Bharara Refers To Stipend Controversy As ‘Sad & Shady Stuff’

Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara weighed in early this morning on the controversy surrounding the use of stipends for non-committee chairs, calling it “sad & shady stuff” that should be paid attention to.

“While all eyes are fixed on Washington, let’s not forget the sad & shady stuff going on in our own NY capital,” he posted to Twitter.

The comment was in response to a New York Post story on some vice chairs — who receive stipends normally reserved for committee chairman — not attending committee meetings. Spectrum News reported on Wednesday lawmakers who have received thousands of dollars as vice chairs have missed committee meetings in recent weeks.

Bharara had risen to prominence as a federal prosecutor in part for his aggressive pursuit of public corruption in city and state government.

The arrangement surrounding the use of paid stipends for lawmakers who are not committee chairs — but listed with the title in Senate payroll records — is being investigated by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office.

Senate officials have maintained no laws were broken and that the use of the records was meant to designate which lawmaker was owed which stipend.

Schneiderman Wants Trump Administration To Curtail Oil Trains

Attorney General Eric Schniderman has filed comments with federal regulators seeking to place new restrictions on oil trains that pass through New York.

Schneiderman is part of a six-state coalition of attorneys general that back the effort to curtail crude oil transportation by rail, cracking down on what activists have called “bomb trains” that can travel up to 700 miles in the stte.

The main concern has been the trains passing through populated areas and became more heightened after a tank explosion killed 47 people in 2013 in Quebec.

“Because of a regulatory loophole, these trains can carry crude oil through some of our most densely populated areas without any limit on explosiveness or flammability – creating ticking time bombs that jeopardize the safety of countless New Yorkers and Americans,” Schneiderman said in a statement.

“It’s time for the federal government to put New Yorkers’ safety first and take immediate action to close this dangerous and nonsensical loophole.”

The AGs filing the comments include California, Illinois, Maryland, Maine, and Washington in addition to New York.

2017 05 19 Comments to Phmsa Final by Nick Reisman on Scribd

In Video, IDC Seeks To ‘Call The Roll’ On Key Liberal Issues

Counteracting Donald Trump. Bolstering the Affordable Care Act. Publicly funding campaigns.

Those are the issues at stake for the Independent Democratic Conference in a video released Monday as the lawmakers in the breakaway bloc seek to re-affirm their support for liberal causes they believe has been lost in the pitched battle being waged by progressive advocacy groups to pressure them into forming a coalition with mainline Democrats.

The video features each of the eight members of the IDC discussing policies such as their support for issues like abortion rights and the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, or GENDA.

All of the issues discussed by the IDC have more or less faced an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled Senate.

But the video also appears to serve as a challenge not to Republicans, whom the IDC has worked with since its inception in 2011, but to mainline Democrats to muster the needed votes for the issues.

“It’s time that we set the record straight,” IDC Leader Jeff Klein says in the video. “In the New York state Senate it takes 32 votes to pass a piece of legislation. It is time to call the roll.”

IDC lawmakers have long asserted the votes don’t exist in the Senate to pass a variety of liberal-friendly measures, such as supporting or strengthening abortion rights. At least one Democratic lawmaker, Sen. Ruben Diaz, now a city Council candidate, is staunchly opposed to abortion.

“It’s time that we let voters know who Democrats are,” Klein says, “and what they really stand for.”

The IDC-mainline Democrat feud took a new turn last week when it was revealed three IDC members had received stipends normally reserved for committee chairs. Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins has called for an investigation of the arrangement; Klein and Majority Leader John Flanangan insisted no wrongdoing took place.

The Working Families Party, a longtime bete noir of the IDC, chided the conference in a statement, blaming the Republican control for the measures not passing. Republicans maintain a working majority in the Senate with the help of Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder, a Democrat who is not a member of the IDC, but conferences directly with the GOP.

“It’s good to see IDC members voicing support for critical progressive issues,” said Bill Lipton, New York State Director of the Working Families Party. “Whether we can pass them today, next month, or next year depends on whether Democrats from both conferences can unite to build a durable progressive majority. As long as Trump’s Republican Party controls the state senate, that will be impossible. We repeat our call on the IDC to immediately end their outrageous alliance with Senate Republicans.”

Updated: Senate Democrats in the mainline conference chimed in as well.

“I guess the IDC really likes pledges but they must have forgotten that just last week they pledged allegiance to the Senate GOP,” said spokesman Mike Murphy.

“They are hoping New Yorkers forget that they themselves all voted “no” on some of these exact issues and more, including crucial protections for Planned Parenthood, a single payer health plan, strong ethics, and voting reforms. I thought the whole creation of the IDC was to bring Republican votes to issues like these. Everyone already knows there are no bigger champions for all these issues than Senate Democrats. New Yorkers are fed up with the IDC’s gimmicks and their empowerment of Trump Republicans.”

DCCC Adds Reed And Stefanik To 2018 Target List

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is already targeting all but one Republican member of the New York delegation in 2018. The DCCC announced Monday it was adding 20 new districts from across the country to its “battlefield” and among them are Rep. Elise Stefanik’s NY-21 and Rep. Tom Reed’s NY-23.

That leaves Rep. Peter King, NY-2, as the only congressional Republican in the state that the committee is not actively fundraising and recruiting against. In all, the DCCC has targeted 79 Republican-held seats.

“House Republicans’ midterm prospects grow dimmer with each passing day thanks to the endless supply of chaos, scandal and broken promises to voters from Republican-controlled Washington,” spokesperson Meredith Kelly stated in a press release.

The DCCC pointed to President Donald Trump’s approval rating as well as the ongoing Russia investigation as important factors that could influence the mid-term election. It also believes competitive special elections for traditionally red seats in Georgia, Montana and Kansas are an “ominous” sign for the GOP.

The Nationals Republican Congressional Committee quickly dismissed that notion.

“Despite losing 1,042 state and federal seats in eight years, national Democrats are still pushing the same divisive rhetoric and painfully out-of-touch liberal agenda,” NRCC spokesman Chris Martin said.

A spokesperson for Reed’s campaign said opposition from the DCCC is nothing new to him. In fact, he noted the congressman soundly defeated candidates recruited and supported by the national organization in his last two elections.

“Tom Reed for Congress is off to its strongest start ever, with record breaking fundraising and grassroots engagement, following two straight double digit victories where the DCCC targeted our race,” said Campaign Manager Nicholas Weinstein. “Our campaign is already up and running and we are confident that our record of caring, common sense conservative leadership and accessibility will continue to resonate with voters across the Southern Tier, Finger Lakes, and Western New York.”

Stefanik’s campaign did not appear to be overly concerned either.

“There will be a time for politics. Now is the time to focus on the hard work of enacting policy and a continued, laser-like focus on putting constituents first. That is exactly what Congresswoman Stefanik is doing,” spokesperson Lenny Alcivar said.

Republicans Lee Zeldin, Dan Donovan, John Faso, Claudia Tenney, John Katko and Chris Collins were identified in the first round of battleground targets.

De Blasio Endorses Benjamin For Senate

Democratic state Senate candidate Brian Benjamin on Monday was endorsed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio ahead of tomorrow’s special election to replace Bill Perkins in the chamber.

Benjamin is the heavy favorite to win the seat, but Democrats are eagerly anticipating his victory given it will lead to a numeric majority for enrolled Democrats in the Senate.

“Between his years of service on Community Board 10 and tireless efforts providing new affordable housing to the working families of Harlem, Brian Benjamin has the proven record to represent his community in the State Senate,” said de Blasio in a statement.

“I am endorsing Brian Benjamin because I believe that we need strong Democrats like him up in Albany, ready to help make our communities more affordable, and push back against the dangerous Trump agenda. With Brian as New York’s newest State Senator, we can work to restore Democratic control to the legislature and make these priorities a reality.”

De Blasio in 2014 sought a Democratic-controlled Senate only to have the party fall short of the goal of gaining power. In the meantime, Republicans have sought to stymie his agenda in Albany (Gov. Andrew Cuomo is no fan of the mayor, either).

“It’s a true honor to have Mayor de Blasio’s endorsement in my campaign for State Senate,” Benjamin said.

“From providing early education to increasing access to affordable housing and expanding labor and paid leave protections, Mayor de Blasio’s progressive policies are having a real, positive impact right here in the 30th District. As State Senator, I look forward to expanding upon his tremendous efforts and continuing our partnership.”

Cuomo, House Lawmakers Push For Penn Solution

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and a coalition of members of New York’s House delegation on Monday urged the federal government to take action and alleviate delays at Penn Station.

Two Republicans signed onto the statement from 15 federal lawmakers backing a federal aid plan for Amtrak to speed along construction of track upgrades at the transit hub: Reps. Peter King and Dan Donovan.

“We can no longer delay if we expect Penn Station to operate any differently ten years from now than it did thirty years ago,” the lawmakers said in the joint statement.

“The current dysfunction has put a sharp focus on the chronic issues plaguing our already stretched, overburdened and historically underfunded transportation infrastructure and the ripple effect it creates all along the Northeast Corridor. We must be united by our civic responsibility to work together and solve this problem.”

In a radio interview on WCNY’s The Capitol Pressroom, Cuomo painted a dire situation at Penn.

“It’s not just a New York City situation,” Cuomo said. “Amtrak comes from the southern route through Penn and the entire northeast. It is the gateway to the entire northeast. If Penn collapses, the northeast rail service collapses.”

Cuomo’s push on Monday dovetails with a letter he sent to President Donald Trump on Sunday urging federal intervention.

More than 600,000 travelers move through Penn Station on a daily basis. Cuomo sought to paint the issue as not just a New York City metropolitan area concern, but broader infrastructure problem plaguing the country.

“If you reduce service in Penn by 20 percent you will have a ripple effect that will turn into a tidal wave,” he said.

And Cuomo pointed to the Republican support for federal action as a signal the issue isn’t a political problem but a “governmental” issue that needs to be fixed, comparing it to a natural disaster, albeit a slow-moving one.

“We have put out a joint statement that says this is not a political issue,” he said. “This is bipartisan. We’re asking for assistance on a governmental level with no politics.”

The push comes after the Trump administration has pledged an investment in infrastructure nationally, though that initiative that slowed amid the slog to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act as well as federal tax reform.

“If you’re looking for one infrastructure investment,” Cuomo said, “this should be it.”

Cuomo Asks Trump For Help At Penn

From the Morning Memo:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a letter released Sunday urged President Donald Trump and his administration to approved a federal aid package that would alleviate the “summer of agony” facing travelers at Penn Station.

“I request that the federal government treat this as an emergency situation and provide funding for the short-term Penn construction and transportation alternatives and facilitation of a long-term resolution for Penn Station,” Cuomo wrote in the letter.

He acknowledged while that this isn’t a natural disaster like a hurricane or a flood, it still carries significant trouble for businesses and people.

“Like a natural disaster, we didn’t create it but our public offices require we address it,” the letter states. “As in most emergencies, this is not a political issue and bipartisan officials will agree that we need immediate help. This situation affects the entire northeast region.”

Cuomo reiterated his push for a private operator at Penn Station to relieve Amtrak of its duties there.

“I know that you believe in privatization where appropriate and in this situation I think there is no doubt that it is appropriate,” Cuomo wrote.

The letter comes amid deepening frustrations at the transit hub for the more than 600,000 travelers who have faced in recent weeks delays and cancellations as Amtrak works to shore up its rail lines following a series of derailments and other problems.

Cuomo has over the last several weeks avoided publicly clashing with the president, sidestepping criticism of Trump as he slams Republicans in Congress.

Cuomo also met with Trump before he was sworn in, hoping the new administration would be amenable to myriad concerns facing New York the federal government has strong hand in influencing.

The letter underscores the ongoing frustration for those who use Penn Station, many of who live on Long Island. Grand Central Terminal this summer will temporarily provide Amtrak service will delays are being fixed.

State lawmakers have proposed measures designed to punish Amtrak until the delays are fixed, including withholding state payments to the operator until the problem is solved for at least a month. The money would be passed on in turn to commuters to reduce travel costs.

In a statement, Democratic state Sen. Todd Kaminsky of Long Beach agreed the situation at Penn is “dire” and backed the push to have Amtrak removed as the hub’s operator.

“I talk with commuters everyday, many of whom have taken the LIRR for decades, and they have never experienced this level of dysfunction,” he said.

“As Penn Station is a major rail-hub and a critical part of the Northeast U.S. economy, it certainly behooves the federal government to get involved immediately and provide necessary funding.”

Here And Now

Good Monday morning! Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City, with nothing public planned. Lawmakers return to the Capitol for another three days of session as the clock is ticking on a (compared to previous years) light legislative agenda. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is spending the day in the Bronx.

Your schedule:

At 7:30 a.m., New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will take an economic development tour of the Bronx, Hunts Point Cooperative Market
772 Edgewater Road, Bronx.

At 10 a.m., de Blasio will hold an administration cabinet meeting, Bronx County Courthouse, 851 Grand Concourse, Room 123 Conference Room, Bronx.

Also at 10 a.m., a joint Senate-Assembly committee hearing on the practices of the online lending industry will be held, Hamilton Hearing Room B, Legislative Office Building, Albany.

At 11 a.m., de Blasio attends an emergency management meeting, Melrose Senior Center, 372 East 152nd Street, Bronx.

Also at 11 a.m., The New York Immigration Coalition will join with elected officials and advocates to urge the City Council to include funding for immigrant legal services in the final budget, in light of new data released by ICE, Steps of City Hall, New York City.

At noon, Assemblywoman Sandra Galef will unveil legislation that allows for one-day marriage officiates, LCA Room 130, Albany.

At 12:30 p.m., Senate Insurance Committee meets, Room 124 Capitol, Albany.

At 1 p.m., the Senate Elections Committee meets, Room 805 LOB, Albany.

At 1:30 p.m., Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will tour flood damage in Fair Have, Fair Haven Village Hall, 14523 Cayuga St, Fair Haven.

At 2 p.m., the Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus and the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force will announce new measures to provide a meaningful and sustainable voice for APA communities across New York, LCA Room 130, Albany.

At 3:30 p.m., de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill hold a photo spray, Bronx County Courthouse, 851 Grand Concourse, Room 123 Conference Room, Bronx.

At 5:45, Hochul will deliver remarks at the WNY Women’s Foundation “What She’s Made Of” event, Albright Knox Gallery, 1285 Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo.

At 9 p.m., the Metropolitan Republican Club will hold its 115th Annual Dinner, Women’s National Republican Club, 3 West 51st Street, New York City.

Headlines:

The Trump administration is proposing to cut $1.7 trillion in welfare programs like food stamps, Medicaid and other benefit programs over the next 10 years.

The budget proposal, too, would seek to convert overseas military grants into loans, a move that could impact $1 billion in aid to foreign countries.

The president, meanwhile, continues his first trip in office overseas, striking a softer tone on Islam as he travels in Saudi Arabia.

The focus on the budget for Washington comes not just while the president is abroad, but also as Republicans and the administration seek to move on from the ever-present investigations surrounding Russian interference in the 2016 election.

First Lady Melania Trump is reportedly unhappy with the job performance of White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, saying he has not been pro-active enough in defending her husband.

While Ivanka Trump may have convinced her father to go along with a plan for paid family leave, Republicans in Congress will be tougher sell.

Texas could be the next battleground over rights for transgender individuals as the state passes a bill curtailing bathroom usage.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo beseeched President Donald Trump for help with Penn Station amid continued annoyance over delays due to track upgrades by Amtrak.

Cuomo in the letter released Sunday called on the president for federal funding to help solve the “summer of agony” facing travelers at Penn Station.

Meanwhile, Cuomo is taking the brunt of the blame for the ongoing problems with New York City subways this spring, as city residents continue to grapple with slow-moving trains, delays and crowding.

After all, it is the governor who appoints the majority of MTA board members, even as many residents in the past have blamed Mayor de Blasio.

Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein in a private dinner last week pledged to continue to bolster Senate Republicans, saying he wants to keep John Flanagan the majority leader of the chamber for a “long, long time.”

Former TV personality Billy Bush has opened up about the infamous video in which laughs along with Trump as he talks about grabbing women, saying he didn’t have the “strength of character” to change the conversation.

Advocacy groups are split over how to push for the Child Victims Act, a bill that would make it easier for survivors of sexual abuse to file lawsuits.

Cuomo today is set to launch NautralizeNY, a program designed to help immigrants.

In Erie County, the teen pregnancy rate is on the decline significantly in the last decade, according to county health officials.

An audit by New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer found the Department of Education spent $350 million on low-performing Internet for city schools and teachers are questioning the cost.

The Department of Health wants to open two new heart transplant centers in New York, including one at NYU Langone and another at North Shore University Hospital.

State lawmakers rake in thousands of dollars in extra pay for committee work, some of them with “vice chair” titles, but skip many of the actual committee meetings.

Staten Island Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, a Republican candidate for mayor of New York City, plans to skip the Puerto Rican Day Parade amid plans to honor a controversial figure.

Nicole Gelinas writes in the Post on how last week’s incident in Times Square involving a car crash that killed 1 and injured 20 is another sign of the failure of New York City’s mental health system.

The New York Daily News has endorsed holding a constitutional convention, which voters get to decide this November, writing it could fix “unacceptable failings” in state government.

Rep. Tom Suozzi unveiled a bill that would provide free mental health services to veterans.

In a radio interview this week, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone reiterated his pledged to “eradicate” MS-13 gang activity and boosted Tim Sini, a candidate for district attorney.

Sini, meanwhile, was endorsed by the Working Families Party over the weekend.

Nassau County executive candidate Jack Martins backed the re-opening of the Sixth Police Precinct, taking up an issue that has been largely championed by Democrats and law enforcement labor unions.

The Empire State Plaza will be receiving its own mini-power grid that could run the complex around the Capitol if needed, the Cuomo administration is set to announce.

A legislative intern with Assemblyman Charles Lavine has big plans for his future and being deaf hasn’t stopped him yet.

Nick Hillary, the North Country coach acquitted of murder, has launched a civil suit, naming Onondaga County District Attorney Bill Fitzpatrick in the complaint.

Amid questions over his stock deals, Rep. Chris Collis is ramping up his own fundraising efforts ahead of a 2018 re-election campaign.

A Buffalo curator and artist is suing the weekly Art Voice over unpaid bills stemming from a 2015 anniversary party.

The Erie County DA’s office has acknowledged an investigation into a potential bribe stemming from the construction of an ice rink in Hamburg.

The Democrat and Chronicle assesses the ongoing effort to revive downtown Rochester, pointing to the city’s ongoing construction efforts underway.

Ringling Bros. has officially shut down its big top after 146 years in business.

Megyn Kelly’s much-anticipated primetime debut is scheduled for June 4.

The Weekend That Was

Rep. Keith Ellison, a leader in the national progressive movement, caused a stir in liberal New York political circles when he posed for a selfie with state Sen. Marisol Alcantara, a fellow supporter of Bernie Sanders and a member of the Independent Democratic Conference.

On Sunday shows, Republicans began to slowly inch away from President Donald Trump amid a growing series of controversies emanating from the White House.

A handful of students protested Vice President Mike Pence’s graduation speech at Notre Dame, while other students in attendance booed.

After initially comparing the investigation facing the Trump White House to Watergate, Sen. John McCain says he was making a comparison to how the crisis was being managed.

In Saudi Arabia, the president urged Muslims leaders to work with the United States to fight back against terrorism, though he declined to use the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” and sought to strike a more moderate tone than his campaign rhetoric.

Here’s a full transcript of his remarks.

In the lead up to the midterm elections, Democrats hope to recruit a slate of military veterans, many of whom fought in post 9/11 conflicts, to run against Republican incumbents.

Politico has an “outrageously early” guide of 20 names to watch ahead of the 2020 elections and, yes, Gov. Andrew Cuomo made the list.

An unnamed law enforcement source groused to The New York Post that Cuomo “swooped in” to the Times Square car crash “like Batman” even before the police were fully on the scene.

The Working Families Party this week is expected to ratchet up its rhetoric against the Independent Democratic Conference, tying the eight-member bloc closely to Trump and, by extension, Cuomo.

Because he entered a plea deal, former Rep. Anthony Weiner’s sentence for sending lewd images to a minor is likely to be cut in half.

The New York Power Authority is expanding its power generation efforts with a program that shows building managers in real time how much energy is being used.

While the old Tappan Zee Bridge will be demolished, its deck panels will live on in Orange County.

State records show Cuomo’s recent hires of former staffers for President Obama and Hillary Clinton cost the state $1.5 million.

In court papers filed on Friday, lawyers for executives at COR Development blasted ex-U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, accusing him of grandstanding in the bribery and bid-rigging case which helped feed the corruption charges.

The Lieutenants Benevolent Association will boycott the Puerto Rican Day Parade over plans to honor Oscar Lopez Rivera.

The Buffalo Jills cheerleading squad won a partial victory in court over their contract dispute with the Bills, but it remains unclear what the next step in the legal battle will be for the squad.

Farmworkers are set to rally at the state Capitol on Tuesday in Albany, pushing for the right to collectively bargain and form a union.

Extras

A current senior White House has been identified as a significant person of interest in the investigation into coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia.

Trump told Russians firing “nut job” FBI Director James Comey took the pressure off of him, adding he’s not under investigation.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told Congress he knew Comey would be fired before he wrote a critical memo about him.

Trump, meanwhile, boarded Air Force one for his first foreign trip as president where he’ll meet with Middle Eastern and European leaders.

Across the country, unionized workers at AT&T walked out Friday afternoon and will stay on strike until Monday morning.

Attorneys for former SUNY Polytechnic head Alain Kaloyeros ask judge to throw out evidence seized from phone and emails in corruption case.

Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle is planning to introduce bill that would provide $105 million for parties affected by Lake Ontario flooding.

New York’s “free tuition” isn’t helping Sage Colleges in Albany and Troy and now they’re making cuts.

The Buffalo Jills are cheering a state Supreme Court judge’s ruling for them in lawsuit against the Bills and other.

Youngsters are taking over Western New York school boards.