Politics and Government

Political news

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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.

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Cuomo administration officials who are devising regulations for medical marijuana in New York say it’s unlikely any patients in the state will get the drug before 2016.  They say they are working through the details of how to implement the program, but there are still many unanswered questions.

Aides to Cuomo say they’ve made some progress on figuring out how to manage a medical marijuana system that is still technically illegal in the United States.

The preliminary rules on how to carry out New York’s medical marijuana program are due by the end of the year.

It’s looking less and less likely that state senators and Assembly members will get a pay raise as a holiday present this year, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers still have a number of issues they need to resolve before the year ends, ranging from the siting of gambling casinos to how to close a Thruway deficit and whether to go ahead with hydrofracking.

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Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner will soon have an innovation team to help develop new ways to solve city problems.

Syracuse is one of a dozen cities to win a grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies to create an innovation team. Miner says they’ll look at using big data to solve some of what she calls the city’s "intractable problems."

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A state panel is examining whether workers whose income is supplemented by tips should receive an increase in the minimum wage. The wage board, appointed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, has held hearings and will make its decision early next year.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO/file photo

United States Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) is supporting the nearly $1 trillion omnibus spending bill now under consideration in Congress. One reason is the inclusion of money that will help municipalities fix broken sewer systems.

Schumer says negotiators were able to lock $1.4 billion in the final budget bill for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund that offers municipalities grants or loans to fix sewers.  

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.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO

New York state Lt. Gov. Robert Duffy gave what was likely his last public address at an awards ceremony for the Regional Economic Development Councils, where he was praised by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and others.  

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Support organizations that work with immigrant farm workers are trying to understand how President Barack Obama's executive action affects people in upstate New York.

"We've won a small victory but we really have a huge fight in front of us," said Carly Fox, an organizer with the Worker Justice Center of New York. She describes her reaction to Obama's announcement as bittersweet.

Fox works with many individuals who won't qualify for deportation relief, and it turns out, that's not uncommon.

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Look for a feeding frenzy in Albany next spring, when lawmakers have to figure out to do with about $5 billion in unexpected cash.  A group called Rebuild New York Now is creating a coalition of government leaders, organized labor and private business to urge Albany to spend the windfall on fixing the state’s declining infrastructure.

There are growing calls in Albany for a special prosecutor to investigate police encounters with unarmed citizens that end in the death of the person.  Senate Democrats are the latest to ask for immediate action in the wake of the death of Eric Garner and other recent incidents.

The state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has already asked Gov. Andrew Cuomo for an executive order to empower the attorney general to investigate and, if warranted, prosecute cases where unarmed civilians are killed by police officers.

-JvL- / Flickr

The New York Times is reporting that federal investigators are probing outside income paid to the New York state Assembly speaker, among other lawmakers. A reform group says the article is one more reason Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the legislature should adopt long overdue ethical changes.

Susan Lerner, with Common Cause, says legislators are finding that if they don’t change their policies they are increasingly finding themselves in the crosshairs of federal prosecutors. She says her group hopes to convince them to do so.

Republican John Katko, who beat incumbent Dan Maffei to represent the 24th Congressional District, has picked for his senior staff a mixture of familiar central New York faces, an experienced Capitol Hill staffer, and colleagues he has worked with before.

Familiar to many in Syracuse is Tom Connellan, who has worked for the Syracuse Police Department for 25 years. Connellan will become Katko's district director, leading the local staff here in central New York. Connellan has most recently been the press spokesman for the Syracuse police.

Sheriff-elect O'Neill selects undersheriff

Dec 8, 2014
Julia Botero / WRVO

Jefferson County Sheriff-elect Colleen O'Neill has selected retired state trooper Sgt. Brian McDermott as  her new undersheriff. O'Neill made it a point during her campaign that, if elected, she would work to restore the department's tarnished reputation caused by allegations of sexual  harassment in 2012.  

O Neill, who also retired from the New York State Police, says she has known McDermott throughout his career. She says she trusts him and his ability to bring respect back to the sheriff's department through hard work and honesty.

Richard Ravitch has had a life full of significant public service positions in New York City, and has assumed those positions at critical times.  He has a memoir out, titled So Much To Do.  In this conversation with host Grant Reeher, Ravitch looks back on some of those experiences, and argues that a sense of collective responsibility and shared sacrifice were the keys to overcoming the challenges, and considers how those qualities are faring in today's political climate.

David Guo / Flickr

A federal loophole is letting some dangerous trucking companies continue to operate in New York state. But U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer is looking to close it by calling for stricter tracking measures that would keep dangerous trucking companies off the road.

“Rather than pay the fine or face repercussions, some (trucking companies) dissolve and reapply for permitting under a different name," Schumer said. "They’re called chameleon carriers. Same owners, same employees, same vehicles, just a different name.”

Don McCullough / Flickr

There are 57 fire departments is Onondaga County, which is nearly twice as many as the number of municipal governments. That’s just one example of the issues facing a task force on government consolidation. Tallying the number of government agencies is the first job.

There are 36 municipal governments in Onondaga County, from the city of Syracuse to tiny Marcellus. Each also has its own public works department. With government costs rising and population – or really, the tax base – shrinking, the county has been looking at ways to consolidate services.

Karen DeWitt/WRVO News

  Opponents of hydrofracking say they want Gov. Andrew Cuomo to declare a three- to five-year moratorium on fracking in New York state. The gas drilling process has been on hold for several years.

A coalition of groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, say Cuomo should immediately issue an executive order postponing any gas drilling. NRDC’s Kate Sinding  says that’s preferable to trying to get a bill passed through a divided state legislature, where the state Senate will be controlled by the Republicans in January.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

    

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Democratic primary opponent, Zephyr Teachout, has joined up with the state’s Working Families Party to criticize what she says is a Wall Street hedge fund takeover of  the state’s educational policies.

Teachout, who was spurned by the Working Families Party when it endorsed Cuomo for re-election, has now joined with elements of the party to push back on proposals to lift the state’s cap on charter schools.

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Congressman-elect John Katko is finding out more about what his responsibilities will be when he is sworn in to the House of Representatives in January.

It won't become official until next week, but preliminarily it appears that Katko will serve on two committees, Homeland Security and the Transportation and Infrastructure committees. The first plays to the Republican's experience as a former federal prosecutor, as Katko dealt with border issues while working in El Paso.

wadester16 / Flickr

In January, the state’s highest court will have two fewer judges. Only five of the seven slots will be filled, due to a mandatory retirement and delays by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Senate over confirmation hearings.

Judge Robert Smith, a well-respected jurist appointed by former Gov. George Pataki, will leave the Court of Appeals at the end of 2014 because he’s reached the mandatory retirement age of 70.

Gov. Cuomo has until mid-January to announce his choice for a replacement. Smith’s departure means that in the first month of 2015, the seven-member court will have just five judges on the panel. The state Senate has not yet confirmed a replacement for the previous vacancy, which occurred earlier this fall.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s proposal to change the way the military deals with sexual assault cases could come up for another vote in this month’s lame duck congressional session.

Gillibrand (D-NY) fell five votes short last spring of getting a bill passed that would overhaul military sexual-assault policies. But she says she wants to bring it up again, attaching it to a military authorization bill that has to be approved by the end of the year.  

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

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.

Office of the Attorney General (file photo)

New York state finds itself with a five billion dollar surplus -- something that hasn't happened in a while. It's thanks in large part to bank settlements orchestrated by the office of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

In a recent interview, Schneiderman said the money should be put in a special infrastructure fund. The attorney general says regions with economic problems hardest hit by the housing crash should be targeted to receive some of the funds.

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.

Ellen Abbott/WRVO

Syracuse residents who don’t shovel sidewalks during the winter are again escaping a fine. The Common Council has again rejected a proposed fine for property owners who don’t shovel their sidewalks after a snowstorm.

There were too many concerns from councilors ahead of the vote Monday and it was defeated 7-2.

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.

  Last September Zephyr Teachout challenged Andrew Cuomo for the Democratic nomination for governor, and claimed 33 percent of the vote, more than anyone predicted at the start of her run.  The Fordham law professor now has a book out on corruption in American politics, and in this episode of the Campbell Conversations, host Grant Reeher talks with her about that, and about her experiences on the campaign trail.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

An independent review board has found fault with the Cuomo administration’s attempts to convert a federal clean water fund loan into construction work for the New York State Thruway’s Tappan Zee Bridge.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

State lawmakers say they want to act quickly to spend the state’s growing $5 billion surplus on an infrastructure fund to fix up roads and bridges, among other things. At a think tank sponsored conference on the state’s infrastructure, participants said there are deep needs and they warn lawmakers not to spend the money frivolously.  

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