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The New York Times reported yesterday that a group of Assembly Republicans headed have called on federal prosecutors to investigate the "scandalous and allegedly criminal enterprises conducted by the Speaker of the Assembly, Sheldon Silver, and his staff."
The group wants an investigation into Silver's handling of sexual harassment cases over the years, including allegations against former Assemblyman Vito Lopez.
The letter, addressed to U.S. Attorney Richard S. Hartunian of the Northern District, alleges: "Silver’s chief legal counsel and his deputy legal counsel violated the state’s sexual harassment policy by refusing to follow the mandatory reporting requirements with the Assembly Ethics Committee even though Silver and his staff originally drafted this compulsory rule."
A spokesman for Silver didn't immediately respond to a request for comment from the Gotham Gazette.
If Hartunian were to investigate, he wouldn't be the only U.S. attorney looking into Albany scandal. Preet Bharara, of the Southern District of New York, has more than a few Albany legislators running scared.
Months after he first announced it, Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled his 10-point women's equality legislation today with 10 days remaining in the legislative session.
Cuomo debuted the idea of the 10-point plan back in January during his State of the State Address and since then opponents and supporters have battled back and forth about what the abortion measure in the bill meant — without having actual legislation to argue over.
The abortion point of the plan would make the language of the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision part of New York law. The bill also includes measures to fight human trafficking, pay discrimination and domestic violence.
The bill is expected to easily pass the Assembly but Cuomo said he has "no assurance" from the Senate that the legislation will pass. He said that discussions with the Senate Republican conference were similar to the stance they have taken in public, which is that the abortion part of the bill is a dangerous expansion of abortion rights. Some Senate Democrats also oppose the abortion language.
“Every one of the 10 points is important,” Cuomo said. “I see it almost as a statement of a bill of rights for women.”
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, facing escalating calls for his resignation over the handling of the Vito Lopez sexual harassment scandal, wasted no time today in organizing a cohesive response to beat back criticism.
"Mistakes were made; I deeply regret them," Silver said. Assembly Democrats met in conference with Silver for a good portion of the day and a little after 4:30 p.m. emerged to unveil a three-pronged strategy to better handle sexual harassment complaints.
Silver said that his office will no longer handle complaints but instead create an independent body called The Assembly Task Force on Sexual Harassment that will have its own budget to take complaints and investigate them.
Secondly, all elected Assemblymembers and senior staff will be considered "mandatory reporters" of sexual harassment.
Silver said those who fail to report incidents will face "immediate sanction."
Albany watchers thought last year's legislative session was slow. Not so fast! This year has been even slower.
Bill Mahoney of the New York Public Interest Research Group has provided us with a breakdown of bills passed this year and at this point last year. Keep in mind that Mahoney has previously noted that 2012 was a year "when they passed the fewest two-house bills since at least 1914."
Mahoney also notes, "Of course, the total number of bills is only one way to measure a session’s success. The session will ultimately be judged by what they do on the biggest issues, including their response to the crime wave rocking the Capitol."
Passed Senate: 2952012 passed Senate through 5/19: 475 Passed Assembly: 2352012 passed Assembly through 5/19: 366...
Passed Senate: 2952012 passed Senate through 5/19: 475
Passed Assembly: 2352012 passed Assembly through 5/19: 366
Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the ugly sexual harassment scandal surrounding Assemblyman Vito Lopez is the perfect example of why legislators need to pass his 10-point women's agenda.
“I think it would be the height of hypocrisy for a body that just recognized the problem up close and personal within their own colleagues and to not take action,” Cuomo told reporters yesterday.
Cuomo has yet to issue a bill encapsulating all 10 points of the agenda, but it is known to include stiffer penalties for sexual harassment; anti-human trafficking measures; pay equality laws; and a more controversial provision that would encode a women's right to an abortion in state health law rather than in the criminal code.
Barbara Bartoletti of the League of Women Voters echoed Cuomo's sentiments earlier yesterday. "If anyone should be the poster boy for the women's agenda legislation Vito Lopez is it," Bartoletti said.
Bartoletti wants legislators back in Albany next week ready to pass the women's legislation as well as campaign finance reform. Otherwise she said all they will have from this session is "a legacy of scandal."