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State legislator to introduce bill to require State of the State address be delivered in Albany

Matt Ryan
New York Now (file photo)

A state lawmaker from the Capital Region has pledged to introduce a bill to require Gov. Andrew Cuomo to stay in Albany when he delivers his State of the State message next month. Earlier this weeek, the governor announced that he plans to bring his annual address on the road.

Under the state constitution, the governor must address the legislature once a year. It’s typically served up as a State of the State speech at the beginning of the session to inform lawmakers of the governor’s agenda.

Since 2011, Cuomo has held his annual State of the State and budget address outside of the traditional venue of the Assembly chambers and inside the convention center at the Empire State Plaza in Albany.

Now, Cuomo is breaking with his own trend by taking his address on the road. Stops have been announced for New York City, western New York, the Hudson Valley, Long Island, Capital Region, and central New York.

But one Capital Region lawmaker is hoping to see Cuomo stay put. Republican Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, who will assume the role of state senator in the new year, has pledged to introduce a bill to require the governor to bring the address back to Assembly chambers.

“I’m not opposed to him traveling across the state and talking about the various parts of the State of the State in this new plan and how it relates to different regions. What I’m opposed to is him watering down and disrespecting the elected officials put in place as a part these checks and balances,” said Tedisco.

Tedisco referred to the governor’s tour as a “dog and pony show,” a remark that drew sharp criticism from Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi.

“It’s good that Assemblyman Tedisco, who is best known for dog and pony shows, is focused on the important stuff. We’ll leave that to him while the Governor is taking his message on how to move New York forward directly to New Yorkers.”

Azzopardi also sent Albany public radio station WAMC photos of Tedisco with animals, including dogs and horses. Tedisco is a longtime advocate for animal rights laws.

The governor’s State of the State in recent years has included videos and honored guests. It also typically features the state’s constitutional officeholders, some of whom have been feuding with the executive branch.

Retiring Republican Sen. Hugh Farley, who served for 40 years in a district that stretches from Schenectady to the Central Adirondacks, noted the governor’s style. 

“When he moved it to the convention center it became more of a production than it did a message to the legislature,” said Farley.

Tedisco believes Cuomo may be seeking to avoid lawmakers this year.

“I think he wants to bypass the legislature because he doesn’t want to see people like Assemblyman Barron stand up and take him to task,” said Tedisco.

Assemblyman Charles Barron, a Democrat from Brooklyn, approached the governor’s podium last January and interrupted the address.

“OK. Everybody sees you and everybody heard you. Have a seat, assemblyman,” said Cuomo when his address was interrupted last year.

Outside groups say there’s tension between the governor and lawmakers because of the governor’s opposition to a pay raise for the legislature and his own commissioners.

In the final weeks of 2016, Cuomo offered to put a pay raise on the table if lawmakers would meet in a special session to address ethics reform. 

The session did not happen.

Blair Horner, executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, says the situation between the two branches over the pay raise has become “toxic,” and that moving the address out of Albany won’t help.

“I think the legislature will see this as an act of war,” said Horner.

Barb Bartoletti, legislative director for the New York State League of Women Voters, agreed.

“He may be afraid that he will get to the convention center and no legislators will show up, because there was some talk of a boycott."

Venues and dates for Governor Cuomo’s State of the State tour have not yet been announced.