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Brian Kolb, Assembly GOP leader, ends campaign for NY governor

Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, who was the first Republican candidate to enter the race for governor, has ended his campaign. 

Kolb, R-Canandaigua, released a statement Friday announcing his decision. He cited personal reasons for his exit. 

"As I left my home before dawn this morning, saying goodbye to my incredible wife, I knew that I'd be spending the next week, the week after, and every week for at least the next nine months on the road, away from my loving family," he said. "That moment helped put what is truly important in life back into perspective." 

Kolb declared his candidacy in December and secured endorsements from four county Republican committees across the state, including three in the Finger Lakes region. He was also endorsed by nine county GOP chairs. 

Other Republican leaders showed their support for Kolb's bid. Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, who was the GOP nominee for New York City mayor in 2017, was one of the first to endorse Kolb for governor. 

Last week, Kolb's campaign announced he was endorsed by the Ontario County Republican Committee, his home county's GOP panel. 

"The last few months have been an incredible journey, and I am very grateful to so many friends, volunteers, activists, business and community leaders, and donors for their support," Kolb said. 

The surprising decision comes as Republicans determine who will challenge Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the general election. Kolb was one of three candidates in the field. State Sen. John DeFrancisco, a Syracuse-area Republican, and former Erie County Executive Joel Giambra were the others. 

Joseph Holland, a former aide to Gov. George Pataki, is considering a gubernatorial bid. 

Kolb, who has served in the state Assembly since 2000, will remain as leader of the chamber's Republican conference. He has held the minority leader post since 2009. 

"I will continue to serve the people of New York as Assembly leader and look forward to continuing to fight for lower taxes, good jobs for New York families and an end to corruption in the Cuomo administration," Kolb said. 

How NY reps voted

A two-year spending plan approved by Congress early Friday received mixed support from New York's congressional delegation. 

The budget agreement, which was negotiated by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, includes more defense spending and billions more in domestic investments. 

There is $6 billion to combat the opioid epidemic. Another $4 billion is in the bill to upgrade veterans' health care facilities. Community health centers, which have been in limbo since last fall, will get more than $7 billion over the next two years. The Child Health Insurance Program will be reauthorized for the next decade. 

On a conference call with reporters Wednesday, Schumer called the budget agreement "a true bipartisan breakthrough."

"In a Congress plagued by divisiveness, this budget deal is a true moment of unity and I hope it portends more of that for the future," he said. "Leader McConnell and I negotiated in a very good way." 

The Senate passed the spending plan by a 71-28 vote. A mix of Democrats and Republicans opposed the plan, including U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. 

Gillibrand, D-N.Y., broke with Schumer to vote against the budget agreement. Her opposition was due to the lack of a permanent solution for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program

President Donald Trump rescinded the order that established the program under the Obama administration. The program, which provides legal protections for undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. illegally as children, is due to expire in early March unless Congress acts. 

McConnell, R-Kentucky, committed to allowing an open debate on DACA legislation. But Gillibrand felt that wasn't enough.

"We shouldn't allow our young people to be used as bargaining chips in this country," she said. "I believe senators on both sides of the aisle should fight for these kids as hard as we would fight for our own families." 

Like the Senate vote, there was bipartisan support in the House for the budget bill. The measure passed by a 240-186 vote

The supporters included U.S. Rep. John Katko, who represents all of Cayuga County. Katko, R-Camillus, explained why he supported the budget agreement in a lengthy statement Friday. One of the main reasons is the increased defense spending in the bill, which lifts caps that were in place on military funding. 

"With ongoing threats from North Korea and throughout the world, our military must be strengthened," Katko said. "This measure will ensure that the brave men and women who put their lives on the line for our freedom and our democracy have the resources that they need."

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, a North Country Republican, also backed the measure. She highlighted the benefits for the military in the spending plan. Her district includes Fort Drum, home of the U.S. Army's 10th Mountain Division. 

"I ran against the devastating effects of the budget sequester on our national defense, and this deal lifts this harmful policy so that Secretary Mattis can combat the readiness crisis and rebuild our military to defend us against 21st century threats," she said. 

While most House Republicans from New York supported the agreement, a couple did not. 

U.S. Reps. Tom Reed and Lee Zeldin broke with a majority of their party and voted against the budget deal. Both expressed concerns about increased spending and how the spending plan would affect the national debt. 

Zeldin wrote in a tweet late Thursday that "Our great nation simply cannot afford the price tag on this Senate budget bill." 

After Congress passed the bill, it was sent to the White House. President Donald Trump signed the measure Friday morning.

Cayuga County government reports, resolutions now available online

The public now has easier access to reports, resolutions and other information its Cayuga County elected officials discuss on a monthly basis through the county's website, though legislators are cautioning it's a work in progress. 

Each Cayuga County Legislature committee now has not only its agenda uploaded to the website, but also full resolutions and department head reports. New Cayuga County Administrator J. Justin Woods is also providing legislators and the public access to a monthly report providing an overview of the local government's operations. 

Woods has implemented these new changes since starting with the county on Dec. 18.

"I think it's important to represent everything that's going on in one place and show that we're one government, that we're a professional government that has transparency and useful information to the community at large," Woods said about the changes. 

But some legislators say they're still deciding on the new measures. 

"I think it's early in the game to tell," said Legislature Chairman Patrick Mahunik. "I like that it's a little more transparent for the public. As far as legislators go, we're getting information all at once, so we can be prepared for committee meetings. It's our first round of going this way, so we'll see if it works out."

Republican Minority Leader Michael Didio said it was too early to say how he felt about the packets and reports, too, and he had not heard from other legislators. 

"In a few weeks there would be more stock to what he's doing," Didio said.

Woods's report includes what he has worked on throughout the month, followed by Legislature committee headings breaking down what each department has done. 

As for the committee agendas and packets, Woods said he is hoping to standardize resolutions that are more routine, like renewing contracts, so committees can take more time to discuss policy and legislation. The format for which department heads submit reports, too, is now uniform. Previously some reports were submitted as emails, some under a department's letterhead, some as general lists and some were not submitted at all. 

"There's a lot of things in the works," he added. "You can't change everything overnight, but it's really trying to get everybody rowing in the same direction, and this idea that we're not a bunch of individual departments. We're a collective government that's operating in union to serve the county."

Committee packets are available as a pdf download under the agenda tab on the Cayuga County Legislature's page, and Woods's report is available under the administrator page.

Convicted rapist admits imprisoning woman, lighting her on fire in Cayuga County

Milton K. Richardson Jr.

A convicted rapist pleaded guilty to second-degree attempted arson Friday for terrorizing a woman with an ax and crossbow and lighting her on fire, the Cayuga County District Attorney's Office said. 

Milton K. Richardson Jr., 52, was arrested Aug. 30 and charged with several felonies and misdemeanors, including first-degree unlawful imprisonment, second-degree arson, third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, second-degree menacing, second-degree reckless endangerment, criminal mischief and assault. 

In a press release, Cayuga County District Attorney Jon Budelmann said the incident occurred last summer at a garage in the town of Brutus. Richardson — who was released from a Florida prison in July — was living in the garage with his former girlfriend. The garage had no electricity, heat or running water. 

According to the district attorney, on Aug. 22, Richardson poured stove oil over the bed and floor as well as the victim's head and body. He then lit the victim's clothing on fire, threatening to kill her and create "an inferno." 

Fortunately, Budelmann said, the victim was able to pat the fire out and only suffered minor burns. However, following the attempted arson, Richardson allegedly hid the woman's cell phone, damaged her property and menaced her with an ax, crossbow and hot lantern. 

The victim reported the incident to police a week later after Richardson drove her to a mutual friend's house in Auburn, the release said. He was arrested by New York State Police the next day. 

Richardson served 12 years in prison in Florida for raping and impregnating a 14-year-old girl, Budelmann said. He also has a substantial criminal history in Cayuga County, including a felony drug sale conviction from 2003. 

Chief Assistant District Attorney Christopher Valdina handled the case for the prosecution. Budelmann said his office applauded the victim's courage for coming forward to state police.

"Domestic violence is about power and control," he said. "This defendant isolated and terrorized the victim in an attempt to coerce and control her. ... We were able to secure a conviction and sentence to protect society from this dangerous and violent individual." 

In exchange for his plea of guilty, Richardson will be sentenced to seven years in prison and five years post-release supervision. He will also have to pay restitution for damaging the victim's property. 

Sentencing was scheduled April 5.