Andrea Stewart-Cousins

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The New York State Legislature finally ended its 2017 session, after the Assembly voted overnight on a privately negotiated omnibus bill, and the Senate finally finished on Thursday afternoon. The messy process drew condemnation from both sides of the aisle.

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There was a flurry of activity — along with threats and ultimatums — on Monday at the state Capitol, but there were no agreements on major issues as the session draws to a scheduled close on Wednesday.

Victims of childhood sexual abuse remain hopeful that there could be a vote in the state Senate on a measure to extend the statute of limitations to age 28 for criminal proceedings and age 50 for civil proceedings.

Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins urged the majority coalition of Republicans and breakaway Democrats to allow the bill on the floor for a vote.

A faction of breakaway Democrats known as the Independent Democratic Conference has been in the news lately for receiving stipend payments for chairing committees that the Senators in fact did not chair. Here’s a look at the history of this power-brokering group of senators and what may be in store for its future.

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The leader of the state Senate Independent Democratic Conference for the first time publicly answered questions from the media about news stories that some of his members received stipends for committee chair positions that they do not actually hold.

State Sen. Jeff Klein defended the practice, while the leader of the Senate Democrats is calling for an investigation.

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Democrats in the state Senate remain hopeful that they will regain the numerical majority and control of the chamber after a special election is held later this month. But Gov. Andrew Cuomo dampened those expectations, in remarks made Wednesday in New York City.

Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said she expects the seat of former Sen. Bill Perkins, a Harlem Democrat who won a city council post, to be filled by another mainstream Democrat when a special election is held on May 23.

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New York state will avoid a government shutdown after lawmakers approved a two-month stopgap spending plan.

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Tensions between opposing groups of Democrats in the New York State Senate reached a flash point this week -- over whose faction would be allowed to present their budget priorities for a floor debate. The dispute resulted in an exchange that included some racially charged name calling.

A growing group of eight breakaway Democrats, who rule the Senate in an informal coalition with 31 Republicans, have left regular Democrats smarting for some time now.

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The smallest faction in the divided state Senate, the Independent Democratic Conference, has been permitted by the ruling party Republicans to issue its own alternate spending plan. That has angered the rest of the Democrats.

Currently, Democrats and Republicans in the Senate have the same amount of members – 31 each – but the Democrats are divided, with eight members in a breakaway group that forms an informal ruling coalition with the GOP.

New York State Senate

A faction of breakaway Democrats in the New York State Senate has been gaining members lately, but they are now facing a backlash, including raucous opposition at meetings in their districts.

When Sen. Jose Peralta announced on his Facebook page that he was joining the Independent Democratic Conference, a growing group of breakaway Democrats in the Senate who form a governing coalition with the Republicans, he said he wanted to “deliver a progressive agenda.”

What Peralta did not expect was a backlash in his Queens district.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo told a crowd of cheering Planned Parenthood advocates that he’s proposing an amendment to put protections from the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade into the state’s constitution.

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New York members of the Electoral College met Monday in the Senate chamber at the State Capitol to cast their ballots for Hillary Clinton.

First among them was former President Bill Clinton, who blamed the FBI and the Russians for his wife’s defeat in the presidential race.

The former president voted for his spouse, Hillary Clinton, as did Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli and other elected officials and politically connected Democrats from around the state, for a total of 29 votes.

New York State Senate

New York State Senate Democrats now have 32 votes in the chamber, which under normal circumstances would mean they hold the majority.

But in the state Senate, it’s more complicated than that.

New York State Senate

Democrats in New York are trying to keep the heat on Republicans running for office over the coarse remarks made by GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump in a leaked video.

Every day since Friday’s release of the tape — where Donald Trump disparages women in a crude manner — Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, has slammed Trump. And he’s urged New York Republicans to disassociate themselves from the top of their ticket.

“They should stand up and say, ‘I’m a Republican, but I’m a New Yorker first,’” Cuomo said. “‘And we’ll have nothing to do with the degradation of women.’”

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New York State Senate Democrats hope to take leadership of their house away from Republicans in the 2016 elections — and many believe the candidates at the top of the ticket will help them do that.

The leader of the Senate Democrats, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, is at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia to witness the historic nomination of the first female candidate for president in a major political party. She said she hopes to break some barriers of her own later this year by becoming the first woman, and female African-American, to be Senate majority leader.

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A call by government reform groups for an open leaders meeting on ethics reform tuned into a spat between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the groups themselves.

The New York Public Interest Research Group, Citizens Union, the League of Women Voters, and Common Cause, are calling for an end to the long Albany tradition of closed door meetings between the governor and legislative leaders where they make key decisions on the budget and other issues, known as three men in a room. They want a leaders meeting, open to the public, to discuss ethics reform.

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Senate Democrats are optimistic about their chances for winning a special election in April to replace convicted ex-Senate Leader Dean Skelos .

Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins, in an interview with public radio and television,  predicts the Democratic candidate in the race for the Skelos seat, Assemblyman and former prosecutor  Todd Kaminsky, will do “quite well”, and represents “a break from the past”.

“Which frankly, voters out there deserve and need,” Stewart Cousins said.

Kaminsky faces Republican Attorney Chris McGrath.

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It’s been more than 40 years since the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing a women’s right to choose an abortion, but advocates say New York lawmakers have yet to translate the provisions of the landmark Supreme Court decision into law in the state.

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The New York state education commissioner’s plans to quell the testing opt out movement is getting some back lash from some Republicans in the legislature, including a former teacher.  

At a recent conference held by the teacher’s group Educators for Excellence, New York State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia says she plans to try to convince parents not have their children repeat this year’s boycott of standardized tests associated with the Common Core learning standards, which resulted in 20 percent of students statewide opting out of the tests.

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Pressure is mounting to include Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the only female legislative leader, in  the closed-door budget meeting with Gov. Andrew Cuomo that now consist of four men in a room.

The Black, Hispanic and Asian Caucus issued a statement saying it’s unacceptable to leave the senator, who is African-American out, and Stewart-Cousins spoke up at a public summit meeting for all of the legislative leaders, known as the "mothership budget committee," saying the process is “greatly flawed.”

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Once the President’s Day week-long break is finished, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the legislature will have to start discussing the 2015 budget.  But the traditional style of budget making in New York, known as “Three Men in a Room,” is coming under criticism, by among others, the U.S. Attorney currently investigating corruption at the Capitol. Some are wondering whether it’s time to end the secretive practice.

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Republicans in the New York State Senate are in talks with Gov. Andrew Cuomo about legislative ethics reforms as demands for changes mount after the recent arrest of the former Assembly speaker.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos of Long Island said Tuesday that the goal of the negotiations with Cuomo is "full transparency and strong ethics laws" modeled on effective laws in other states.

The debate hinges on possible limits on the income lawmakers can make from outside jobs - an idea popular with Democrats but opposed by Republicans.

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Democrats in the New York State Senate are pushing for some reforms that directly address problems that led to the arrest and resignation of the Assembly speaker. They want to virtually ban all outside income for lawmakers.

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The New York State Senate and Assembly met in Albany to choose new leaders and begin outlining their plans for the 2015 session. The year begins with Republicans in full control of the state Senate, but with a group of breakaway Democrats still enjoying special status.

The State of the State has been delayed for two weeks, due to the funeral of former Gov. Mario Cuomo, the father of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. But under New York’s state’s constitution, the legislature is still required to convene.   

There are growing calls in Albany for a special prosecutor to investigate police encounters with unarmed citizens that end in the death of the person.  Senate Democrats are the latest to ask for immediate action in the wake of the death of Eric Garner and other recent incidents.

The state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has already asked Gov. Andrew Cuomo for an executive order to empower the attorney general to investigate and, if warranted, prosecute cases where unarmed civilians are killed by police officers.

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The 2014 legislative session has just eight working days left to go, with the closing day scheduled for June 20. As lawmakers prepare to return for the final two weeks, there’s uncertainty whether anything will get done, now that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has publicly vowed to try to oust the current Senate leadership. 

New York State Senate

Democrats in the New York State Senate say they are taking Gov. Andrew Cuomo at his word to help them regain the majority, despite some indications that he might be walking back some of the promises he made at the Working Family Party’s convention Saturday night.

Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins says she’s holding Cuomo to the promise he made to the Working Families Party, to regain Democratic control of the state Senate.

“He has to,” Stewart-Cousins said.

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Democrats pressing for bills to reform the state’s campaign finance system say the U.S. Attorney’s investigations into a panel controlled by Gov. Andrew Cuomo might help spur action on their measures.

Democrats in the state Senate introduced a package of bills that they say would lessen special interest influences in politics and curb some on going abuses.

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The Dream Act is dead for now in New York state, after the state Senate voted down the measure that would have granted college tuition aid to the children of undocumented immigrants. The 30 to 29 vote defeating the Dream Act left leaders of rival Democratic factions pointing fingers.

Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein , who is in a ruling coalition with the Republicans, says he’s disappointed that two Democrats joined the GOP to vote no on the bill to allow tuition aid for children of undocumented immigrants.

The ruling coalition in the state Senate has grown by one member. Sen. Tony Avella, of Queens, has left the minority Democrats to join the governing coalition of Republicans and Independent Democrats.

Avella is a progressive-leaning Democrat who’s been called a maverick. He says he’s become convinced he can get more accomplished by joining the Senate’s ruling coalition, which includes all of the Republicans and a few break away Independent Democrats.  

State Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos says he’s strongly opposed to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Reproductive Health Act, saying it would lead to too many late-term abortions. Pro-choice lawmakers and advocates say they disagree with the senator’s interpretation.

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