Extras

Syracuse police identified the man who was outside his vehicle when he was struck and killed by Syracuse men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim late last night as Jorge Jimenez, 51.

Jimenez was a passenger in a vehicle that lost control on the highway striking a guard rail. People in the car got out and proceeded to walk on the highway near the vehicle, police said.

Boeheim, 74, is cooperating with investigators and passed field sobriety tests, officials said.

“I am heartbroken that a members of our community died as the result of last night’s accident,” Boeheim said in a statement. “Juli and I extend our deepest sympathies to the Jimenez family. Out of respect for those involved, I will not be providing further comment at this time.”

Paul Manafort, the longtime Republican consultant who spent five months as Trump’s campaign chairman during the 2016 election, will be sentenced for multiple federal crimes at a U.S. district court in Virginia on March 8, according to a court filing.

In a startling statement, Republican candidate Mark Harris called for a new election in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District “to restore the confidence of voters.”

Jussie Smollett, upset by his salary and seeking publicity, staged a fake assault on himself a week after writing himself a threatening letter, the Chicago police said after the “Empire” actor surrendered to face a charge of filing a false police report.

A federal judge banned Roger Stone from speaking publicly about his case after hauling him back to court to answer for an Instagram post attacking her.

The House is set to vote on legislation next week to enhance background checks for gun purchases, as Democrats seek to move quickly on a top priority since taking the majority.

Patagonia announced it has an additional $10 million in profits on its books for 2018 as a result of Trump’s “irresponsible tax cut” last year, which lowered the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent. Instead of investing the additional dollars back into its business, the company said it would give $10 million to grassroot groups fighting climate change.

New York State hasn’t given up on winning a future Amazon expansion project, according to Cuomo’s economic development czar, Howard Zemsky. “We should never burn bridges,” he said. “The governor is not burning any bridges — certainly with Amazon. They are a huge employer here in the state.”

Onondaga County lawmaker Casey Jordan wants Amazon, now that the online retailing giant has been jilted by New York City, to know it’s welcome to bring 25,000 jobs to the suburban Syracuse town he represents.

The Erie County Legislature voted to approve pay raises for the county executive and three other countywide elected positions, and also adopted a new pay structure that provides automatic annual raises tied to the consumer price index for the positions of county executive, county comptroller, sheriff and county clerk. The pay for these positions has not been raised in nearly 23 years.

Queens Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez scolded media outlets for reporting that she lives in a luxury high-rise building in Washington, DC, around the time she and other high-profile Democrats appeared on a hit list compiled by a Maryland man arrested for allegedly planning a mass terror attack.

CNN’s Chris Cuomo said he fears for his family’s safety after his name was found on a list of Democratic politicians and journalists targeted by a US Coast Guard officer who allegedly wanted to carry out a mass attack.

Ocasio-Cortez blasted the “wack billboard” in Times Square that was paid for by a conservative group to criticize her part in Amazon’s decision to ditch a plan to build a second headquarters in Queens.

James Patchett, president of the NYC Economic Development Corporation, said the Amazon deal was botched from the get-go.

Federal officials have picked their monitor to oversee the embattled New York City Housing Authority: Bart Schwartz, a former prosecutor with ties to Cuomo, former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and controversial activist Lenora Fulani.

Three weeks after New York’s ethics watchdog panel, JCOPE, voted behind closed doors whether to investigate the activities of a former top aide to Cuomo, there has been no indication that the commission moved forward with any inquiry.

Forty-three TV shows and movies took $1.2 billion in New York state tax breaks from 2015 to mid-2018, state records show. New York sets aside a generous $420 million a year for tax breaks for film studios that make movies and TV shows in the state – that’s more than any other tax break program.

Privileged parkers will lose their NYC-issued placards if they get caught abusing them three times, officials said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants higher penalties for assaulting transportation workers while they’re on the job.

Basil Seggos, commissioner of the state Department of Environmental Conservation, who announced his resignation back in November, has changed his mind and officially decided to stay on the job.

An official with the Upstate New York Poison Center is warning the public not to use the herbal supplement kratom because it can cause rapid heartbeat, other serious health problems and even death.

Miley Cyrus said her inspiration to marry husband Liam Hemsworth came not just from her love for the Australian actor, but also her love for Hillary Clinton.

Clinton held meetings in early February with former Vice President Joe Biden and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar to talk about the 2020 presidential election, a source close to the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee tells CNN.

The Divide New York Debate Returns

Imagine a map, if you will, that shows a prosperous and powerful city that runs everything and largely rural northern region that is, well, kind of resentful of that.

A world-shaking split occurs, leading to a civil war with dragons and — I’m sorry, that’s the plot of Game of Thrones.

But you don’t have to be familiar with Westeros to know that New York’s fault lines are split in deeply similar ways.

A push to divide the state is brewing once again, a month and a half after Democrats gained full control of the state Senate for the first time in 10 years. In today’s political parlance, we’d probably call it #upexit if such a push were serious enough.

Republican lawmakers in recent days have introduced legislation that would either study ways of separating north from south, or at the very least restoring some political clout to upstate New York.

Sen. Daphne Jordan, a Republican who represents a district encircling the Albany area, introduced a bill to review how feasible a divide would be through the creation of a working group.

Sen. Robert Ortt, a Republican from western New York, called for a constitutional amendment that would create something akin to an electoral college for electing the governor and lieutenant governor, giving each county three representational votes of a statewide total. The amendment is a nod to Republicans who noted that GOP nominee Marc Molinaro won more upstate counties than Gov. Andrew Cuomo did (the governor won upstate counties with large cities in them, like Albany, Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse).

Splitting the state in two is unlikely and, ultimately, a financially disastrous thing to do, those who have studied the issue say. This is a rebuke of claims that upstate taxpayers’ money is going to aid the poor in New York City. It’s actually the opposite.

The Empire Center, a fiscally conservative think tank, noted the state resulting from #upexit would be smaller and less wealthy as a result. After all, upstate New York would be losing its cash cows: Wealthy people who live in New York City.

“… taxes would not necessarily be lower than they are now; in fact, they would have to be higher unless upstate politicians make the spending cuts necessary to make up for the loss of current revenue subsidies from the wealthier downstate region,” the organization wrote in a 2015 post.

In the alternate world that this did come to pass, an upstate state could presumably pass laws allowing hydrofracking, maybe, and perhaps leverage its agriculture economy to greater effect. It just wouldn’t have the engine of the nation’s economy: Wall Street.

“The bottom line is that the economics underlying this proposal would be dreadful for upstate’s taxpayers and the politics would probably be self-defeating over the long haul,” University at Albany adjunct professor Bruce Gyory told me via email. “A better approach in my mind would be for upstate to advance assiduously an bi-partisan upstate agenda leveraging its great strength: its electoral power in gubernatorial elections.”

More archly, senior Cuomo advisor Rich Azzopardi has called the legislation “pandering” by Republicans to placate constituents upset with the string of Democratic policy goals finally breaking through in Albany.

But while it’s hard imaging something like this working, divide New York sympathizers certainly do see two different states: One that supports gun rights, one that doesn’t; one that wants to rebuke President Donald Trump; one that voted for him; one that has sustained economic success after the recession; one that has had a largely flat recovering and a declining population with grayer hair.

The push to divide the state in large part stems not just from the political differences, but the disparity in wealth and power that’s transferred almost entirely to the metropolitan area in the last half century.

Polarization is nothing new, of course, but it’s become far more intense  with each election. And New York is certainly no exception.

The country has organized itself into a collection of blue and red states and New York is now one of the bluest of them. Democrats vastly outnumber Republicans, and the GOP voters who are left tend to be more conservative than their Rockefeller Republican predecessors.

“Whether it’s the issue of gun control, the DREAM Act, taxes and spending, parity in school or infrastructure funding, or even the choice for governor, the deepening divide – cultural, economic and political – between upstate and downstate has grown more pronounced every year,” Jordan said this week. “Many are asking whether both regions would be better off as separate entities.”

The last upstate resident in state government with any meaningful clout was Jordan’s predecessor in the Senate, Republican Majority Leader Joe Bruno, who leveraged that influence to get major state investments to his area. That’s led to the Northway corridor between Albany and Saratoga Springs to be a virtual outlier compared to many upstate regions with GlobalFoundries and its spin off businesses.

After Bruno left office, Republicans elected a series of Long Islanders to the leadership post, Dean Skelos and then John Flanagan.

Upstate cities over several generations have faltered. Kodak isn’t what it once was. The dairy industry is struggling. And Albany is led by politicians from the suburbs and New York City — two different regions that are often (incorrectly) lumped together.

It’s trending Democratic not just because of New York City, but also because of once powerful Republican machines in Nassau County and, to lesser extent, Westchester County, have faltered.

But the state is a lot more politically and culturally diverse than simply “upstate” and “downstate.” After all, Suffolk County on Long Island voted for Trump in the last election. Staten Island remains a conservative outlier in New York City. Ithaca is an island of liberalism in an otherwise Republican area.

Lake Placid is different from Endicott. Utica is different from Jamestown.

The state is a complicated one, not unlike California or Texas, and New York somehow has evolved so that One World Trade, Mount Marcy and Niagara Falls (the uh, American side) are contained within the same borders.

Cuomo Wants Stronger Penalties For Assaulting Transit Workers

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $175 billion budget includes a provision that would add a felony charge for assaulting a transportation worker.

Cuomo touted the proposal on Thursday as he is also pushing for a congestion pricing plan for Manhattan, with the proceeds to be used for shoring up the New York City subway system.

“New York has zero tolerance for anyone who flagrantly puts the lives and safety of transportation workers in jeopardy,” Cuomo said.

“By strengthening existing penalties and expanding the categories of workers included in these protections, we will prevent future assaults, ensure the safety of New York’s transportation workers and provide law enforcement the tools they need to hold offenders accountable.”

Under Cuomo’s proposal, an assault on a transit worker would lead to a $5,000 fine and up to seven years in prison.

The measure would also include DOT and Thruway Authority workers as well as airport workers.

The measure is also included in a budget that would add new penalties for those who assault working journalists.

This Time, They Want it in the Budget

The New York City School Bus Coalition continues its push to ensure protections for school bus matrons, drivers and mechanics, this time as part of the state budget. In 2016, both houses passed a bill codifying what is known as Employee Protection Provisions. However, the provisions were vetoed by Governor Cuomo who said at the time that there was no funding in the budget for the additional protections. This time around, “Driving Our Future,” a group that includes labor groups, contractors and parents, wants to bypass the legislative process and make it a budgetary item.

Driving our future has released a new ad which focuses on driver’s and matrons who take children with special needs to and from school. The ad, which will begin on digital but could expand to cable, was produced by the very talented Jimmy Siegel of Siegel strategies, who has done work for Governor Cuomo and others.

Ad is below:

Demonstrations Planned To Push Back Against Medicaid Cuts

From the Morning Memo:

The $550 million cuts proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to the state’s Medicaid program has sent health care advocates and industry officials into demonstration mode.

The cuts, part of the 30-day amendments announced last week, amount to $1 billion when factoring in federal matching funds. The cuts were proposed amid a revenue shortfall Cuomo has blamed on the $10,000 cap on state and federal tax deductions.

“There will be no decline in the quality of care, but I cannot see how a billion dollars coming out of the health care delivery system, hospitals and nursing homes, how there won’t be a potential loss in service, loss in potential workforce,” said Healthcare Association of New York Vice President of State Policy Jim Clancy.

The Healthcare Association of New York plans to bring workers to protest the spending cuts to the Capitol on March 5, arguing a progressive state government shouldn’t be targeting health care spending.

Other advocates, like Strong Economy For All’s Michael Kink, expects weeks of demonstrations.

Health care advocates and industry groups like the Healthcare Association of New York say the cuts will have an effect not just on patients who receive Medicaid benefits, but also those who work in the health care system.

“We’re going to see a lot of advocacy, from workers, from health care activists, from the leaders of these facilities, pressuring Governor Cuomo to pay for the budget gap without cutting health care,” Kink said.

The budget is expected to pass by the end of March.

Buffalo-Based Consulting Firm Announces New Partner

From the Morning Memo:

Buffalo-based political consulting firm Big Dog Strategy is expanding its operation to Texas.

The firm announced Republican consultant Matt Langston as a partner, who will head Big Dog’s new Austin branch.

According to his professional page, Langston has most recently worked as a vice president for Axiom Strategies in Austin. He also was chief of staff for Texas state Sen. Don Huffines.

“I’ve been proud to work alongside some of the most hard-working men and women in politics for many years, and I am excited to have a chance to continue serving them as a member of the Big Dog team,” Langston said.

Big Dog was launched by Chris Grant, also a former Axiom consultant. Grant also served as chief of staff for Republican MY-27 Rep. Chris Collins until 2015.

Grant’s firm ran the much publicized re-election campaign last year for the indicted congressman, who beat his Democratic opponent, Nate McMurray, by a slim margin.

Grant said he is thrilled to add the experienced Langston to the team.

“Matt brings with him a proven record of national success, a team-focused work ethic, and a relentless focus on winning that will play an integral role in the future of our company,” he said.

Big Dog also has an office in Washington, D.C..

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany with no public events or interviews scheduled as of yet.

The state Legislature and Congress are not in session, as lawmakers are on their mid-winter breaks.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli is still in Rome, Italy.

Vice President Mike Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence travel to Columbia, South Carolina, where they will participate in a tour of an Opportunity Zone and the VP will deliver remarks at The Meeting Place Church.

The Pences will then return to Washington, where they will join the president at the White House for a reception for National African American History Month.

At 7 a.m., state Sen. Andrew Gounardes and members and advocates with the Riders Alliance will take the state legislative subway ride-along series to R train riders in Bay Ridge to document the depth of the transit crisis as momentum builds toward congestion pricing, 77th Street Subway Station (Brooklyn), enter at NE corner of 4th Avenue and 77th Street (Manhattan-bound R train).

At 9 a.m. , state Sen. Rachel May holds a regional hearing on the Climate and Community Protection Act, SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry Gateway Center, 1 Forestry Drive, Syracuse.

At 11 a.m., AARP, TransitCenter and other advocates join Assembly members Richard Gottfried, Linda Rosenthal, Harvey Epstein, Jo Anne Simon and Robert Rodriguez to call on Cuomo and the state Legislature to fund subway station elevators, 25th Street and Eighth Avenue, Manhattan.

Also at 11 a.m., state Sen. Jessica Ramos and labor leaders rally against Amazon’s labor practices, Amazon distribution center, 26-15 Boody St., Queens.

At 11:30 a.m., the Rev. Al Sharpton meets with U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California, a 2020 Democratic contender, Sylvia’s Restaurant, 328 Malcolm X Blvd., Manhattan.

Also at 11:30 a.m., Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. delivers his State of the Borough address, Health, Education and Research Occupations High School, Samuel Gompers Campus, 455 Southern Blvd., the Bronx.

Also at 11:30 a.m., Rockland County Sheriff Louis Falco III speaks to the Rockland Business Association about the proposed recreational marijuana legalization bill, Hilton Pearl River, 500 Veterans Memorial Drive, Pearl River.

At noon, Long Island Rep. Tom Suozzi, Suffolk County Executive Steven Bellone and Nassau County Executive Laura Curran announce the formation of the Long Island Apprenticeship & Workforce Development Task Force, Composite Prototyping Center, 121 Express St., Plainview.

Also at noon, Rep. Joe Morelle will host a media availability after meeting with members of the Rochester chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Keating Federal Office Building, 100 State St., Basement Conference Room, Rochester.

At 2 p.m., Queens Rep. Grace Meng, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky hold a ribbon-cutting for One Flushing, an affordable housing project, 133-45 41st Ave., Queens.

At 2:30 p.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will make an announcement on parking placards, New York Chinatown Senior Citizen Center, 70 Mulberry St., Manhattan.

THIS EVENT IS NEXT WEEK. SORRY FOR THE CONFUSION. At 6 p.m., Bronx Democratic Chair Marcos Crespo hosts the party’s annual winter reception, Billy’s Sports Bar, 856 River Ave., the Bronx.

At 6:30 p.m., LG Kathy Hochul delivers remarks and a proclamation at the East Elmhurst-Corona Civic Association’s Black History Month celebration, Terrace on the Park, 52-11 111th St., Flushing, Queens.

At 7 p.m., Common Cause/NY will host an in-depth panel discussion on the potential impact of automatic voter registration in New York, New York Law School, 185 West Broadway, Manhattan.

Also at 7 p.m., de Blasio will deliver remarks at the Rainbow PUSH Coalition’s 22nd Annual Wall Street Project Economic Summit, Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel, 3rd Fl., 811 7th Ave., Manhattan.

Headlines…

A former Trump campaign staffer filed a class action seeking to invalidate all of the nondisclosure and nondisparagement agreements that the Trump campaign required all staffers to sign.

President Donald Trump has ordered his administration to refuse “ISIS bride” Hoda Muthana reentry into the United States.

Muthana does not qualify for citizenship and has no legal basis to return to the country, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

Muthana’s family insists she’s a U.S. citizen, and offered proof through an attorney.

The commander-in-chief set off a fiery exchange with one of his most inflammatory anti-media insults — this one prompted by yet another damning news story about his administration in the Times.

Job Creators Network, a conservative advocacy group with close ties to the powerful Mercer family, paid for a Times Square billboard that blames Queens Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for the death of the Amazon HQ2 deal.

Ocasio-Cortez went on a Twitter tear accusing people of undermining her intelligence over statements she made about Amazon’s failed move to the Big Apple.

Snopes.com: “Ocasio-Cortez was not the sole force behind Amazon’s withdrawing their plan to open a site in New York City, and many other public officials and residents opposed the plan as well. Long Island City, where HQ2 was slated to be located, is also not in her district.”

Roseanne Barr is apparently not a fan of Ocasio-Cortez, calling her a “Farrakhan-loving…bug-eyed b@#$*h” who is costing “hundreds of people decent-paying jobs” with her so-called Green New Deal.

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Kamala Harris, of California, will trek to Harlem today for a lunch meeting at the the soul food restaurant Sylvia’s with the Rev. Al Sharpton, the civil rights activist’s National Action Network announced.

Harris’ Jamaican father blasted her for saying she smoked marijuana and supports it becoming legalized, claiming she’s playing “identity politics.” Donald Harris, an economics professor at Stanford University, said she is harming her family’s Jamaican ancestors.

Russian President Vladimir Putin sternly warned the United States against deploying new missiles in Europe, saying Wednesday that Russia will retaliate by fielding new weapons that will take just as little time to reach their targets.

French judges ordered the financial giant UBS to pay a record 3.7 billion euro fine, about $4.2 billion, for carrying out what prosecutors said was a long-running scheme to help French clients hide huge sums of money from the authorities.

Months after the Trump administration announced an end to its widescale separation of migrant parents and children, the policy remains a heated issue in the courts and at the border as critics contend the government is still needlessly breaking up immigrant families.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency intends to set a safety limit for exposure to a cancer-causing chemical that has tainted public drinking water in Rensselaer County, although what the standard will be and when that will happen remain to be seen, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer announced.

Michael Cohen will testify publicly before Congress on Feb. 27 on an array of topics linked to his former boss and client, Trump, the House Oversight Committee said.

Cohen can remain a free man for a bit longer than initially planned so he can recover from shoulder surgery and testify before Congress, a federal judge in Manhattan ruled.

“Empire” actor Jussie Smollet was charged last night with lying to cops when he claimed to be the victim of a racist and homophobic attack — and authorities want him to surrender, police said.

Producers for “Empire” are reportedly considering whether to suspend Smollett after he was charged with a felony.

Law enforcement officials said a grand jury had heard evidence that Smollett falsely reported being attacked in a case that quickly drew national attention, and that local prosecutors had then charged him with a felony count of disorderly conduct.

Former NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who was hand-picked by Mayor Bill de Blasio, now says he’s running the city on autopilot and “seems to lack focus.”

The seven leading candidates running for public advocate took turns blasting de Blasio for eyeing the White House instead of his job at City Hall during their second and final debate, with none of them saying they thought New York’s two-term mayor should head to Washington.

The race for public advocate is already the most expensive special election in New York City’s history — and candidates are just getting started.

More >

Extras

U.S. Attorney General William Barr is preparing to announce as early as next week the completion of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, with plans for Barr to then submit a summary of Mueller’s confidential report to Congress.

President Donald Trump is preparing to establish a panel to examine how climate change affects national security, and will include a White House adviser whose views are sharply at odds with the established scientific consensus that human-caused global warming poses a threat to the nation’s economy, health and security.

The publisher of The New York Times excoriated Trump after the commander-in-chief declared the newspaper the “true enemy of the people” in light of a damning report about his alleged attempts to interfere in ongoing criminal investigations.

The U.S. Supreme Court struck a unanimous blow to aggressive civil forfeiture tactics, ruling that the federal prohibition against excessive fines applies on a state level. (Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the court’s opinion).

Though former Vice President Joe Biden has said publicly he hasn’t made up his mind on pursuing a presidential run in 2020, some politicos close to the politician, who have spoken with him in private, say they believe he will mount a bid.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, one of several Democrats running for president in 2020, offered to buy an Iowa woman pizza after she inadvertently interrupted a Gillibrand campaign event to get some ranch dressing in a clip that has gone viral.

Just over 24 hours after announcing his presidential bid, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has already raised $6 million from more than 225,000 donors, his campaign said Wednesday morning.

Southwest Airlines lost $60 million because of the government shutdown, the company said. That’s far more than its original estimate of $10 to $15 million in losses, and it adds to a litany of recent problems for the airline.

Some close to the White House believe that Dan Coats may soon be ousted as Trump’s top intelligence official, a move that would draw ire from Capitol Hill and likely raise new concerns about the administration’s national security apparatus.

The Manhattan Institute has named Reihan Salam, former executive editor of the National Review, as president. He will succeed the outgoing president, Lawrence J. Mone, who has been with the Institute for 37 years, 24 at its helm.

The Onondaga County Conservative Committee has endorsed Republican attorney Gary Lavine to run for District Attorney. In recent elections, the party has backed Lavine’s opponent, seven-term incumbent District Attorney William Fitzpatrick, also a Republican.

Sen. Mike Gianaris, post-Amazon: “I and many of my colleagues are taking a holistic approach to economic development reforms — for example, an interstate compact to say that we won’t participate in these contests that end up pitting states against each other.”

After his marriage to country music star Miranda Lambert, NYPD Officer Brendan McLoughlin, who normally patrols Times Square on foot, has been temporarily reassigned to a more covert position because the media has been hounding him while he’s on the job.

Cuomo announced that $23.6 million has been awarded to airports across the state for safety improvements and to modernize them.

Lisa Cater, whose claims of sexual harassment against former state economic development official Sam Hoyt made headlines around the state in 2017, said she will not appeal the decision of a Manhattan federal judge to dismiss her civil suit.

Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, who was to report early next month to begin serving a three-year prison sentence, was granted a two-month delay before he must surrender to the authorities.

For years, Margaret Markey, a former Queens assemblywoman, pushed for the Child Victims Act, which recently passed. She did not talk about it, but her effort was driven by her son’s own incident of abuse by a priest at the Catholic parish where their family had worshiped for generations.

SUNY Chancellor Kristina Johnson, who has made it a priority to get SUNY to adopt renewable energy sources, serves on the board of directors of an energy company criticized for a controversial coal plant in Puerto Rico.

The NY Daily News endorsed Republican NYC Councilman Eric Ulrich for public advocate.

Syracuse University leaders are taking steps to address students’ concerns after an off-campus assault earlier this month left three students with minor injuries.

Chicago’s top prosecutor recused herself from the investigation into the attack reported by “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett shortly after police requested another interview with the actor.

Thousands of police officers from across the country lined the streets of Hampton Bays to salute fallen New York City police Det. Brian Simonsen at his funeral, where he was remembered for his dedication.

Cuomo Urges Congress To Boost 9/11 Victims Fund

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a letter on Wednesday urged members of Congress to restore funding to the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund after the head of the fund announced reductions in payments to survivors as claims increase.

“The answer to diminishing funds is not to dilute payments to victims – it is to increase funding for all who need it and make the fund permanent,” Cuomo wrote in the letter. “All are equally heroes to the nation, and all should be equally and fully funded.”

Payments to survivors could be cut by as much as 70 percent. The federal fund has had nearly 40,000 people apply reporting illnesses related to the attacks at the World Trade Center, Pentagon or in Pennsylvania.

So far, almost $5 billion has awarded out of the fund, which restarted in 2011 to aid those with health problems.

“In New York, we will always stand with the victims of the 9/11 attacks,” Cuomo wrote in the letter. “I will work with New York’s delegation, the champions for this effort, to secure the funding that survivors deserve.”

Surrogacy Coalition Writes To Cuomo

A coalition backing bills meant to strengthen the state’s surrogacy and in vitro fertilization laws on Wednesday wrote to Gov. Andrew Cuomo to highlight the issue.

The group, known as the Protecting Modern Families Coalition, wants the passage of a bill that would end requirements for establishment parenthood for lesbian couples as well as decriminalization gestational surrogacy.

In the letter, the coalition pointed to current laws that make surrogacy restrictive for families as well as surrogates. A version of the legislation is in Cuomo’s $175 billion budget proposal.

“It’s incomprehensible to us that a woman who wants to serve as a gestational surrogate and help a family bring a baby into the world, and who meets the rigorous screening process of a surrogacy agency to ensure suitability, would be prevented by state law from being able to do so,” the letter states. “Whose interest is that serving? Certainly not that of prospective surrogates, nor of intended parents.”

The measure would also allow intended parents who have enlisted the aid of a third-party to conceive their child have a legal relationship with the child at the moment of birth.

“The Child-Parent Security Act includes comprehensive protections for surrogates,” the group wrote in the letter. “The bill would protect our right to make decisions regarding our own health or that of the fetus or embryo. It would also ensure that we have our own legal representation. These are commonsense policies that are rooted in the shared experiences of surrogates over the past thirty plus years.”

The full letter can be found here.