New York state Senate

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News

After months of focusing on members of Congress, protesters with the CNY Solidarity Coalition are shifting their attention to the New York State Legislature to push their progressive agenda. They are calling on Democratic state Sen. Dave Valesky to cut his ties with the Independent Democratic Conference. 

Protesters wore black veils and carried fake tombstones at a mock funeral held outside Valesky’s office in Syracuse. Rachel May with CNY Solidarity was among them.

“Dearly beloved, we come here to pay our respects to poor, progressive Bill,” May said.

New York State Senate

After an embarrassing controversy over stipend payments, the beleaguered group of breakaway Democrats in the state Senate is trying to change the subject.

The eight-member Independent Democratic Conference has been the target of some bad headlines lately because some of its members have accepted stipend payments of $12,500 to $18,000 for chairing committees when they were in fact the vice chairs, a position that does not legally entitle a senator to extra pay.

The IDC’s leader, Sen. Jeff Klein, has said repeatedly that it’s all legal.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

There are reports that state senators who received payments for chairing committees that they actually did not chair are now under a probe by the state attorney general and at least one U.S. attorney.

Several Republican and independent Democratic senators were paid stipends allocated to chairs of Senate committees. But the senators weren’t actually the chairs; they had all been designated as vice chairs, a relatively new title. There is no provision in state law to pay stipends to vice chairs.

New York State Senate

The state is one step closer to having ride-hailing services available before the Fourth of July, now that the state Senate has passed a bill to speed up when companies like Uber and Lyft will be allowed to operate in upstate New York.

When state lawmakers agreed to allow the companies to operate outside New York City as part of the budget, they thought that they would pass the legislation by April 1, the start of the new fiscal year.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

The leader of the state Senate Independent Democratic Conference for the first time publicly answered questions from the media about news stories that some of his members received stipends for committee chair positions that they do not actually hold.

State Sen. Jeff Klein defended the practice, while the leader of the Senate Democrats is calling for an investigation.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

There are calls for a criminal investigation of some questionable stipend payments to some New York state senators. One of the senators who received those payments is giving it back, while another is calling the controversy a “witch hunt.”

Several senators who are part of a breakaway group of Democrats known as the Independent Democratic Conference were paid extra stipends — ranging from $12,500 to $18,000 a year — for serving on various Senate committees controlled by the majority party Republicans.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Democrats in the state Senate remain hopeful that they will regain the numerical majority and control of the chamber after a special election is held later this month. But Gov. Andrew Cuomo dampened those expectations, in remarks made Wednesday in New York City.

Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said she expects the seat of former Sen. Bill Perkins, a Harlem Democrat who won a city council post, to be filled by another mainstream Democrat when a special election is held on May 23.

New York State Senate

Bills to improve voter access advanced in a New York State Senate committee, but their ultimate passage is uncertain.

The measures, which would allow same-day voter registration and early voting, were approved in the Senate Elections Committee and moved to a second committee.

Last year, the second committee, on local government, never met before the session ended, but advocates hope that 2017 is different.

Senate Republican Leader John Flanagan cast doubt on the measures, saying he has concerns about potential costs.

Julia Botero / WRVO News File Photo

Republican senators have proposed a state budget for this year that includes $3 million towards helping upstate farmers recover from last summer’s drought, the worst the state has seen in decades. In some cases, the dry summer weather resulted in the loss of entire crops. The federal government designated more than 20 counties national disaster areas due to the severity of the drought.

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Tensions between opposing groups of Democrats in the New York State Senate reached a flash point this week -- over whose faction would be allowed to present their budget priorities for a floor debate. The dispute resulted in an exchange that included some racially charged name calling.

A growing group of eight breakaway Democrats, who rule the Senate in an informal coalition with 31 Republicans, have left regular Democrats smarting for some time now.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

The smallest faction in the divided state Senate, the Independent Democratic Conference, has been permitted by the ruling party Republicans to issue its own alternate spending plan. That has angered the rest of the Democrats.

Currently, Democrats and Republicans in the Senate have the same amount of members – 31 each – but the Democrats are divided, with eight members in a breakaway group that forms an informal ruling coalition with the GOP.

New York State Senate

A faction of breakaway Democrats in the New York State Senate has been gaining members lately, but they are now facing a backlash, including raucous opposition at meetings in their districts.

When Sen. Jose Peralta announced on his Facebook page that he was joining the Independent Democratic Conference, a growing group of breakaway Democrats in the Senate who form a governing coalition with the Republicans, he said he wanted to “deliver a progressive agenda.”

What Peralta did not expect was a backlash in his Queens district.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

The New York Assembly moved Monday to establish New York as a sanctuary state, but the measure faces an uncertain future in the state Senate.

Assembly Democrats are backing measures that would give the entire state sanctuary status for immigrants.

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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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.

New York State Senate

New York State Senate Democrats now have 32 votes in the chamber, which under normal circumstances would mean they hold the majority.

But in the state Senate, it’s more complicated than that.

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If the numbers hold, Republicans are poised to remain in control of the New York State Senate, and even pick up a seat.

The news has reassured business groups but dismayed reform advocates. If the election results hold, Republicans will have the numerical majority when the Senate reconvenes in January.

New York State Senate

Democrats had hoped to make inroads into the New York State Senate. But preliminary results show the Republicans gaining one seat to hold a razor-thin 32-seat majority.

Despite a corruption scandal among Republicans on Long Island, incumbent GOP senators apparently kept their seats, and won an open seat formerly held by a Republican.

In close races in the Hudson Valley, GOP candidates also held on, and in a western New York swing district that includes portions of the Buffalo area, Republicans took the post back from Democrats.

Governor Andrew Cuomo / Flickr

If the state Senate is controlled by Democrats after the election, taxing and spending policies could see some differences. Many Democrats favor extending an income tax surcharge on millionaires when it expires next spring.

New York currently has a temporary income tax surcharge on the wealthy. The additional taxes affect those making more than $300,000 a year, with the rates growing higher for incomes over $1 million, and the highest rate for $2 million or more.

New York State Senate

There’s a greater chance than ever that the New York State Senate could be dominated by Democrats after the Nov. 8 election, meaning many issues stalled in the Republican-led Senate for years would have a possibility of passing. The Assembly has long been controlled by Democrats, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo is a Democrat.

Campaign finance reform, the Dream Act — which offers college tuition support to the children of undocumented immigrants — and more money for underperforming schools are just a few items that might be approved under a Senate controlled by Democrats.

J. Stephen Conn / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said one of the reasons he is actively campaigning for Democrats to take over the New York State Senate is that he believes he will have more success getting ethics changes done without the GOP in charge.

Cuomo, who’s been holding rallies for Democratic candidates in key Senate races, said he thinks a legislature controlled by Democrats will be more willing to approve changes to address a wave of scandals plaguing state government.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Hillary Clinton’s widening lead over Donald Trump is likely to affect downballot races for Congress, where there are several contested seats, and for control of the state Senate in New York, where Republicans are barely clinging to the majority.

As recently as the summer, when the presidential candidates were tied in the polls, leading New York Republicans predicted that the state would be in play for Trump — and that he could even help get downballot GOP candidates for Congress and the state Legislature elected.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo took a step deeper into the partisan politics of the state Senate on Tuesday night, telling two Democratic factions that they’ll have to work together if the November elections go their way.

Cuomo, long an ally of Republicans in the Senate, for the first time headlined a major fundraiser for the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee. He told them that he can no longer rely on Senate Republicans to approve key issues like the Dream Act for children of undocumented immigrants and a reform package that limits campaign contributions.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News File Photo

With less than three weeks before Election Day, Hillary Clinton is even further ahead of Donald Trump in New York state, and that could affect downballot races, including seats for the state Senate.

Clinton is 24 points ahead of Trump, at 54 percent to 30 percent, a jump from when Siena College did a survey in September. Spokesman Steve Greenberg said the biggest change is independents moving over to the Democratic presidential candidate’s camp. A two-point lead among independents for Clinton has grown to a 17-point lead.

New York State Senate

Democrats in New York are trying to keep the heat on Republicans running for office over the coarse remarks made by GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump in a leaked video.

Every day since Friday’s release of the tape — where Donald Trump disparages women in a crude manner — Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, has slammed Trump. And he’s urged New York Republicans to disassociate themselves from the top of their ticket.

“They should stand up and say, ‘I’m a Republican, but I’m a New Yorker first,’” Cuomo said. “‘And we’ll have nothing to do with the degradation of women.’”

-JvL- / Flickr

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.

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A new poll shows that Hillary Clinton is still far ahead of Donald Trump among New York voters — but she has some weak points.

Clinton holds a 21-point lead over Trump among likely New York voters in the Siena College poll, down from a 25-point lead one month ago.

But Clinton has some weaknesses. She is viewed unfavorably by just over half of voters and does not have much support beyond registered Democrats, said Siena spokesman Steve Greenberg.

New York State Senate

The results of a four-way primary for a New York Senate seat may help Republicans keep control of that house in the long run.

Marisol Alcantara won Tuesday’s primary for the Upper Manhattan seat held by Adriano Espaillat, who is running for Congress. Alcantara is a Democrat, but she has said if elected to the Senate in November, she will likely ally with the breakaway Democratic faction known as the Independent Democratic Conference.

PamHelming.com

In the Republican primary for the 54th District state Senate race, Canandaigua Town Supervisor Pam Helming  appeared to be the victor, leading the four other candidates.

Although absentee ballots still need to be counted, Helming was ahead of her closest rival, businessman Floyd Rayburn, by 190 votes.

Longtime state Sen. Mike Nozzolio currently has the position, but is not running for re-election.  However, Helming realizes there is a legacy there.

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. 

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