Assembly Tag All blog entries tagged as Assembly Thu, 21 Aug 2014 07:31:41 +0000 Joomla! 1.5 - Open Source Content Management en-gb Today's Headlines: Silver Responds To Harassment Scandal

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is weathering criticism for his handling of recently-resigned Assemblyman Vito Lopez's harassment suit. In response, he's announced plans to create an independent investigator for sexual harassment complaints and mandatory reporting of them. Many are calling for the speaker's resignation, including one Assemblyman who threatened to leave the Democratic conference if he didn't step down. Silver has apologized for authorizing a secret settlement in Lopez's harassment suit, but says resignation is "ridiculous." The scandal may have weakened his bargaining power, but he has a strong grasp on power in the state. Gov. Cuomo has reportedly decided not to call a special election to replace Lopez to keep him from wielding influence over his successor. The governor also says the harassment scandal proves the need for passage of his women's agenda.

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]]> (Mike Muller) The Eye-Opener Tue, 21 May 2013 11:17:12 +0000
Legislature Acts As Cuomo Once Again Hits Pause Button on Fracking The state Assembly voted yesterday for a 24-month moratorium on hydraulic fracturing, apparently emboldened by Gov. Andrew Cuomo's decision to hold off on allowing the natural gas drilling process in New York state.

In a statement defending the bill, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said a moratorium was necessary to allow for sufficient time to thoroughly study the issue. “We need to better understand the broad impacts to our environment, our economy, and the health and safety of all who work and live in New York before the Department of Environmental Conservation makes its decision," he said.

The Assembly bill also requires a health impact assessment to be carried out using a model recommended by the Centers for Disease Control.

Assemblyman Kevin Cahill of Ulster County lauded the move: “It became evident during our budget hearings that the review currently being done by the New York State Department of Health is inadequate for the protection of New Yorkers. This legislation will create New York-centered studies, taking into account our unique geology and water resources and also capitalize on the experience in other states.”

The Independent Oil and Gas Association and the Business Council both issued statements condemning the Assembly's action. “The proposed moratorium on future natural gas development in upstate New York is seriously ill-informed and ignores science and the experience in other states, and demonstrates continued disregard for farmers, landowners and small businesses in the Southern Tier,” said IOGA Executive Director Brad Gill.

But opponents of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, say the gas industry simply doesn’t have its heart in the fight because the market demand is not simply there.

“I think the industry is focusing on development in other places,” said Kate Sinding of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Gas prices are so low that there is just not so much pressure to get into the ground in New York. We are seeing frustration from landowners who are threatening lawsuits but not sure it is practical for the industry right now.”

The Independent Senate Democrats, who share control of the chamber with Senate Republicans, also introduced a bill this week in their chamber that would impose a similar 24-month moratorium on hydrofracking but the bill has not come to a vote.

It seems unlikely, however, that the Senate will pass a fracking moratorium, given that Senate Republicans would have to allow the bill to come to a vote and would likely resist such an action; but the move by the IDC, which has been an ally with Cuomo on many issues, is indicative of the political trend.

Silver noted at a news conference today that he has no commitments from the Senate to bring their moratorium to a vote and has no idea whether Cuomo would sign such legislation. However, there is currently no money in the budget allocated to issue fracking permits.

The Associated Press reported last weekend that Cuomo had been closer than ever to allowing a limited batch of 10 to 40 test wells until he was convinced by environmentalist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to wait for the results of a number of health studies into the impact of hydraulic fracturing. Cuomo has since acknowledged such a conversation took place but denied that Kennedy swayed him.

"To the extent Bobby says I said to him that if it's good for the economy and if it's not a health risk we should do it … I don't remember saying that to him, but it sounds like what I said. Sounds like what I've said to you 9 million times: that this has great possible economic benefit for the state in a part of the state that badly needs jobs, but we have to make sure it's safe and that there's no health risk," Cuomo told reporters earlier this week in response to questions about his conversations with Kennedy.

The Cuomo administration had set a February deadline for a decision on whether to allow hydrofracking but state Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah announced last month that he would need more time to complete his study on the health impacts of fracking.

]]> (David Howard King) State Thu, 07 Mar 2013 01:40:14 +0000
Assemblyman Wants Silver Out as Speaker

Republican Assemblyman Steve Katz is circulating a letter to his colleagues asking them not to reelect Assemblyman Sheldon Silver as Speaker, a position Silver has held since 1994.

"Mr. Silver’s actions in covering the sexual improprieties of Assemblyman Vito Lopez with taxpayer dollars by means of the 'Miscellaneous Contractual Services' account go against everything that we should be united against in a bipartisan manner," Katz writes. "While we may disagree on how to govern, the people of the state of New York deserve to have an open, honest, and transparent government."

Jimmy Vielkind of the Times Union recently documented how Silver and Assembly Democrats dodged any fallout from the Lopez scandal during the elections and actually added seats to their super-majority. It seems unlikely that Katz' effort will come to much but it keeps the scandal alive just a little bit longer. The matter is still reportedly being investigated by JCOPE.

Here is the full letter Katz is circulating among Assembly members:

To My Colleagues in the Assembly:

I write to voice my concern regarding our impending vote for leadership in the Assembly. In light of the events that have been revealed over the last six months, I believe that it hurts our credibility as an honest governing body with any sense of morality and decency to even consider nominating Assemblyman Sheldon Silver for the position of Speaker.

Mr. Silver’s actions in covering the sexual improprieties of Assemblyman Vito Lopez with taxpayer dollars by means of the “Miscellaneous Contractual Services” account go against everything that we should be united against in a bipartisan manner. While we may disagree on how to govern, the people of the state of New York deserve to have an open, honest, and transparent government.

If Assemblyman Sheldon Silver is re-elected as Speaker, then we are not only showing New York, but the rest of the nation, that we have no backbone, no moral compass, and no integrity when it comes to honest government. If Assemblyman Sheldon Silver is re-elected as Speaker, we are confirming New York’s worst fears that its elected officials are above the law. I believe we are better than this.

At its core, this is a moral issue – not partisan. There is common ground for all of us to responsibly occupy. The Speaker’s action to cover up numerous sexual indiscretions not only embarrasses the state and our government, but each one of us, as well. We cannot be expected to govern effectively and with the confidence of our constituents if Assemblyman Sheldon Silver is allowed to retain his position. His use of a taxpayer funded discretionary account to affect any sort of “out of court settlement” is unconscionable, and this stain will mar every decision we make on behalf of our constituents for the next two years.

The citizens of New York deserve better from their public servants. And as public servants, we deserve better leadership, so that we can better represent our constituents.

Collectively, I believe we are above the actions of Assemblyman Sheldon Silver. I hope you will join me in electing a new Speaker so that we can turn the page on a sordid chapter in our state’s history and work on fixing New York.

God Bless,

Assemblyman Steve Katz (AD94)

]]> (David Howard King) State Mon, 26 Nov 2012 20:02:18 +0000