Sheldon Silver

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The New York State Legislature is seemingly back to business as usual, with majority parties holding planning meetings and the new session set to begin right after the holidays. But there has been little public discussion about a corruption crisis that has led to the two most powerful men in the Legislature both on trial in federal court this month.

It’s almost as though they’re taking place in two parallel worlds. In federal court in Manhattan, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Leader Dean Skelos are both on trial for corruption.

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A new proposal by the state ethics commission that could restrict campaign donations is raising some questions.

At the Joint Commission on Public Ethics most recent meeting, commissioners discussed a proposal that could change New York’s open ended campaign finance rules. It would ban state officials from taking campaign donations from anyone who that elected official is investigating, or auditing. It would also them from asking for donations from anyone that they are currently suing.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in his first public comments since the leader of the New York State Senate was charged in an extortion and bribery scheme, says if true, he finds the accusations “disturbing.”

Cuomo, speaking at an event in Syracuse, commented for the first time since Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos was charged with six counts of public corruption.

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The leader of the New York State Senate, Dean Skelos, surrendered to federal authorities Monday morning and was charged with six counts of corruption, including bribery and extortion, in connection with an alleged scheme that used his political position to enrich himself and his son.

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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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There’s still no final three way deal on an ethics reform proposal at the state Capitol.  And reform groups say a proposal offered by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Assembly does not go far enough.

The plan by Cuomo and Assembly Democrats requires that lawmakers disclose the source of all outside income they receive above $1,000. Lawyers must reveal the names of their clients if they earn more than $5,000. They would also have to prove they are actually in Albany, through an electronic monitoring system, before receiving their expense payments.

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State Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle says real ethics reform is coming to Albany.

Morelle, a Rochester-area Democrat wouldn’t say whether he thinks former Speaker Sheldon Silver is guilty of a crime. But Morelle said that Silver should have been forced to disclose the source of his outside income.

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Former State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was indicted Thursday on federal fraud and extortion charges. Silver was arrested in January and charged with taking nearly $4 million in kickbacks. 

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Republicans in the New York State Senate are in talks with Gov. Andrew Cuomo about legislative ethics reforms as demands for changes mount after the recent arrest of the former Assembly speaker.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos of Long Island said Tuesday that the goal of the negotiations with Cuomo is "full transparency and strong ethics laws" modeled on effective laws in other states.

The debate hinges on possible limits on the income lawmakers can make from outside jobs - an idea popular with Democrats but opposed by Republicans.

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Democrats in the New York State Senate are pushing for some reforms that directly address problems that led to the arrest and resignation of the Assembly speaker. They want to virtually ban all outside income for lawmakers.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pushing his latest plan for ethics reform in appearances all around the state, following the arrest of the former Assembly speaker on corruption charges. But questions remain whether he will have any more success this time than a deal last year that ended in the shuttering of a corruption commission. Cuomo is once again crusading for stronger ethics laws, now that former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, charged with running a massive corruption scheme, has resigned from his post and been replaced.

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Carl Heastie was elected unanimously by Democrats in the Assembly to be the next speaker, less than two weeks after former Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested and charged with running a massive multi-million dollar corruption scheme.

Heastie, the first African-American speaker in the Assembly’s 237 year history, gave a brief speech to the chamber, where he focused on moving on from the scandal brought on the Assembly by his predecessor.

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The New York State Assembly is poised to elect Bronx Assemblyman Carl Heastie as the next speaker, as Sheldon Silver resigned in disgrace over serious corruption charges.  Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is threatening to hold up the state budget if lawmakers don’t agree to a number of key reforms.

Assembly Majority Joe Morelle confirms that Democrats, meeting behind closed doors, have decided unanimously that Bronx Assemblyman Carl Heastie will be the next speaker.

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The race to replace disgraced Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver seems all but over, with the Bronx Assemblyman Carl Heastie amassing the most support. Silver’s resignation is effective at midnight Monday, and a vote for the new speaker could be held as early as next week.

Morelle announced on Friday that he would drop out of the race and back Heastie. Morelle, while at home in the Rochester area this weekend, told reporters that Heastie is a close friend and that that the two of them had kept in close contact throughout the process.

State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who has held that position for the last 20 years, was arrested recently and charged with several counts of corruption. He's also accused of taking more that $4 million in kickbacks.

After several days of closed door meetings, Silver agreed to step down from his position as Speaker. An election will happen soon in the Assembly to choose a new Speaker, but what happens then.

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Maneuvering for the next speaker of the state Assembly is going on largely behind the scenes and government reform groups say that’s the wrong way to begin a new era in what’s been called the people’s house. They’ve asked the announced candidates to commit to an open process, and want an answer before the weekend.

Julia Botero

In the wake of the downfall of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, North Country Assembly woman Addie Russell says she stands by the presumption of innocence until you are proven guilty.

Russell, a Democrat from Jefferson County, was part of the long two-day of meetings in Albany that ended with a decision to oust longtime Assembly speaker.

Silver will be out of office by Monday. He was arrested late last week on charges of corruption, including taking about $4 million in kickbacks.

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The legislature continued about its business in Albany Wednesday, despite the leadership crisis in the Assembly. Lawmakers held the first in a series of public budget hearings. Meanwhile, several Assembly members officially declared their candidacy to succeed Speaker Sheldon Silver, who will leave the office on Monday.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver will end his long reign as the head of the Assembly on Monday, say the Democratic members of the Assembly who announced they will hold a new election for speaker on Feb. 10.

After two long days of closed door meetings, as Assembly Democrats reacted to the mounting fallout from Silver’s arrest on federal corruption charges, the Democrats now say Silver will leave his post.

But Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle, who will serve as interim speaker for about a week, was cryptic when describing how the speaker will actually exit.  

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Updated, 7:46 p.m.

Democrats in the state Assembly have emerged from two days of closed door discussions on whether, then how, to remove and replace the leader of their conference, who has been charged with corruption.

Assemblyman Joe Morelle, the majority leader from Rochester, told reporters Tuesday evening that Sheldon Silver will be removed from his post.

"On Monday, there will be a vacancy in the office of speaker," he said.

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Update: 9:10 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 27 --

Assembly Democrats are planning to huddle behind closed doors again in Albany today, trying to decide their next move.

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Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is expected to present a plan to Assembly Democrats Monday, in which he would temporarily relinquish his power as Speaker to a small group of Assembly Democrats.  

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Government watch dog groups say the arrest of one of the two most powerful men in the New York legislature on fraud and corruption charges highlights the need for better state laws against wrong doing. Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo admitted that the charges against Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver are “a bad reflection on government."

Silver faces five federal counts, including bribery and conspiracy. He was released on $200,000 bail Thursday.

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Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested Thursday morning and $3.8 million in eight different bank accounts held by Silver have been frozen, as federal prosecutors accuse the speaker of running two fraudulent and corrupt schemes.

Silver was released on $200,000 bail Thursday afternoon.

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Updated, 11:45 a.m.:

The Democratic Speaker of the New York State Assembly was arrested early Thursday morning by federal officials on corruption charges.

The investigation and pending arrest was first reported by The New York Times. It was later confirmed by the FBI. 

Karen DeWitt/WRVO News File Photo

The New York State Senate and Assembly met in Albany to choose new leaders and begin outlining their plans for the 2015 session. The year begins with Republicans in full control of the state Senate, but with a group of breakaway Democrats still enjoying special status.

The State of the State has been delayed for two weeks, due to the funeral of former Gov. Mario Cuomo, the father of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. But under New York’s state’s constitution, the legislature is still required to convene.   

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A government reform group is considering filing a complaint with a state ethics panel over a story in the New York Times that says the Assembly speaker is under federal investigation for failing to disclose pay he received from a law firm.

Blair Horner, with the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), says he’d like to hear from Speaker Sheldon Silver about the details of the speaker’s alleged payments from a law firm specializing in real estate taxes.

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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.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News

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.

Now that the state budget is done, the focus at the Capitol is shifting to other priorities, including whether to allow medical marijuana. Advocates came to the Capitol to lobby lawmakers, but the bill is getting bogged down over political skirmishes.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver caused a bit of a stir when he seemed to say that a bill to legalize medical marijuana might be dead for the year, saying he does not think it has a future in the 2014 session.