Sheldon Silver

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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.

-JvL- / Flickr

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.  

governorandrewcuomo / via Flickr

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.

azipaybarah / Flickr

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.

Azi Paybarah / via Flickr

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.  

governorandrewcuomo / via Flickr

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.

azipaybarah / Flickr

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.

azipaybarah / Flickr

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.   

azipaybarah / Flickr

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.

-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.

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.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders are still struggling to come to a final budget agreement, after the time for an expected announcement came and went on Friday.

Optimistic lawmakers had predicted a final accord on the budget by mid day Friday, but in the end, were unable to achieve that goal.

Update as of 7:00 a.m. Friday:

Legislative leaders say they expect to have a final agreement on a state budget later today. They need a deal by midday in order to be on schedule for an on time budget when the fiscal year ends on Monday.

Update as of 4:45 p.m. Thursday:

Legislative leaders are less hopeful now that a budget agreement can be reached Thursday because there are too many unresolved details.

When the budget deal is finally reached in Albany, average New Yorkers will have had little access to the details of the important items that Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers are discussing. That's because the longtime Albany tradition known as "Three Men in a Room" continues.

The only difference from the decades long tradition of three men in a room budget negotiations is now there are four men in a room. The Senate is led by a coalition of Republicans and breakaway Democrats, and so has two co-leaders.

Wallyg / Flickr

State lawmakers say it’s likely the state budget will include a moratorium on the effects of school exams administered in connection with the controversial Common Core learning standards.

The state Assembly already passed a bill to delay the effects of the new Common Core tests on students and teachers, after widespread complaints that schools and the state education department were not adequately prepared to make the needed curriculum changes.

Legislative leaders say they are working together and are close to a budget agreement, after last week's blow up that left the Senate and Assembly leaders negotiating separately with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The legislative leaders, following a two-hour, closed-door meeting with the governor, seemed in high spirits. Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos gave his oftentimes rival Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver a hug.

“Look how much I love Shelly,” Skelos said with a laugh.

Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo enlisted the aid of some local government leaders to promote his tax freeze proposal, which has been losing ground in the New York state legislature.

Cuomo, surrounded by several county executives from across the state, promoted his plan, which is not supported in the state legislature. He says he’s signed up 150 local government leaders as supporters.

“It is a bold proposal, I understand that,” said Cuomo. He predicts the more people hear about it, the more they will support it.

On Wednesday, both houses of the legislature are due to release their one-house budget proposals, which they will then use to negotiate a final spending plan with Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, in an interview with PBS's New York Now and public radio stations, says Assembly Democrats are not yet on board with part of Cuomo’s plan to cut the estate tax.

A new poll finds New Yorkers remain confused about the worth of the new Common Core learning standards, which schools in the state are in the process of adopting.

The Siena College poll finds voters are divided over the program, with around the same amount saying they are not confident that Common Core will result in better preparing students to be college or career ready, as those who say that the new learning standards are on the right track.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO

Assembly Democrats passed a one-house version of the Dream Act, a bill to give college aid to the children of undocumented immigrants, and urged the Senate to follow suit.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who calls the Dream Act a top priority, blamed opposition among Senate Republicans for the measure’s failure to advance in the upper chamber. And he says the breakaway Independent Democrats in the Senate, who are in a coalition government with the GOP, need to work to bring the bill to the floor for a vote.

http://www.corningareaschools.com/index.cfm

Board members of the Corning-Painted Post School District voted last week to step out on its own. Beginning next year, the district will no longer be using the state designed curriculum.

Michael Ginalski, Superintendent of the Corning-Painted Post School District, says the roll-out of Common Core was flawed from the beginning. “What we were trying to do was change the tire on a car while the car was still running with this initiative,” he said.

James F Clay / Flickr

The leaders of the New York state legislature are urging the state Board of Regents to delay the effects of the new federal Common Core standards for at least another two years.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is asking the state Board of Regents and the state Education Department to slow down their rapid adoption of the Common Core standards. Currently, the results of student scores on the new high stakes testing will be used to evaluate teachers this year, but Silver says that should be delayed for another two years.

Wallyg / Flickr

Some top state lawmakers seem to be changing their minds over whether to call special elections for a growing number of vacancies in the legislature.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver now says he wants voters to pick new legislators to fill 11 vacancies. And Gov. Cuomo now says he is looking at the issue.

Silver had said special elections to fill the nine vacancies in the Assembly and two in the Senate might be pointless, since new members could not be seated before the budget is done, and that he did not expect the legislature to do much work after late March.

knittymarie/flickr

Hundreds of school children, parents and union members held a rally and sit-in at the state Capitol to build momentum for more spending on schools in the state budget.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO

Patients with serious health conditions, including children with a severe seizure disorder, came to the state Capitol to urge passage of a bill to better allow access to medical marijuana in New York.

Kate Hinz is one of dozens of people who came to the Capitol on the first formal day of session to lobby for the bill to allow medical marijuana in New York as a treatment for a variety of medical conditions. Her daughter Morgan has Dravet’s syndrome, a rare form of epilepsy that is incurable and very difficult to treat with conventional drugs.

The legislative session begins with the New York State Assembly still plagued by sexual harassment scandals.  Seven women have now accused a Buffalo-area assemblyman of sexual harassment.

Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak , of Cheektowaga, has now been accused of sexual harassment  by a seventh woman. Another assemblyman, Micah Kellner, of Manhattan , has been censured by the Assembly Ethics Committee for alleged sexual harassment.

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