New York state Senate

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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.

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State lawmakers wrapped up the 2016 legislative session at around 5 a.m. Saturday morning, agreeing to take steps to cancel the pensions of convicted lawmakers in the future, legalizing daily fantasy sports and extending New York City’s mayoral control law for another year.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News

The state legislature was closing in on an end-of-session deal that would strip convicted lawmakers of their pensions, extend mayoral control of New York City schools for one more year, and legalize daily fantasy sports gambling.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

State Senate Republicans in the Elections Committee cast a vote on closing a campaign finance loophole, which has played a role in recent corruption trials of the former leaders of the legislature. But the act could doom the measure for the 2016 legislative session.

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The New York State Legislature has been on a three-week break. In their absence, federal investigations into aides close to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio have intensified, spurring even more calls for reform. Also, both former leaders of the legislature will be sentenced in the next few days on multiple felony convictions.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News

Government reform groups say you can add one more item to the long list of reforms that they believe are needed in Albany. They say limits are needed on campaign contributions to county political committees. The committees collection and distribution of money factor into a growing criminal case against New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, and upstate Senate races in 2014.

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Tuesday is not only New York’s presidential primary, it also the day for two special elections to replace the disgraced former leaders of the legislature who lost their seats after being convicted on multiple felony corruption charges.

One of the races is to replace former Senate Leader Dean Skelos, a Republican who is now facing a lengthy prison term on corruption convictions.  

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State lawmakers were down to the wire on meeting the state budget deadline and voting went beyond the midnight deadline, into Friday, once all of the budget bills were finalized.

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When the state budget is approved next week it will likely not include a discount for frequent users of the New York State Thruway. The legislature has rejected Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to use some of the state’s surplus to subsidize tolls.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he’s working on a proposal to give New York farmers a break should the State Senate agree to a plan to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Cuomo says he’s putting together a “special modification” for the agricultural industry to help offset potential costs of increasing the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.

“There are special conditions on farms, we understand that,” Cuomo said  after an event in Niagara Falls. “And we’re putting together a special package for farmers. Because they pose a unique problem.”

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New York Senate Republicans are offering a budget proposal that includes $100 million for Oswego County's James A. FitzPatrick Nuclear Power Plant.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Senate Republicans say their version of the state budget will include a 9-year phase in of tax cuts that would eventually total a 25 percent reduction for middle class taxpayers.

GOP Leader John Flanagan said when the Senate majority releases it’s budget plan later in March, it will include a phase in of over $4 billion in tax cuts. They include an extension of a temporary tax cut for middle income earners, which would gradually be reduced to a rate of just over 5 percent for those who make $300,000 a year or less.

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A proposal to raise New York’s minimum wage is taking center stage in this year’s budget negotiations in Albany. And with just over three weeks left before a budget deadline, the stakes are getting higher and noise on both sides is getting louder.  

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A bill to make it legal for terminally ill patients to end their lives is being debated in the New York legislature. While many have compelling personal cases for allowing the practice, others, including the Catholic Church, remain opposed.  

Amy Paulin, an Assemblywoman from Westchester, is sponsoring a bill to allow what’s become known as Aid in Dying, after the wrenching experience of her sister’s battle with stage four ovarian cancer.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO file photo

Senate Democrats are optimistic about their chances for winning a special election in April to replace convicted ex-Senate Leader Dean Skelos .

Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins, in an interview with public radio and television,  predicts the Democratic candidate in the race for the Skelos seat, Assemblyman and former prosecutor  Todd Kaminsky, will do “quite well”, and represents “a break from the past”.

“Which frankly, voters out there deserve and need,” Stewart Cousins said.

Kaminsky faces Republican Attorney Chris McGrath.

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Tensions between upstate state senators and the mayor of New York City were highlighted during a budget hearing on aid to local governments in Albany when lawmakers questioned the mayor for more than five hours.

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A budget watch dog group is giving Gov. Andrew Cuomo a mixed grade on his budget proposals, saying he’s done a good job reigning in spending, but is making a mistake by shifting some significant costs to New York City.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

The New York State Senate held a confirmation hearing for  Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s choice for the state’s chief judge, Westchester District Attorney Janet DiFiore. Meanwhile, Cuomo appointed another nominee to fill the final vacancy on the court -- Michael Garcia, who as U.S. attorney, brought down former Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

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The New York State Senate held a hearing on raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. While Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Assembly Democrats support the phase in to a higher wage, many senators remain uncommitted.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

The opening day of the legislative session featured talk of ethics reform, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo chose to be elsewhere, putting off his traditional State of the State message for another week, and giving speeches in Syracuse and New York City instead.

The Senate and Assembly convened  for the first time since both leaders of the legislature were convicted of multiple corruption charges in late 2015 and now face potentially decades in prison.

The Independent Democratic Conference is calling for state ethics reform once again. In past years, the group of breakaway Democrats have proposed a new system for campaign contributions and limits on outside income.

Now, the IDC is hoping the conviction last week of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver will lead to change in next year's legislative session.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Uber and other ride sharing services are gearing up to win permission from the state legislature to operate in areas outside New York City. State Senators held a round table discussion of how to craft legislation.

Senators appear open to allowing Uber, Lyft, and other ride sharing services to operate in New York state, as long as they can come up with the right rules. Sen. Phil Boyle, chair of the Commerce and Economic Development Committee co chaired the discussion.

Scott Reif

The state Senate’s newest member, Fred Akshar, known for his chain-saw wielding ad, says he intends to be independent, including from his predecessor Tom Libous, who resigned the seat after a felony conviction.

Republican Fred Akshar wins Southern Tier special election for State Senate

Nov 4, 2015
Charles Compton / WSKG News

In a special election Tuesday, the GOP in New York’s Southern Tier maintained its fifty year hold on the 52nd Senate District. 

Broome County Undersheriff Fred Akshar took over three-quarters of the vote and easily defeated Democrat Barbara Fiala. Akshar succeeded by labeling Fiala as an Albany insider.  She had served in the Cuomo Administration as commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles.

“You’ve chosen a new direction. New ideas. You said enough of the negative, partisan politics of the past.  You said it’s time to change Albany,” said Akshar.

Bret Jaspers / WSKG News File Photo

A special Senate race in the Southern Tier is favored to be won by the Republican in the race.

Deputy Sheriff and GOP candidate Fred Akshar is leading in the polls in the heavily Republican district.

“I will fight for your interest and your needs, and I will never allow Albany to change me,” Akshar said at a debate on WSKG.

His opponent, Democrat Barbara Fiala, did not get the support she expected from the Democratic  Party and Governor Cuomo .

“If elected, I’m going to Albany to fight for this area,” said Fiala, who called herself an “independent voice”.

Bret Jaspers / WSKG News File Photo

There’s only one political race Tuesday that directly effects New York state government, and that’s a special election for a state Senate seat in the Southern Tier. The Republican candidate is far ahead.

The Senate seat in Binghamton and surrounding areas is vacant, because its former occupant Tom Libous, who was the deputy Senate majority leader, has been convicted on felony charges of lying to the FBI over obtaining a politically connected job for his son. He is now awaiting sentencing.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

A recent poll shows the Republican candidate ahead in the all-important race for state Senate in the Binghamton area. Republicans across the state are keeping a close watch on a special election that could tip the scales of power in Albany.

The Time Warner Cable News/Sienna College poll shows 59 -percent of voters polled are ready to support Republican Fred Akshar, with only 31 percent prepared to vote for Democrat Barbara Fiala. That’s good news for Deputy Senate Majority Leader John DeFrancisco of Syracuse.

Bret Jaspers / WSKG News File Photo

New York’s political world is focused on a race in the Southern Tier that could help determine the future of the state Senate.

The Deputy Majority Leader of the State Senate, Tom Libous, was convicted of lying to the FBI over obtaining a politically connected job for his son, and had to resign his seat in late July. The Binghamton based Senate district has held by Republicans for the past 100 years, and has included former Senate Leader Warren Anderson.

Bret Jaspers / WSKG News

There is now a Republican candidate for the New York State Senate seat formerly held by Sen. Tom Libous. Broome County Undersheriff Fred Akshar announced his candidacy today.

The race could decide which party controls the New York State Senate.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

Don’t expect the decision last week by the New York State Wage Board to boost the minimum wage for New York’s fast food workers to $15 an hour to be the end of the story. At least one central New York lawmaker expects this to be the beginning of a bigger debate.

For Syracuse-area Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli, there’s no question that the state’s minimum wage should be upped to $15 an hour for everyone.

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