blair horner

Blair Horner: Albany Goes Dark

Mar 2, 2015


Two years ago, Governor Cuomo unveiled a new government portal called “open.ny.gov.”  At that time the governor proclaimed, “"This new website will dramatically increase public access to one of our most valuable assets - data. As it expands and evolves over time, open.ny.gov will spark innovation, improve efficiency, promote accountability, and bring the people back into government."

Blair Horner: Albany's "Watergate" Moment

Feb 23, 2015


The recent indictment of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is simply the latest in a series of scandals involving the conflicts created by allowing sitting legislators to earn unlimited, unrestricted income from outside jobs.  But the controversy surrounding the former Speaker’s “moonlighting” is not the first time the issue has been raised.  The ability of sitting lawmakers to profit in any profession or business has been central to other recent scandals.  Here are some of the most high profile examples:


Like many areas of the governor’s proposed $141 billion-plus state budget, his higher education plans include items that help and others that hurt.

Blair Horner: Ethics Reform Redux

Feb 9, 2015


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.

Blair Horner: The Speaker Gets Arrested

Jan 26, 2015


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.

An important reason for New York State to ban hydraulic fracturing was the need to move from a fossil fuel-based economy to one based on non-greenhouse gas-emitting alternative fuels.

Blair Horner: Examining Lawmakers’ Outside Income

Jan 5, 2015


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.

Blair Horner: The Governor Bans Fracking

Dec 22, 2014


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.

Blair Horner: Albany Wants A Pay Raise

Nov 24, 2014


Now that the election is safely behind them, Governor Cuomo and state legislators have begun to raise the issue of a pay raise.


Last week, the nation’s uninsured began their enrollment in the second year of the health reform law.  The end of the first year offers the nation a good opportunity to review the impact of the law, without all of the reports of mistakes, the campaigns of deception and outright lies.

This past Election Day, all three statewide incumbents were easily re-elected, the Assembly’s Democratic majority got bigger, but consistent with the overall Republican political tsunami seen across the nation, the Republicans took back control of the state Senate and picked up some New York Congressional seats.

Blair Horner: The Growing Dangers Of Climate Change

Nov 3, 2014


As the brutal election season wraps up, the nation – and the world – received another dire warning of the growing dangers of global warming.  While the issue has been almost non-existent in the nation’s political debates, there is no doubt that it is the most important issue facing the world.

Blair Horner: A Voters Guide For Election Day 2014

Oct 27, 2014

Tuesday, November 4, 2014 is Election Day. On this year’s ballot, in addition to the candidates who are running for office, New Yorkers have the opportunity to vote on two proposed changes to the New York State Constitution and a bond act.


The first cases of Ebola in the United States have raised legitimate concerns about the nation’s ability to protect the public’s health.  And while the virus is incredibly toxic, the threat posed to Americans is – as yet – quite small.


As the world’s leaders prepared to hold a summit on climate change at the United Nations last week, 400,000 protestors marched through the streets of New York City demanding actions – not just words.


Last week, New York State Supreme Court Judge Patrick McGrath struck down proposed language for the upcoming Proposal 1, which is a referendum question that amends the state constitution to change the state redistricting process.  The vote on Proposal 1 will be on the ballot this November.

Blair Horner: Medical Safety In New York

Sep 8, 2014

Well-known comic Joan Rivers died last week.  Ms. Rivers was reportedly undergoing an endoscopic procedure to repair her vocal cords.  She was having the procedure in an outpatient setting – meaning it occurred outside of a hospital.

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.

One of the big national political stories last week was the grand jury indictment of Texas Governor Rick Perry, charging him with abuse of power when he tried to pressure a local district attorney.  Governor Perry has argued that he is innocent of the charges.

Blair Horner
C.W. McKeen / The Post - Standard, 2006

A member of a government reform group says it’s OK if New York Governor Andrew Cuomo uses his campaign coffers to finance this week’s trip to Israel if the visit is for political, rather than government purposes.

Blair Horner, with the New York Public Interest Research Group, says it’s preferable for Governor Cuomo to use funds from his $35 million  campaign fund to pay for his visit to Israel than for state taxpayers to foot the bill.  Horner says by using the campaign money, Cuomo is also signaling that the trip is more of a political event than official government business.

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Government reform groups are split over whether an amendment on the November ballot to change the way legislative district lines are drawn is an improvement, or will make only make gerrymandering worse.

New Yorkers will get to vote on three proposals to change the state’s Constitution this November.  An important question being voted on is a plan to change the way redistricting is done in New York.  This past week, the state Board of Elections approved the language of the ballot question that will be put before the voters.

The big news last week was the blockbuster story by the New York Times that carefully examined Governor Cuomo’s involvement in the activities of the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption.

Blair Horner: Dealing With College Student Debt

Jul 21, 2014

We’ve hit summer’s midway point and for many New Yorkers it’s time to plan for the opening of college at the end of next month.  In addition to buying bedding, books and clothes, the big issue is how to pay for college tuition and fees.

After years of debate and relentless partisan battles, the impact of the Affordable Care Act – also known as Obamacare – is starting to become clear.  According to reports released last week by the Gallup polling company, the Commonwealth Fund and the Urban Institute, there has been a dramatic reduction in the number of uninsured.

A top environmental debate over the past six years has been whether New York state should allow a natural gas drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing – or fracking.  During those six years, effectively New York State has had a moratorium on fracking.

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