Karen Dewitt

NYS Capitol Correspondent

Ways to Connect

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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 .

Albany, NY

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.

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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.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo
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.

Prison Bars
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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.

Children at school on a computer
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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.

Children at school on a computer
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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  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.

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