Recent Posts
NYC Blogs
Click here for a list of NYC blogs
Newsfeeds
Search This Blog

Bloomberg: Obama support of same-sex marriage is civil rights 'turning point'
May 9th, 2012

Mayor Michael Bloomberg called President Barack Obama’s newly announced support for same-sex marriage “a major turning point in the history of American civil rights.”

“No American president has ever supported a major expansion of civil rights that has not ultimately been adopted by the American people — and I have no doubt that this will be no exception,” Bloomberg said in a statement today.

President Barack Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage during an interview earlier today with ABC’s Robin Roberts. The president’s official announcement of his evolution on the matter came a day after he visited Albany, N.Y., accompanied by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The governor, who championed the landmark passage of same-sex marriage legislation in New York last year, told reporters in Albany earlier today that he did not discuss the subject with Obama.

Bloomberg has long been a supporter of same-sex marriage.

Though the billionaire mayor has not announced whether he will endorse a candidate in the presidential race, his support would be valuable for attracting independent voters.

By on May 9, 2012, 3:58 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Civil Rights,Eye on Albany | 2 Comments »

| More

RSS Feed RSS Feed


MMA Beaten by Assembly
May 8th, 2012

Yesterday Assembly Democrats decided not to advance a bill that would legalize and have the state sanction mixed martial arts. The Senate has passed the bill a number of years only to see it stall in the Assembly. One of the bill’s most outspoken opponents, Assemblyman Bob Reilly has announced his retirement this year and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said he was torn about the legislation so boosters thought this might be their year.

They were wrong. In a closed door meeting yesterday the bill was shelved–meaning it won’t come to a vote this year. The Ultimate Fighting Championship–the largest organization that puts on MMA fights and has a television contract with FOX–said the Assembly was acting in an “un-American” fashion.

The controversial sport where men and women use multiple types of martial arts to knock each other out, submit each other with jiu jitsu or win on points, is now legal in every state except New York and Connecticut. The UFC has promised that the state will reap major financial rewards and see tourism boosts in west and upstate New York where the economies are flagging. But the UFC’s real goal is to hold an event at Madison Square Garden. Such an event would be seen as a coming out party for the UFC as a legitimate, mainstream sport.

How important is it to the UFC? The merchandise stands at the I-Zod center in New Jersey where they held an event this past weekend were stocked with shirts that read UFC NYC in a fashion aping the classic red and black RUN DMC shirts.

Madison Square Garden has made it clear that they want UFC to come to town. But legislators like Assembly Majority Leader Ron Canestrari say the sport is “brutal” and goes against the anti-bullying and messages of tolerance. However the UFC insists the struggle to have the sport legalized in New York is actually tied to labor unions in Las Vegas that are upset with the UFC’s owners the Fertitta brothers who also own Station Casinos.

By on May 8, 2012, 4:15 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | Comments Off

| More

RSS Feed RSS Feed


Liu Weighs in on GENDA
May 8th, 2012

City Comptroller John Liu is all for the Gender Expression Non Discrimination Act that has been passed in the state assembly and introduced in the senate by Sen. Daniel Squadron.

All people deserve equal protection from discrimination. New Yorks Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act is a necessary and overdue extension of civil rights that will ensure that people cannot be fired or otherwise subjected to bigotry based on gender identity or expression,” said Liu is a statement. “We are grateful to Assembly Member Richard Gottfried and State Senator Daniel Squadron for pushing forward this legislation.

According to the Empire State Pride Agenda, “GENDA would extend basic civil rights protections to all New Yorkers based on their gender identity and expression.”

By on May 8, 2012, 2:44 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Eye on Albany,Gotham City | Comments Off

| More

RSS Feed RSS Feed


Obama in Albany
May 8th, 2012

The Capital Region is abuzz about President Barack Obama’s visit to UAlbany’s School of NanoScale Science and Engineering. Obama will deliver a speech on the economy. For those of you who don’t know–the nanotech school is attached to the UAlbany campus and it has been gradually, or should I say, quickly expanding over the years. The high-tech building it resides in looms over the road to Albany’s biggest mall like some sort of alien space craft and now construction has begun on a major expansion with a cool bridge doohickey that will eventually allow gear heads to safely cross over mall traffic in space age comfort.

Anyway it is all pretty neat and the President will certainly get to have the opportunity to pose with funky head gear/head covering as the building features clean rooms and workers routinely wear neat-o space suit looking things.

Last time the president visited the area local businesses broke out the stops to try to attract his attention. His patronage of Five Guys in DC had local chain restaurants crossing their fingers. But this time it is a strip joint called Shenanigans that is trying to lure in Secret Service members.

Of course no one is as excited to have Obama in town as the politicians themselves. Democrats and Republicans are tripping over themselves to take credit for the nano college.

This dry press release may not convey his joy but Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is definitely amped by the President’s visit.

Read the rest of this entry »

By on May 8, 2012, 1:16 pm
In category: Albany,Economy,Eye on Albany | 6 Comments »

| More

RSS Feed RSS Feed


Williams Calls for State to Raise Minimum Wage
April 30th, 2012

Councilman Jumaane Williams has introduced legislation in the City Council calling on the State to pass a bill increasing the minimum wage. “I am proud to be joined by a number of my colleagues, including Speaker Quinn, in the active support of an increase to our state’s minimum wage,” Williams said in a statement. “Along with other wage-related legislation we are addressing today, the Council has the ability to show its support of New Yorkers who cannot afford to live in the city they have helped make great. New York State should not be behind the curve on minimum wage, yet we somehow are. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have rates higher than that mandated by the federal government, and a number of states have indexed future increases to the cost of living. Economists have shown that raising the minimum wage is a job creator, not a job killer. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the increase in spending that will result from the minimum wage increases passed in eight states in 2012 will lead to an additional $366 million in economic output and create 3,000 jobs.”

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver supports a minimum wage increase but the measure faces a major obstacle in the form the Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos who adamantly opposes the an increase.

By on April 30, 2012, 2:52 pm
In category: Albany,City Hall,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

| More

RSS Feed RSS Feed


Cuomo Creates Education Reform Commission
April 30th, 2012

The office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo is touting some unflattering figures about New York’s educational system today–“73 percent of New Yorks students graduate from high school and 37 percent are college ready.” The stat is contained in the official press release announcing the creation of the New York Education Reform Commission, a group that will meet across the state to gather input on education and then make recommendations to the governor by Dec. 1 2012, or, “such other date as the Governor shall advise the Commission.” So you know expect recommendations on their time. Here is the full release from Cuomo’s office:

Read the rest of this entry »

By on April 30, 2012, 12:58 pm
In category: Albany,Education,Eye on Albany | 8 Comments »

| More

RSS Feed RSS Feed


Cuomo Establishes Health Exchange
April 12th, 2012

No. 42
E X E C U T I V E O R D E R
ESTABLISHING THE NEW YORK HEALTH BENEFIT EXCHANGE
WHEREAS, the implementation of a Health Benefit Exchange and other reforms in New York will: (1) result in lower premiums for individuals and small businesses; (2) allow individuals and small businesses purchasing coverage through such Exchange to receive $2.6 billion in federal tax credits and cost sharing subsidies; and (3) provide one million additional New Yorkers access to affordable, comprehensive health insurance, reducing the percentage of New Yorkers who are without health insurance;
WHEREAS, a state that chooses to operate its own Exchange must demonstrate to the federal government, by January 1, 2013, that its Exchange will be able to begin accepting applications by October 1, 2013, and will be operational by January 1, 2014, and if the state does not demonstrate operational readiness of its own Exchange, its residents will be required to participate in a federal Exchange;
WHEREAS, the State of New York is best positioned to: (1) understand the ramifications of operating an Exchange within New Yorks commercial insurance market; (2) consider the unique regional and economic needs of the States individual and small business health insurance markets; (3) account for the diversity of its population, with its ethnic, cultural and language differences; and (4) decide what benefits will be provided to enrollees in the Exchange, which health plans can participate in the Exchange, what rules should apply to the marketing of products by health plans, and how to operate the Small Business Health Option Program (SHOP) for small businesses;
WHEREAS, the Affordable Care Act requires an Exchange to evaluate the eligibility of individuals for Medicaid and other public health coverage and enroll them if eligible, meaning that it will be essential to coordinate the operations of the Exchange with the States administration of these programs;
WHEREAS, the taxpayers of this State subsidize the costs associated with care for the 2.7 million New Yorkers without health insurance, who frequently forego preventive care and other needed treatment, putting them at risk of being sicker throughout their lives and dying sooner than those who have health insurance, which diverts funds from other public uses and costs state and county taxpayers more than $600 million annually just to pay for a portion of the services rendered by hospitals to people without insurance;
WHEREAS, New Yorks uninsured working families often earn too much to qualify for public health insurance, but not enough to purchase coverage that costs, on average, over $1,200 per month for an individual and $3,450 per month for a family of four;
WHEREAS, small businesses, without assistance, cannot afford to purchase health insurance coverage for their workers, nearly 800,000 of whom have lost employer-sponsored coverage over the last decade, and thus face a major competitive disadvantage that inhibits their ability to grow, create jobs and otherwise support the States economic development;
WHEREAS, the costs associated with care for the uninsured are shifted through increased premiums to those individuals and groups that purchase health insurance coverage, causing working families with health insurance to pay $800 more in premiums on average each year;
WHEREAS, the development and operation of an Exchange in New York will impose no cost on the State, but will be funded entirely with federal funds until January 1, 2015, at which time the Exchange will be wholly self-funded, meaning that no State or county taxpayer dollars will be used for such purposes; and
WHEREAS, it is therefore critical that the State of New York establish and operate its own Exchange, and that it do so expeditiously;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor of the State of New York, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the Laws of the State of New York, do hereby order as follows:
1. There is hereby established within the Department of Health, in conformity with the Affordable Care Act, the New York Health Benefit Exchange (the Exchange). The Department of Health, in conjunction with the Department of Financial Services and other state agencies, shall take all necessary steps to effectuate the Exchange, and expedite its ability to perform those functions necessary to carry out the requirements and serve the goals of the Affordable Care Act.
2. The Exchange shall, among other things, facilitate enrollment in health coverage and the purchase and sale of qualified health plans in the individual market in this state, and enroll individuals in health coverage for which they are eligible in accordance with federal law.
3. The Exchange shall, among other things, take such actions necessary to enable eligible individuals to receive premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions and to enable eligible small businesses to receive tax credits, in compliance with all applicable federal and state laws and regulations.
4. The Exchange shall, among other things, enter into agreements with appropriate entities, including but not limited to federal, state and local agencies, to the extent necessary to carry out its duties and responsibilities, provided that such agreements incorporate adequate protections with respect to the confidentiality of any information to be shared.
5. The Exchange shall, among other things, convene regional advisory committees, consisting of consumer advocates, small business consumer representatives, health care providers, agents, brokers, insurers, labor organizations, and any other appropriate stakeholders, to provide advice and make recommendations on the establishment and operation of the Exchange, including recommendations about relevant regional factors, and shall provide opportunities for public input on such matters.
6. The Exchange shall, among other things, become financially self-sustaining by January 1, 2015, as required by the Affordable Care Act.
7. Nothing in this Order shall be construed to duplicate, preempt, supersede, limit or otherwise restrict the statutory authority, duties and functions of the Department of Health, the Department of Financial Services or any other agency of this State.
G I V E N under my hand and the Privy Seal of the State in the City of Albany this twelfth day of April in the year two thousand twelve.
BY THE GOVERNOR
Secretary to the Governor

Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued the following executive order today establishing The New York Health Benefit Exchange that will help individuals and small businesses secure health insurance as part of the federal Affordable Care Act. Senate Republicans had resisted creating an exchange for months–some labeling it an extension of “Obamacare.” Cuomo promised after the budget deal that he would take matters into his own hands.

“The bottom line is that creating this health exchange will lower the cost of health insurance for small businesses, local governments, and individual New Yorkers across the state. The sky-high cost of insurance in New York is driving businesses out of the state and preventing lower income New Yorkers from being able to afford needed coverage,Cuomo said. Establishing the health exchange will bring true competition into the health care marketplace, driving costs down across the state.”

Here is the executive order: Read the rest of this entry »
By on April 12, 2012, 1:34 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Health | 3 Comments »

| More

RSS Feed RSS Feed


Bloomberg Digs Cuomo's Budget
March 27th, 2012

City taxpayers are winners today in Albany. The components of the budget agreement announced today, taken together with the landmark pension reform overhaul announced two weeks ago, herald the best legislative session for the City in a decade. Governor Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Skelos and Speaker Silver deserve our thanks for delivering an on-time budget and doing right by New York City.
Pension reform, which was part of the Governors Executive Budget proposal, was really part one of the budget and a central achievement of the process. It will save the City $21 billion over thirty years which is $21 billion more we can spend to keep taxes down and provide vital services to New Yorkers. On top of that, the States takeover of Medicaid growth will save the City of New York nearly a billion dollars over the next five years.
A planned increase in education funding has been expanded by the Legislature delivering help our schools badly need. This is great news for our kids, but the State must continue working to achieve the unfulfilled promise of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity settlement.
The budget resolution also includes important public policy victories for the City. For years, we have been pushing to overhaul the States juvenile justice system so that our young people can more easily transition back into their communities and productive lives. Agreement on the Close to Home initiative is the culmination of that work. In addition, the budget agreement notably rejected efforts to slow down the implementation of a State law requiring cleaner fuel, which the City helped pass in 2010. And the Governor and the Legislature put parents and schoolchildren first when they rebuffed efforts to prohibit parents from seeing important information about teacher effectiveness.
Finally, an almost unprecedented accomplishment: it appears that the budget includes no new unfunded mandates for New York City. We are hopeful this commitment to fiscal responsibility continues throughout the rest of the legislative session.
Governor Cuomo has demonstrated bold leadership throughout this legislative session and budget process, both in setting forth meaningful public policy solutions to some of our toughest problems and in bringing people together to turn his proposals into reality. Majority Leader Skelos and Speaker Silver have been outstanding partners for the Governor in truly making Albany work for the people and for the City of New York.

And they said it wouldn’t last. Sure Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have had their moments. Some sniping here, some disparaging remarks there but the pair have been happy as clams as of late. Maybe it has something to do with Tier 6–regardless the fuzzy-warm snuggles continue with Bloomberg’s assessment of Cuomo’s budget. Bloomberg says “City taxpayers are winners today in Albany.”

Check out Bloomberg’s full assessment of the budget agreement: Read the rest of this entry »

By on March 27, 2012, 3:50 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany,Gotham City | 3 Comments »

| More

RSS Feed RSS Feed


What Does the State Budget Deal Mean For NYC?
March 27th, 2012

This is budget week in Albany and now we have an official acknowledgement that a deal has been reached. The budget deadline is at the end of the month but legislators really dealt with the hard stuff during December’s special session and the late night legislative spree earlier this month. So what does the budget have in store for the city?

  • The juvenile justice “Close to Home” initiative is of particular interest. NYC will be able to place and treat its juvenile delinquents in the five boroughs rather than sending them upstate.
  • Funding for the MTA capital plan, with $770 million coming directly from the state. “The five-year MTA capital plan contains $22.2 billion for projects critical to transit in New York City, Long Island and the Hudson Valley, and that will produce tens of thousands of jobs. The first two years of the MTA capital plan were funded at $9.1 billion. The Budget will help allow the MTA to obtain the full $13.1 billion needed to achieve the five year capital plan and complete some of the largest construction projects in the history of New York.”
  • The Office of New Americans will be established to help immigrants better participate in “the state’s economy and civil life.”

Also Gov. Andrew Cuomo is going ahead with a controversial provision that will give him increased powers over state spending:

“To achieve greater efficiency in government operations and improve performance, the Budget enacts the Governor’s proposal to ensure fiscal flexibility in order to expedite government consolidation and streamlining. The interchangeability provisions give the state the authority to move certain funds between state agencies that will save money in back office functions such as business services, information technology and call centers. This will allow the state to move functions from one state agency to another to improve efficiency, ensure better performance, and reduce costs for taxpayers. The transfers will not be used to alter or shift programmatic functions of the agencies.”

Here is the full release from Cuomo’s office:

Read the rest of this entry »

By on March 27, 2012, 2:08 pm
In category: Albany,Crime & Safety,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

| More

RSS Feed RSS Feed


Deal on "Close to Home"
March 26th, 2012

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Rev. Al Sharpton have issued a joint statement praising an apparent deal that would allow New York City the ability to control placement and treatment of its juvenile delinquents. For more on what exactly the legislation would do check out my recent story.

For too long, too many of our City’s young people have been shunted off upstate hundreds of miles from family, school and community and far from the support they need to get back on course. Today’s budget agreement includes a landmark overhaul of our juvenile justice system, paving the way for young people in the system to receive services close to their families and more easily transition back into their communities and productive lives.
We have been championing this kind of change together since our visit to the Finger Lakes Residential Center in December 2010, where the injustice and inadequacy of the status quo was on full display. We are grateful to Governor Cuomo for making the Close to Home initiative a top priority for his administration. Building on the City’s legacy of juvenile justice reform reducing the use of detention and placement, increasing community-based alternatives and lowering recidivism rates, all the while making our City even safer Close to Home will address the needs of our young people and improve public safety.
In addition to the Governor, we thank Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos for making this a reality; Assemblymembers Amy Paulin, Karim Camara and Joseph Lentol, who first introduced legislation and led the way in Albany on this critical issue; and Senators Diane Savino, Martin Golden, Andrew Lanza and Steve Saland, who provided thoughtful leadership during budget deliberations. We also thank Speaker Christine Quinn and the City Council for their support of the initiative.

For too long, too many of our City’s young people have been shunted off upstate hundreds of miles from family, school and community and far from the support they need to get back on course. Today’s budget agreement includes a landmark overhaul of our juvenile justice system, paving the way for young people in the system to receive services close to their families and more easily transition back into their communities and productive lives.

We have been championing this kind of change together since our visit to the Finger Lakes Residential Center in December 2010, where the injustice and inadequacy of the status quo was on full display. We are grateful to Governor Cuomo for making the Close to Home initiative a top priority for his administration. Building on the City’s legacy of juvenile justice reform reducing the use of detention and placement, increasing community-based alternatives and lowering recidivism rates, all the while making our City even safer Close to Home will address the needs of our young people and improve public safety.

In addition to the Governor, we thank Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos for making this a reality; Assemblymembers Amy Paulin, Karim Camara and Joseph Lentol, who first introduced legislation and led the way in Albany on this critical issue; and Senators Diane Savino, Martin Golden, Andrew Lanza and Steve Saland, who provided thoughtful leadership during budget deliberations. We also thank Speaker Christine Quinn and the City Council for their support of the initiative.

By on March 26, 2012, 1:57 pm
In category: Albany,Civil Rights,Crime & Safety,Eye on Albany,Health | Comments Off

| More

RSS Feed RSS Feed


New York Scores D on National State Integrity Investigation
March 19th, 2012

A report by the Center for Public Integrity that studied the laws and corruption risks of all 50 states gave New York a score of D. The just released scorecards and accompanying stories rate both the laws and how they are implemented. New York ranked 36 amongst all states on the corruption risk. The Center for Public Integrity hopes to use the reports to work with states to enact reform. Full disclosure: I am the New York reporter for the project.

WNYC ran a story on the investigation this morning and Cuomo spokesman Matt Wing told them that the report does not take into account reforms made under Gov. Andrew Cuomo. This assertion is not completely true asmy story focuses on the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, how the agency appears to be stacked with political cronies and how the creation of the agency has echoes of Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s failed attempt to reform the state’s ethics organization.

Please take a look at the report and let us know what you think. The site provides a handy tool to send the report to your representative. Isn’t that a heckuva thing?

By on March 19, 2012, 8:01 am
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

| More

RSS Feed RSS Feed


Citizens Union Praise Deal, Chide Legislators
March 15th, 2012

Citizens Union and The League of Women Voters New York are out with a press release praising the constitutional amendment that would change the redistricting process. Critics say the amendment codifies gerrymandering. Gotham Gazette is published by Citizens Union Foundation the Citizens Union’s sister organization.

In their joint statement CU and LWV praise the amendment but voice their pleasure about how the vote took place. They thank the Governor and legislation leaders, “for reaching agreement on establishing lasting structural reform to the states redistricting process. Given the long standing resistance to enacting redistricting reform and the high stakes involved, we applaud them in finding common ground on an issue that is at the core of political power in Albany and results in the legislature giving up power in the drawing of lines.”
But note that it came at a price:
“Though this is a substantive victory for reform, it is tarnished because the process that produced this welcomed outcome occurred during a night where in typical Albany fashion nothing was agreed to until everything was agreed to. Achieving reform through middle of the night voting and limited debate on such an important issue is not the way we would have wanted to see redistricting reform realized.”

Here is the full release: Read the rest of this entry »

By on March 15, 2012, 11:50 am
In category: Albany,Demographics,Eye on Albany,Governing | 13 Comments »

| More

RSS Feed RSS Feed


No Presser For Cuomo?
March 15th, 2012

After a typical Albany late night/early morning where a number of major pieces of legislation were rushed to the floor for a quick vote with little or no debate Gov. Andrew Cuomo does not seem to be in a rush to get in front of a gaggle of reporters.

Cuomo’s plan of attack includes two radio appearances–one with his favorite messenger–and a “video message” to New Yorker’s which I assume will be available here later today.

“Approximately 10:07 AM Governor Cuomo will be a guest on Live from the State Capitol with Fred Dicker. The show can be heard streaming live at www.talk1300.com.

Approximately 11:06 AM Governor Cuomo will be a guest on The Capitol Pressroom with Susan Arbetter. The show can be heard streaming live at http://www.wcny.org/temp-stream.html.”

By on March 15, 2012, 10:46 am
In category: Albany,Crime & Safety,Demographics,Eye on Albany,Governing | 3 Comments »

| More

RSS Feed RSS Feed


Deals Done in the Dark
March 14th, 2012

If Albany has changed under Gov. Andrew Cuomo the Senate Democrats haven’t noticed. Debate on the legislation that determines district lines and is supposed to guarantee voter enfranchisement began around 10 p.m. on Wednesday night. Sen. Michael Gianaris, an outspoken critic of LATFOR’s lines and the proposed Constitutional Amendment that will change the redistricting process 10 years from now, pointed out that debate on the important issue began in typical Albany fashion– late at night and after a rush of last-minute deals.

Even the most novice Albany observer knows that legislative leaders tend to come to agreements, brief their conferences quickly and then get the legislators into conference to vote on the deals before support erodes or public opinion solidifies against the legislation.

Gianaris also pointed out that this trend has not changed under Cuomo–the Governor some say has done away with Albany dysfunction. Gianaris further noted that the late-night push on redistricting, legalizing casino gambling, a DNA database, and teacher evaluations came during Sunshine Week–a week set aside to honor transparency in government.

After debating Sen. Michael Nozzolio about the lines and having a testy exchange where Gianaris asked, “Have you no shame?” Nozzolio seemingly joked that Gianaris probably liked the lines that were up for a vote better than LATFOR’s original lines that combined his district with a fellow Democrat. Finally in exasperation Gianaris told Nozzolio that in his mind the lines were equally bad and told Nozzolio he could take them both and, “Shove it!”

Republicans attempted to close debate at 11:36 p.m. Sen. Daniel Squadron objected saying that 2 hours had not passed and debate should continue. Republicans ruled his point was out of order. Squadron appealed to the chair. Sen. Sampson rose and talked about respect and decorum. He mentioned that redistricting happens only 10 years and appealed for more time to debate the legislation. “Where’s the respect and where’s the decorum?” asked Sampson.

By on March 14, 2012, 11:38 pm
In category: Albany,Demographics,Eye on Albany,Governing | 12 Comments »

| More

RSS Feed RSS Feed


And Here is the Teacher Evaluation Deal
March 14th, 2012

The office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo is just pumping out deal announcements, first on the DNA database, then on redistricting and now on teacher evaluations. The Senate continues to debate redistricting–watch it here. Sen. Michael Gianaris just pointed out that all of this important legislation is coming to a vote at 11 p.m. at night. Oh, Albany.

GOVERNOR CUOMO, MAJORITY LEADER SKELOS, AND SPEAKER SILVER ANNOUNCE AGREEMENT ON HISTORIC TEACHER EVALUATION LAW

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Skelos, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver today announced an agreement on legislation to put the Governor’s new groundbreaking teacher and principal evaluation system into law, firmly establishing New York as a national leader in school accountability.

The new evaluation system will provide clear standards and significant guidance to local school districts for implementation of teacher evaluations based on multiple measures of performance including student achievement and rigorous classroom observations. The legislation follows through on New Yorks commitment to establish a real and effective teacher evaluations as a condition of the $700 million granted through the federal Race to the Top program.

“We are writing into law a new national model for teacher evaluations that will put our students first and put New York State at the front of the class when it comes to school accountability,” Governor Cuomo said. “The new statewide evaluation law sets clear standards for measuring educators based on how our students are performing in the classroom, so we can make sure our children have best possible opportunity for the future. I commend the legislative leaders for taking this extraordinary step to create permanent and real evaluations in our schools.”

Senate Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos said, “This agreement on teacher evaluations will enhance accountability in school districts across New York and give our students the first-class education they deserve. I commend the Governor for working with the Legislature and labor on this important issue and look forward to doing much more to help our kids compete and succeed, so they can prepare themselves to be tomorrow’s leaders in business, in education, and in each of our communities.” Read the rest of this entry »

By on March 14, 2012, 10:52 pm
In category: Albany,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

| More

RSS Feed RSS Feed


Gianaris: "Have You No Shame?"
March 14th, 2012

Sen. Michael Gianaris just asked Sen. Michael Nozzolio “Have you no shame?” after being prompted to ask a question while talking about his disdain for LATFOR’s lines. The presiding member stopped the discourse to remind legislators of “decorum.” But Nozzolio said although the question was “insulting.” He was “proud” of his work on LATFOR. The debate continues here.

By on March 14, 2012, 10:37 pm
In category: Albany,Demographics,Eye on Albany | 1 Comment »

| More

RSS Feed RSS Feed


The Amendment Deal is Official
March 14th, 2012

From Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office comes the official news:

GOVERNOR CUOMO, MAJORITY LEADER SKELOS, AND SPEAKER SILVER ANNOUNCE LANDMARK AGREEMENT TO BEGIN PROCESS OF AMENDING STATE CONSTITUTION TO ALLOW CASINO GAMING IN NEW YORK

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver today announced a landmark agreement to begin the process of amending the state constitution to allow casino gaming in New York. Legalized casinos have the potential to create thousands of good-paying jobs while keeping the tourism and revenue that accompany gaming here in New York State.

“By taking these important first steps to legalize casinos we are finally confronting the reality that while New York is already in the gaming business, we need a real plan to regulate and capitalize on the industry,” Governor Cuomo said. “This is a process that will ultimately put thousands of New Yorkers to work, drive our economy, and help keep billions of dollars spent by New Yorkers on gaming in the state.”

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos said, “I am pleased we have reached an agreement to move forward with a constitutional amendment that will give New Yorkers a say on whether we expand casino gaming in New York State. I thank Senator John Bonacic for his leadership, and look forward to negotiating the details of the implementing legislation prior to putting it out to the voters in 2013.” Read the rest of this entry »

By on March 14, 2012, 10:18 pm
In category: Albany,Demographics,Eye on Albany | 4 Comments »

| More

RSS Feed RSS Feed


Senate Debating Lines
March 14th, 2012

Sen. Martin Dilan is currently grilling Sen. Michael Nozzolio on LATFOR’s work drawing district lines. Nozzolio is a co-chair of LATFOR and Dilan serves as a member. You can watch the debate here.

By on March 14, 2012, 9:49 pm
In category: Albany,Demographics,Eye on Albany | 2 Comments »

| More

RSS Feed RSS Feed


Citizens Union Offers Amendment FAQ
March 14th, 2012

The Citizens Union and League of Women Voters have offered up a FAQ detailing what the proposed redistricting constitutional amendment would achieve, how the new commission would work, and who would be eligible to serve on it. Both groups are advocating the passage of the amendment but with that caveat it is a helpful read for those looking for a detailed breakdown. Gotham Gazette is published by Citizens Union’s sister organization Citizens Union Foundation. Here is the FAQ:

Citizens Union and the League of Women Voters of New York State
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
on the Proposed Constitutional Amendment to Reform Redistricting
1. What does the proposed constitutional amendment accomplish?
In summary, it would replace the current Legislative Task Force for Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR) redistricting process with an independent commission whose appointees are evenly divided between majority and minority parties. For the first time ever, unaffiliated or third party members would be included in the redistricting process. There will be two co‐executive directors selected by a majority vote of the commission with the rest of the staff being hired by the directors, marking the first time the staff is not hired by the majorities.
The amendment also codifies for the first time in the state constitution additional important criteria for drawing lines. The principles of the federal Voting Rights Act (VRA), which are increasingly facing threat of retrogression in the courts and Congress, are added to the state constitution, preserving the rights of language and racial minorities. Lines would be prohibited from being drawn to favor or disfavor incumbents, political parties or candidates. Communities of interest are recognized for the first time as a criterion for drawing lines.
The voting procedures and thresholds for passage of a redistricting plan by the independent commission and the legislature varies depending on which parties control each house of the legislature. Supermajority votes are established to prevent dominance by one political party or majority parties in both the commission and the legislature for approval of district lines.
The proposed amendment breaks new ground in transparency by requiring software, data and maps to be provided to the public, allowing for independent analysis and the creation of maps by the public.
It also establishes firm deadlines for the different stages of the redistricting process to ensure that lines are established in a timely manner and delays in drawing maps do not disadvantage challengers running against state legislative or congressional incumbents.
These important changes would be made permanent through the passage of a constitutional amendment. The proposed amendment will be accompanied by a statute which will provide insurance against the amendment not achieving second passage and place an additional constraint on the legislatures ability to amend the lines proposed by the commission.
1
Citizens Union and the League of Women Voters of New York State Page 2 Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Redistricting Constitutional Amendment
1. How is the ten‐member independent commission (the Commission) appointed?
Each of the four legislative leaders appoints two members, and two additional members are appointed by a vote of not less than five of the original eight members. These two additional members must not have been enrolled in either of the two major political parties in the preceding five years. For the first time, the redistricting process includes equal representation among the four legislative leaders and appointees not of the Republican and Democratic parties.
Current Process:
LATFOR is comprised of six members, with two each from the majority parties in each house with only one each from the minority party, effectively giving the majority parties full control of the process, ignoring the views of the minority parties.
2. Who can serve?
Rules prohibit those with conflicts of interest from serving on the Commission including no person who has served in the last three years as a New York legislator, statewide elected official, member of congress, and spouses of the preceding groups, legislators staff, lobbyists, state officers, state employees, or party chairs. To the extent practicable, the appointments should reflect the diversity of the state and result from consultation with outside groups.
Current Process:
Four of the six members of LATFOR are legislators.
3. How does the Commission approve a redistricting plan? Will an even‐numbered Commission create gridlock?
A supermajority vote seven out of ten votes by the Commission is required to send a redistricting plan to the legislature, which can be passed by majority vote of the legislature, encouraging collaboration and cooperation. If control of the legislature is split between the two major parties, the plan must have at least one vote from each of the two major party appointees. If the legislature is controlled by one party, those seven votes must include at least one vote from the appointments of each of the four legislative leaders to ensure that there is no major party dominance. If no plan gets seven votes, the plan with the highest number of votes goes to the legislature, but approval of such a plan requires at least 60 percent approval in the legislature.
Current Process:
The members of LATFOR appointed by the majority four of the six control the process and draw the lines with little to no input from the appointees representing the minority parties. Those lines are then provided to the legislature and passed by the majority party controlling each house.
Citizens Union and the League of Women Voters of New York State Page 3 Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Redistricting Constitutional Amendment
4. What additional voting procedures ensure inclusion of the party out of power in case one party controls both chambers?
In order to protect against one‐party dominance in the drawing of lines, if one party controls both houses of the legislature, approval of a plan requires a 2/3 affirmative vote in each house.
Current Process:
A simple majority is required for any district plan provided by LATFOR. Consequently the majority parties in each house completely control redistricting from drawing the lines to passing them.
5. What criteria must be considered by the Commission?
In addition to requiring contiguous and compact districts, and nearly as maybe equal in size districts to the extent practicable, for the first time the state constitution will include criteria that require:
that districts shall not be drawn to discourage competition or for the purpose of favoring or disfavoring incumbents, particular candidates or political parties;
consideration of communities of interest in drawing district lines;
protections for racial and language minority groups in the drawing of district lines consistent with the Voting Rights Act, ensuring those protections remain regardless of what happens at the federal level; and
an explanation by the Commission if the legislative districts are not equal in population.
Current Process:
LATFOR must first follow federal law which requires adherence to the Voting Rights Act and the creation of state legislative districts whose populations are within 5 percent of the average size district. The constitution also requires that districts be contiguous and, as is practicable, compact, and provides that counties and towns cannot be divided under certain circumstances.
There are currently no prohibitions in the state constitution that prevent lines from being drawn to discourage competition or for the purpose of favoring or disfavoring incumbents, particular candidates or political parties. Nor are there provisions that require communities of interest to be considered as a criterion for drawing lines.
Citizens Union and the League of Women Voters of New York State Page 4 Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Redistricting Constitutional Amendment
6. Does the legislature get to draw the lines if it votes down the Commissions plan?
The legislature can only amend the lines if the Commissions plan(s) fail to achieve legislative approval after two up or down votes without amendments, but the legislature is restricted to changes that adhere to the criteria in the constitutional amendment. An accompanying statute will further restrict the legislature to making changes that affect not more than two percent of the population of any district.
Current Process:
There are no restrictions on their ability of the legislature to amend the plan, which is essentially guaranteed passage, as the majorities of the legislature control LATFOR.
7. What process is there for public input?
The amendment requires 12 hearings across the state ensuring public input in line‐drawing. It also requires the provision of maps and data to the public in a form that allows for independent analysis and the development of alternate redistricting plans.
Current Process:
There are no requirements for hearings, although LATFOR has held them voluntarily. There are no requirements for maps and data to be provided to the public, although LATFOR has provided maps and some data but not done so in a form that is easily accessible by the public or facilitates development of alternate plans. LATFOR has not made software for drawing maps available to the public.
8. Why has there not more been public input on the constitutional amendment?
Various proposals have been introduced in the legislature through the years and have been the subject of input by the public, including good government groups and civil rights groups. Redistricting has been the subject of hearings in both the Assembly and Senate for the past several years, and the issue has been covered extensively in the media. Constitutional amendments must be voted on twice by two successively elected legislatures, and then passed at the ballot box, providing for more review and giving the public an opportunity for participation in this reform.
Current Process:
The degree to which hearings are held on bills varies. The constitutional amendment, because it requires a vote by a second legislature in 2013, will have much more time for review than a typical bill.
Citizens Union and the League of Women Voters of New York State Page 5 Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Redistricting Constitutional Amendment
9. What assurance is there that the amendment will be passed again in the next legislative session?
Citizens Union and the League, as well as the Governor, have conditioned support of the constitutional amendment on passage of an accompanying statute that will put in place a statutory version of the amendment if it does not achieve second passage. This statute would also contain a restriction on legislative amendments to the lines on third passage, allowing no more than two percent of the population of districts proposed by the Commission to be changed, which will go into effect regardless of whether the legislature passes the amendment twice.
Current Process:
Not applicable.
10. If this constitutional amendment is passed, how would New York rank among the 50 states in how it conducts redistricting?
We believe that this will put New York in the forefront of redistricting reform, particularly among states that cannot achieve reform through publicly initiated referenda. Most states leave redistricting completely in the hands of the legislature. Even in Iowa, which has been a model for independent redistricting, the legislature has final approval of the lines.
Current Process:
In the majority of states, the legislators directly draw the lines. New York has an advisory body, LATFOR, an entity that exists in law to advise the legislature on line‐drawing. Because four of six of its members are legislators it is essentially legislators drawing their own lines. Consequently, New York is not even close to being a leader in independent redistricting.

Citizens Union and the League of Women Voters of New York State

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

on the Proposed Constitutional Amendment to Reform Redistricting

1. What does the proposed constitutional amendment accomplish?

In summary, it would replace the current Legislative Task Force for Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR) redistricting process with an independent commission whose appointees are evenly divided between majority and minority parties. For the first time ever, unaffiliated or third party members would be included in the redistricting process. There will be two co‐executive directors selected by a majority vote of the commission with the rest of the staff being hired by the directors, marking the first time the staff is not hired by the majorities.

The amendment also codifies for the first time in the state constitution additional important criteria for drawing lines. The principles of the federal Voting Rights Act (VRA), which are increasingly facing threat of retrogression in the courts and Congress, are added to the state constitution, preserving the rights of language and racial minorities. Lines would be prohibited from being drawn to favor or disfavor incumbents, political parties or candidates. Communities of interest are recognized for the first time as a criterion for drawing lines.

The voting procedures and thresholds for passage of a redistricting plan by the independent commission and the legislature varies depending on which parties control each house of the legislature. Supermajority votes are established to prevent dominance by one political party or majority parties in both the commission and the legislature for approval of district lines.

The proposed amendment breaks new ground in transparency by requiring software, data and maps to be provided to the public, allowing for independent analysis and the creation of maps by the public.

It also establishes firm deadlines for the different stages of the redistricting process to ensure that lines are established in a timely manner and delays in drawing maps do not disadvantage challengers running against state legislative or congressional incumbents.

These important changes would be made permanent through the passage of a constitutional amendment. The proposed amendment will be accompanied by a statute which will provide insurance against the amendment not achieving second passage and place an additional constraint on the legislatures ability to amend the lines proposed by the commission.

1

Citizens Union and the League of Women Voters of New York State Page 2 Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Redistricting Constitutional Amendment

1. How is the ten‐member independent commission (the Commission) appointed?

Each of the four legislative leaders appoints two members, and two additional members are appointed by a vote of not less than five of the original eight members. These two additional members must not have been enrolled in either of the two major political parties in the preceding five years. For the first time, the redistricting process includes equal representation among the four legislative leaders and appointees not of the Republican and Democratic parties.

Current Process:

LATFOR is comprised of six members, with two each from the majority parties in each house with only one each from the minority party, effectively giving the majority parties full control of the process, ignoring the views of the minority parties.

2. Who can serve?

Rules prohibit those with conflicts of interest from serving on the Commission including no person who has served in the last three years as a New York legislator, statewide elected official, member of congress, and spouses of the preceding groups, legislators staff, lobbyists, state officers, state employees, or party chairs. To the extent practicable, the appointments should reflect the diversity of the state and result from consultation with outside groups.

Current Process:

Four of the six members of LATFOR are legislators.

Read the rest of this entry »

By on March 14, 2012, 6:01 pm
In category: Albany,Demographics,Eye on Albany | 4 Comments »

| More

RSS Feed RSS Feed


Waiting For a Deal
March 14th, 2012

Albany is in a holding pattern as legislators seem to be hammering out a deal with Gov. Andrew Cuomo that could wrap up redistricting, Tier 6, the DNA database and perhaps the budget. Senate Minority Leader John Sampson issued this statement decrying linking redistricting to other issues:

Rumors are swirling that, in true Albany fashion, the awful redistricting provisions have been tied to the creation of Tier VI. If this is true and both are allowed to move forward, we will be disenfranchising minorities while simultaneously eliminating retirement security for working families in a classic Albany backroom deal. Senate Democrats will not be party to these cynical maneuvers.

By on March 14, 2012, 5:15 pm
In category: Albany,Crime & Safety,Demographics,Eye on Albany | 11 Comments »

| More

RSS Feed RSS Feed


Gotham Gazette the Place for Politics and Policy

Gotham Gazette is published by Citizens Union Foundation and is made possible by support from the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Altman Foundation,the Fund for the City of New York and donors to Citizens Union Foundation. Please consider supporting Citizens Union Foundation's public education programs. Critical early support to Gotham Gazette was provided by the Charles H. Revson Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

RSS Feed