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Minimum wage hike supported in poll

ALBANY -- Even with lawmakers on vacation for two weeks, the minimum wage war is starting to heat up as the various sides try to settle on legislative priorities for the final months of the session.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, pointed to a new poll showing overwhelming support for a minimum wage hike as ammunition for his Democratic conference's plan to raise the level from $7.25 per hour now to $8.50 later this year.

"We should be listening to the people," Silver said after Quinnipiac University on Wednesday released a poll showing New Yorkers back a wage hike by a 4-1 ratio.

Broken down by proposed wage levels, 29 percent said they support New York going to the $8.50 level, while 41 percent said it should be even higher than Silver has proposed. Twenty percent oppose any mandatory minimum wage hike.

In Syracuse Wednesday, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo continued his stance of not committing. "I've supported minimum wage increases in the past," Cuomo said.

-- News Albany Bureau


Mom faces murder in allergic girl's death

MINEOLA (AP) -- A woman accused of feeding M&Ms that contained traces of peanuts to her disabled and allergic 8-year-old pleaded not guilty Wednesday to an upgraded charge of second-degree murder in the child's death.

Veronica Cirella, 31, of Plainview, was ordered held without bail in the July 23 death of her daughter, Julie, who was found only hours before she was set to be a flower girl in a cousin's wedding. Cirella had previously been charged with manslaughter.

Attorney William Keahon urged the Nassau County judge to release his client on bail, contending an autopsy failed to determine a cause of death.

But the judge cited Cirella's suicide attempt the day her daughter died and the fact that Cirella is now facing a potential life prison sentence as reasons to hold her in custody until her trial.

District Attorney Kathleen Rice released a statement saying the grand jury heard from Cirella and several witnesses before returning the murder indictment.