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Blair Horner

Blair Horner

  • Departure of Assembly Ethics Official Prompts Calls for Broader Reforms

    Carl Heastie Assembly

    Carl Heastie (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)


    When ethics expert Jane Feldman’s departure from the New York State Assembly, and her appraisal of the experience as “as waste of money,” was first reported by the Times Union last week, many saw it as another blow to reform efforts in Albany.

    Feldman ...

  • Mass Mailer Loophole Gives State Legislators Advantage in City Council Races

    ortiz mailer crop

    The top of Assemblymember Felix Ortiz's recent constituent mailer


    Members of the New York State Legislature have a key resource at their disposal to communicate with their constituents: mass mailers. Both the Senate and Assembly allow lawmakers to send public communications through different media -- chiefly employed in the form of direct printed newsletters and mailers -- to inform residents of their districts about recent legislation or special events, or to alert them of emergencies, and more. While these mailers are subject to certain restrictions in the run up to an

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  • As Session Nears End, Electoral Reforms Mostly Stalled & Cuomo Quiet

    Cuomo voting 2015

    Gov. Cuomo votes (photo: The Governor's Office)


    Governor Andrew Cuomo’s prediction that there is insufficient political will at the New York State Legislature to pass any significant voting reform measures this year may be coming to fruition.

    During the final weeks before the end of the legislative session, this year June 21 -- when lawmakers leave the Capitol and

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  • As Legislative Leaders Warn of Con Con Dangers, Good Government Groups Come Out in Favor

    assembly chamber via wikicommons

    The Assembly (photo: wikicommons)


    While legislative leaders are declaring opposition to a New York State constitutional convention, government reform organizations are trending in the other direction, with some who were wary of the idea in previous years coming out in support or considering doing so.

    Leading up to the November 7 vote on whether to hold a convention, the debate is shaping up around fear of what could be taken away versus hope that the public can take a shot at democratic reform.

    Republican Senate

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  • Will Latest Indictment Give New Life to Ethics Reform in Albany? Don’t Bet On It

    rob ortt

    State Sen. Rob Ortt (photo: @SenatorOrtt)


    Corruption charges brought against a member of the state Senate Republican majority Wednesday have provided an opportunity for Democrats to jumpstart the seemingly dormant conversation on government ethics as state budget negotiations enter their final week.

    Senator Rob Ortt, of Niagara County, pleaded not guilty in Albany County Court Thursday morning, following his indictment on three felony counts of filing a false instrument, ...

  • Now a Lobbyist, Democratic Power Broker Faces Restrictions in New Job

    Keith Wright Governor Cuomo

    Keith Wright, left, & Gov. Cuomo photo: (Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)


    A Democratic power broker from Harlem has been hired by a prominent lobbying firm to join its efforts to influence city and state government. Formerly state Democratic Party chair and a member of the state Assembly, Keith Wright is joining Davidoff Hutcher & Citron LLP, but under state law he must avoid matters before both chambers of the state Legislature for two years after leaving office.

    Wright, who has been involved in New

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  • 2016 Again Highlights New York ‘Incumbency Protection Machine’

    NYC BOE photo voting machines cropped

    (photo via NYC Board of Elections)


    New York City residents are represented in the state Legislature by a total of 91 seats, 26 in the state Senate and 65 in the state Assembly. Among them, 60 are held by incumbents who were uncontested in their party primary elections that took place Tuesday, September 13.

    In these just-completed primaries, 66 percent -- or about two-thirds -- of the city’s state legislative seats saw no intra-party competition. Twenty-four New York City-based

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  • Board of Elections to Consider Emergency Regulations for Independent Expenditures

    cuomo podium state of the state

    Gov. Cuomo (photo: Governor's Office on Flickr)


    The State Board of Elections is set to consider a set of emergency regulations governing independent expenditure campaigns at its board meeting on Thursday morning in Albany. The regulations will come just two days after state legislative primary elections and two months before the general election. Political action committees (PACs) and Super Pacs, or independent expenditure committees, have already had a significant presence in this year’s primary contests.

    The BOE is

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  • Cuomo’s Minimum Wage Nonprofit Through the Lens of His New Regulatory Scheme

    mario cuomo campaign for economic justice bus capitol

    photos via The Governor's Office on Flickr


    Earlier this year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo successfully advocated for the passage of a $15 minimum wage plan with the help of major labor unions and a nonprofit they created called The Mario Cuomo Campaign for Economic Justice. Teaming with 1199-SEIU, the health care workers union, and 32BJ-SEIU, the buildings workers union, Cuomo made campaign stops in an RV paid for by the nonprofit, which was funded largely by unions.

    In a complicated confluence of relationships,

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  • Cuomo Cabinet Boat Trip Highlights Campaign Finance Law Concerns

    Cuomo Hochul Hudson

    Lt. Gov. Hochul, left, and Gov. Cuomo, right, on the Hudson (@NYGovCuomo)


    On Monday, the highest ranking members of the Cuomo administration boarded a boat in the city of Hudson in Columbia County and embarked for New York City. The trip, according to Cuomo administration officials, was strictly work-related. There was a cabinet meeting; strategy sessions for the Governor’s 2017 State of the State address, and inspections of infrastructure projects like the “New New York Bridge,” which is replacing the Tappan Zee.

    It was

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  • Senate Republicans Face Departures with Battle for Control Looming

    flanagan

    Senate Majority Leader Flanagan, second from right (photo via Facebook)


    New York State Senate Republicans are headed into a fight for their survival, dealing with the departure of veteran lawmakers, top staff, and one rising star.

    The impending fall elections for all 63 Senate seats will test control of the chamber by Senate Republicans, the party’s only check on Democratic strongholds in the state

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  • Cuomo Appears to Give Up on Legislature Closing LLC Loophole

    cuomo budget mujica

    Gov. Cuomo & his budget director, Robert Mujica (photo: The Governor's Office)


    Gov. Andrew Cuomo appears to have given up on the state Legislature taking action to close the notorious LLC loophole, which allows wealthy donors to subvert campaign finance laws by creating multiple limited liability corporations that can each give more than $60,000 to a candidate’s campaign.

    According to The New York Times, Cuomo said this weekend that it would be up to the public to close the loophole through a constitutional convention.

    In

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  • For Review, Cuomo Chooses Outside Agent Over Existing State Investigators

    schneiderman cuomo moreland corruption

    Scheiderman, left, & Cuomo, center (photo via The Governor's Office on Flickr)


    More than a month after Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that Bart Schwartz, a former federal prosecutor, would head an “independent investigation” into the Buffalo Billion economic development program, it remains unclear whether Schwartz has begun his

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  • Buffalo Billion Probe: Bad Apples or Broken System?

    cuomo buffalo billion

    Gov. Cuomo in Buffalo (photo via The Governor's Office)


    As U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s office issues a storm of subpoenas to the administration of Governor Andrew Cuomo and his close associates in relation to the state’s Buffalo Billion economic development program, the governor and his aides have delivered a consistent message: the investigation targets the dealings of a few bad apples, the governor wasn’t aware of any wrongdoing and he wants to get to the bottom of the situation as quickly as possible.

    “I’ve said to all my people, and I’ve said to

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  • 5 Things State Lawmakers Can Do To Prevent Another Silver

    cuomo silver et al 2013

    Silver, Cuomo, and others (photo via The Governor's Office, 2013)


    Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was perceived by many to be an institution of state government. Having served at the head of the Democrat-controlled Assembly for over a decade, Silver’s rule was iron-fisted and opaque - he could end a political career on a whim, kill a major policy initiative with a quiet grumble, and maneuver millions of dollars in state cash to recipients of his choice.

    That all ended last year when Silver was indicted by the U.S. Attorney on multiple

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  • Special Election Results Buoy Hopes for Reform

    kaminsky voting april 2016

    Todd Kaminsky votes for himself Tuesday (photo via @toddkaminsky)


    The polls may be closed but the heated race to replace convicted former Republican Senator Dean Skelos is far from over. Late Tuesday night Assemblymember Todd Kaminsky, a Democrat, declared victory while Republican candidate Chris McGrath refused to concede, saying the race would be decided by absentee ballots. Only 780 votes separate Kaminsky from McGrath and there are over 2,000 outstanding ballots to be counted. Regardless of the results the pair may face off again in November when the

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  • Legislative Days Quickly Dwindle, Intensifying Worry Over Ethics

    albany

    Rally in the capital


    For the past two weeks state legislators have been preoccupied by the New York presidential primary. They’ve been charmed by candidates like Hillary Clinton and John Kasich who’ve come to the capital to pitch their campaigns and ask for support; and by Donald Trump and Ted Cruz who’ve invited them to attend large rallies.

    Legislators have been so distracted that the first two weeks of post-budget session have slipped by without much real legislative action, despite the fact that there is a long list of high-profile issues unsettled in the budget.

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  • The Week Ahead in New York Politics, April 4

    New York City Hall

    New York City Hall


    What to watch for this week in New York politics:

    We're about two weeks from New York's April 19 presidential primary vote. The three remaining Republican candidates and two remaining Democrats have been campaigning in New York, which is more in play than it has been in several cycles. Hillary Clinton is set to hold events in New York City and Albany Monday, including a rally with Gov. Cuomo and a meeting with state Assembly Democrats, and while the candidates are

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  • Cuomo's Public Schedules Offer Little Information

    cuomo reporters

    Cuomo gives a press briefing in Tarrytown (Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)


    Earlier this month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo was facing pressure from the press, local officials, and the public to make his first appearance in Hoosick Falls, a small town near the Vermont border. Residents of the town were told in December that their drinking water was unsafe for consumption due to contamination from a toxic chemical that may lead to cancer. Cuomo, whose administration has been accused of mishandling reports about water contamination in the

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  • In Albany, Sunshine Week Starts with Darkness

    heastie cuomo flanagan 2015

    Heastie, Cuomo, & Flanagan (l-r) in 2015 (photo via The Governor's Office) 


    The first Sunshine Week following the convictions of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos got off to an inauspicious start Monday as representatives of the state's major good government groups gathered in Albany to give their evaluation of the ethics reforms put forward in the one-house budgets released by the Assembly and Senate majorities over the weekend.

    "Unfortunately with a late Friday release what we're

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  • Democrats and Republicans Run Parallel Races in Special Elections Created by Corruption

    mcgrath senate

    Chris McGrath, Republican candidate for state Senate (photo: @McGrath4Senate) 


    Both groups are accustomed to scrapping for power and attention. With two recent federal corruption convictions, each saw an opportunity to grab more. And now, in downtown Manhattan and Nassau County Long Island, Republicans and Democrats are running parallel campaigns to seize upon a chance to flip one seat in each of the two houses of the New York State Legislature. 

    Assembly Republicans and Senate Democrats again find themselves in similar

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  • Good Government Groups Rate Cuomo's Ethics Package

    cuomo sots scene

    Scene at Gov. Cuomo's State of the State (photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Governor's Office)


    On Tuesday in Albany, the heads of three major good government groups gave their evaluation of the ethics proposals Gov. Andrew Cuomo included in his State of the State address and budget presentation last week. Susan Lerner of Common Cause, Dick Dadey of Citizens Union and Blair Horner of the New York Public

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  • Will Silver Conviction Be Tipping Point for 'Real' Reform?

    sheldon silver conviction

    Sheldon Silver in 2012 (photo via the Governor's Office)


    Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, thought to be the most powerful man in New York state government for decades, was found guilty Monday on seven counts of corruption in multiple schemes to monetize the power of his office. During the trial Silver's own defense attorney insisted that Albany itself was on trial and claimed that Silver's behavior was business as usual in Albany,

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  • Do New York Elected Officials Deserve A Raise?

    BdB parade august

    Mayor de Blasio along the parade route (photo: @BilldeBlasio)


    What should the mayor of New York City be paid each year? How much should City Council members be paid? Do elected officials deserve incremental raises each year?

    Or, maybe elected officials are overpaid as it is?

    Some, like New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, think higher government salaries would entice “better” people into public service, meaning smarter and more honest officials.

    A host of questions have

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  • Despite Unprecedented Scandal, Calls for Special Ethics Session Fall on Deaf Ears

    john sampson

    Recently convicted former Sen. John Sampson (photo: @SampsonVictory)


    It would reason to think that the conviction of two legislative leaders would lead to a flurry of anti-corruption activity in any state capital. But in Albany, where the new normal appears to involve multiple convictions and indictments of sitting lawmakers every year, last week's crime blotter appears to have barely turned a head. The convictions of Republican Senate Deputy Leader Tom Libous and Democratic Sen. John Sampson, a former Majority Leader, on

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