Monday, April 15, 2013
The bipartisan group of senators knows as The Gang of Eight will release their immigration reform bill this week. The proposal is expected to overhaul the current system and give millions of undocumented immigrants in the United States a pathway to citizenship.
Thursday, March 07, 2013
Governor Cuomo said he is unlikely to send an emergency message to allow state lawmakers to bypass a three-day waiting period for the state budget.
Wednesday, December 05, 2012
Governor Cuomo, who has maintained that he has stayed out of the Senate leadership fight, is now endorsing a newly formed coalition of Senate Republicans and five Democrats, but with some conditions.
Thursday, October 25, 2012
Mayor Bloomberg has signed off on a package of legislation designed to regulate the behavior of commercial cyclists.
The laws create civil penalties for businesses whose bicyclists fail to adhere to rules already on the books, like wearing reflective vests and helmets. It also requires commercial cyclists to complete a safety course, and revises the identification requirements for cyclists.
The New York City Council overwhelmingly passed the legislation earlier this month. The New York City Department of Transportation is currently going door-to-door to commercial businesses to make sure they understand the new requirements.
Starting in January, the DOT will begin issuing fines to businesses whose cyclists fail to comply with the new laws.
Thursday, October 11, 2012
(Elizabeth Spain - New York, NY, WNYC) New York's City Council overwhelmingly passed a package of four bills designed to give the Department of Transportation more enforcement power over delivery cyclists.
The legislation creates civil penalties for businesses whose bicyclists fail to adhere to rules already on the books, like wearing reflective vests and helmets. It also requires commercial cyclists to complete a safety course.
“New York is a city on the go and we want to keep it that way, but we must do so safely,” said Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn. “Business owners are responsible for the safety of their employees and anyone else in the workplace ... We must all work together, along with the Department of Transportation and law enforcement, to make our streets safer. This is what this legislation aims to do.”
Civil penalties will give the DOT more power to issue fines and enforce the rules, which previously were criminal penalties and often not followed through on. Ticketing bicyclists for moving violations, like riding on sidewalks or running red lights, will remain under the purview of the New York Police Department.
The city's DOT has a six-person bike inspection team that's been going door to door to businesses on Manhattan's east and west sides. The inspectors' job right now is outreach and education; in 2013, however, they will begin enforcement.
A spokesperson for Mayor Bloomberg says that he will sign the new legislation.
Thursday, July 12, 2012
A new riddle for you: when is an Interstate not an Interstate?
For decades, the criteria for designating new or improved roads as Interstate Highways were fairly straightforward. The Federal Highway Administration would certify “that the segment (a) is built to Interstate design standards and (b) connects to the existing Interstate System.” In short, Interstates had to be Inter-state.
But not any more. With the signing of MAP-21 last week, the law has been changed to do away with requirement (b) and allow disconnected pieces of floating “Interstate”—as long as the segment is “planned to connect to an existing Interstate System segment” in the next 25 years.
This might seem like a strange, even absurd, tweak to make, especially as part of such a contentious bill. But the provenance of the language makes its purpose clear. The change in definition was initially written as a special exception for Interstate 69, the so-called “NAFTA Highway, which has been in the works for twenty years. Congressman Blake Farenthold, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison introduced matching bills last spring in their respective houses. Both are Republicans, but the entire Texas delegation supported the measure in lockstep.
Exceptions already existed to the standard Interstate designation. The non-contiguous states and territories of Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico all have quasi-Interstates that were funded through the Interstate program despite the fact that they don’t meet the normal design criteria and, more obviously, will never connect to the rest of the system (unless we invade British Columbia and build some very impressive tunnels). But the new rule change is notable in that its reason for being is psychological, not geographical.
In practical terms, the relaxed criteria will allow Texas to erect Interstate 69 signs on about eighty miles of improved highway in the Lower Rio Grand Valley border region, despite the fact that these segments don’t actually connect to other Interstates. This new designation, local officials and businessmen believe, will enhance economic development opportunities, because developers, employers, and freight companies perceive an “Interstate” differently from a U.S. Highway, even if that U.S. Highway is built to Interstate standards.
This “Interstate” branding has been an obsession among the business community in the growing Lower Rio Grande Valley region, which bears the burden of being the largest metropolitan area in the country with no Interstate highway. Back in the mid-1990s, lobbyists for the Interstate 69 coalition (including Tom Delay’s brother Randy) won legislative approval to post “Future Interstate 69 Corridor” signs along U.S. 59, U.S. 281, and U.S. 77, from Texarkana through Houston and down to the Mexican Border.
The Interstate 69 project (about which I wrote a book) is the largest new construction project since the original interstate system, and has not been without controversy. Some states—such as Indiana, Arkansas, and Louisiana—are building Interstate 69 as a greenfield highway through untouched farms and forests. (And for about seven years, when Interstate 69 was part of Rick Perry’s Trans-Texas Corridor scheme, Texas was planning to do the same.) But other states—such as Kentucky and Texas—chose to upgrade existing highways to Interstate standards.
This is not the first time the rules have been changed to get Interstate 69 signs up faster. Last fall, the Federal Highway Administration made an exception and designated thirty-eight miles of the Western Kentucky Parkway as I-69, even though the road was not up to Interstate standards. Kentucky State Senator Dorsey Ridley told the Henderson Gleaner that the red white and blue signs held more magic than any actual roadwork could. “This will move economic development in a way people don’t realize,” he said “simply by putting up a shield called I-69.” Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez agreed, saying in a statement that "these improvements will create jobs now and encourage development in the future."
It’s a sign of our times—pardon the pun—that our public servants hope to create jobs by rebranding roadways, and that a reauthorization bill that failed to increase funding for real physical transformations to our infrastructure nevertheless lowered standards to allow more superficial transformations.
Now if we can just get the definition of “High Speed” rail down to 45 mph...
Matt Dellinger is the author of the book Interstate 69: The Unfinished History of the Last Great American Highway. You can follow him on Twitter.
Wednesday, May 02, 2012
(New York, NY -- Sharyn Jackson, WNYC) New York City City Council members have introduced legislation that would require all car washes register for a license with the Department of Consumer Affairs.
Harlem Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito announced the bill to more than 50 protestors who gathered on the steps of City Hall. She said she was surprised when she learned that car washes didn’t already need licenses.
“This industry, I mean, you're talking about heavy machinery, you're talking about chemicals that are being used, it's not regulated in any way,” she said. “But as a city, we’ve got to step up to the plate, and ensure that they’re doing right by these workers.”
The industry is under fire for allegations of overworking and underpaying employees. According to an investigation by the New York State Department of Labor, almost 80 percent of the city’s car wash owners had wage and hour violations.
“New York City, we love to be stylish here, there's no question,” said Councilman James Sanders, who chaired a council hearing on the bill today. “We love our cars and we love to look good, but we don't want to do it at the expense of anyone.”
But car wash owners have told Transportation Nation they treat their workers fairly and safely.
Saturday, December 10, 2011
When New York Governor Andrew Cuomo took the stage at Medgar Evars college in Brooklyn on Friday afternoon, he looked like the cat that ate the canary. The largely black student body gave him thrilled applause. One student yelled a soprano “we love you!” as he took questions from reporters. Not so-muted-references to Cuomo for President in 2016 swirled through the room.
It’s been that kind of week for the New York governor, who took several compliments for running a “functional” government – unlike --get it -- the one in Washington. He put together a tax plan that managed simultaneously to cut taxes for everyone while raising taxes for the super-rich. He set up an infrastructure bank to fund sorely-needed construction projects and create jobs. He was able to dole out hurricane relief funds to a besieged state. And – the subject of Friday’s Medgar Evers lovefest – set aside $75 million for “inner-city” job training and placement, a true passion of his.
But there’s one group that, this week, felt left out. For transit advocates under Governor Cuomo, it’s been a season of swallowing lemons.
There were the departures of MTA chief Jay Walder and Port Authority executive director Chris Ward, both seen as transit supporters – and their replacement with Cuomo loyalists Joe Lhota and Pat Foye, neither of whom has a background in public transportation.
There was the introduction of a massive plan to build a new Tappan Zee bridge, with the transit option mysteriously erased at the last minute.
And then: this week, to get his tax bill past the Republicans, the governor had to be willing to throw the MTA payroll tax under a bus, at least partially. Schools and small businesses would no longer have to pay the tax, which plays a vital role in maintaining the transit system.
Instead, there’s a vague assurance in the tax legislation passed this week that “any reductions in transit aid attributable to reductions in the metropolitan commuter transportation mobility tax authorized under article 23 of the tax law shall be offset through alternative sources that will be included in the state budget.”
Governor Cuomo reiterated that assurance Friday: “The state will pay, dollar-for-dollar, whatever amount would have been raised by that tax. So the MTA is held totally harmless -- we’re just shifting the source of those funds from the MTA payroll tax to state funds.”
And the governor said no one should conclude from this that he doesn’t care about transit as much as, say, jobs for inner-city youth. “Obviously the MTA is very important to the region's economy. I’m very excited about my appointee to the MTA, Joseph Lhota -- all reports are he’s doing a great job and this will not cost the MTA one penny.”
But the idea of a broke state government being the guarantor of transit funds has left straphangers advocates uneasy.
Mitchell Moss, the director of the Rudin Center for Transportation at New York University and a member of Cuomo’s search committee that recommended Joe Lhota to head the MTA, has been willing to give Governor Cuomo the benefit of the doubt when it comes to transit. But in an online op-ed in the New York Times, Moss wrote: “Apparently forgotten [in the agreement] are the millions of low-income New Yorkers who, in addition to getting zero in tax cuts, must now rely on a Metropolitan Transit Authority that lost $250 million in tax revenue in exchange for a pledge that the funds will be made up, but for how long and in what form, no one knows.”
Moss continued: “Rather than treating the M.T.A. finances as an urgent problem, it makes them worse to gain support from Long Island and other suburban state legislators.”
At the end of the day, exactly how the funds will be spent won't be clear until there's a 2012 budget. If past is prologue, that, too, will be decided in a last-minute round the clock jumble that will have legislators, and everyone else, trying to figure out what they voted on after the fact.
There was another black-eye for transit advocates this week – the death of an obscure, but to them vitally important, bill – the “lockbox bill”-- that would have made it more difficult for the state legislature to help itself to taxes that otherwise would go to fund public transit. As recently as the year before last, the legislature did just that, contributing to the MTA’s budget woes by taking $150 million that was supposed to go to transit and using it to plug the state’s budget gap.
Both houses of the state legislature overwhelmingly passed a bill that would have made that more difficult to do. But in the final run-up to the tax bill, most of that legislation was crossed out -- literally.
“The original legislation would have made it more difficult for the Governor to unilaterally divert MTA dedicated transit funds,” said a statement issued group of a dozen labor, transit, and good government groups. The legislation passed this week “does not constrain future raids on transit funds,” the statement continued.
There was another source of concern this week – an infrastructure fund being established under the bill would accelerate state funding of big capital projects – and leverage private funds. It’s been a dream of President Barack Obama to establish such a fund, and now Cuomo has one.
But both the press release and the legislation said it would fund roads, bridges, water tunnels, canals, dams, flood control efforts, even parks. But not transit. That left planners like Robert Yaro of the Regional Plan Association befuddled.
On Friday, Governor Cuomo said both the MTA and the Port Authority would be eligible for the funds, and that details would be revealed in his State of the State address in January.
But still, there’s a wariness that this Governor cares more about muscle cars than a muscular transit system.
Part of the unease is fueled by the rapidity with which the bill this week was presented. On Tuesday, the Governor issued a press release with the broad outlines of the agreement, but details were sketchy.
Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign says he worked all week to get details, but few were forthcoming. “The process was opaque, the 180 degree opposite of transparent," he said. "I spent the better part of the week calling the administration and I didn’t hear back.” Those details he did get were misleading, he says, though he says that could be because the agreement changed after they were relayed to him. For example, he was told the MTA provisions would sunset – that’s not the case. He was told the exemptions wouldn’t include public schools – but they do.
(The same thing happened to us – the Governor’s office initially assured us the $250 million hole to the MTA budget would be plugged by a dedicated stream from the $1.9 billion reaped by the tax on the super-rich – but when the bill was finally presented -- minutes before it was voted on -- there was no such provision.)
Russianoff also says he was asked not to issue a statement on the lock box because a compromise was being brokered -- but when the language finally emerged, he was “disappointed.”
“This is my experience in Albany,” Russianoff said, of hastily-crafted legislation. “It’s too early, and it’s too early. And then it’s too late.”
Friday, December 09, 2011
(New York, NY -- Kathleen Horan, WNYC) New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Friday he remains optimistic New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will sign a bill that would put $1 billion in the city's coffers and allow street hails of some livery cabs in residential areas.
Bloomberg said on his weekly WOR Radio appearance Friday that he'd spoken to Cuomo the day before. He didn't disclose the details.
Cuomo said Wednesday that talks had failed to resolve significant issues with the bill. He said that without agreement, he'd veto it and wait for it to be brought up again next year.
The plan to allow a new class of livery car to accept street hails in upper Manhattan and the outer boroughs was at the center of Bloomberg's legislative agenda this year.
The bill passed the state legislature last summer and is finally expected to be sent to Cuomo on Friday to sign. He said Wednesday he will veto it because a myriad of issues remained unresolved, including ensuring more wheelchair accessibility into the plan.
"I’ve said from day one, if we don't have a resolution of these issues I'm going to veto the bill because you don't have an agreement. We have been trying we've had numerous meeting over the past few weeks but we failed to reach resolution.”
The bill has faced passionate opposition from yellow taxi fleet owners, some in the livery industry and advocates for the disabled.
When Bloomberg was asked by reporters on Thursday if the bill was going to die, he appeared to be holding out hope for his plan, which he has said will increase taxi options beyond Manhattan.
“Many times the governor has assured me this would pass with some minor changes," he said. "We’ve worked on it with the governor’s staff, the state senate staff, the state assembly staff for months now.”
Cuomo has 10 days to decide whether to sign the bill or veto.
He has said that if he vetos the legislation it could be reintroduced early next year.
Monday, September 12, 2011
UPDATED WITH COMPLETE REMARKS (at end of post) Waving a thick blue-and-white document, President Barack Obama formally introduced the American Jobs Act, the much-touted jobs bill he announced last week at a joint session of Congress.
Surrounded by construction workers, teachers, small business owner, veterans, and others he said would benefit from the bill at a brief Rose Garden ceremony, the President said :
"Well, here it is, this is a bill that will put people back to work all across the country. This is the bill the congress needs to pass, no games, no politics, no delays. I’m sending it to congress today and they ought to pass it immediately."
Citing "highways that are backed up with traffic" and "airports that are clogged," the President said the bill would help construction workers all over the country.
In last week's outline of the bill, the White House said it would include $50 billion in expedited spending on roads, bridges, and other transportation, and $10 bill launch a National Infrastructure Bank to funnel private capital into U.S. transportation construction and to nationalize the decision-making process about what get's built and what doesn't.
Complete remarks follow. We'll have full analysis later.
THE PRESIDENT: Please, everybody, have a seat, on this beautiful morning. It's wonderful to see all of you here.
On Thursday, I told Congress that I’ll be sending them a bill called the American Jobs Act. Well, here it is. (Applause.) This is a bill that will put people back to work all across the country. This is the bill that will help our economy in a moment of national crisis. This is a bill that is based on ideas from both Democrats and Republicans. And this is the bill that Congress needs to pass. No games. No politics. No delays. I’m sending this bill to Congress today, and they ought to pass it immediately. (Applause.)
Standing with me this morning are men and women who will be helped by the American Jobs Act. I’m standing with teachers. All across America, teachers are being laid off in droves -- which is unfair to our kids, it undermines our future, and it is exactly what we shouldn’t be doing if we want our kids to be college-ready and then prepared for the jobs of the 21st century. We've got to get our teachers back to work. (Applause.) Let's pass this bill and put them in the classroom where they belong. (Applause.)
I’m standing here with veterans. We’ve got hundreds of thousands of brave, skilled Americans who fought for this country. The last thing they should have to do is to fight for a job when they come home. So let’s pass this bill and put the men and women who served this nation back to work. (Applause.)
We're standing here with cops and firefighters whose jobs are threatened because states and communities are cutting back. This bill will keep cops on the beat, and firefighters on call. So let’s pass this bill so that these men and women can continue protecting our neighborhoods like they do every single day. (Applause.)
I’m standing with construction workers. We've got roads that need work all over the country. Our highways are backed up with traffic. Our airports are clogged. And there are millions of unemployed construction workers who could rebuild them. So let’s pass this bill so road crews and diggers and pavers and workers -- they can all head back to the jobsite. There's plenty of work to do. This job -- this jobs bill will help them do it. Let’s put them back to work. Let's pass this bill rebuilding America. (Applause.)
And there are schools throughout the country that desperately need renovating. (Applause.) We cannot -- got an "Amen" over there. (Laughter and applause.) We can't expect our kids to do their best in places that are literally falling apart. This is America. Every kid deserves a great school -- and we can give it to them. Pass this bill and we put construction crews back to work across the country repairing and modernizing at least 35,000 schools.
I’m standing here with small business owners. They know that while corporate profits have come roaring back, a lot of small businesses haven’t. They're still struggling -- getting the capital they need, getting the support they need in order to grow. So this bill cuts taxes for small businesses that hire new employees and for small businesses that raise salaries for current employees. It cuts your payroll tax in half. And all businesses can write off investments they make this year and next year. (Applause.) Instead of just talking about America’s job creators, let’s actually do something for America’s job creators. We can do that by passing this bill. (Applause.)
Now, there are a lot of other ways that this jobs bill, the American Jobs Act, will help this economy. It’s got a $4,000 tax credit for companies that hire anybody who spent more than six months looking for a job. We’ve got to do more for folks who've been hitting the pavement every single day looking for work, but haven’t found employment yet. That’s why we need to extend unemployment insurance and connect people to temporary work to help upgrade their skills.
This bill will help hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged young people find summer jobs next year -- jobs that will help set the direction for their entire lives. And the American Jobs Act would prevent taxes from going up for middle-class families. If Congress does not act, just about every family in America will pay more taxes next year. And that would be a self-inflicted wound that our economy just can’t afford right now. So let’s pass this bill and give the typical working family a $1,500 tax cut instead. (Applause.)
And the American Jobs Act is not going to add to the debt -- it’s fully paid for. I want to repeat that. It is fully paid for. (Laughter.) It’s not going to add a dime to the deficit. Next week, I’m laying out my plan not only to pay for this jobs bill but also to bring down the deficit further. It’s a plan that lives by the same rules that families do: We’ve got to cut out things that we can’t afford to do in order to afford the things that we really need. It’s a plan that says everybody -- including the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations -- have to pay their fair share. (Applause.)
The bottom line is, when it comes to strengthening the economy and balancing our books, we’ve got to decide what our priorities are. Do we keep tax loopholes for oil companies -- or do we put teachers back to work? Should we keep tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires -- or should we invest in education and technology and infrastructure, all the things that are going to help us out-innovate and out-educate and out-build other countries in the future?
We know what’s right. We know what will help businesses start right here and stay here and hire here. We know that if we take the steps outlined in this jobs plan, that there's no reason why we can’t be selling more goods all around the world that are stamped with those three words: “Made in America.” That’s what we need to do to create jobs right now. (Applause.)
I have to repeat something I said in my speech on Thursday. There are some in Washington who’d rather settle our differences through politics and the elections than try to resolve them now. In fact, Joe and I, as we were walking out here, we were looking at one of the Washington newspapers and it was quoting a Republican aide saying, “I don't know we’d want to cooperate with Obama right now. It’s not good for our politics.” That was very explicit.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: It was.
THE PRESIDENT: I mean, that’s the attitude in this town -- "yeah, we’ve been through these things before, but I don't know why we’d be for them right now." The fact of the matter is the next election is 14 months away. And the American people don’t have the luxury of waiting 14 months for Congress to take action. (Applause.) Folks are living week to week, paycheck to paycheck. They need action. And the notion that there are folks who would say, we’re not going to try to do what’s right for the American people because we don't think it’s convenient for our politics -- we’ve been seeing that too much around here. And that’s exactly what folks are tired of.
And that’s okay, when things are going well, you play politics. It’s not okay at a time of great urgency and need all across the country. These aren’t games we’re playing out here. Folks are out of work. Businesses are having trouble staying open. You’ve got a world economy that is full of uncertainty right now -- in Europe, in the Middle East. Some events may be beyond our control, but this is something we can control. Whether we not -- whether or not we pass this bill, whether or not we get this done, that’s something that we can control. That’s in our hands.
You hear a lot of folks talking about uncertainty in the economy. This is a bit of uncertainty that we could avoid by going ahead and taking action to make sure that we’re helping the American people.
So if you agree with me, if you want Congress to take action, then I’m going to need everybody here and everybody watching -- you’ve got to make sure that your voices are heard. Help make the case. There's no reason not to pass this bill. Its ideas are bipartisan. Its ideas are common sense. It will make a difference. That’s not just my opinion; independent economists and validators have said this could add a significant amount to our Gross Domestic Product, and could put people back to work all across the country. (Applause.) So the only thing that’s stopping it is politics. (Applause.) And we can’t afford these same political games. Not now.
So I want you to pick up the phone. I want you to send an email. Use one of those airplane skywriters. (Laughter.) Dust off the fax machine. (Laughter.) Or you can just, like, write a letter. (Laughter.) So long as you get the message to Congress: Send me the American Jobs Act so I can sign it into law. Let’s get something done. Let’s put this country back to work.
Thank you very much, everybody. God bless you. (Applause.)
Thursday, June 30, 2011
Professor of law and Director of the Center for Gender and Sexuality Law at Columbia, Katherine Franke, will discuss what happens to domestic partnerships - both straight and gay - now that gay marriage is legal in New York.
Monday, June 20, 2011
New York State Assemblyman representing central Brooklyn Hakeem Jeffries (D-57) gives an update from Albany on the official final day of the legislative session.
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Connecticut governor Dan Malloy discusses state politics and recently passed bills for paid sick leave and the decriminalization of marijuana.
Monday, June 13, 2011
Monday, June 13, 2011
Pedicab drivers could soon be required to display a bill of rights for passengers in their cabs and provide detailed receipts even before a trip begins.