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Without going into specifics, Gov. Cuomo called for a series of reforms yesterday in the wake of the bribery scandals that have rocked the state - and added to the growing criticism he's faced over the past two months. In a radio interview, the governor said the crisis should not be wasted and instead used to pass reforms in areas like political party balloting, member items, campaign donation limits, and the state Board of Elections. He would also enact lobbying reform and make it easier for local prosecutors to bring corruption cases. But he went on to argue that Albany is actually functioning better under his watch than before, particularly on New York City issues. When speaking with the NY Post, Cuomo blamed the capitol's incumbent-driven political culture for the rash of corruption. So far, he won't order a corruption commission to investigate state politics as his father did in 1987.

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State's Recovery Uneven (Albany Times Union)

Cuomo Calls On Federal Mortgage Backers To Protect Sandy Victims (Daily News)

Private Development Feared In City-Owned Complex (NY Times)

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"Appaling," that is how Gov. Andrew Cuomo describes the allegations of corruption against two state legislators, a city councilman and various other political players this week. 

Cuomo has tried to present an image of a new, functioning Albany during his time in office but this week has done a lot to tarnish that image. 

Here is Cuomo's statement: 

The allegations of public corruption by City and State officials revealed this week are appalling. New Yorkers deserve a government that is as good as the people it serves and the events of the last few days fail this and every standard of public service. As Attorney General I prosecuted numerous public corruption cases, including putting former Senator Espada and Comptroller Hevesi behind bars, and believe firmly that anytime the public’s trust is violated, we must act quickly and aggressively to hold the guilty parties accountable. I commend US Attorney Preet Bharara, District Attorney Robert Johnson and their partners in law enforcement on their dedication to prosecuting corruption at every level. Those of us committed to the public and honored to hold its trust have zero tolerance for the actions brought to light this week, and will continue to use our power to fight to ensure integrity and trust to government in New York.

Tagged in: Gov. Andrew Cuomo

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Deal on Paid Sick Leave

The city is set force companies that employ over 15 people to give full-time employees 5 compensated days off a year. The news comes as Council Speaker Christine Quinn who has blocked a vote on paid sick leave for years reached a deal last night with labor and business leaders. The law wouldn't take effect until spring 2014 and for the first 8 months it would only apply to businesses with 20 or more employees. Political pressure mounted on mayoral candidate Quinn over the last few weeks as her opponents and advocates attacked her on her refusal to bring the issue to a vote. Mayor Michael Bloomberg is opposed to paid sick leave and like Quinn has said it will hurt business. The council will have to vote on the legislation and likely override a veto from Bloomberg. “We have a good, strong and sensible piece of legislation that recognizes the needs of everyday New Yorkers and the realities that our struggling small businesses face,” Quinn said in a statement.


Other Stories We're Following

NY Assembly Passes State Budget (Daily News)

Pro-Cuomo Group Biggest Lobbying Spender (NY Times)

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Recording Suggests Race a Factor in Stop and Frisk 

recording played in federal district court in Manhattan on Thursday suggests that race plays a factor in the city's stop and frisk practices. The tape captures a conversation between a patrol officer and his commanding officer. The commanding officer urges the officer to stop "the right people, at the right time, the right location," to prevent crime. The officer asks what the commander means by "right people" and he responds: "The problem, was what, male blacks and I told you at roll call and I have no problem telling you this, male blacks 14 to 20, 21." The tape was played on the fourth day of trial in a class action lawsuit that includes millions of stop and frisk incidents in New York City. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has championed stop and frisk as a method to prevent gun violence and reduce crime. The issue is playing prominently in the race to replace Bloomberg. 


Other Stories We're Following

Deal Will Give Cuomo Administration Suite at Bills Stadium (NY Times)

Man Shot By Police in Brownsville Firefight (NY 1)

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It isn't a complete budget but legislative leaders and Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced what Cuomo called, "a budget agreement in concept." Leaders have agreed to incrementally increase the minimum wage to $9 an hour by 2016, give households with one child or more under 18 who make $40,000-$300,000 a tax rebate of $350 and extend the millionaires tax for three years. There are also $650 million in tax breaks for businesses. The $135 billion budget plan will age three days and be voted on starting Saturday. Although bills began printing last night not every part of the budget is rock solid--distribution of school aid remains undecided, tweaking the city's marijuana laws was not addressed and neither was tweaks to the state's newly-passed gun laws. Other outstanding issues include providing tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants and a deal to criminalize bath salts. Cuomo said that New York City will not see a restoration of $240 million in school aid it lost when the NYC Department of Education and the city's teachers union failed to reach a deal on teacher evaluations but Speaker Sheldon Silver said the money would be made up for through other channels. If lawmakers pass the budget by April 1st it will be the third on-time budget in a row


Other Stories We're Following

Biden and Bloomberg to Meet on Gun Laws (NY Times)

Cuomo Favors Easing Newly Passed Gun Laws (NY Times)

Groups Decry Minimum Wage Deal (Gotham Gazette)

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The budget is by no means finished yet but a minimum wage deal that will incrementally increase the wage to $9 an hour by 2016 has been pretty steadily floated by leadership over the past few days. If the idea was floated as a trial balloon than the jury seems to be in with its verdict. 

Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins issued a statement today asking Gov. Andrew Cuomo to remove the minimum wage from the budget: 

As details emerge it is clear that the current minimum wage proposal has some serious issues. While increasing the minimum wage to $9.00 is something that the Senate Democrats have long supported, we are disappointed that the current proposal doesn’t reach this level for three years, is not indexed to the rate of inflation and does not raise the wages of certain service workers. The Governor and the Assembly all originally proposed acceptable proposals, unfortunately the Senate Republicans have blocked these efforts. We propose removing this discussion from the budget and we stand ready to provide 27 votes for raising the minimum wage quicker, with indexing and for all low wage workers.”

 

Sen. Gustavo Rivera told me he supports the move and wants to vote on the bill separately on the floor of the Senate. He says all 27 Senate Democrats would vote for a minimum wage increase of $9 will indexing. 

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With budget negotions in a bit of a tangle and new deals floated every day, one policy that hasn't recieved much attention is the DREAM Act that would give undocumented youth tuition assistance to attend college. 

So far it seems that Speaker Sheldon Silver is fighting a losing battle to push for some sort of funding for the program to be included in the budget. 

Sen. Jose Peralta has continually called on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to make The DREAM Act part of his budget and to lead on the issue but so far it hasn't worked.

Cuomo has been quiet on the issue and a spokesman told the Gazette last week that Cuomo supports the federal DREAM Act but is considering proposals on the state level. 

The DREAM Act could be dealt with outside of the budget, but most insiders think that budget negotiations gives proponents the strongest hand to negotiate. 

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There is no budget deal to report as of this afternoon, but there are a few "tentative" ones the table — or at least floating around the halls of the Capitol. 

The first deal would see the state's minimum wage incrementally increased to $9 an hour by 2016. That deal has some mainstream Senate Democrats rankled. Sen. Mike Gianaris told Susan Arbetter of The Capitol Pressroom that Senate Republicans who cut a deal with the Independent Democratic Conference have "outsize" influence in negotiations and that the deal is "half a loaf." 

Sen. David Valesky of the Independent Democratic Conference responded in a statement accusing Gianaris of the "type of absolutism that prevented progress in the past." 

Now there is word of a deal on marijuana laws. The New York City Council would be allowed to make possesion of small amounts of marijuana in public a ticketable offense rather than an arrestable offense under proposed legislation.

Some upstate legislators are upset that the measure would only impact New York City. 

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Legislators say they expect to vote on a state budget by next week making for an extra-early budget. Of course lots could happen between then and now but legislative leaders continue to meet today and have hashed out their spending targets.

The joint budget conference announced they have agreed to $550 million in "table target" spending. Other targets include $60 million for health spending,  $70 million for higher education, $40 million for mental hygiene and $35 million for human services. 

Other parts of the budget remain elusive. It is unclear whether casino siting and a minimum wage increase will be in the budget. Advocates have swamped Albany online and in the Twitterverse targeting Sens. Dean Skelos and Jeff Klein to raise the minimum wage. Cuomo supports a $8.75 hike, while the Assembly has passed a $9 hike. The Senate budget supports an unspecified wage hike that would be phased in in installments. 

A number of advocates have been focusing on Klein specifically because he and the Independent Democrats joined with Republicans to create a coalition while saying they support a minimum wage hike. Republicans have been vocal in their opposition to a wage hike. 

“The time for excuses is over. Given the tremendous support by voters, community, faith, labor and business leaders, the minimum wage should have been increased last year," said Mark Dunlea of Hunger Action in a statement. "A majority of State Senators want to join the Assembly in raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour, with indexing. Sen. Klein has to show that his power arrangement agreement is something more than a charade to thwart the democratic will of voters and to distribute patronage to the minority Republicans and their IDC enabler." 

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Office of New American's has debuted 27 "opportunity centers" that will provide English language training, prepare immigrants for citizenship tests, provide job opportunities, training and access to capital.

There is also a toll-free, multilingual hotline at (800) 566-7636 to guide immigrants to services. 

“By establishing the Office for New Americans, we are helping our state live up to the promise of the Lady in our Harbor and ensure that New York remains a land of opportunity for all," Cuomo said in a statement. "New York state and city were built by the working hands of immigrants who traveled thousands of miles to pursue the limitless possibilities of the American Dream. The Office for New Americans builds on this promise and will help harness the strong work ethic and energy of our immigrants so we can reinvigorate our economy, create jobs and reconnect to our state’s rich history of opportunity." 

Cuomo noted at a cabinet meeting on Monday that the creating of the opportunity centers shows that New York's policy toward immigrants is opposite of many states that want to drive immigrants away.

New York Secretary of State Cesar Perales echoed Cuomo' sentiments.  “Providing access to English language training and other services is vital for the full participation of New Americans in our State’s civic and economic life," he said. 

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled Open.ny.gov, a transparency site dedicated to hosting data from state agencies as well as localities and the federal government. Cuomo showed off the site at a cabinet meeting this morning. The move comes at the start of Sunshine Week . 

“Open.ny.gov creates unprecedented transparency across all levels of government and gives the people user-friendly access to vast quantities of information on our State,” Cuomo said in a a statement.  “This new website will dramatically increase public access to one of our most valuable assets – data. As it expands and evolves over time, Open.ny.gov will spark innovation, improve efficiency, promote accountability, and bring the people back into government.”

Cuomo issued an executive order directing state agencies to review and catalogue data that they collect and make it available to the public on the website. The state Office of Information Technology Services will consult with agencies on how to post the information. 

City and county government are also taking part in the site and have made their data available. 

For more on the state of open data in New York State, check out today's feature. 

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Tagged in: Gov. Andrew Cuomo

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Sen. Jose Peralta wants action on legislation that would give young undocumented New Yorkers tuition assistance.

He is filing a motion to force the legislation out of committee in the Senate and has written Gov. Andrew Cuomo asking him to make the DREAM Act part of his budget. 

"Under your stewardship, New York has blazed a trail on several of the great issues of our time," Peralta wrote in a letter to Cuomo today. "By passing the DREAM Act, we can take another such monumental step."

"The Fiscal Policy Institute has calculated that bachelor's degree holders pay an additional $3,900 in annual state taxes, meaning that TAP funding for the undocumented would more than pay for itself within six years on average," Peralta continued.

The Assembly has added $25 million for funding the DREAM Act to their budget plan. The deadline for a budget is April 1. 

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City Jobless Rate Rises

The city's jobless rate rose above 9 percent in January despite the fact that the city started the year with more jobs than it has ever had before. The State Labor Department found that the city added85,000 jobs in 2012 and started 2013 with 3.94 million jobs. The Labor Department has concluded that the city's jobless rate rose no higher than 9.5 percent last year and was at 8.8 percent by the end of the year. 


Other Stories We're Following

City Park Staff to be Bolstered (Wall Street Journal)

Amendments to State Gun Law Package in The Works (Albany Times Union)

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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. Supporters of fracking condemned the move saying fracking will bring a needed boost to the upstate economy. The bill is unlikely to pass in the Senate although members of the Independent Democratic Conference have proposed a similar measure. The Assembly bill also requires a health impact assessment to be carried out using a model recommended by the Centers for Disease Control.


Other Stories We're Following

Cuomo to Hold Telephone Town Hall on Campaign Finance Reform (Capital Tonight)

State Budget Deadline May Be Even Earlier Than Usual (Daily News)

in Albany, Teacher Union's Lobbying Power Remains Unmatched (Gotham Schools)

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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.”

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Assembly Republicans are expressing their dissaproval with Speaker Sheldon Silver's legislation that will increase the minimum wage to $9 an hour at a hearing this afternoon. 

Assemblyman Al Graf just got finished noting that this specific bill has no sponsor in the Senate and that it is basically a one-house bill. "All this amounts to is a nice little press release," Graf said. Democratic Keith Wright is the bill's sponsor in the Assembly. 

Silver decided to bring the wage increase to a vote today as negotiations over a minimum wage increase continue between the Senate, Governor and Assembly.

Senate Republicans have acknowledged an increase is likely but they want to pair it with tax cuts. 

Meanwhile, the breakaway Independent Senate Democrats support a wage hike as well.

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A member of a dissident faction of Senate Democrats has introduced legislation that would put a a 24-month moratorium on the form of natural gas drilling known as hydraulic fracturing, pending the outcome of major health studies into the practice. 

Sen. David Carlucci, who is a member of the Independent Democratic Conference representing Rockland and Westchester counties, announced Tuesday that he had introduced the bill.

“A quick buck is not worth the long-term debt that our children will have to live with if we get this decision wrong," Carlucci said in a statement. "Rushing to judgment without all of the facts is a recipe for a disaster, particularly involving a hydrofracking process that lacks transparency and accountability, and has appeared to pose significant harmful health effects towards populations surrounding the Marcellus Shale. I cannot in good conscience support any measure that does not first fully evaluate all related scientific data, and that is precisely what we are advocating for here today. Let’s get the facts at our disposal before we launch into unchartered territory.” 

Sen. Jeff Klein had similar reservations: "As I've said before, I have serious concerns about the process. These studies will provide the Department of Health with a much clearer sense of whether or not hydrofracking can ever be conducted safely."

A release from Carlucci's office notes that three major studies into hydrofracking are ongoing: One on the impacts on drinking water resources by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; a Geisinger Health System of Pennsylvania study on the health histories of hundreds of thousands of people who live near natural gas wells on the Marcellus Shale that covers parts of New York as well as Pennsylvania; and a study of health impacts led by academic researchers. 

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo touted the contributions of New York women in the fight for equality as he opened a new exhibition in the War Room of the State Capitol. 

“New York’s women have always been trailblazers in the pursuit of equality and justice in our nation,” Cuomo said. “As the birthplace of the women’s rights movement in 1848, it is important that we continue that tradition by working toward achieving women’s equality in all areas of our society. Through organizing efforts, governmental action or shattering glass ceilings in professions historically dominated by men, the women featured in this exhibit represent the very best of our State’s tradition of national leadership in advancing equality and economic justice. I encourage all New Yorkers to visit this exhibit at the Capitol and share in the recognition of these extraordinary women.”

Cuomo is pushing a 10-point legislative agenda called the Women's Equality Act that looks to end pay discrimination, protect pregnancy leave, strengthen laws against human trafficking, enact a zero-tolerance policy against sexual harassment and — perhaps most controversially — take abortion out of the criminal code and make it part of the state's public health code. Supporters and detractors say it will take some stigma away from abortion. It is unclear how Cuomo will get the entire package through the Republican-controlled Senate but public relations will certainly be part of it. 

The exhibit in the capitol honors the following women:

· Lavinia Wright, co-leader of the first garment workers’ strike
· Louise Mitchell, co-leader of the first garment workers’ strike
· Jane Hunt, Seneca Falls Convention organizer
· Dr. Mary Edwards Walker, only woman to earn a Congressional Medal of Honor
· Belva Ann Lockwood, pioneering female attorney and political activist
· Rose Schneiderman, Triangle Shirtwaist Factory workers’ advocate
· Belle Moskowitz, social reform activist and advisor to Governor Al Smith
· Frances Perkins, first female member of the U.S. Cabinet, served as Secretary of Labor under Presidents Roosevelt and Truman
· Eleanor Roosevelt, influential First Lady and Human Rights activist
· Pauline Newman, organizer of the women’s labor movement in New York
· Kate Mullaney, founder of the Collar Laundry Union in Troy, New York
· Luisa Moreno, immigrant workers’ rights advocate
· Mary McLeod Bethune, African American community rights activist

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Tagged in: Gov. Andrew Cuomo

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Gun Advocates Swarm Capitol 

The Capitol in Albany was swarmed by an estimated 5,000 gun advocates yesterday in a rally organized to protest Gov. Andrew Cuomo's New York Safe Act. The SAFE Act that expanded the definition of assault weapons, banned clips with 7 or more bullets and increased penalties for illegal gun possesion was championed by Cuomo after the shootings in Newtown, Conn.The predominantly male audience carried signs that compared Cuomo to Hitler and chanted "Cuomo's got to go." Many protesters traveled for miles from across the state. Cuomo and legislative leaders have said they do not plan any major changes to the Safe Act besides a few technical corrections. However, one Republican Senator Kathy Marchione has introduced a bill that would repeal most of the SAFE act. The repeal is unlikely to ever come to a vote as Senate Republican leadership supports the SAFE act. The New York Rifle and Pistol Association which organized the protest is working on a legal challenge to the SAFE Act that it plans to file next week.


Other Stories We're Following

Fare Hikes on MTA Commuter Rails Take Effect Today (NY 1)

New State Education Standards Could Cost City Big (NY Times)

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The South Bronx district represented by Congressman Jose Serrano has the highest rate of hunger in the country. 

That's accoridng to the The Food Research and Action Center, which says Serrano's district has the highest rate of food instability and hunger out of any other congressional district. The rate is 36.3 percent.

One in six Americans (or 18.2 percent) report not being able to afford enough food, the FRAC study concluded. New York Sate has a rate of 18.8 percent food instability, while New York City as a whole performs better at 16.6 percent. 

Mark Dunlea of Hunger Action Network, which released a statement on the report, says the study shows that more work needs to be done nationally and on the state level to increase incomes and support programs that provide food to the needy. 

Hunger Action recently released a survey that showed a third of participants in emergency food programs have a job but make too little to provide enough food for their families. 

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