New York State Assembly

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What began in January as an ambitious reform package to address a wave of corruption at the Capitol, proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, dwindled to just two proposals by the time the session closed in the pre-dawn hours of Saturday morning. Cuomo had proposed a number of changes in January to react to a wave of corruption that led to the convictions of the two former leader of the legislature on felony corruption charges.

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State lawmakers wrapped up the 2016 legislative session at around 5 a.m. Saturday morning, agreeing to take steps to cancel the pensions of convicted lawmakers in the future, legalizing daily fantasy sports and extending New York City’s mayoral control law for another year.

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The state legislature was closing in on an end-of-session deal that would strip convicted lawmakers of their pensions, extend mayoral control of New York City schools for one more year, and legalize daily fantasy sports gambling.

NY Assembly Video (file)

The state’s Assembly speaker confirms that federal investigators are looking into some of his actions while he was head of the Bronx Democratic Party, but he says he’s done nothing wrong.

Carl Heastie says he knew he would be under scrutiny when he became speaker after his predecessor, Sheldon Silver, resigned over corruption charges. Silver has been sentenced to 12 years in prison.

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Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was sentenced to 12 years in prison and told by a federal judge that he must give back $5 million that he gained from illegal kickback schemes, as well a pay another $1.75 million in fines.

Over 100 family members, constituents and lobbyists wrote letters on behalf of the disgraced former Assembly speaker, and the disgraced former speaker and his lawyers pleaded for mercy.

Dick Dadey, with the reform group Citizens Union, who waited outside the courtroom to hear the sentence, says it’s just desserts for what Silver did.

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Tuesday is not only New York’s presidential primary, it also the day for two special elections to replace the disgraced former leaders of the legislature who lost their seats after being convicted on multiple felony corruption charges.

One of the races is to replace former Senate Leader Dean Skelos, a Republican who is now facing a lengthy prison term on corruption convictions.  

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State lawmakers were down to the wire on meeting the state budget deadline and voting went beyond the midnight deadline, into Friday, once all of the budget bills were finalized.

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New York becomes the last state in the nation to legalize mixed martial arts, following a 113-25 vote in the Assembly Tuesday. The bill was placed on the floor for a vote after a majority of Democrats backed the legislation.

During debate on the Assembly floor, opponents urged the state to continue the ban on mixed martial arts, also known as ultimate fighting. Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffe, from the Hudson Valley, says the activity is “sanctioning violence for profit” and has no place in New York .

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An Assemblywoman from Western New York has been sanctioned by the Assembly ethics committee on charges she sexually harassed a male staffer.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who released the news of the punishments after the Assembly had left for the week, said Angela Wozniak will be issued a public letter saying she violated the Assembly’s Policy Prohibiting Harassment, Discrimination and Retaliation. Wozniak is a freshman who is a member of the Conservative Party but caucuses with the Republicans. She represents the Buffalo suburb of Cheektowaga.

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Senate Republicans say their version of the state budget will include a 9-year phase in of tax cuts that would eventually total a 25 percent reduction for middle class taxpayers.

GOP Leader John Flanagan said when the Senate majority releases it’s budget plan later in March, it will include a phase in of over $4 billion in tax cuts. They include an extension of a temporary tax cut for middle income earners, which would gradually be reduced to a rate of just over 5 percent for those who make $300,000 a year or less.

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A bill to make it legal for terminally ill patients to end their lives is being debated in the New York legislature. While many have compelling personal cases for allowing the practice, others, including the Catholic Church, remain opposed.  

Amy Paulin, an Assemblywoman from Westchester, is sponsoring a bill to allow what’s become known as Aid in Dying, after the wrenching experience of her sister’s battle with stage four ovarian cancer.

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Under proposed legislation, motorists could be fined for not cleaning snow off their vehicles. But there are plenty of objections to this bill.

Western New York Assemblyman Mickey Kearns says if the bill comes to the floor, he'll vote no.  

"I think it's basic common sense. I don't think we need to legislate common sense," Kearns said.

The bill, which already has been debated in committee, calls for fines for any moving vehicle with three or more inches of snow on it. 

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Local governments and schools say they are struggling over a property tax cap that will allow what amounts to a zero percent increase in tax levies in the coming year. But Gov. Andrew Cuomo says they’ll likely have to stick with those rules.

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The issue of whether to tax the wealthiest New Yorkers at a higher rate is once again a topic at the State Capitol. Assembly Democrats are out with a tax plan that would redistribute some tax revenue from the richest to the poorest New Yorkers.

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The New York State Assembly approved a one-house bill to establish partial paid family leave in New York as Gov. Andrew Cuomo signaled he will amend his proposal to provide more money to those who take the leave.

Advocates of paid family leave, who have been lobbying on the issue for years, say movement on the matter from the Assembly Democrats and Cuomo has given them new hope. Donna Dolan leads a coalition.

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Assembly members are vowing to expand funding for treatment for opioid addiction in New York. The Assembly Minority Task Force on Heroin Addiction presented their report Monday in the assembly chamber.

Three Republican Assembly members are credited with writing the report that proposes solutions based on a series of local hearings about the heroin addiction problem in New York state.

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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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A budget watch dog group is giving Gov. Andrew Cuomo a mixed grade on his budget proposals, saying he’s done a good job reigning in spending, but is making a mistake by shifting some significant costs to New York City.

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One day before Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State address, where he is expected to address ethics issues after the criminal convictions of the two legislative leaders, some state legislators are already demanding reforms that would break up the power of the leadership.

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The opening day of the legislative session featured talk of ethics reform, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo chose to be elsewhere, putting off his traditional State of the State message for another week, and giving speeches in Syracuse and New York City instead.

The Senate and Assembly convened  for the first time since both leaders of the legislature were convicted of multiple corruption charges in late 2015 and now face potentially decades in prison.

Assemblywoman Pamela Hunter Facebook

Central New York’s newest member of the Assembly is launching citizen advisory committees meant to keep the lines of communication open between residents and state government

Democrat Pam Hunter says one thing she realized after campaigning for the 128th Assembly District is that residents want their concerns and ideas heard in Albany. So she’s started up advisory committees in the towns of DeWitt, Onondaga and Salina, as well as the city of Syracuse, for residents to let her know what’s important in their particular neighborhoods.

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The second of the state legislature’s two former leaders has now been convicted on multiple corruption charges after a jury lost no time in finding former Senate Leader Dean Skelos and son Adam guilty on all eight counts.

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.

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Prisons around the state continue to face closer scrutiny following last summer's escape from Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora. State and federal probes are already underway. But a growing number of lawmakers now say violence behind bars and the breakdown in security mean more oversight is needed.

Beatings, escapes, attacks on guards, and an alleged murder

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The conviction of Sheldon Silver on corruption charges is not the end of legal proceedings for the former assembly speaker. He and his lawyers are expected to provide details of their appeal of the case as well as ask the trial judge to override the jury’s conclusions and retroactively acquit Silver.  

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the current legislative leaders have downplayed efforts for new reforms in Albany following the conviction of the former Assembly Speaker on seven counts of corruption. 

Former Speaker Assembly Silver is now facing up to 20 years in prison for illegally gaining millions of dollars through his outside employment. Former Senate Leader Dean Skelos is in the midst of another federal corruption trial, accused of misusing his influence to gain jobs and money for his son.

New York State Senate

 


Gov. Andrew Cuomo spoke publicly for the first time since the former leader of the Assembly was convicted on seven counts of corruption for abusing his powers to earn outside income. But, Cuomo said he does not think it’s the right time now for a special session on ethics reform.

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Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was convicted Monday on charges that he used his power to illegally earn more than $5 million in bribes and kickbacks. The federal jury came back with the guilty verdict after a three-week trial. 

Local elections were held around the country last Tuesday, and while the Syracuse region did not contain the drama of the Kentucky governor’s race or the Houston equal rights ordinance, there were nonetheless some local results of note, and some tea leaves embedded in the details of expected outcomes.  This week on the Campbell Conversations, host Grant Reeher mines those with two local political reporters, Teri Weaver of the Syracuse Post-Standard and Ellen Abbot of WRVO Public Media. 

The departure of State Assemblyman Sam Roberts for a cabinet post in state government created the need for a special election this November.  Two of the candidates vying for the 128th district seat are Democrat Pamela Hunter, a Syracuse Common Councilor and Republican John Sharon, an attorney.  On this week's edition of the Campbell Conversations, the two share their views on Syracuse's poverty problem, the proposed increase in the minimum wage, the Common Core, and I-81, among other topics. 

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