Early voting is here in New York, but push is on to expand it

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Last year, lines of voters snaked around hallways, staircases and out of parking lots as they cast their ballots in the first true test of early voting in New York. In the months that followed, state lawmakers and advocates have called for an expansion of early voting opportunities in the state.

Now, there's a push to expand early voting options on the local levels in a state that was slow to adopt the option compared to other parts of the country.

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New York moves to 'downscale' COVID-19 vaccination sites

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Mass vaccination sites in Corning, Oneonta, Potsdam and York College will be among the first to be phased out, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday announced, as the state moves to "downscale" its COVID-19 vaccine distributrion.

The move comes the same week as Cuomo announced New York had hit a threshold of 70% of adults in the state receiving at least one COVID-19 shot. In turn, that's led to the final easing of COVID-19 restrictions for businesses and other public gathering areas, with some exceptions for schools and health care facilities, as well as prisons.

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Extension of U.S.-Canada border closure draws bipartisan rebuke in New York

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The continued extension of restrictions at the U.S.-Canada border drew complaints from Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike on Friday who urged President Joe Biden's administration to reverse course.

Pandemic restrictions remain in place at the border through July 21 as domestic rules in the United States have largely eased for those who have been fully vaccinated.

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State lawmakers want to crack down on noisy motorcycles, cars

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Devices that modify exhausts on cars and motorcycles would be banned in New York and penalties for using them would be boosted under a bill heading to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's desk.

State lawmakers this month approved the bill that cracks down on noisy motor vehicles that can be a nuisance for people trying to get a good night's rest.

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Congress considers bill shielding older people from fraud

BY Nick Reisman New York State

Congress is considering a bill meant to boost efforts to combat ways of financially defrauding older Americans by providing them and their caregivers more access to information.

The bill, backed by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, would also seek to standardized the way financial fraud and abuse and create a national hotline to report fraud as well as commit more money to resources through the creation of a grant program to counteract efforts at exploiting older people.

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Cuomo signs bill creating prosecutor conduct panel

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A commission overseeing the conduct of New York's local prosecutors was signed into law on Thursday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a move that is being cheered by supporters of criminal justice reform but comes with reservations from district attorneys.

The approval of the bill comes as state lawmakers in recent years have approved a series of changes to the state's criminal justice system, including most recently a bill meant to keep people on parole from returning to prison based on technical violations.

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Is it time for a federal tax on the ultra-wealthy?

BY Susan Arbetter New York State

One of the key questions that lawmakers are tackling in Washington, D.C. is how to pay for President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan.

Two timely investigations — one by ProPublica and one by The New York Times — are both helping to inform the debate.

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What will New York schools do with more money?

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Advocates for low-income schools in New York have found themselves in an unusal position in the last several weeks: Districts will soon be flush with cash from the federal government and the state.

But challenges remain for schools big and small as the COVID-19 pandemic ebbs and students and faculty return to the classroom.

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New York state Capitol building will re-open Friday to the public

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New York's state Capitol building, closed for more than a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will reopen to the general public on Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced.

Tours of the building will begin again on Monday, Cuomo's office announced; the two tours will be held at 10 a.m. and noon. Outdoor tours of the Empire State Plaza will begin again on Wednesday, July 7.

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NY Regents chancellor: New push to teach diversity isn't critical race theory

BY Susan Arbetter City of Albany

Conflicts around the teaching of critical race theory (CRT) are playing out across the country.

Parents may have legitimate concerns about what their children are being taught in school, but there are numerous reports that suggest the movement growing around those concerns has been co-opted by conservative groups looking for the next battle in the culture wars.

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New York GOP county chairs to meet again to gauge candidates for governor

BY Morgan McKay City of Albany

New York Republican county chairs will be meeting once again in Albany in less than two weeks, this time to choose who they will be backing in the race for New York governor.

News: NY GOP county chairs will be meeting on June 28 in Albany to discuss gubernatorial candidates. So far Congressman @leezeldin, @AndrewHGiuliani, @RobAstorino, and Sheriff Mike Carpinelli have announced they are running for NY Governor https://t.co/iafin4RmdG

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Audit finds telehealth services for mental health may be at risk

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The COVID-19 pandemic shifted many face-to-face interactions online, including mental health services, which saw demand rise sharply over the last year.

But unless state officials act, many service providers could end telehealth coverage for mental health counseling and services when the declared state of emergency ends in New York, an audit by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli's office warned.

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New York unemployment rate dropped to 7.8% in May

BY Nick Reisman New York State

New York's unemployment rate last month dipped below 8% as the private sector added 17,500 jobs in May, the state Department of Labor on Thursday announced.

The jobless rate in New York fell from 8.2% to 7.8% based on those gains of about 0.2% in the last month, the report found.

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New York AG James calls court's ACA decision a 'major victory'

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New York Attorney General Letitia James on Thursday called the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to rule against a coalition led by Texas and other states in a challenge to the Affordable Care Act a "major victory" to keeping the sweeping health care law in place.

James, along with a group of attorneys general from around the country, had filed legal briefs in support of the law. The court on Thursday upheld the law in a 7-2 decision after determining Texas and other Republican-led states lacked standing to bring the case.

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How New York lawmakers want to protect consumer credit

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

State lawmakers in the final days of the legislative session approved a package of measures meant to bolster protections for consumers with credit card debt in the wake of a pandemic-induced recession that stretched household budgets.

The bills seek to address the ways in which credit card companies and other creditors seek to recoup debt from consumers, the interest rates they charge and add protections for people who are at risk of being scammed.

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Workforce 'crisis' hits programs for New York's most vulnerable

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are increasingly concerned programs and agencies that provide services to the state's most vulnerable population are facing a workforce crisis.

The New York Disabilities Advocates on Wednesday pointed to a survey of 100 service providers in New York finding 93% of those agencies reported a drop in applications to fill positions that provide services and are considered the "backbone" of the system to care for people with disabilities.

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New York lawmaker proposing $1,200 bonuses for going back to work

BY Morgan McKay New York State
UPDATED 9:04 PM ET Jun. 16, 2021

Over the past few months, numerous businesses have expressed that they are struggling to find employees willing to return to work.

Jason Pierce owns Savoy Taproom in Albany. And right before the COVID-19 pandemic, he started work on his second restaurant, the Copper Crow, which could open any day.

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Buffalo mayoral candidate India Walton says city is ready for new leadership

BY Susan Arbetter City of Buffalo

Elected in 2005, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown is the city’s longest serving mayor.

While he is looking to win an unprecedented fifth term, he has some worthy competition from India Walton, who is a nurse, union representative, community organizer and founding executive director of the Fruit Belt Community Land Trust, which helps create affordable housing.

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Bill would study if New Yorkers are missing out on paid sick leave benefits

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New York's new law requiring paid sick leave has been in effect, but one former labor leader is concerned workers haven't been able to access the benefits.

And now a state lawmaker and retired labor official in the Capital Region are teaming up to call for a study of the law and how effective it has been.

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Republicans make new push to end mask mandate for schools

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Top Republicans in the New York state Senate and Assembly on Wednesday urged the end of the mask requirement for kids in schools as most of New York's COVID-19 pandemic restrictions are lifted.

"The governor still has his unilateral power, but failed to lift mask mandates for school children," said Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay and Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt in a joint statement. "The Senate and Assembly Republican Conferences have repeatedly called on the governor to loosen the mask restrictions in our schools, particularly in light of recent high summer temperatures. Parents throughout New York State have asked for this decision to be left to local school districts, but these requests have fallen on deaf ears in Albany."

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Adult survivors advocates want meeting with Assembly after bill didn't get vote

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Advocates who back a bill meant to aid adult survivors of sexual assault and rape on Wednesday urged top lawmakers in the New York state Assembly to meet with them to discuss the proposal.

The letter to top Democrats in the chamber comes days after lawmakers concluded the legislative session without the measure gaining a vote in the Assembly.

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Sales tax revenue in New York grows by more than 57%

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Sales tax collections in New York grew by 57.8% in May over the same month a year ago in yet another sign the state's economy is rebounding, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli on Wednesday announced.

Revenue reached $140 billion from the sales tax in May, an increase of $530 million from last year when the COVID-19 pandemic largely closed most businesses in New York.

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Gillibrand: Transgender veterans should have easier time changing name

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Name change requests on discharge documentation for transgender veterans should be streamlined and expedited, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said on Tuesday.

Gillibrand formalized the push in a letter to Pentagon officials, pointing to the wait time for the military discharge documentation to be updated taking as long as a year and a half. In her letter, Gillibrand called on Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to speed the process up to 90 days.

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State tax revenue came roaring back in April and May

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Tax revenue for New York state over the last two months were $4 billion higher than initially projected by budget officials, a report released Tuesday by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli found.

The higher-than-expected revenue is a sign New York's economy is beginning to pick up pace as more businesses fully reopen and pandemic restrictions are loosened. The state reached 70% of its adult population receiving at least one COVID-19 vaccine shot that triggered the end of most rules for the pandemic.

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New York ends most COVID-19 restrictions, celebrates with fireworks display across the state

BY Luke Parsnow and Spectrum News Staff New York State
UPDATED 9:33 PM ET Jun. 15, 2021

A fireworks display across New York state on Tuesday evening celebrated almost all COVID-19-related restrictions on businesses, gatherings and masks being lifted, 15 months after the worst of the pandemic brought much of the state's economy, recreation and society to a standstill and killed tens of thousands of New Yorkers.

A look at the fireworks display in New York Harbor tonight, celebrating 70% of adults in the state getting at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Most pandemic restrictions have been lifted with New York hitting the threshold. #OneNewYork https://t.co/5WH3KusIsS pic.twitter.com/Ypnnubh5zE

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New York state of emergency remains in place, and with it, many of Cuomo's pandemic powers

BY Morgan McKay City of Albany
UPDATED 8:24 PM ET Jun. 15, 2021

The first confirmed COVID-19 case in New York was announced on March 1, 2020. And what ensued after, no one was fully prepared for.

With a rapidly changing, ever-evolving situation at the time, the state Legislature decided to grant Gov. Andrew Cuomo broad emergency powers that let him immediately override any local and state law.

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NY Sen. Jessica Ramos touts Excluded Workers Fund, Child Poverty Reduction Act

BY Susan Arbetter City of Albany

It was a pretty good session for New York state Sen. Jessica Ramos.

The Queens Democrat helped push through a multibillion-dollar fund for excluded workers. Ramos, who chairs the Senate Labor Committee, also saw success this year with the last-minute passage of the Child Poverty Reduction Act, which sets a goal of 50% reduction in child poverty in New York over the next 10 years.

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GOP questions private infrastructure meeting with Democrats at Governor's Mansion

BY Ryan Whalen Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Every Democrat in the state Legislature's Western New York delegation ate dinner at the Governor's Mansion on June 1 and discussed priority projects should the state get an expected major influx of federal money.

According to a Buffalo News report, attention apparently shifted away from long-standing conversations to tear down the Buffalo Skyway as legislators expressed more interest in other projects, including transforming sections of the Kensington and Scajaquada expressways.

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9 years into the program, DACA recipients continue to face challenges

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

It's been nearly a decade since temporary status was granted for undocumented immigrants who arrived as children in the United States. And they say the uncertainty hasn't changed.

Nine years ago, President Barack Obama approved the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program that gave some legal protections for undocumented immigrants like Astou Thiane.

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PFAS emissions could be easier to identify under new federal rule

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The Environmental Protection Agency will be required to identify and publicly share the sources of PFAS emissions under a new provision announced Tuesday by U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

The move comes as PFAS chemical contaminations have been at issue in upstate New York communities in recent years and as policymakers have sought a more active role in monitoring potential issues, especially in drinking water.

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As New York reopens, Cuomo focuses on what's next

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New York's economy ground to a virtual halt in the last year. And for working class New Yorkers, the COVID-19 recession hit them especially hard. Tourism and hospitality work dried up. Construction jobs evaporated.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday announced the lifting of New York's final pandemic-related restrictions as 70% of New York adults have received at least one shot of a COVID vaccine. And Cuomo framed the day as a look-ahead for what's next in New York's economy.

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Advocates urge approval of bills aiding low-income families

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Advocacy groups on Monday urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo take sign several bills approved at the end of the legislative session that are broadly meant to aid low-income families and children in the criminal justice system, housing and child care.

Taken together, the bills would seek to address poverty in New York that is believed to have been made worse during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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New York state's credit outlook rises

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A year ago, New York's finances were in serious doubt: Pay raises for public workers were put on hold, money was borrowed to cover essential expenses and economic activity was largely frozen in place as businesses and gathering spaces closed due to the pandemic.

But now, as COVID-19 cases recede and more people are vaccinated, the state's finances are receiving a boost from two key rating agencies. S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings on Monday raised New York's credit outlook.

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Gillibrand, Schumer want robocall crackdown

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New York's two U.S. senators on Monday called for the passage of a bill meant to curtail the wave of nuisance robocalls that hit mobile phones seemingly every hour of the day.

The bill backed by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer would boost penalties for people and companies that intentionally seek to trick consumers through unsolicited robocalls.

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NY Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay weighs in on productivity of legislative session

BY Susan Arbetter City of Albany
UPDATED 6:57 PM ET Jun. 14, 2021

Democrats have said that this past New York state legislative session was one of the most productive in history.

“I suppose you could say it was productive if you want to do a bunch of progressive, liberal-type of bills," state Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay told Capital Tonight. "We did a lot of stuff that people might label soft on crime."

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Adult Survivors Act didn't get a vote in the Assembly; advocate wonders why

BY Susan Arbetter City of Albany
UPDATED 6:12 PM ET Jun. 14, 2021

One of the highest-profile bills not to get a vote in the New York state Assembly this year was the Adult Survivors Act.

It’s similar to the Child Victims’ Act, in that it would have created a civil lookback window for victims of sexual assault. The difference is that the victims in this case would have been 18 years old or older when the abuse took place.

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Why civil liberties advocates want to tighten vaccine data laws

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Civil liberties advocates in New York are calling for tightening the safeguards around vaccine data, worried that vulnerable communities may be less inclined to receive a COVID-19 vaccine without assurances their privacy would be protected.

Nearly 70 percent of New Yorkers have at least one COVID shot — and once fully vaccinated they'll be able to return to some version of normal — like attend a concert or a sporting event.

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Child mental health advocates say more work is needed

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Advocates for childhood mental health efforts on Monday cheered the approval of a package of bills in recent weeks that are meant to boost aid for kids after the multiple stresses created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bills in the New York Legislature included extending diagnostic authority for licensed mental health professionals amid an ongoing shortage of providers, enabling summer camps to hire behavioral health professionals and a strengthening of data collection for health professionals. Lawmakers also backed the creation of 9-8-8 suicide and crisis hotline.

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Cuomo, facing controversy, calls legislative session successful

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The last six months may rank among the most challenging for Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the 10 years he's been in office, but on Monday, he praised the legislative session in Albany as a superlative success.

"This legislative session more was done intelligently then probably any legislation legislative session that I participated in and that's from the budget right through the end," Cuomo said during an event at the New York State Fairgrounds in Geddes.

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Stefanik draws a Democratic challenger in NY-21

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Democrat Matt Putorti on Monday formally launched his bid for the 21st Congressional District as he seeks the nomination to challenge Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik next year.

Putorti, a 37-year-old attorney from Whitehall, in Washington County, released a video on social media highlighting his ties to the North Country. If elected, he would be the first openly gay man to serve in Congress from the district.

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Bipartisan plan would aid military families seeking immigration status

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The family members of New York veterans and active military personnel would have support in securing immigration status in the country under a bipartisan measure approved last week in the state Assembly.

The bill was developed and approved in honor of Staff Sgt. Alex Jimenez, who enlisted in the Army in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, was taken prisoner and later found dead. Jimenez had been in the process of securing legal status for his wife before he died, but had been turned down. She was later granted discretionary parole due to her husband's service.

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Bill banning coal tar-based sealants heads to Cuomo's desk

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

State lawmakers this month advanced a bill that would enact a statewide ban on the use of coal tar-based sealant products commonly used for driveways and parking lots.

At issue is the chemcials found in the sealcoats, including concentrations of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that are considered toxic to aquatic life and lawmakers say are cancer-linked.

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New York could set goal to reduce child poverty

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A bill that would seek to cut the child poverty rate in half over the next decade through an advisory council and set of goals is heading to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's desk.

State lawmakers last week approved the bill, which would require the creation of the advisory panel to develop a set of policies and their effects on childhood poverty, including racial inequities, along with budgetary and policy recommendations. The bill also requires benchmarks and timelines as well as publicly share data to show the state is on track to meeting the goal.

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Gianaris on the end of session: We are spoiled by our own success

BY Susan Arbetter City of Albany

While some major issues were left undone at the end of this legislative session including the Adult Survivors Act, the Climate and Community Investment Act, the New York Health Act and the Clean Slate bill, lawmakers passed many other items on a progressive wish list which spanned a range of concerns from criminal justice reform to taxation.

“We’ve been seeing, since 2019, when we took the majority, when we get together with our colleagues in the Assembly and drive legislation forward, we have a huge impact in setting the agenda,” Deputy Senate Majority Leader Michael Gianaris told Capital Tonight.

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State lawmakers head home with numerous bills still on the table

BY Morgan McKay City of Albany
UPDATED 10:08 PM ET Jun. 11, 2021

“The bills are dead,” sources murmured on Thursday night, shortly before the New York State Senate gave closing remarks and headed home for the summer.

Negotiations over a criminal justice reform bill and an MTA bill fell apart on the last night of session, despite rumors that a deal had been reached Thursday afternoon.

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Cuomo approves funding for potential impeachment

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany
UPDATED 6:30 PM ET Jun. 11, 2021

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday evening signed into a law bill that would fund his own potential impeachment proceeding in the state Legislature after it was given final approval by state lawmakers this week as investigations into multiple controversies facing the three-term Democrat continue.

The provision would allow lawmakers to dip into a $156.9 million fund of existing money usually set aside for the state to pay for lawsuits. The money would be used to conduct interviews, investigations and hold hearings "necessary to inform the decisions relating to such proceedings" under the impeachment provisions in the state constitution.

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Calls made to update New York's wrongful death law

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Losing a family member is one of the biggest challenges in life — especially if it was because of someone's negligence. But the Grieving Families Act hopes to lessen the pain by recovering monterary damages for that person's life.

When Jenelle Rodgers first met her fiance, Dylan, they immediately found they had something in common: A shared birthday on June 22.

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Limousine safety measures advance in House of Representatives

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The U.S. House of Representatives has advanced a trio of stretch limousine safety provisions that were proposed in the wake of a crash in Schoharie County that killed 20 people, U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko on Friday said.

The proposals are meant to build on a package of sweeping limousine safety regulations proposed soon after the limousine crash in 2018.

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Legislative productivity gets back on track in Albany

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Last year, just as lawmakers were about to begin serious discussions surrounding New York's state budget, the COVID-19 pandemic ground activity in the halls of the Capitol to a standstill.

But as restrictions have lifted, meetings and sessions of the Legislature went partially to video conference technology, and the end of the pandemic saw something of a return to normalcy for the Legislature, a new analysis released Friday found.

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COVID-19 testing rules loosened for fully vaccinated nursing home staff in New York

BY Morgan McKay New York State

Fully vaccinated nursing home personnel will no longer have to be tested for COVID-19 twice a week, according to new guidance quietly issued by the New York State Health Department to nursing home operators on Thursday.

Personnel who have not been fully vaccinated — including employees, contract staff, medical staff, operators and administrators — must continue to receive a COVID-19 test twice a week.

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Bills combatting discrimination in real estate head to Cuomo's desk

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The New York state Assembly this week approved a package of bills meant to curtail discrimination in the real estate industry, several of which will be sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's desk for his approval before becoming law.

The bills include efforts to crack down on discrimination against prospective homebuyers who are people of color, addressing a long-standing concern that has led to defacto segregation in many communities.

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Bill to protect legislative staffers awaits Assembly action

BY Susan Arbetter City of Albany
UPDATED 9:17 AM ET Jun. 11, 2021

Are staffers for elected or appointed officials fully covered by provisions of the Human Rights Law?

Some defendants facing accusations have argued that staffers should be considered employed by the official who hired them, not the governmental entity that pays their salary. But even when a plantiff is employed by a government entity, there is needed clarification when it comes to the Human Rights Laws, state lawmakers say.

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Analysis: Legislative session concludes with more questions than answers

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The six month-long legislative session in Albany concluded more or less as scheduled in the early hours of Friday morning, but state lawmakers have finished their work with an uncertain future ahead.

But then again, nothing was all that certain this year in Albany, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo faced months of growing controversy, calls for him to resign amid allegations of sexual harassment and now the pending developments of multiple investigations, including a federal probe into his administration's reporting of nursing home deaths.

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Early voting options could be expanded in New York

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany
UPDATED 7:00 PM ET Jun. 10, 2021

New York state lawmakers are finalizing legislation that could expand early voting options in New York while also speeding up the process of counting absentee ballots in New York.

Taken together, the bills are meant to address what have become growing concerns with voting access and the timely reporting of results on the night of Election Day. The measures also come as early voting was held for the first time in a presidential election year in New York and as more voters cast ballots via absentee amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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NY Sen. Serino argues Cuomo is handpicking his own impeachment jurors

BY Susan Arbetter City of Albany
UPDATED 5:46 PM ET Jun. 10, 2021

After an unusually tense confirmation process, the New York State Senate confirmed Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s latest picks to the New York State Court of Appeals. Both Marilyn Singas and Anthony Cannataro will serve at least 14 years on the state’s highest court.

Singas, the Nassau County district attorney, had the more difficult confirmation of the two nominees. Several progressive state senators, including Alessandra Biaggi and Gustavo Rivera, said they couldn’t vote for her because of her opposition to the Legislature’s bail reform law. Other senators were concerned about adding another prosecutor to a bench already dominated by former prosecutors.

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Sheehan faces Faust in Albany Democratic mayoral primary

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Democratic voters in Albany can begin casting ballots on Saturday in a primary race between two-term incumbent Mayor Kathy Sheehan and challenger Valerie Faust.

Sheehan is pointing to presiding over job-creating projects over the last eight years, like at the Port of Albany and plans to construct wind turbines in the city. She also points to growth in the tax base, a challenge given so much of Albany is on state property.

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Legislators advance bill to take Trump's name off state park

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A bill that would launch a legal review of taking former President Donald Trump's name off a state park in the Hudson Valley advanced through the state Senate on Thursday as lawmakers make another effort to change the name of the site.

The park was named for Trump in 2006 after he donated the 400-acre parcel of undeveloped land in Westchester and Putnam counties. The bill backed on Thursday in the state Senate would have the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation conduct a legal review of what it would take to find a new name for the site.

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Special education students could receive post-pandemic support

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A bill that would provide special education students with a post-pandemic boost to finish school is nearing completion at the state Capitol on the final day of the legislative session.

The proposal is meant to address the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic for students with disabilities who are at risk of aging out of public education by the time they turn 21.

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Lawmakers approve creation of opioid settlement fund

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

State lawmakers on Wednesday gave final approval to a bill creating a dedicated fund for opioid settlement money in New York, addressing the flow of millions of dollars in judgments for companies that were deemed to have played a role in the nationwide epidemic.

The bill addresses a concern advocates for substance abuse efforts in New York had raised: The money coming to New York from major settlements would not be guaranteed to be directed toward treatment programs in the state budget.

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'Fair and timely parole' has a chance at passage

BY Susan Arbetter City of Albany

There are several parole-reform bills on the legislature’s radar on this penultimate day of session.

One of them is called “Fair and Timely Parole,” and it is sponsored by Senator Gustavo Rivera and Assemblyman David Weprin.

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Bill to protect Adirondack lakes from aquatic invasives passes both houses

BY Susan Arbetter City of Albany

A key law that protects lakes in the Adirondack Park from invasive species had expired this week, worrying environmentalists about the future of the park’s waterbodies on the cusp of the summer boating season.

But lawmakers in both houses passed S7010A/A7735 — bills that makes boat inspection inside the Adirondack Park mandatory.

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Can criminal justice measures reach the finish line?

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

State lawmakers are bumping up against the self-imposed Thursday deadline to finish out the legislative session and a pair of key criminal justice measures.

There are deals in principle for the bills, one of which is meant to overhaul New York's parole system with the intent of keeping people out of prison for technical violations. Another measure would seal some criminal records that can make it harder for people with convictions to find future employment.

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Astorino calls for 'civil disobedience' for mask wearing in schools

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino called for schools in New York to disobey the current indoor mask guidelines for kids and adults following conflicting messages from state officials.

"Show civil disobedience. Have common sense," Astorino told reporters on Wednesday morning. "We need school districts and superintendents to marry civil disobedience with common sense."

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Will Republicans have a gubernatorial primary? Astorino says yes

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

In 2014, Rob Astorino was the heir apparent for the New York Republican Committee to take on Gov. Andrew Cuomo. He had won a second term after unseating Democratic incumbent Andrew Spano in the Westchester County executive's office and was widely seen as a rising star for the party. No primary was necessary at the state GOP convention that year.

Now, as Astorino makes his second bid for governor, he's doing so as a candidate who does not have the lion's share of backing from Republican leaders and elected officials across the state, who have lined up to back rival candidate Rep. Lee Zeldin.

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Transgender, gender non-conforming New Yorkers could have easier time obtaining ID

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

State lawmakers this week put the finishing touches on a bill that is meant to make it easier for transgender, gender non-conforming, non-binary and intersex New Yorkers to obtain updated government-issued identification.

The bill, backed by Sen. Brad Hoylman and Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell, addresses the difficulty facing transgender people when it comes to obtaining a new identification that reflects their gender identity or a name change.

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Legislature seeks to bolster New York's 'Red Flag' Law

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Mental health facilities would be required to gather and provide information on how to seek protection orders for people who are discharged or put on conditional release under a bill given final approval by lawmakers on Tuesday.

The measure is meant to bolster New York's "Red Flag" law, a provision approved in 2019 that is meant to bar people deemed too dangrous from owning or possessing a firearm.

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Lawmakers give final approval to gun control bills

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The Democratic-led houses of the state Legislature on Tuesday gave final approval to a package of gun control measures that are broadly meant to halt the flow of illegal weapons into New York.

Gun rights advocates have knocked the measures as doing little to aid public safety at a time when shootings are up in cities across New York, saying lawmakers are simply trying to distract from the rise in crime.

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NY lawmakers look to a potential impeachment future

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

State lawmakers will conclude the 2021 legislative session on Thursday with a lot of the same questions most of state Capitol's denizens have been asking for the last several weeks.

When will Attorney General Letitia James release her report on the investigation into allegations of sexual harassment leveled against Governor Cuomo? What direction will the federal government's investigation into nursing home deaths take? Will the governor face impeachment?

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Albany mayoral candidate's son faces weapon charges

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Albany mayoral candidate Valerie Faust, in a phone interview with Spectrum News 1 on Tuesday, said her 50-year-old son was arrested on felony weapons charges.

The charges come as the city of Albany has seen multiple shootings in recent weeks, including six people in one incident last month, as well as the shooting death of a 15-year-old girl. It also comes as Faust runs on a platform of public safety in a Democratic primary against two-term Mayor Kathy Sheehan.

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Advocates waiting for Assembly to pass Child Poverty Reduction Act

BY Susan Arbetter City of Albany

The Child Poverty Reduction Act (S2755C/A1160C) is an ambitious piece of legislation with a goal of cutting child poverty in half over the next decade.

Kate Breslin, president and CEO of the Schuyler Center for Analysis and Advocacy, spoke with Capital Tonight host Susan Arbetter about the legislation, which earlier today passed the state Senate with a bipartisan vote of 61 "yes" to 2 "no" votes.

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Gottfried on 'laying the groundwork' for future passage of NY Health Act

BY Tim Williams City of Albany

Asm. Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan), chair of the Assembly Health Committee, has spent a majority of his half century in the legislature pushing for passage of the New York Health Act, similar to Medicare for All, but on the state level.

But even with Democratic supermajorities in both houses, the bill still hasn’t come to a vote.

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Opioid lockbox legislation 'a sure thing,' according to Assembly bill sponsor Woerner

BY Susan Arbetter City of Albany

Just last week, a doubtful John Coppola, executive director of the New York Association of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Providers (ASAP), told Capital Tonight that if legislation to create a lockbox for opioid settlement funds wasn’t passed by the end of the legislative session, "it would be a disaster." He did not sound optimistic.

But things move fast in Albany during the last week of the legislative session. That "disaster" may morph into a huge victory for those fighting against drug and alcohol abuse.

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Singas, Cannataro confirmed for New York's top court

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Eight years ago, Gov. Andrew Cuomo nominated Jenny Rivera to serve on the state's highest court. Her nomination was an historic one, making her the first Latina judge on the bench at the Court of Appeals.

Republicans who controlled the state Senate at the time raised objections to what was usually a pro forma process in Albany, practically the polar opposite of the titanic battles over the Supreme Court at the federal level.

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Lawmakers reach apparent deal on parole reform bill

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Democrats in the state Legislature on Tuesday have reached an apparent agreement on a bill that would reform New York's parole system that would expedite being discharged from the parole system and setting a new standard for when an arrest warrant is issued for a parole violation.

The "Less is More Act" is among a package of parole law changes state lawmakers are considering in the final week of the legislative session. An amended version of the bill was introduced this morning, enabled lawmakers to vote on it by the time the legislative session concludes on Thursday.

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Zeldin called 'presumptive nominee' for Conservative Party

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Republican gubernatorial hopeful Lee Zeldin has received enough backing from local Conservative Party leaders in the last month to be called the "presumptive nominee" by the organization's statewide chairman.

“During these past months as Lee made his decision to run and embarked on his extensive travels to meet with our leaders and the citizens in all parts of the state, I was pleased with the level of support he was receiving from within the party," said Chairman Gerard Kassar. "County after county, leader after leader endorsed Lee. Excitement was clearly building with many party activists reaching out to me indicating they felt good about our chances of taking back the state next year."

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More workers in New York could have a new retirement option

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Workers who lack access to retirement saving accounts in New York could soon receive one as lawmakers this week approved the finishing touches to a measure that expanded eligibility to the initial proposal.

The measure now goes to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's desk for his consideration.

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Lawmakers seek to address long wait times for unemployment benefits

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Lawmakers in the state Senate on Monday unanimously approved a measure meant to hasten the notification process for unemployment benefits in New York after a sharp rise in joblessness over the last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The proposal would require the state Department of Labor to provide initial determinations for unemployment benefits to the person seeking them within 30 days of the necessary documentation being furnished. If a determination cannot be issued within that time, state officials must notify the claimant of the new time frame for when a determination can be issued.

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Shifting mask policies leads to confusion at schools

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany
UPDATED 8:46 PM ET Jun. 07, 2021

Over the last four days, school districts, parents and kids received three different messages for mask wearing by New York state officials.

On Friday, it was Health Commissioner Howard Zucker signaling mask rules for both vaccinated and unvaccinated children could ease starting Monday unless the Centers for Disease Control said otherwise.

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New York Health Act has the votes; but will it pass?

BY Morgan McKay Albany/Capital Region

Advocates and lawmakers led a march to the New York State Capitol in the steaming 90-degree heat on Monday, demanding the passage of the New York Health Act before the end of the legislative year in just a few days.

The New York Health Act, which would provide universal health coverage for every New Yorker, has been on the cusp of passing for years, but has never quite crossed the finish line.

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Holocaust education bill inches closer to passage

BY Susan Arbetter City of Albany

Last September, the Claims Conference released a 50-state study that showed knowledge gaps among 18-to-39 year-olds regarding the Holocaust.

In New York state, 58% of this group of young people, known as Millennials and Gen Z, could not name a concentration camp, 28% said they believed the Holocaust was a myth or has been exaggerated, and 19% said they believed Jews caused the Holocaust.

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Cuomo says major priorities already completed as legislative session nears end

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New York state lawmakers this week are working to put the finishing touches on a session that could end with sweeping changes to New York's parole laws, how it would fight climate change and further regulation of firearms.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, though, is keeping a public distance from a Capitol that's been largely empty for more than a year due to COVID-19 pandemic guidelines. On Monday, Cuomo said most of his priorities were accomplished two months ago in the $212 billion state budget.

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Proposal seeks to tighten New York's anti-trust laws

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

State lawmakers this week are considering a bill meant to curb large companies that seek to get bigger through market dominance strategies like manipulating search engine results or undercutting their competitors' prices.

Lawmakers who support the measure say it is aimed at curtailing the power of big tech companies; business groups however, pointed to the effect the bill could have on the state's economy and innovation.

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New York lawmakers consider key appointments in final days

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

State legislators in the state Senate this week will consider a range of key confirmations for appointments to a range of state offices by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

They are also pressing up against a tight deadline: the final scheduled day of the legislative session is Thursday.

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Lawmakers, union seek patient affordability bill

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

State lawmakers and a major labor union on Sunday unveiled a bill meant to stem concerns surrounding hospital contracting practices they argue are leading to higher health care price structures for patients.

The bill, backed by 32BJ SEIU, Sen. Andrew Gounardes and Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz, comes as the 32BJ Health Fund announced New York-Presbyterian would go out of network for the 100,000 or so members who receive coverage through the union.

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Legislature to set aside funding for potential Cuomo impeachment

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

State lawmakers in the final days of the scheduled legislative session are set to approve funding for a potential impeachment proceeding against Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The top leaders in the state Senate and Assembly on Saturday quietly introduced a bill that would allow lawmakers to dip into a $156.9 million fund used to pay for lawsuits against the state to help cover costs associated with an impeachment proceeding.

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Will this be the year for parole reform?

BY Morgan McKay City of Albany
UPDATED 6:32 PM ET Jun. 04, 2021

The end of the legislative year is just around the corner, which means it’s crunch time.

One of the last big agenda items still left on the table is parole reform.

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N.Y. health leaders signal they will relax mask rules for schools and camps

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany
UPDATED 5:15 PM ET Jun. 04, 2021

New York will relax mask rules for kids and adults at schools K through 12 and camps while indoors unless federal health officials provide data that suggests the move is unsafe, Health Commissioner Howard Zucker wrote in a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday.

The change in guidance would take effect in New York on Monday, June 7, Zucker wrote in the letter. Under the state's proposed guidance outlined by Zucker, indoor mask wearing will be strongly encouraged, but not required for students, campers and adults who are not fully vaccinated. Outdoors, masks will not be required.

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