blair horner

Governor Cuomo stirred up a hornet’s nest when he decided to use the World Series as a way to raise and spend his campaign war chest. He chose to use his campaign contributions to pay for his plane ride to Kansas City to watch the first game of the World Series between the Mets and Royals. His transportation was a private jet owned by the Mets’ owners.

It is a well-established fact that the planet is heating up.  2014 was the hottest year on record and last week, the first prediction of 2015 came out – it wasn’t good news. 

Blair Horner: Government Needs To Help Patients

Oct 5, 2015

Recently, a National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine report identified a huge problem in health care:  the failures of health care providers to quickly and accurately identify a patient’s diagnosis.  The report estimated that most patients will experience at least one wrong or delayed diagnosis over their lifetime.

In many cases that delay can have no serious consequence, in others the consequence can be deadly.  For example, a delay in identifying a cancer can tip the scales from being easily treatable to catastrophic.

After a brief hiatus, Albany’s ethics are once again in the media.  Last week, two Assemblymembers were sentenced to prison for their ethics crimes and Governor Cuomo’s “Buffalo Billion” economic development program was reported to be under scrutiny by federal prosecutors.

Blair Horner: The Debate Over Educating Prisoners

Sep 14, 2015

Recently the Obama Administration took a step to try to deal with one of the nation’s most intractable problems: how to reduce the recidivism rate of those released from prisons.  There are approximately 1.5 million people in state or federal prisons.  Those prisoners are serving time because they have been convicted of a serious crime.  But the question is – what happens when their time is up and they are released back into our communities?

This week marks the beginning of the semester for most colleges in New York State.  As students begin their next collegiate experience, families tackle how to pay for it.

Blair Horner: Summertime - Beaches, Ocean And Trash

Aug 24, 2015

As the nation begins to cram in its end of summer vacationing, many Americans head to the beach, particularly those on the ocean. Little do they see the increasing reality: the oceans are choking on garbage, particularly plastic waste.

Blair Horner: Some Good News

Aug 17, 2015

The scandals and controversies that have engulfed Albany surely feed public cynicism.  However, the vast majority of the time, government is providing services that help people, and it does so in a reasonably efficient and ethical way.

Blair Horner: Ethics Stays In The News

Aug 10, 2015

When Albany is in the dog days of summer, it is usually quiet at the state Capitol.  Lawmakers are doing whatever they do during the summer and, in recent decades, the governor is usually downstate.

Blair Horner: Is Albany Throwing In The Towel On Ethics?

Aug 3, 2015

  Even by Albany’s scandal-stained record, last week was unique: 2 state Senators were found guilty of corruption in two separate trials.  Former State Senate Majority Leader John Sampson and current Deputy Majority leader Tom Libous are now facing prison time for violating the public’s trust.

Given the historic nature of those convictions, it would be reasonable to expect reaction from Albany’s political leadership.  But that was not the case.  Instead of news releases and calls for action, only the sounds of crickets were heard from the state Capitol. 

 

Four years ago, state lawmakers approved a plan that changed its relationship with the state’s public colleges and students.  The plan contained two major changes: public college tuition would be raised automatically and the state would commit not to cut state support for those institutions and would not use the increased tuition to close budget holes.


Last week, a Siena Research Institute poll reported that 90 percent of New Yorkers thought that government corruption is a serious problem.  When 90 percent of New Yorkers agree on anything, it’s amazing.  So you’d expect that elected officials would get the message and respond.


The New York Times recently exposed how the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the lobbying arm of Big Business in America, was advancing the cause of the tobacco industry around the world.  The U.S. Chamber has been lobbying to block the efforts of nations to enact pro-health measures that seek to reduce the carnage caused by smoking.


The dust hasn’t completely settled yet, but the 2015 legislative session is in the books and New Yorkers can draw some conclusions about the activity of their representatives. 


The 2015 legislative session wrapped up last week, one week later than scheduled.  During the last 2 weeks of session, nearly 540 bills passed both houses.  But the big story was the last bill approved – the “Big Ugly.”


Last week was a depressing one in Albany: the all-too-familiar gridlock resulting from partisan differences, pettiness and legislative dysfunction.  And while some of the issues that are stuck in the legislative morass are important – such as tenants’ housing costs – some would, if enacted, have a limited impact on many people.

Lawmakers are set to wrap up the scheduled end of the 2015 legislative session.  Typically, this week is “show time” for lawmakers – hundreds of bills are likely to be approved, many more will fail.


While New York’s political class has been focused on Albany as it heads down the homestretch for the 2015 legislative session, the US Supreme Court could have a huge impact on both the state’s policies and politics.

Just Two Weeks Left In Albany

Jun 5, 2015

It’s the second to the last week of the legislative session in Albany, and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers still have a long way to go before they can agree on key issues, including renewing New York City’s rent laws and related property tax cap. But, as Capitol Correspondent Karen DeWitt reports, some items are off the table.


When Senator Skelos was arrested for alleged corruption on May 4th, a clock started ticking.  In previous arrests, Governor Cuomo would weigh in with a raft of ethics changes within a couple of weeks.  When former Assembly Speaker Silver was arrested on January 22nd, the governor waited until the Assembly sorted itself out and then gave a major speech to advance ethics measures on February 2nd – ten days later.


Ethics was, once again, Albany’s big news last week.  Another lawmaker, long-time Assemblyman Bill Scarborough, pled guilty and faces prison, and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos joined his former counterpart Assembly Speaker Silver in having to defend himself against charges of corruption.

Blair Horner: Misdirection, Albany-Style

May 4, 2015


When politicians find themselves in a jam, they will try to get the public to focus on a different issue.  In politico parlance, that’s called “misdirection”: getting the public to focus their outrage on something else.  Politicians who command the bully pulpit, like a governor, have the greatest power to misdirect public attention.

April 22 was the 45th anniversary of Earth Day.  Earth Day has been a way to focus public consciousness about air and water pollution.  This year’s Earth Day focused on the need for actions to curb the growing public threats resulting from climate change.

Blair Horner: Lawmakers Return To Albany

Apr 20, 2015


This week lawmakers return to the Capitol to begin the second half, the non-budgetary, part of the 2015 legislative session.  The second half of session likely will be dominated by a handful of issues, including some that dropped off the table during budget negotiations.

Most New Yorkers correctly assume that the state’s campaign finance system is a mess.  New York has the highest campaign contribution limits of any state that has limits, the law is riddled with loopholes and enforcement is essentially nonexistent.  One government-appointed commission described New York’s campaign finance law as a “disgrace.”

Blair Horner: Flawed Budget And Ethics Deals

Apr 6, 2015


The big news last week was the passage of the new state budget.  As has happened all-too-often, the budget was the product of horse trading and negotiations conducted in secret.  That’s right, despite the fact that it’s your money, Governor Cuomo and state lawmakers agreed to a $142 billion state budget and approved it in a way that meant that New Yorkers only found out the details after the fact.


In January of this year, then-Speaker of the Assembly Silver was arrested for his alleged abuse of power – using his official position to illegally obtain millions of dollars in outside income.  With that arrest as a backdrop, in February Governor Cuomo organized a speech at New York University’s Law School to announce his ethics reform plan.  The governor had a number of options for addressing the central problems that contribute to New York’s ethical scandals, including:


Last week, Governor Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Heastie announced an agreement to strengthen New York’s ethics laws.  At that time, the governor touted the agreement as extraordinary, the “most stringent ethical policy in the United States of America.”


Sunday marks the beginning of “Sunshine Week,” a week in which the nation focuses its attention on government openness.  The “Week” makes it clear that it is important to maintain an open government, in order to ensure the proper relationship between public officials and the citizens they are pledged to serve.


 The pace is picking up at the state Capitol.  The budget is scheduled to be approved by April 1st.  In order to meet that deadline, the state Senate and the state Assembly are likely to advance their own one-house budget plans this upcoming week.  A week after that, both houses should begin a joint conference committee process to work out their differences while they negotiate with the governor.

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