Security guards at New York health care centers sue state over COVID-19 vaccine mandate

BY Morgan McKay New York State

A group of security guards who work at state-run health care facilities have filed a lawsuit against New York state, saying the mandate that requires them to receive their first COVID-19 vaccine dose by Monday is unconstitutional.

Former state Attorney General Dennis Vacco filed the lawsuit on their behalf and argues this mandate targets this sector unfairly.

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Your guide to New York's 2021 ballot questions: #1 — amending the state's redistricting process

BY Susan Arbetter New York State

Depending on who you ask, the November election in New York could expand opportunities for same-day voter registration or open the door to voter fraud.

Depending on your perspective, the November ballot could create a new constitutional right to clean air and water or create a glut of litigation that enriches trial lawyers.

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Judge denies attempt to halt health worker COVID-19 vaccine mandate

BY Ryan Whalen Buffalo
UPDATED 5:53 PM ET Sep. 24, 2021

ALBANY, N.Y. -- A New York state Supreme Court justice in Albany County will not grant a temporary restraining order that would have kept the state from starting to enforce a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for medical professionals next week.

HoganWillig Law Firm, based in Western New York, is representing roughly 500 healthcare workers.

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Hochul open to breaking with Cuomo-era economic program

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Each year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo would gather local business leaders, chambers of commerce officials and state lawmakers for a awards-show style event that doled out millions of dollars in economic development grants.

His successor, Gov. Kathy Hochul, indicated Friday she's willing try to something different when it comes to state efforts to stimulate job growth, made all the more complicated amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

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Paterson credits Hochul with changing 'toxic environment' in governor's office

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

One of Gov. Kathy Hochul's first stated priorities when she became governor a month ago was to reverse what was widely seen as a toxic environment under her predecessor, Andrew Cuomo.

Former Gov. David Paterson on Friday in an interview said Hochul has been able to turn the page on Cuomo with that effort, as well be willing to track in a different direction for the last 30 days.

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New York court workers win temporary block to COVID-19 vaccine mandate

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A state-level judge on Friday granted a temporary stay on a COVID-19 vaccination mandate set to take effect on Monday for non-judicial court system workers in New York and their parent union, the Civil Service Employees Association.

The labor union argues the vaccination mandate is in violation of its negotiated contract with the state.

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Hochul: 'A lot of interesting candidates' to replace Zucker

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Gov. Kathy Hochul on Friday did not rule the nomination of former New York City Health Commissioner Mary Bassett to replace outgoing Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker in her administration.

"We have a lot of interesting candidates," Hochul told reporters during a stop at the New York Business Council's annual meeting in Bolton Landing.

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SUNY sets vaccination deadline for non-union employees

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The State University of New York on Friday informed hundreds of employees they would need to be fully vaccinated by Oct. 29 or lose their jobs, according to a memorandum released to workers by the public college and university system.

The move affects about 550 non-union workers who are designated management confidential employees at SUNY administration.

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Lawmakers want to strengthen access to non-religious substance abuse treatment services

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New York courts would be under a requirement to inform defendants of non-religious substance abuse treatment programs under a measure proposed this week by two state lawmakers.

The proposal, introduced by Assemblyman Harvey Epstein and Sen. Peter Harckham, was proposed in recognition of National Recovery Month. And it is being proposed in the wake of a spike in overdose deaths that have coincided with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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'I put my head down and I did my work:' NY AG James defends her Cuomo sexual harassment report

BY Morgan McKay Albany/Capital Region

New York State Attorney General Letitia James shot down the idea that her report, which substantiated claims of at least 11 women who say former Governor Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed them, was an orchestrated “coup” against Cuomo.

“The report speaks for itself and these are nothing more than attempts to undermine the independence and the legitimacy of the report,” Attorney General James said. “It was done by two professionals who are widely respected. Unfortunately, the report indicates that the environment in the office of the former governor was toxic and hostile. I believe women and I think the women spoke the truth.”

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Hochul pushing ahead with COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers

BY Morgan McKay City of Albany

Gov. Kathy Hochul on Thursday warned unvaccinated health care workers that they could be at risk of losing their job next week if they don’t receive at least their first vaccine dose.

“Plenty of notice, plenty of availability, plenty of chances for people,” Hochul said during a press briefing. “What is looming for Monday is completely avoidable and there's no excuses.”

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New York Health Commissioner Howard Zucker resigns, Hochul says

BY Morgan McKay New York State
UPDATED 9:40 PM ET Sep. 23, 2021

New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker has submitted his resignation, following bipartisan pressure criticizing his role in the state’s COVID-19 pandemic response.

Gov. Kathy Hochul made the announcement on Thursday, but said Dr. Zucker will stay on board until they find someone to replace him.

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Erie County Legislature calls for more transparency in Bills stadium negotiations

BY Ryan Whalen Orchard Park

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Erie County Legislature passed a resolution Thursday asking the county executive for regular updates on negotiations for a new Buffalo Bills stadium, including the release of any reports or studies of which the county is in possession of.

"If they have it, we want to see it," Legislator John Gilmour said. "We just want to be brought up to speed. We don't want to be asked to vote on something at the last minute. We want to know how things are progressing as they go along."

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New York GOP chairman: 2022 strategy is making a case 'like we’re trial lawyers'

BY Susan Arbetter New York State

On Monday, Nick Langworthy was unanimously re-elected as chair of the state’s Republican Party. He was originally elected in July 2019.

With the 2022 elections just over a year away, Langworthy acknowledged that the GOP has a lot of work to do to help end the party’s two-decade-long statewide election drought and cut into the Democratic supermajorities in the state Legislature.

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NYPA head: New transmission line projects' benefits are significant

BY Susan Arbetter City of Albany
UPDATED 6:35 PM ET Sep. 23, 2021

The New York Power Authority (NYPA) produces 25% of New York’s power, and 80% of that is hydropower.

Hydro is critical to New York’s climate goals because it’s always available to fill in when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing.

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Out of office, Cuomo uses power of campaign account

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

For the decade he was governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo exercised nearly unquestioned power in the halls of the state Capitol.

Now a private citizen, Cuomo no longer has the trappings of the office. But he still retains an $18 million pot of money from his days as a prodigious fundraiser. He's using the money to pay attorneys and former advisors as part of a public and private defense effort amid a cascade of ongoing criminal and civil investigations at the local, state and federal level.

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Hochul says climate change fight is personal

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Fighting to reduce the effects of climate change is "personal" given that her own community growing up faced pollution troubles, Gov. Kathy Hochul on Thursday said.

Hochul announced this week she is backing an additional $1 billion for what had been a $3 billion bond act for shoring up the state's environmental infrastructure, with a focus on clean water and air projects around the state.

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Hochul: No one in administration supports defunding police

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Gov. Kathy Hochul's administration is against efforts to slash budgets for police departments, she said on Thursday during an unrelated news conference.

"We do not support defund the police. No one in my administration does," she said. "That was a catchphrase that had very negative connotations."

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Sweepstakes for NFL tickets, merchandise newest incentive for New Yorkers to get vaccinated

BY Spectrum News Staff New York State

In another attempt to drive vaccination rates higher, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced a new sweepstakes program for NFL game tickets, merchandise and experiences for New Yorkers who get vaccinated between now and Oct. 25.

Hochul said there will be 200 tickets given out to attend Buffalo Bills, New York Jets and New York Giants games.

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Emergency certification program for educators extended

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

An emergency certification program for New York educators was extended for a year by state education officials, two state lawmakers announced Wednesday.

The extension will affect a wide variety of people in the education field, including teachers, librarians, school administrators, teaching assistants, school athletics coaches, GED instructors and jobs skills training instructors who are seeking certification or recertification.

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Hochul's final members of New York's cannabis oversight panel

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The final two appointees to New York's cannabis market oversight and regulatory panel on Tuesday were appointed by Gov. Kathy Hochul, her office announced, as the state's nascent industry begins to take shape.

Hochul appointed Reuben McDaniel, the president and CEO of the Dormitory Authority of New York State, as well as Jessica Garcia, the assistant to the president of the Retail, Wholesale Department Store Union.

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COVID vaccine mandate deadline approaches for New York health care workers

BY Morgan McKay City of Albany

Around 19% of hospital workers and 18% of nursing home workers around New York still have not completed their COVID-19 vaccine series, according to the state Department of Health.

Health care workers have until Sept. 27 to receive at least their first vaccine dose, or they could be at risk of losing their job, but there are still some pushing back.

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DEC commissioner: Hochul is making New York’s climate initiatives a priority

BY Susan Arbetter New York State

Gov. Kathy Hochul unveiled four major climate initiatives over the past few days in honor of Climate Week, a moment when the international community focuses on accelerating climate action. New York and other cities across the globe are trying to raise awareness of the climate crisis ahead of the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), which kicks off in Glasgow, Scotland on Nov. 1.

Hochul’s initiatives include two major transmission infrastructure projects, support for more solar power and an historic effort to monitor air quality in disadvantaged communities.

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Former Planned Parenthood leader in New York joins Hochul administration

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Gov. Kathy Hochul on Wednesday appointed the leader of a prominent abortion and reproductive rights organization to a top post in her new administration.

Robin Chappelle Golston, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts, is joining Hochul's office as the executive deputy secretary to the governor. Her appointment to the post comes as abortion rights are expected to be a major issue in the coming elections following a Supreme Court ruling in Texas and pending cases before the court.

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Hochul seeks more emergency rental aid from federal government

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Gov. Kathy Hochul on Wednesday in a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said New York will need additional federal assistance to provide aid to tenants and landlords struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hochul in a letter to Yellen released by her office said New York has already paid or obligated more than $1.6 billion in funds under the emergency rental assistance program. But the current need for funding, meant to provide aid to tenants who have struggled financial as a result of the pandemic, has been exceeded by demand.

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New York League of Women Voters opposes redistricting amendment

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

This November, voters in New York will consider an amendment that proposes to once again alter the redistricting process of the state. The League of Women Voters is urging voters to reject it.

The measure is one of five amendments voters will be considering this year, along with measures enshrining a right to a clean environment and expanding measures meant to boost voter turnout like no-excuse absentee balloting and ending a 10-day voter registration requirement.

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Gillibrand calls for full reopening of Canadian border

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is backing a full reopening of the Canadian border, urging the Biden administration to allow non-essential travel of vaccinated Canadians into the country.

The push by Gillibrand comes as the federal government extended the ban on non-essential travel over ports of entry and land crossings from Canada to Oct. 21 amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic this week.

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Hochul to address New York business leaders

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Gov. Kathy Hochul on Friday is set to address The Business Council of New York State at the organization's annual retreat in Bolton Landing on Lake George, the group confirmed Tuesday.

This is Hochul's first time addressing the organization as governor as business leaders in New York are set to meet over the next three days to discuss recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Heastie expects Cuomo impeachment report 'much sooner than later'

BY Ryan Whalen Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Spectrum News 1 previously reported the Assembly Judiciary Committee's wide-ranging investigation of former Governor Andrew Cuomo could conclude by Oct. 1.

Tuesday in Buffalo, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie would not be that specific about when the body might release a report.

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How lawmakers want to address upstate New York cities

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Across New York state, cities both small and middle-sized face a variety of issues: A shrinking tax base, a drain of talent and, perhaps, a lack of attention from state government.

Democratic State Senator Jeremy Cooney says he's on a mission to find ways of fixing these communities.

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Virtual conference on disasters and mental health will take place at SUNY New Paltz

BY Susan Arbetter New York State

The 9/11 attacks and the COVID pandemic were both disasters that continue to have negative effects on the mental health of thousands of Americans.

Next Wednesday and Thursday, the Institute for Disaster Mental Health (IDMH) at SUNY New Paltz will host its 17th annual conference on this issue. The topics the conference will explore will include "Crisis Leadership & Change Management," "Addressing Racial Disparities in Disaster Response" and "Treating Complex Grief and Loss."

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Hochul cuts off money for Cuomo aides' legal bills, what this could mean for Assembly probe

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Former staffers to ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier this month were told by the new top counsel in Gov. Kathy Hochul's administration their legal bills would no longer be covered by the state, according to an email reviewed by Spectrum News 1.

The email, sent by Hochul counsel Elizabeth Fine on Sept. 2 to law firms representing former aides to Cuomo, stated the governor's office is reviewing the legal basis for approving the payment of past attorney fees.

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Unemployment picture continues to vary in New York

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Depending on where you live in New York, the economic recovery has either been a quick bounce back or a slow rebound.

That's according to new data released Tuesday by the state Department of Labor, which found unemployment rates continued to vary in New York last month.

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82 state lawmakers get perfect score on environmental report card

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Eighty-two state lawmakers have received a perfect score on the 2021 legislative scorecard released Tuesday by the New York League of Conservation Voters. At the same time, 48 lawmakers received a score of 80% or higher.

The organization's report assessed 15 bills considered this year in the state Assembly and 16 measures before the state Senate, touching issues ranging from environmental justice, to public health and clean water and energy, as well as transportation.

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Hochul announces statewide pop-up vaccination sites for kids

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New York will begin rolling out more than 120 vans and pop-up vaccination sites around the state in an effort to boost vaccinations among school kids as students and teachers return to the classroom.

The effort announced Tuesday by Gov. Kathy Hochul is part of her administration's "vax to school" program, and comes as children younger than 12 may soon qualify for the COVID-19 vaccination in the coming weeks.

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Bipartisan criticism continues amid Canadian border closure

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The decision to extend the closure of the Canadian border to non-essential travel continued to stir outrage among Republican and Democratic officials alike in the state's North Country, which relies heavily on summer and fall tourism dollars.

The federal government on Monday announced the border would continue to be closed amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to Oct. 21.

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New York lawmakers call for end to court fees

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

State and federal lawmakers on Monday called for an end to fees incurred by those in the criminal justice system, calling it a source of revenue that hurts low-income people and can perpetuate a cycle of debt and incarceration.

The push to end the fees comes amid alarm among criminal justice reform advocates, as well as progressive lawmakers, at the conditions of Rikers Island jail in New York City and efforts to reduce the number of people who are incarcerated there.

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Mother of disabled son discusses OPWDD’s over-21 placement policies

BY Susan Arbetter City of Albany

In 2014, the legislature passed a bill which provides parents of children with developmental disabilities with the right to challenge the placement that the state deems appropriate for their child after he or she turns 21.

On the young person’s 21st birthday, emergency funding kicks in, and parents are granted the due process right to challenge whether the placement that the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) has made is appropriate or not.

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Hochul wants 'rethinking' of watchdog appointments

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Gov. Kathy Hochul plans to do a full "rethinking" of how investigators and ethics bodies are appointed in New York, she said on Monday following the resignation of state Inspector General Letizia Tagliafierro.

Tagliafierro, an appointee of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, had come under scrutiny for her office's lack of robust investigations whenever an issue would be considered too close to the governor's office.

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New York schools face COVID challenges as they reopen

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Since March 2020, schools in New York have had to brace themselves for uncertainty. They've struggled with remote learning, with COVID-19 testing and mask wearing. And now, as students and teachers return to classrooms across the state, challenges are cropping up.

Advocates at the progressive Alliance for Quality Education point to the need for remote learning options to fall back on in case students and parents prefer that option and to keep the spread of COVID in schools low. On the right, a parents group and a Republican state senator are challenging the state Department of Health's power to issue a universal masking guidance in schools.

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NYCLU releases report highly critical of East Ramapo Central Schools; urges state to act

BY Susan Arbetter City of Albany

For over a decade, critics have alleged that the East Ramapo Central School District engages in a system of “21st century Jim Crow.” They claim that the education of white students attending private religious schools in the district is prioritized over the education of students of color who attend the public school.

This dynamic remains intact because of the hold that the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community maintains over the school board.

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Wice: Don’t let criticism of IRC prevent you from weighing in on the maps

BY Susan Arbetter City of Albany

The term redistricting may put some to sleep, but there is a practical reason why voters should pay attention. One example: A conservative voter in Congresswoman Elise Stefanik’s district could see new congressional representation if a newly-drawn 21st congressional district includes the very Democratic city of Albany.

No one has floated that specific idea yet, but it provides one illustration of why redistricting matters.

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Nick Langworthy re-elected New York GOP chairman

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany
UPDATED 3:01 PM ET Sep. 20, 2021

More than a decade ago, Nick Langworthy was something of a renegade within Republican politics statewide. At the time, he was the Erie County chairman for the party, backing a little-known businessman named Carl Paladino for governor.

But Langworthy for the last two years has taken the helm of the statewide party, replacing longtime chairman Ed Cox with a vow of reinvigorating a party that has not won a statewide election since 2002, and is out of power in Albany.

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Zeldin discusses his cancer diagnosis revelation

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Rep. Lee Zeldin on Friday revealed he was diagnosed nearly a year ago with leukemia. It's now in remission, and the diagnosis hasn't disrupted his ability to serve in Congress or run for governor, he told reporters on Monday outside of Albany.

But at the same time, Zeldin said he received well wishes in the last several days from Republicans and Democrats alike, including Eric Adams, the Democratic New York City mayoral nominee.

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How Hochul wants to shift New York to solar energy

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Gov. Kathy Hochul on Monday announced plans to expand New York's energy grid to produce at least 10 gigawatts of solar energy by 2030 as part of broader effort to shift the state to renewable energies and combat climate change.

The proposal is meant to build upon current efforts to expand the use of solar energy in New York, and the administration pledged it could create an additional 6,000 jobs in the industry. The move would exceed the state's goal of 70% of renewal energy sources by the start of the next decade as part of the zero-emission goal.

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New York immigration advocates push forward after Senate ruling

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Immigration advocates in New York are vowing to press forward with an effort to provide a pathway to legal status after the U.S. Senate parliamentarian ruled against including the provision in a sweeping domestic spending package.

Advocates and Democrats in Congress had sought the inclusion of the measure that would have affected eight million undocumented immigrants as part of the budget reconciliation process.

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Hochul announces plan to remedy state bus driver shortage

BY Hayley Foran New York State
UPDATED 11:00 AM ET Sep. 19, 2021

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced a plan to expand outreach efforts to more than 550,000 commercial driver's license holders in New York State to remedy the bus driver shortage affecting school districts statewide, including signing bonuses and benefit expansions.

Hochul is directing local agencies to utilize more creative approaches to support schools by expanding CDL training opportunities and recruitment in the short term. In the long term, steps will be taken to address the training and licensing of drivers, as well as discussions on how to effectively gather more interest in the bus driving profession.

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Rep. Lee Zeldin confirms cancer diagnosis, says he is now in remission

BY Nick Reisman New York State

New York Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin on Saturday confirmed he was diagnosed with leukemia last November, adding that he is in remission, and that the diagnosis would not affect his campaign for governor.

"Through early detection, last November, I was diagnosed with early stage chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). I then began treatment with an immediately positive response and no side effects," Zeldin said in a statement released by his campaign. "Over the last 9 months, I have achieved complete remission, am expected to live a normal life, and my doctor says I currently have no evidence of this disease in my system. My health is phenomenal, and I continue to operate at 110%."

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Meet Lewis County Sheriff Michael Carpinelli, who is running for New York governor

BY Susan Arbetter City of Albany

The GOP field for the 2022 race for governor of New York is pretty crowded.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin is the preferred choice of state party chairman Nick Langworthy. Also vying for the nomination are Andrew Guiliani, a former special assistant to the president; Rob Astorino, a former Westchester County executive; activist Derek Gibson; and Lewis County Sheriff Michael Carpinelli.

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Legal Aid attorney lauds signing of 'Less is More' jail reform law

BY Susan Arbetter New York State

The just-signed “Less is More Act” prevents people on parole from being sent back to prison for non-criminal violations of their parole, including being late to a meeting or missing curfew.

Gov. Kathy Hochul signed the bill into law Friday in large part because Rikers Island, New York City’s primary jail complex, is in a state of crisis.

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Why fashion models have a stake in Adult Victims Act

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Runway models and the world of high fashion — on the surface a glamorous and glitzy job. But for advocates like Sara Ziff, the reality is far different.

"It looks like a population that's very privileged," she said. "In reality, you have the sort of the top 1%, the folks who go to the Met Gala, and then there's everyone else."

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Marc Molinaro files to be candidate in race for NY-19 seat

BY Luke Parsnow Hudson Valley
UPDATED 5:37 PM ET Sep. 17, 2021

Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro has filed to be a candidate in the race for New York’s 19th Congressional District, according to information posted to the Federal Elections Commission's website.

Molinaro has made no public statement that he intended to seek the seat, currently held by Democratic Rep. Antonio Delgado, though he has made hints of seeking higher office throughout the year. However, a source told Spectrum News 1 Friday that he will formally announce his candidacy next week.

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New York state lawmaker among those backing legal challenge of mask requirement for schools

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany
UPDATED 4:05 PM ET Sep. 17, 2021

Republican state Sen. George Borrello, along with a private religious school and a parents' advocacy group, on Friday announced a lawsuit challenging New York's universal masking requirement for schools.

The legal challenge is the latest bid to overturn pandemic-related rules being put in place by Gov. Kathy Hochul's administration, which is also facing lawsuits stemming from vaccination mandates for health care workers.

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State may release more people from jail on parole violations, Hochul says

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New York state officials on Friday announced plans to release 191 people who are in Rikers Island jail in New York City on technical parole violations, but additional incarcerated people across the state could be up for release as well, Gov. Kathy Hochul said.

Hochul on Friday signed the "Less is More" Act, a measure that overhauls New York's parole laws with the goal of reducing the number of people who are incarcerated based on technical parole violations. At the same time, Hochul is moving to release nearly 200 people from Rikers given the new law does not take effect until March.

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New York progressives call for wealth tax measures from Congress

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A coalition of more than two dozen progressive organizations on Friday is set to release a letter to House Democrats from the state urging them to take a harder line on taxing the country's wealthiest citizens amid a roiling debate in Washington over the issue.

At the forefront of the push is an effort to generate revenue to help pay for a major domestic spending plan backed by President Joe Biden that would fund a range of programs, expanding educational opportunities and providing child care and combatting climate change.

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NY cities grappling with marijuana opt-out decisions

BY Morgan McKay Albany/Capital Region

Many New Yorkers think it is high-time for marijuana sales to start up, but some towns and villages are still grappling with this decision.

Council members in Colonie, a town in the Capital Region, have voted to ban marijuana consumption sites within their district. Marijuana consumption sites are smoking lounges, cannabis cafes and other businesses that allow for cannabis to be consumed on premises.

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As WNY attorney fights for COVID patients to get ivermectin treatment, UB doctor cautions more studies are needed

BY Ryan Whalen Buffalo
UPDATED 7:31 PM ET Sep. 16, 2021

BUFFALO, N.Y. – In January, attorney Ralph Lorigo received a call from a family who wanted to treat their 80-year-old mother, on a ventilator because of COVID-19, with ivermectin.

Lorigo helped them get a court order from the judge, and less than a week later, her condition improved and she was out of the hospital.

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How long-term care facilities are handling staff shortage amid vaccine mandate

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, long-term care facilities were dealing with a shortage of personnel. And then the 18-month long public health crisis that has been COVID-19 led to more workers leaving their jobs in that portion of the health care field.

Now, as New York officials require health care workers to be vaccinated by Sept. 27, there is growing concern the shortage could be made even worse.

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New York has money again; what's this mean for New Yorkers?

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Eighteen months ago, New York state's economy was seemingly at a precipice. The COVID-19 pandemic was leading to state officials to shutter businesses, who in turn shed millions of jobs.

But the frozen economy has started its summertime thaw. And New York has $2.1 billion in additional revenue that's projected each year for the next four years.

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Upstate transit systems continue to navigate COVID-19 pandemic

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Upstate transit systems like the Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority are starting to see a return to something resembling normalcy as more businesses reopen and people head back to work.

But ridership in the Rochester area is still down, said Bill Carpenter, the president and CEO of the authority, in an interview Thursday on Capital Tonight.

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New York could welcome up to 1,143 Afghan refugees in coming months

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New York state could welcome as many as 1,143 Afghan refugees who left the country this summer amid the U.S. withdrawal and collapse of the country's government, Gov. Kathy Hochul on Thursday said.

The number of refugees who could re-settle in New York is based on new guidance by the U.S. Department of State, Hochul said.

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New York unemployment rate fell to 7.4% in August

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New York's unemployment rate between July and August fell from 7.6% to 7.4% and the economy added 28,000 jobs in the private sector, the state Department of Labor announced on Thursday.

The state added more jobs at a faster clip than the rest of the country, but New York's unemployment rate remains higher than the national average, at 5.2%.

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Hochul moves to formally thaw state government hiring freeze

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New York state is formally ending a freeze on hiring as the state's finances have improved since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Thursday.

The former Cuomo administration claimed the freeze was ending in May. But Hochul on Thursday moved to formalize the end of that months later with a formal bulletin posted by the executive branch's top budget official to state agencies.

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New York AG James backs legal challenge to Texas abortion law

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New York Attorney General Letitia James on Wednesday signed onto a national effort to challenge a Texas law that curtails access to abortion services.

The measure banning abortions after about six weeks was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court this month and is now being challenged by the federal government.

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Proposed law seeks to better track opioid sales in New York

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A bill that would require the state Department of Health to release an annual report that details all the registered opioid sales in New York was proposed this week by state Sen. Peter Harckham.

The measure is part of a broader effort to curtail opioid overdoses and deaths in the state, which have spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic, a concurrent public health crisis that policymakers have been urging state officials to address in recent months.

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New York state government ponders whether it can police itself

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Corruption scandals in New York state government have often followed a pattern: A revelation, a resignation and calls for reform.

But in the wake of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo's scandal-scarred end to his decade-long tenure, structural changes are being called for to how New York state government itself is policed.

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NYPIRG’s Blair Horner weighs in on draft redistricting maps

BY Susan Arbetter City of Albany

For the first time, a commission rather the Legislature has been charged with drawing new lines for state and congressional districts in New York.

On Wednesday, that commission, the New York Independent Redistricting Commission (NYIRC), released the first drafts of its maps.

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How New York's budget picture brightened

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New York's budget picture has brightened considerably since the COVID-19 pandemic froze the state's economy and led to deep uncertainty over the state's financial future.

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Wednesday that New York's revenue is expected to be $2.1 billion higher in each of the next four years, and budget gaps for the 2024-2025 fiscal year will be reduced by nearly $2 billion.

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New York redistricting commission releases two sets of maps

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Members of the commission tasked with drawing new legislative boundaries for federal House seats and the state Senate and Assembly on Wednesday signaled they could not agree on the same set of proposed maps for dividing up New York's voters.

So the commission will release two sets of maps for debate as the process continues to unfold in the coming weeks. The development could eventually lead to the state Legislature — firmly controlled by Democrats — once again playing a crucial role in drawing the boundaries.

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Hochul: New York will move forward with health care worker COVID-19 vaccine mandate

BY Morgan McKay City of Albany

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on Wednesday said health care workers threatening to quit over the COVID-19 vaccine mandate will not stop the state from moving forward with it.

“We've been alerted that there's a hospital in Lewis County that may not be able to deliver babies,” Hochul said. “I checked. Every baby that is supposed to be delivered in Lewis County has been properly delivered…I'm not going to let this be a problem for the state of New York. I will ensure that we have the resources. And people are required to have temporary staffing plans, anyhow. Hospitals are required to have a game plan.”

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New York's sales tax revenue continues to rise

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Sales tax collections at the local government level continued rise last month compared to a year ago, increasing by more than 15.5%, New York state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli's office on Wednesday announced.

Statewide, sales tax collections grew by more than $1.5 billion, DiNapoli said.

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Hochul calls for changes at New York's ethics commission

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New York's ethics commission should be turned "upside down" and become more independent of the officials its supposed to police, Gov. Kathy Hochul on Wednesday said.

Her comments come a day after Hochul re-appointed a former commissioner to lead the ethics and lobbying regulatory panel on an acting basis, only to have that commissioner oppose a push to claw back a multi-million dollar book deal for ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

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Why nation's attorneys general want boosted environmental spending

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New York state Attorney General Letitia James on Tuesday led a coalition of 20 fellow state attorneys general from around the country calling on Congress to included funding for environmental and climate change fighting efforts in a major domestic spending bill now under negotiation.

The James-backed coalition of state AGs called for infrastructure spending in the bill to address a transition to cleaner energy sources, efforts to curtail the worsening effects of climate change, and address the effect environmental hazards have played on low-income communities.

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More financial aid leads to more insurance enrollment in New York, Health Department says

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Changes at the state and federal level, including increased financial aid and tax credits leading to lower monthly premium costs, have led to an increase in enrollment under New York's health insurance exchange, the state Department of Health announced Tuesday.

Meanwhile, more than 1.4 million New Yorkers between March 2020 and August 2021 have signed up for health care coverage under the marketplace, a key structure of the federal Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, that is meant to create a competitive marketplace to buy insurance.

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NY Sen. Brisport: Child care should be 'free at the point of service'

BY Susan Arbetter New York State

A national survey out of Northeastern University on the importance of child care to the economy concluded that "absent adequate investment, childcare disruptions can hamper the economic recovery in the short-term and economic growth in the long-run.”

New York state Sen. Jabari Brisport, chair of the Senate Committee on Children and Families, is leading the charge in New York state for universal child care. He told Capital Tonight that the sector is currently facing enormous challenges.

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Environmental advocates have hope for Gov. Kathy Hochul

BY Susan Arbetter New York State

A new governor means new positions on a variety of issues – including climate change.

Environmental activists are hoping that New York Gov. Kathy Hochul is a better ally to them than former Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has been described by some in the environmental community as a reluctant ally.

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Hochul's first weeks show challenges ahead for New York governor

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New Yorkers think Gov. Kathy Hochul can succeed on a variety of fronts. That confidence from voters, reflected in a Siena College poll released earlier Tuesday, is going to be key for Hochul as she navigates the shark tank that is New York politics heading into what could be yet another unpredictable election year.

Hochul has spent three weeks in office since taking over from the scandal-scarred Andrew Cuomo. In that time, she has steered through an extraordinary session of the Legislature to extend a moratorium on evictions for those facing financial hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She's put in universal masking requirements in place for school buildings and has pushed vaccination requirements for education personnel as well as health care workers.

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Hochul administration: Progress being made on distributing pandemic-related aid

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The pace of aid distribution for people who are struggling financially during the COVID-19 has picked up in the last several weeks, Gov. Kathy Hochul's office on Tuesday said, with more money going out the door to tenants behind on their rent and undocumented immigrants who did not qualify for federal stimulus checks.

Hochul has made the aid distribution one of her early promises after taking office on Aug. 24 following the resignation of former Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

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Judge temporarily blocks New York vaccine mandate for health care workers seeking religious exemptions

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A federal judge in upstate New York on Tuesday temporarily blocked the enforcement of New York's vaccine mandate for health care workers seeking a religious exemption to the requirement.

The vaccine mandate for health care workers, who do not have the option of receiving a weekly COVID-19 test instead of receiving the shots, is set to take effect on Sept. 27.

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AG James says she can't probe alleged ethics panel leak to Cuomo

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New York Attorney General Letitia James is calling for changes to the referral process for investigations after her office determined she could not probe an alleged leak to former Gov. Andrew Cuomo from the state's troubled ethics and lobbying regulator.

The Joint Commission on Public Ethics, known as JCOPE, has come under scrutiny amid the resignation of Cuomo, the influence he wielded over the panel and its investigations, and as state lawmakers call for reforms.

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Siena poll: Hochul's early weeks draw support from New York voters

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New York voters give Gov. Kathy Hochul high marks when it comes to her taking a more collaborative approach to governing than her predecessor. A majority of voters are energized by having a woman serve as governor for the first time in the state's history.

There's just one problem for her: She remains largely unknown to many voters in New York.

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Push for better wages to highlight state Senate hearing on disabilities

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Wages for people who provide essential services to New York's most vulnerable populations is expected to be the key topic aired by advocates at a state Senate hearing later on Tuesday.

The hearing comes as the COVID-19 pandemic has strained an already stressed provider system for people with disabilities in the state, which has struggled with a lack of competitive pay.

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Rep. Jacobs reports securities trades late, violating federal rules

BY Ryan Whalen Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Western New York Rep. Chris Jacobs appears to have recently violated federal law by reporting more than a dozen securities trades after the required deadline.

According to a congressional financial disclosure report, Rep. Jacobs made 13 securities trades between Jan. 19 and July 16. He digitally signed the report on Sept. 3 of this year.

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Terrorism expert: U.S. needs to focus on both international, domestic terror

BY Susan Arbetter City of Albany

Twenty years after 9/11, how has the terrorism landscape changed? Where are the threats to the U.S. coming from? Is New York state still a target?

Capital Tonight spoke with professor Victor Asal, the co-director of the Project on Violent Conflict, which is affiliated with the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START).

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Hochul urged not to repeat Cuomo's nursing home mistakes

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

In the first hours of her administration, Gov. Kathy Hochul pledged to strengthen basic transparency for public records requests and reporting during the pandemic. Her office began to emphasize data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on COVID-19 deaths, which is seen as more complete.

But lawmakers and advocates for nursing homes and long-term facilities in New York do not want her repeating the mistakes of her predecessor, former Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

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NY Sen. Metzger on New York's nascent cannabis industry

BY Susan Arbetter New York State

After months of delays, appointments are finally being made to New York state’s cannabis control board. The board will regulate the budding industry by issuing or revoking licenses, and crafting regulations for home-grown cannabis consumption.

The state Senate’s appointee to the control board is one of its former members: Jen Metzger, a Hudson Valley Democrat, who served as the chair of the chamber’s Agriculture Committee.

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NY Assemblywoman Paulin pushes back against county-level gerrymandering

BY Susan Arbetter New York State

Every 10 years when it’s time for congressional and legislative redistricting, New York state senators and assemblymembers in Albany have typically been in charge of drawing new boundaries, except when they can’t come to an agreement.

Following the 2010 Census, New York was apportioned 27 congressional seats. This year, following the 2020 Census, the state will lose one seat under reapportionment, bringing the state’s congressional delegation down to 26.

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Youth cigarette smoking rate hits new low in New York

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

More than a generation ago, the smoking rate among high school students in New York stood at 27.1% in 2000. But 21 years later, the smoking rate among high schoolers has dropped to less than 3%, according to a survey released Monday by the state Department of Health.

At the same time, youth tobacco use has declined across all products, including a drop in e-cigarette use for the first time.

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Hochul concerned with abortion 'misinformation' on social media

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Gov. Kathy Hochul signaled Monday her office would send a letter to the social media company Facebook raising concerns over the spread of misinformation regarding New York's abortion laws.

"We have a letter going to Facebook today," Hochul said during a news conference and rally in New York City over reproductive rights. "We'll see what they do with it."

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Report: Thousands of New York families live with undocumented person

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers live with an undocumented immigrant in their household or as a member of their family, a report released this month by the advocacy group FWD.us found.

All told, 10.6 million Amiercans live with an undocumented immigrant, a data point that is leading advocates to call for immigration reforms at the federal level as well as in New York. The data highlights the wide-ranging impact immigration policies have on families and households, especially in states like New York, which has a large immigrant population.

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Hochul: National Guard members should qualify as veterans

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Members of the New York National Guard who responded to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks would qualify as veterans under a bill proposed this weekend by Gov. Kathy Hochul.

The measure would expand benefit eligibility to the Guard members who were called to duty in response to the attacks, but were not on active federal duty, Hochul said on Saturday at an event commemorating the 20th anniversary.

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New York AG James announces $50 million settlement in opioid case

BY Susan Arbetter New York State

State Attorney General Letitia James notched another settlement in her ongoing pursuit of justice against opioid manufacturers. This time, she announced a $50 million settlement against Endo International, a specialty pharmaceutical company.

Endo settled three cases pending in Suffolk County Supreme Court. Plaintiffs in these cases alleged that Endo aggressively marketed prescription opioid medications and/or failure to take adequate steps to identify and report suspicious orders.

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