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Yesterdayâ€™s election saw long lines, jammed ballot scanners and shortages of affidavit ballots. Few voters used shuttle buses to get to substitute polling sites. Scanners were broken at polling sites in Gramercy Park and Park Slope. Two of three emergency sites in Coney Island opened over two hours late. Some poll workers at sites had no idea that people could vote using affidavit ballots, and the city printed up only 250 per election district. According to unofficial results, the state Senate is now tied, but thousands of absentee ballots still need to be counted in very close races. Even if the Democrats win a majority, a number of Democrats say they'll back Republican leadership. Meanwhile, embattled Assemblyman Vito Lopez won re-election with 89 percent of the vote despite the scandal swirling around him.
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You can add one more issue to the pile of things Gov. Andrew Cuomo might get from the legislature in return for agreeing to legislative payraises. Today Cuomo told Fred Dicker of the New York Post that the making the legislature subject to freedom of information laws may be part of a deal for legislative pay raises. Earlier this week Cuomo said he wouldn't consider signing off on payraises until the legislature handles, "the people's business."
That "business" according to Cuomo at the time included hiking the minimum wage and decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana. However, other issues have also been mentioned for a post-election special session, including campaign finance reform. Cuomo discussed why the public might have seen the Assembly's sexual harassment settlement with Assemblyman Vito Lopez's accusers as "secret" and brought up the the FOIL process. Cuomo said:
"If there's no foil you wouldn't get these agreements unless they're voluntarily disclosed so that's a reform agenda I'm saying that we can take up."
Cuomo and his office have had an interesting relationship with FOIL, just ask the Times Union. Cuomo's office has battled with the Times Union over access to his records as AG pertaining to the Troopergate scandal.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he wants to see the state Legislature pass a hike in the minimum wage and legislation that would decriminalize posession of small amounts of marijuana before he will even consider signing on to legisaltive pay raises.
â€śWe have a legislative agenda that has not been passed, which is the priority for me,â€ť Cuomo said today at a graduation of the newest class of State Troopers. â€śIf there is an opportunity for the Legislature to act, Iâ€™m going to be looking for them to act on the peopleâ€™s agenda. I understand they may have an interest in a pay raise. Iâ€™m interested in a peopleâ€™s agenda and thatâ€™s what the session would be about. â€ś
A special session of the Legislature after the Nov. 6 elections has long been rumored. Legislative pay raises have been a crux of those rumors as well as campaign financing reform and other hot topics. State legislators haven't had a raise since 1999.
Senate Republicans have been steadfastly opposed to a minimum wage hike and the marijuana decrimilization effort. Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos called the minimum wage hike "a jobs killer" and made this memorable remark about Cuomo's plan to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana: â€śJust being able to walk around with 10 joints in each ear and it would only be a violation â€” I think thatâ€™s wrong,â€ť
Cuomo hasn't exactly been gung-ho on a minimum wage hike up until this point. It has mostly been Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's baby, and Silver is currently a bit hamstrung by the Vito Lopez scandal.
The National Organization for Women and Common Cause New York rallied today to call for a broader investigation into the "culture of sexual harassment in Albany."
The groups outlined a list of expectations for the Joint Commission on Public Ethic's investigation into the Assembly's handling of the Assemblyman Vito Lopez sexual harassment scandal.
"JCOPE has an opportunity to prove itself by conducting a real investigation which reveals how pervasive the problem is, whether other instances of sexual harassment were properly addressed as well as bringing forth the full facts of who knew what and when they knew it. A hurried report which fails to address the full scope of the Assembly, and Mr. Lopez's, wrong doing is unacceptable," said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York, in a statement.
Its unclear at the moment how far JCOPE's investigation will go into the sexual harassment scandal, but a spokesman for the commission told the Wall Street Journal that the probe would be thorough.
â€ťAs with any investigation undertaken by the Joint Commission, the evidence is followed wherever it may lead," spokesman John Milgrim said.
In a heated district leader race in northern Brooklyn, reform candidate Lincoln Restler trails behind longtime Greenpoint activist Chris Olechowski, the candidate backed by disgraced party boss Vito Lopez.
The race in Lopezâ€™s 50th Assembly District may come down to a counting of affidavit and absentee ballots. Restler is behind Olechowski by a margin of 136 votes, with Olechowski receiving 5,820 votes to Restlerâ€™s 5,684.
Valerie Vazquez, a spokeswoman for the city Board of Elections, said in an email today that affidavit and absentee ballots will be counted starting on Friday, Sept. 21, and may continue through Sunday.
More than 11,000 people voted in the high-profile district leader race, with a large flow of members of the Satmar-Hasidic community filling into poll sites ready to cast their vote for Olechowski. The New York Times reported that â€śit made it seem as if the election would determine the nationâ€™s president rather than the low-profile position of the district leader of a few Brooklyn neighborhoods." The Times said the turnout reflected the groupâ€™s loyalty to the Brooklyn party boss.
Restler, 28, whose win as district leader in 2010 represented a major success for anti-machine Brooklynites, is depending on the count of absentee ballots and voting procedure challenges to close in on the margin of votes needed for his re-election.
The sexual harassment scandal continues to remain the tops news today. The News reports that it was Assemblyman Vito Lopez who wanted the settlement payment to be kept from the public. Meanwhile, the Post finds sources who say Gov. Cuomo is worried that Assembly Speaker Silver may not survive the scandal. Silver has hired Mayor Bloomberg's former press secretary to help manage the situation. And finally, the fallout from Lopez's diminished stature has affected a number of primary races.
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In response to criticism of its initially limited investigation into the sexual harassment scandal, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics has expanded its probe beyond Assemblyman Vito Lopez to include Assembly Speaker Silver, Attorney General Schneiderman and Comptroller DiNapoli. The decision was made in private as prescribed by law and gleaned from the subjects of the investigation. But board members wanted to publicly counter claims that there were attempts to block certain investigations. Gov. Cuomo has said he is open to some changes in the board and also said he'd form his own commission to probe the matter if the board fails.
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The Joint Commission on Public Ethics may be considering an expansion of their probe into Assemblyman Vito Lopez's sexual harassment suit. Ravi Batra, a member of the commission, quit over the weekend, claiming the board had no independence. He also said good government groups were more concerned with Albany access than real reform. The attorney general and comptroller have been playing down their roles in the settlement. Also, a new accuser - who is also a candidate for State Senate - says she was the victim of sexual harassment when she worked in the Assembly Ways and Means Committee.
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The Joint Commission on Public Ethics voted yesterday to open a formal investigation into the sexual harassment scandal surrounding Assemblyman Vito Lopez, according to The Post. But there could be a delay in that probe if prosecutors ask the board to wait until they are finished with their own investigation. Meanwhile, Lopez derided Assembly Speaker Silver's call for him to resign 'self serving.'
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Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver says he asked Assemblyman Vito Lopez to resign from office last week amid the sexual harassment scandal.
Everyone involved in the settlement between the Assembly and Assemblyman Vito Lopez's accusers are now facing major scrutiny. The office of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman had to sign off on the sexual harassment settlement and as such they are also under the lens. In a statement just released by Schneiderman's office the AG says he is cooperating with the Joint Commission on Public Ethics: