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Dean Skelos

WNYC News

GOP, 'Independent Dems' Announce Coalition Government

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

The leadership fight in the State Senate has been resolved, with a break-away Democratic faction joining with Republicans to form a new governing coalition that involves sharing the title of Temporary President of the Senate. 

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WNYC News

NY Progressives Push for Public Campaign Finances

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

A coalition of major labor unions, progressive political groups and good-government advocates is trying to push New York's Legislature to adopt public financing of campaigns. The effort, aimed at a likely special session after the elections, would be used as a national model.

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The Empire

NY Legislative Session Ends but Lawmakers May Not Be Done

Friday, June 22, 2012

The state legislature ended its session in an orderly fashion for the first time in decades, but the lack of last minute negotiations means that some issues were left unresolved. It’s likely that lawmakers will be back at the Capitol later this year to tackle them.

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The Empire

Assembly, Senate Leaders Disagree on Minimum Wage Bill, Both Claim Moral High Ground

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Democrats in the State Assembly approved a bill to increase the state’s minimum wage. The Republican leader of the State Senate offered a spirited defense of his position opposing the measure, but did not rule the issue out altogether.

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The Empire

Cuomo Not Pumped about Keeping Campaign Finance Reform Vow

Thursday, April 26, 2012

While the governor has indicated his support and the Democratically controlled Assembly has put forward a bill, conversations with people in Senate Republican circles say there is little to no appetite to take up the issue of campaign finance.

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WNYC News

NY Passes $132B Budget

Friday, March 30, 2012

For the second year in row, New York State is on the way to an on time budget. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the first of several budget bills into law, while the Legislature passed all the bills that make up the $132.5 billion budget.

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The Empire

'The Capitol Pressroom' with Susan Arbetter

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Today on "The Capitol Pressroom":

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos on the budget agreement and his priorities for the rest of session.

Tim Kremer of the New York State School Boards Association checks in.

Senator Pat Gallivan of Western New York discusses both school aid and his bill on the Scaffold Law.

Governor Andrew Cuomo took a moment to applaud the $22 million Adirondack Club & Resort deal in the Town of Tupper Lake during a conference call on Wednesday. But not everyone is a fan of the deal. Today we will be joined by attorney Bob Glennon of Protect the Adirondacks and Charlie Morrison of the Sierra Club. They are suing the Adirondack Park Agency (which they say has “become a rogue agency”), the DEC and the developer of the Adirondack Club and Resort.

For show archives, please visit The Capitol Bureau's website here.

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The Empire

Cuomo, Skelos and Silver announce agreement on NY state budget

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Courtesy of the Governor's office

Governor Andrew Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos announced Tuesday that a final agreement has been reached on this year’s $133 billion budget. It marks the second year in a row the state’s budget has come in balanced and before the deadline.

"For the second straight year, New York State has worked and created a balanced budget based on fiscal responsibility, job creation, government efficiency, and the premise that we must invest in our communities," Cuomo said in a statement announcing the final agreement.

The final agreement comes a week after Cuomo and the legislative leaders agreed to a number of the Governor’s policy items, including the creation of a new DNA databank, an agreement on teacher evaluations and a scaled back version of the pension reform he outlined in his budget proposal. The deal also saw new state legislative districts, drawn by the legislature, passed alongside an agreement to push forward a constitutional amendment to change the decennial redistricting process beginning in 2021.

This year’s budget closed the remaining $2.1 billion budget gap left over after last year’s tax restructuring, which left higher income earners paying more but helped reign in an initial gap of $3.5 billion. The final budget limits spending growth to two percent, while investing in infrastructure job programs, restoring education aid, and eliminating or consolidating dozens of government agencies.

“This agreement puts us in a position to deliver another early budget that controls spending and taxes, and builds on the bipartisan successes we achieved last year,” Skelos said in the statement.

“This budget includes much needed increases in education spending, including an increase in base aid for community colleges for the first time in five years, and vital restorations to programs that protect our state’s neediest citizens,” said Silver in the statement.

Some of the budget highlights include:

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The Empire

Whither the health insurance exchange?

Friday, March 09, 2012

That's what Senate Democratic Minority Leader John Sampson asks his colleague on the other side of the aisle in a letter sent out today.

As part of the federal health reform passed two years ago--you may know it as "Obamacare"--the state's obligated under law to set up a health insurance exchange. The Assembly has already passed a bill from the Governor's office to create "market-place for the purchase and sale of qualified health plans in the State of New York."

This isn't the first time Sampson's pushed Skelos to adopt the Governor-supported health insurance exchange: "In response to my previous letter, you assert that it would be both 'fiscally irresponsible' and a 'disservice to New York taxpayers' to comply with the federal statute at this time. On the contrary, the time to act is now."

That letter Sampson refers to was sent on February 27 and spent much of the ink blasting senate Democrats over their stewardship as the majority in 2009 and 2010. Skelos also pointed to what he said were the prohibitive costs of enacting the plan, writing, "One study estimates these federal health reforms could cost New York taxpayers more tha $65 billion for the Medicaid portion alone!"

Sampson counters: "Your letter incorrectly states that setting up an exchange will drive up costs for New Yorkers. The $65 billion figure you cite comes from a report by the conservative-leaning Cato Institute, which fails to acknowledge that – because New York already offers coverage to certain expanded populations – it is due to receive enhanced reimbursements once the law is implemented."

And that's not the half of it, he goes on to say. Sure there are what he sees as the--more affordable rates, an easier to understand system, etc.--but do you really want the feds making this decision for us?

"[I]f New York does not have a health exchange up and running by January 1, 2013, the federal government will establish one for us. I cannot imagine that you would prefer that option. Simply put, time is running out for New York to have the mechanism in place to comply with the federal mandate," Sampson writes. "I am sure you agree that New Yorkers, rather than Washington, D.C. bureaucrats, should be making these decisions for our state."
Health Exchange Letter to Skelos 3 8 12 Final 1

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The Empire

Are these New York's future congressional lines?

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

With the release of her draft maps, magistrate judge Roanne Mann moved the congressional redistricting process forward in a major way. But these aren't the first set of maps that have been the focus of intense speculation. Most recently the senate and assembly both presented the courts with plans that got treated with significant interest by the the media, commentators and the public.

A number of people, including potential candidates for congress, have referred to these lines in relation to the state legislature's own process for redrawing maps.

"We should not jump to the conclusion that these will be the final lines, as the state legislature may yet come to an agreement on a map that would supersede the proposal released today," said Tom Wilson, who has been playing a run against Republican Congresswoman Nan Hayworth in the Hudson Valley.

"We sincerely hope that Albany gets its act together and agrees on more sensible congressional lines so that the Special Master's proposal doesn't become law," said The Woodhaven Residents' Block Association after seeing their neighborhood divide between two districts in Mann's plan.

Which raises the question, are these the lines we'll have for the next ten years?

The answer could be yes. First, a note on the schedule for the court's process. All the groups and individuals involved in the Favors case Judge Mann is presiding over need to have written comments on her proposal in by 9 am tomorrow, March 7. There's been speculation she may call the parties back into court to discuss what they say later this week.

But what's certain is the magistrate judge will have a revised, final set of proposed maps to the three-judge panel overseeing this whole process by Monday, March 12. Then, the parties will again be able to comment on the maps directly to the three-judge panel before the panel meets on March 15. The expectation is that a final decision on the maps will be made shortly thereafter, as petitioning to get on the congressional primary ballot begins two weeks from today.

There remains an outside chance the legislature could step up and pass congressional maps before the three-judge panel does next week. It would require not only passing the maps, but changing the date of the congressional primary from June 26 to a later date. The federal judge that set the June date, Judge Sharpe, left the door open for this to happen, but so far the senate and assembly have been unable to come to an agreement on a date.

Oh, yeah: the legislature also needs to get both the Department of Justice to sign off on the maps--something they have up to 60 days to do--and Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign them. He's promised to veto maps if they remain "hyper-partisan."

Common Cause's Susan Lerner praised the maps, calling the proposal "a vast improvement over the self-serving interests of the Legislature," while Citizens Union's Dick Dadey said, "The Congressional maps presented today by the court show that an independent process can produce better districts than those drawn by the legislature." Were these the sort of hypo-partisan maps the Governor was imagining?

Still, according to one line of thinking, it might come down to whether or not the congressional delegation is all that unhappy about the maps. Some, like Representative Gary Ackerman, have signaled they're fine with what's presented and are ready to run. Others, like Congressman Jerry Nadler, barely saw their districts move. Others still, like a good chunk of the Long Island delegation, might simply see the redrawn districts as good enough and move in.

In a sense, it may come down to whether or not a critical mass develops among the delegation; if there's not a fight from them for better lines, should the state legislature even bother?

So far, it's uncertain where things stand on this point. Both Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Majority Leader, through a spokesman, have indicated they'd still like to make a deal on congressional districts. They'd better hurry. Time's running out.

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The Empire

Judge orders LATFOR to hand over data used to draw maps, sans incumbent info

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Here’s an interesting tidbit from the legal process federal magistrate Roanne Mann set up to get as much info as possible before she drafts congressional lines for New York.

In the midst of a massive upload of map plans from the state Assembly and Senate, as well as Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb and community organizations who have drawn their own maps, the issue of taking incumbency into account in the drawing of lines was raised.

At the February 27 hearing that saw Mann charged with coming up with the schedule for drawing maps, the lawyers for the senate and assembly had asked the judge find a way to have incumbency be part of the conversation. In a follow up letter to the judge, Senate Republicans’ lawyer Michael Carvin laid out the case for “why incumbency protection is an appropriate factor for the Court to consider in drawing redistricting maps.”

“Preserving the cores of existing districts—sometimes also referred to as incumbency protection—is a well-established, traditional districting principle in New York,” Carvin writes. He goes on to cite numerous cases to show that “this Court has recognized[] preserving the cores of existing districts is ‘an important and legitimate factor’ in Congressional redistricting due to ‘the powerful role that seniority plays in the functioning of Congress.’”

It’s not a flat-out refusal to take incumbents into account when drawing new lines, but an order issued by Judge Mann today appears to signal an interest in at least seeing how things look when incumbents aren’t part of the equation. (The entire chronological history of the case can be seen online here.)

The order, issued this morning, tells LATFOR to send over the data they plug into their computer software to draw maps. But there’s a note attached: “No political or other data, including incumbent residence, shall be included with the data provided.”

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The Empire

'The Capitol Pressroom' with Susan Arbetter

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Today on "The Capitol Pressroom":

Yesterday wasn't about love, but today is. Sort of.

We start with fisticuffs. John Kane of “Let’s Talk Native” radio joins us with another perspective on the fracas that Senator Mark Grisanti was involved in over the weekend at the Seneca Niagara Casino.

Then, the love of the arts.

It's Arts Advocacy Day here at the Capitol. Actors, dancers, storytellers, museum curators, painters, sculptors all converge on Albany to lobby for the arts as both a valuable economic development tool as well as an educational one. We will spend time with Steven Kern, Executive Director at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse.

Then, Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill graces the plywood hut. As the Producing Artistic Director of the Capital Repertory Theater, she struggled to keep the critically acclaimed equity stage afloat. But after the Wall Street meltdown, the arts took it on the chin. Maggie had to choose between selling out, giving up, or agreeing to allow another, larger, organization to step in and help. She took a leap of faith and it paid off. She'll share her story on today's Capitol Pressroom.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos will be in the studio to discuss the date of the legislative primary as well as his relationship with Governor.

For show archives, please visit The Capitol Bureau's website here.

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The Empire

Assembly to introduce bill to move state primary to June 26

Monday, February 13, 2012

Speaker Sheldon Silver's office announced the Assembly majority will bring up a bill, sponsored by the Speaker and co-sponsored by Assembly Election Law Chair Michael Cusick of Staten Island, to move the state's legislative primary date to June 26. The change would make the state's legislative primaries the same day as the congressional primaries--something resisted by State Senate Republicans.

"There is no good reason why our local governments should be asked to spend an extra $50 million to hold three primary elections in one year," Silver said in a statement. "This is a common sense solution that will promote voter participation and allow the state to comply with the MOVE Act without costing taxpayers any additional money."

Senate Republicans aren't keen on the date change.

"We have serious concerns that a June primary would disrupt the critical final three months of the legislative session, including the budget process and other important end of session bills," said Majority Leader Dean Skelos' spokesman Scott Reif. "While we should be focused on governing, the Democrats in the Assembly and Senate will be busy campaigning--gathering petition signatures, seeking union endorsements and raising money. That's a recipe for dysfunction."

The Senate Republicans hold all the cards in this situation. Without legislative action, the state primary will remain on September 11. That will mean voters in New York could be asked to go to the polls up to four times this year: the first for the Presidential primary on April 24, then for the US Senate and House of Representatives primary on June 26, again for the state legislative primary in September, and finally for the general election in November.

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The Empire

Should we be freaking out about congressional lines?

Thursday, February 09, 2012

LATFOR public hearing in the Bronx. (Colby Hamilton / WNYC)

[UPDATE: Judge Gary Sharpe ruled today that the Democratic proposed election calendar--see the Kellner-Aquila doc below--will be used for congressional elections. ]

The final public hearing in New York City on the draft maps drawn by LATFOR, the legislature-controlled task force responsible for redistricting, was in Queens this week. An earlier meeting in Brooklyn had reportedly brought out just a few dozen people, with the one in the Bronx appearing to be slightly better attended. The hearing in Queens, however, saw a line out the door a half an hour after the meeting started.

Inside, angry community members blasted the members of the committee for hours over what many in the room felt were maps meant to divide the ethnically diverse neighborhoods in Queens.

But the conversation was focused almost entirely on state legislative lines for Assembly and Senate. Meanwhile, the clock on the lines for Congress is quickly approaching midnight. A federal judge has set the primary date for congressional candidates up from September to June. So far, LATFOR has yet to release a congressional draft map.

Meanwhile, candidates are planning on running in districts that will look radically different than they do now—if they exist at all. And the leaders of the Assembly and Senate are sending mixed signals on where the state will lose its two mandatory congressional seats.

So should we be freaking out about congressional lines?

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The Empire

Legislative leaders signal their cooperation on Cuomo's reform agenda

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

By Karen DeWitt, New York State Public Radio Capital Bureau Chief

Courtesy of the Governor's office.

Governor Andrew Cuomo is for the second year in a row asking the state legislature to enact some changes that promise to shake up business as usual at the Capitol. While, the governor was successful in persuading the legislature to adopt his ideas during his first year in office, it’s not yet known whether he have as much luck in the second year.

Cuomo’s budget plan contains at least two major policy shifts that the governor admits “pose dramatic change” that will unsettle the “big players” in Albany: pension reform and statewide teacher evaluation systems.

In both proposals, Cuomo is taking on powerful unions of state workers and teachers, who have long been allies of the Democrats who lead the Assembly and even Republicans who in charge of the state Senate. It’s an election year for all 212 members of the legislature, and unions often provide support for field campaigns in the form of volunteers to staff phone banks and to drop off campaign literature door to door.

Despite that, legislative leaders did not rule out backing Cuomo’s plans.

Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos worked cooperatively with the Democratic governor last year to enact a property tax cap. He also permitted the historic Senate vote on gay marriage, even though Skelos personally opposes same sex marriage. The Senate leader predicts that the budget will once again be on time, and that the legislature will ultimately approve Cuomo’s proposal for a new pension tier with fewer benefits for future workers.

“I believe there will be a three way agreement on pension reform,” said Skelos. “Which is significant.”

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who made a point recently of speaking to a rally organized by a group allied with the teachers union, says he thinks Cuomo’s plan to force teacher evaluation agreements makes sense.

“He’s on target,” said Silver. “It gives the incentive to both sides in the collective e bargaining process to come to an agreement.”

Although the governor’s policies, if enacted, will likely anger many established groups in Albany, lawmakers may conclude that they are taking an even greater chance if they alienate the extremely popular governor.

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Clergy to Cuomo: stick to your guns on redistricting

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A letter signed by prominent members of clergy from throughout New York calls on Governor Andrew Cuomo to "stand up for the rights of every vote" when it comes to redistricting.

The letter comes as the bipartisan legislative committee responsible for drawing new political boundaries is set to release draft maps in the next week or so, according to Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. The clergymen say they are worried the process will "the unjust opportunity to choose which voters they represent and not allowed the voters to choose their representatives."

The full text of the letter signed by dozens of faith leaders from across New York is below.

Minority communities, good government groups and others have vocally called for a redistricting process they say will more fairly represent them in the state and Federal legislatures.

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'The Capitol Pressroom' with Susan Arbetter

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Today on "The Capitol Pressroom":

Reaction to the Governor's budget address from Majority Leader Dean Skelos.

and

Senator Liz Krueger, ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee

Eric County Republican Senator Pat Gallivan has been pushing an incremental freeze to the local share of Medicaid. We'll hear his thoughts on the Governor's plan.

And how will any shifts from localities to the state be paid for? It's a concern to advocates for long-term care. We speak with Joanne Cunningham of the Home Care Association and Bill Ferris of AARP.

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January campaign funds show Skelos dominating fundraising efforts

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Thanks to Bill Mahoney at NYPIRG for putting this great spreadsheet together.

The state's biannual campaign financial filing deadline is upon us, and the numbers are starting to come in. Rounding out the top-three in money raised the International Union of Operating Engineers education fund, and Senators Saland and Skelos. No one also spent more over the last six months than IUOE. They were followed by Monroe County Republicans and the Transportation Workers Union.

Here's the millionaires club--groups or candidates that had a closing balance of over a million dollars:

$1,086,830.61 -- CITIZENS FOR GULOTTA (former Nassau County Executive Thomas Gulotta)
$1,108,964.90 -- CARRION NYC (former Bronx Borough President Adolofo Carrion)
$1,169,417.40 -- FRIENDS OF DOV HIKIND (Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind)
$1,422,259.94 -- NEW YORKERS FOR GIANARIS (Queens State Senator Michael Gianaris)
$1,466,131.32 -- VALLONE FOR NEW YORK (New York City Councilman Peter Vallone, Jr.)
$1,810,010.72 -- FRIENDS FOR THE ELECTION OF DEAN SKELOS (Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos)

This spreadsheet should be updated as new data becomes available. We'd love to know if you find any interesting.

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The Empire

Cuomo writes state legislature on Aqueduct agreement

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Governor Andrew Cuomo sent a letter to the heads of the State Assembly and Senate today, declaring his desire to work with them "in a spirit of cooperation" on the details of the development of a convention center in Queens.

"Given the past history, while I may have the legal authority to proceed unilaterally, I choose to only proceed in full public view and with support of the legislature in a spirit of cooperation," the Governor wrote.

Cuomo hits on a number of contentious points critics of the plan have pounced on--transportation to the site, labor agreements, competition with the Belmont site, whether or not the city needs a new site, specifically in Queens--in an attempt, certainly, to help smooth the process his office has committed the state to, in a non-binding agreement.

"The state is not building anything. We are not spending public money on a convention center," the Governor wrote. "The bottom line is that this is a low risk, high reward business opportunity for the state."

The Governor also again stated his desire for the legislature to take up the legalization of gambling this session.

"I will also ask the legislature to consider passing language authorizing a Constitutional Amendment to allow casino gaming in the State of New York. That referendum would be at best two years from now – if ever – and should be considered as a separate issue from these current proposals," he said, and went on to state that he hoped the Aqueduct deal would be finished well ahead of the gambling legalization.

The full text is below, after the jump.

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The Empire

Albany to Tackle Health Exchanges in Coming Months

Monday, January 09, 2012

Governor Andrew Cuomo says creating a health insurance exchange for New York is a priority for 2012.

State-run exchanges are mandated by President Barack Obama’s federal health care overhaul. Exchanges would effectively make states play the role of insurance broker to help people and small businesses buy coverage from private companies.

Last year, Albany almost passed a bill that would lay the groundwork for an exchange, before hitting an impasse in the Republican-controlled State Senate. Now, New York runs the risk of having the Federal government impose a system on them--something State Senate Republicans say could cost the state up to $3.75 billion.

Read the full article on WNYC here.

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