New York State Assembly

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.”

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.

On Wednesday, both houses of the legislature are due to release their one-house budget proposals, which they will then use to negotiate a final spending plan with Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, in an interview with PBS's New York Now and public radio stations, says Assembly Democrats are not yet on board with part of Cuomo’s plan to cut the estate tax.

Budget negotiations are expected to get serious at the state Capitol this week, with the spending plan due at the end of the month.

The Senate and Assembly are due to put out their one house budget resolutions Wednesday, the first step toward reaching a final deal with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

There are a number of unresolved issues, including how to pay for and structure a plan to provide universal pre-kindergarten to New York’s four-year-olds, and a multi-step plan proposed by Cuomo to freeze property taxes has faced skepticism.   

An Oswego County mother is taking a local head shop to court following her son's death after smoking synthetic marijuana he allegedly bought from the store.

Teresa Woolson, whose 19-year-old son, Victor, drowned in Lake Ontario after smoking a form of synthetic marijuana, wants the shop's owner, the drug manufacturer and the distributor held accountable.

In August 2012, Victor Woolson drowned in the lake soon after smoking "K-2 Avalanche," a form of synthetic marijuana he apparently bought from Xtreme Underground.

Joanna Richards / WRVO file photo

State Assemblywoman Addie Russell’s name surfaced as a possible Democratic contender for the 21st Congressional District seat, after Rep. Bill Owens announced he won’t run again. 

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The New York state legislature now has 11 unfilled seats, after one Assemblyman resigned over a sexual harassment scandal and another was expelled after being convicted of a felony. But it could be another year before those seats are filled.

In recent days, Assemblyman Eric Stevenson of the Bronx was automatically ousted from the Assembly when he was convicted on felony bribery charges. Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak, of Cheektowaga, resigned under pressure after seven women accused him of sexual harassment.

An Assemblyman from the Bronx has been convicted of corruption charges, meanwhile an Assemblyman from the Buffalo area resigned over accusations of sexual harassment.

On the first formal day of the legislative session, Assemblyman Eric Stevenson was convicted of bribery by a federal jury after he took $20,000 from adult day care developers in exchange for promising favorable legislation. Under state law, Stevenson is automatically removed from office.

Leaders of the New York state legislature are in court fighting a request from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s ethics commission that they turn over details about their private law clients.

Assembly Democrats and Senate Republicans are asking a state Supreme Court Judge to quash subpoenas from Cuomo’s Moreland Act Commission, demanding they reveal details of private law clients who pay them more than $20,000 a year. Their attorneys are arguing that it’s unconstitutional for the governor to directly investigate the legislature and it violates the separation of powers.

The state’s Education Commissioner John King faced a bi-partisan grilling by liberal and conservative  members of the Assembly at a hearing regarding growing concerns about student privacy.

As part of the conversion to the national Common Core standards, school districts in New York are required to place more student records, transcripts, and even behavioral information, like absences and suspensions, in online data bases. The data collection is in many cases run by a private vendor, not the local school or the state education department.  

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

The state Assembly Minority Education Forum in Baldwinsville on Monday night brought out parents and educators who are concerned about the controversial new Common Core educational standards enforced in New York state classrooms. This was the fifth of a series of hearings by the Assembly lawmakers about what has become a hotly debated topic.

Office of Assembly Minority Leader Brain Kolb

The Republican leader of the state Assembly is calling for the legislature to return for a special session to wrap up some unfinished business.

The legislature adjourned at the end of June with no firm plans to meet again before next January, but Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb says there’s too much left to do to wait until next year.

“I definitely think we should go back,” Kolb said.  

A coalition of gun rights advocates and others are forming a new political movement to get what they say are disaffected and disenfranchised New Yorkers to vote.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s call for a Moreland Act Commission to investigate the legislature is not the first time a governor created a panel to probe state lawmakers. In fact, Cuomo’s own father did it a quarter century ago, with mixed results.

When Andrew Cuomo’s father, Mario Cuomo, was governor back in the 1980s, he also called on the powers in the now 100-year-old Moreland Act to appoint a commission to look into government corruption.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo did not get all he wanted during the recently concluded legislative session, as abortion rights and campaign finance reform faltered in the final days of the session. But, Cuomo seems to be putting the best face on what he did achieve and is trying to move on with plans that include an investigation of the legislature.

Cuomo began the session in January with a hefty agenda, including an ambitious plan to make New York’s gun control laws the toughest in the nation; and be the first state to react to the Newtown, Connecticut shootings in December.

Assembly passes caps to lower taxes on farmers

Jun 19, 2013

The New York State Assembly passed a bill Tuesday that will cap agricultural land assessment increases at two percent a year.

Previously, agricultural property tax assessments were capped at 10 percent. But in just 15 years, property taxes doubled for family farms.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is calling on Assemblyman Vito Lopez, the subject of a scathing ethics commission report on sexual harassment, to resign from office or be expelled.

The Legislative Ethics Commission released its report on the sexual harassment allegations against Assemblyman Vito Lopez.  It’s conclusions have New York City’s National Organization for Women calling for a vote of no confidence against the still-serving assemblyman, and the Republicans calling for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to resign.

The leader of the New York State Senate Republicans says he regrets the way gun control legislation was rapidly approved earlier this year, and he hopes what he now says was a mistake won't be repeated at the end of the session.

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