New York State Legislature

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

The state’s mayors are moving away from a state aid program for localities that they say has not been well-funded in recent years and trying a new way to get the governor’s and the Legislature’s attention as the 2019 state budget season approaches. 

For decades, mayors have received state aid for their cities through the Aid and Incentives to Municipalities program, or AIM. But funding has been flat in recent years, even though cities’ expenses have been steadily growing, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo tried to hold the line on state spending increases.

WRVO News (file photo)

It’s been 20 years since the governor and the Legislature in New York received a pay raise. But that might be changing in January. A panel formed to determine future pay for lawmakers is holding hearings and will make a recommendation by Dec. 10.

Since 1998, there’s been no change to the base pay of $79,500 per year for senators and Assembly members, although many make several thousand dollars more a year in stipends for leadership posts or for chairing committees. They also receive $174 to cover expenses every day that they are in Albany on business. 

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Less than a month after the legislative session officially ended, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been calling for the state Senate to come back and work on what he says is unfinished business.

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The nation's new tax law places a cap on the amount of state and local taxes that someone can deduct from their taxable federal income. That caused panic in high-tax states like New York. So the state's lawmakers amended their tax system to mitigate the increased costs for New Yorkers - changes the federal government may soon attempt to nullify.

Wallyg / via Flickr

The New York legislative session is due to end in three weeks, but some state lawmakers are talking about leaving a week early because they believe they will accomplish so little in that time. 

Political gridlock in the state Senate and worsening relations between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and majority-party Senate Republicans have led some lawmakers to say that perhaps they should end the session early.

But Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said his Democratic members are staying until at least June 20, the scheduled end of the session.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is pushing lawmakers to approve a ban on the plastic bags that are ubiquitous in grocery stores and the state's landfills. The goal is to remove the bags from the waste stream because of their damaging environmental effects and the expense to get rid of them. It's a policy Madison County lawmakers tried and failed to pass last year.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO Public Media

Medical professionals at Upstate University Hospital are urging the New York State Assembly to pass legislation that would require skiers and snowboarders under the age of 14 to wear helmets. Experts say injuries on the slopes can be more severe than accidents on bicycles.

Upstate Pediatric Trauma Medical Director Kim Wallenstein said every year, the trauma center sees about 10-20 children admitted following an accident from snow sports, and many more are seen as outpatients for things like concussions.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News File Photo

Survivors of childhood sexual abuse delivered an emotional appeal to state senators Wednesday after they learned that the Senate did not put the Child Victims Act into their budget plan. The measure would offer more opportunities for survivors to gain justice in the court system.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Some Democratic lawmakers in the New York State Legislature are pushing for a measure that would make anonymous political ads on Facebook and other social media illegal. They say the ads are being abused to falsely represent their positions on issues.

Sen. Todd Kaminsky, a Long Island Democrat, said there’s been a lot of publicity about Russian operatives using Facebook and other social media to influence the 2016 presidential race. But he said it’s also happening in New York races, and it needs to stop.

“It’s undermining our democracy,” Kaminsky said.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News File Photo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is putting $7 million into his 30-day budget amendments to fund poll sites for early voting in New York by the 2020 presidential race.

The funds would be used to set up at least one polling site in every county 12 days before Election Day so that voters can have several weekdays and two full weekends before elections to cast their ballot early.

Cuomo’s budget director, Robert Mujica, made the announcement on Monday.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News File Photo

On Thursday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo will detail his proposals to help New Yorkers affected by changes to the federal tax law. But Republicans who rule the state Senate are cool to the ideas, including one that creates a payroll tax instead of a state income tax.

Matt Ryan / New York Now (file photo)

Monday was the first full day of session in the New York State legislature, and lawmakers have a lot to contend with, including a multi-billion dollar budget deficit.

The state Assembly gaveled in first, with remarks by Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. The speaker, a Star Trek fan, used one of his favorite quotes from the series as he offered a critique of what he calls “radical policies” by President Trump and the Republican Congress in Washington.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

New York faces fiscal challenges in 2018, but that has not stopped groups from asking for more money in the new state budget, including agencies that provide care to people with disabilities. 

Chanting, “Be fair to direct care,” about 200 New Yorkers with developmental disabilities, along with their family members and caregivers, gathered in a reception area outside Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office Wednesday to ask for more help in paying the workers more money. 

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he may have to call a special session in December to deal with potential funding cuts from Washington that he calls part of a “federal assault” on New York.

Cuomo said he’s developing a plan to manage what he said will be over a billion dollars in cuts to the state’s public hospitals, now that Congress has failed to renew a key program.

“All hospitals will need to find savings,” Cuomo said.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News file photo

Former state Senate Leader Dean Skelos and his son Adam saw their federal corruption convictions overturned by a federal appeals court panel Tuesday.

The U.S. Senate plans to use procedural maneuvers to technically stay in session even when senators eventually go home for the Labor Day recess. Their intent is to prevent President Donald Trump from making any unwelcome recess appointments while they are away.

In Albany, taking steps to keep the legislative chambers open is nothing new.

On a day earlier this week, Assemblywoman Patricia Fahy stood on the podium in the vast Assembly chamber. She banged the gavel, and began what sounded like an ordinary day in the state Legislature.

Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie started a tour of upstate New York this week, with several stops in the Syracuse area.  

Heastie, a Democrat from the Bronx, admits that while he was just an Assembly member, he didn’t make it much out of the confines of New York City. But since he’s taken a leadership position in state government as the most powerful member of the Assembly, he says it’s part of his job to take a broader view of the state.

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The New York State Legislature finally ended its 2017 session, after the Assembly voted overnight on a privately negotiated omnibus bill, and the Senate finally finished on Thursday afternoon. The messy process drew condemnation from both sides of the aisle.

Payne Horning / WRVO News

The New York State Legislature is meeting today for a special session and that may provide lawmakers with an opportunity to prevent the closure of Vernon Downs. The owner of the Oneida County racino is hoping for some tax relief that the Legislature failed to pass before they adjourned last week.

stgermh / Flickr

When the state legislative session ended on June 21, lawmakers left behind a lot of unfinished business, including a failure to act on ethics reform proposals made in light of the economic development scandal in the Cuomo administration. 

Randy Gorbman / WXXI News File Photo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is not signing a bill the New York State Legislature passed last week that would provide grants for flood victims along Lake Ontario. 

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

This year's state legislative session has produced no agreements on ethics reform, even though Albany is in the midst of a what some call a corruption crime wave. Capitol correspondent Karen DeWitt (who is recovering from a cold) spoke to longtime League of Women Voters lobbyist Barbara Bartoletti about the lack of action.

Payne Horning / WRVO News File Photo

State lawmakers have passed legislation that could provide financial relief for those affected by Lake Ontario flooding. The new bill was approved after weeks of debate between the state Senate and Assembly over how much to spend and whom should be be eligible

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There was a flurry of activity — along with threats and ultimatums — on Monday at the state Capitol, but there were no agreements on major issues as the session draws to a scheduled close on Wednesday.

Victims of childhood sexual abuse remain hopeful that there could be a vote in the state Senate on a measure to extend the statute of limitations to age 28 for criminal proceedings and age 50 for civil proceedings.

Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins urged the majority coalition of Republicans and breakaway Democrats to allow the bill on the floor for a vote.

Marco Varisco / Flickr

The New York State Legislature is approaching its final week of the 2017 session, and agreements on outstanding issues, including mayoral control over the state’s largest school system, remain elusive. 

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News

Legislative leaders are dug in on remaining issues in the 2017 session and are accusing each other of unfairly linking unrelated items to renewal of mayoral control over New York City schools. Time is running out for scheduled meetings.

The renewal of mayoral control of New York City schools faces a hard deadline. It expires at the end of the month.

stgermh / Flickr

The New York state legislative session is drawing to a close, and Democrats and Republicans are digging in on the remaining issues of 2017. Among them is a measure to extend the New York City mayor’s control of the public schools, which has now been linked to a number of diverse issues affecting people in the rest of the state.

Games of chicken are common at the Capitol whenever a deadline like the budget or the end of session draws near. This time, it was the state Senate’s turn to go first.

401(K) 2012 / Flickr

The state budget’s been in place for just less than two months, and already there are signs that tax revenues may be significantly lower than expected. Anticipated federal tax reductions later this year may be one of the reasons.

Late on the Friday before the Memorial Day holiday weekend, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget division released its financial analysis of the new state budget approved in early April.

If you look closely at the numbers, they show that tax revenues reported in May declined by just over $600 million from projections made as recently as February.

Catherine Loper / WRVO News

The New York State Legislature is back at the Capitol for three weeks of meetings before the session ends later in June. A number of advocacy groups say there’s an opportunity for lawmakers to act to address some of the harm that they say President Donald Trump’s policies are causing. But divisions in the Legislature may hinder any chance of achievements.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News File Photo

New York lawmakers want fewer elections. They say they can save millions of dollars by consolidating primaries for state and federal offices into one day, but they can’t agree on when that day should be.

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