Karen Dewitt

NYS Capitol Correspondent

Ways to Connect

AP Photo

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.

WAMC Photo by Dave Lucas

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
WAMC Photo by Dave Lucas

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.

DA Kathleen Rice

  The co-chair of Governor Cuomo’s Moreland Act Commission on public corruption, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, says subpoenas have been sent out and more public hearings are planned.  
Rice was at the Capitol for the third private meeting of Governor Cuomo’s Moreland Act Commission. She says several subpoenas have been issued, but they have to be kept secret for now so that the ongoing investigations won’t be jeopardized.

Pat Arnow

Governor Cuomo recently announced that he would close several more state prisons, using provisions of a law that allows him to bypass the legislature.  It’s part of a pattern of government consolidation that the governor has been quietly pursuing since he took office.

The City of Detroit’s declaration of bankruptcy has left some in New York wondering whether any upstate cities will be next. State officials say they are trying to help with financial planning guidance, but local governments say more needs to be done.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has created a fiscal stress monitoring system that measures the financial health of New York’s local governments. A preliminary report found two dozen cities, counties and villages are moderately to severely fiscally stressed.  DiNapoli say he hopes they can avoid the fate of Detroit.

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In the summer of 2008, then Governor David Paterson and the legislature imposed an actual moratorium in New York on the gas drilling process known as hydrofracking. After it expired, Governor Cuomo’s environmental agency began an extended review. That study has never been completed. For the past 10 months, a decision has been put on hold while Governor Cuomo’s health commissioner conducts what he says is a health review.  No details have been revealed.

Brian Sampson, with the pro-business group Unshackle Upstate, calls it “paralysis by analysis.”

“It’s very disingenuous to the people to say that here we are five years later and we haven’t been able to make a decision,” Sampson said.

NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli
NYS Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli

New York's comptroller is trying to use the power of the pension fund to increase equal rights for same sex married couples. Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has written a letter to President Obama.

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A coalition of gun rights advocates and others are forming a new political movement, to get what they say are disaffected and disenfranchised New Yorkers to vote.

Office of Governor Andrew Cuomo

Governor Cuomo says he will be announcing his Moreland Act commission to investigate the campaign donation filings of the legislature in the “immediate future”, possibly as early as Thursday.

Cuomo failed to get lawmakers to agree on a package of campaign finance reforms,  and says he will now appoint a commission under the powers’ of the state’s Moreland Act, to investigate campaign filings at the State Board of Elections. The governor say in the end, it might even work out better.

When state lawmakers approved a bill to permit new gambling casinos in the final hours of the legislative session, they left something out.   A provision to ban campaign contributions to legislators from gambling corporations did not end up in the final version.

When Governor Cuomo announced his plan to create new gambling centers in New York, he said he also wanted to ban campaign contributions from gambling entities to state lawmakers.

It’s getting down to the wire for major pieces of legislation as the end of session approaches in Albany, including women’s rights and campaign finance reform. There are no agreements yet, but as Karen DeWitt reports, that’s not unusual in a government that operates on last minute deals.

Women’s groups are putting pressure on the State Senate’s ruling coalition to take up Governor Cuomo’s Women’s Equality Act, which includes  an abortion rights provision.

Senator DeFrancisco, a Syracuse Republican and Chair of the Finance Committee, said in an interview with public radio and television that most New York women aren’t that interested in the proposal, “and would not even lose a night’s sleep about expanding abortion rights”.

Karen DeWitt

Hundreds gathered at the State Capitol to rally for public financing of political campaigns. The measure remains in limbo in the State Senate and Governor Cuomo faces questions on whether he’s working hard enough for the proposal to pass.
 
They came in busses from all over New York to give state lawmakers their message- big money is corrupting politics. They say the state should adopt New York City’s public campaign finance system, which allows candidates to match every dollar they collect in small donations with seven dollars of government funds.

Office of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been traveling the state promoting a plan to allow new businesses to go tax free for up to a decade if they locate near a State University campus.  The plan, which is yet to be drafted into bill form, has raised some questions.

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