Nick Reisman

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New Education secretary Betsy DeVos defended the Trump administration’s decision to rescind protections for transgender students, arguing that the protections were an “overreach” of the Obama administration.

The new chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, Ronna McDaniel, says Democrats are “out of touch” with Americans.

The vast majority of Americans are no fans of Russian president Vladimir Putin, but despite a well-oiled anti-Russia machine in Washington his approval level has nearly doubled, according to a Feb. 21 Gallup poll.

The League of Conservation Voters’ national environmental scorecard is out. Not surprisingly, New York Democratic House members score high, while their Republican colleagues score low.

Trump said in an interview he doesn’t support the “one-sided” new START treaty that places caps on nuclear weapons with Russia.

The NBA has generally moved to the political left in repudiating Trump, but Knicks owner James Dolan gave $300,000 to a group supporting the Republican’s presidential campaign.

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan announced the formation of a campaign to push for equitable state aid to the state’s capital city.

In the wake of Rochester City Council voting to re-affirm Rochester as a sanctuary city, Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo says she has reservations about the county following suit.

Brooklyn Rep. Yvette Clarke on Thursday predicted Trump will be impeached soon: “It won’t be long.”

Cuomo rallied for his shared services proposal on Thursday in Rockland County, picking up support for the plan from County Executive Ed Day.

After it was unable to find a buyer, Kraft-Heinz is distributing layoff notices to workers at its cheese factory in the Southern Tier.

Cuomo also continued to remain neutral in the race for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee.

Oprah Winfrey will speak at Skidmore College’s graduation this spring.

Alan Colmes, a former Fox News host and liberal sparring partner of Sean Hannity, has died.

Cuomo Beefs Up Anti-Hate Crimes Efforts

With heightened concerns over anti-Semitic acts in New York and around the country, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday unveiled a push to combat hate crimes.

Cuomo, who met with 50 religious leaders from across the state in New York City, announced a $25 million grant program for schools, community center and day care facilities that would bolster security. At the same time, New Yorkers can report hate crimes by texting “HATE” to 81336, which would direct them to the state Division of Human Rights.

And Cuomo plans to push for legislation that would expand the state’s human rights law that would include a public-private legal defense fund for immigrants.

The moves come following bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers in New York cities as well as a bomb threat this week aimed at the Anti-Defamation League’s offices in New York City.

“There is no place for hate or discrimination or bigotry in New York,” Cuomo said this afternoon. “And New Yorkers will come together with one voice, as one force, we will find the perpetrators of these hate crimes and it will stop. Period. And we hope that this message that we send in New York today echoes across this country. Because enough is enough.”

Cuomo: ‘No Confusion’ In Transgender Rights (Updated)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a letter to officials at the state Education Department on Thursday wrote that despite the shift in Title IX enforcement for transgender students by the Trump administration, nothing should change in New York.

“There can be no confusion in this State,” Cuomo wrote in the letter to Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia. “New York State schools must continue to enforce the law and protect transgender and gender non-conforming students.”

Cuomo pointed to the state’s Dignity for All Students Act, an anti-bullying measure that requires schools to protect students based on discrimination or harassment.

“No student should be confused about their rights or fearful of losing these important protections,” the letter states. “By immediately issuing this directive, the State will provide clarity to all school administrators and provide our transgender students with the reassurance they need to maximize their potential and understand their rights.”

The letter comes as the federal government through President Donald Trump’s administration will no long enforce the Obama-era guidance of protections for transgender students when it comes to issues such as lockroom or bathroom use based on gender identification.

The Trump administration has insisted the move is based on an interpretation of states’ rights. Nationally, individual states have come under fire to implementing measures considered hostile to the LGBTQ community. Cuomo, in turn, has instituted non-essential state travel bans to states like North Carolina.

Meanwhile, some lawmakers are expected to once again push for the passage of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, a bill that is designed to block discrimination in the workplace or housing based on gender identity.

The measure has stalled in the Senate, but Cuomo has through executive action enforced aspects of the measure through existing human rights legislation.

Updated: Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Elia in a joint statement reiterated support for enforcing current laws aimed at protecting students.

“The Trump Administration’s decision to rescind this guidance sends a dangerous and divisive message and threatens some of our most vulnerable young people,” Schneiderman said.

“But in New York State, the law remains the law — and school districts have independent duties to protect transgender students from discrimination and harassment when they go to school. My office will use all the existing tools of federal, state, and local law to ensure that transgender kids are safe in their schools and are provided equal access to all programming and facilities consistent with their gender identity.”

Added Elia: “Transgender youth are valued members of our schools and communities across New York State, yet statistics show that more than half of them will attempt suicide at least once by their 20th birthday. So we must do everything in our power to create learning environments that are safe and welcoming for all. The guidance we have developed with Attorney General Schneiderman and our partners underscores the value we place on respecting all students and indeed all people.”

Dissent Stirs Over Cuomo’s Property Tax Plan

Rockland County Executive Ed Day on Thursday became the latest local government leader to embrace Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to consolidate and share services on the local level in order to reduce property taxes.

But the same day Cuomo was in Rockland County to tout the latest round of support for the plan, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, Sen. Sue Serino and members of the Civil Service Employees Association criticized it.

“This proposal spits in the face of home rule in New York State,” said CSEA Southern Region President Billy Riccaldo. “Only residents should have a say in services provided by their local government. Residents of Town A should have no vote over what Town B or City C is proposing. What our local governments truly need is the first increase in AIM (Aid and Incentive to Municipalities) funding in years, not more money wasted on an ill-conceived program.”

Cuomo wants county officials — either the elected executive or appoint administer — work with local governments to develop plans that would combine services or consolidate towns, villages and cities. The proposal would then be up to voters in a referendum this fall to consider.

The property tax plan is contained in Cuomo’s $152 billion budget proposal.

Local consolidation has long been a pet policy Cuomo dating back to his time as attorney general. Cuomo has also repeatedly contended the volume of local government is the main driver of property taxes in New York, though fiscal watchdogs have disagreed.

Cuomo’s plan has won the support from Long Island county executives Ed Mangano of Nassau and Steve Bellone of Suffolk, as well as Broome County’s Jason Garnar.

On Thursday, he picked up support from Day, a Republican who had previously been said to consider a run against Cuomo in 2018.

“Property taxes remain the most burdensome tax on home- and business-owners in the Mid-Hudson Valley and across New York, and this bold initiative will empower local governments to work together to find real solutions to lower costs, cut property taxes and improve government efficiency,” Cuomo said. “I commend these local leaders and look forward to working together to develop plans to deliver real relief to property taxpayers.”

Molinaro, a Republican who is mulling a run for governor next year, did not question the push to share services, but suggested the effort was meant to “scapegoat” local leaders.

“We all must work to share services and lower the cost of living for New Yorkers,” he said. “We are willing to be a partner in this effort but not a scapegoat. We, will do our part but New York must address the massive amount of state spending it forces onto the backs of property taxpayers.”

Serino, who would have a vote over whether the consolidation plan moves forward at all through the budget, questioned the linkage to aid to municipalities, which has been flat during Cuomo’s tenure.

“As someone who has served in local government before being elected to the Senate, I know from firsthand experience that Dutchess County has gone above and beyond to improve efficiency, cut spending and share services to reduce costs,” said Senator Sue Serino.

“I have seen just how hard our local governments work to squeeze blood from a stone to ensure that our taxpayers’ dollars go further and for that, they should be commended, not penalized. As we work toward a final budget, I know that there are difficult decisions to be made that strike a balance between funding critical services and saving taxpayer dollars. More can and should be done to reduce the local tax burden and I will continue to make property tax reduction a priority.”

Meng Receives Nod From NH Party Chair

New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley endorsed Queens Rep. Grace Meng’s bid to be re-elected a DNC vice chair, saying in a statement the New York Democrat knows how to build the party from the grassroots level.

“I’ve spent my career working to elevate women in our party, and I am so proud that we have the first all-women delegation to Congress from our state,” Buckley said in a statement.

“Grace understands that success of our party depends on grassroots organizing and expanding state party infrastructure. I’m looking forward to working with Grace to realize our full potential and build up a party that is inclusive, growing, and empowering to people from all backgrounds. Please join me in supporting Grace as Vice Chair.”

Assemblyman Michael Blake, a Bronx Democrat, is also seeking a vice chair post as the party gathers this weekend in Atlanta for its winter meeting.

Blake and Meng were endorsed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has otherwise stayed out of the more high profile fight for the party’s chairmanship.

DiNapoli: Tax Collections Down 1 Percent

Tax collections in January fell by $658.3 million over the same period last year, a 1 percent decline, according to Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s office.

Still, year-to-date tax revenue overall is slightly higher — some $167.9 million — than the most recent projections for the third quarter, the cash report released on Thursday found.

“State tax collections are slightly above Executive Budget projections,” DiNapoli said. “With the budget process well underway, and less than two months left in the fiscal year, we’re watching closely to see if revenues meet the Division of the Budget’s projected growth.”

There has been an increase in spending than initially projected, due in large part to the $2.1 billion of federal payments to the Essential Plan Program, as well as federal spending for Medicaid, also up by $2 billion.

Hoylman Blasts Trump Admin’s Rescinding Of Transgender Protections

Democratic Sen. Brad Hoylman in a statement released Wednesday night blasted the move by President Donald Trump’s administration to rescind the Title IX enforcement of protections for transgender students.

In the statement, the state lawmaker called Trump “a shameless bully.”

“By undermining Title IX protections for transgender students, Trump would allow all of America to follow the bogus ‘bathroom bills’ coming out of North Carolina and Texas, which are premised on the outrageous assertion that transgender people are sexual predators,” Hoylman said. “The reality is that upwards of 50 percent of transgender people are themselves the victims of sexual violence. Schools must offer a safe haven for all children – period. Trump’s new federal guidance obliterates that basic standard.”

Hoylman is the only openly gay member of the state Senate.

The Trump administration maintains the move is designed to allow states to set their own policies regarding transgender students. It is also likely to stoke calls from Democrats for the passage of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, a bill that has stalled in the Senate.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo through executive action has moved to add protections for transgender New Yorkers in housing and the workplace through the state’s Human Rights law.

Infrastructure Group Launches Clean Water Campaign

A coalition that backs infrastructure projects in New York is launching a digital ad campaign on Thursday aimed at pushing for more focus and spending on clean water in New York.

The group, Rebuild New York Now, is launching the effort in Rochester later today with local elected officials, linking the effort to the discovery of a chemical contamination in the drinking water in Hoosick Falls, a rural village near the Vermont border.

“We can all agree that New York needs major investment in its aging and precarious water infrastructure system after high profile disasters like Hoosick Falls have occurred right here at home,” said Mike Elmendorf, President and CEO of Rebuild New York Now.

“Investing in our water infrastructure will create jobs while ensuring the safety and wellbeing of New York families. Our coalition of labor, environmental and industry groups will take our message across the state and call upon our leaders to invest in our water infrastructure now, because we cannot wait any longer – our lives depend on it.”

The group is releasing a 60-second digital ad, with plans for social, streaming and video ads running statewide highlighting the water infrastructure issue.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $152 billion budget plan includes a proposed $2 billion clean water fund.

Cuomo To Dems On ACA: ‘Stand Up And Fight’

From the Morning Memo:

The same day he appeared with 1199SEIU, the politically influential health care union, to preserve the Affordable Care Act, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s political operation released emails to supporters urging them to “stand up and fight” to protect the law.

In the email released Wednesday afternoon, Cuomo wrote Democrats need to model their opposition after Republicans when they sought to derail the legislative agenda of Democratic presidents like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

“Democrats need to take a page out of the Republican Party’s book from when they disagreed with Bill Clinton and Barack Obama,” the email states. “We need fight Trump every step of the way.”

Its a tonal shift for Cuomo, in part, who has decried gridlock in Washington and touted his own work with Republicans in Albany to accomplish a legislative agenda that otherwise would be difficult for conservatives to approve.

Cuomo has come under fire from his own party and liberals for his willingness, too, to make compromises on key issues.

Now, Cuomo doesn’t want Democrats in Washington to accommodate Republican demands.

“Right now is not a time to make a deal. It’s not a time to get political,” he wrote. “It’s time to get principled and remember who you are, who you represent, and who you’re fighting for. That’s what Democrats are all about.”

Here And Now

Good morning!

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Rockland County and New York City for a series of events, including a roundtable with religious leaders.

Schedule:

At 9:30 a.m., state lawmakers will hold a community budget hearing, featuring Sen. David Carlucci, Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee and Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski. Pearl River Library 80 Franklin Avenue, Pearl River.

At 10 a.m., Cuomo will make an announcement at the West Haverstraw Municipal Center, 130 Samsondale Avenue, West Haverstraw.

Also at 10 a.m., Rebuild NY Now, a broad-based coalition seeking to raise public awareness about the challenges facing New York State’s infrastructure, along with Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo and other local elected officials, members of organized labor, environmental organizations, Chambers of Commerce and private local businesses, will be holding a press conference. Monroe County Office Building, 39 W Main St., Rochester.

Also at 10 a.m., Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan and Capital Region state lawmakers will outline an advocacy plan for state funding for the city, Albany City Hall Rotunda, Albany.

At 10:30 a.m., Assemblymembers Ed Braunstein and Nily Rozic join Selfhelp Community Services, Inc., other elected officials, civic leaders, and local senior citizens at press conference to protest Governor Cuomo’s budget proposal to redirect Title XX funding. Selfhelp Clearview Senior Center, 208-11 26th Avenue, Bayside.

Also at 10:30 a.m., Sen. Michael Gianaris tours the Center for Court Innovation Queens Youth Justice Center, 149-18 Jamaica Avenue, Queens.

At 11 a.m., Sen. Daniel Squadron will bring his tour of senior centers across his district to Manhattan to organize against a state budget proposal that could have serious unintended consequences for senior centers.CPC NY Chinatown Sr Center – 70 Mulberry St (b/t Bayard & Canal), New York City.

At 11:30 a.m., Rep. Louise Slaughter will provide an update on construction of the Rochester Intermodal Station, Rochester Intermodal Station, 320 Central Avenue, Rochester.

At 12:30, Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi will hold a news conference revealing the angst of local seniors who desperately rely on Medicare to pay for local healthcare. Parkway Senior Center, 220 Memorial Parkway, Utica.

At 1 p.m., Assemblyman Phil Palmesano and Sen. Tom O’Mara will sponsor a local roundtable discussion on Thursday in Corning featuring Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro and area leaders in business, government and the not-for-profit sector. Corning-Painted Post High School cafeteria, 201 Cantigney Street, Corning.

At 2 p.m., Cuomo will hold a roundtable discussion with Jewish community and interfaith leaders, Museum of Jewish Heritage, 36 Battery Place, New York City. The event is closed press.

At 2:45 p.m., Cuomo will make an announcement at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, 36 Battery Place, New York City.

At 5:30 p.m., Democrats in Dutchess County will make an announcement regarding the race for county comptroller, Kenyon House, 260 Boardman Road, Poughkeepsie.

At 7 p.m., Mayor de Blasio will host a black history month celebration, American Museum of Natural History, 81st Street between Central Park West & Columbus Avenue, New York City.

At 8:15 p.m., de Blasio delivers remarks at the annual gala of One Hundred Black Men, Sheraton Hotel, 811 Seventh Avenue, New York City.

Your headlines:

President Donald Trump’s administration has rescinded a directive left over from the Obama administration that was aimed at protecting transgender students in schools.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer called the issue of legal protections for transgender students a “states’ rights” concern, saying the policy is not best dealt with at the federal level.

Anti-bullying safeguards will not be affected by the change, a Trump official said.

Tech giant Apple is set to take a stand against the Trump administration’s action, the latest example of the company speaking out on LGBT issues.

New York’s top judge, Court of Appeals Judge Janet DiFiore, is delivered her first state of the judiciary address in New York City today.

DiFiore addressed some of the improvements made in the state’s sprawling court system.

DiFiore’s address was delivered in the Bronx, but she used Brooklyn as an example of gains made in civil courts.

The Anti-Defamation League says its national headquarters in New York City received an anonymous bomb threat Wednesday.

Former Assemblyman William Boyland has appealed his conviction in his corruption case, citing a Supreme Court decision in the trial of ex-Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.

Cuomo joined an effort backed by health care labor union 1199SEIU to preserve the Affordable Care Act.

Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi raised a number of concerns with Cuomo’s budget proposal in a public forum, including a plan to provide free tuition at public universities and colleges, saying the proposal may not cover all those eligible.

AM New York: “They may be ideological opposites, but President Donald Trump and Mayor Bill de Blasio have more in common than you might think.”

State lawmakers are decrying a plan in the governor’s proposed budget they say would cut funding and services for cancer patients.

New York law enforcement is worried the president’s immigration orders may make it more difficult to fight gangs.

A woman wearing an anti-Trump sign was turned away from attending a performance at Lincoln Center.

New York City officials are lowering their initial cost estimate for providing security services near and around Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue.

Detective Rick Lee, New York City’s “hipster cop” — who gained fame during the Occupy Wall Street protests — is retiring.

Animal rights activists held a vigil for the bull who died after escaping a Queens slaughterhouse.

A report found New York City’s homeless crisis may cost more than what Mayor de BLasio is budgeting for in his spending plan.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan took aim at Cuomo’s posture toward the Legislature, saying he’s “usurping” the role of lawmakers.

Robert Megna, a former budget director for two governors, is taking a leadership post at SUNY Poly following a corruption scandal involving its top leaders.

Just over a quarter of the Legislature in New York is composed of women, slightly higher than the national average.

Retailer Dollar General plans to bring 430 jobs to Montgomery County.

The Niagara County Community College Board of Trustees has hired an outside law firm to help investigate allegations that the bidding was tainted on construction of the college’s Culinary Institute in Niagara Falls.

Elon Musk’s Tesla says production at the SolarCity plan in western New York will start this summer.

Cuomo said in an interview on Tuesday that he plans to blow up the old Kosciuszko Bridge to expedite construction of the new one. The explosion is supposed to speed up the construction of the new bridge by seven to nine months (sharp-eyed readers from the Capital Region may notice the photo for this story isn’t the right bridge).

The Finger Lakes region in New York saw the second-highest number of installations of solar panels in New York.

Construction has begun on a new kind of apartment building in the Bronx. It could be called housing that’s good for your health.

People who live in the 21st congressional district attended a town hall forum in Glens Falls, albeit without Rep. Elise Stefanik.

In western New York, Rep. Chris Collins was represented at a town hall event by an enlarged photograph.

And a similar episode played out in the central New York congressional district of Rep. John Katko.

Leaders in Hoosick Falls are considering a revised settlement with Saint-Gobain and Honeywell over PFOA contamination. Thursday, the public will have its chance to give its input.

For the third time in the past three decades, leaders in the town and village of Lake George hope to study the possible dissolution of the village.

Inside the Fort Orange Club, Congressman John Faso held a fundraiser. But greeting him and his supporters outside were protesters.

One of the busiest men in Washington these days, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer got free long enough Wednesday to make several stops across upstate New York.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan called proposals aimed at regulating carry-out store bags too broad, signaling opposition to statewide efforts to place a fee or ban on them.

A new president has been found for Ithaca College. Dr. Shirley Collado of Rutgers University Newark was chosen to replace Tom Rochon after the community criticized his handling of racially charged incidents on campus in the fall of 2015.

Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri answered several community questions about his proposed 2017-18 budget Wednesday.

People in Newburgh who had their blood tested for PFOS exposure hoped to learn more about what their results mean at a meeting Wednesday night.

The Kingston City School District has been classified as a focus school district by the state.

The fate of Elmira’s first arena is the subject of a bitter feud between the Southern Tier city and Chemung County.