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Gotham Gazette

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Michael Gianaris

Michael Gianaris

  • Progressive Activist Registers Campaign Committee for Latimer’s Senate Seat

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    Katherine Brezler (photo via Facebook)


    A teacher and grassroots organizer is scoping out the Westchester Democratic Party nod in a potential special election for state Senator George Latimer’s seat, which would be triggered if the Democratic senator wins the race for Westchester county executive this fall.

    On July 24, Katherine Brezler, a 35-year-old from White Plains who campaigned for Senator Bernie Sanders' presidential bid, became the first to register a campaign committee for the 37th Senate District seat currently held by Latimer, according to the New York State Board of

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  • How The Mayoral Control ‘Special Session’ Works

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    (photo: Edwin J. Torres/Mayor's Office)


    To prevent the lapse of mayoral control over New York City schools, Governor Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday called an “extraordinary session” of the state Legislature to convene on Wednesday at 1p.m. in Albany. Often referred to as a “special session,” details of how the day will unfold -- especially what legislation will pass -- are still unclear.

    Currently, the session has been called for just one day, with the only named purpose the extension of authority granted to the New York City Mayor, currently Bill

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  • Albany on the Penultimate Day of Legislative Session

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    The Capitol (photo: Ben Max)


    The lobby was packed with lobbyists. The Dunkin Donuts was humming. Food trucks lined the sunny street and appeared to be doing better than average business. Reporters were hungry for any tidbit of news.

    Assembly members and Senators bounced in and out of their respective chambers, where dozens of bills were voted through with astonishing speed. Negotiations on major pieces of more contentious legislation were held behind closed doors by the four most powerful people in state government, all men.

    The state Capitol building on

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  • Activists, Lawmakers Rally for Voting Reform at Capitol

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    Tuesday's rally (photo: @NYCVotes)


    A coalition of electoral reform activists were joined by Democratic state lawmakers during their annual pilgrimage to the New York State Capitol Tuesday to call for legislation that would remove barriers to the ballot and ensure that eligible New Yorkers are provided more opportunity to vote.

    “Vote Better NY” seeks common sense changes to New York's voting laws to ensure that more eligible New Yorkers make it to the polls. This year, the organization is advocating for a slew of bills, including early

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  • As Con Con Debate Heats Up, Heastie Declares Opposition

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    Speaker Heastie, right, & Gov. Cuomo (photo: The Governor's Office)


    While it will be several months before the airwaves are flooded with special interest-backed ad campaigns warning of the potential “dangers” of a constitutional convention, in Albany, legislative leaders are beginning to speak out on the issue.

    On Saturday, February 18, at Black and Latino Caucus weekend, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, had one message for labor union leaders: make sure your members vote “no” on the upcoming ballot question. This November, New Yorkers will

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  • Cuomo Embraces Voting Reform Agenda, But Implementation Poses Challenges

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    Gov. Cuomo voting (photo: The Governor's Office on flickr)


    During his State of the State tour early this month, Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed a trio of major reforms hailed as important steps toward modernizing New York’s antiquated electoral system and increasing the state’s paltry voter turnout. While they are long-called for proposals that many are pleased to see Cuomo promote, implementing these goals could be more complicated than it may seem.

    Two of the three reforms, early voting and automatic voter registration, were outlined in Cuomo’s 2016

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  • Largely Inactive Senate Ethics Committee Restructures

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    Sen. Gianaris (photo: State Senate)


    New York state government has had no shortage of ethics scandals, but has had a deficiency in active, effective bodies to prevent, punish, and root out bad behavior among elected and appointed officials.

    When the new legislative session began in Albany earlier this month, there was an immediate shake-up of the long-dormant state Senate ethics committee, throwing the always-simmering chamber to a quick boil.

    The Senate ethics committee, as well as a parallel

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  • Much Agreement on Need for Bail Reform, But Little Movement

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    On Rikers Island (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)


    There is an ongoing conversation in New York about how to fix the bail system that many agree is broken, keeping too many poor people in jail after they are arrested for low-level nonviolent offenses but cannot afford to post bond and, at times, allowing individuals back onto the street who are prone to violence but able to pay bail. Efforts at reform have been full of fits and starts.

    About a month ago, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced measures to make

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  • How Jeff Klein Became New York’s New Power Broker

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    State Sen. Jeff Klein, center-right & other Bronx electeds (@RepEliotEngle)


    In January 2011, State Senator Jeff Klein declared himself leader of a group of four breakaway Democrats who were united in their dissatisfaction with the recent dysfunction of their conference’s leadership. They created the Independent Democratic Conference, or IDC, despite the fact that Klein had been deputy leader of the Senate Democrats and was in control of the New York State Democratic Senate Campaign Committee during the 2010 elections, all through the now legendary strife

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  • Trump Could Tip Key Races for State Senate Control

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    photo: @NewYorkGOP


    New York State Senate Democrats have picked up seats in every presidential year in the past two decades. They’ve been chomping at the bit for Hillary Clinton, a former New York Senator, to head the presidential ticket, telling anyone who would listen that she would bolster turnout for them and win them swing districts, thereby securing them control of the chamber, perhaps for good.

    What the Senate minority didn’t count on was the Republican presidential candidate being toxic to black and Hispanic voters and alienating a

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  • Senate Republicans Face Departures with Battle for Control Looming

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    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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  • Fixing City's 'Non-Functioning' Board of Elections Relies on State

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    Mayor de Blasio votes (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)


    Many eyes will be on the New York City Board of Elections come Tuesday as New Yorkers head to the polls for the second time this year, casting their votes in congressional primaries. The first election, April’s presidential primaries, was so problematic it prompted multiple city and state authorities to launch investigations into

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  • Lobbying, in Albany, for Better Voting Laws

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    Students in Albany to lobby for voting and registration reform (#VoteBetterNY)


    Before dawn on a cold and rainy May morning, about 175 New Yorkers gathered outside a building on Church Street, waiting to board a bus to Albany. Some had left their Staten Island and Queens homes as early as 4 a.m. to make departure on time, others had taken the day off work or school, all were there for the same reason: to meet with state lawmakers and convince them to modernize New York’s antiquated election laws.

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  • For State Budget, Leaders Choose 'On Time' Over Open

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


    As negotiations over the state's $150 billion budget sputtered on Thursday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ramped up pressure on legislators to accept a deal. Speaking with reporters, Cuomo implied legislators could jeopardize a potential pay raise if they can't deliver an on-time budget.

    "So they're gonna need to be able to make that case not just to the pay commission but to the people of the State of New York in November when they go to seek re-election," Cuomo said. "So

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  • Good Government Groups Want Legislators to Pledge to Fight for Reform

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    The pledge (photo via @CitizensUnionNY)


    Lawmakers returned to Albany for the first day of the 2016 legislative session in the wake of two seismic corruption convictions of their former house leaders. Waiting for them were representatives of three leading good government groups, asking New York state legislators to sign a pledge to fight for good government reform.

    On the first day of session since both former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos were convicted on multiple federal corruption charges, good government groups unveiled a

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  • Frustrated and Confused, Legislators Vote on Largely Unseen Budget

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    Gov. Cuomo during Sunday's Greek Independence parade (photo: @NYGovCuomo)


    Voting on a murky budget "framework" began in Albany on Monday evening under a cloud of confusion and anger. Debate in both houses of the state Legislature stretched from afternoon into evening, with the Assembly adjourning around 9 and the Senate around 10 p.m. Both will be back to finish voting on budget bills Tuesday morning - legslation that members mostly have not had a chance to read.

    As Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislators sprint to

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