New York State Legislature

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

The families of people killed in encounters with police met with Gov. Andrew Cuomo Tuesday. They say the governor promised them he would issue an executive order to name a special prosecutor to investigate the deaths of their relatives, but only if the legislature does not approve Cuomo’s plan to create an independent monitor to look at such incidents.

Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, who died after police on Staten Island put him in a chokehold, says Cuomo gave them time to speak.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is calling the education reforms he was able to get into the just-passed state budget part of an ever-evolving process.

In an interview with The Capitol Pressroom, the Democratic governor says change can be traumatic, but it is necessary. Cuomo was able to convince lawmakers to change the teacher evaluation system, putting more emphasis on testing rather than classroom observations. 

"The only standard metric is going to be the test. The other side, the classroom observations, are going to be different in each classroom," he told host Susan Arbetter.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders reached a framework agreement for a budget deal late Sunday night and hope to begin passing bills today to meet the midnight Tuesday deadline.

There are still some details to be worked out, including the specific amounts of school aid to each district in the state from a $1.5 billion increase, but Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie says the deal is mostly complete.

Four new members join NY Board Of Regents

Mar 11, 2015
New York City Department of Education/via Facebook

New York’s Board of Regents has four new members, after an election Tuesday by the state Assembly and Senate.

Beverly Ouderkirk, Catherine Collins, Judith Johnson and Judith Chin are joining the board, which oversees education policy at New York state public schools and colleges.

Six regents were up for reelection this year, but only three of them kept their seats. That’s unlike last year when all but one of the incumbents got reelected. This year there was also an empty seat on the board, so in all, there are four new members.

Cuomo criticized for 90-day email deletion policy

Mar 10, 2015
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Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been getting some bipartisan criticism from state lawmakers over an email policy that erases all electronic correspondence of state employees after 90 days.

The policy to delete the emails of state employees after three months has been in place for some time, but is only now being enforced. It was revealed during a recent budget hearing, where Cuomo’s Chief Information Officer Maggie Miller testified before skeptical state lawmakers .

State education boards: Who's got the power?

Mar 9, 2015

When New York legislators vote on seven new Board of Regents members on March 10, they’ll act out a vision that dates back to 1784. That’s when the state formed its Board of Regents, which supervises almost every facet of school instruction.

New York chose an unusual method for selecting new regents: a vote by both houses of the legislature, with no input from the governor.

J. Stephen Conn / Flickr

This is the third year in a row family planning advocates are lobbying for passage of the Women’s Equality Act in Albany. Supporters say they are optimistic about its future, despite some opposition.

Three years isn’t a long time to get legislation passed, says M. Tracey Brooks, president of Family Planning Advocates of New York State.

"That’s young in legislative years,” she said.

The package of ten bills has failed in the past, because of point number ten, which would bring the state’s legislation on abortion in line with the federal standard of Roe v. Wade.  

NYSenate.gov

In the wake of the arrest of former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on corruption charges, many legislators and the governor have floated proposals for ethics reform. Republican State Senator Joe Griffo (R-Rome) is pushing for a change he started fighting for even before this latest scandal -- term limits.

Karen DeWitt/WRVO News File Photo

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.   

Governor Andrew Cuomo / Flickr

Education will be a big issue in 2015. Lines are already drawn between public school teachers, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and the charter school movement.

Before the New Year even began, the state’s largest teachers union was already making its displeasure with Cuomo known, by protesting outside the governor’s mansion.

New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) President Karen Magee says teachers are angry over what they see as the governor's increasingly negative view of their union and the public education system in general.  

Wallyg / via Flickr

A new poll finds New Yorkers don’t want legislators to gain a pay raise if they agree to ethics reforms by the end of the year.

The Siena College poll finds that 63 percent of New Yorkers oppose a pay raise for state lawmakers, who earn a base salary of nearly $80,000 a year for what is technically a part-time job. 

Siena spokesman Steve Greenberg says voters also say, even though they would like to see reform measures as well as other issue resolved, they still don’t think legislators should be allowed to trade agreements on these items for more pay.

Wallyg / via Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo tamped down hopes for a special session of the legislature before the year ends, saying legislative leaders have still not agreed to ethics reforms that the governor is seeking. Cuomo says he also wants more time to develop a comprehensive criminal justice reform package.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli says $5 billion in extra money that New York is reaping from bank settlements should not be viewed as a surplus, and should not be spent as though there will be more money coming in the future.

“I wouldn’t call it a surplus,” DiNapoli said. “It’s really more of a windfall.”

And so the comptroller says it should not be used for recurring expenses, like tax cuts or increased school aid, as some legislators have suggested.

Durrie Bouscaren / WRVO File

Talks reportedly continue behind the scenes in Albany regarding a pay raise for New York state lawmakers and other officials. The dean of central New York’s Senate delegation agrees an increase should be in order.

Some government staffers in Albany make more than the lawmakers or state officials they work for. That’s something to consider when it comes to a group of people who haven’t had a raise in 15 years, says Syracuse-area Sen. John DeFrancisco.

William Hartz

Advocates for a higher minimum wage are urging for better wages for workers who rely on tips. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has promised to create a committee to consider raising the minimum rate for the workers, and the groups say they have evidence that an increase is needed.

Currently, tipped workers in New York are not covered under a new law that allows the state’s minimum wage to increase to $9.00 an hour by 2016.  The minimum wage for workers like waiters and pizza deliverers who receive tips is still set at $5.00 an hour.

Derek Key

Fireworks are a staple of Fourth of July celebrations. But one statewide organization is worried about sparks that will start flying in backyard pyrotechnics displays this weekend.

More fires are reported on July 4th than any other day of the year, according to the Fireman’s Association of New York State. And 60 percent of all fireworks injuries happen in the weeks immediately before and after the holiday.  

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Updated, 3:50 p.m.:

After a lengthy debate of several hours, the medical marijuana bill was approved in the state Senate, and now goes to the desk of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has said he'll sign it. 

Sponsor Sen. Diane Savino says she’s "gratified" by the larger than expected number of yes votes, including some surprise votes from traditionally conservative senators.

James F Clay / Flickr

A tentative agreement has been reached by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the legislature to put off the effects of the controversial Common Core tests on teachers for another two years.

Earlier this year the Democratic governor and the legislature imposed a moratorium on the Common Core tests effects on students, now that postponement moratorium extends to teachers who received poor ratings on their annual evaluations as a result of low scores by students on the controversial new tests.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders have agreed to a package of bills combating heroin addiction, and say they are still discussing other issues, including medical marijuana, as the legislative session draws to a close.  

Cuomo calls the measures to curb the heroin abuse epidemic his top priority for the end of the 2014 session. He says the legislation will require health insurance companies to pay for more treatments.

“Insurance companies, frankly, can’t play games and decide who gets treatment and who doesn’t get treatment,” said Cuomo.

The legislative session is scheduled to end on Thursday, and many issues remain unresolved. But a low-key end of session might not matter much to New York’s top political figures.

The chances of passage for several key issues promoted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, including a Women’s Equality Act and public campaign finance appear dim, due to opposition from Senate Republicans.

The end-of-session gridlock grew worse after  Cuomo pledged to the left leaning Working Families Party that he would work to end the GOP’s partial control in the Senate and replace them with Democrats.

New York could be key state in GMO labeling debate

Jun 16, 2014
Robert S. Donovan / Flickr

New York state is shaping up to be a key decider in the debate over labeling foods that contain genetically modified ingredients as a labeling law is becoming one of the final debates of the state legislative session.

A bill requiring foods to be marked as scientifically engineered is under debate in the state Legislature, after being approved by an Assembly committee.

Environmental advocates are pressing the state legislature to renew a toxic site cleanup program before the session wraps up in a few days, even though there seems little interest in taking up any big issues in Albany.

Environmentalists are holding up the toxic site cleanup program’s renewal as a measure of a successful legislative session. 

Both the Assembly and Senate have versions of a bill to renew a cleanup program for old industrial sites, known as brownfields. But environmentalists are calling on the governor to urge legislative leaders to act on the bills.

The state legislature replaced one member of the State Board of Regents, but allowed three others to remain, in elections held for the state’s top educational policy board.  

The vote featured complaints from Republican Senators, who voted against all of the candidates  to demonstrate their displeasure with the state’s implementation of the new Common Core.

Senate Republicans, who attended the joint legislative vote for the first time in several years, voted against nearly all of the Regents candidates.  

Wallyg / Flickr

State Senate Republicans say they will break a long-standing tradition of boycotting the election of new Regents. They now say they will attend a joint legislative session, and that many will vote “no” over dissatisfaction with the Common Core.  

It’s uncertain whether all four of the incumbent Regents members will be re-elected.  

Senate Education Chairman John Flanagan says Republican Senators will be attending a joint session of the legislature Tuesday to appoint members to the New York State Board of Regents to new terms. But he says many GOP members plan to vote no.

The state legislature has finished its hearings on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal, and will be ready to start crafting a spending plan once they return from the President’s Day break. One of the final hearings focused on the governor’s tax cutting plans, and lawmakers had plenty of questions.

Legislators at the hearing quizzed Cuomo’s tax commissioner on a plan that could result in a freeze of local property taxes. Tax Commissioner Thomas Mattox admits it’s a complex plan.

“This is clearly a very complicated space,” Mattox said.

Sponsors of a bill to require the labeling of genetically modified foods, or GMO's, say they hope they have better luck this year advancing the legislation after it died in committee late last session.

The bill would require that all genetically engineered food sold in New York be clearly labeled. Assembly Sponsor Linda Rosenthal, a Democrat, says the measure would give consumers the choice of whether they want to buy genetically altered food, or not.

The Cuomo administration is moving ahead with a bill to allow limited access to medical marijuana. The governor's health commissioner told lawmakers at a budget hearing that the program could be up and running within a year, but his claims were met with some skepticism.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s health commissioner, Dr. Nirav Shah, told lawmakers at a recent budget hearing that he prefers the governor’s plan for limited medical marijuana in New York, rather than a broader program backed by some in the legislature.

Wallyg / Flickr

Some top state lawmakers seem to be changing their minds over whether to call special elections for a growing number of vacancies in the legislature.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver now says he wants voters to pick new legislators to fill 11 vacancies. And Gov. Cuomo now says he is looking at the issue.

Silver had said special elections to fill the nine vacancies in the Assembly and two in the Senate might be pointless, since new members could not be seated before the budget is done, and that he did not expect the legislature to do much work after late March.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO/file photo

There’s continued dissatisfaction over the state’s implementation of the new Common Core standards, which parents, students and teachers have complained has led to too much testing. But there’s disagreement in the state legislature over how to fix it.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO

Patients with serious health conditions, including children with a severe seizure disorder, came to the state Capitol to urge passage of a bill to better allow access to medical marijuana in New York.

Kate Hinz is one of dozens of people who came to the Capitol on the first formal day of session to lobby for the bill to allow medical marijuana in New York as a treatment for a variety of medical conditions. Her daughter Morgan has Dravet’s syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy that is incurable and very difficult to treat with conventional drugs.

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