New York State Assembly

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

State Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle says real ethics reform is coming to Albany.

Morelle, a Rochester-area Democrat wouldn’t say whether he thinks former Speaker Sheldon Silver is guilty of a crime. But Morelle said that Silver should have been forced to disclose the source of his outside income.

azipaybarah / Flickr

Former State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was indicted Thursday on federal fraud and extortion charges. Silver was arrested in January and charged with taking nearly $4 million in kickbacks. 

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Carl Heastie was elected unanimously by Democrats in the Assembly to be the next speaker, less than two weeks after former Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested and charged with running a massive multi-million dollar corruption scheme.

Heastie, the first African-American speaker in the Assembly’s 237 year history, gave a brief speech to the chamber, where he focused on moving on from the scandal brought on the Assembly by his predecessor.

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The race to replace disgraced Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver seems all but over, with the Bronx Assemblyman Carl Heastie amassing the most support. Silver’s resignation is effective at midnight Monday, and a vote for the new speaker could be held as early as next week.

Morelle announced on Friday that he would drop out of the race and back Heastie. Morelle, while at home in the Rochester area this weekend, told reporters that Heastie is a close friend and that that the two of them had kept in close contact throughout the process.

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.

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There is plenty of campaigning going on within the state Assembly from members hoping to become the next speaker. This after the long-time leader of the chamber faces criminal corruption charges.

Two of Onondaga County's lawmakers in the chamber say they haven’t picked sides yet, while one announced his choice Friday.

Assembly members Joseph Lentol and Keith Wright have dropped their candidacies to become the new leader of the state Assembly. Majority Leader Joseph Morelle did so as well on Friday:

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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.

Julia Botero

In the wake of the downfall of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, North Country Assembly woman Addie Russell says she stands by the presumption of innocence until you are proven guilty.

Russell, a Democrat from Jefferson County, was part of the long two-day of meetings in Albany that ended with a decision to oust longtime Assembly speaker.

Silver will be out of office by Monday. He was arrested late last week on charges of corruption, including taking about $4 million in kickbacks.

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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.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver will end his long reign as the head of the Assembly on Monday, say the Democratic members of the Assembly who announced they will hold a new election for speaker on Feb. 10.

After two long days of closed door meetings, as Assembly Democrats reacted to the mounting fallout from Silver’s arrest on federal corruption charges, the Democrats now say Silver will leave his post.

But Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle, who will serve as interim speaker for about a week, was cryptic when describing how the speaker will actually exit.  

governorandrewcuomo / via Flickr

Updated, 7:46 p.m.

Democrats in the state Assembly have emerged from two days of closed door discussions on whether, then how, to remove and replace the leader of their conference, who has been charged with corruption.

Assemblyman Joe Morelle, the majority leader from Rochester, told reporters Tuesday evening that Sheldon Silver will be removed from his post.

"On Monday, there will be a vacancy in the office of speaker," he said.

azipaybarah / Flickr

Update: 9:10 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 27 --

Assembly Democrats are planning to huddle behind closed doors again in Albany today, trying to decide their next move.

Azi Paybarah / via Flickr

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is expected to present a plan to Assembly Democrats Monday, in which he would temporarily relinquish his power as Speaker to a small group of Assembly Democrats.  

azipaybarah / Flickr

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested Thursday morning and $3.8 million in eight different bank accounts held by Silver have been frozen, as federal prosecutors accuse the speaker of running two fraudulent and corrupt schemes.

Silver was released on $200,000 bail Thursday afternoon.

azipaybarah / Flickr

Updated, 11:45 a.m.:

The Democratic Speaker of the New York State Assembly was arrested early Thursday morning by federal officials on corruption charges.

The investigation and pending arrest was first reported by The New York Times. It was later confirmed by the FBI. 

azipaybarah / Flickr

A government reform group is considering filing a complaint with a state ethics panel over a story in the New York Times that says the Assembly speaker is under federal investigation for failing to disclose pay he received from a law firm.

Blair Horner, with the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), says he’d like to hear from Speaker Sheldon Silver about the details of the speaker’s alleged payments from a law firm specializing in real estate taxes.

Jason Lawrence

Four state lawmakers are proposing that all police cars in New York state be retrofitted with bulletproof glass after two New York City officers were gunned down in their car.

The bill is being drafted by Republican Assembly members including Jim Tedisco of the Capital Region, who says police are most vulnerable when sitting in thier vehicles. He believes if New York City police cars were equipped with bulletproof glass, the slain officers would be alive today.   

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

A downstate Democrat is trying to reinvigorate a plan to create a publicly funded, single-payer health care system in New York state. Assemblyman Richard Gottfried is getting the ball rolling with a series of legislative hearings, including the first in Syracuse.

Gottfried, a Manhattan Democrat, says getting rid of insurance companies and putting the state in charge of health care would save consumers $20 billion a year by eliminating insurance company overhead and the administrative costs doctors and hospitals incur while dealing with insurance companies.  

401(K) 2012 / Flickr

New York state lawmakers are pushing for their first pay raise in fifteen years, and say in exchange they might be willing to give up the practice of a daily stipend for each day they spend in Albany, known as per diems, that has sometimes led to abuse.

Legislators receive $172 for every day that they spend in Albany, above normal travel and lodging expenses, and in addition to their $79,500 annual base pay.

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All three propositions on the New York state ballot passed Tuesday. Supporters of the measure to change the redistricting process say the vote shows New Yorkers are hungry for reform.

Voters approved a change in the state’s constitution that will require the legislature to appoint a commission to redraw state Senate, Assembly and congressional district lines after the 2020 census.

Dick Dadey, with Citizens Union, a group that supported the amendment, says the 57 percent of voters who said yes shows that the public craves reform of the present system.

jamelah / via Flickr

The WRVO News team is covering races around the region and state today including races for: New York state governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and comptroller; New York state ballot measures, Proposition 1, Proposition 2, Proposition 3; congressional races for the 24th, 21st, 22nd and 23rd districts; New York State Assembly races in the 121st, 126th, 127th, 128th,

One of the most competitive state legislative races in this region is the contest for the 127th Assembly district seat, between incumbent Democrat Al Stirpe and Republican challenger Rob DeMarco.  DeMarco is a former prosecutor in the Onondaga County District Attorney's office.  In this conversation the two spar over whether the state provides a healthy climate for business development and how that relates to taxing and spending, the NY SAFE Act, and how much reform the state legislative process still needs.

NYS Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment

Reform groups are split over the merits of a November ballot item to change the way new legislative and congressional districts are drawn in New York.

Some groups see the amendment as an opportunity to finally end rampant gerrymandering of Senate and Assembly districts in New York.  Others fear it would just solidify legislative control of a process that allows legislative leaders to draw districts that suit their own political interests.

unshackleupstate.com

An upstate pro business group is out with ratings for the Senate and Assembly, and finds, not surprisingly, that more liberal Democrats are at odds with the group’s agenda than conservative leaning Republicans. Unshackle Upstate says that could have implications for the group’s interests if Democrats take over the Senate in November.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

For the third time in six years, Republican John Sharon will challenge Democrat Sam Roberts for the 128th Assembly District seat.

Sharon admits going into a race in a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans overwhelmingly, it doesn’t look promising.

“Just do that red-blue math, the numbers are not good," Sharon said. "But I’m not concerned about that, because I’m trying to reach out to the people who live here. And say, look, I’ll work for you, I will listen to you, I’ll be accessible, I’ll be visible, I’ll give you everything I’ve got every day.”

Brindisi continues push for new high school diploma

Jul 18, 2014

In an attempt to increase the number of New York high school graduates who are work ready, one state assemblyman is pushing for the approval of a new high-tech and manufacturing-based diploma. The goal is to help employers fill jobs with qualified graduates.

Although the state legislature won't return to Albany until January, Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi is getting an early start by promoting his bill to create a Career and Technical Education, or CTE, diploma.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO

Sponsors of a medical marijuana bill continued to negotiate with Gov. Andrew Cuomo over the governor’s objections to many of the measure’s provisions, but say they are hopeful that a deal can be reached in the next couple of days.

State Senate Co-leader Jeff Klein is optimistic about the chances for a medical marijuana law in New York.

“My prediction is we’re going to end this session on a high,” Klein quipped after a lengthy closed-door meeting with Cuomo and the Senate and Assembly sponsors of the bill.

National Popular Vote

New York lawmakers have approved a bill that would enter the state in the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, an agreement to award electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the majority of the popular vote.

Proponents of the National Popular Vote initiative believe that the Electoral College, in place since the first days of the nation, is not the best way to elect a president.

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.

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Government reform activists took their smartphones into Assembly Committee meetings to live stream meetings that so far have not been available online to the public.

To mark what’s known as Sunshine Week, to promote a more open government, the activists took their smartphones into several Assembly Committee meetings. Using simple software, they pressed record and streamed the proceedings live on the Internet.

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