In the old “Peanuts” cartoon, Lucy holds the football for Charlie Brown and assures him that this time she really means it, she will hold the football and not pull it away. So he should charge and kick the football. And every year – despite having previously seen her pull the ball away at the last minute – Charlie believes her.
Albany was rocked by a political earthquake last week with the arrest of Speaker of the Assembly Sheldon Silver. The arrest stemmed from an investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s office and alleged the Speaker’s involvement in a vast kickback and corruption enterprise that spanned many years. The Speaker denies the U.S. Attorney’s allegations and maintains his innocence.
This week, Governor Cuomo unveils his plans for the 2015 legislative session. The State of the State allows the executive a unique opportunity to command public attention and to mobilize support for his proposals, as well as to kick off the legislative session.
Like the rest of the nation, New York State allows its legislators to have outside jobs – they are considered part-time. Laws are in place to ensure that such outside income does not create a conflict-of-interest for the lawmakers – laws require a combination of requirements that lawmakers recuse themselves of decisions which may directly affect their wealth, prohibit them from using their office for personal gain, and by requiring the disclosure of the sources of outside income in order to ensure that the public – and regulatory agencies – can monitor lawmakers’ behavior.
The big news last week was the decision by the Cuomo Administration to prohibit the controversial high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Fracking is a technology that allows for drilling for oil and gas reserves that had been inaccessible until the development of this new technology. Not surprisingly, large, industrial scale oil and gas drilling has serious environmental and public health implications.
Tobacco kills more than 400,000 Americans every year and costs the country about $100 billion in health care bills. Tobacco-caused diseases account for nearly 1 of every 5 deaths annually. These include 46,000 heart attack deaths and 3,400 lung cancer deaths among nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke. Despite successes in curbing tobacco use over the past four decades, it still is the leading preventable cause of death in the United States.
Forty years ago, 1974, the “Godfather Part II” was a hit in movie theaters, the cost of a first class stamp was a dime, President Ford granted a pardon to disgraced former President Nixon, and the Universal Product Code, aka the bar code, was first introduced.
The Cuomo Administration’s preference for secrecy – even at the expense of the public’s right to know – was criticized in a report by an independent fiscal watchdog. The report examined the Administration’s plan to divert over a half billion dollars from New York City’s water quality program to construction of the new Tappen Zee Bridge. The Tappen Zee Bridge links Rockland and Westchester counties in the southern Hudson Valley. Construction of the new bridge could cost $4 billion.