New York State Legislature

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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.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

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.

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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.

Duffy proposes state lawmakers form upstate caucus

Aug 26, 2016
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State lawmakers in upstate New York should form an "upstate caucus." That idea was floated this week by Bob Duffy, the former lieutenant governor, who is now president of the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce.

Duffy says upstate lawmakers should join in a bipartisan way, to help advance the interests of the region.  As an example, he points to the recent bills approved raising the minimum wage, which did address the different economic needs of upstate and downstate.

Governor Andrew Cuomo / Flickr

An ethics reform measure approved by the New York State Legislature at the end of the legislative session still hasn’t been signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. And some good-government groups say it shouldn’t.

During a year where both former leaders of the legislature were sentenced to lengthy prison terms for corruption after they abused their sources of outside income, Cuomo said he would seek to strictly limit lawmakers’ ability to earn extra pay.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News File Photo

State Sen. John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) said a report released late last Friday only deepens his skepticism about Start-Up NY, the Cuomo administration’s economic development program that offers tax breaks to companies that set up shop in certain educational zones. A report on the multi-million dollar program was released three months late and showed just over 400 jobs were created in two years. Defrancisco said a lack of transparency about the program is one of the problems.

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It was Assemblywoman Pamela Hunter’s (D-Syracuse) first legislative session in Albany this year. The assemblywoman said while much was accomplished at the end of the session in June, many issues she is still pressing for many issues that were left on the table.

Paid family leave, increasing the minimum wage and requiring schools test for lead in the water are three big issues Hunter was happy to see passed in this year’s legislative session.

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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.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

The five Oswego County legislators who failed to fill out their oath of office cards on time will likely not have to run for their seats again this fall. A bill forgiving their mistake passed both chambers of the New York State Legislature and is awaiting the governor's signature or veto.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

Central New York lawmakers are celebrating the state legislature's decision to shift payment of indigent legal services from the counties to the state. It's one of many so-called unfunded mandates that have long been a source of contention for local governments, which are left to pay picking up the tab for the decisions that are made at the capitol.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Hoosick Falls residents came to the Capitol on Wednesday to demand hearings on the water crisis that has revealed high levels of a toxic chemical in many people’s bloodstreams. They did not get hearings but did get a private meeting with a top aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

With the legislative session down to the wire, groups for and against bills — including expansion of Uber ride services and ethics reform — came to the Capitol to make their voices heard.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

As part of the push to end the legislative session by Thursday, state lawmakers representing Hoosick Falls — where water has been contaminated with PFOA — want to extend the statute of limitations to bring lawsuits against polluters.

The bill would extend the current statute of limitations law to allow a three-year window between when a contaminated area is declared a Superfund site and when New Yorkers can file a lawsuit.

The Senate sponsor, Sen. Kathy Marchione, who represents Hoosick Falls, said it’s a top priority for her in the remaining days of the session.

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