Nick Reisman

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In Video, Katz Highlights Biography

From the Morning Memo:

The death of her mother due to a drunk driver galvanized Melinda Katz’s decision to enter public service, the Queens district attorney candidate said in a video released Thursday by her campaign.

Katz is among a crowded field of Democrats competing in next month’s primary for Queens district attorney. She released the first video of her campaign that serves in large part as a biography for voters.

“One person’s criminal act changed my family forever and shaped my entire life,” she says in the video. “Seeing myself in other victims, I wanted to use the law to bring justice to people in a way that I never got.”

In the video, she also talks about she helped her father when he became ill, helping him navigate insurance needs. And she points to her time as Queens borough president.

“I ran as an outsider the first time against the party establishment,” she says in the video.

“They said I shouldn’t run and I couldn’t win. But I’m not a quiet person, and I’m not a quitter. I outworked them and won. As a legislator, I passed legislation that gave victims of child sexual abuse more time to report their abusers and gave women greater access to reproductive healthcare.”

Here and Now

Good morning and TGIF!

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is holding an even at the Mario Cuomo Bridge in Tarrytown.

At 8:30 a.m., Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and the Business Initiative Corporation of New York co-host the 21st Annual Bronx Bankers Breakfast, Villa Barone Manor, 737 Throggs Neck Expwy., the Bronx.

At 9 a.m., state Assemblyman Walter Mosley, Assemblyman Charles Barron, New York City Councilwoman Inez Barron and other leaders hold a press conference to speak out against the specialized high school admission exam, City Hall steps, Manhattan.

At 9:15 a.m., NYC Councilman Ben Kallos joins a group of parent leaders at a press conference to detail their opposition to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposed changes to the city’s specialized high school entrance exam, 250 Broadway, Manhattan.

At 9:45 a.m., Gov. Andrew Cuomo will make an announcement at the Mario Cuomo Bridge, 555 White Plains Road, Tarrytown.

At 10 a.m., Westchester County Executive George Latimer recognizes all levels of correctional professionals, retirees and community partners, Westchester County Jail, 10 Woods Rd., Valhalla.

Also at 10 a.m., Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will announce Restore NY funding for the Holiday Inn Express Hotel on Grand Island, 2761 Road, Grand Island.

Also at 10 a.m., NYC Councilman Ritchie Torres announces a new law passed by the City Council to close a loophole that allows landlords to falsify documents with city agencies and lie about the amount of rent-regulated units in a building without consequence, Torres’ district office, 573 E. Fordham Road, Bronx.

Also at 10 a.m., the state Assembly Committee on Education holds a public hearing on specialized high schools, Assembly Hearing Room, 250 Broadway, Room 1923, Manhattan.

At 11 a.m., NYC Councilman Rafael Salamanca Jr. attends a ribbon-cutting for an affordable housing development, 960 Simpson St., the Bronx.

Also at 11 a.m., state Sens. Shelley Mayer and Peter Harckham honor Vietnam War veteran Frank Romeo for his work educating students and bringing attention to the mental health challenges of veterans, American Legion Post 135, 57 Mitchell Pl., White Plains.

Also at 11 a.m., the state Assembly Committee on Housing holds a public hearing on rental housing and tenant protections, Legislative chamber, Monroe County Office Building, 39 W. Main St., Rochester.

At 11:30 a.m. Hochul will announce state funded projects to enhance pedestrian and bicycle access in western New York, Historic Iron Trestle Pedestrian Bridge, 1 Main St., Tonawanda.

At noon, the NYC Council Committee on Transportation meets jointly with the Committee on Finance, Council chamber, City Hall, Manhattan.

Also at noon, state Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy, Strong Economy for All Coalition, Citizen Action, Empire State Indivisible, the Working Families Party and others hold a press conference urging the Assembly to pass the Tax Returns Release Under Specific Terms Act, Million Dollar Staircase, 3rd Fl., state Capitol, Albany.

Also at noon, Assemblymembers Carmen De La Rosa and Nily Rozic will attend a Mother’s Day rally to make visitation easier for families of the incarcerated. Adam Clayton Powell Office Building, New York City.

At 6 p.m., state Sens. Velmanette Montgomery, John Liu and Roxanne Persaud, and Assemblywoman Diana Richardson, host a community speak out on school diversity and specialized high school admissions, NYU Tandon, Bern Dibner Building, Pfizer Auditorium, 5 Metrotech Center, Brooklyn.

Also at 6 p.m., state Assemblyman Mike LiPetri hosts a rally to demand a permanent MTA police presence to thwart constant issues of homelessness, harassment of riders and public safety stemming from drug activity, Babylon train station, Railroad Ave., Babylon, Long Island.

Headlines…

State lawmakers introduced legislation that would halt the dissolution of a closed hospital’s corporation until an audit is done to determine what happened to its pension fund.

Self-help guru Keith Raniere was brilliant, so brilliant that the government considered him a threat and that his energy could impact weather. Those myths and other oddities about the spiritual leader of the secretive upstate New York organization called NXIVM were detailed on Thursday by a former group official testifying at Raniere’s federal trial.

New York City’s rent control laws are due to expire at the end of June. And as the laws expire, state legislators want to strengthen protections for tenants and bring the regulations to upstate cities.

Rep. Antonio Delgado is proposing new legislation that would increase transparency when it comes to using PFAS chemicals.

Buffalo Bills fans are known to be among the rowdiest tailgaters in the NFL. But Rep. Tom Reed, a self-proclaimed lifelong fan, said the organization and law enforcement have things under control.

Members of The First Congregational Church of Ithaca have declared the space a Sanctuary Church. For 15 months members have been researching and discussing the possibility.

Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo declared a state of emergency on Thursday in response to Lake Ontario water levels.

Democrats running for the White House are scrambling to win the nomination and beat President Donald Trump, but they are also competing for money. Should he jump in, Mayor Bill de Blasio would near the bottom of the pack when it comes to money and support in the polls.

He’s not known just for his leather jacket and cowboy hat. City Councilman Ruben Diaz Sr., a Democrat from the Bronx who is also a conservative Pentecostal minister, is known for making remarks that spark outrage. This time, Diaz shocked members of the Council this week when he suggested reporting the sexual harassment would make him “a rat.”

Residents of the Fulton Houses in Manhattan are getting visitors. Employees of the New York City Housing Authority are fanning out across this Manhattan apartment complex to try to tell residents about their new plans.

In December 2017, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a major economic development project for Long Island, which includes a revamping of Belmont Park and a new arena for the New York Islanders hockey team. But the project could be in jeopardy.

Melissa DeRosa, the top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, blasted the MTA’s overtime spending and called for changes to how the transit agency is spending money.

A judge in Washington, D.C. said he is fast-tracking to trial the legal fight over whether to temporarily block a congressional subpoena issued for Trump’s financial records.

Trump welcomed Major League Baseball’s Boston Red Sox to the White House to celebrate the team’s 2018 World Series championship despite some players opted not to participate.

America First Action, an outside group supporting Trump, intends to spend $250 million in six battleground states as part of a major effort to boost his chances of being reelected in 2020.

A judge ordered the Department of Justice to hand over the unredacted portions of Mueller’s report pertaining to Roger Stone for her to review privately.

Across the nation, hospitals treating patients with private health insurance were paid overall 2.4 times the Medicare rates in 2017, according to a RAND Corp. analysis. The difference was largest for outpatient care, where private prices were almost triple what Medicare would have paid.

As the measles outbreak deepens in New York City, health authorities have been focusing on schools affiliated with ultra-Orthodox Judaism, because they are where measles transmission has occurred so far. But immunization data suggests that reluctance to vaccinate is much more widespread.

Meanwhile, a measles case has been reported in Greene County.

Some Republicans on Long Island are urging New York officials to rethink an end to cashless bail for non-violent felonies and misdemeanors.

Accused sex cult leader Keith Raniere was a paranoid nutcase convinced that he was being spied on by authorities, a former high-ranking NXIVM member testified.

The kind of conflict-ridden fundraising NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio conducted on behalf of his former nonprofit group will soon be punishable by fines of up to $25,000 per violation, under new rules adopted yesterday by the city Conflicts of Interest Board.

An appeals judge has temporarily blocked NYC from opening a controversial homeless shelter in Manhattan’s swank “Billionaires’ Row” neighborhood.

Nation of Islam Leader Louis Farrakhan is not pleased with his ban from Facebook.

Cuomo Plans Second Yankee Game Fundraiser

cuomoyankeefundraiserGov. Andrew Cuomo’s re-election campaign next Wednesday will host donors at a Yankees game in the Bronx against the Baltimore Orioles, according to an invitation obtained by Capital Tonight.

Cuomo’s campaign is charging $10,000 for the game.

This is the campaign’s second trip to the stadium in the Bronx. The campaign, recently re-named Cuomo For New York, scheduled a fundraiser for last night’s game between the Yankees and the Seattle Mariners. The Yankees lost 10-1.

Cuomo, a Queens native, is a fan of the Yankees’ cross-town rival Mets, and traveled to Kansas City in 2015 to watch the team’s first World Series game since 2000.

The Democratic governor was re-elected to a third term last year.

Assembly Hearing Considers Upstate Rent Control Expansion

A debate over extending rent control laws for New York City is now turning to expanding the measures to upstate communities as well.

New York City’s rent control laws are due to expire at the end of June. And as the laws are being renewed, state legislators want to strengthen protections for tenants and bring the regulations to upstate cities.

“This is the first time that tenants in all parts of New York state are pressuring and lobbying for rent control and tenant protections,” said Tenants PAC Treasurer Mike McKee. “It’s a very exciting development.”

Assembly lawmakers on Thursday held a public hearing on the issue — one of a series being held in upstate cities to discuss how rent control regulations would effect upstate renters and landlords.

“The reason it’s happening in is because people are hurting,” McKee said. “There are tenants in Texas, there are tenants in Chicago. Oregon just passed a statewide rent control law. It’s very important.”

If statewide rent control is adopted, a local government would have to opt in. Rent increases would be subject to the approval of a local rent board, which could also approve measures that make it harder for landlords to evict people.

“I’m still trying to get my arms around the issue,” said Assemblywoman Pat Fahy. “It’s a complicated one and there’s still a lot to learn.”

Fahy sees merit to concerns raised by tenant advocates as well as those who want to see more development in upstate cities like Albany.

“While I understand some tenants are under siege around the state and there’s a growing imbalance with speculative landlords,” she said. “Here, we are actually trying to get more development into Albany. So I have some concerns.”

Meanwhile, lawmakers may consider strengthening laws that require landlords to provide upkeep for their buildings and urged state officials to provide greater oversight of rent-controlled buildings.

“I can tell you that there’s neighbors of mine who live in conditions that do not even exist in third world countries,” said Assemblywoman Carmen De La Rosa, a Democrat from Manhattan. “We need to be cognizant of that and we need to fix those loopholes that exist.”

The Assembly will hold its next hearing on rent control in Rochester later this month.

Lasak Releases TV Ad In Queens DA Race

Democratic candidate for Queens district attorney Greg Lasak on Thursday released his first TV that highlights his efforts to help exonerate the innocent.

The ad highlights the story of Lamar Palmer, who credits the creation of the “Wrong Man Unit” by Lasak for helping clear his name.

“He was in charge of what was known as the ‘Wrong Man Unit.’ And it’s because of the good fight that I was able to walk out a free man,” he says in the ad. “All the doors were closing and one door opened up. And that was Gregory Lasak. I had a chance at life, to be honest with you. I’m eternally grateful.”

Lasak is competing in a crowded Democratic primary in June for the Democratic nomination. Longtime District Attorney Richard Brown died earlier this month and had planned to retire later this year.

Lawmakers Plan Hearing On New York Health Act

State lawmakers later this month will hold a public hearing on the New York Health Act, a bill that would create a system of single-payer health care.

The hearing, to be led by Sen. Gustavo Rivera and Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, will be held on May 28 in Albany.

The hearing comes as lawmakers continues to assess the creation of a single-payer health care program, which supporters say will ultimately lead to a more cost-efficient delivery system for insurance.

The Realities of Single Payer, a coalition of business groups and labor unions opposed to the plan, have raised concerns with the legislation.

“Members of the Realities of Single Payer coalition look forward to the opportunity to provide testimony and participate in thoughtful and educated discussions about how best to ensure access to affordable healthcare for everyone without taking away patient choice, cutting jobs and increasing taxes. Forcing an expensive, one-size-fits-all, government-run system on all New Yorkers is the wrong approach,” the group said in a statement.

“We also encourage the Legislature to hold public hearings throughout the state to fully understand the impact of the legislation in all regions.”

Lawmakers Want To Halt Hospital Corporation’s Dissolution Amid Pension Collapse

State lawmakers on Thursday announced a bill that would prevent the dissolution of a Capital Region hospital corporation amid the collapse of its $53 million pension fund.

The bill, sponsored by Republican Sen. Jim Tedisco and Democratic Assemblyman Angelo Santa Barbara would halt the dissolution until an audit or investigation of the circumstances surrounding the pension fund’s collapse is conducted by the state.

The pension fund’s problems affected more than 1,100 former employees of the hospital, seeing their benefits either reduced or ended, The hospital closed 10 years ago and was absorbed by Ellis Medicine.

“We have over 1,100 Capital Region residents who worked hard, did their job and played by the rules for many years as loyal St. Clare’s Hospital employees and now the retirement they’ve been planning for has evaporated in what seems like a snap of a finger,” Tedisco said in a statement. “We’ve already formally asked the Governor, Attorney General and Comptroller to look into what happened to the St. Clare’s Pension Fund and the taxpayer dollars that were spent on it more than a decade ago, but they have yet to do so.”

At the time of the hospital’s closure, the state paid $50 million to cover transition costs, as well as $28 million for the needs of its pension fund. The hospital’s vestige corporation wants to dissolve itself, petition the state Supreme Court to do so.

The bill would have the New York Department of State delay the dissolution approval until a review is conducted, either by the Department of Health, the attorney general or state comptroller.

“Following the termination of the St. Clare’s retirement fund, employees of the former St. Clare’s Hospital in Schenectady were told that they will receive no retirement benefits—they deserve to know why,” Santabarbara said.

“This attempt to now dissolve the St. Clare’s Corporation while we are calling for an investigation into the matter is untimely and unacceptable,” Santabarbara added. “We have certainly not given up on trying to find a solution to fully restore the pension fund and neither should the Corporation.”

Spitzer: Driver’s Licenses For Undocumented Immigrants Remains Good For New York

From the Morning Memo:

Twelve years ago, a proposal that would have extended access to driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants ignited a political firestorm for then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

Ultimately, he pulled back the idea amid opposition from Republicans and Democratic elected officials, but not before the proposal became an issue for Hillary Clinton in the Democratic presidential primary.

In an interview on Wednesday on NY1’s Inside City Hall, the now former governor remained unbowed, calling the idea, which has regained steam in Albany during this legislative session, something that lawmakers should do this year.

“I’d like to think I was ahead of the curve on that issue,” Spitzer said. “It should happen. It would be good for the state, it would be good for the undocumented immigrants to get the licenses, it’s good for safety.”

Spitzer blamed political pundit Lou Dobbs, now with the Fox Business Network, for having “ignited this fuse” that sparked the opposition to the measure. At the time, the state Senate was proposed by Republicans.

But Democrats also registered opposition as well. Then-Erie County Clerk Kathy Hochul was opposed to the proposal at the time, but as lieutenant governor under Gov. Andrew Cuomo has shifted her stance and now supports the driver’s license measure.

Known in Albany as the Greenlight Bill, lawmakers hope that with Democrats controlling both chambers of the Legislature, the bill can pass this session. Assembly Democrats emerged from a closed-door meeting last week to determine there were sufficient votes to pass the measure, but want to undertake an education campaign, especially in districts where voters may be skeptical.

“This is something that should be part of our fabric, yet it continues to be a tripwire for politicians,” Spitzer said. “Let’s let folks work, let’s let them participate.”

Republicans continue to oppose it, and want to carve out county clerks who run local Department of Motor Vehicle offices from having to issue licenses to undocumented immigrants — a provision the bill’s sponsors oppose.

Spitzer, whose governorship ended amid a prostitution scandal, said in the Wednesday interview the issue was the forerunner to a debate over immigration that now dominates the political news.

“This was the leading edge of the nativism and the anti-immigrant hysteria that Lou Hobbs on TV and Donald Trump have incited everyday,” he said.

Democrats are considering several bills meant to address immigration, including legislation that would make New York a sanctuary state, limiting the interaction between state and local law enforcement with federal immigration officers.

“We are not INS or ICE,” Spitzer said. “It’s not our job to enforce the immigration laws. It’s our job to enforce the immigration laws, it’s our job to make sure they participate in our culture, in our life, in our economy as best as possible.”

With Mobile Betting, Sports Leagues See Chance To Crack Down On Illegal Markets

As state lawmakers consider allowing wagering on sporting events on mobile apps, major sports leagues say the move would allow for a reduction in illegal placed bets by New Yorkers.

The state Senate on Wednesday held a public hearing on the issue as casinos in the state move forward with sportsbooks, which would allow gamblers to place bets in the state’s gaming halls, which have struggled to show revenue gains since opening.

Mobile betting, on a phone or tablet, would not require a sports gambler to go to a casino, and is already permitted in neighboring New Jersey.

“Mobile betting is something that allows you to convert people who are betting off-shore in illegal markets or betting with illegal operators here in the U.S. to have an appealing product that is going to replace those illegal markets,” said Dan Spillane, the senior vice president of league governance and policy at the NBA. “From a consumer protection and integrity point, having a competitive market place has value.”

Sports betting is potentially big business for the state as well, and would capture some of the revenue generated by bets. Professional sports leagues have increasingly dipped their toes into legalized gambling following a Supreme Court ruling that allowed states to pass laws regulating the activity.

League officials have said there are sufficient safeguards in place to prevent cheating or the fixing of games. At the same time, they point to the creation of a regulatory structure that would crowd out illegality.

At the same time, New York is a major marketplace for mobile sports betting.

“For us, New York has played home to some of our greatest championships,” said Andy Levinson, the senior vice president of tournament administration for the PGA. “We’ve got one coming next week to Beth Page. There are tremendous sports fans here in New York who are unfortunately betting here illegal in off-shore marketplaces.”

Senate Advances Bills Curbing Trump’s Power, Opening Tax Filings

The Democratic-led state Senate on Wednesday approved a pair of bills that take an aggressive posture with President Donald Trump by limiting his ability to pardon people and providing Congress with access to his state tax filings.

The bills are written broadly: The so-called double jeopardy loophole measure would limit any president’s pardon powers by allowing local prosecutors in New York to bring cases against former administration staffers or people related to a president who have been pardoned. The tax legislation would allow Congress to request any state tax filing.

But the bills are done with the intent of aiding investigations by either Democratic Attorney General Letitia James and congressional inquiries. Democratic lawmakers in the House of Representatives are pursuing efforts to gain access to the president’s federal tax filings, which he has so far not released voluntarily.

“We do want to send a message that no one is above the law. Not the president, or anyone else, is above the law,” said Sen. Mike Gianaris. “If we have the power in New York to take steps, because we’re in a unique position for people to comply with legitimate requests from the federal government, that should happen.”

Republicans blasted the bills as a distraction and a politically motivated effort.

“This is a blatantly political act,” said Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan. “We should be spending our time worrying about what we’re doing for New Yorkers.”

Sen. Jim Tedisco indicated he would introduce a bill that would curb the governor’s ability to issue pardons. Tedisco, a Republican who represents suburban Albany, said the bills were meant in part to act as a distraction from economic successes.

“What it’s trying to do is distract the executive at the federal level,” Tedisco said. “I don’t think they want to talk about the record that’s taking place around the economy.”

Democrats in the Assembly are expected to discuss the tax legislation in a closed-door meeting on Monday, said Assemblyman David Buchwald, the bill’s sponsor in that chamber.

“We need to do something under the recognition that there’s a need for transparency that’s been shown by the president’s actions,” Buchwald said.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that a decade of the president’s taxes between 1985 and 1994 showed a $1 billion loss during that time.

It’s not clear if the president or his allies will seek to block the measures in New York if they become law.

“I don’t think the president is known to be litigious,” deadpanned Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Democrat who sponsored the tax bill, “So, no.”