Budget talks to heat up after Assembly, Senate plans pass

ALBANY (AP) — Help may be coming for students at New York’s public universities after lawmakers in Albany backed plans to increase tuition assistance.

The Republican-led Senate and the Democratic Assembly endorsed competing budget proposals Wednesday that increase tuition assistance for college students.

Both chambers also want to increase investments in public schools and the state’s aging water infrastructure.

The details will be worked out in negotiations between top lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has his own $152 state budget proposal.

Some of the debate will focus on policy measures linked to the budget, such as a call to end New York’s practice of prosecuting 16- and 17-year-olds as adults and another allowing Uber and Lyft to expand upstate.

A final budget vote is expected by April 1.

Upstate bank branch goes up in flames during snowstorm

WILTON (AP) — Fire officials in Saratoga County are trying to determine what caused a bank to go up in flames in the middle of Tuesday’s snowstorm.

WNYT-TV in Albany reports the Adirondack Trust Co. branch on Route 9 in the town of Wilton had closed early Tuesday afternoon because of the severe weather. The blaze broke out about an hour later and fully engulfed the building, which was gutted by the flames.

Firefighters from five departments battled the blaze in blizzard conditions.

No one was injured.

Bank officials say the fire’s cause may have been electrical in nature but what started the blaze is being investigated.

Fatal New York apartment fire forces dozens into the cold

YONKERS (AP) — Authorities say a fire at a New York apartment building has left one person dead and forced dozens of people into the cold.

Photos show rescuers helping bundled-up residents walk across snowbanks on a slippery hill as flames shoot out of the building in Yonkers, north of New York City.

Fire officials tell the Journal News that a body was found Wednesday on the fifth floor, where the fire may have started.

Deputy Fire Chief Thomas Fitzpatrick says a hydrant froze and firefighters struggled against the wind. Water turned to ice when it hit the ground.

Resident Andre Geraghty tells WCBS that he helped his wife and their 16-month-old child down a fire escape after smoke prevented their exit through a door.

Cuomo sends more plows, Guard upstate to aid snow removal

BINGHAMTON (AP) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he is sending more assets to New York’s southern tier region.

The governor notes the Binghamton area was among the hardest hit by Tuesday’s snowstorm.

The National Weather Service says 31.3 inches blanketed the region.

Cuomo is sending 100 large plows and 100 members of the National Guard to assist in snow removal.

In other parts of the state, another round of snow in the Rochester area has shut down schools, many businesses and most government offices.

Tuesday’s storm dumped 20 inches to as much as 41 inches across a region stretching from Lake Erie’s eastern shore to the Catskills, Hudson Valley and Adirondacks.

Schools from Buffalo to the Mohawk Valley were closed Wednesday.

Travel and tractor trailer restrictions on New York roadways have been lifted.

Man admits to killing girlfriend and her 7-year-old son

CHEEKTOWAGA (AP) — A 31-year-old man has admitted to killing his girlfriend and her 7-year-old son inside their suburban Buffalo apartment last year.

Shane Stevenson of Cheektowaga pleaded guilty Wednesday to two counts of murder in the September deaths of 30-year-old Raina Voll and her son, Leo Klinger.

The two were found strangled inside an apartment complex after Voll’s 2-year-old child was found in a stroller a short distance away.

Stevenson isn’t the father of either child.

Police say the killings occurred during a “domestic situation.”

Stevenson faces up to 50 years to life in prison when he’s sentenced in May.

Information on his attorney wasn’t immediately available.

12 nabbed in multimillion dollar retail theft ring

NEW YORK (AP) — New York authorities say 12 people have been indicted in a multimillion dollar retail theft ring.

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced the crime ring takedown Wednesday, saying the alleged ring leader operated out of an upper Manhattan apartment.

He says the suspects would travel around the country stealing electronic goods and printer cartridges from Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy and other retailers. The items were then sold online.

Schneiderman says the thieves wore custom-made vests to hide the gear and used devices to deactivate security alarms.

More than 5,300 stolen electronics and ink cartridges and millions of dollars were confiscated in the investigation dubbed Operation Sticky Fingers.

The suspects face enterprise corruption and other charges.