While You Were Out: Jan. 7, 2020

The first day of school – AKA the kickoff of the 2020 legislative session – is almost upon us.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will deliver his annual State of the State address tomorrow at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center, marking the official start of what is likely to be a protracted budget season, as New York is facing a $6.1 billion deficit AND it’s an election year. Good times at the state Capitol.

While those of us involved in the orbit of Planet Albany prepare for the big day, here are some headlines to consider…

Federal prosecutors charged a major donor to President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee with obstructing a federal investigation into whether foreign nationals unlawfully contributed to the inaugural celebrations.

More than 50 people died in a stampede during the state funeral procession for Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani today as his coffin made its way through his hometown in southeastern Iran, the state broadcaster reported.

As lawmakers learn more about the killing of the top Iranian general, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand will push House leadership to include her resolution that would require more congressional input on future military actions in a War Powers Resolution that the House will vote on this week.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he has secured the Republican votes needed to start Trump’s impeachment trial and postpone a decision on witnesses or documents that Democrats want.

Trump backed away from his threats to target Iranian cultural sites if Iran retaliates against the U.S. for killing one of its top generals. (Targeting cultural sites is a war crime).

Democratic presidential hopeful Mike Bloomberg voiced strong support for enacting new gun regulations in Virginia a few months after groups he backs spent millions of dollars helping Democrats win full control of state government.

Bloomberg plans to spend $10 million to run a 60-second campaign TV ad during the Feb. 2 game, which is watched by an estimated 100 million viewers.

Katy Perry, who campaigned heavily for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, was spotted having dinner with the former New York mayor at Cut by Wolfgang Puck at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Los Angeles on Monday night.

The strongest tremor yet in a week of heavy seismic activity rocked Puerto Rico early this morning, knocking out power to much of the island, seriously damaging homes and buildings and leaving at least one person dead.

Supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment have filed a federal lawsuit in Massachusetts aimed at clearing a legal path for adoption of the long-delayed constitutional amendment.

Greg Floyd, a veteran reporter for WRGB-CBS6, reported being “repeatedly assaulted” by a companion of state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie at the Capitol today — an assertion Heastie’s office denies.

Assemblyman Brian Kolb allegedly told a tow-truck driver that his wife was to blame when his state-owned vehicle was found in a ditch near his home on New Year’s Eve, court papers showed.

The crash in Victor, Ontario County, led Kolb last Friday to resign from his position as Assembly minority leader, and the records showed the Republican from Ontario County had a .16% BAC on a Breathalyzer test — twice the legal threshold, police said.

New York Assembly Republicans unanimously elected Will Barclay of Pulaski to serve as the party’s leader, making Barclay the first Central New Yorker in at least 115 years to serve as Assembly minority leader. He replaces Kolb, who stepped down as a result of his DWI arrest.

New York Assembly Democrats have announced their conference leadership and committee chair assignments for the 2020 legislative session. More here.

Essex County is gearing up to launch a bus system to shuttle hikers to and from popular trailheads along state Route 73. Gov. Andrew Cuomo is expected to announce approximately $1.2 million in state funding for the new system as part of his budget proposal. The goal is to have the shuttle system ready by this summer.

The governor made headlines with his rescue of a trapped driver on the BQE Monday, but Cuomo may not have been able to save the day if he didn’t get hand from a corrections officer who showed up at the scene.

Former Rensselaer County District Attorney Joel Abelove is asking the state’s highest court to allow him to appeal a lower court ruling that reinstated criminal charges state prosecutors filed over his handling of a police shooting.

Advocates for overhauling New York’s criminal justice laws are pushing back against the growing effort to alter the newly enacted cash bail law.

A Cohoes man charged with second-degree manslaughter and felony assault in the methamphetamine overdose death of a 6-week-old baby was ordered released from the Albany County jail today under supervision of probation officials.

Several Jewish organizations – including Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, Bend the Arc: Jewish Action, Avodah and Kolot Chayeinu – in a joint statement said the wave of recent anti-Semitic attacks and bail law changes shouldn’t be linked, or provide an impetus for any amendments.

A Facebook group started by Washington County’s top cop is getting a lot of attention. At last check, more than 54,000 people joined the group called “Repeal Bail Reform.”

Cuomo has proposed changing New York’s Alcoholic Beverage Control law to make it easier to allow alcohol sales at movie theaters, and the proposal is gaining momentum.

The progressive Fiscal Policy Institute released its economic plan that called for higher taxes on the rich and an expansion of family tax credits. The group also backed increasing aid to municipalities as a way of reducing property taxes on the local level and creating a property tax circuit breaker.

Capital Q Smokehouse in Albany, closed since mid-December, after 12 years in business, for what was initially announced as a permanent closure and then as a vacation, will in fact reopen with the same name and same chef-owner, Sean Custer. The projected re-emergence is late January.

A former Cornell University student has admitted to illegally buying a gun on behalf of a former classmate who was convicted of possessing a cache of weapons.

Registration is now open for the 22nd annual Cycle the Erie Canal tour, which lets participants experience New York State’s nature and history from Buffalo to Albany. The 400-mile path is expected to take riders about eight days to complete and is scheduled July 12-19.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has a new dog.

Legendary two-time Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Rod Stewart is coming to SPAC. Tickets for the July 29th concert go on sale on January 10th at 11:00 AM.

Only a week into New Year’s diets and already Girl Scouts are starting their annual cookie blitz. This year, along with Thin Mints and Samoas, they are tempting us with a new cookie, Lemon Ups.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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