Key New York Senator Lowers Expectations On Democratic Reunification

ALBANY (WSKG) - A leading Senate Democrat says if a planned unification between rival factions in the State Senate occurs, don’t expect any immediate action on key items like women’s reproductive rights, public financing of campaigns, and transgender rights.  Senator Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat who is the ranking member on the Senate Finance Committee, says under the current plan, the reunification would not happen until late in the legislative session, and there likely won’t be time to act on the bills. “We will have a few weeks, maybe five weeks when we are officially the majority,” Kruger said, in an interview with public radio and television. “So no one should imagine we will turn around the state legislature and pass every bill we’ve been hoping to pass in our first five weeks. That’s a ridiculous set of assumptions.” In order for the factions to reunite, the governor needs to call special elections for two vacant Senate seats. And Cuomo has said he won’t call the elections until after the budget is done, sometime in the spring.


New York Governor Urged To Strengthen Freedom Of Information Laws

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.


New York Assemblyman Sanctioned For Sexual Harassment

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.


Will New York’s Warring Democratic Factions Reunite?

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.


Senate Tax Plan Incenses New York’s Anti-Poverty Advocates

ALBANY (WSKG) - The Congressional Budget Office report released Sunday finds that the Senate tax overhaul bill harms the poorest Americans even more than originally thought.  The CBO finds that Americans making $30,000 or less would be worse off under the Senate tax plan by 2019. Those earning $40,000 or less would be net losers under the plan by 2021. And by 2027, U.S. residents who make $75,000 or lower would be worse off under the plan. That’s partly because of the provision to eliminate the federal insurance mandate, which the CBO said would lead to as many as 13 million Americans becoming uninsured and losing federal subsidies to help them buy insurance. The findings have incensed anti-poverty advocates in New York.


State Leaders Predict US Senate’s Tax Bill Even Worse For New York

ALBANY (WSKG) - Now that the US House of Representatives has voted for a tax overhaul plan that some state leaders say will harm New York, the action moves to the Senate, where a vote is expected after Thanksgiving.  Governor Cuomo, Senator Chuck Schumer and other top state Democrats say the Senate plan is potentially even worse for New York.  The House plan ends the deduction for state and local income taxes, but allows the deduction of property taxes up to $10,000. The Senate bill omits even that limited deduction. Cuomo says New Yorkers will pay more to finance the main portion of the tax overhaul, the reduction in taxes on large companies. “They're using New York as a piggy bank to finance the corporate tax cut. It's disgusting.


Several New York Interests Decry House Tax Vote

ALBANY (WSKG) - Gov. Andrew Cuomo is slamming the tax overhaul plan passed Thursday by the House of Representatives, saying it will be “poison” to New York. Businesses, school leaders and progressive activists in New York also spoke out against the House vote and the provision to end the state and local tax deduction, saying they will be harmful to state residents. The governor also criticized the tax plan as a corporate giveaway. “This is a federal scam that they are running,” Cuomo said. “They call it a tax cut for the middle class.


After Corruption Scandals, Advocates Renew Push For Reform

ALBANY (WSKG) - Several corruption trials are set for 2018 after a scandal involving nine of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s former associates who worked on his administration’s economic development projects. Advocates say they will continue to push for reforms to prevent such problems from happening again. At an Assembly hearing this week, Alex Camarda, who is with government reform group Reinvent Albany, admonished lawmakers. He told them he’s disappointed that they failed to act on measures to change the way billions of dollars in state contracts are solicited and awarded, even though several of Cuomo’s former associates are facing federal trials on corruption charges next year. “In fact, the Legislature did not pass any legislation,” Camarda said.


Ending Historic Tax Credits Would Harm Cities, Says Cuomo Official

ALBANY (WSKG) - The state’s top economic development official says a plan in Congress to eliminate the historic tax credit program  would harm efforts to revitalize cities in New York. Empire State Development Chair Howard Zemsky , testifying at an Assembly hearing,  says the tax incentives have been used to rehab crumbling historic buildings into shops and living spaces, and “have had a huge impact on driving economic development” . The program gives developers a tax rebate of 20% for five years after the projects are completed. Zemsky says it’s misguided to end the subsidies. “It has a disproportionately negative impact on older cities and upstate cities,” Zemsky said.