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Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany with no public events yet announced.

A report from the legislative compensation commission on recommended pay raises for state lawmakers is expected to be released today.

President Donald Trump has lunch with Vice President Mike Pence at the White House. Later in the afternoon, Pence participates in a swearing-in ceremony for the Director of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli is in Katowice, Poland to attend COP 24, the United Nations Climate Change Conference, where he will speak on a panel entitled, “Investor Agenda: Accelerating Action to Achieve the Paris Agreement.”

At 8:15 a.m., Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney and President and CEO of State Street Global Advisors Cyrus Taraporevala will join leaders from the NYC Commission on Human Rights and NYSE outside of the New York Stock Exchange to unveil the Fearless Girl statue in its new home.

At 9 a.m., the state Board of Regents starts the first of two days of meetings, State Education Department, 89 Washington Ave., Albany.

At 10 a.m., the NYC Council Committee on For-Hire Vehicles meets, Council Chambers, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 10:30 a.m., the NYC Council Committee on Civil and Human Rights meets, Committee Room, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 11 a.m., Food & Water Watch, Catskill Mountainkeeper, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, and Riverkeeper hold a press conference and petition delivery asking Cuomo to support a full fracking ban in the Delaware River Basin, state Capitol, Million Dollar Staircase, Albany.

Also at 11 a.m., Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. greets Anela Cekic, mayor of the city of Gusinje in Montenegro, Cakor Restaurant, 632 E. 186th St., the Bronx.

Also at 11 a.m., over a dozen state elected officials – joined by advocates from the Housing Justice for All Campaign, tenants, and other stakeholders – pledge to pass sweeping statewide housing reforms for when the Legislature convenes early next year in Albany, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 1 p.m., the NYC Council Committee on Health meets, 250 Broadway, 14th floor, Committee Room, Manhattan.

Also at 1 p.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will deliver remarks at the Civilian Complaint Review Board’s 25th Anniversary Ceremony, City Hall, Blue Room, Manhattan.

Also at 1 p.m., the state Gaming Commission meets, Empire State Development Corporation, 36th Floor, 36-A Conference Room, 633 Third Ave., Manhattan.

At 2 p.m., the NYC Council Committee on Public Safety meets, Council Chambers, City Hall, Manhattan.

Also at 2 p.m., the NYC Council Committee on Education meets, 250 Broadway, 14th floor, Committee Room, Manhattan.

At 3 p.m., the NYC Council Committee on Technology meets, 250 Broadway, 14th floor, Committee Room, Manhattan.

At 3:30 p.m., Queens Borough President Melinda Katz holds the induction ceremony of Karina Alomar as judge of the Civil Court of the City of New York, Queens Civil Court, courtroom 101, 89-17 Sutphin Blvd., Queens.

4 p.m., riders and the #FixTheSubway coalition call for a fair funding, no fare hike plan to fix the transit system, outside Kumble Theater for the Performing Arts at LIU, 1 University Plaza, Brooklyn.

At 4:30 p.m., Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and Assemblyman Sean Ryan voice support for local labor and jobs, New Era Headquarters, 260 Delaware Ave., Buffalo.

At 4:45 p.m., protesters gather for quality education and fair pay, with lighted picket signs outside the CUNY Board of Trustees meeting, Baruch College Vertical Campus, 55 Lexington Ave., Manhattan.

Also at 4:30 p.m., NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray will join the Commission on Gender Equity and the Mayor’s Office to End Domestic and Gender Based Violence at a vigil to mark the end of 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 6 p.m., the NYC bCouncil meets for the Charter Revision Commission 2019, Council Chambers, City Hall.

At 6:30 p.m., Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer speaks at the fourth annual CUNY Tech Meetup, John Jay College, ground floor theatre, 524 W. 59th St., Manhattan.

At 7 p.m., Borough President Diaz and NYC Councilman Andy King speak at the Co-op City 50th Anniversary celebration, Marina Del Rey, 1 Marina Drive, the Bronx.

At 7:45 p.m., Brewer speaks at a benefit night, West Park Presbyterian Church, 165 W. 86th St., Manhattan.

Headlines…

President Donald Trump has reportedly told Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to submit a $750 billion budget proposal for fiscal 2020, in a reversal from his pledge to trim defense spending.

Federal prosecutors are reportedly continuing to probe potential links between Trump Organization executives and the two hush-money payments that the president’s former lawyer Michael Cohen says the then-candidate helped coordinate.

After Cohen pleaded guilty in August to breaking campaign finance laws and other crimes — he will be sentenced on Wednesday — federal prosecutors in Manhattan shifted their attention to what role, if any, Trump Organization executives played in the campaign finance violations.

The prosecutors made clear that Cohen was less useful to their investigation because he would not fully cooperate, therefore he would not reap benefits, such as a government letter on his behalf.

Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, said that Trump might “face the real prospect of jail time” after prosecutors indicated last week that he directed illegal payments during his 2016 presidential campaign.

Former FBI Director James Comey asked American voters last night to end Trump’s presidency with a “landslide” victory for his opponent – whoever that may be – in 2020.

Nick Ayers, chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, was viewed as the favorite to replace John Kelly as Trump’s chief of staff early next year. Instead, Ayers announced that he’s also leaving the White House.

Ayers’ decision leaves Trump to contend with fresh uncertainty as he enters the 2020 campaign amid growing danger from the Russia investigation and from Democrats who have vowed tougher oversight, and could even pursue impeachment, after they take over the House next month.

“I can’t breathe.” These were the final words uttered by Jamal Khashoggi after he was set upon by a Saudi hit squad at the country’s consulate in Istanbul, according to a source briefed on the investigation into the killing of the Washington Post columnist.

Trump mistakenly said that he was in St. Louis, Missouri, during a speech that was taking place in Kansas City, Missouri.

Trump crowed over violent protests in Paris, saying they prove he was right to withdraw the US from the global pact to fight climate change.

As smartphones have become ubiquitous and technology more accurate, an industry of snooping on people’s daily habits has spread and grown more intrusive.

A tense confrontation between cops and a domestic violence suspect in Staten Island late last night ended with an officer wounded by a police bullet and the suspect dead, authorities said.

An enraged gangbanger used a baseball bat to beat to death an off-duty firefighter by the side of a Brooklyn highway early yesterday, police sources said.

A recommended raise for Gov. Andrew Cuomo that would make him the nation’s highest-paid governor is no slam dunk, legislative insiders say, as lawmakers mull tying the boost to reforms.

Petr Kauffmann, a former campaign spokesman for Cuomo whose family has long lived in Long Island City, writes in the Daily News about why the state “can’t turn down Amazon,” bringing up the Great Depression in the process.

NYC Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, of Manhattan, joined the already crowded race for NYC public advocate.

As he heads into his third term, Cuomo has brought in one-time staffers to former President Barack Obama, ex-NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and the now defunct state Senate Independent Democratic Conference while also promoting from within.

With a New Year’s Day inaugural speech set for Ellis Island, Cuomo has decided to merge his subsequent State of the State and budget addresses rather than deliver them separately as is tradition.

More >

The Weekend That Was

The latest revelations by prosecutors investigating President Trump and his team draw a portrait of a candidate who personally directed an illegal scheme to manipulate the 2016 election and whose advisers had more contact with Russia than Trump has ever acknowledged.

White House chief of staff John Kelly will leave his job “toward the end of the year,” Trump said Saturday, part of a broad shake-up as the White House girds for a re-election bid and clashes with congressional Democrats.

After six hours of testimony on Capitol Hill, former FBI director James Comey gave a quick preview of what we will learn when the transcript of questioning is released. Comey said he was asked, “a whole lot on Hillary Clinton’s e-mails, which will bore you.”

Comey told members of Congress that he was concerned officials in the bureau’s New York field office had leaked sensitive information to prominent Trump supporter Rudy Giuliani in the closing days of the 2016 presidential campaign.

Trump went after Comey in a tweet this morning, saying he “must have set a record for who lied the most to Congress in one day.”

Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen says he “conferred” with Trump about setting up a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the early part of the 2016 presidential campaign, according to an explosive document filed by special counsel Robert Mueller in Manhattan.

Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani said the most recent court documents on Cohen were “pathetic,” and that Cohen “can’t handle jail.”

Trump insisted that the sentencing memo filed by federal prosecutors in New York against Cohen “totally clears:” him of wrongdoing, insisting: “Totally clears the President. Thank you!”

The president’s pick to be the next attorney general, William Barr, was previously offered a position as Trump’s defense attorney, but turned the offer down.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, of Florida, said it’s time to re-think the reach of presidential pardons should Trump offer amnesty to embattled members of his inner-circle who may have interfered in the 2016 presidential election — specifically former campaign director Paul Manafort.

Bulldozers are expected to tear through a protected butterfly habitat tucked along the Rio Grande to make way for Trump’s border wall after the U.S. Supreme Court brushed off legal challenges from several environmental groups.

U.S. employers slowed their hiring in November, but wage growth matched the highest rate in nearly a decade and unemployment held at its lowest level in nearly half a century, signs of an economy that could be losing some momentum at the end of a strong year.

New York City schools and private academies across the state will be required to report allegations of sex abuse to public authorities under a new law signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday, closing a massive loophole that left children vulnerable to predators.

Two young girls died after a fast-moving fire raced through an apartment in a century-old brick apartment building in Brooklyn on Saturday night.

An off-duty firefighter was killed in a road-rage attack after he got into a car crash on the Belt Parkway in Brooklyn early this morning.

The state’s predicted 9-to-1 return on its investment in Amazon’s new Queens HQ was based on a widely used economic model that compares the costs of tax incentives with expected tax gains, but it didn’t factor in the substantial costs of accommodating the company’s growth in the city, economic development researchers said.

After nearly four years, Dominique Sharpton, daughter of the Rev. Al Sharpton, scored a $95,000 settlement from the city over a sprained ankle — even though she had posted snaps of herself on social media climbing a mountain in Bali and strutting around in high heels just seven months after the fall.

A de Blasio donor on trial for cop corruption was heard on tape Friday blasting airport security for believing he was an actual member of law enforcement after he flashed a police badge that the feds say he got via bribes.

De Blasio has been skipping town with greater frequency than ever the past year, a NY Post analysis found. In all, he’s spent 80 days traveling since he won re-election in November 2017. That adds up to 20 percent of his second term far away from the city he ostensibly runs.

Despite the increasing numbers of petitions and attorneys volunteering their time to prepare them, the number of commutations has waned. In 2017, the governor granted only two. In 2018, Cuomo so far has not issued a single commutation.

Cuomo said that the incentives offered to Amazon are the same as those offered to “hundreds” of other companies. PolitiFact reviewed the history, and rated that statement “true.”

U.S. District Court Judge Valerie Caproni sentenced Aiello, the 60-year-old president of COR Development, to three years in federal prison for his convictions in two high-profile corruption trials. She also fined him $500,000.

More >

Extras

House Republicans interviewed James Comey behind closed doors today, hauling the former FBI director to Capitol Hill one final time before they cede power to Democrats in January, though they apparently weren’t entirely satisfied with his answers and might want him back.

John Kelly is reportedly expected to resign as White House chief of staff in the coming days.

As he prepares to depart, Kelly reportedly answered a narrow set of questions from investigators in recent months after White House lawyers objected to special counsel Robert Mueller’s initial request to do the interview earlier this summer.

Mueller’s office is expected to reveal more details about separate investigations that have ensnared Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, and his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

In a sentencing memo filed today, prosecutors at the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s office said Cohen committed “four distinct federal crimes over a period of several years” and “repeatedly used his power and influence for deceptive ends,” and so deserves a “substantial prison term.”

Trump confirmed he will nominate former attorney general William P. Barr to lead the Justice Department again, telling reporters that Barr was “my first choice since day one.”

Trump is expected to name Gen. Mark A. Milley, the Army chief of staff, to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the top-ranking military position in the country, administration officials said.

The president also said he would nominate Heather Nauert, a former Fox News anchor, as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, saying the State Department spokeswoman, a relative novice on foreign policy, is “very talented, very smart, very quick.”

Queens Congresswoman-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took to Twitter to remind Donald Trump Jr. that Congress “will have subpoena power in a month” after he shared a meme implying that the socialism leads to people eating dogs.

Staten Island Congressman-elect Max Rose recently sent an email urging constituents to donate to his campaign, warning his base they needed to gear up because former Republican Congressman Michael Grimm, who once held Rose’s seat, is planning to challenge him in 2020.

Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg said if he runs for president in 2020 he would completely divest himself from his finance and media empire, either putting it into a blind trust or selling it entirely.

Ex-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson teed off on Trump last night, saying the commander-in-chief didn’t like to read briefing papers and had to be talked out of taking actions that would be illegal.

Trump responded by denouncing Tillerson, calling him “dumb as a rock” and “lazy as hell.”

A federal judge sentenced Syracuse developer Steven Aiello to three years in prison and a $500,000 fine after he was convicted of fraud and conspiracy by juries in two state corruption trials.

A day after a panel voted to give New York lawmakers a significant raise for the first time in two decades, many questions remained, including what reforms state legislators will have to pass in exchange for future hikes – and whether the process implementing the raises is legal.

Even while some suggest it is unconstitutional, reform groups praised the commission’s decision to raise state lawmakers salaries for the first time in 20 years while also imposing restrictions on outside income and legislative stipends.

Hip-hop star Cardi B, hours after collecting five Grammy nominations, was all giggles and smiles today while exiting a Queens court appearance, during which she was released without bail in connection with an August brawl inside a borough strip club.

New York City Councilman Ben Kallos has introduced legislation that would allow candidates in the upcoming special election for public advocate to opt in to the new campaign finance system approved by city voters, even though it does not take effect until 2021.

Bill Hammond: “The already extraordinary cost of a proposed state-run single-payer health plan jumped even higher this week when the chief sponsor, Assembly Health Chairman Richard Gottfried of Manhattan, announced that it would be expanded to cover long-term care.”

Buffalo has finally received the $13.68 million in funding that the federal government owed the city since Oct. 1, and New York’s two U.S. senators are very happy about it.

Rick Cotton, the head of the Port Authority, rallied support today on Long Island for a planned $1.5 billion rail link between LaGuardia Airport and the Long Island Rail Road.

A year of record press for Buffalo has thrown a sudden spotlight on Brian Hayden, the sole communications manager for Visit Buffalo Niagara and the city’s little-seen hype man.

A man accused of using two minority-owned businesses as fronts to fraudulently obtain public construction contracts worth $1 million and then failing to properly pay more than 50 employees faces up to 12 years in prison.

Raise Ruckus

A handful of conversations with members of the Assembly reveals that many are very unhappy about the Compensation Committee’s proposed pay increase. “We got hosed,” says one lawmaker.

During budget negotiations last March, state leaders hastily created the committee which didn’t even hold it’s first meeting until last month. After taking public testimony ( of which there was very little ), the Committee Thursday proposed raises up to $110,000 in 2019, $120,000 in 2020 and $130,000 in 2021.  Legislators currently make $79,500.

But members of the legislature say this pay scale is unfair for several reasons. For beginners it doesn’t tie any future increases to inflation. That’s precisely how we got into this situation in the first place. Lawmakers haven’t had a raise since 1999. They feel the $130,000 figure is a bit arbitrary and didn’t consider the rising costs of housing, inflation or other critical indexes. Former New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson, who is a member of the committee said those factors were, in fact, considered when setting the rates.

The committee also voted to limit outside income. Some legislators believe that is an entirely different discussion that should be held outside the scope of the committee, which they believe was charged solely with evaluating lawmaker pay. There are real consequences to this change from a part time to a full time legislature. For example, Assemblyman John T. McDonald owns a pharmacy in the Capital Region. According to his financial disclosure form, he earns between $50,000 and $100,000 per year. If the pay commission vote becomes law, he may have to sell it because earning that much money is now prohibited. Reached by phone McDonald says,

The message I got from the Compensation Committee is that if you are a professional of any sort, you’re not welcome in the legislature.

Some lawmakers complain that there should at least be a distinction between earning outside income going forward, and business owners who worked in the private sector before they chose to run for office. Then there is the elimination of stipends, which lawmakers also find unnerving. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has not said so publicly but he was described to me as being “livid” about the committee’s vote Thursday.  In fairness, stipends have also traditionally been used by leadership as  an incentive to keep members happy, so a loss of such incentives takes away a critical tool of the Speaker’s, as he tries to maintain loyalty among members.

Finally, there is a provision that would require lawmakers to pass an on time budget in order to hit the final tier of $130,000 in year three. Some lawmakers consider that just straight up extortion. And they note that the Commissioners in the Executive branch, who will also get a sizable raise, are under no such parameters based on their job performance. Although if the budget is late in year two, the commissioners don’t get raises either.

I suppose the moral of the story here is this: be careful what you wish for. Creating a Compensation Committee under the cloak of darkness and sticking in into a $150 Billion budget just days before it passes is not exactly the best way to do government. Clearly there was not a meeting of the minds among the leaders about what exactly the scope of the commission should be. Governor Cuomo wants the pay raise attached to reforms, Heastie thinks that’s a separate issue. Incoming Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins thinks the raise should also be tied to reforms, but she did not take part in negotiating the process here, current Majority Leader John Flanagan did.

Lawmakers are back in Albany next week. The Assembly is set to conference Wednesday afternoon. Should be a doozy.

 

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with no public events scheduled as of yet.

At 8:30 a.m., The Long Island Association is holding a Special Executive Breakfast featuring Rick Cotton, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, 300 Broadhollow Road, Melville.

At 9 a.m., Assemblyman David Weprin speaks at Flushing Town Hall’s Legislative Breakfast, 137-35 Northern Blvd., Queens.

At 10 a.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will appear live on WNYC’s “The Brian Lehrer Show,” and will take questions from listeners.

At 10:30 a.m., the Assembly Committee on Libraries and Education Technology holds a public hearing on the role of state libraries in their communities, Roosevelt Hearing Room C, Legislative Office Building, second floor, Albany.

At 11:30 a.m., Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and members of Speak Up For a Better Bronx collect petitions in support of the East Bronx Metro-North expansion plan, The Mall at Bay Plaza, 200 Baychester Ave., ground floor next to Santa Claus, Bronx.

At 1 p.m., Diaz speaks at the Bronx LGBTQ Business Convening, Bronx Museum of the Arts, 1040 Grand Concourse, the Bronx.

At 4 p.m., Rep. Adriano Espaillat leads the signing of agreements with CUNY, SUNY and the Dominican Republic, SUNY Global Center, 116 E. 55th St., Manhattan.

Headlines…

The legislative compensation commission recommended the first pay raises in 20 years for state legislators and top state officials — and the hike is hefty: $50,000.

The boost will make lawmakers the highest paid in the nation, but it comes with a price: Outside income will be curtailed to 15 percent of their overall salary, and many of the stipends for leadership posts and committee chairs – known as “lulus” in Albany-speak – will be eliminated.

A handful of stipends, like those paid to the Assembly speaker and Senate majority leader, would remain in place to reflect the added responsibility of those jobs, the panel said.

Also going up with this recommendation: Salaries for statewide elected officials, including the governor, who would see his pay increase to $250,000 over the next few years, making him the highest paid governor in the country. (This needs joint approval from the Senate and Assembly).

The commission’s recommendations, set to be issued in a formal report before Monday, have the force of law, according to a measure in this year’s state budget, unless the Legislature and governor pass a statute to void it before Jan. 1.

The NY Times editorial board called the compensation committee recommendation “real progress” in a state where two former legislative leaders – former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos – went to jail on corruption charges, Silver’s involving outside income.

NYPIRG’s Blair Horner said the commission “didn’t tackle the root causes of corruption in New York state government,” which he deemed a “mistake.”

President Donald Trump has reportedly settled on State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert to replace departing UN Ambassador Nikki Haley – an unusual choice, given that she had little experience in government or foreign policy before joining the administration in April 2017 after several years as an anchor and correspondent for Fox News.

The UN General Assembly rejected a resolution proposed by the United States to condemn the Islamic militant group Hamas for violence against Israel. The rejection was a blow to the American ambassador, Haley, who had positioned the measure as a capstone of her tenure.

Trump is reportedly strongly considering nominating William P. Barr, who served as attorney general during the first Bush administration from 1991 to 1993, to return for a second stint as head of the Justice Department.

A Manhattan federal judge has given the feds a hard deadline to weigh in on whether Trump’s disgraced former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, should go to jail for a litany of crimes, including lying to Congress about his dealings with the Russians.

The Trump administration detailed its plan to open nine million acres to drilling and mining by stripping away protections for the sage grouse, an imperiled ground-nesting bird that oil companies have long considered an obstacle to some of the richest deposits in the American West.

The Trump administration is expected to put forth a proposal next week that would significantly weaken a major Obama-era regulation on clean water, according to a talking points memo from the EPA that was distributed to White House allies this week.

Billionaire Michael Bloomberg held a series of private meetings with top Iowa Democrats this week during a multi-city swing through the first presidential state, a sign that the former New York City mayor is taking a hard look at a 2020 campaign.

Cuomo has unequivocally stated that he won’t be campaigning in 2020 in Iowa, where the presidential nomination process kicks off every four years. But his re-election campaign for governor in 2018, did pay nearly $280,000 to one of Iowa’s top Democratic political consultants, Jeff Link, campaign finance records show.

The NY Post editorial board: “Andrew Cuomo seems confused about corporations.”

After criticizing her colleagues for using unpaid interns, Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is promising to pay hers at least $15 an hour.

A federal judge sentenced Syracuse developer Joseph Gerardi to 30 months behind bars and a $500,000 fine for his role in a bid-rigging scheme that brought more than $100 million in state construction work to Gerardi’s firm, Cor Development Co., federal officials confirmed.

The NYC Council put its political clout behind a proposal in Albany to overhaul state health care by creating a “Medicare for all” program that would raise taxes by $139 billion a year.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio met for the first time in a face-to-face meeting with HUD Secretary Ben Carson in Washington. The meeting lasted more than an hour, and the two men discussed the city’s crumbling public housing.

“Secretary Carson said that HUD would work closely with the city and the Housing Authority to ensure residents’ health and safety,” a de Blasio spokesperson said. “The mayor and secretary agreed to continue their dialogue in the coming days.”

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Extras

Former Secretary of State James Baker remembered George H.W. Bush as a man of “great faith” and “great integrity” during a funeral St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston, Texas.

The U.S. Supreme Court appeared unlikely today to change its long-standing rule that putting someone on trial more than once for the same crime does not violate the Constitution’s protection against double jeopardy.

Despite President Trump’s hard-line public stance against illegal immigration, his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club allegedly employs a small group of undocumented immigrants – including a housekeeper who, for the past five years, has made his bed, cleaned his toilets and dusted his crystal golf trophies.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and his allies are taking new steps toward launching a 2020 presidential campaign, including interviews with dozens of potential staffers and hiring a pollster and national fundraiser, according to a person close to the Democrat.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is reportedly considering the appointment of his chief of staff, Linda Lacewell, as the state’s top financial-services regulator, though the current holder of that post, Maria Vullo, said as recently as last week that she had no intention of departing.

If this change occurs, Lacewell’s move would create two high-profile vacancies in Cuomo’s executive chamber. Cathy Calhoun, the director of state operations, is also reportedly departing in the coming weeks.

Daniel Pantaleo, the NYPD officer at the center of the Eric Garner chokehold death, will face a departmental trial this spring, a judge declared.

Chief of Department James Leonard, the top uniformed officer in the FDNY, has been relieved of his duties and put on modified assignment, a spokesman said.

The wastewater treatment plant blamed for a high-profile sewage discharge that discolored the water of the Niagara River near the base of Niagara Falls is getting a $27 million upgrade.

Every Monday night, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown co-teaches a master’s level course in U.S. public policy with Laurie Buonanno, a professor of public administration and nonprofit management, at SUNY Buffalo State, where he is an adjunct professor.

The Monroe County Legislature’s Democratic minority leader called on County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo to use reserve funds to temporarily address the crisis in Early Intervention, part of a mounting push for action as the county institutes an unprecedented waiting list for services.

It’s an unspoken rule that one seat on the powerful House Ways and Means committee always goes to a New Yorker. And Queens Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is going for it.

Tip-free dining was supposed to be the future of dining in New York and beyond. Instead, many owners are now scrambling to revert to the old way of doing things.

Rod Watson: “(D)espite its reputation as a progressive bastion, New York consistently ranks among the worst-performing states when it comes to voter turnout – something good-government groups attribute in large measure to how difficult it is to vote here.”

New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson said he’d file a lawsuit to try to stop the development of three residential towers near the Brooklyn Bridge after the City Planning Commission approved the project.

The New York State Educational Conference Board, a coalition of groups like NYSUT and the state School Boards Association, called for a $2.2 billion state aid hike in the 2019-20 fiscal year.

New York State gave licenses to operate at least 10 Buffalo area nursing homes in the last decade to new owners who had been fined for providing poor care to residents at other nursing homes.

The growing Realities of Single Payer coalition, which includes employers, unions, taxpayers and provider; issued a statement today took urging the NYC City Council to “Do No harm” outlining three big concerns regarding the impact of the NY Health Act – higher taxes, less access to care, and lose your current plan.

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with no public events announced as of yet.

President Donald Trump will be joined by Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence for two Hanukkah receptions today – one at 4 p.m., the other at 8 p.m. – both in the East Room at the White House.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will meet with United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson. This meeting is closed press.

At 9:15 a.m., Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. speaks at the Bronx Health & Housing Consortium’s Eighth Annual Health and Housing Convening, Lehman College, Music Building, East Dining Room, 250 Bedford Park Blvd. W., the Bronx.

At 9:30 a.m., Rep. Joe Morelle delivers remarks at the grand opening of the Kodak Visitor Center, 200 West Ridge Rd., Rochester.

At 10 a.m., state Sen. Rich Funke attends the American Cancer Society Action Network’s presentation on cancer treatment, Car T-Cell Therapy, 711-A Legislative Office Building, Albany.

Also at 10 a.m., state Sen. Brad Hoylman, NYC Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, Transportation Alternatives and Riders Alliance will call attention to the safety benefits congestion pricing would bring to New York City streets., Forsyth Plaza, Canal & Forsyth, Manhattan.

At 10:30 a.m., Queens Borough President Melinda Katz holds a regular public hearing on land use, Borough Hall, 120-55 Queens Blvd., Queens.

Also at 10:30 a.m., the Rev. Al Sharpton; Gwen Carr, Eric Garner’s mother; and NYC Councilman Jumaane Williams hold a rally and press conference in support of Eric Garner, who was killed in an unlawful chokehold by NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo, NYPD headquarters, One Police Plaza, Manhattan.

Also at 10:30 a.m., Westchester County Executive George Latimer provides an update on Memorial Field plans, Michaelean Office Building, 148 Martine Ave., 9th Fl., White Plains.

At 11 a.m., the Assembly Committee on Mental Health holds a public hearing on access to mental health and developmental disability services and supports, Roosevelt Hearing Room C, Legislative Office Building, second floor, Albany.

Also at 11 a.m., Melissa Mark-Viverito, former speaker of the NYC Council and current NYC public advocate candidate, will unveil “Weed for Rails,” her 4-point plan to legalize marijuana and use the tax revenue to fix the MTA’s broken subway system, Brooklyn Bridge/City Hall 6 train station, Manhattan.

At 1 p.m., the NYC Council Committee on Health meets, Committee Room, City Hall, Manhattan.

At 2:30 p.m., the state Compensation Committee meets, State University of New York – Global Center, 116 East 55th St., Manhattan.

At 3:45 p.m., Assemblywoman Nily Rozic presents a panel discussion on how to build a legislative agenda at the New American Leaders National Leadership Academy, FHI360 Conference Center, 1825 Connecticut Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.

At 5 p.m., “Driving Forces” features state Sen. Liz Krueger, CUNY board of trustees Chairman Bill Thompson and Assemblywoman-elect Catalina Cruz, WBAI, 99.5 FM.

Also at 5 p.m., AARP NY holds forum to unveil a report by The New School on the retirement crisis in New York and to brainstorm solutions as part of AARP’s campaign to #DisruptDisparities impacting communities of color, The New School’s Bob and Sheila Hoerle Lecture Hall, 63 Fifth Ave., Manhattan

At 5:30 p.m., Diaz Jr. hosts the borough’s annual Bronx Christmas tree lighting ceremony along with special holiday festivities, Bronx County Building steps, 851 Grand Concourse, Bronx.

At 6 p.m., NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray will deliver remarks at the Gracie Book Club, Gracie Mansion, 88th Street and East End Avenue, Manhattan.

At 7 p.m., Rep. Eliot Engel, state Sen. Jamaal Bailey, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and New York City Councilman Andy King host A Care for the Caregiver Series event, Williamsbridge NAACP Early Childhood Education Center, 680 E. 219th St., the Bronx.

Also at 7 p.m., Williams is among those honored by the Alliance for Quality Education at a celebration featuring a number of elected officials and advocates, DCTV Firehouse, 87 Lafayette St., Manhattan.

Headlines…

The spiritual home for the past half century to George H.W. and Barbara Bush – St. Martin’s Episcopal Church in Houston – began its final goodbye yesterday as the 41st president’s body was carried inside with echoes of Hail to Chief still ringing in the air.

The final funeral service will be this morning. And then Bush’s body will be taken by the Union Pacific Railroad’s Presidential Train Car for burial on the grounds of the presidential library alongside his wife and their daughter, Robin, who died from leukemia short of her 4th birthday.

In a state funeral service at Washington National Cathedral yesterday, three former presidents and President Donald Trump looked on as former President George W. Bush emotionally eulogized his father as “the brightest of a thousand points of light.”

As bells tolled and choirs sang and flags flew at half-staff, the nation’s 41st president was remembered as a “kinder and gentler” leader whose fortitude steered the country through a tumultuous moment in history even as his essential decency stood in contrast to the politics of insults now in vogue.

Greenhouse gas emissions worldwide are growing at an accelerating pace this year, researchers said, putting the world on track to face some of the most severe consequences of global warming sooner than expected.

In a move meant to stabilize an organization still reeling, and barely standing, in the wake of the Larry Nassar sexual abuse scandal, U.S.A. Gymnastics filed for bankruptcy in Indianapolis.

An unusual coalition of liberal and conservative U.S. Supreme Court justices may be ready to stop the federal and state governments from prosecuting suspects twice for the same crime.

Trump tried to calm global markets and ease concerns that his trade truce with China was floundering, declaring in a series of tweets that the Chinese government was sending “very strong signals” about a weekend agreement he reached with President Xi Jinping and suggesting that American exports to China are about to surge.

The utility company operating in the heart of the region devastated by the deadly Camp Fire in California was named as the target of a class-action lawsuit, which alleged Pacific Gas & Electric bears responsibility for the “unprecedented disaster.”

The French government has nixed for now an impending tax on diesel fuel amid widespread violent protests, but activists say it may not be enough to stop the demonstrations.

To fund costly repairs to the rapidly crumbling subway system, some New York state and city leaders are talking about legalizing recreational marijuana to collect sales tax that would be dedicated to the transit agency.

Rising Democratic stars Beto O’ Rourke and Andrew Gillum have reportedly both met with former President Obama recently — fueling speculation about possible 2020 presidential runs.

New York state will receive more than $9 million in federal funds to broaden its fight against opioid addiction.

NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio has maintained a diminished presence at City Hall, allowing his attention to stray more and more. He averaged 17 days a month there in 2015, but that number dropped to just 10 in September of this year.

New Yorkers approve of Amazon bringing its second headquarters to Long Island City, Queens far more than they approve of de Blasio, a new Quinnipiac University Poll found.

The donor de Blasio now blasts as “a liar and a felon” was once considered a “brother,” new emails show.

A Chapin School sophomore has garnered more than 11,600 signatures on a petition urging Cuomo to sign a bill into law this week requiring private schools to report allegations of sexual abuse.

Usually, a videotaped admission of guilt coupled with DNA evidence almost guarantees a conviction. But the Queens jogger case demonstrated that jurors are starting to doubt such evidence.

A coalition of 136 advocate groups in a new letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo say it will take more than ending cash bail to effectively end mass pretrial jailing.

The NYT editorializes: “The state pay committee should insist that lawmakers’ raises be tied to ethics reform.” The compensation committee is due to meet today, and will issue a report by Monday.

More >

Extras

Former President George W. Bush recalled his father the late former President George H.W. Bush’s “courage” and “integrity” during his eulogy at the Washington National Cathedral before breaking down in tears when he lauded him as the “best father a son or daughter could have.”

The Bushes shared the unique bond of being the only father-son duo to serve as president in modern times and the younger Bush said his father taught him how to be a leader “with love in his heart” for his fellow Americans.

Three former presidents looked on at Washington National Cathedral as a fourth — George W. Bush — eulogized his dad.

When former President George W. Bush arrived, he came over to shake all the former presidents’ hands. A particularly sweet exchange occurred between the younger Bush and former First Lady Michelle Obama when he slipped her something – another piece of candy? – during their handshake.

Ronan Tynan, the disgraced Irish tenor chased from New York City almost a decade ago after making an anti-Semitic remark, sang during the late president’s funeral service at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C.

To traverse the 250 yards from the White House to Blair House to offer his condolences to George W. Bush, President Trump and the first lady traveled in a motorcade of eight vehicles.

New Yorkers by a wide margin approve of plans for Amazon to build a massive new campus in the city, although they are divided over terms of a multibillion-dollar incentive package used to lure the largest U.S. online retailer, according to a new Q poll.

Former Suffolk County state Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci – now town supervisor of Huntington – is being accused of sexually assaulting his chief of staff, Brian Finnegan, during an overnight visit to Albany.

“This was a repeated pattern of abuse that ended with sexual assault,” Finnegan, 26, said at a news conference in Huntington after the lawsuit was filed in state Supreme Court in Suffolk County. I was forced to forfeit my career in public service, something in which I took much pride in…All because I was a target of a sexual predator. My life was shattered.”

The former chairman of the East Hampton Republican Party accused of submitting nominating petitions with dozens of forged signatures to the Suffolk County Board of Elections this summer, was charged with 10 counts of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument and 10 counts of first-degree offering a false instrument for filing.

A can of bear repellent fell off a shelf and exploded inside an Amazon warehouse in New Jersey, sickening dozens, including one worker in critical condition, officials said.

State officials have indicted former New York City Council candidate Alberto Alvarez with several felony charges for stealing at least $4,500 through campaign fraud, according to Attorney General Barbara Underwood’s office.

Two months ago, the NYPD announced it would stop arresting most people for smoking marijuana in public and for low-level marijuana possession, yet law enforcement is still pursuing criminal cases against people using cannabis or THC oil, a liquid derived from marijuana that is usually vaped rather than smoked.

At least two candidates are seeking the job of Onondaga County comptroller, which will open up next month when current Comptroller Bob Antonacci takes his newly won seat in the state Senate.

Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor who is mulling a 2020 run for president, spoke about renewable energy in Iowa, and said he believed coal “is the most polluting thing we have.”

Amazon is in advanced talks to hire SKDKnickerbocker, a public affairs firm that frequently works on Democratic campaigns and causes, to help the company with its media relations, strategy and other public outreach in New York.

The MTA could tap into a stash of tax money from legal cannabis in New York, NYU’s transit experts said.

After a bitter and drawn-out review process, the NYC Planning Board approved a trio of large-scale residential towers on the Lower East Side waterfront.

GOP consultant Michael Caputo created a GoFundMe page to offset the legal bills of his longtime associate, Roger Stone, who is telling congressional committees that he would invoke his Fifth Amendment rights in order to not testify in response to requests for documents and testimony.

T.J. Miller, the stand-up comedian and actor whose career was rocked by allegations he abused an ex-girlfriend and made up a bomb threat after arguing with another woman, will perform this weekend in Albany

Here and Now

Good morning and happy Wednesday!

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City and will attend a labor rally. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will be traveling to Washington, DC today to meet privately with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.

Happening today:

At 10 a.m., NYC Councilman Mark Treyger hosts a rally with city and state elected officials to call for more interpreters in more languages at city polling sites, City Hall steps, Manhattan

Also at 10 a.m., the Assembly Committee on Higher Education holds a public hearing on state funding for SUNY and CUNY, Roosevelt Hearing Room C, Legislative Office Building, second floor, Albany.

Also at 10 a.m., the NYC Council Committee on Public Housing meets jointly with the Committee on Aging, Council Chambers, City Hall, Manhattan.

Also at 10 a.m., Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. hosts a Hanukkah and menorah lighting ceremony, with New York City Councilman Andy King in attendance, Riverdale YM-YWHA, 5626 Arlington Ave., the Bronx.

At 1:30 p.m., the NYC Council Committee on Technology meets, 250 Broadway, 14th floor, Committee Room, Manhattan.

At 2 p.m., NYC Councilman Rafael Espinal Jr. hosts a rally with dozens of small-business owners against a recent trend of business awning violations, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

At 5:30 p.m., transit activists with the Riders Alliance will rally and inform fellow transit riders about the need for state lawmakers to fully fund transit modernization plans in the coming year’s budget, Queens Plaza E/M/R subway station, eastbound platform toward Forest Hills and Jamaica.

At 6 p.m., state Sens. Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Michael Gianaris hold a fundraiser reception in support of newly elected state Sen. Jessica Ramos, Anheuser-Busch, 125 W. 24th St., Manhattan.

At 6 p.m., U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer is a guest at the New York Building Congress’ Industry Recognition Gala, Grand Hyatt New York, 109 E. 42nd St., Manhattan.

Also at 6 p.m., NYC Councilmen Jumaane Williams and Brad Lander, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, state Sens.-elect Julia Salazar, Jessica Ramos and Robert Jackson, and Assemblywoman Deborah Glick attend the JFREJ Awards Gala, Community Church of New York, 40 E. 35th St., Manhattan.

At 7 p.m., Rep. Eliot Engel, state Sen. Jamaal Bailey, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and NYC Councilman Andy King have partnered with Columbia University Medical Center and CaringKind, the Heart of Alzheimer’s Caregiving, to host “A Care for the Caregiver Series Event on Alzheimer’s Disease,” the Williamsbridge NAACP ECEC, 680 East 219th St., the Bronx.

Headlines…

President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser provided so much information to the special counsel’s Russia investigation that prosecutors say he shouldn’t do any prison time, according to a court filing Tuesday that describes Michael Flynn’s cooperation as “substantial.”

Flynn was ousted as the national security advisor after he was found to have lied regarding his contact with Russian officials. Since then, his accounting of events has been a closely guarded secret in Washington.

U.S. senators briefed by the CIA director said they came away from the meeting certain that Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, ordered the killing of the Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi.

National Security Advisor John Bolton says President Trump plans another meeting with the leader of North Korea.

There is a clear timeline and schedule for trade negotiations between China and the U.S., Chinese officials said amid a 90-day truce in the trade war.

The stock market continued to plunge this week amid investor anxiety over the trade war.

Gov. Cuomo will be sworn in for a third term on Ellis Island after spending much of his re-election campaign criticizing President Donald Trump’s immigration policies.

Amazon has hired SKDKnickerbocker, a powerhouse consulting firm, to help it navigate the world of New York politics as it builds its headquarters in Queens.

A lawsuit alleges Republican Chad Lupinacci, now the Huntington supervisor, sexually assaulted an aide while he was in the state Assembly.

Making his first public appearance of the week on Tuesday afternoon, Mayor Bill de Blasio answered some of the questions regarding the employment status of emergency management commissioner Joe Esposito.

Michael Ryan is used to hearing it from critics, but now they want his head. Prominent officials are calling for the executive director of the city’s Board of Elections to resign, including the city comptroller, the good-government group Common Cause, and Brooklyn City Councilman Jumaane Williams.

The New York Police Department has a new fleet of 14 drones. The department said on Tuesday that the potential uses include search and rescue, hard-to-reach crime scenes, hostage situations, and hazardous material incidents.

Winter is coming, and so are new Game of Thrones MetroCards. Starting Tuesday, several subway stations began selling the limited edition MetroCards which depict some of the most iconic moments from the HBO megahit.

New York City taxi regulators approved new pay standards for app-based car services Tuesday that they say will raise drivers’ annual earnings by $10,000 a year, making it the first U.S. city to set such minimum pay standards.

Sitting on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk right now is a bill that could change the rules of sexual abuse in private schools forever. If signed, it closes a decades-old state loophole that has allowed private high schools to not report allegations of sexual abuse.

The sanctuary city debate arrived in Troy Tuesday night, as residents and lawmakers discussed the issue during the city council’s public safety meeting.

It’s the season of giving, and New York State lawmakers are adding a special request this year held near and dear to their wallets. A pay raise for state lawmakers has languished in politics for years in Albany, and it’s becoming an increasing bone of contention for legislators.

Three Amber Alerts in as many weeks in the Rochester area is not a common occurrence. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children is speaking out about this unusual string of alerts.

With the year coming to a close, the Rochester Housing Authority is celebrating 12 low-income families who are now homeowners through their homeownership program.

More than nine months after the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo announced the creation of an Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, dozens of cash offers have been made to clergy abuse victims.

The New Era Cap company has given official notice that the Derby location will be closing early next year. The company says it will close its doors between March 15 and 29.

Mayor de Blasio is spending less and less time at City Hall, leading some to question whether he’s lost focused.

The proposal to change admissions criteria at New York City’s elite high schools is running into opposition from parents at community meetings.

Rebate checks for property taxpayers are heading out the door as the year winds down.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand called on the Trump administration to speed up the implementation of a new law that allows for the use of a new firefighting foam at airports that does not contain a toxic chemical.

The College of St. Rose is among the schools hit with a lawsuit in recent weeks over their accessibility to the visually impaired.

The federal government has signed off on a $15 million aid package to fight poverty in Syracuse.

Just like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz once said, “There’s no place like home.” Tajiri the Giraffe captured the world by storm in the past two years, leaving fans sad to hear he’d be leaving by the end of the year.

Extras

A bipartisan group of senior senators said that a classified briefing by the C.I.A. director had only solidified their belief that Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, ordered the killing of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi, an American resident and Washington Post columnist.

Former Vice President Joe Biden said that he considers himself “the most qualified person in the country” to be president – despite being a “gaffe machine” – and that he would make a decision about moving forward with a 2020 bid in the next two months.

Michael Avenetti, the colorful lawyer made famous by repping porn star and alleged Trump paramour Stormy Daniels, ended speculation that he might enter the next presidential race, saying he won’t run in 2020.

Avenatti said he was forgoing a run for president because of family considerations. “I do not make this decision lightly — I make it out of respect for my family,” he wrote in a statement on Twitter. “But for their concerns, I would run.”

Trump reportedly has warmed to his Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen in recent weeks, at least temporarily easing the tension in an explosive relationship that was once seen as untenable.

George H.W. Bush’s service dog, Sully, visited the Capitol Rotunda where the late president is lying in state, taking a lap around the coffin with his tail wagging.

Fact-checkers at the Washington Post gave Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez “four Pinnochios” for posting a claim on Twitter about out-of-control Pentagon spending.

Job growth continues to be strong in New York City but remains sluggish in Upstate New York, officials at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York said.

A top FDNY chief is pitting himself against the agency’s lone high-ranking woman in a bitter power struggle that may cost him his job.

The federal government says it has broken through a logjam that delayed almost $5 million in aid to Syracuse nonprofits that help battle poverty in the city.

Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg hit out at climate-change denier Trump as he made fun of his frenetic tweeting.

The NYPD is adding a fleet of crime-fighting drones to its ranks, rolling out 14 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles as part of it’s latest technology “evolution.”

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz is running for district attorney. She joined a growing field of Democrats in the race to succeed the longtime incumbent DA, Richard Brown, who is not expected to seek another term in November 2019, making way for a Democratic primary in September.

Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa, 64, was hit in the face by a teenager, knocking out one of his teeth , on a Manhattan street.

New York’s property tax exemption on certain farm buildings will be extended another 10 years.