blair horner

Blair Horner: The World Gets A New, Huge Iceberg

Jul 17, 2017

Last week a gigantic portion of the Antarctica ice sheet broke off.  This isn’t the first time an enormous chunk collapsed into the sea, but it may be the biggest.  This gigantic iceberg is part of the “Larsen C” ice sheet and measures 6,000 kilometers in size, or roughly the size of the state of Delaware. 

On Thursday, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the corruption conviction of former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver – who was facing 12 years in prison after being convicted of taking $4 million in kickbacks. Prosecutors said the powerful Democrat used his powerful post to help a doctor and real estate developers. The court said the judge’s instructions on the theft of honest services law were unclear in light of the 2016 Supreme Court decision on ex-Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. Blair Horner, executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, has long been a champion for ethics reform in the state legislature. He spoke with WAMC’s Ian Pickus about what the decision means for that effort. 

Blair Horner: The Voter Fraud Canard

Jul 10, 2017

With timing that was either irony or political tone deafness, just before Independence Day a panel created by the President of the United States issued a directive to all 50 states requesting that they submit a vast amount of information on American voters contained in state databases.

Infrastructure maintenance is the Rodney Dangerfield of budgeting:  It never gets the respect it deserves.  Failing to maintain water tunnels, roads, bridges and mass transit systems can lead to catastrophic outcomes – both in terms of the impact on people as well as the cost to taxpayers.  So, it’s important to keep them well maintained and repaired when necessary.  As President John F. Kennedy once remarked, “The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.” 

Blair Horner: Albany Makes Things Worse

Jun 26, 2017

As the scheduled 2017 legislative session wrapped up, commentators noted that Governor Cuomo and the legislative leadership failed to address the seemingly unending corruption scandals that have plagued both the legislative and executive branches.

While the nation was transfixed by former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony on the Russian efforts to influence the 2016 Presidential election and the possible involvement of the Trump campaign, Albany was moving legislation which could dramatically lower electric utility rates across the state. 

This was a truly dark week in American history.  The President of the United States ignored the advice of the world’s scientific experts and decided to pull the nation out of the global climate agreement hammered out in Paris in 2015.  Among the community of nations, only worn-torn Syria and Nicaragua—which believes it does not go far enough to combat climate change—have refused to sign the accord.

It is now clear: The policy of the President and the House leadership is to take away healthcare insurance coverage for tens of millions of Americans.  Despite all the hype and tactics of political misdirection, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the health care plan advanced by the President and the House leadership will result in the loss of insurance coverage for over 20 million Americans.

The number one challenge facing all of us is climate change triggered by the warming of the planet.  The rising temperatures have heated the world and have already resulted in significant changes: the melting of the ice caps, famine and drought, as well as rising sea levels, and new and unpredictable weather patterns.

A new controversy erupted at the state Capitol last week—a controversy over the way the Senate Republicans pay members of their governing coalition.

The high school prom and graduations are big events over the next few weeks.  In an effort to look their best, many high schoolers will go to indoor tanning stores.  That decision could harm their health.

Blair Horner: State Comptroller

May 1, 2017

Last Fall, top associates of Governor Cuomo were indicted for alleged corruption.  In criminal complaints brought by former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, the Justice Department alleged that top ranking associates of the governor used their relationships to steer government contracts to the governor’s campaign donors, as well as enriching themselves personally. 

Blair Horner: Earth Day, 2017

Apr 24, 2017

Earth Day was last week.  Earth Day is an annual event that started in 1970 and is an important opportunity for our society to examine how well we are protecting the environment.  And this year’s Earth Day occurred at a critical juncture: the planet is heating up as the result of human activities, most notably the burning of fossil fuels (oil, gas and coal). 

Every year since his first as governor, Governor Cuomo uses the time after passage of the budget to take a statewide “victory lap” to stress what he sees as the most significant achievements.  This year has been no different:  The governor has used the week or so after passage of the budget to focus public attention on his plan to offer tuition-free public college. 

More than a week after the deadline, Governor Cuomo and lawmakers finalized a deal to wrap up the state budget.  The roughly $160 billion budget was from a procedural point of view a mess.  But there was good news as well.

New York state lawmakers are facing a Friday budget deadline with a number of issues hanging over their heads. Among them are an extension of a millionaire’s tax, tuition aid for college students and justice reform. Meanwhile, Governor Andrew Cuomo has floated the idea of an “extender budget” that would maintain current funding levels. The Democrat says New York is facing uncertainty about what the state can expect from federal funding sources.

The Trump Administration continues to distract the nation with a daily stream of misinformation that often provides cover for the policy work of the Administration and the Congress.  The latest is the Trump Administration’s accusations (without evidence) that the Conservative Government in Britain and the Obama Administration had wiretapped the Trump campaign in the months leading up to the election.

Blair Horner: Trump Fires Bharara

Mar 13, 2017

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara’s statement was brief, but packed a punch: “Today, I was fired from my position as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.”

A few months ago, Governor Cuomo held a news conference with the U.S. Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, to announce a new initiative: to make public college tuition free for families whose incomes were no more than $125,000.

Recently, a Congressional committee once again took aim at New York State Attorney General Schneiderman and his investigation of oil-giant ExxonMobil.  The action was a subpoena issued by Congressman Lamar Smith of Texas. Representative Smith is the chair of the United States House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.  His subpoena is to obtain internal records from the New York State Attorney General’s investigation of ExxonMobil, which may be intended as a way to derail any action.

The governor has done a lot to promote the state’s program to boost breast cancer screening rates.  He spent considerable time advocating for the expanded program and made it a centerpiece of his 2016 State of the State address.  But cancer is not only a women’s issue, it affects all of us. 

It’s not only winter in Albany, it’s budget season—arguably the biggest and most important job for the Legislature each year.  Once the governor proposes his budget, it’s up to the Legislature to decide how to react.  Every year, both houses of the Legislature hold joint hearings to look into what the governor has proposed.  This year is no different.

The public focus on policymaking at the state Capitol has taken a backseat to the actions of the Trump Administration.  Almost from the minute the new President was inaugurated, his nonstop, frantic pace has captured the nation’s attention.

Blair Horner: The Trump Administration And New York

Feb 6, 2017

The public focus on policymaking at the state Capitol has taken a backseat to the actions of the Trump Administration.  Almost from the minute the new President was inaugurated, his nonstop, frantic pace has captured the nation’s attention.

For the longest time, the state Capitol has been rocked by scandals.  In recent years, those scandals have mushroomed: Both leaders of the Legislature have been convicted of corruption and face time in prison, and close aides and associates of the governor have been charged.

Blair Horner: A Closer Look At Free Tuition

Jan 23, 2017

Earlier this month, Governor Cuomo held a news conference with the U.S. Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders to announce a new initiative: to make public college tuition free for families whose incomes were up to $125,000.

Last week, Governor Cuomo took to the road to unveil his State of the State addresses.  The State of the State is a constitutional requirement that the governor report to the legislature on issues of concerns and to offer his recommendations.  For nearly 100 years, the State of the State address was delivered in a written and verbal format in the State Capitol complex.

Blair Horner: The 2017 State Of The State

Jan 9, 2017

New York State’s constitution requires that every governor submit a message to the legislature “at every session the condition of the state, and recommend such matters to it as he or she shall judge expedient.”  Since the early 20th Century, governors have delivered a State of the State speech in addition to delivering a written document.  Usually that speech was delivered in the New York State Assembly chamber.  The Assembly seats 150 and so jamming in the smaller Senate body plus staff and dignitaries was the appropriate venue.

This week, lawmakers return to Albany to kick off the 2017 legislative session.  For the vast majority of state legislators, it is the beginning of a new session, for the newly elected lawmakers, it is the beginning of a new career.

After years of railing against the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, Congressional opponents and the President-elect are now poised to eliminate it. Since its passage six years ago, opponents have argued to “repeal and replace” the law, but that has turned out to be merely a slogan, devoid of substance.

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