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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.

Extras

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.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany with no public schedule. Assembly Democrats and Senate Republicans say they’ll be returning to the Capitol for more budget talks today.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is in the city with no public schedule as of yet.

At 8:30 a.m., alcony holds its Women’s History Awards Networking breakfast, Hard Rock Cafe, 1501 Broadway, Manhattan.

At 9 a.m., more than 450 experts from a variety of scientific, psychological, social service and educational communities will gather at the UAlbany Performing Arts Center to deliberate the emerging connections between trauma, the science of brain development and lifetime health, 1400 Washington Ave., Albany.

At 9:30 a.m., Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis holds a press conference to release a report on the Access-a-Ride program, Arrochar Friendship Club, 44 Bionia Ave., Staten Island.

At 10 a.m., Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli speak while hosting an event where state employees will help Bronx residents investigate whether they are entitled to unclaimed funds; rotunda, Bronx County Building, 851 Grand Concourse Ave., the Bronx.

Also at 10 a.m., Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks will honor local Vietnam Veterans, Olmstead Lodge, 171 Reservoir Ave., Rochester.

Also at 10 a.m., Assemblyman Keith Wright holds a press conference with Building and Construction Trades Council President Gary LaBarbera on NYCHA funding, Lincoln Houses, 2130 Madison Ave. at 133rd Street, Manhattan.

Also at 10 a.m., during a ceremony at CUNY’s Hunter College, officials and relatives of a woman killed in an East Harlem building explosion display a memorial plaque and accept funds raised at the college for her family and for the not-for-profit housing organization Hope Community Inc.; lobby, Silberman School of Social Work, 2180 Third Ave., Manhattan.

At 10:15 a.m., NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito joins elected officials, unions and community groups to call on Albany to raise the minimum wage, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

At 10:30 a.m., Sen. Marc Panepinto will tour Black Squirrel Distillery and highlight the benefits of strengthening the maple syrup industry in upstate as well as his overall legislative plan for boosting the state’s agricultural economy, 1595 Elmwood Ave., Buffalo.

At 10:45 a.m., Rep. Nita Lowey joins officials from Westchester Community College for a roundtable discussion on impact of proposed Pell Grant cuts for local college students, Hartford Hall, 75 Grasslands Rd., Valhalla.

At noon, acting state Tax Commissioner Ken Adams discusses Cuomo’s property tax proposal, home of Claudia Blumenstock, 407 Taylor Rd., Honeoye Falls.

Also at noon, representatives of Jewish advocacy organizations call for US Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer to support overriding an anticipated presidential veto of the “Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act,” during a news conference near the district offices of the lawmakers; 780 Third Ave., Manhattan.

At 12:30 p.m., Sen. David Carlucci holds a press conference on paid family leave at the “For Kids Only” Daycare facility, 577 North State Rd., Briarcliff Manor.

At 1 p.m., NYS Broadband Program Office Director David Salway discusses the governor’s New NY Broadband Program, Sullivan County Government Center, Legislative Hearing Room, 100 North St., Monticello.

At 6 p.m., Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, NYC Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo, state Sen. Jessie Hamilton, the Democratic party district leader of the Assembly’s 43rd District, Shirley Patterson, and Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon host a “Shirley Chisholm Women of Excellence Awards” presentation and reception, marking the March observance of Women’s History Month; First Baptist Church of Crown Heights, 450 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn.

Headlines…

A fiery explosion yesterday afternoon in Manhattan’s East Village injured at least 19 people, damaged four buildings and led to the collapse of at least one of them. Four people were in critical condition; they were among 15 taken to area hospitals, including four firefighters, who sustained minor injuries. Four people were treated at the scene. AS of last night, officials knew of no one killed in the incident.

Nicholas Figueroa, a 23-year-old man who took a co-worker to lunch at the sushi restaurant whose basement was the site of the blast, has not been heard from since the explosion. His date is being treated for injuries she sustained during the explosion at Bellevue Hospital.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders appear close to an agreement on ethics policies that would increase what legislators have to disclose about the money they make on top of their government salaries. Cuomo said the effort made good on his pledge to bring more sunlight to Albany, but critics say what they’ve seen so far falls short of full disclosure.

In the latest sign of Albany ethics madness, lawmakers were forced to turn over Lou Gehrig bobblehead dolls given to them by the ALS Association this week because they’re deemed a violation of the Legislature’s gift ban.

The collapse earlier this week of a two-pronged plan to include in the state budget an education tax credit and the Dream Act, which extends tuition assistance programs to undocumented immigrants, has led to finger-pointing and a last-minute scramble for some kind of alternative plan before budget bills are signed on Saturday.

Eleanor Randolph on the budget negotiation process: “The real mockery, of course, is that the insiders’ club can exclude even insiders. The four men in that back room should make room for two more, one of them a woman. Six people is not a crowd by anybody’s count.”

The final budget will include nearly $440 million for anti-homeless services over the next four years.

Cuomo’s campus sexual-assault proposal faces an uncertain future, with lawmakers from both parties saying it shouldn’t be included in the state budget. The Legislature wants the governor to change his plan, and let them vote on it later on in the session.

Another point of contention in budget talks: How to spend the state’s $5.4 billion (and growing) windfall from financial settlements. A Cuomo spokesman said using the money is “central to the finances of the state and a core component of the budget.” Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos wants more detail.

In yet another chapter of the ongoing push and pull between NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio and Cuomo, a new front has opened, this time over public housing funds in the state budget. While the figure is $100 million from the state to the city in the state budget for much-needed repairs, Cuomo wants a state agency to control how that money is administered. The mayor believes the funds should go directly to the housing authority.

With legislators holding closed-door meetings on the new state budget, teachers rallied against Cuomo at the state Capitol yesterday, stopping short of declaring victory in the fight with him over tenure and union rights.

A plan to task the Board of Regents with developing a new teacher-evaluation system was a step in the right direction as Cuomo and lawmakers negotiate a series of education reforms, NYSUT President Karen Magee said.

Negotiations over the Brownfields tax credit program have stalled because of a disagreement over a proposed affordable housing requirement.

Thoroughbred racing in New York could remain under Cuomo’s control for another year, as the state’s April 1 budget deadline approaches without discussion of the New York Racing Association.

More >

Extras

An explosion at a building on Second Avenue and East 7th Street in Manhattan this afternoon sent huge clouds of smoke billowing into the air and caused the building to partially collapse. More here.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan says he’s looking to the Assembly for “leadership” on the Education Investment Tax Credit, though: “if this doesn’t work out, there’s a lot of blame to go around.”

US Sen. Chuck Schumer is leading a group of Democratic senators from states that have heavy oil train traffic to push for the immediate strengthening of federal regulations on oil tanker cars.

US Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand says taxes on soda and other “junk” foods are regressive, and while she will push policies aimed at lowering the obesity rate, taxes are not the way to change behavior.

Two bills recently introduced in the Assembly would restrict what the living could do with the previously living.

Due to the governor’s refusal to release school aid runs, the Watertown School District has proposed cutting about 15 instructional and maintenance staff postitions.

Sen. Martin Dilan: “If DREAM comes out it should all come out. The budget is where we have leverage. Outside of the budget (the DREAM Act) is dead.”

Cuomo’s raise-the-age-proposal has a variety of provisions that actually create stricter sentencing schemes, particularly for kids charged with violent crimes.

The NYT hosted an online debate over whether spending more on education is the best way to improve schools.

A new AQE video targets the Senate Republicans for failing to “walk the walk” when it comes to increasing education aid.

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter will embark next week on his first domestic trip since taking office, and Fort Drum is on his itinerary.

Democratic Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. wants Texas Senator and GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz to visit the South Bronx.

A majority of the Chautauqua County Legislature approved a sales tax hike that will bring the combined local and state tax to 8 percent. The state Legislature must sign off on this.

Cuomo announced that David Rockefeller has donated $4 million to establish an operating endowment supporting the Rockefeller State Park Preserve in Westchester County.

DFS Superintendent Ben Lawsky, “no cape, but lots of crusades.”

Who were NYC’s top 10 lobbyists in 2014? Find out here.

The Commission on Judicial Conduct found Mansfield Town Judge Randy Alexander “acted realistically” by resigning his position and agreeing never to run for or accept an appointment to a judgeship again.

The Albany metro area added 5,300 private-sector jobs from February 2014 to February 2015. It was second most jobs of any city in upstate New York following Buffalo, which added 9,100 private sector jobs from year to year.

Troy gets some love from the New York Times Travel section.

The chairman of the Fulton City Republican Committee is withdrawing his support for Rep. John Katko, saying the congressman has abandoned his conservative and Tea Party supporters.

Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel, currently fighting for his political life in a heated run-off campaign, floated the idea of naming an airport after the Windy City’s favorite son: President Barack Obama.

The Skidmore student accused of sexually assaulting another student back in April of 2014 will not be allowed to return to the college for several years.

This happened.

NYCHA Funding War

In yet another chapter in the ongoing saga of OneUpsManship between Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, funding for the New York City Housing Authority is now the source of an intense behind the scenes fight. Sources say the figure that has been agreed upon is $100 million in the state budget for NYCHA. But it is how that money is administered which is the source of the dispute.

NYCHA hasn’t received state money in years, and serious repairs and capital investments are needed to improve the aging housing stock, some of which was built for veterans returning from the second world war. According to the state’s appropriation currently being hashed out in the budget, the state would control the money through the Division of Housing and Community Renewal. DHCR would then approve projects and allow the state to take an active role in determining how finite resources are spent.

Mayor de Blasio is livid over this, I am told. He believes NYCHA knows it’s own housing stock best, and NYCHA should administer its own money to determine how and where to spend it based on greatest need. Governor Cuomo isn’t having it. People familiar with the discussion taking place among staff between Albany and the City say NYCHA has had a serious accountability problem. That includes money it was given to install security cameras in the mid-2000s, that it is just getting around to spending now. A person with direct knowledge of the less-than-cordial conversation taking place says,

“NYCHA has not been a good steward of the public’s money in the past. There’s no question that the state wants to invest in NYCHA, but we want to do it in a fiscally responsible way.”

***UPDATE*** In response, NYCHA Spox Jean Weinberg says,

“It’s vital that Albany bureaucracy and politics do not stand in the way of critical funding for NYCHA residents. There has been a major erosion of support for public housing from the State over the last few decades. That’s why we’ve asked the State to commit $300 million — that the City will match — to ensure NYCHA can make the necessary repairs to its aging housing stock and provide residents with the housing they deserve.”

 

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany with no public schedule. The Assembly is in session at 9:30 a.m., the Senate at 11:30 a.m. NYSUT is holding a big protest at the Million Dollar Staircase at 4 p.m.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will attend an event hosted by the Campaign for One New York, which is closed to members of the press.

At 10 a.m., the NYC Council Public Housing Committee will be holding a preliminary budget hearing to review the Authority’s current and future expenses, revenue, and operations, Committee Room, City Hall, Manhattan. (Public comment period begins at noon).

Also at 10 a.m., state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. host a community event at Bronx Borough Hall to bring attention to unclaimed funds, 851 Grand Concourse, 3rd Floor, the Bronx. (UPDATE: This event is taking place tomorrow).

At 11:30 a.m., NYPD Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and the Police Athletic League of New York City officials participate in the league’s 17th annual “Legal Profession Luncheon”; The Pierre hotel, 2 E. 61st St., Manhattan.

Also at 11:30 a.m., the Thruway Authority holds a board meeting, 200 Southern Blvd., Albany.

At noon, acting state Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, state Agriculture Commissioner Richard Ball and Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren hold a press conference at the Rochester Public Market to commemorate the beginning of spring farmers’ market season in New York, 280 N. Union St., Rochester.

At 2:45 p.m., NYS Broadband Program Office Director David Salway discusses the governor’s New NY Broadband Program, 26th Annual Local Government Conference, Jefferson Community College, 1220 Coffeen St., Watertown.

At 4:45 p.m., acting state Tax Commissioner Ken Adams discusses the governor’s property tax proposal, home of Norman Ungermann, 8917 Ungerman Rd., Cuba.

At 5 p.m., Washington Heights residents demonstrate against Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposals; in front of Gregorio Luperon High School, 165th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, Manhattan.

Also at 5 p.m., Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz will deliver his third State of the County address, Mason O. Damon Auditorium, downtown Central Library, 1 Lafayette Square, Buffalo.

At 6 p.m., Sen. Brad Hoylman and Fordham Law Prof. Zephyr Teachout speak to members of the Downtown Independent Democrats; downstairs meeting room, Von Bar, 3 Bleecker St., Manhattan.

At 6:40 p.m., Diaz Jr. discusses visiting Israel with Latino officials in January as part of a trip sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York Inc., and participates in a question-and-answer session; Riverdale YM-YWHA, 5626 Arlington Ave., the Bronx.

At 7 p.m., Sen. Leroy Comrie will host a forum on Consumer Protection at the Allen Community Senior Center, 166-01 Linden Blvd., Queens.

Headlines…

Under fire for letting the Education Investment Tax Credit and the DREAM Act fall off the budget table, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called on the Legislature in a Daily News OpEd to move forward with stand-alone votes on both bills.

Cuomo and lawmakers are in talks to finalize the terms of what he has named as his top priority: a package of ethics overhauls designed to, among other things, shed more light on legislators’ outside income. Much of the rest of the governor’s agenda, as laid out in his executive budget and 30-day amendments, will now be addressed after the budget deal is reached.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said the chamber’s majority Democrats take “major issue” with Cuomo’s plan to withhold a boost in school funding until lawmakers agree to reforms to the state’s education system. Senate Republicans aren’t thrilled with the idea, either.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos blamed Assembly Democrats for legislation to address sexual assault on college campuses apparently falling out of the state budget.

Cuomo has highlighted of his inclusion in this year’s budget of a ban on the personal use of campaign funds, as he promotes his commitment to ethics reform. But it is difficult to identify a single currently legal expense made by a legislator in the past decade that would not still be allowed if governor’s proposal is approved.

The state Legislature’s Black, Puerto Rican and Hispanic Caucus called on Cuomo to publicly apologize for reportedly saying that the indicted former Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, is still running the chamber behind the scenes, saying the governor’s alleged comments show a “disturbing” lack of respect for the first black speaker, Carl Heastie.

Lawmakers have agreed to put $18 million of the revenue earned by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in to the Environmental Protection Fund, according to sources close to the talks. An additional $23 million will go toward other programs, sources said. This goes beyond the $36 million Cuomo initially proposed diverting.

Hundreds of public school teachers organized by NYSUT are expected to protest Cuomo’s education reform proposals at the Capitol today as closed-door budget negotiations continue.

Voting largely along party lines, the Assembly approved the most-debated individual measure of the 10-point Women’s Equality Act, but it’s not likely going anywhere in the Republican-controlled Senate.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio urged Cuomo and the Legislature to reauthorize mayoral control of New York City’s public schools, ratcheting up public pressure as his aides scrambled behind closed doors on several budget-related education issues.

If de Blasio wants to see mayoral control renewed in the state Senate, he’s going to have to accept letting the charter cap rise, according to Sen. Simcha Felder.

Assemblyman Dan Stec, a Republican from the southern Adirondacks, has signed on to an Assembly bill mandating the state keep emails for at least seven years, which would reverse a Cuomo administration policy of automatically deleting messages after 90 days.

Two internal investigators with the state Thruway Authority were “separated” from their jobs in the past week following a state Inspector General’s office probe that prompted the abrupt resignations of two authority leaders in December. Neither of the investigators was accused of wrongdoing or told why they were being terminated, both were involved in the investigation of whether a former top authority official’s government cellphone had been used to contact a suspected prostitute.

More >

Extras

And we are back to where we were yesterday: Ethics and education remain key sticking points in the budget.

In Brooklyn, Mayor Bill de Blasio again pushes his alternative to Gov. Cuomo’s school receivership program.

De Blasio spokeswoman Amy Spitalnick versus the Carlson brothers.

Tucker Carlson is not apologizing.

Legislation that would address campus sexual assault will likely be left in the post-budget session.

Democratic Sen. Mike Gianaris says the potential ethics deal appears to be severely watered down.

De Blasio defended the hiring of Cecil House to lead the New York City Housing Authority.

Rep. Chris Gibson voted against a bill that would put in place new restrictions on EPA rule making.

NT2 takes notice of Senate Education Committee Chairman John Flanagan and his potential rise as majority leader.

Flanagan, meanwhile, insists school aid will not be held up as a result of the budget talks.

The fight for New York City residents to keep their 212 area codes.

New Yorkers who did not receive their rebate checks can appeal to a hotline set up by the Department of Taxation and Finance.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has hired a Texas-based strategy firm in his lead up to a 2016 presidential campaign.

State lawmakers introduce legislation regulating what would be done to our bodies once we shuffle off the mortal coil.

Novelist Richard Russo returns to Gloversville to help lead a fundraising effort for its library.

Capitol Observations

A mountain of criticism is building about the budget negotiation process, which usually boils down to “three men in a room,” but not this year.

Normally, we reporters spend countless hours this time of year staking out leaders meetings that take place inside Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office. That hasn’t happened since early March.

Instead, the governor has shifted strategies. There he was coming up to the Assembly chamber to announce a two-way deal with Speaker Carl Heastie on ethics reform. Then on Tuesday, he took a walk through the Senate to talk ethics some more with Majority Leader Dean Skelos. Individual leaders have been in and out of his office all week, and there have been numerous private one-on-one phone conversations.

Asked if this was a better way to negotiate the budget, an insider told me bluntly: “Well, no.” But, I suppose US Attorney Preet Bharara’s fun-making, and all the heat about not including Democratic Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins in the talks may have finally had an impact.

The good news is that it sounds like the budget is much closer to coming to fruition. That is due partly to the end of negotiations-by-fiat by Cuomo. For example, on education, there are discussions about creating what is known as a Berger Commission to come up with a system for evaluations.

Assembly Democrats say Cuomo has backed off his initial insistence that evaluations be based 50 percent on standardized tests. Often in this building, the negotiators like to take ideas for change or reform, wrap them up in a box, cover them with tissue paper then put them in an even bigger box. What they are actually doing is pushing the tough choices down the road to be decided another day.

That way, the budget doesn’t need to be held up, and they can try and reach a deal later in the session. If they can’t, so be it. Much less of a mushroom cloud then would be a late budget. So, why put so many policy ideas into the budget in the first place? Cuomo said as much yesterday. When he doesn’t put things in, he takes heat for not making them a priority. He has to show he cares about them, so they can fall away like bargaining chips the minute they look like they may prevent an on-time budget. On-time budgets poll well, after all. Fighting teachers does not.

“Now people will say, ‘If he doesn’t put it in the budget, he doesn’t really care about it,'” Cuomo said. “That’s what’s happened over the years. And if it’s not in the budget, then he doesn’t mean it. So, the budget has become expansive from that point of view.”

On ethics reform, Republican Sen. John DeFrancisco says the leaders and the governor are close to an agreement on disclosure of clients and outside income. DeFran has been part of a small working group that has been specifically tasked with solving this issue for the Senate. He declined to give details, because they haven’t seen anything in writing, and often what they agree upon orally then looks very different in draft language.

“What we discussed today is a possible solution to the disclosure issue,” the senator said. “We still need something in writing to make sure that what everybody thinks – they are not disagreeing on. It is not a situation that some thought it was that is going to blow up an on time budget. That’s not the situation.”

Again I have’t seen the details, but I’d be willing to bet disclosure ends up looking like “disclosure lite,” with some kind of weird zig-zaggy process for how sensitive information can still be kept hidden from public view. We shall see.

In response to DeFran’s comments, Cuomo spokeswoman Melissa DeRosa told us:

“What’s being reported that Senator DeFrancisco is describing is not disclosure, it is current law. As the Governor has said, he will not enact a budget that doesn’t include an ethics package with real disclosure of legislator’s outside income, and he meant it.”

Klein: There’s ‘Momentum’ On Paid Leave

From the Morning Memo:

A hearing of the Senate social services and labor committees on a paid leave proposal was a “very positive first step,” Sen. Jeff Klein said.

Klein, the leader of the Independent Democratic Conference, won the inclusion of a paid leave plan in the Senate’s one-house budget resolution once again this year.

But Klein acknowledged on Tuesday the measure may be taken up in the post-budget session.

“I’m very optimistic this is an important first step,” Klein said. “If it’s not in the budget, I believe we can get it done later in the session. But we’ve got momentum now and I don’t want to let it go.”

That momentum includes Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office opening the door to a paid leave proposal after initially questioning whether there was an “appetite” to get it done this year.

Cuomo’s office had also suggested the Senate plan didn’t go far enough and called it “half a loaf.”

The Senate proposal differs from a bill passed by the Democratic-led Assembly, which expands the temporary disability insurance fund in order to pay for it.

Klein has said such an expansion is needed, but would be too costly for the paid leave program at the moment.

Klein added he wants to get the business community on board with the paid leave plan despite their concerns being raised over potential cost added on to them as well.

“It’s something that the business community has to understand that this isn’t something that hurts them in anyway but enhances their workforce,” Klein said.

EffectiveNY Joins Education Debate

From the Morning Memo:

An organized funded by liberal Democratic donor/activist Bill Samuels is launching an online campaign in opposition to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s education reform agenda that uses the governor’s own words against him.

The campaign is centered around a web video that highlights the disparities between high-income and high-needs school districts, and features Cuomo saying when he was first a candidate for governor back in 2010 that education is the “civil rights issue of our time.”

“There are two education systems in this state,” Cuomo says, “not public-private, but one for the rich and one of the poor; they’re both public systems.”

Samuels then appears on the screen, accusing Cuomo of “discriminating” against poor students across in New York and adding: “Stop blaming our teachers for your failed policies.”

“On Cuomo’s watch, the gap in spending between New York’s 100 richest schools and 100 poorest schools has increased by a deplorable degree,” Samuels says in a press release that will announce the online campaign – an early copy of which was provided to CapTon.

“Every child deserves an equal chance but Cuomo has abdicated the state’s fiscal responsibility to provide all of New York’s students with an equal opportunity for an excellent education,” he continues.

“I applaud all the parents, teachers, and children who are rising up across the state to defeat Cuomo’s discriminatory education agenda in the current legislative session.”

At this point, there are no plans to air the video as a TV ad, according to a source familiar with Samuels’ plans, but it will be widely circulated today by education activists and the teachers unions.

This is the first time Samuels had waded into this year’s budget battle, but he has been sharply critical of Cuomo on all manner of issues – from redistricting and campaign finance reform to ethics and constitutional amendments – for years now.

Samuels has long been closely allied with the Senate Democrats, and even served as their finance chairman in the 2008 elections. He was very critical of Cuomo for failing to support the Democrats’ efforts to re-take the Senate majority, and even suggested the governor should seek re-election in 2014 as a Republican.

Samuels briefly sought a primary challenger to Cuomo, and considered running for lieutenant governor himself. He provided some support to Cuomo’s liberal opponent, Zephyr Teachout, but ended up more or less backing the governor’s successful re-election bid.

"Every Child" from EffectiveNY on Vimeo.