Karen Dewitt

NYS Capitol Correspondent

Ways to Connect

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Anti-gambling activists took a sledgehammer to a slot machine in front of the Capitol to demonstrate their opposition towards a ballot amendment to legalize gambling casinos in New York.

The advocates took turns smashing up a Lucky 7 slot machine at a park near the State Capitol as TV news cameras recorded the event.

David Blankenhorn of the Institute for American Values organized the event.

“It felt great,” Blankehorn said. “I’ve wanted to do this for a long time.”

Pat Arnow

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo seems to be setting the stage for a tax cut next year.  Recently, he’s appointed a new commission to look at cutting property and other taxes, and has said the state may have a budget surplus to pay for them.
The governor announced a new tax policy commission headed by former New York State Governor George Pataki, a Republican, and former state Comptroller Carl McCall, a Democrat. Both are former political rivals of Cuomo.
 

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A Binghamton Assemblywoman who is on the Cuomo’s Administration’s hydro fracking advisory panel is asking for a do over of an ongoing heath review, saying the secretive process has compromised public confidence.

Karen DeWitt

News reports in recent days portray New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Moreland Act Commission on corruption as possibly going off the rails. Government reform groups say they are concerned and want some answers.

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While the focus has been on the partial federal government shut down, another important piece of legislation, the federal Farm Bill, has also expired.  New York’s lead lobbyist for farmers is in Washington meeting with congressional representatives and their staffs trying to figure out what to do next.

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Another anti-gambling group has released a study debunking New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s and the legislature’s claims about the benefits of permitting more casino gambling in the state.

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A budget watchdog group says New York’s new 10-year plan of how it will spend over $174 billion in road and bridge and numerous other projects lacks transparency.

Governor Cuomo’s Administration, for the first time, has compiled a list of all of the state improvement projects projected for the next 10 years, for a total estimated cost of $174.4 billion.

A press release issued earlier this year billed the new Capital Plan as an achievement that “modernizes and rebuilds the state’s infrastructure, grows the economy and creates jobs."

Karen DeWitt

The second public hearing held by New York Governor Cuomo’s commission to probe public corruption featured testimony from long time government reform groups. Many brought more evidence that they say shows potential corruption involving money and politics.

Karen DeWitt

The second hearing by New York Governor Cuomo’s Moreland Act Commission on corruption in the legislature will be held Tuesday evening in Albany.  Government reform groups are scheduled to testify, and some say the commission should also be looking at some of the campaign contributions to the Governor himself.

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This November, voters in New York will decide whether the state will allow up to seven new resort style gambling casinos, when they have the choice of saying yes or no to an amendment.  But the wording of the actual referendum on the ballot may increase the odds of the new casinos being approved.

Karen DeWitt

A commission appointed by Governor Cuomo to investigate public corruption is holding its first series of hearings. At the kick off event in New York City, a prominent figure in busting corruption in the legislature announced he’s found a back door way to confiscating  the pensions of convicted state politicians.

NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli
NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli

The State Comptroller says he’s looking for more start up companies and entrepreneurs to invest in, as part of a partnership between the state’s pension fund and private equity managers.

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It’s been nearly a year since the administration of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the state health commissioner would conduct a review to determine whether hydrofracking could be done safely in New York. Since then, little information has been released on the on going study. Now, an anti-fracking group is suing the state to find out what exactly is being reviewed.

The primaries are over and the general election in November is still weeks away, but already many in the political world are thinking about the next significant contest on the horizon- the 2014 statewide elections.  State GOP Chairman Ed Cox, in an interview with public radio and television, says he’s working on finding a Republican candidate to challenge Governor Andrew Cuomo, and he says several are interested.

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An environmental group says budget cuts at the state’s environmental agency has meant up to 75% fewer inspections of polluters  like power plants and hazardous waste sites.

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Former Congressman Anthony Weiner failed by a huge margin to make a political comeback in the New York City Mayor’s race , trailing far behind  winner Bill DeBlasio and second place finisher William Thompson.  Former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer also was defeated in his attempt to get elected to a lesser seat- that of New York City Comptroller. But Steve Greenberg, a political analyst and spokesman for Siena College polling, says Spitzer, unlike Weiner, is more likely to get a second chance for a come back in the future, if he wants to. Spitzer, who resigned the governorship in 2008 over a prostitution scandal,  received 48% of the vote to winner Scott Stringer’s 52%. Weiner, whose sexting scandal continued to plague him during the campaign,  got less than 5% of the primary vote.

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Whatever the outcomes of today’s primaries, most mayors who win a new term in cities across the state will face a similar big challenge -  how to get their municipalities back on secure financial footing.

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The Environmental Committee Chairs in the legislature have proposed a $5 billion dollar environmental bond act, to be voted on in November 2014. But, at an Assembly hearing on the state’s environmental budget,  advocates say a bigger concern is dwindling staff at the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Office of Governor Andrew Cuomo

The school year starts for school children in New York this week and next week. It comes amid concerns over low test scores for many of the state’s students, and harsh rhetoric from Governor Cuomo, saying he wants a “death penalty” option for dealing with failing schools. 

Karen DeWitt

Senate Republicans held a hearing on how to cut taxes, that focused on whether some targeted special tax breaks are worth the money. Meanwhile, some groups complained that they’d been unfairly excluded from the discussion .

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An upstate pro-business group says regions of the state north of Westchester need special attention in the coming months to help the floundering economy.  The group Unshackle Upstate is proposing a series of tax cuts, as well as a start to hydraulic fracturing as the remedy.

A new report on the status of workers finds the period since the 2008 market crash may turn out to be a “lost decade” for New Yorkers, as wages stagnate and the average time for unemployment lengthens.

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This November, voters will get a chance to decide whether to expand gambling in upstate New York. But because of a quirk in the election calendar, it’s likely that downstate voters will be the ones to make that decision.

Former Governor David Paterson appears to be somewhat conflicted about his role as an official supporter of New York City Comptroller candidate Scott Stringer, and his ongoing friendship with his former partner- in-government, former Governor Eliot Spitzer.

Gov. Cuomo
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A leading government reform group has some advice for Governor Cuomo’s Moreland Act Commission investigations. They say there's a major loophole that has allowed $98 million dollars in unlimited donations to flow into what’s known as party housekeeping accounts.

A political controversy involving the issue of abortion has erupted this summer at the state’s ethics commission. It stems from whether some not-for-profit groups should be granted exemptions from publicly disclosing their donors. 

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics, known as JCOPE, is charged with increasing financial transparency when it comes to politicians and the groups who lobby them.

Pat Arnow

A new poll finds most New Yorkers are ashamed of the candidacies of Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer for Mayor and Comptroller of New York City. The Siena College poll also finds that Governor Cuomo, in contrast, is enjoying a minor rebound with voters. 

Gov. Cuomo
WAMC Photo by Dave Lucas

 

Cuomo’s name is frequently mentioned as a possible Presidential contender in 2016, that is if former First Lady and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton doesn’t run. But the governor first has to think about an earlier date 2014 and his re election race, and how to shore up his support in upstate, where he’s been flagging in the polls.   

During the past several weeks, Governor Cuomo has spent much of his time in upstate New York.

He paddled in a whitewater rafting contest he organized  in the Adirondacks, to boost tourism.

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New Yorkers have a chance to vote this November on whether there should be more gambling in the state.  Those who treat people with gambling addictions say it will likely result in more problem gamblers.

The New York Council on Problem Gambling is a not for profit, affiliated with the state agency on alcohol and drug abuse. It coordinates and publicizes treatments for New Yorkers with gambling addictions.

Test scores for third through eighth graders were released Wednesday, and they show a dramatic drop in the number of New York students who received passing grades.

Less than one third of students in the third through eighth grades, around 31%, passed the new math and English exams given for the first time this year, says Regents Chancellor Merrill Tisch, making the announcement on a conference call.

“As anticipated, the scores we are announcing today are significantly lower,” Tisch said.

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