New York State Assembly

  An Assemblywoman from Western New York has been sanctioned by the Assembly ethics committee on charges she sexually harassed a male staffer.

The state capitol in Albany.
WAMC Photo by Dave Lucas

On Thursday, Capital Region Republican Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, joined by fellow Republican Assemblymembers Steve McLaughlin and Pete Lopez, and  Queens Senator Tony Avella, a member of the Independent Democratic Caucus, advocated for the "Spirit of '76" bill.

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In the final push before the end of New York's legislative session, the state Assembly has passed a piece of gun control legislation named after a boy killed in Saratoga County.

Carl Heastie/ Twitter

The recently completed state budget was the first real test of the new New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s leadership, who became the leader of that house in early February.  

The state Assembly has voted for legislation to codify in New York the abortion rights established by the U.S. Supreme Court, moving it separately this year from a group of bills intended to ensure other women's rights.

Family leave for New Yorkers, and possibly all American workers, is getting closer to becoming a reality. The idea is being embraced by state legislators and by one of New York's representatives in Congress.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.
Karen DeWitt

  

  The next step in the state budget dance, both houses have released their versions of a state spending plan. The Senate and Assembly each increase education well above Governor Cuomo’s proposed level, and each leave key elements of the governor’s plan out.

Both the Assembly and the Senate significantly increase school aid spending from Governor Cuomo’s budget, with the Assembly recommending a $1.8 billion increase, and the Senate prosing $1.9 billion more.

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Crews are busy wiring the desks of lawmakers in the state Assembly, three months after voters approved a constitutional amendment intended to bring the Legislature into the digital age.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie announced Friday the creation of a new bipartisan working group to oversee the change. Previously, the state constitution had required printed bills, which tended to pile up on lawmakers' desks.The switch to paperless legislating will save millions of dollars in printing costs.

The contest to succeed longtime New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was supposed to give lawmakers two weeks to mull their options. Instead,  a decision between two candidates may be made before Silver's resignation from the post.

 Silver steps down effective Monday night. Waiting in the wings: Bronx Assemblyman Carl Heastie, who would become the first African-American speaker in New York, and Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan of Queens, who would be the first female speaker in state history. 

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Sheldon Silver, the longtime speaker of the New York state Assembly, has resigned following federal charges that he took nearly $4 million in kickbacks.

Silver spokesman Michael Whyland says Friday that Silver filed a letter saying his resignation as Assembly leader will take effect at 11:59 p.m. Monday.

The 70-year-old Manhattan Democrat had already announced that he would relinquish the position he held for 21 years after he was arrested last week on federal corruption charges. He denies the charges and intends to hold on to his seat in the Assembly.

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Some newer Assemblymembers are using the selection of a new Assembly Speaker to push for change, and have written a letter to the candidates vying to replace Sheldon Silver.

Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, along with more than 20 other more recently elected Democrats, are credited with helping push Speaker Silver out of his leadership post, when long time veteran members initially resisted.

Santabarbara says ideas include whether there should be limits on how long someone can be speaker. Silver held the post for 21 years before his arrest on corruption charges.

  New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver will vacate his post by next week. Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle will serve as interim speaker until an election for the post is held on February 10. So, who will be the next Speaker?

We discuss the contenders with Legislative Director of the New York Public Interest Research Group, Blair Horner.

Lucas Willard / WAMC

The candidates for New York’s 49th Senate and 112th Assembly districts debated in Saratoga County last night. The two Democrats vying for the seats long held by Republican incumbents both focused their messages on the women’s equality agenda.

The ruling coalition in the New York state Senate has grown by one member. Senator Tony Avella, of Queens, has left the minority Democrats to join the governing coalition of Republicans and Independent Democrats.

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"It's absurd to me that you can refinance a mortgage or a business loan, but you can't re-finance a college loan? I don't think the government should be making money off the backs of students." ~ Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

NY Passes Mercury Thermostat Disposal Law

Jun 24, 2013
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Environmental groups in New York say a new law requiring manufacturers to collect and safely dispose of thermostats will remove a major source of toxic mercury from the waste stream. 

The legislation, which awaits Gov. Andrew Cuomo's signature, was passed late Friday night by the Senate and Assembly. The New York Public Interest Research Group says it addresses one of the largest remaining sources of mercury pollution in New York — the hundreds of thousands of old thermostats discarded each year.

NY Assembly OKs Women's Rights, Abortion Bill

Jun 21, 2013
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New York's Democrat-led Assembly has approved bills including an abortion rights provision that has roiled Albany.

But Senate Republicans refused to allow the abortion measure to the floor in that chamber.

The Senate plans to adopt the nine other women's rights initiatives in the 10-point package pushed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The nine items combat discrimination against women in the workplace and strengthen human trafficking laws.

Those could be sent back to the Assembly today after Senate passage and voted into law.

AP Source: Cuomo, Leaders Agree On 4 Casinos

Jun 19, 2013
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
WAMC Photo by Dave Lucas

A senior Cuomo administration official says Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders struck a late night deal to authorize four upstate casinos and to allow votes on 10 separate women's rights bills including an abortion proposal that appeared to have been blocked in the Senate.

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deal was scheduled to be announced on Wednesday.

Legislative officials immediately disputed some elements of the agreement.

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ALBANY – The State Assembly has restored the $90 million that was cut from the budget of the state Office of People with Developmental Disabilities in a move supported for area legislators.  The money had been cut in the governor’s state budget this spring.

Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther (D-Forestburgh), who is chairwoman of the Mental Hygiene Committee, said the money is important to the many organizations that serve those in need.

New York’s Legislative Ethics Commission released a report Wednesday from the state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics. The report focuses on sexual harassment allegations against Brooklyn Assemblyman Vito Lopez and details a number of charges.

Democrat Didi Barrett represents the 106th Assembly District, which includes portions of Columbia and Dutchess Counties.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has renewed his call for Lopez to resign. Barrett, who has long advocated for women and girls, has other concerns.

The Legislative Ethics Commission released its report on the sexual harassment allegations against Assemblyman Vito Lopez.  It’s conclusions have New York’s  National Organization for Women calling for a vote of no confidence against the still serving Assemblyman, and the Republicans calling for Silver to resign.

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The state legislature is almost finished voting on a $141.3b state budget. Final passage is occurring one week past lawmakers’ s self imposed deadline, but three days before  the spending plan was due to be finished.

Assembly to give final OK to $135B NY budget

Mar 28, 2013
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The New York state Assembly is set to begin final legislative approval of the $135 billion state budget.

The Assembly plans an early start Thursday and could finish voting by evening, although a late session and Friday session are still possible.

The Senate gave its approval to budget bills in an overnight session that ended at 4 a.m. Wednesday.

The budget includes extending an income tax on millionaires that was to expire next year, an election year. It also continues for three years a big business tax on energy costs that had been set to expire this year.

Last week the New York State Assembly voted to impose a statewide moratorium on the controversial natural gas extraction process known as hydrofracking, following reports that Governor Andrew Cuomo was considering lifting the current ban on the practice now in place.

WAMC’s Patrick Donges spoke recently with New York State Assemblyman Phil Steck, Democrat of the 110th district, which includes Colonie, Niskayuna and part of Schenectady. Steck voted for the fracking moratorium, despite his district not being targeted for natural gas development.

The outcome of one Capital Region New York State Senate race could be the key to whether the Senate majority remains in the hands of Republicans, or flips to Democrats, giving Democrats full control of both legislative chambers and the governor’s office.