Politics and Government

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Less than a month after it was enacted, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s new teacher evaluation plan seems to be in jeopardy, with the Regents chancellor calling for a year’s delay and a key senator saying the legislature needs to revisit the issue.

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Asthma rates are on the rise across New York, especially in children.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) has proposed the School Asthma Management Plan Act to ensure schools are equipped to respond to asthma attacks and to help prevent them from happening.

"This bill would ensure that schools have a coordinated response to asthma related medical emergencies, better communication with citizens and access to life saving medication," Gillibrand told reporters.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News

Earth Day 2015 is also the day the New York State Assembly began its transition to a paperless system. Assemblymembers have been given iPads to read bills electronically, and supporters say it will save millions of dollars, and trees.

Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle announced the change on the Assembly floor.

“Today we begin officially with tablets,” Morelle said.

Getting rid of the piles of paper that clutter members’ desks each day required a Constitutional Amendment, which voters approved last fall. 

Karen DeWitt/WRVO News File Photo

The final stretch of the New York state legislative session began as more accusations arose about potential wrongdoing by top legislative leaders.

The session began with a closed door meeting by Senate Republicans, the first time that the majority party members met together since the publication of a New York Times report that says federal prosecutors are investigating Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, and his son, for possible corruption.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News

The head of the state’s largest teachers union predicts that the legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo will have to revisit new teacher evaluation laws passed as part of the state budget, now that almost one fifth of students have opted out of the tests.

New York State United Teacher’s President Karen Magee says the boycott of the third through eighth grade English tests by nearly 20 percent of New York’s students will undermine the new teacher evaluation system that relies more heavily on the controversial standardized tests.  

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News

The New York state legislature returns for the second half of the legislative session, once again under a cloud of corruption, and with numerous unsettled issues.

The session begins Tuesday, after the spring break, and this time it’s the leader of the Senate who is the focus of a federal corruption probe. State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos confirmed that he’s the target of an investigation, after The New York Times reported that U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has convened a grand jury that is looking into some of the senator’s business dealings, as well as those of his son.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

The state attorney general is hoping some new provisions to his bill to cut down on the number of foreclosure properties in upstate cities will help it become law.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman first started going after what he calls “zombie properties” last year. The clever name for homes that sit boarded up in the foreclosure process for long periods of time helped gain buzz, but the bill to put more responsibility on banks to take care of the properties they seize, didn’t go anywhere.

commonwealthfund.org

Five years after its passage, Obamacare still generates heated political arguments, and is exhibit A of the political polarization in Washington.  As the presidential election cycle begins to gear up, we will no doubt re-debate the law.  Just how successful has it been?  Is it achieving its objectives?  As a policy change, what have been its greatest challenges?  

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Sen. Charles Schumer used this year's tax deadline to call for more help for the victims of tax refund fraud, which he said is the most common form of identity fraud.

The New York Democrat told reporters Wednesday that he is pushing legislation that would create a new resource at the Internal Revenue Service for the victims of refund fraud, which he says affected 70,000 New Yorkers and 2.3 million Americans last year.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Syracuse city councilor Chad Ryan has served in the chamber for a fraction of the time as some of peers but he’s also asked a fraction of the questions, in public at least.

Councilor Chad Ryan sits at the end of the table during council study sessions or committee meetings, he’ll often wave off his chance to ask a question. It’s not shyness, he says in an interview, but maybe a little humility.

"I guess I wouldn’t say I’m shy," he said. "Certainly tentative about what you say in the chambers."

Michael / via Flickr

Syracuse residents say the way the city is proposing to update billing for ornamental street lights goes way beyond just nickel and diming taxpayers.

After decades of not collecting fees or updating billing on more than a hundred special lighting districts, Syracuse is trying to update its regulation of ornamental street lights, but it means bills for thousands of city resident could skyrocket.

Courtesy Andy Daddio / Colgate University

Hours after Hillary Clinton formally announced her campaign for president Sunday, several New York officials and fellow Democrats quickly threw their support behind the former Secretary of State, who also served as U.S. senator from New York from 2001-2009. 

The New York State budget process was different this year than years past. There was a new “man in the room,” and there were many significant policy proposals attached to it; some were incorporated and some were tabled for later consideration.  On this week’s edition of the Campbell Conversations, host Grant Reeher breaks down that process with State Senator Dave Valesky, who argues that the process was actually better in many ways.  Valesky also comments on his Independent Democratic Conference, its new role in the Senate, and its future prospects. 

Ryan Delaney / WRVO News

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner is calling on Congress to replenish the highway trust fund, to fix and upgrade the city’s interstates, saying the fund’s stability has implications for the future of Interstate-81.

Whatever the decision on I-81 in Syracuse is, money to rebuild or remove it will come from multiple sources, one those being the federal government. 

Ryan Delaney / WRVO file photo

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner has released what she calls a good, strong budget to the Common Council. The spending plan shows a city that’s emerging from years of fiscal uncertainty. 

The $674 million spending plan won’t raise taxes or water or sewer rates. There are no layoffs of city employees; and there’s increased revenue from building permits, parking garages and meters. There is still a $9 million deficit. But that pales in comparison to the numbers the mayor was throwing around a few years ago, when she suggested the city could go broke. 

Melinda Shelton / Flickr

The changes to the teacher evaluation system that the New York state legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo enacted received much attention in this year's budget debate. The focus has often been on the role of standardized tests in teacher evaluations. But the way the new reforms will change how the classroom performance portion of the evaluation is conducted is now generating some concern as well. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News file photo

New York state Sen. Dave Valesky is among those who are calling this year's budget process a difficult one. The central New York senator and member of the Independent Democratic Conference says that's because of the numerous policy proposals that were included in the governor's original budget plan. 

Valesky says it's not surprising that many of the non-spending items were removed -- like the Dream Act, raising the minimum wage and property tax relief. And the senator says that's probably a good thing. 

NY Assembly Video

The recently completed state budget was the first real test of the new Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s leadership, who became the leader of that house in early February. 

By the time the state budget was voted on,  Heastie, the 47-year-old accountant and former budget analyst from the Bronx, elected to the Assembly in 2000, had  been in his new job for less than two months .

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state legislature approved some significant changes to the state’s education system and how teachers are evaluated going forward. But, before those policies can be implemented, the new system faces a big test -- literally -- later this month.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand faces an uphill battle in getting paid family leave for workers into law.

Gillibrand, a Democrat, wants to make federal law the ability for workers to take extended time off for childbirth or to care for a sick family member. Employees would receive two-thirds pay while they’re away from work, paid for by a small tax to employers and employees, similar to social security reductions on a paycheck.

Durrie Bouscaren / WRVO File

Some observers of this year's state budget negotiations in Albany thought that the process was more complicated than in recent years. And they're not alone. Syracuse-area state Sen. John DeFrancisco says it's amazing the budget ever got done on time.

As the chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, DeFrancisco was intimately involved in the budget talks. The Republican says this year was different because Gov. Andrew Cuomo added legislation like education and ethics reform to the state spending plan.

J. Stephen Conn / Flickr

The New York legislature completed an almost on time budget, around 3 a.m. on the first day of the state’s fiscal year.

One of the final pieces to come together was an ethics reform package, which will provide greater disclosure of lawmaker’s outside income.

But critics say it does not go far enough.

The ethics changes would deny pensions for lawmakers convicted of serious crimes. The provision requires a constitutional amendment. 

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

The city of Syracuse is taking a stand against Indiana’s controversial religious freedom law. Mayor Stephanie Miner says the city is banning any official travel by city employees to Indiana.

“I think it’s an important step particularly given our history of being an open and welcoming community, and saying that we value all people and the decisions that all people make.”

Chris / via Flickr

Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner says the recently approved state budget took an important first step towards fixing water systems across the state. 

Miner was happy to see a $200 million fund earmarked for fixing water and sewer systems in the spending plan. Getting state support to fix aging infrastructure, is something she, other municipalities and a statewide coalition have been vocal about for months.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers finalized deals on education and ethics and passed the budget early Wednesday.

Legislators began passing the final budget bills in the late afternoon, with only a few hours left until the deadline. The Senate passed the spending plan before the midnight deadline, while the Assembly finished voting just before 3 a.m. Wednesday.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News file photo

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) traveled to upstate New York for the first time since his name has surfaced as the next likely Democratic leader in the Senate.

Harry Reid (D- NV), the current senate minority leader, announced last week he would retire in 2016, and then quickly said he would back Schumer to succeed him.  While it will be up to the Democratic senators to elect their next leader, other potential candidates have said they would support Schumer.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Even before the final details of the education changes in the budget are revealed, teachers’ unions are already claiming partial victory in their war of words with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Chris Nelson / via Flickr

State lawmakers have not yet finished the budget, but they are already getting blowback from a provision that would give a tax break to owners of luxury yachts.

The budget includes a sales tax break for purchases of boats worth more than $230,000, as well as for private airplanes. That angers Ron Deutsch, of Fiscal Policy Institute,  a union backed think tank that backs Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to give a property tax break for middle and working class homeowners who pay too much of their income on taxes.

Governor Andrew Cuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo began the budget season with an ambitious agenda than included a wide array of items that he tied to the budget, including raising the minimum wage, the Dream Act, and reforming the state’s grand jury process. In the end, the governor was forced to retrench on nearly every measure.

Cuomo spent a week in January rolling out his ambitious budget agenda, which contained plans for a new criminal justice system for teens who commit serious crimes and a major upstate economic development program. 

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.

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