New York State Legislature

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The state Assembly narrowly approved a measure to remove the religious exemption for vaccinations in the wake of a severe measles outbreak that began in communities with a high percentage of unvaccinated children in New York and is steadily spreading to other states.

The measure almost didn't make it out of the health committee, and the chair of that committee voted against the bill on the Assembly floor. 

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

The New York State Senate passed a bill Tuesday to legalize paid gestational surrogacy for couples who are unable to have their own children.

But it faces an uncertain future in the Assembly, and opponents range from feminist icon Gloria Steinem to the Catholic Church.

The measure is part of a package of bills that supporters say advance LGBTQ rights, including a measure to prohibit anyone from using the so-called gay or trans panic defense, where someone claims that a person’s sexual identity led them to commit violence against that person.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

New York state lawmakers had the day off Monday before they return to the Capitol on Tuesday to tackle a number of end-of-session issues, including renewing rent control laws and possibly legalizing marijuana for adults. A poll finds support among New Yorkers for many of the issues on the table.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

State Senators and Assembly members are pushing for action to combat climate change before the legislative session ends later this month.

But Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the plan is too ambitious and unrealistic.

Sen. Todd Kaminsky, chair of the Senate’s Environmental Conservation committee, said he thinks that the state can enact the major anti-climate change measure between now and June 19, when the session is scheduled to end. He said there isn’t time to wait.

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With 11 working days left in the legislative session, the atmosphere is intensifying at the State Capitol. Democrats who lead the Legislature are facing pressure from all sides to deliver on legislation that they campaigned on. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo began the week with a news conference about measures focusing on four women’s issues that he said must be done before the session ends.

Marco Varisco / Flickr

Legislative leaders have announced an agreement in principle on nine bills that they say will extend and strengthen New York City’s rent laws. It’s part of an effort to get a number of bills passed before adjournment later in June.

In a joint statement, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said they will "advance a historic package of tenant protections that encompasses the principles of the nine bills" that have been circulating at the Capitol in recent weeks.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

A leading business group has come out in favor of granting driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, increasing the chances of the bill’s passage in the state Legislature this year.

Heather Briccetti, president of The Business Council, said reinstituting the policy of issuing New York state driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants will make the roads safer and help businesses that are seeking workers during a labor shortage.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

The New York State Legislature held a daylong hearing Tuesday on a proposal to enact single-payer health care in New York.

A packed room listened as supporters and opponents debated whether it’s the answer to the state’s health care gaps. 

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

The second hearing on sexual harassment in New York state government will be held Friday in New York City. Ahead of the hearing, a group of former legislative staffers who say they have been victims of harassment joined lawmakers to introduce bills to strengthen New York’s laws.

The first hearing, held in February in Albany, featured harrowing accounts from several women and men who detailed harassment by former senators and Assembly members. 

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The New York State Legislature took final action on measures that could be used against President Donald Trump and his associates, including a backdoor way for Congress to view the president’s tax returns.

The first bill would authorize the state tax department to release the tax returns of Trump and other elected officials and high-ranking political appointees who live in New York to some congressional committees conducting inquiries.

Marco Varisco / Flickr

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A presidential pardon won’t be enough to clear someone associated with the commander-in-chief of similar state charges under legislation approved by New York state lawmakers Tuesday.

The bill, which now moves to Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, revises the exceptions to the state’s double jeopardy law in an effort to ensure the state’s ongoing investigations into the Republican president and his associates can’t be derailed by a White House pardon.

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO Public Media

A Norwich City School District bus driver is being called a hero for saving a student from a car last week that illegally passed the bus. The district released a video of the incident, which went viral and was shared around the world. Rep. Anthony Brindisi (D-Utica) honored the bus driver and is pushing legislation to improve school bus safety.

The video shows Samantha Call, the bus driver, grab the back of a student who was exiting the bus, just as a car passed along the right-hand side.

stgermh / Flickr

Advocates for a bill that would allow terminally ill New Yorkers to end their own lives say the legislation has its best chance yet for passage in the Democratic-controlled state Legislature. 

The bill would permit physicians to prescribe a lethal dose of pills to patients who are diagnosed with a terminal illness and who ask for the drugs. 

Brett Levin / Flickr

After the failure to include legalized recreational marijuana in the New York state budget earlier this year, sponsors of the legislation say they are introducing a new bill that they hope stands a better chance at becoming law.

Sen. Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat who is a longtime supporter of legalizing the drug, said the new bill incorporates some of the ideas the governor and Legislature came up with when they talked about the issue during budget talks.

NYCLU / Twitter

Progressive groups, including the New York Civil Liberties Union, say they’re frustrated that action on left-leaning issues has stalled in New York in the final weeks of the legislative session.

They held a rally Monday to get Democrats who lead the state Senate and Assembly to move faster on items like granting driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants and workers’ rights for farm laborers, and they are hopeful those measures will pass before the session ends on June 19.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Opponents of bills to decriminalize prostitution in New York say it will only strengthen the worldwide sex trafficking industry and increase incidents of abuse in New York. Anti-sex trafficking groups and their allies spoke out at the state Capitol. 

Attorney Dorchen Leidholdt has represented hundreds of women who were abused by domestic violence and sex trafficking. She is co-chair of the New York State Anti-Trafficking Coalition.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

More than 100 sex workers came to the Capitol on Tuesday to lobby for two bills that they say would help keep them safe and end some of the stigma associated with their jobs. 

The workers, joined by lawmakers who back the bills, told stories of what led them to the work.

Jessica Raven, a mother and community organizer with the group DecrimNY, is a former sex worker. She said she needed to earn money to survive when she became homeless at age 15 after being sexually assaulted in the foster care system.

Sen. Pam Helming

The so-called Finger Lakes Community Preservation Act was carefully crafted to prevent the construction of the proposed $365-million trash incinerator in the town of Romulus in Seneca County. The act bans state agencies from approving the construction of incineration facilities if they are within the Oswego River/Finger Lakes Watershed, 50 miles from a landfill, and 10 miles from a DEC-designated priority water body. The bill failed to pass the Assembly last year.

New York State Senate

A week after the Amazon deal in Queens died, New York lawmakers want states to agree to stop using taxpayer money to lure big businesses.

The legislators are proposing a measure that would form an interstate compact to end what they call excessive “corporate welfare” for large companies.

Among the sponsors is Senate Deputy Majority Leader Mike Gianaris, a leading opponent of the Amazon deal. It would have located part of a second headquarters for the giant online retailer in his district, in exchange for $3 billion in government subsidies.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

During the first hearing on sexual harassment in New York’s government in 27 years, state lawmakers closely scrutinized Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s policies on the issue, as victims told harrowing stories about their experiences.

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New York lawmakers say it’s likely they will vote soon to end cash bail and make other changes to help defendants who they say are unfairly treated in in the state’s criminal justice system.

The Senate sponsor of a measure to end cash bail, Sen. Mike Gianaris, spoke at a rally of criminal justice reform advocates.

Gianaris, who is deputy majority leader of the Senate, said the state’s bail system disproportionately affects the poor, and is racially biased. He cites the case of former movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, who has been accused of multiple cases of sexual assault.

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The New York State Legislature has announced it will hold hearings on Feb. 13 about sexual harassment in state government.

The announcement was hailed by a group of women who have experienced or reported being victims of sexual harassment by state lawmakers. 

Six Assembly and Senate committees will take testimony from those they call “relevant stakeholders,” and said they hope to engage in a “meaningful dialogue” on the topic of sexual harassment in the workplace. But they said they won’t take any individual sexual harassment complaints at the hearing.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is beginning 2019 a little early. Cuomo, in a speech at the New York City Bar Association, outlined what he admits is an ambitious agenda for the first 100 days of his third term, which starts Jan. 1.  

Cuomo’s plans for the new year include codifying the abortion rights in the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade into state law. He also wants to protect the provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act in state statute, including protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

Jim Bowen / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he backs a pay commission’s recommendation that he and the Legislature receive a more than 60 percent pay increase over the next three years, which would make Cuomo the highest-paid governor in the nation.

Under the recommendations of the pay commission, released Monday evening, the pay of state senators and Assembly members would increase from the current $79,500 base salary to $110,000 on Jan. 1 and rise to $130,000 a year by January 2021.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News (file photo)

A pay commission for New York’s statewide elected officials recommends a hefty increase to the salaries of the governor, state senators and Assembly members, but there are some strings attached.

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. 

Wallyg / via Flickr

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.

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