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Posted: Thursday, January 2, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 11:23 am, Thu Jan 9, 2014.

Lawmakers eye cuts in funds over profs’ Israel boycott bid

Colleges including New York and Columbia universities could see their state funding withheld over a controversy centered on Israel, two lawmakers warned this week.

At issue is a boycott of Israeli academic institutions that was recently approved by the American Studies Assocation, a group composed of professors, other individuals and institutions devoted to studying U.S. history. The ASA says it approved the boycott due to U.S. support for Israel and what it sees as the Jewish State’s violations of international law, the impact of its occupation of Palestinian lands on scholars there, and “the extent to which Israeli institutions of higher education are a party to state policies that violate human rights.”

But state Sen. Jeff Klein and Assemblyman Dov Hikind, both Brooklyn Democrats, say the boycott is bigoted, with Hikind asking state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Dec. 24 to investigate it as a possible violation of the state’s Human Rights Law.

Klein and Hikind then announced that they would introduce a bill that would strip state aid from any college or university affiliated with the ASA if it does not sever ties within 30 days.

“Make no mistake: the ASA’s boycott is targeted discrimination against Israel that betrays the values of academic freedom that we hold dear,” they said in a joint prepared statement.

De Blasio: No more horse-drawn carriages

Mayor Bill de Blasio promised on Monday, just two days before taking office, that he will put an end to the horse-drawn carriages that give rides around Central Park.

A staple of the city’s tourist industry, the carriages have come under increasing criticism from animal rights activists and some elected officials — most prominently in Queens state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who also spoke out against them as a city councilman — as inhumane. Horses should not be forced to walk through dangerous city streets, they say.

De Blasio said he would work to find replacement vehicles, possibly antique-looking electric cars, to continue drawing tourists and provide jobs for the carriage drivers.

But the operators say the horses are well cared for and could be slaughtered if they are no longer allowed to work. And an industry spokeswoman told the Daily News that she and the other drivers would fight any ban in court, saying the mayor cannot just eliminate a legal, regulated business.

Change seen at city election agencies

At 12:57 p.m. on Monday, the city Department of Investigation announced that it had issued a 70-page report recommending a number of changes at the Board of Elections that would professionalize the agency and replace its political structure with one that’s nonpartisan.

At 2:24 p.m., Mayor Bloomberg announced that he had appointed Rose Gill Hearn, commissioner of the DOI for the last 12 years, as the next head of the Campaign Finance Board, which also oversees city election campaigns. Gill Hearn is to serve as the agency’s chairwoman for a five-year term.

Gill Hearn previously served as an assistant United States attorney and deputy chief of the Criminal Division in the Southern District of New York, as well as a private attorney.

The report is available at nyc.gov/html/doi.

Silver seeks $1 hike in minimum wage in ’14

With the state minimum wage having risen from $7.25 to $8 an hour as of Jan. 1, Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver (D-Manhattan) announced this week that he wants it to go to $9 a year from now, one year ahead of the schedule laid out in the law that raised it. Future increases would then be tied to inflation.

Silver was supported in his announcement by Assemblyman Carl Heastie (D-Bronx), chairman of the Labor Committee. They did not say when or if they expect a companion bill to be introduced in the Senate.

— compiled by Peter C. Mastrosimone

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