Karen Dewitt

NYS Capitol Correspondent

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  State Education Commissioner Mary Ellen Elia says she won’t prevent parents who want their children to skip the state’s standardized tests from doing so. The commissioner detailed her views on the controversial Opt Out movement in an interview with public radio and television.

Twenty percent of children this year boycotted the third through eight grade math and English tests associated with the Common Core learning standards.

Governor Cuomo’s labor commissioner is likely in the next few days to finalize a phased in hike in the minimum wage to $15 an hour for fast food workers. That action  dismays some business groups, who say it will have some unintended consequences.

A New York state Board of Elections investigator appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo may have found a back door way into breaking some of the secrecy surrounding a major campaign contribution loophole in New York.

  The state education commissioner’s plans to quell the testing opt out movement is getting some back lash from some Republicans in the legislature, including a former teacher. 

  The controversial state ethics commission is in the midst of a review by a panel appointed by Governor Cuomo and the legislature. Government reform groups say they’ve already been asked to give their opinions on how to fix some of the commission’s problems.

There’s been an unusual focus on upstate New York among top state politicians from the downstate area in recent weeks.  

Photo by Pat Bradley

  The New York State Board of Elections recently issued its final report on an experimental public campaign finance system that had no participants. Government reform groups say it’s another sign that the pilot program for one race in the 2014 election cycle was designed to fail, and that politicians in New York are not yet serious about real campaign finance reforms.

The state’s Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a Bronx native, has spent a portion of the summer touring upstate New York. The Speaker replaced Sheldon Silver who was arrested on corruption charges earlier this year.

Heastie has been to Buffalo, Binghamton, Syracuse and Utica and surrounding areas as part of a listening tour to familiarize himself with issues that might not be front and center in New York City. 

“I’m used to cement,” said, Heastie who said says he’s “gained an appreciation” of the beauty of upstate regions.

Bart Everson/Flickr

  Governor Andrew Cuomo says he’ll try to get the state legislature to broaden an increase in the state’s minimum wage beyond fast food workers, but the newly appointed Deputy Majority Leader of the State Senate is throwing some cold water on that plan.

Cuomo, who used his executive powers through a wage board to phase in a $15 an hour rate for fast food workers, says next he wants to try to get a similar increase through the state legislature next year. Earlier, he spoke about his desire to increase the minimum wage for all workers.

Bret Jaspers, WSKG

New York’s political world is focused on a race in the Southern Tier that could help determine the future of the State Senate.

The Deputy Majority Leader of the State Senate, Tom Libous, was convicted of lying to the FBI over obtaining a politically connected job for his son, and had to resign his seat in late July. The Binghamton based Senate district has held by Republicans for the past one hundred years, and has included the former Senate Leader, Warren Anderson.

Times Union Website Crime Confidential Blog

A fiscal watchdog group says it’s uncovered what it calls a “secret slush fund,” used by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and state legislators to fund pet projects around the state, but the governor’s budget office says the grants are subject to oversight.  

  President Obama’s plan for national standards to curb power plant emissions is based in part on a cap and trade-type program already existence in New York. 

Conor Bambrick, with the group Environmental Advocates, says he thinks the Presidents’ plan, billed by the White House as the “first-ever national standards” to curb carbon pollution from power plants has some of its roots in New York.

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Schools across the state are bracing for a potential zero percent growth in their tax levy next year. While the latest provisions of an ongoing tax cap won’t take effect until the 2016 school year, the state schools boards association says schools are starting to worry now.

According to projections from the State Comptroller, the rate of inflation will rise by less than a percentage point over the next year. The state’s tax cap limits increases in property taxes to 2 percent or the rise in inflation, whichever is lower.

  Two more lawmakers, a former Senate Leader and the Deputy Majority Leader of the Senate were convicted of corruption in the past week. But Governor Cuomo continues to say it would not be a good idea to call state lawmakers back to the Capitol to enact more ethics reform measures.

Pixabay/Public Domain

Supporters of paid family leave in New York say they hope 2016 will be their year, but business groups are urging caution.

A measure to allow all workers in the state 12 weeks of paid leave to take care of a new baby or sick family member was approved in the State Assembly, and two measures gained support in the State Senate, but the issue fell by the wayside in the end of session rush to pass bills and adjourn for the summer.

The Senate sponsor of a two-house bill, Joseph Addabbo of Queens, says he thinks it’s not a question of if the measure will pass, but when.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, for the first time as governor, has an approval rating below 50 percent in a new Siena College poll that also finds only 39 percent of New Yorkers think he’s doing a good job in office.

Governor Cuomo recently wrapped up a rocky end of the legislative session, and has been feuding with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio as well as the teachers union. Siena College poll spokesman Steve Greenberg says the falling numbers, which have now reached a key milestone, are a trend that’s been developing for several months.

Karen DeWitt

    

The state’s new education commissioner, in her first address since beginning the job just over one week ago, told the rural schools association, meeting in Cooperstown, that she intends to be more inclusive to teachers in New York.

Kathy Hochul
Karen DeWitt/New York Now

  The state’s lieutenant governor, in an interview with public radio and TV,  says she’s not harboring ambitions to be the state’s first woman governor.

Lieutenant  Governor Kathy Hochul says she doesn’t know when the state’s proverbial glass ceiling will be broken and New York will have a woman in charge of the chief executive post,  but she says it’s unlikely that it will be her who reaches that milestone.

“I don’t harbor higher ambitions,” Hochul said.

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 A legislative session that featured the arrest of both of the top leaders of the legislature on corruption charges, saw no new ethics improvements included in the end of session agreements on a host of measures. One reform group is calling on the Governor and legislature to meet in a special session to address the state’s on going scandals.

Governor Cuomo/Flickr

Governor Andrew Cuomo has appointed the state attorney general as a temporary special prosecutor to over see cases where a civilian is killed by a police officer.

Cuomo, saying there is a “crisis of confidence” in the criminal justice system, signed an executive order to have the state’s attorney general take over from the local District Attorney any time an unarmed civilian is killed in an encounter with police, and there are questions about what happened.

Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill to crack down on sexual assaults on college campuses, saying he hopes other states will adopt similar protections.  

  There’s word that the commissioner of the state’s environmental agency is leaving, just two days after Joe Martens issued the final environmental impact statement banning hydrofracking in New York. The final report on fracking is a signal for others to move on as well. Anti-fracking groups say they are using New York’s stance to help convince other states, and even countries to ban the gas drilling process.

When Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders announced a new rebate check for property taxpayers, they touted it as a significant “real” benefit to average homeowners. But fiscal watchdog groups say the program is severely flawed, and the money could be better used on something else.

A wage board appointed by Governor Cuomo, speaking before a packed crowd of fast food workers, says it will authorize a “substantial” raise for fast food workers, but would not say when or even if the increase would be the $15 an hour that many groups are seeking.

A three-member board picked by Governor Cuomo to examine whether fast food workers need a raise say they are in agreement that the current wage of $8.75 an hour needs to be much higher.

Flickr/wadester16

  New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and leaders of the legislature say they’ve finally settled all of their differences and have voted on the final piece of legislation to end the session.

Karen DeWitt

The legislature continued negotiating and printing legislation Wednesday, one day after a framework deal was announced by legislative leaders and Governor Cuomo. The session limped to a close, after a year that’s seen the resignation of both leaders of the legislature over corruption scandals, and ongoing federal probes.

Governor Cuomo endured many personal obstacles. His father, the former Governor Mario Cuomo, passed away January 1st. His long- time partner, chef Sandra Lee, underwent a double mastectomy for breast cancer.

“This was a very difficult year,”  Cuomo admits.

  The fourth and final hearing was held by a board specially appointed Governor Andrew Cuomo to consider raising the minimum wage for fast food workers in New York.

Outside, supporters of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour held a rally.

  It turns out the legislative session will not be ending as planned and will continue on for at least another week.

After a week of gridlock, Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders decided to take a break and adjourn for five days. Before they left, they renewed New York City’s expired rent laws, but only for five days, until Tuesday.

Flickr/wadester16

The legislative session is expected to  continue for another day, as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders remain gridlocked on extending New York City’s rent laws, and have not settled a host of other issues.

Karen DeWitt

More than 10 days after two convicted killers escaped from a state prison near Plattsburgh, some state lawmakers are considering new legislation and holding hearings to correct what they see as flaws in the state’s prisons system that  may have contributed to the break out.

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