (Not everyone agrees with this logic).

Although collisions at grade crossings have declined nationally over the past decade, the drop hasn’t been nearly as marked in New York, according to Federal Railroad Administration data. In total, 63 people have died and 137 were injured in 371 crashes in the state from 2004 through late 2014. Officials are now trying to figure out why, and how to reverse this trend.

Judges have helped turn Manhattan’s special asbestos court into a gold mine for Sheldon Silver’s law firm — and ex-Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, who blamed her lung cancer in a $100 million-plus lawsuit on asbestos exposure she suffered as a child when her father and brothers unwittingly brought toxic fibers home from their shipyard jobs, could also reap the rewards. McCarthy was a smoker for 40 years.

Emotions are riding high surrounding a large wind-energy project being considered for the Town of Somerset and a smaller, contiguous piece of the Town of Yates in Orleans County.

The feds should make the measles vaccine and booster shot free and more accessible to help combat the recent outbreak, said US Sen. Chuck Schumer.

Behind the dark glass towers of the Time Warner Center looming over Central Park, a majority of owners – many of them foreign – have taken steps to keep their identities hidden, registering condos in trusts, limited liability companies or other entities that shield their names. By piercing the secrecy of more than 200 shell companies, The New York Times documented a decade of ownership in this iconic Manhattan way station for global money transforming the city’s real estate market.

After receiving a 2008 pardon from then-Gov. David Paterson, Slick Rick is still rapping and still living a low-key lifestyle in the same northeast Bronx neighborhood that he settled into with his Jamaican mother and his sister when they moved from England in 1976.

The state Health Department on Jan. 9 released the first solicitation related to the pot initiative, seeking a business to configure and maintain the state’s “seed-to-sale solution” software.

John Whitehead, a Wall Street stalwart who would help define Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s culture and usher in the firm’s modern era, died Saturday at his home. He was 92 years old.