New York state Senate

Governor Andrew Cuomo / Flickr

In last week's State of the State Address, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a proposal to raise the minimum wage to $10.50 per hour across the state and $11.50 in New York City by the end of 2016. The increase isn't a done deal though.

State business leaders criticize the measure they say would force them to slow hiring and cut hours.

Sharon Stiller, a Rochester-based employment law expert, says any change will affect state businesses.

Durrie Bouscaren / WRVO File

New York state Republicans are working together with breakaway Democrats in the state Senate. Syracuse-area Republican Sen. John DeFrancisco says it’s a relationship that worked in the past, though it's different this year.

Two years ago Republicans faced the proposition of being the minority party in the state Senate, so they struck up a deal to share power with the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC), a group of five breakaway Democrats.

Durrie Bouscaren / WRVO File

Influential central New York State Sen. John DeFrancisco is retiring today, but he’ll go right back to work tomorrow.

DeFrancisco, a Republican from Syracuse, is 68 years old. That means he’s been eligible to retire as a state employee and collect a pension for the past three years. He’s finally doing so, even though he was re-elected to office in November and plans to continue to serve in the Senate.

401(K) 2012 / Flickr

New York state lawmakers are pushing for their first pay raise in fifteen years, and say in exchange they might be willing to give up the practice of a daily stipend for each day they spend in Albany, known as per diems, that has sometimes led to abuse.

Legislators receive $172 for every day that they spend in Albany, above normal travel and lodging expenses, and in addition to their $79,500 annual base pay.

Karen Dewitt

Advocates of raising the minimum wage see hope in recent statements by the leader of the state Senate, and hope a deal can be struck by the end of the year.

Republican Senate Leader Dean Skelos, whose party will control the Senate in January, says while he thinks the state’s gradual increase of the state’s minimum wage to $9 an hour next year is good enough, he’s willing to at least discuss raising it higher. Skelos, after meeting with Republican members, says he also wants a pay raise for senators.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO

The leader of the state Senate Republicans says his members will once again join forces with a group of breakaway Democrats to rule the Senate come January. Sen. Dean Skelos says his members also want a pay raise.

Republicans won a bare majority of 32 seats in the 2014 elections and Skelos, following a two-hour closed door meeting with his Republican members, says the GOP will once again form a coalition government with Sen. Jeff Klein, the leader of the Independent Democrats.

-JvL- / Flickr

The New York State Senate will likely miss a deadline to approve Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s latest choice for the state’s high court. As a result, there will be six judges instead of seven on the court come December.

The vacancy on the state’s highest court is occurring because the 14-year term of Judge Victoria Graffeo expires at the end of November. Graffeo, a widely respected Republican chosen by former Gov. George Pataki, could have served for eight more years before reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70, had Cuomo, a Democrat, chosen to reappoint her.

-JvL- / Flickr

All three propositions on the New York state ballot passed Tuesday. Supporters of the measure to change the redistricting process say the vote shows New Yorkers are hungry for reform.

Voters approved a change in the state’s constitution that will require the legislature to appoint a commission to redraw state Senate, Assembly and congressional district lines after the 2020 census.

Dick Dadey, with Citizens Union, a group that supported the amendment, says the 57 percent of voters who said yes shows that the public craves reform of the present system.

-JvL- / Flickr

The New York state Senate got swept up in this year's Republican election wave, with 33 districts in their corner after the votes were counted.

The dean of central New York’s Senate delegation, state Sen. John DeFrancisco, said that’s good news.

On the flip side, it means difficulty for central New York's Democratic Assembly members to push through key agenda items, and reduces the influence of Sen. Dave Valesky, who DeFrancisco shares representation of Syracuse with.

Durrie Bouscaren / WRVO File

Recent polls show Republican candidates for state Senate in New York are ahead of their Democratic opponents, offering the GOP new hope that they can retain some control of the Senate chamber in January.

Polls conducted in five battleground Senate races show Republican candidates ahead of their Democratic opponents, even when the Democrat is an incumbent. If they were to win all five seats, they would likely gain control of the state Senate in January.

Matt Ryan, New York Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has forged his public image as a bipartisan governor, working with both Democrats and Republicans. But the governor has also promised a left-leaning minor party that he would help shift control of the state Senate away from the GOP, and help Democrats regain control of the chamber. The governor has been walking a fine line between the two parties ever since.

NYS Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment

Reform groups are split over the merits of a November ballot item to change the way new legislative and congressional districts are drawn in New York.

Some groups see the amendment as an opportunity to finally end rampant gerrymandering of Senate and Assembly districts in New York.  Others fear it would just solidify legislative control of a process that allows legislative leaders to draw districts that suit their own political interests.

unshackleupstate.com

An upstate pro business group is out with ratings for the Senate and Assembly, and finds, not surprisingly, that more liberal Democrats are at odds with the group’s agenda than conservative leaning Republicans. Unshackle Upstate says that could have implications for the group’s interests if Democrats take over the Senate in November.

When the New York State Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference joined in a majority coalition with Republicans in 2012, it claimed that the arrangement would provide more up-or-down floor votes on progressive legislation.  In announcing a new intention to caucus with Democrats following this November’s elections, the IDC is claiming that the arrangement will provide….more up-or-down votes on progressive legislation.  How can both claims be true?  That question and others related to political power-sharing arrangements are explored with this week’s guest on the Campbell Conversations—IDC

Senate Republicans have a new strategy in what’s shaping up to be an election battle for control of the New York state Senate. They say now that a group of breakaway Democrats is abandoning them and rejoining the rest of the Democrats, the Senate will be dominated by New York City liberals who won’t care about upstate and Long Island.

The five-member Independent Democratic Conference  announced it would break its nearly two-year-old  alliance in ruling the Senate with the Republicans, and plans to join the Democrats in a coalition government after the November elections.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO

Senate Independent Conference Leader Jeff Klein says even though his group now plans to realign with the Democrats in the Senate, he won’t rule out working with Republicans in the future.

Durrie Bouscaren / WRVO File

Upstate will be the big loser if a new power change in the state Senate goes through, according to one high ranking state Senate Republican.

Syracuse-area state Sen. John DeFrancisco says if history tells us anything, it’s that upstate New York doesn’t fare well when downstate Democrats control all branches of government in New York state.

"Upstate will be shafted, to put it in the vernacular, if New York City is running everything again," DeFrancisco said.

He says voters need to know how upstate will be affected by the power shift.

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Jean Kessner has gotten her wish and will likely drop her challenge of state Sen. Dave Valesky in Democratic Party primary.

Kessner, a Democrat herself and Syracuse Common Councilor, was circulating petitions to challenge Valesky (D-Oneida), unless he rejoined the mainstream Democrats in the state Senate.

Valesky has been a member of the Independent Democratic Caucus, which controls the Senate along with the minority Republicans, since 2011.

-JvL- / Flickr

Two Democratic factions in the New York State Senate say they are joining to form what could be a strong Democratic majority in the Senate, leaving Republicans, who up until now have ruled the chamber in a coalition government, out of power.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Syracuse Common Councilor Jean Kessner continues collecting petition signatures for a possible Democratic primary run for the state Senate seat held by Dave Valesky (D-Oneida). On Tuesday, Kessner supporters rallied in front of the State Office Building in Syracuse.

Kessner says she only wants to run if Valesky stays aligned with the Independent Democratic Conference, a group of breakaway Democrats that, along with Republicans, control the state Senate.  

Karen Dewitt / WRVO

Sponsors of a medical marijuana bill continued to negotiate with Gov. Andrew Cuomo over the governor’s objections to many of the measure’s provisions, but say they are hopeful that a deal can be reached in the next couple of days.

State Senate Co-leader Jeff Klein is optimistic about the chances for a medical marijuana law in New York.

“My prediction is we’re going to end this session on a high,” Klein quipped after a lengthy closed-door meeting with Cuomo and the Senate and Assembly sponsors of the bill.

Brett Levin / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said today that there's still a chance the state legislature could pass a medical marijuana bill that he would sign.

Only five days remain in this year's session, and the governor had previously said that he it was unlikely any major issues would pass by then. But in an interview today with the public radio show "Capitol Pressroom," Cuomo declared that medical marijuana legislation is not dead.

'Erin's Law' faces hurdles to passing in New York state

Jun 11, 2014
Office of Dave Valesky

For the third year in a row, the New York State Senate passed "Erin's Law," a bill requiring schools to teach age-appropriate sexual abuse and assault awareness to children in pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade.

Erin Merryn, a victim of sexual assault, has come up against some hurdles in her campaign to make it a law in New York state.

When Merryn was six years old she was sexually abused by a neighbor. When she was eleven she was sexually abused again by a cousin for two years. She stayed silent for years.

Office of Sen. Patty Ritchie

State Sen. Patty Ritchie wants to lift some of the restrictions on the use of utility task vehicles in New York state. Right now, UTVs can only be used legally on private property and cannot be registered in the state of New York. Smaller ATVs weighing up to 1,000 pounds can be widely used and registered with the state.

Zack Seward / WXXI

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is downplaying the chances of any major agreements before the legislative session ends later this month.

The governor, who has already vowed to replace the current Senate leadership coalition of Republicans and breakaway Democrats, says he does not expect any deals on big ticket issues before the legislature leaves for the summer.

“We have some clean up items,” Cuomo said. “I don’t expect us to do any major initiatives.”

Democrats and their allies in the legislature say there’s little chance anything major can be accomplished in the remaining days of the legislative session. Those pushing a Women’s Equality Act are already looking ahead to the fall campaigns as the next step.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is downplaying expectations for any major agreements in the final days of the legislative session.

“We have some clean up items,” Cuomo said. “I don’t expect us to do any major initiatives.”

Wallyg / via Flickr

The 2014 legislative session has just eight working days left to go, with the closing day scheduled for June 20. As lawmakers prepare to return for the final two weeks, there’s uncertainty whether anything will get done, now that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has publicly vowed to try to oust the current Senate leadership. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO

Democrats in New York state are vowing to take control of the Senate from the coalition leading it now, made up of Republicans and five breakaway Democrats.

Oneida’s Sen. Dave Valesky, a founding member of the Independent Democratic Conference, says he’s staying committed to the power sharing structure, even as some Democrats are calling on him to leave it.

Many members in the more progressive wing of the Democratic party, like Blue Carreker, campaign manager of Citizen Action of New York, wants Valesky to caucus with fellow Democrats.

-JvL- / Flickr

Democrats in the New York State Senate say they are taking Gov. Andrew Cuomo at his word to help them regain the majority, despite some indications that he might be walking back some of the promises he made at the Working Family Party’s convention Saturday night.

Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins says she’s holding Cuomo to the promise he made to the Working Families Party, to regain Democratic control of the state Senate.

“He has to,” Stewart-Cousins said.

Zack Seward / WXXI

Gov. Andrew Cuomo won the endorsement of the state’s left-leaning Working Families Party in a messy convention vote that stretched to nearly midnight on Saturday night.

Some members of the party have been upset because they believe the governor has not been progressive enough and they're unhappy with Cuomo's support for business-friendly tax cuts and charter schools.

Cuomo did not attend the contentious meeting, but he did send a pre-produced video, and some of the party members booed when he later phoned in some comments.

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