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Court hearing focuses on Collins' pro drug company bills

Rep. Chris Collins got arrested and charged with insider trading last August, and a recent court hearing in that case highlighted how the sprawling Collins scandal first began.

Back in January 2017, revelations surfaced that Collins, a Republican from Clarence, touted the stock of Innate Immunotherapeutics to Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, President-elect Trump's choice to be health secretary. What's more, only months earlier, Collins played a key role in the passage of legislation that remade federal drug regulation – legislation that could conceivably have affected Innate.

So when a Collins lawyer said in court that the lawmaker's office had produced "some sort of talking points about legislation that might affect Innate," that once again shed light on Collins' record as a legislator – which includes numerous attempts to benefit the pharmaceutical industry.

Of the 53 bills Collins has sponsored since joining Congress in 2013, seven would have aided drug companies – including measures that Collins introduced after the FBI interviewed him and after his arrest.

– Jerry Zremski

WHAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT

Once rapidly expanding, Morgan companies scale back after executives charged: Back in late 2017, the network of companies operated by Robert Morgan was one of the fastest-growing apartment owners in the region. The Morgan companies had a stake in four out of every 10 new apartments under construction or planned around Buffalo. Now, with two executives pleading guilty to federal charges and another under indictment, the once rapidly growing enterprise appears to be shrinking. It’s selling properties, facing the loss of others to lenders and is seeking a buyer for its entire portfolio.

State education commissioner: Don’t appoint the School Board: MaryEllen Elia would not be in favor of a Buffalo School Board that was appointed by the mayor. “I just don’t think that’s a better system,” the state education chief said Monday during a meeting with The Buffalo News editorial board.

Cuomo declares state of emergency along Lake Ontario: High lake levels have prompted Gov. Andrew Cuomo to issue a state of emergency in Niagara County and in seven other New York counties along Lake Ontario. Although no evacuation of residents has been ordered, Cuomo warned during a visit to Olcott that widespread flooding could hit lakefront communities like it did two years ago.

Investigative Post: Another Buffalo Billion project is struggling: An ambitious project at the University at Buffalo, intended to bolster the region’s biotech sector and produce high-tech jobs, is years behind its original schedule, according to Charlotte Keith. She reports the Buffalo Institute for Genomics and Data Analytics was funded with nearly $50 million in state grants. Launched five years ago, the project was originally supposed to create 490 jobs by January of this year. Keith reports there are just 51.

A sneak peek at the new Dash’s Market on Hertel: If you were a Dash’s devotee before the North Buffalo supermarket was torn down, there’s only one trapping from its retail past you might recognize if you visit the new store. The old service desk counter has been preserved and installed as a homage to its roots. The new store, which is more than double the size of the former location, will open Wednesday. Check out this photo gallery of the new Dash’s Market.

(Got a news tip? Email citydesk@buffnews.com.)

WEATHER

Why so wet? Don Paul says Arctic warming is a factor: This past year has been the wettest year nationally on record. Paul cites research that links many extreme weather events and their increased numbers to climate change, most especially the accelerated warming in the Arctic.

FOOD & DRINK

Food truck owners opening in Williamsville’s former Apple Wood Cafe: “Williamsville will soon be cheesier,” writes Ben Tsujimoto. That’s because the family owners of the Cheesy Chick food truck are taking over the old Apple Wood Café at 5385 Main St. The new name? What would you expect? The Cheesy Chick Café.    

NEW BUFFALO

Innovative companies that are looking for workers: One company is a startup that has developed a web-based system for easing the difficulty in navigating the heath care system. Another provides logistics services that link shippers with truck owners. Yet another focuses on helping firms detect and combat suspicious financial activity, including money laundering. This link from Invest Buffalo Niagara identifies several companies that are currently hiring. 

POLITICS

How Nick Langworthy outmaneuvered Ed Cox to lead state GOP: Langworthy, who heads the Erie County Republican Party, has been trekking across the state for months, making his case for a change at the top of the state party. Cox, son-in-law of the late President Richard Nixon, has led the state GOP for a decade. The News’ Robert McCarthy explains how Langworthy outmaneuvered Cox.

BILLS

Bills grade as better or even at every position in 2019: Widespread improvement was what stuck out when Vic Carucci went through the roster and gave position-by-position grades on the offseason.

"Bills Elvis" to be added to Fan Wall of Fame: Television crews love showing the Bills fan dressed as Elvis. His name is John R. Lang, and he's been a season-ticket holder since 1992. He will be the second fan inducted into the BFLO Hall of Fame Experience's Fan Wall of Fame, joining Pancho Billa.

Indianapolis Colts sign Chad Kelly: Football's best second-chance getter landed another opportunity to earn a job. He's expected to compete with Phillip Walker for the Colts' third quarterback position after joining a depth chart led by Andrew Luck and Jacoby Brissett. Kelly pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor trespassing charge last month that stemmed from an incident that led to his release from the Broncos.

(For more Bills news, sign up here for the [BN] Blitz newsletter.)

SABRES

Logos unveiled for Sabres' 50th anniversary: The team revealed two crests Monday, both emblazoned with the number 50 but each has a slightly different approach to honoring the milestone season. However, a number of fans expressed disappointment on social media over the team's continued use of navy blue, as opposed to the royal blue worn by the team from its inception in 1970 until the switch to red and black in 1996.

(For more Sabres news, sign up here for the [BN] Hockey newsletter.)

WITH YOUR MORNING COFFEE 

Lisa has experienced homelessness and addiction. “I am incredibly bipolar, and I think I was self-medicating,” she tells Rise Collaborative. Lisa is now at the Lt. Col. Matt Urban Human Services Center of WNY's Hope Gardens, a facility that provides housing to once-chronically homeless women. But as this podcast reports, Lisa is not a resident. She’s the director – the boss.

What’s Buffalo’s most unique spot for a picturesque walk on a nice day? Given the city’s internationally acclaimed parks system and its developing waterfront, that’s a tough one to answer. But the Bird Island Pier off Broderick Park would definitely make my short list. Only in Your State aptly describes it as a “magical river walk.”

It was a tiny fire – the size of a small candle – sparked by an electrical problem inside the organ’s internal console. The damage sustained by a fire extinguisher that was used to douse the flame was enough to put the 1907 musical instrument out of commission. Eight months later, the Chautauqua Institution’s Massey Memorial Organ is ready to delight crowds for the upcoming season. The Post-Journal in Jamestown takes a closer look at the restoration of a handmade organ that is said to be one of a kind. 

When a respected actor and director visits a local community with his production team, the visit rarely goes unnoticed. John Krasinski, whose “A Quiet Place” was a box office smash last year, has been scouting locations in Western New York in recent weeks for a sequel to the innovative horror flick. Krasinski, who many TV viewers recognize as Jim Halpert in “The Office,” was in Orchard Park late last week.

Our Home of the Week could be subtitled “Lakefront cottage rescue,” according to Cindi Kisiel-Smith. She and her husband, Ray Smith, bought and renovated a cottage in Wanakah. Renovation might be an understatement. “We did a total gut job down to the studs,” says Kisiel-Smith. Actually, even the studs were replaced.

(Have feedback on the Good Morning, Buffalo newsletter? Email feedback@buffnews.com.)

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