Karen Dewitt

NYS Capitol Correspondent

Ways to Connect

Uber and other ride sharing services are gearing up to win permission from the state legislature to operate in areas outside New York City. State Senators held a round table discussion of how to craft legislation.

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  The state’s education commissioner says parents who are thinking of opting their children out of standardized tests again this school year should stick with the exams, because they will be different than last year’s tests. But the state’s teacher’s union and a parents group says the changes don’t go far enough.

Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia is hoping to contain a movement that led 20% of students to boycott the third through eighth grade standardized tests last spring.

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The state’s latest teacher evaluation system, which was supposed to be in place by this Sunday, November 15th, has essentially been put on hold as 90 percent of school districts have been granted waivers to delay its implementation. It represents a reversal for a policy championed by Governor Cuomo just last spring. 

The new rules for teacher evaluations were put in place last March, as part of the state budget. 

Governor Cuomo says he won’t allow a natural gas transfer station to be built off of the coast of Long Island, saying  there are too many concerns, including damage form future hurricanes, and potential terrorism. 

The Port Ambrose transfer station was to be built off of  the beaches of Long Island, and would have allowed tanker ships to load up with liquefied natural gas, then distribute the gas into pipelines on the main land.

Cuomo made the announcement to an enthusiastic crowd of Long Island officials and activists.

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  Governor Cuomo announced he’s raising the minimum wage for state workers to $15 an hour.  That did not stop advocates from protesting at the Dunkin Donuts at the state Capitol, saying the governor’s recent phased in wage increase for fast food workers is too slow.

Cuomo, at a union rally in New York City, announced he’ll raise the minimum wage for state workers to  $15 an hour by 2018 in New York City and 2021 in the rest of the state.

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The leaders of school districts, teachers unions,  and parents are presenting a united front in calling for $2.2 billion dollars more school aid next year.  They say a hard property tax cap with a zero percent increase is making it even more crucial that state lawmakers help them out.

Bret Jaspers, WSKG

The state Senate’s newest member, Fred Akshar, known for his chain saw wielding ad, says he intends to be independent, including from his predecessor Tom Libous, who resigned the seat after a felony conviction.

Karen DeWitt

As momentum for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour grows, opponents are trying to fight back. Small Business groups, farmers and others who employ low wage workers  are organizing, and a fiscally conservative group is out with a study showing potential job losses.

A new proposal by the state ethics commission that could restrict campaign donations is raising some questions.

There’s only one political race Tuesday that directly effects New York State government, and that’s a special election for a State Senate seat in the Southern Tier. Karen DeWitt reports on a race that has the Republican candidate far ahead.  

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Three-quarters of school districts in the state have applied for waivers from the new teacher evaluation rules set out by Governor Cuomo and the legislature in March. The news comes amidst lots of changes, including  the leadership of the state Board of Regents.

State lawmakers said a few years ago that they would  no longer permit the controversial member item program to continue, but  critics say the old system, which gave taxpayer money to legislators’ pet projects, is being revived in a new form.

Times Union Website Crime Confidential Blog

Governor Cuomo, five years into his term in office, has reached a plateau with voters. About half still like and support him, the other half have reservations.

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Political and private sector leaders from around the state are spending three days at the Capitol, making their best case to win a share of $1.5 billion dollars in economic development monies for their region. Critics have called the competition the “hunger games,” because, under the rules, three regions will win, but four others will lose out on the funds.

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Governor Cuomo says he’s going to press for a statewide regulatory system that allows ride sharing services including Uber and Lyft to operate.

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  The ride sharing service Uber, which already operates in New York City, is making a big push to move into upstate and Long Island. But that would require state lawmakers to take action.

Uber officials, armed with a study that says 13,000 new jobs could be created if Uber is allowed in all of New York, came to the State Capitol to make their case. They have started an online petition and ad campaign to help convince the state legislature to pass laws to allow the service to operate .

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New York will soon have a new top judge, now that the current Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals is approaching the mandatory retirement age of 70.  Westchester District Attorney and Cuomo ally Janet DiFiore, is on the list as a potential replacement.   

The state’s ethics commission released the top spending lobbyists to try to influence state government during the 2015 legislative session, and found that education and real estate groups were the biggest spenders.

The top spenders so far in 2015 correlate with the top issues this year, fights over the future of public education and New York City’s rent regulations.

Jenna Flanagan, Innovation Trail

 The state’s  legislative leaders crossed paths literally this week, when both scheduled a stroll at the same time along the walkway over the Hudson River. In addition to taking in the view, they had a lot to say about priority issues, including raising the minimum wage and funding public transit and road and bridge repairs. 

A panel commissioned to review practices at New York’s troubled ethics commission held its one and only public hearing Wednesday, as its Chair says lack of staff and excess of paperwork may make it difficult to meet the group’s November 1st deadline.

Hydrofracking has been banned in New York State for nearly a year now,  but opponents of the natural gas extraction process have other concerns, including new pipelines.

Times Union Website Crime Confidential Blog

Governor Cuomo shot down rumors that he might call a special session in December on raising the minimum wage to $15.

Office of Governor Andrew Cuomo

    

Governor Cuomo, who has been somewhat reticent about speaking out on the national stage, has lately been talking about the issue of gun violence, saying it should be a key topic in Congress and in the 2016 campaigns.

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Matt Ryan

Questions continue about economic development practices by Governor Cuomo’s Administration, including the proposed sale of valuable piece of land from one state agency to another state entity for a dollar.

US Attorney Preet Bharara is reported to be probing  contracts awarded as part of Governor Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion project, with questions over the timing of campaign contributions to the governor, as well as criteria used to choose the vendors.

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A New York comedian who is also an activist on prison rights issues is drawing attention to the state’s practice of investing a small amount of its pension fund in the private prison industry.

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Teachers say they hope Governor Cuomo’s newly appointed education commission will fix problems with the controversial Common Core learning standards. But they say a lot has to change, including the unpopular tests associated with the standards. 

Cuomo named his new panel in a web video.

The Task Force will include educators, teachers, parents, officials from the State Education Department and the teacher’s unions,” Cuomo said in the pre recorded message.

  Fixing the state’s troubled ethics commission will be the subject of two hearings in Albany on October 7th and in New York City on October 17th. Reform groups say they are ready with suggestions.

The panel, created by Governor Cuomo in May, is tasked with looking at ways to improve the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, or JCOPE, which has been widely criticized as secretive and ineffective. It was created by Governor Cuomo and the legislature during the governor’s first months in office back in 2011.

A new poll finds that, for the first time, Hillary Clinton is viewed negatively by a slim majority of New Yorkers.

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The state’s education commissioner says she’s open to granting waivers to delay new teacher evaluation for an additional year, saying the new systems should not be hastily pushed through because of an arbitrary date.

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Lucelia Ribeiro/Flickr

  School administrators are closely watching a letter campaign that’s taking place in the days before school starts that could lead to even more children opting out of state standardized tests.

The campaign, taking place on Facebook and other social media, aims to send children to class on the first day of the school year with a letter signed by their parents saying they will not be taking the standardized tests this year.

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