ALBANY (WSKG) – 20 state and national groups supporting a bill that would strengthen the state’s Freedom of Information Law are urging Governor Cuomo to sign the measure into law as soon as he receives it from the state legislature. The bill, approved by the Senate and the Assembly in June, says if a court finds that a state agency unreasonably dragged its feet answering a Freedom of Information request, a judge could require the agency to pay the attorney’s fees for the person or group who made the FOIL request. Alex Camarda, with the reform group Reinvent Albany, says the provision, which already exists in several states including Florida and Illinois, is key to making the FOIL process functional. He says those requesting the information often can’t afford a potentially lengthy court battle. “All too often state agencies don’t follow the spirit and even the letter of the Freedom of Information Act,” Camarda said. Cuomo has until the end of the year to sign or veto the bill. It has not yet been sent to him. Backers include the League of Women Voters, NYU’s Brennan Center, the New York Press Club, which represents newspapers, and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, which sent a letter signed by the New York Times and NPR, among others.
HARRISBURG (WSKG) — The field for the 2018 lieutenant governor election is filling up, with a number of Democrats jumping into the often-low-key race. That could mean a tough battle for incumbent Mike Stack, who has struggled through public conflicts with fellow Democrat, Governor Tom Wolf. State representative Madeleine Dean, who has served part of Montgomery County since 2012, is the latest entry to the race. So far, she has avoided bashing other candidates. But asked if the Lieutenant Governor’s office has used more resources than it warrants, she offered some criticism that seemed aimed at Stack. “You know, the current climate shows that it has not,” she said.
ALBANY (WSKG) – A state Assemblyman has been sanctioned by the Assembly Ethics Committee for allegedly sexually harassing a staff member. Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin denies the charges and has asked for a criminal investigation of the ethics committee itself. The complaint against McLaughlin stems from a June 2016 complaint from a female staffer, who said the Republican from Rensselaer County made lewd comments to her and asked to see nude photos of her. McLaughlin also is accused of releasing the name of the staff member, then lying about it. The initial investigation was conducted in the summer of 2016, where members of the committee, along with an outside law firm hired by the Assembly, interviewed 10 witnesses and looked at texts and emails.
HARRISBURG (WSKG) — Several Republican state senators plan to introduce legislation that would require Pennsylvania to use zero-based budgeting–a standard specifically designed to save money. The idea comes from lawmakers’ annual, unsuccessful struggles to balance the commonwealth’s books. However, other states that have attempted to use the method have often opted not to stick with it. Zero-based budgeting basically requires a rotating percentage of state agencies to re-justify all their operations and expenses every five years, and estimate the minimum amount of money they need to continue them. The author of the new measure, York County Republican Scott Wagner, said he’s taking cues from the private sector.
HARRISBURG (WSKG) — Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court is deciding whether Governor Tom Wolf overstepped his authority with an executive order letting the state organize home healthcare workers under a union-like structure. A lower court already decided against the governor once. But lawyers for the Wolf administration argue the governor’s directive merely gives workers an option to voice their concerns. The 2015 order–one of Wolf’s first in office–targets independent workers who care for elderly and disabled people in their homes. It has them pick representatives to meet with the state human services secretary about issues like pay and benefits. It also gives their contact information to representative groups, which opponents say could facilitate future organizing.
ALBANY (WSKG) – The state Democratic Party, led by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, is offering carrots and sticks to two rival factions of Democrats in the state Senate in an effort to get them to reunite and potentially rule the chamber. Leaders of the state’s Democratic Party released a letter Monday evening, asking the eight-member breakaway Independent Democratic Conference in the Senate to reunite with the mainstream Democrats. They said in a time where President Donald Trump and the Republican Congress are pursuing policies that might harm New York, “to waste one more minute fighting each other is both unproductive and destructive.” The letter also contains a threat. The party leaders — including state party chair and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and Queens Congressman Joseph Crowley — wrote that “if the IDC refuses to accept this offer,” then the state party is prepared to run primaries against the senators in the 2018 elections. Cuomo, speaking Tuesday in Syracuse, said he backs the request. “I urge both sides to stop their intramural disputes and unify,” Cuomo said.
The Ti-Ahwaga Community Players present their annual production of Philip Grecian’s stage adaptation of the film ‘A Christmas Story’. Jamie Cornell, who plays the grown-up Ralphie, joins us to talk about the sixteen years of this production, and the members of many families that have grown up in and around this annual event. http://wskg.org/audio/christmasstory2017.mp3
WSKG is dedicated to promoting the arts of the region and beyond. So, we’re taking an art tour with our President and CEO, Greg Catlin. We’ll be visiting local galleries throughout the region, exploring the arts and meeting some of WSKG’s great listeners and viewers. That’s you. We hope you’ll join Greg and the personalities from WSKG at a gallery near you.
Steuben County plans to join the chorus of municipalities filing lawsuits over the opioid epidemic. The county legislature gave the unanimous go-ahead to pursue the lawsuit on Monday. Steuben is targeting major pharmaceutical companies and large prescribers. Large prescribers could mean places like hospital systems. The decision came after the public urged legal action at forums in Bath, Corning and Hornell. The county population is relatively small, but still had 16 overdose deaths last year. “The number is staggering in comparison to what we were looking at even five years ago.