New York State Legislature

Joseph Morris / Flickr

Regulations surrounding the use of electronic cigarettes and the liquid nicotine that fuels them continue to increase in New York state, but anti-smoking activists are hoping for more.

The Clean Indoor Air Act of 2003 prohibited smoking in public places, but that doesn’t automatically apply to the newest trend in tobacco use, e-cigarettes, says American Heart Association Spokeswoman Kristy Smorol.

NY Assembly Video (file)

Legislative leaders continued meeting behind closed doors with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, one day before lawmakers are scheduled to return to the Capitol. The legislature extended its session for another week after failing to reach agreement on how to renew New York City’s rent laws. The laws are temporarily renewed until Tuesday.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, following talks with the governor, says it’s a hopeful sign that he, Cuomo and Senate Leader John Flanagan are still in communication.

“We’re still talking,” Heastie said. “Things are better, but we’re not close.”

-JvL- / Flickr

It turns out the legislative session will not be ending as planned and will continue on for at least another week.

After a week of gridlock, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders decided to take a break and adjourn for five days. Before they left, they renewed New York City’s expired rent laws, but only until Tuesday.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Leaders of all of the state’s local governments, as well as unions representing teachers and public workers, are warning state lawmakers not to simply renew the state’s property tax cap without some changes.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

The legislative session is expected to  continue for at least longer than scheduled, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders remain gridlocked on extending New York City’s rent laws, and have not settled a host of other issues. The session was supposed to end Wednesday.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, following a private meeting with Cuomo, says he expects the session to last at least another day, as they continue to struggle with renewing the now expired rent regulations.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is promising police and firefighters in New York City a better deal on their disability benefits, as a budget watch dog group warns against the proliferation of end of session bills that give union workers more benefits.

Cuomo made a rare appearance at a rally, held by firefighters and police union members from New York City, to support their push for better disability benefits.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo acknowledges that the cloud of corruption over the Capitol is making it harder to achieve end of session deals. Cuomo says currently, there are no deals on any end of session issues, including renewal of New York City rent laws and a related property tax cap, or an education tax credit the governor is pushing.

The governor says the renewal of a tax break for real estate developers, known as 421a, has become problematic, because any changes to the law benefits “some political interest.”

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Lawmakers are struggling to reach end of session deals, as the corruption scandals and on going federal investigations seem to be hampering their progress.  

With just over one week left until the session is scheduled to end, lawmakers seem far apart on many key issues. New York City’s rent regulations expire next week, along with a property tax break for real estate developers who agree to set aside some of their project for affordable housing, known as 421a.  

Max Klingensmith / Flickr

A large number of New York’s students refused to participate in state tests this year. Now, their cries may have been heard in Albany.

Advocates estimate the so-called “opt-out” movement had almost 200,000 students, and all those test booklets sat empty for a lot of different reasons. Some opt-outers dislike New York’s new teacher evaluation system that ties ratings more closely to student test scores. Others say kids just take too many tests these days.

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.

stgermh / Flickr

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
stgermh / Flickr

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
New York State Senate

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 News file photo

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 / Flickr

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.  

dank depot / via Flickr

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.

New York State Senate

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.

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