Feb 14th - 5:47 pm
President Trump was informed weeks ago that his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, had not told the truth about his interactions with Russia’s ambassador and asked for Flynn’s resignation after concluding he could not be trusted, the White House said.
Buffalo Republican Rep. Chris Collins’ take on Flynn’s resignation: “It’s time to move on.”
Collins, a strong Trump supporter and frequent Trump surrogate, says he has never held a public town hall meeting, and never will, because he believes they are “useless.”
Bronx Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel capitalized on Flynn’s resignation to push legislation that would slam the Kremlin and its agents with even tougher financial sanctions.
In a rare display of bipartisanship, the U.S. Senate voted 81-19 to confirm former wrestling entertainment executive Linda McMahon to lead the Small Business Administration as part of Trump’s cabinet.
Secret Service director Joseph Clancy, who took over the beleaguered agency in the wake of a string of security lapses and personnel misconduct, announced he will retire early next month.
The director of the Office of Government Ethics says White House counselor Kellyanne Conway misused her official position by hawking Ivanka Trump’s product line on TV and recommended the White House punish her.
New York Times features writer Jacob Bernstein apologized for calling the first lady a “hooker” at a Fashion Week event.
The White House visitors office will resume public tours on Tuesday, March 7.
Pedro Hernandez, a former Manhattan bodega stock clerk who confessed to luring the 6-year-old Etan Patz into the store’s basement and attacking him, was found guilty of murder and kidnapping, a long-awaited step toward solving the nearly 40-year mystery that bedeviled investigators and forever changed the way parents watched over their children.
Sen. Bill Perkins, a Harlem Democrat who is widely expected to win a NYC Council special election tonight, has missed quite a few votes in Albany since he was re-elected last fall.
Pete Souza, who served as the chief White House photographer during former President Barack Obama’s eight years in office, is continuing his suddenly not-so-subtle campaign of throwing shade at Trump.
Marvin Krislov, the president of Oberlin College, an Ohio institution known for its music program and left-leaning campus, will become the next head of Pace University, a sprawling private university in Manhattan and Westchester County.
Border Patrol Agents arrested 23 suspected undocumented immigrants in a raid outside a Western New York convenience store yesterday, but said the incident was “random” and not related to any policies implemented by the Trump administration.
Syracuse native Tom Cruise’s mother Mary Lee South is dead, according to multiple reports. She was 80.
Good luck in your next chapter, Paul Grondahl.
Compliments of CNN: “If the president wrote Valentine’s Day cards.”
…and speaking of presidents and Valentine’s Day, the Obamas tweeted some lovey-dovey sentiments.
Feb 14th - 5:18 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill Tuesday delaying the implementation of a 5-cent fee on carry-out bags in New York City.
Though the measure would create a one-year moratorium for the fee to take effect, the surcharge would have to be re-approved by a newly elected city Council. The fee would have taken effect on Wednesday.
In a 929-word statement issued Tuesday afternoon, Cuomo couched the approval of the bill with calls for statewide action to address plastic bags.
“As a New Yorker, I have reeled in numerous plastic bags while fishing in the Hudson and off Long Island,” Cuomo said in the statement.
“I have seen plastic bags in the trees while hiking in the Adirondacks and driving down the Grand Concourse in the Bronx. It is a statewide challenge. As such, a statewide solution is the most appropriate way to address this issue. Questions as to what the statewide solution should be are very much in debate: should the State ban paper and plastic carry-out products? Is a tax the best approach? If so, at what level and who should be the beneficiary? Should the State be obligated to supply reusable bags for a period of time during a transition so that low-income consumers are not unduly financially burdened through the process?”
The statement itself does not explicitly announce his signature for the moratorium bill; his office confirmed the bill was approved.
Cuomo added he was sympathetic to the support from environmental groups who want to cut down on plastic bag waste, but also the argument the fee amounts to a regressive tax.
“Most objectionable is that the law was drafted so that merchants keep the five cent fee as profit, instead of the money being used to solve the problem of plastic bags’ environmental impact – essentially amounting to a $100 million per year windfall to merchants,” he said.
The measure had been backed by the Democratic-led Assembly and the Republican-controlled Senate with bipartisan margins, making a veto unlikely.
In place of the city-based surcharge, Cuomo is forming a “task force” to take review how to reduce waste.
“This Task Force will be different than usual as this matter requires expeditious action,” Cuomo said. “I will ask the Senate and the Assembly to appoint Co-Chairs with me so that the recommendation can be quickly legislated. Local governments and stakeholders will also be included. By the end of this year, this Task Force will conclude with a report and proposed legislation. I look forward to New York State leading the way on this issue.”
Feb 14th - 4:27 pm
Supporters of a measure that would allow terminally ill patients to end their lives were bolstered with the backing of members of the clergy who back the legislation.
The support from a coalition of religious leaders was aimed at countering the opposition to the bill from the Catholic Church and evangelical groups, among others.
The list of clergy backing the aid-in-dying bill included a range of Jewish, Unitarian, Episcopalian and Baptist leaders.
“Preachers across New York spend a great deal of time helping comfort individuals and families during illness and death. We are the ones called to the bedside to witness the suffering of dying people and their families,” said the Rev. Johnnie Green, the senior pastor at the Mount Neboh Baptist Church of Harlem.
“Talking about death and dying, particularly in African American communities, is too often taboo, and we need to change that. Opening up honest conversations about how people want to be cared for at the end of their lives is something we have to do, and that’s why I support legislation that would allow people the freedom to make their own decisions about death and dying, guided by their own faith.”
The legislation, if approved, would apply to those terminally patients who are deemed mentally competent, providing them with a prescription to end their lives.
The bill’s most prominent backer in the Senate has been Staten Island Democrat Diane Savino, a member of the Independent Democratic Conference.
“Today’s faith gathering is the next step in our fight to bring Aid in Dying to New Yorkers,” Savino said. “Aid in Dying is not something everyone would choose, but it’s a choice everyone should have, no matter how or where you worship. I’m a Catholic, and my faith is important to me, but allowing patients, their families and doctors to discuss a safe and compassionate way to end their suffering is important to me and millions of New Yorkers.”
Feb 14th - 2:41 pm
The Independent Democratic Conference on Tuesday endorsed an effort to have New York enter into a multi-state compact that would seek to close a tax loophole that benefits hedge funds.
The goal is to close the carried interest loophole by imposing a 19.6 surcharge on income that falls under that category — typically hedge fund investors who have taken advantage of the relatively obscure section of the tax code.
The IDC framed the issue around generating more income for the state, which the conference pegged at an extra $3.5 billion.
“It is clear from this report wealthy private equity and hedge fund managers are taking advantage of the system and pocketing money that should be owed to the state,” said IDC Leader Jeff Klein. “The legislation we have proposed will impose additional fees to income categorized as carried interest. This much needed additional tax revenue would help the state eliminate the current $3.5 billion budget deficit that exists.”
The IDC unveiled their push at a Capitol news conference outside of the Senate chamber flanked by leaders of the state’s politically active teachers unions, UFT President Michael Mulgrew and New York State United Teachers union Vice President Andy Pallotta as well as the “Patriotic Millionaires” who support increasing taxes on the rich.
Seizing on the issue adds a populist policy concern to the IDC’s agenda in 2017 as the conference has faced criticism from mainline Democrats over their partnership with the Senate Republican conference.
At the same time, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $152 billion spending plan would continue higher tax rates on those who earn more than $1 million a year, a measure that has been met with opposition from GOP lawmakers.
In the Assembly, Democrats there are backing a tax hike on those who earn more than $5 million.
Feb 14th - 2:10 pm
As Gov. Andrew Cuomo has sought more authority over the budget after it is approved, legislative leaders are pushing back.
On Monday, it was Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, who questioned the so-called lump sum arrangements sought by Cuomo in his $152 billion spending plan.
On Tuesday, it was Flanagan’s Democratic counterpart in the Assembly, Speaker Carl Heastie, who reiterated the Legislature’s prerogative in the budget-making process.
“I’d say the last couple of years I’ve pointed out in particular budget situations the Legislature should have good standing,” Heastie said. “My position hasn’t changed in that regard. I’m sure my colleagues standing here with me know that hasn’t changed. As I’ve said many times, the Legislature is an equal branch of government and should be respected.”
Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has also raised concerns with Cuomo’s effort to have mid-year changes to the budget after the spending plan is approved by lawmakers. The budget is expected to pass by March 31.
Feb 14th - 12:59 pm
Assembly Democrats are emphasizing a package of a dozen criminal justice reform measures with measures designed to make it easier to obtain bail, enhance the grand jury process and speed up the process of bringing cases to trial.
And the package includes a long-sought goal for Assembly and Senate Democrats: Raising the age of criminal responsibility, removing 16 and 17-year-olds from the criminal court system.
Speaker Carl Heastie at a news conference flanked by advocates and rank-and-file Democrats on Tuesday wouldn’t commit to holding up the budget from passing to including the measure, but insisted the policy remains a priority for his conference.
“I don’t want to make declarations, but I’ve expressed to Senator Klein and Senator Flanagan how important raise the age and criminal justice reform is to me, but I haven’t made any declarations,” he said. “It’s a pretty serious issue for me.”
Raising the age has stalled in the Legislature as lawmakers debate how to adjudicate cases involving those between 16 and 17 and whether to send non-violent cases to the family court, which would require a boost in funding.
“We would not want to burden the system,” Heastie said. “We want to have a system that works and if we’re going to ask the family court system to handle these children, then we will have to include the resources.”
The Democratic-controlled chamber began passing the legislation on Monday and are taking up bills throughout the day on Tuesday.
The package also includes reforms to sentencing and wrongful convictions, “ban the box” provisions for employment applications and changes to solitary confinement.
Feb 14th - 10:56 am
The labor union 32BJ announced a slate of early endorsements for New York City candidates, including backing the bids of citywide candidates for re-election.
The union backed both incumbents Scott Stringer at city comptroller and Letitia James, the public advocate as well as Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. They are considered potential candidates for the Democratic nomination for New York City mayor, though are yet to launch a campaign against incumbent Bill de Blasio.
“New York City must remain a place where progressive policies and laws protect the most vulnerable among us,” said 32BJ President Hector Figueroa. “We have endorsed these leaders because of their history of standing up for working people, immigrant rights, good public education, affordable housing, criminal justice, police reform and other issues that are important to our members and their families.”
Feb 14th - 10:41 am
Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind on Tuesday urged U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer to drop his endorsement of Rep. Keith Ellison to become the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
Hikind, a conservative Democrat and Orthodox Jew, cited Ellison’s previous rhetoric on the Nation of Islam.
“Keith Ellison has disqualified himself from becoming the next chair of the DNC,” said Hikind in a statement. “Ellison is the most polarizing choice. Not only are his views radical, but they are divisive. Whether his embracing of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan or his support of the one-sided Goldstone Report, Ellison is clearly not the leader anyone should embrace.”
Hikind has launched an online petition to urge Schumer, who assumed the Senate minority leader post, to rescind the endorsement.
“Senator Schumer, are there no mainstream candidates to lead us?” asked Hikind. “Instead of bringing Democrats together, Ellison will further divide the Party. Senator Schumer, pull the plug on your support for Ellison. He will be a disaster for the Democratic Party,” said Hikind.
Hikind has come under criticism himself after appearing in blackface at a Purim celebration.
Feb 14th - 6:15 am
From the Morning Memo:
Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to spend $2 billion on clean water infrastructure in New York. But over the next generation, that spending could actually be a lot more to keep New York’s water clean.
“The total figure for water and waste water over 20 years is $80 billion,” said Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos. “It sounds like a huge number and it is a big number. But if you look at the ability of what we’ve been able to spend grant monies and loan monies in the last few years based on the work done to date.”
Seggos told lawmakers on Monday at a joint budget hearing he wants a good, working relationship with the federal government — a challenge he acknowledges given the new administration in Washington.
“No question there’s a huge need,” he said following the testimony. “We need the federal government to step up. We need our loan program to remain sound.”
Clean water issues are especially key in upstate New York, where communities like Hoosick Falls, Petersburgh and Newburgh have dealt with the impact of chemical contamination in their drinking water. Cuomo included the water plan in his $152 billion budget proposal.
“We support, I say, in principle the governor’s idea that we need to put a lot of money towards insuring that,” said Speaker Carl Heastie. “When we come out with our one-house resolution, we’ll state where we are.”
But lawmakers want some understanding of where that two billion would be directed and how it would be spent.
“I don’t see any reason in the world why we can’t come up with a good clear memorandum of understanding of where it should go,” Majority Leader John Flanagan said. “Should it be regional, looking at the DEC, the Health Department, even DOT.”
Seggos says he’s willing to work with lawmakers.
“This is a vital proposal for New York’s environment, for water resources in the state, and there’s no reason to think why we can’t reach a good understanding of how that money will be spent,” he said.
A report by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli on Monday identified at least $40 billion in needed repairs for water and sewer across New York.
Feb 14th - 6:00 am
From the Morning Memo:
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is due to decide today whether he will allow a fee on carry-out bags in New York City to be implemented or if he will delay the implementation of the 5-cent surcharge.
That’s the choice Cuomo faces with a delay bill approved last week on his desk now and the fee set to take effect this week.
For now, it’s unclear which track Cuomo will take: Either anger environmental groups who want to cut down on waste or upset those — including Democrats — who believe the fee is a regressive tax.
As of Monday afternoon, most state lawmakers were in the dark as to what Cuomo plans to do.
“I’ve spoken to him and it’s pretty much the same things he said publicly,” said Speaker Carl Heastie. “He’s troubled by the fee, he agrees with the goal that we all do that we’d like to see less of these plastic bags. he’s concerned about the impact particularly for low income New Yorkers. We’ll wait and see.”