New York State Legislature

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s acting tax commissioner took heat Tuesday from Democrats and Republicans in the state Legislature over delays in the STAR rebate program. The hearing was interrupted by protesters who want higher taxes on millionaires.

Lawmakers changed the rules of the STAR school property tax rebates so that new homeowners would get their rebates by the end of September to use them toward their tax bills. That was September 2016. Five months later, some senators and Assembly members say they are hearing from constituents who still have not received their money.

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Lawmakers grilled Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s economic development chair Wednesday at a budget hearing, as some of the programs are embroiled in a corruption scandal that’s led to charges against several former associates of the governor.

Nine people have pleaded guilty or been indicted in connection with alleged bid-rigging and other corruption charges involving some of Cuomo’s economic development programs. They face trial later this year.

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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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One of the chief arguments over the state budget will be whether to renew an income tax surcharge on New York’s wealthiest.

The state is facing a $3.5 billion deficit, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to add a billion dollars to the state’s public schools. He also wants to offer free tuition at public colleges for families making less than $125,000 a year.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is due to release his budget on Tuesday, and agencies that work with those with intellectual disabilities are among those hoping for more funds. They say they need help to pay workers the new higher minimum wage.

New York’s minimum wage is going up over the next few years, to $15 eventually in New York City and lesser amounts upstate. Groups that provide services for the developmentally disabled rely on Medicaid reimbursements to pay their workers, and they say they’ll have a hard time meeting the higher wages without more money from the state.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo has ended his six-city State of the State tour, speaking for nine hours total, according to his estimates, and traveling over 1,200 miles — with one emergency helicopter landing thrown in for good measure.

But the departure from the traditional speech before lawmakers at the Capitol has its advantages and its drawbacks.

The governor began the multi-day rollout of his agenda right after the winter holidays during an appearance with Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT), who is still popular among New Yorkers on the left after his presidential campaign.

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While many state lawmakers were not in attendance at Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s regional State of the State speeches, one person who is tagged along to all the six speeches, is state Republican Party Chair Ed Cox.

Cox says he’s always gone to the State of the State speeches in the past. And even though he’s not allowed in the regional events that are taking the place of a State of the State in Albany this year,  Cox is offering his opinion to reporters after speeches are over, this particular time in Syracuse.

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governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is doing something different with the State of the State this year. Instead of delivering a speech in Albany to lawmakers who will have to approve his proposals, he’s giving six mini speeches in three days all around the state. Legislative leaders will not be attending.

New York State Senate

The new year for the state legislature has begun in discord, with an absent governor and Republicans in the Senate vowing to take a harder line against Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo. 

The year began without Cuomo, who abandoned the tradition of conducting a State of the State speech on the first day of the session in favor of giving a presentation on airport renovations to a group of business leaders in New York City. He’ll do speeches across the state later. 

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Susan Rahn's doctors first discovered cancer in her back a few years ago. They traced its to her breast, and she's now at Stage 4 -- a terminal diagnosis. Rahn changes her medication every three months to fight the pain.

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New York lawmakers are returning to Albany this week to begin their work for 2017. This year's agenda includes proposals to modernize the state's voting rules, address government corruption and permit the ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft to expand upstate.

Other prominent proposals include legislation to allow the terminally ill to request life-ending medication from a physician and a bill to end the state's practice of prosecuting 16- and 17-year-olds as adults.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans to take his yearly State of the State address on the road this year, instead of delivering the speech to lawmakers in Albany. That is not sitting well with Senate Deputy Majority Leader John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse).

DeFrancisco says traditionally the message is supposed to be given the first full day of the legislative session, which this year would be January 4. Cuomo, though, won’t be offering his view of how New York State is faring to lawmakers that day. Instead he’s taking the legislative message to six regions across the state, starting Jan. 9.

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An ethics reform proposal quietly circulated between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders for a possible special session that also could include a pay raise is getting blasted by the state’s attorney general as possibly unconstitutional.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Advocates for the homeless say the governor and legislature don’t need to call a special session to free up more money to help create more housing for those in need. They say political leaders could simply sign an already printed memorandum of understanding and start helping people now.

Kevin O’Connor, director of Joseph’s House in Troy, read the names of homeless clients who have passed away in the past year – people he said died too young.

Matt Ryan / New York Now

Discussions over a December special session has turned to finger pointing, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Senate Republicans blame each other over lack of progress.

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If Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers hold a special session next week, they are likely to consider whether to allow ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft to operate outside of New York City. 

Ride-sharing services have stepped up their lobbying and ad campaigns in hopes of winning approval to expand into upstate and on Long Island by the end of the year, including a $1 million campaign by Uber. The ad, in part, says, “There’s one thing New Yorkers really want for Christmas this year. And it isn’t a one-horse sleigh.”

New York State Senate

One central New York state lawmaker doesn’t want to go into special session in Albany this month to vote on legislative pay raises, at least the way it’s being discussed now.

State Sen. John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) says he’s opposed to voting on any kind of legislative package that links a potential pay raise to some of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s pet proposals.

"If there’s a proposal for a legislative pay raise tied into anything else, to me, that’s a perfect example of pay to play,” said DeFrancisco.

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Talks between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders are still continuing over whether to hold a special session before the holidays — and the clock is ticking.

State lawmakers are still deliberating over whether to hold a special session in December that could, in part, give themselves a pay raise. The salary increase also could extend to Cuomo and his top commissioners.

It would be the first pay hike granted in 17 years for lawmakers, who make a base salary of $79,500.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pressuring state lawmakers to come back in December for a special session that includes a number of reform items to address recent corruption scandals.

In exchange, he said, they could potentially be rewarded with a pay raise.

Cuomo is trying to convince state lawmakers to return to the Capitol before the end of the year to hold a special session. The governor is seeking some reforms, including changes to the state’s procurement process for contracts, saying he wants a “tighter system.”

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Will there be a special session of the legislature this December? Gov. Andrew Cuomo is offering lawmakers an incentive to come back to meet — a possible pay raise, in exchange for ethics reforms.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News File Photo

State lawmakers with disabled children, along with people with developmental disabilities and their caregivers, rallied Monday at the state Capitol for more money in the budget to pay caregivers a living wage. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the legislature approved a gradual minimum wage increase to $15 an hour downstate and $12.50 an hour upstate, saying mega-companies like McDonald’s and Burger King can afford to pay their workers more.

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Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente’s proposed 2017 budget was met with thunderous applause from the Oneida County Board of Legislators Wednesday. It calls for no increase in the county’s property tax rate for the fourth year in a row. Picente said while the county's taxpayers may praise him, this trend cannot continue. 

“For us in county government there are no more airports to sell, retirements to defer or Nation agreements to settle," Picente said.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo is distancing himself from the corruption scandal within his administration and placing the blame on others. But some say Cuomo might be better off making some changes instead.

Cuomo has made a number of public appearances across the state, continuing to promote economic development efforts, just as he did before U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara charged several of Cuomo’s former close associates and two major real estate developers with bribery and fraud in connection with the Buffalo Billion and other projects.

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It’s looking less likely that state lawmakers will be getting a long-awaited pay raise next year. A commission designed to take politics out of the issue is now coming under political pressure to not grant the salary increase.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News File Photo

One top Republican New York state lawmaker doesn’t think there is any kind of new law that will end the public corruption in Albany.

State Sen. John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse), who is deputy Senate majority leader, says he hears all the time from New Yorkers who say state laws should be changed to stop public corruption in Albany. But DeFrancisco notes that recent cases of corruption all involved elected officials or aides breaking the current laws.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Syracuse University researchers are hoping an academic study of sustainable transportation can help convince state lawmakers to allow ride sharing services like Uber in upstate New York. 

The year-long study looks to identify alternatives to the way many people get around in upstate New York; one person driving a car. SU architecture professor Tarek Rakha, who’s leading the study, said that includes something New York state law currently doesn’t allow upstate -- ride sharing, through services like Uber or Lyft.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

On a state primary day, and during a hotly contested presidential campaign, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday issued a somewhat nonpartisan message to New Yorkers: Vote — or don’t complain about the results.

Cuomo did not address the latest controversies surrounding Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, nor did he advocate for more Democrats in the state Senate, as some Democrats have urged him to do.

For the first time in more than 20 years, the state senate seat in New York's 54th district is open. A crowded field of mostly Republican candidates are vying to replace longtime Republican State Sen. Mike Nozzolio, who's retiring. The district encompasses all or portions of Ontario, Wayne, Seneca, Cayuga, Tompkins and Monroe counties. 

The town of Canandaigua's supervisor Pam Helming is considered the GOP favorite. She won endorsements from all six of the county Republican parties. Helming said her top priority in Albany would be to roll back regulations. 

unshackleupstate.com

Republicans fared better than Democrats in pro-business group Unshackle Upstate’s rankings of state legislators who are seeking re-election in November.

Unshackle Upstate’s Greg Biryla said overall, GOP lawmakers did better than Democrats when ranked on issues that business groups care about, such as holding the line on taxes and spending.

He said Assembly Republicans, the smallest conference, scored highest.

“They had numerous members who received 100, overall,” Biryla said. “They were the only conference to achieve that.”

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

New York state’s Republican Party chairman is talking up Donald Trump and predicted that the GOP presidential candidate will do well in New York state.

Ed Cox said Trump has been looking presidential lately, appearing in Mexico alongside that country’s president, and visiting flood-ravaged Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Cox said Trump’s strength is that he’s a “self-made politician.”

“And a genius of a politician, you have to admit,” Cox said.

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