New York state Senate

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Democrats who will run the state Senate in January say a top priority will be to expand access to voting in New York. Advocates say there are several steps they can take.

The incoming Senate leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, said New York is one of the last states in the nation that hasn’t expanded voting beyond Election Day. She said that by the next presidential election in 2020, that will change and New Yorkers will have more options to vote early and eventually, vote by mail from home.

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Some newly elected state Senate Democrats want New York to adopt a single-payer health care system, but that may put them at odds with other Democratic Senators who do not want to raise taxes.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

The New York State Senate made history on two fronts Monday as it elected Andrea Stewart-Cousins to be the first woman, and the first African-American woman, to head the chamber in January.

Stewart-Cousins, who has led the Democrats in the Senate since 2012, is poised to become the Senate’s next majority party leader after Democrats won 40 seats in November’s elections. She was a teacher and a journalist before being elected to represent Yonkers in the Westchester County Legislature.

nysenate.gov

State Senate GOP Leader John Flanagan was re-elected as the leader of the Republicans in that chamber on Friday, surviving a challenge from upstate Sen. Cathy Young of Olean.

But come January, he’ll be in charge of the minority party. In elections earlier this month, Democrats won enough seats to take control of the Senate for only the third time in the last century. 

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Progressive-leaning groups said Wednesday that now that more Democrats have been elected to the state Senate, they’ll hold the legislators’ feet to the fire in January to ensure that measures like bail reform and legalizing marijuana are swiftly enacted into law.

New York State Senate

When the state Legislature convenes for the 2019 session, one of the first items that’s expected to be voted on is the Reproductive Health Act. It would codify the abortion rights in the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade into New York state law.

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State Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who will become the first woman and African-American woman to lead the New York state Senate come January, said she hopes to take action quickly on long stalled measures in the Senate. She predicts that by the 2020 presidential election, New Yorkers will finally have early voting.

Stewart-Cousins will lead largest Democratic majority in the Senate in over a century, with at least 40 Democrats in her conference. 32 are needed to form a leadership coalition.

NPR

The latest results of races in New York state for state Assembly and Senate, as well as results in the races for Onondaga County sheriff and Syracuse Common Council at-large seat. Check back as updates are available.

New York State Senate

Democrats are leading in the polls in New York’s statewide races for governor, attorney general and comptroller. The most heated contests this Election Day are in the state Senate, where Democrats are trying to win enough seats to take control of the chamber away from Republicans.

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Central New York Democratic State Sen. Dave Valesky, first elected in 2004, was one of six members of the former Independent Democratic Conference to lose in primaries this year. That has opened the 53rd Senate District seat up to Democrat Rachel May, who defeated Valesky, and Republican Janet Burman, both of whom live in Syracuse. The winner will move the district from the center to either a more progressive or conservative ideology.

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NEW YORK (AP) — Former New York state Senate leader Dean Skelos was sentenced to four years and three months in prison Wednesday after his conviction on public corruption charges.

U.S. District Judge Kimba M. Wood announced the penalty for the longtime Republican powerbroker, citing his health challenges at age 70 as reason to reduce his sentence from the five years she gave him previously.

She said she would have given him only four years in prison, except he lied and distorted truth on the witness stand.

WRVO News

The upcoming midterm elections are the most closely watched midterms in at least a generation. In New York, control of the state Senate hangs in the balance. Republicans hold a slim one seat majority in the chamber, and one race could flip control of the Senate to the Democrats. This week, Grant Reeher moderates a debate between the two candidates running in the 53rd District: Democrat Rachel May, who defeated 7 term incumbent Dave Valesky in a September primary, and Republican Janet Burman. 

New York State Senate

The state Senate races are among the closest contests in New York on Nov. 6. Democrats need just one seat to take the majority away from Republicans. Spending on the races is growing intense, and accusations are flying.

Senate Democrats in the past have been outspent by the Republicans, who are in power in the chamber. This year, Democrats still have a smaller campaign account, with about $700,000 still on hand, according to filings with the state Board of Elections. The GOP Senate campaign committee had $2.3 million at the time of the last filing in early October. 

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Democratic candidate for New York State Senate in the 50th District, John Mannion, said the state needs a more coordinated effort to address harmful algal blooms in lakes. Mannion, a 25-year biology teacher at West Genesee High School, said volunteer groups and local representatives believe they are in a crisis situation.

Kathy Gorr said residents living alongside Skaneateles Lake, have been very concerned about its water quality since harmful algal blooms appeared last year.

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NEW YORK (AP) — A former New York state Senate leader and his son were convicted on Tuesday of extortion, wire fraud and bribery charges of pressuring businesses to give the son no-show jobs or else risk losing the powerful Republican’s political support.

A jury in federal court in Manhattan deliberated over the course of four days before reaching the verdict at the trial of Dean Skelos and his son, Adam. The top count, extortion, carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison but they are likely to receive far less time.

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For the second day in a row, Gov. Andrew Cuomo held rallies criticizing President Donald Trump’s choice for the U.S. Supreme Court and urging action on a measure that would protect the right to choose abortion in New York.

Cuomo, in Westchester and on Long Island, continued to urge the Republicans who lead the state Senate to return to the Capitol and vote on a measure that would codify the abortion rights in the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade and modernize New York’s 1970 laws that legalized abortion.

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The 2018 legislative session ended quietly, as Democrats and Republicans in the legislature failed to agree on major issues and exited the Capitol until next January. Although Gov. Cuomo is now leaving the door open to calling them back.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News

Lawmakers busily passed bills on the final day of the 2018 legislative session, but as the final evening approached they were unable to reach agreement on many major issues.

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State Sen. Dave Valesky (D-Oneida) has his first Republican opponent in eight years. Economist Janet Burman has decided to run against Valesky, in a district that stretches from the city of Rome in Oneida County into Cayuga County, and includes half of the city of Syracuse.

Burman said she and her husband almost decided to leave New York for a lower taxed state two years ago, but decided against it, because they loved Syracuse. Now she says she’s going to try to do something about those taxes, by running for state Senate.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News (file photo)

The business of the evenly divided New York State Senate remains stalled, as advocacy groups pressed for their bills to be acted on before the session ends in two weeks.

New York State Senate

In a spirited floor fight in the state Senate, Democrats tried once again but failed to get a vote on an amendment on women’s reproductive health care.

The argument over Senate procedure led to accusations that some Republican senators were trying to “mansplain” the rules to the state’s female lieutenant governor.

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The New York State Senate is experiencing its worst gridlock in nine years, with the two major factions tied at 31 members each. No legislation is moving through the chamber, but there’s lots of finger-pointing.

Tempers flared on the Senate floor as Democrat Michael Gianaris blamed the GOP for the stalemate.

“They don’t have the votes to pass a single thing in this chamber,” Gianaris shouted.

After two days of infighting, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan was frustrated.

“We saw the Democrats paying shameless games with people’s lives,” he said.

New York State Assembly

Assemblyman Bob Oaks (R-Macedon), who has represented Wayne County and parts of Cayuga and Oswego counties for 26 years, is retiring, and the vacancy is attracting familiar candidates.

Oaks was first elected to the Assembly in 1992 and rose through the ranks of the GOP, eventually becoming the ranking minority member of the Assembly's Ways and Means Committee that oversees fiscal policy. In a statement, the Republican said he wants to spend more time with his grandchildren and pass on the torch.

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The newly reunited Senate Democrats held their first press conference, where they focused on what they said was their No. 1 priority — a package of bills making it easier to vote.

Senate Democrats conducted a survey of eligible voters in New York on their voting patterns. Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said it confirms what she already knew: New York’s voter participation rate is abysmal. The state ranks 41st of all 50 states in the 2016 elections, with a voting rate of 57 percent.

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Syracuse-area State Sen. John DeFrancisco does not plan to seek reelection this year, even if his bid for governor is unsuccessful. The Republican, who represents most of Onondaga County and parts of Cayuga County, has served in the senate for 25 years.

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The New York state Senate met for the first time since two Democrats were successful in special elections held on Tuesday. Though the Senate now has 32 Democrats, the number required to form a majority, it was back to business as usual with the GOP in charge.

Sen. Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn) is the lone Democrat remaining with the Republican caucus, and giving the GOP the one seat needed to keep the majority in the chamber.

Two feuding factions of mainstream and independent Democrats already reunited on April 5.

New York State Senate

Democrats won two special elections for New York state Senate in the Bronx and Westchester County Tuesday, which will give them a numerical majority in the Senate, but Republicans will still control the chamber thanks to a lone Democratic Senator who will continue to caucus with the GOP.

Even before the results of Tuesday’s election were decided, Sen. Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn) said in a statement that, with only 25 days remaining in this year’s legislative session, he wants to do what’s best for his constituents.

NYSenate.gov

Updated at 3:40 p.m. Tuesday

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - The New York state Senate will remain in Republican hands - for now.

A key Democratic state senator who has sided with Republicans said Tuesday that he will stay put - even if Democrats win two special elections Tuesday and win a numeric Senate majority.

Brooklyn Sen. Simcha Felder has long sat with Senate Republicans, to the frustration of members of his own party. Democratic leaders had hoped Felder might return if they win Tuesday's elections in Westchester County and the Bronx.

New York State Senate

Monday marked the first day that the former breakaway Democrats in the New York State Senate were working with the mainstream Democrats after they agreed to reunify earlier this month.

Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said so far, it’s all proceeding smoothly, but she dampened expectations that major new legislation would get done before the session ends in June.

Tom Fazzio / Syracuse University

The New York State Senate is changing. The Senate's Independent Democratic Conference, which had operated in a coalition with Republicans, is now dissolving and rejoining with mainline Democrats. This week, Grant Reeher talks with Sen. Dave Valesky (D-Oneida), a founding member of the IDC. They discuss the implications of this change, as well as the recently passed state budget. 

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