Lawmakers To Take Up Election Reform

From the Morning Memo:

State lawmakers today will take up a package of election reforms designed to make it easier to register to vote and cast a ballot.

The bills, along with a pair of constitutional amendments, are virtually perennial proposals that have not gained a vote in the state Senate under Republican rule, but are now certain to pass given Democratic control of the chamber.

The legislation includes:

Make it easier for those who move to transfer their registration
Allow 16 and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote.
Close the loophole in the state’s campaign finance law that allows unlimited donations through a web of limited liability companies
Create a system of early voting
Consolidate the state and federal primaries into one day

Lawmakers will also consider first passage of two constitutional amendments that would allow for no-fault absentee balloting and same-day voter registration.

The measures, designed to boost the state’s comparatively low voter turnout, have won the praise of good-government groups.

“We believe this package thoughtfully improves the voting and registration process,” said Reinvent Albany in a bill memorandum in support. “The various elements are phased in over years, so boards of election should be able to effectively implement the many reforms without being overwhelmed.”

But local governments have raised concerns about some aspects of the legislation, pointing to the need to fund local boards of election in order to carry out the changes.

“Election costs are the mandated responsibility of county governments through local boards of elections,” said Stephen Acquario of the Association of Counties.

“The operational budgets for these local boards have been enacted at the close of 2018. Additional costs associated with staffing and securing early voting locations, printing and counting additional ballots, ensuring elections are safe from cyber security threats, and meeting other legal election requirements have not been fully calculated by the state and counties.”

The group estimated the changes could cost between $500,000 to $1 million for each county.

Siena Poll: Cuomo, Legislature Start Year With High Favorables

From the Morning Memo:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Democratic-controlled Legislature are kicking off the new year with high favorable ratings from voters, a Siena College poll released Monday found.

But voters are not thrilled with a pay commission backing the first legislative salary increase in 20 years, boosting their pay from $79,500 to $130,000 in the coming years, but with strings attached.

Cuomo’s favorability rating among registered voters stands at 51 percent to 43 percent, an improvement from a negative rating of 45 percent to 49 percent in November among likely voters.

The Assembly, long under Democratic control, has a 48 percent to 32 percent favorability rating, it’s best showing ever in the Siena poll. The Assembly’s rating is up from a negative 40 percent to 43 percent in June among likely voters.

The state Senate, which has flipped to Democratic control, now has a 49 percent to 38 percent favorability rating, an improvement from 41 percent to 45 percent in June among likely voters, and when Republicans had majority control.

Still, Cuomo’s job approval rating remains underwater, with 43 percent approving of the job he’s doing and 56 percent disapproving.

Voters are less thrilled with the pay commission increasing lawmakers’ pay, with a whopping 80 percent to 15 percent opposing the salary hike.

But voters are more supportive of limiting extra pay for most leadership posts and capping outside income, 57 percent to 35 percent.

The 2019 legislative session is expected to produce a flurry of action on bills ranging from gun control, abortion rights and campaign finance reforms, which were long stalled under Republican control of the state Senate. Later today, lawmakers are expected to take up a package of bills meant to make it easier to register and vote in New York.

A majority of voters back measures like the Child Victims Act (77 percent), which is aimed at making it easier for the survivors of sexual abuse to file lawsuits, the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (68 percent), extending background checks for gun purchases from three days to 10 (75 percent) and making the state’s property tax cap permanent (65 percent).

A plurality of voters, 36 percent, believe Cuomo should make infrastructure a top issue for him in the new year, followed by health care and education at 33 percent and 32 percent.

The poll of 805 registered voters was conducted from Jan. 6 to Jan. 10 and has a margin of error of 4.1 percentage points.

The cross tabs can be found here.

Here and Now

It’s the 24th day of the federal government shutdown, which is now the longest in history.

State lawmakers are back in Albany, and are scheduled to vote on bills to overhaul New York’s voting system.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will likely continue to strategically leak out key proposals he plans to include in his executive budget proposal tomorrow. Officially speaking, he’s in Albany with no public events scheduled as of yet.

At 9 a.m., the Board of Regents kicks off two days worth of meetings, State Education Department, 89 Washington Ave., Albany.

At 11 a.m., the Let NY Vote coalition and grassroots activists rally at the Million Dollar Staircase to celebrate their victory on voting reforms and make sure lawmakers pass the most comprehensive, efficient and accessible election day package, state Capitol, Albany.

At 11:06 a.m., LG Kathy Hochul is a guest on “The Capitol Pressroom” with Susan Arbetter.

At noon, the Riders Alliance announces a study showing 92 percent of morning rush hours scrambled by subway signal problems during 2018 and call on the governor and legislature to fully fund the modernization of the transit system beginning with congestion pricing, Canal Street A/C/E Subway Station, Manhattan.

Also at noon, the public affairs firm Gramercy will welcome former U.S. Sen. Alfonse D’Amato as its guest for the inaugural installment of its Capitol View event series, (Capital Tonight’s Liz Benjamin will be interviewing the former Long Island Republican), Bull Moose Club, 150 State St., 4th Fl., Albany.

Also at noon, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and her Democratic conference members join advocates to discuss plans to pass historic voting reforms today, Rm. 124, 3rd Fl., state Capitol, Albany.

At 1 p.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio will make an announcement about the NYC Ferry expansion, P.S. 188, 3314 Neptune Ave., Brooklyn.

At 3 p.m., Hochul presides over the state Senate, Senate chambers, 3rd Fl., state Capitol, Albany.

At 5:30 p.m., Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan presents the 2019 State of the City address to Common Council members, Albany Common Council Chamber, 24 Eagle St., Albany.

At 7 p.m., Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy delivers his 2019 State of the City address, Schenectady City Hall, Room 209, 105 Jay St., Schenectady.

Also at 7 p.m., the Long Island Association is having its annual pre-State of the State reception, Jack’s Oyster House, 38-44 State St., Albany.


President Trump’s efforts to hide his conversations with President Vladimir Putin of Russia and new details about the FBI inquiry into his ties to Moscow have intensified debate over his relationship with Russia, adding fuel to Democrats’ budding investigations of his presidency and potentially setting up a clash between the White House and Congress.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo dismissed as “silly” the news report that the FBI investigated Trump to determine if he was a national security threat because of his relationship with Putin.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who is close to Trump, said a limited re-opening of a few weeks would allow talks to resume between Republicans and Democrats.

Graham says Trump still wants to reach a deal for the wall before agreeing to reopen shuttered government departments. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a leading Democratic negotiator, insists that Trump reopen the government first.

Doctors seeking to prescribe Buprenorphine, a drug to manage opioid addiction, are being blocked by the ongoing partial federal government shutdown, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said. Physicians must get approval from the Drug Enforcement Agency but staff there are locked out.

Hillary Clinton weighed in on the partial government shutdown, telling supporters that “Americans can’t afford another day,” as the Washington stalemate became the longest in history over the weekend, eclipsing the record set in 1996 under President Bill Clinton.

A U.S. judge in California blocked Trump administration rules, which would allow more employers to opt out of providing women with no-cost birth control, from taking effect in 13 states and Washington, D.C.

The regulations, which the Trump administration announced in October 2017, widened the pool of employers that are allowed to claim exemption from providing contraceptive coverage to include nonprofit groups, for-profit companies, other nongovernmental employers, and schools and universities.

Senior Pentagon officials are voicing deepening fears that Trump’s hawkish national security adviser, John Bolton, could precipitate a conflict with Iran at a time when Mr. Trump is losing leverage in the Middle East by pulling out American troops.

Three newly empowered Democratic House committee chairmen, alarmed by statements over the weekend by Trump about planned testimony before Congress by his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, cautioned that any effort to discourage or influence a witness’s testimony could be construed as a crime.

Trump mocked Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos over his recently-revealed affair while praising the National Enquirer and slamming the newspaper owned by Bezos’ company.

The president used Native American stereotypes to mock Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s weeks-old announcement that she will run for president in 2020.

The federal government should do more to reduce the high number of women who die during childbirth, according to U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who is moving toward a 2020 presidential run.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will announce today that Nassau County Democratic Chair Jay Jacobs will replace Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown as head of the state Democratic Party – a post Jacobs held previously when David Paterson was governor.

The New York Immigration Coalition is set to launch a million-dollar campaign pushing the state to allow undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses.

Democratic leaders of the state Assembly and Senate are set to approve a passel of bills to increase voter participation and tighten campaign-finance laws. But there’s still a push to go further on some issues, including the creation of a public-matching system to finance campaigns.

Legislation amending the state’s sexual assault statutes and creating a window for victims to seek justice through civil litigation will be “easy” to pass this legislative session, according to Cuomo, who intends to include the measure in his executive budget.

Cuomo also said that his 2019 executive budget will include a ban on single-use plastic bags and expansion of the 5-cent redemption on most non-alcoholic drink containers.

Cuomo did not provide a copy of the bill he plans to introduce, but it is likely to follow similar language to the one he proposed last year, which banned the use of plastic bags at grocery stores with certain exceptions, such as bags used for produce or ones for home-delivered newspapers.

The Bottle Bill expansion will include some exceptions for bottles containing dairy milk, milk substitutes, infant formula, syrups and flavorings, medical prescriptions and dietary supplements. The governor will direct the DEC to conduct a study on how the law might include wine and liquor bottles.

The Cuomo administration declined to say when either the plastic bag ban or the new bottle bill expansion would take effect, and also declined to say if the bottle bill expansion would be a revenue-raiser for the state via money from the containers that consumers won’t bother to return to get back their nickels.

Cuomo has upped the ante on fixing the city’s dysfunctional mass transit system, saying through a lengthy statement from his budget director, Robert Mujica, that it must be reorganized and that he should have total control.

More >

Katz Raises $1M For Queens DA Bid, Lancman $1.1M

Democratic Queens district attorney candidate Melinda Katz has raised just over $1 million in her bid for the office being vacated by incumbent Richard Brown.

The fundraising total for Katz, the current borough president, was raised over the last 12 months from 802 donors , her campaign said Sunday.

She raised $206,311 alone since the announcement that Brown would not seek another term on Wednesday.

“Even with likelihood of a June primary, Borough President Katz has the resources, the support, and the criminal justice reform agenda Queens residents want to see in their next District Attorney,” said Katz campaign spokesman Doug Forand.

Updated: Councilman Rory Lancman, who is also seeking the Democratic nomination, announced raising $1.1 million for the effort.

“Support and momentum are growing all across Queens, as people see that our campaign represents real reform of the criminal justice system — ending the New Jim Crow, where thousands of people of color a year are given criminal records for the rest of their lives for low-level offenses that shouldn’t be in the criminal justice system at all; prosecuting crimes against working people, women, immigrants, homeowners, and tenants; and holding law enforcement, including the police and our own office, to the highest standards of accountability,” he said in a statement.

The Weekend That Was

Law enforcement officials became so concerned by President Donald Trump’s behavior in the days after he fired FBI Director James Comey that they began investigating whether he had been working for Russia against U.S. interests.

The investigation the FBI opened into Trump also had a criminal aspect, which has long been publicly known: whether his firing of Comey constituted obstruction of justice. No evidence has emerged publicly that he was secretly in contact with or took direction from Russian government officials.

“Wow, just learned in the Failing New York Times that the corrupt former leaders of the FBI, almost all fired or forced to leave the agency for some very bad reasons, opened up an investigation on me, for no reason & with no proof, after I fired Lyin’ James Comey, a total sleaze!” Trump tweeted.

“So it has come to this: The president of the United States was asked over the weekend whether he is a Russian agent. And he refused to directly answer.”

The partial federal government shutdown, which entered its 22nd day Saturday, is now the longest closure in U.S. history.

Trump and congressional Republicans deserve most of the blame for the government shutdown, now in its record 23rd day, according to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll.

Trump, in a rambling series of Saturday tweets, promised to resolve a 22-day government shutdown that’s now the longest in U.S. history — without offering a single detail.

The previous record dates back to the Clinton administration when a 21-day shutdown resulted from a clash between President Bill Clinton and the GOP Congress that lasted from December 1995 to January 1996.

Trump has stepped back from declaring a national emergency to pay for a border wall, under pressure from congressional Republicans, his own lawyers and advisers, who say using it as a way out of the government shutdown does not justify the precedent it would set and the legal questions it could raise.

As the federal shutdown continues, the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society is offering low-cost pet care and a pet food pantry to federal employees who have been furloughed or are working without pay.

For the first time in modern history, New York will have five House members in charge of committees.

…that includes Rep. Nita Lowey, chairwoman of the powerful House Committee on Appropriations, an 81-year-old grandmother who got her start in public life as the head of the PTA at Public School 178 in Queens, a short walk from the boyhood home of America’s most famous tweeter, Trump.

In the two months since her election, Queens Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has had the uncanny ability for a first-term member of Congress to push the debate inside the Democratic Party sharply to the left, forcing party leaders and 2020 presidential candidates to grapple with issues that some might otherwise prefer to avoid.

Hawaiian Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, an Iraqi vet who became the first Hindu member of Congress, has decided that she will seek the Democratic nomination for president in 2020, and will make a formal announcement in the next week.

Former Obama administration official Julián Castro launched his bid for the White House on Saturday, becoming the first Latino candidate in an increasingly crowded field.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren floated her likely presidential bid in New Hampshire, visiting the early primary state Saturday to deliver a message of economic populism and clean government.

NYC Mayor de Blasio refused to rule out running for president in 2020, saying: “You never know what life brings.”

Chris Churchill: “Left and right, progressive and conservative, we all agree that (U.S. Sen. Kirsten) Gillibrand’s decision to locate her presidential campaign headquarters in Troy is great for the city and its ever-evolving downtown. It’s good for the region.”

New Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel on Friday over his handling of February’s massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, saying he “repeatedly failed and has demonstrated a pattern of poor leadership.”

A trial in New York over the Trump administration’s move to cut off permission for thousands of Haitians to live in the U.S. is spotlighting emails between officials downplaying health and safety crises in the Caribbean nation as they tried to justify the change.

As New York’s leaders push to legalize marijuana in the state, Westchester will no longer prosecute some marijuana offenses and will reduce charges for some others in a bid to lessen the legal blow for many people.

While there’s broad agreement on the idea of legalization, there’s no consensus on a long list of details that must be figured out first.

Cuomo is expected to lay out his plan to legalize recreational marijuana in New York on Tuesday, the latest major step in the state’s move toward allowing the drug for adult use.

Teens in New York might soon be banned from buying all tobacco products after Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a proposal to raise tobacco and e-cigarette sales age from 18 to 21.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s top official, acting chair Fernando Ferrer, will hire an independent consultant to review plans to avoid the full shutdown of the L train subway tunnel connecting Brooklyn and Manhattan.

New York City’s subway chief Andy Byford has improved subway service and drawn praise for a customer-focused approach since taking the job a year ago. He says the past year has been the busiest of his life.

The NY Daily News: “Since the MTA is a state entity and the current governor is already in the hot seat, make it official and grant the governor a few more board members to make a majority.”

There will be not one, but two women’s march events in Manhattan next week – a product of an ugly feud over what and who should be represented.

The new date of the controlled demolition of the eastern portion of the old Tappan Zee Bridge — scrubbed for Saturday due to high winds that hampered preparations — is now roughtly set for 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 15, according to the Tappan Zee Constructors.

Also to be included in the executive budget: the Child Victims Act, which would ensure anyone who abuses children will be held accountable criminally and civilly and that survivors of childhood sexual abuse have a path to justice.

The governor is renewing his push to pass tougher gun laws – a proposal that would be the first of its kind in U.S. would make gun laws even stronger throughout the state.

Former state Sen. Dave Valesky, who lost his seat in a Democratic primary to Sen. Rachel May last fall, has been appointed to a post in the Cuomo administration: Deputy commissioner of Ag and Markets.

The “Long Island Nine” is gone, and all the state Senate seniority that went with it. But Democrats vow Long Island’s clout won’t be diminished.

Even though the L train shutdown is off, political leaders in Manhattan and Brooklyn want to keep some of the contingency plans that came with it.

State investigators are digging into union-busting claims leveled last month against NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital in Cortlandt.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, one of the world’s leading research institutions, announced on Friday that it would bar its top executives from serving on corporate boards of drug and health care companies that, in some cases, had paid them hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

State Sen. James Skoufis plans to make prescription drug costs an opening topic for the Senate investigations committee he now leads, examining the role of industry middlemen known as pharmacy benefit managers to determine if any impropriety is taking place.

Legislators are taking a hard look at changing how much control the mayor has over the Department of Education, said state Sen. John Liu, the chairman of the Senate’s New York City Education Subcommittee.

The seventeen new state senators who are getting ready to wield power in Albany are also learning to navigate its many corridors of power – both figuratively, and literally.

The fate of a 64 percent raise for state lawmakers may depend on an inside peek into Albany’s opaque “three-men-in-a-room” negotiations.

As a battle over the issue brews in Albany, a group of landlords that manages and owns more than a third of New York City’s rent-regulated apartments plans a new self-policing plan to fine and boot members who harass and discriminate against tenants. Critics are skeptical.

A new plan for putting banking smart chips in New York City IDs has advocates terrified that City Hall is inadvertently creating a backdoor for the feds to go after undocumented immigrants. The initiative is also being overseen by a deputy mayor with ties to financial services giant MasterCard.

About 200 people — including at least one superhero — gathered Saturday to protest the city’s plan to put a six-lane temporary roadway on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade for six years while repairing a ­ ­1 1/2-mile stretch of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

NYC Chancellor Richard Carranza’s shakeup of services for more than 150,000 kids who are learning English in the public schools is running into trouble, concerned staffers charge.

The casino industry in and around the Capital Region saw an improved financial performance in 2018 and is preparing new promotions to keep the momentum going in 2019. The least-certain but most-desired item on their lists appears to be sports betting.

An Federal Communications Commission report released last month claims that the state has been shortchanging communities in the state for years, essentially double billing taxpayers for public safety.

St. John Fisher College has indefinitely suspended cheerleading activities after it says a video surfaced purportedly showed members of the team using discriminatory language.

A Brooklyn sex toy company says the MTA is sexist because it banned vibrator ads while allowing ones for erectile dysfunction.

The Watertown Daily-Times: “We appreciate Mr. Cuomo’s desire to protect due process for New York residents who own firearms. But we seriously doubt that a state Legislature now completely controlled by Democrats will create a bill that accomplishes this goal.”

A highly unusual public feud broke out between prosecutors and top police officials on Friday after the Manhattan district attorney’s decision to drop charges against one of the men pummeled by the police with batons during a chaotic arrest in Washington Heights.

Steven H. Pollard, an FDNY firefighter who died at age 30 after falling 50 feet from a Brooklyn overpass in the line of duty, was mourned at his funeral as a brave hero who was able to meet a childhood goal.

Most­ New York state LGBTQ students suffer discrimination at school — but only half report it to administrators, according to a new report.

Five new elected state Supreme Court judgeships were added this month in Suffolk County, in the Hudson Valley and New York City after questions were raised over the long-standing practice in which governors appointed many of these criminal and civil judges even though the state constitution says voters must choose them.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran is making key staffing changes in the new year.

The Chrysler Building, currently owned by an Abu Dhabi wealth fund and the Tishman Speyer real estate empire, is now going up for sale. There is not an obvious buyer.

Megyn Kelly has finalized her exit deal with NBC, nearly three months after she wondered aloud on-air why it was inappropriate for white people to dress up in blackface for Halloween.

According to two people familiar with the negotiations, Kelly was paid the outstanding balance on her contract, a figure that amounts to roughly $30 million.

“Saturday Night Live” comedian Michael Che’s stand-up special to benefit public housing featured a star-studded line-up and raised nearly $110,000 before the doors to the event even opened.

Cuomo Backs Plastic Bag Ban, Bottle Bill Expansion

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2019 budget proposal will call for a ban on plastic bags in New York as well as an expansion of the state’s bottle deposit law.

“While the federal government is taking our environmental progress backwards and selling out our communities to polluters and oil companies, in New York we are moving forward with the nation’s strongest environmental policies and doing everything in our power to protect our natural resources for future generations,” Cuomo said.

“These bold actions to ban plastic bags and promote recycling will reduce litter in our communities, protect our water and create a cleaner and greener New York for all.”

Two years ago, state lawmakers and Cuomo agreed to overturn a 5-cent surcharge in New York City on plastic bag usage. Instead, Cuomo convened a task force to review plastic bag usage statewide.

The ban will have the Department of Environmental Conservation roll out the push so it does not impact low-income communities and include distribution of reusable bags. Exemptions will also be made “were appropriate” Cuomo’s office said in the announcement.

The expanded bottle deposit will include most non-alcoholic beverage eligible for the 5-cent redemption. That will include sports, energy, fruit and vegetable drinks as well as ready-to-drink teas and coffees.

Some exemptions such as bottles containing dairy and milk substitutes, including infant formula, syrups and dietary supplements will be made. Plastic Bag Ban

Cuomo Wants To Raise Tobacco Age To 21, Regulate E-Cigarettes

The minimum age to purchase tobacco and e-cigarette products will be set at 21 and new regulations for the sale of e-cigarettes would be introduced if a provision in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal is approved.

Cuomo on Saturday announced he would raise the tobacco age from 18 to 21 as part of his spending plan that is scheduled to be unveiled on Tuesday.

“We have made great strides to stamp out teen smoking, but new products threaten to undo this progress to the detriment of millions of Americans. In New York, we refuse to stand idly by while unscrupulous businesses target our young people and put their very futures at risk,” Cuomo said in a statement.

“With this comprehensive proposal, we are taking aggressive action to combat this very real public health crisis and curb the use of nicotine products before they result in deadly consequences for an entire generation of New Yorkers.”

The proposal will also end the sale of tobacco and electronic cigarette products in pharmacies. Major chains like CVS have already halted the sale of tobacco products in their stores.

New display restrictions will also be proposed for tobacco packaging and products. At the same time, the move will clarify regulations for flavored e-cigarette liquids and require that e-cigarette products are sold through licensed retailers.

The proposals were praised by supporters of further regulations on e-cigarettes.

“As nicotine addiction among young adults continues to climb across the nation, action at the state level is needed to protect our children from the harm posed by electronic cigarettes,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone.

“While Suffolk County has enacted sweeping new penalties to deter the illegal sales of vaporizers, I applaud Governor Cuomo for proposing sensible regulations that would also restrict the sale of flavored vaping products. We cannot allow the vaping industry to drown out the voices of health professionals, school administrators, parents and students who agree that action is needed to stop this health crisis.”


President Donald Trump got conflicting advice today from Republican senators over whether he should go ahead and declare a national emergency as he’s said he “probably” would do to get funding for his proposed border wall.

Trump backed away from his threat to declare a national emergency to build the border wall one day after he said he would probably do so, saying today that he’s “not looking” to take such action right now.

The Transportation Security Administration plans to begin closing a handful of security checkpoints at airports around the U.S. as soon as this weekend in response to staff shortages triggered by a partial federal government shutdown now in its third week.

White House officials considered diverting emergency aid from storm- and fire-ravaged Puerto Rico, Florida, Texas and California to build a border barrier, perhaps under an emergency declaration.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said his campaign will be self-funded if he runs for president in 2020.

Federal prosecutors are recommending that Mary Boone, the veteran art dealer, be sent to prison for as much as three years, saying she deliberately defrauded the government by filing false tax returns and evading $3 million in taxes.

Veterans of the Democratic establishment, unsettled by Queens Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s lack of deference to seniority and party unity, have cautioned the freshman lawmaker to direct her potent social-media attacks toward Republicans rather than centrist Democrats.

Former vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman said he hopes Ocasio-Cortez is “not the future” of the party — prompting the Democratic progressive darling to slap back: “New party, who dis?”

A fellow New Yorker, Rep. Nydia Velázquez, of Brooklyn, who shares Puerto Rican roots with Ocasio-Cortez, is playing a key role in trying to bring the new congresswoman into the Democratic fold.

Bill Hammond: “New York is closer to achieving universal access to decent health-care than is commonly understood. And the state, like the city, could close the remaining gaps without anything close to the massive expense and disruption that a Medicare for All-style single-payer system would entail.”

If U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand announces a 2020 run for president, she will likely be operating her campaign from the Frear Building in downtown Troy.

Gillibrand has hired several senior aides for an expected presidential campaign, a sign that she is all but certain to join the race against Trump and that her entry may be imminent.

Gillibrand’s new hires reportedly include Dan McNally, her campaign director; Meredith Kelly, the communications director; and Emmy Bengtson, the deputy communications director, who will lead the digital operation.

New York State returned over $35 million in stolen wages to nearly 36,000 workers throughout the state in 2018 — part of an effort by the state to curb employers from unlawfully withholding wages from employees, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office.

State lawmakers haven’t even introduced legislation to legalize recreational marijuana, but a California company is already fielding a plan for a $200 million pot-growing farm on part of Buffalo’s waterfront.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio appears to finally have found a friend in the Trump administration — federal housing chief Ben Carson.

De Blasio, who’s positioning himself as a national progressive leader, came up with a new rationale for supporting the nearly $3 billion in subsidies to lure Amazon to Long Island City: It’ll help pay for his $100 million expansion of health care to the needy.

Weekend Unlimited Inc. said that a New York City event celebrating Cuomo’s pledge to work for the legalization of recreational marijuana featured a DJ set by the rapper Snoop Dogg.

The New York City Hospitality Alliance, a trade group opposing a further increase proposed for tipped workers, said 47 percent of full-service restaurants that responded are planning to eliminate jobs this year because of the state-mandated wage increase. That is a jump from 36 percent in the previous year’s survey.

Insurance companies used to be able to consider New York state drivers’ occupation and level of education when setting auto insurance rates. No longer.

A state ethics panel rebuked a Bronx judge who urged a cop to “let it slide” after she rear-ended a police van.

The U.S. Episcopal Church, responding to the Albany bishop’s continued ban on gay marriage despite national approval, has issued a “Partial Restriction on Ministry” prohibiting him from penalizing anyone for participating in same-sex rites while his conduct is further examined by the church.

Cuomo Counsel: Can’t Break Up Pay Raise Law

The law that led to a pay commission granting the first legislative pay raise in 20 years can’t be legally split apart, the top legal counsel to Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday said in a phone interview.

State lawmakers have argued the compensation commission acted outside of the law’s purview by also capping outside pay for the Legislature as well as largely ending most stipends or “lulus” for leadership posts.

The law is now being challenged the Government Justice Center, which is seeking an injunction to block the raises.

The commission last month backed a recommendation that boosted pay of lawmakers from $79,500 to $110,000 on Jan. 1. Legislative pay will eventually reach $130,000 in the coming years.

Cuomo has backed the recommendations of the commission.

“From a legal prospective I have concerns about the legislative statements that have been made about the commission,” said Cuomo administration counsel Alphonso David.

He pointed to the measure lacking a “severability” clause in its language — essentially that if one portion of the law is struck down, the entire statute could be tossed out.

“The comments that they’re making suggesting outside of their scope can be used as evidence in the case,” he said. “It could result in the entire law being stricken.”

At the same time, a court loss would reset the clock on pay raises for lawmakers, David said, meaning any new salary hike wouldn’t take effect until the Legislature elected in 2020 is seated in 2021.

Meanwhile, several Capitol insiders have raised the concerns that if the law is struck down, the money paid out could potentially be clawed back.

Pay Raises Remain Under Challenge

A legal challenge to the legislative, statewide elected officials and commissioner pay raises continued on Friday as the executive director of fiscally conservative group challenging a compensation commission’s decision to hike their pay sought an injunction against the move.

“It’s only a couple hundred people on the payroll,” said Cameron Macdonald of the Government Justice Center in an interview after the court appearance. “It should be pretty easy to stop and start.”

The group is challenging the decision by the commission, which granted the first legislative salary increase in 20 years, boosting pay of lawmakers from $79,500 to $110,000 on Jan. 1. Legislative pay will eventually reach $130,000 in the coming years.

Macdonald’s group unsuccessfully sought the pay raises from taking effect at all before the start of the new year.

A preliminary injunction is not necessarily indicative of how the court will ultimately rule.

“It would be good to get things back to the status quo,” he said. “It would be good to get a positive indication on the arguments, but it’s not dispositive in any way.”

Macdonald has argued the compensation commission did not have the constitutional authority to approve the pay raises.

“The Legislature must do it,” he said. “The Legislature can’t delegate this task to a committee.”

The legal challenge also has lawmakers threading a needle on the issue as well: Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has been supportive of the pay increase, but has argued the committee did not have the authority to add stipulations to the pay hike, such as restricting stipends for leadership posts and capping outside income.