Albany

Lauren Rosenthal / NCPR

Two years ago, Democrat Addie Russell nearly lost her seat in the Assembly. She represents the 116th District along the St. Lawrence River, from Cape Vincent to Massena. Russell came back from a deficit on election night to win by just about 100 votes.

Now, Russell is fighting to save her political skin in a rematch with Republican challenger John Byrne. Republicans see a chance to pick up that seat by highlighting a new blemish on Russell’s record, her longstanding support for Sheldon Silver.

At the Oswego Common Council meeting Monday, Mayor Billy Barlow presented his plan for free public WiFi in the city's downtown. The young mayor called it an essential amenity to modernize the port city.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump spoke at a packed arena in Albany Monday night, where he was interrupted by protesters numerous times.

stgermh / Flickr

The U.S. Attorney who convicted both of the leaders of the legislature came to Albany Monday to speak to a conference of the state’s mayors. But Preet Bharara was not invited to the State Capitol itself, and he did not meet directly with any lawmakers, even though Bharara and Governor Cuomo attended the same event, the swearing in of the state’ new chief judge.

Bharara addressed mayors from all over the state, gathered for their annual meeting, where he told them the point of his anti-corruption work is to “protect democracy.”

This week on the Campbell Conversations, host Grant Reeher talks with two veteran Syracuse area lawmakers about the upcoming legislative session, and about the governor's influence over the legislature--and what his overall political agenda has been.  State Senators John DeFrancisco and Dave Valesky offer contrasting views about the governor's use of executive orders, and the need for legislative reform, but largely agree on what the session is likely to focus on, and share an optimistic view of the state budget being passed on time. 

The Independent Democratic Conference is calling for state ethics reform once again. In past years, the group of breakaway Democrats have proposed a new system for campaign contributions and limits on outside income.

Now, the IDC is hoping the conviction last week of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver will lead to change in next year's legislative session.

governorandrewcuomo / via Flickr

The New York State Legislature is seemingly back to business as usual, with majority parties holding planning meetings and the new session set to begin right after the holidays. But there has been little public discussion about a corruption crisis that has led to the two most powerful men in the Legislature both on trial in federal court this month.

It’s almost as though they’re taking place in two parallel worlds. In federal court in Manhattan, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Leader Dean Skelos are both on trial for corruption.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO News file photo

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli says he has no interest in challenging Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a primary in three years, saying he prefers to seek re-election as comptroller.

DiNapoli, a favorite among many state Democrats (especially in the party’s left-leaning base), says he has no interest in running in a primary against Cuomo. The state comptroller says he intends to seek another term in his current post and says he’s set up a campaign committee for the comptroller’s slot for 2018.

“I happen to love this job,” DiNapoli says. “I think it’s the best job in state government.”

slgckgc / Flickr

When Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders announced a new rebate check for property taxpayers, they touted it as a significant, “real” benefit to average homeowners. But fiscal watchdog groups say the program is severely flawed and the money could be better used on something else.

Alex Crichton / WXXI

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says in a legislative session in which the leaders of the state Assembly and Senate are both indicted on corruption charges, the need for ethics reform in Albany is shockingly clear.

Speaking in Rochester -- one of several stops -- Schneiderman outlined his "End New York Corruption Now Act," which he says has three main goals: end the pernicious effect of outside money in politics and government; ensure every act of corruption is met with a swift, serious response; and encourage more honorable people to pursue public service.

State Sen. John DeFrancisco is Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and was involved in the leadership battle in the Senate when former leader Dean Skelos resigned as Majority Leader after being arrested on federal corruption charges. DeFrancisco ultimately lost the leadership role to Long Island Sen. John Flanagan. On this episode of the Campbell Conversations, DeFrancisco speaks with host Grant Reeher about this year's state budget and legislative agenda, the current state of affairs in Albany, the issue of upstate versus downstate, and more. 

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News file photo

The former leader of the state Senate was formally indicted on federal corruption charges Thursday. Sen. Dean Skelos resigned as leader earlier in May after the accusations against him were announced by the U.S. attorney.

NYS Assembly

The future of the state’s property tax cap is one of the big items on the docket as state lawmakers head back to Albany to finish up the current session. Supporters of the tax cap, including business groups, Republicans in the state Senate and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, are pushing to make the tax cap permanent. 

Syracuse-area Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli thinks the tax cap has worked.

"I think it has been successful in keeping property taxes down,” said Magnarelli.

Kramchang / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, at a large union rally in New York City’s Union Square to raise the minimum wage, called out fast food chains McDonalds and Burger King by name and accused them of corporate greed for under-paying workers.

Cuomo, in an animated speech, says fast food chains make huge profits while relying on taxpayers subsidies, like food stamps, to make up for the low pay they give their workers.

The governor says he’ll bypass the legislature and create a state board to examine increasing the state's minimum wage for fast food workers.

J. Stephen Conn / Flickr

With just over a week until the state budget is due, there’s pressure to drop a number of unrelated items in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s state spending plan.

Cuomo has tied ethics reform and education policy changes to the budget, and threatened to hold up the spending plan if the legislature does not agree. 

Wallyg / via Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has outlined his plan for greater transparency of state lawmakers’ outside income, and has made it part of his budget proposal. Good government groups say they wish he had gone farther.

State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who has held that position for the last 20 years, was arrested recently and charged with several counts of corruption. He's also accused of taking more that $4 million in kickbacks.

After several days of closed door meetings, Silver agreed to step down from his position as Speaker. An election will happen soon in the Assembly to choose a new Speaker, but what happens then.

Wallyg / via Flickr

Lawmakers in Albany are trying to get back to work on the state budget after last week's arrest of state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who was charged with four counts of corruption and accused of taking more than $4 million in kickbacks. This week on The Campbell Conversations, Grant Reeher speaks with WRVO's Capitol Correspondent Karen DeWitt. Here's some of what you can expect this Sunday at 6 p.m. on the program.

-JvL- / Flickr

Maneuvering for the next speaker of the state Assembly is going on largely behind the scenes and government reform groups say that’s the wrong way to begin a new era in what’s been called the people’s house. They’ve asked the announced candidates to commit to an open process, and want an answer before the weekend.

-JvL- / Flickr

The legislature continued about its business in Albany Wednesday, despite the leadership crisis in the Assembly. Lawmakers held the first in a series of public budget hearings. Meanwhile, several Assembly members officially declared their candidacy to succeed Speaker Sheldon Silver, who will leave the office on Monday.

-JvL- / Flickr

The New York Times is reporting that federal investigators are probing outside income paid to the New York state Assembly speaker, among other lawmakers. A reform group says the article is one more reason Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the legislature should adopt long overdue ethical changes.

Susan Lerner, with Common Cause, says legislators are finding that if they don’t change their policies they are increasingly finding themselves in the crosshairs of federal prosecutors. She says her group hopes to convince them to do so.

Jenna Flanagan/Innovation Trail

Just hours after a Staten Island grand jury ruled there were no grounds to indict a white police officer in the killing of an African American man, Albany’s elected officials, community leaders and members came together to discuss ways to improve policing in the capital cities minority communities. 

Jenna Flanagan / Innovation Trail

Everything old is new again, so the saying goes. With that in mind, the Preservation League of New York State announced a plan to repurpose five vacant industrial buildings in the Capital region with the hopes of attracting young professionals and revitalizing communities.

The Industrial Heritage Reuse Project, or "trendy hipster bait," launched on Thursday in hopes of breathing new live into old buildings.

When the budget deal is finally reached in Albany, average New Yorkers will have had little access to the details of the important items that Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers are discussing. That's because the longtime Albany tradition known as "Three Men in a Room" continues.

The only difference from the decades long tradition of three men in a room budget negotiations is now there are four men in a room. The Senate is led by a coalition of Republicans and breakaway Democrats, and so has two co-leaders.

State lawmakers in the Assembly and the Senate are coming under scrutiny from the FBI. The state Capitol offices of an assemblyman were raided, and a state senator gave a tour of her home property in an attempt to debunk allegations from federal investigators that she engaged in an illegal land deal.

Assemblyman William Scarborough's offices were raided by the FBI, over allegations that he overcharged for travel, lodging and meal reimbursements paid to lawmakers when they gather in Albany for weekly sessions.

Scarborough says he's innocent.

More fracking pro and con as the battle rages on

Feb 19, 2014
Capital District Against Fracking

The future of hydraulic fracturing in New York has been in limbo since the Department of Environmental Conservation began a review of the practice in 2008. Now, six public hearings are being held across New York to receive public comment on the draft State Energy Plan, with one of them in Albany.  Environmental groups were at the Capitol Tuesday calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to put renewable energy ahead of fossil fuels in his effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.

Joanna Richards

Governor Andrew Cuomo visited a newly expanded snowmobiler lounge in Lowville Monday to unveil a new ad campaign to promote winter tourism upstate. Cuomo says there’s new energy in the north country, thanks to increasing economic investment. He credits the efforts of both the region and his administration in making that happen.  

Karen Dewitt / WRVO

Anti-gambling activists took a sledgehammer to a slot machine in front of the New York State Capitol to demonstrate their opposition to a ballot amendment to legalize gambling casinos in New York state.  

Wielding a sledgehammer, anti-gambling advocates took turns smashing up a Lucky 7 slot machine, at a park with the New York State Capitol in the background, as TV news cameras recorded the event.

David Blankenhorn, with the Institute for American Values, organized the event.

“It felt great,” Blankehorn said. “I’ve wanted to do this for a long time.”

The push for passage of a ballot amendment to allow up to seven new gambling casinos in New York has begun. A coalition of business leaders, labor unions, and local elected officials are holding press conferences across the state. They expect to run some TV ads, as well.

The name of the coalition says nothing about gambling casinos -- instead it’s called New York Jobs Now. Business Council President Heather Briccetti said the new resort-style casinos proposed will bring employment to economically depressed areas.

Joanna Richards

Farmers and agricultural industry leaders in the North Country had the ears of state lawmakers yesterday in Watertown. The forum, hosted by State Senator Patty Ritchie, was one of 10 being held throughout the state on the topic of regulatory reform in a variety of industries.

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