Campaign for parole law changes in New York gains steam

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Criminal justice reform advocates on Monday are set to release a video pushing for the passage of a measure to overhaul the parole laws in New York with an eye toward making it easier for people to remain out of jail or prison once released.

The measure is meant to reduce prison time for technical violations. The bill's backers point to incentives for good behavior while on parole as a public safety benefit.

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Business groups line up against COVID workplace protocols bill

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A bill that would require minimum COVID-19 protocols for workplaces in New York is facing mounting opposition from the state's business community.

The provision would set mandates for preventing the spread of the virus in workplaces, including breaks for hand washing, supplies of personal protective equipment and social distancing.

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Siena poll: Most New York voters hold unfavorable view of Cuomo amid controversies

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

More than half of New York voters have a negative view of Gov. Andrew Cuomo, even as a similar majority do not believe he should resign from the office in the wake of myriad controversies he is facing, a Siena College poll released Monday morning found.

The poll shows Cuomo's favorable rating with voters in New York is now at 40%, with 52% holding a negative view of him. That's a decline from 43% to 45% split in March, and a drop from 56% to 39% in February.

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New Yorkers face steep state taxes on unemployment benefits from 2020

BY Morgan McKay City of Albany

Taxes are due in a month, but what does this mean for New Yorkers who were unemployed last year due to the pandemic?

When the federal government passed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 in March, Congress included an exemption so at least a portion of unemployment benefits from 2020 will not be federally taxed.

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Scrappy “New York Focus” is 6 months old, and growing

BY Susan Arbetter New York State

Thanks to the pandemic, I had never met Akash Mehta in person. But I’d read several of his pieces for New York Focus, a new nonprofit newsroom devoted to in-depth coverage of New York State government and politics. His stories are nuanced and contextual, which is critical when covering a beat more densely layered than baklava and not nearly as sweet.

Imagine my surprise when he told me that prior to being tapped as editor-in-chief of this new venture, he was a "freelancer for a few months and before that, I was a college student in Chicago."

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How the Adirondacks fared in New York's budget

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The Adirondack Park is home to one of the largest wilderness areas on the East Coast, as well more than 100,000 year-round residents. Balancing the human and natural concerns has never been easy.

In the Adirondacks, there's been two competing concerns: economic development and land preservation. Republican state Sen. Dan Stec said the new $212 billion state spending didn't hurt the park or its residents.

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Post-COVID-19, New York hospitals seek federal support

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Here's the good news: New York hospitalizations due to COVID-19 are finally starting to show some real decline for the first time since the holiday season.

But what comes next for hospitals in New York who have been stretched to the breaking point during the pandemic?

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Tax collections are up, GOP questions tax hikes

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New York's coffers are supercharged. The state received $12.5 billion from the federal government in pandemic relief last month, tax collections are billions more than expected just 11 months ago, and the new $212 billion budget raises taxes on upper income earners.

Republican lawmakers, meanwhile, are calling into question those tax increases, which also hiked the rate for corporations in New York, and whether they were necessary in the first place.

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Leading Democrat provides Cuomo impeachment update

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The Democratic lawmaker leading the state Assembly's impeachment investigation on Friday said Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration was formally told to not retaliate against potential witnesses in the case and to preserve documents.

The lawmaker, Assembly Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Lavine, also confirmed the investigation is reviewing "reports relating to the publishing of the governor's memoir last year" in addition to allegations of sexual harassment, COVID-19 reporting in nursing homes and reported defects on the construction of the Mario Cuomo Bridge.

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How New York's financial picture is brightening

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A year ago as millions of New Yorkers were staying home, tax revenue dried up and state officials had to borrow money to keep state operations afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Twelve months later, New York's financial picture has brightened significantly, a report released Thursday by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli found.

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Rep. Tenney backs end to MLB's anti-trust exemption

BY Nick Reisman Central NY

Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney on Thursday announced she would back legislation ending Major League Baseball's anti-trust exemption amid the widening reaction to the Georgia voting law.

The league announced earlier this month it would move its All-Star game from Atlanta to Denver in response to the Republican-backed voting law. Republicans across the country, in turn, blasted MLB and other corporations that have signaled their opposition to the measure.

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Advocates push bill mandating workplace protocols to prevent COVID-19 spread

BY Morgan McKay City of Albany

As the state starts to ease some of its COVID-19 restrictions, doctors are warning that the virus and the new variants are still a threat across New York.

Lawmakers and advocates on Thursday held a virtual rally pushing for the NY HERO Act, which would require businesses have enforceable standards to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

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Is redistricting driving an early start to campaign season?

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The campaign season in New York is getting an early start this year, jockeying that's underway now more than a year before primary voters even pick their nominees.

Take Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, the party's 2018 gubernatorial candidate, who has released a campaign-style video this week. Or Rep. Lee Zeldin, who has already declared his campaign for governor. Or Rep. Elise Stefanik, who is also considering a bid for governor.

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Senator Kavanagh and a landlord advocate on the new “Emergency Rental Assistance Program”

BY Susan Arbetter New York State

The Emergency Rental Assistance Program, or ERAP, is funded by $2.4 billion from the federal government and another $100 million in state funds. Its purpose is to steer money to landlords and utilities whose tenants and customers have been unable to foot their bills during the pandemic.

According to Senator Brian Kavanagh, Senate Housing chair and author of the language creating ERAP, it’s much more generously funded than its predecessor program, the “Emergency Rent Relief Act,” which was heavily criticized because its parameters were so narrowly defined.

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Stefanik, Katko raise concerns over Canadian border staffing

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Reps. John Katko and Elise Stefanik in a letter to the Biden administration on Thursday outlined a list of questions and concerns raised over staffing levels of federal agents near New York's border with Canada.

The letter to President Joe Biden comes amid the movement of border patrol agents south to handle the number of migrant travelers crossing into the United States.

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Upstate Jobs Party targeting 'moderates looking past party affiliation'

BY Morgan McKay New York State

The Upstate Jobs Party is launching a new focus that will back moderate candidates across New York who are interested in working with both sides of the aisle and secure a spot on the statewide ballot in 2022.

The Unite NY initiative will support political candidates who focus on “non-partisan problems solving” regardless of party affiliation.

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New York's unemployment declined in March; see breakdown of lost jobs since pandemic began

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany
UPDATED 1:47 PM ET Apr. 15, 2021

New York's unemployment rate dropped from 8.9% to 8.5% between February and March at a slightly faster rate than the rest of the country, the state Department of Labor on Thursday announced.

New York added 61,200 private-sector jobs last month as the economy works to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and the sharp increase in joblessness as a result of limits placed on public gathering places.

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COVID-19 hospitalizations fall below 4,000 in New York

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Since Dec. 1, more than 4,000 people in New York have been hospitalized due to COVID-19. For months, the hospitalization rate seemingly plateaued in the state amid a surge in virus cases during the winter.

On Thursday, the number of COVID-related hospitalizations finally fell to 3,963 people, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office on Thursday announced.

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County leaders make push against SALT cap

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Three county executives who represent the New York City suburbs signaled they are making yet another push to rescind the $10,000 cap placed on state and local tax deductions.

But the push from the county executives, Democrats all, to repeal a provision from the Trump-era tax cuts is also a sign of how doing so could be a heavy lift in Congress.

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For older New York judges, age may soon be just a number

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

State Supreme Court justices who reach the mandatory retirement age of 70 will again be able to re-apply for their jobs and continue on the bench, the state's top judge on Wednesday said.

The announcement by Chief Judge Janet DiFiore will allow New York to retain 46 judges who would be forced to retire due to their age and denied certification to remain in office. DiFiore pointed to a provision in the state budget that funded the positions for the judges.

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Labor union cheers state budget in ad campaign

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A labor union ally of Democrats in the state Legislature this week launched a new digital ad campaign highlighting the $212 billion state budget agreement and thanking eight lawmakers in the process.

The $28,000 ad buy on Facebook specifically thanks the top Democrats in the state Senate and Assembly, Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Speaker Carl Heastie, as well as several Senate Democrats: James Skoufis, Michelle Hinchey, John Mannion, Rachel May, Samra Brouk and Jeremy Cooney.

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Parole changes could be next criminal justice push in Albany

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

State lawmakers are considering new criminal justice law changes in the coming weeks. And the momentum is building from events around the country.

The trial of former Officer Derek Chauvin in the killing of George Floyd and the death of Daunte Wright this week is spurring action in Albany.

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Higgins pushes for phased border reopening to start in May

BY Ryan Whalen Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The U.S.-Canadian border has been closed in both directions to non-essential travel since March of last year.

However, Rep. Brian Higgins, D-NY-26, said while at this time last year the United States was the global leader in COVID deaths, it's now the leader in vaccine manufacturing, distribution and administration.

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Will Barclay on the possible GOP gubernatorial field

BY Susan Arbetter City of Albany

With Governor Andrew Cuomo facing multiple scandals, possible Republican candidates for top job are coming out of the woodwork.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin announced his candidacy last week. Both Andrew Giuliani and Rep. Elise Stefanik have expressed an interest in the job. And today, both Joel Giambra, a former Erie County executive, and Marc Molinaro, the current Duchess County executive, hinted they might consider throwing their hats into the race too.

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SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras on the book, the budget and the vaccine

BY Susan Arbetter New York State

The controversy surrounding the Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s book deal has raised questions regarding whether he used state resources to help with the drafting of "American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19."

One former top aide tells Capital Tonight the work he did was completely voluntary and limited to light editing and fact-checking.

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Horse and auto racing events to open to spectators in New York

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

There's good news for fans of horse racing and auto racing as New York will open the events to spectators beginning April 23, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday said.

The move will first pave the way for the meet at Belmont Racetrack to begin later this month. Upstate, this will allow racing to take place at Saratoga as well as at Watkins Glen.

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With video, Molinaro hints at another campaign

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Just what is Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro up to?

The 2018 GOP nominee for governor on Wednesday released a video on social media and by his political arm that looks lot like the announcement for a campaign. Another run for the executive mansion? Or is he considering a run for Congress?

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State Democratic chair's statement foreshadows heated primary season

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New York State Democratic Committee Chairman Jay Jacobs in a lengthy statement on Wednesday blasted the primary challenge launched against incumbent Rep. Carolyn Maloney by Rana Abdelhamid, who is backed by the Justice Democrats and Democratic Socialists of America.

The statement was a pointed one, noting Abdelhamid's age (27) and that she does not currently live in the congressional district (not a requirement to run). But the statement was also a preview of what to expect as the 2022 election cycle begins to mature.

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Stefanik's campaign raises $1.2M in first quarter of new year

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik's re-election campaign on Wednesday announced she had raised $1.2 million over the first three months of 2021 and now holds $2.5 million in cash on hand.

Stefanik's haul is the largest for the first-quarter fundraising period and the biggest cash-on-hand amount for a North Country House campaign.

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Comptroller Tom DiNapoli previews his state budget analysis

BY Susan Arbetter New York State

While the Office of the State Comptroller hasn’t released its official analysis of the recently released state budget, Capital Tonight received a bit of a preview when Comptroller Tom DiNapoli joined host Susan Arbetter.

According to DiNapoli, the “deep dive analysis” from his office will be out in a couple of weeks.

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Why lawmakers want to create public banks

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

State lawmakers in New York want to lay down the regulatory framework for municipalities to create local public banks in order to extend and expand access to communities of color in the post-COVID-19 economy.

The bill, sponsored by Sens. James Sanders and Victor Pichardo, is also backed by community and organized labor groups in the state. The measure is meant to create publicly held banks that would have written into their charter the goals of promoting racial justice, community-backed development and sustainability.

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Stefanik introduces an equal pay bill

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik introduced a bill Tuesday meant to bolster equal pay laws and protections across the country.

The bill, modeled off of state-level legislation that has received bipartisan support, is also meant to serve as a Republican answer to equal pay protection backed by Democrats in Congress.

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Johnson & Johnson vaccine paused: What this means for New York

BY Morgan McKay City of Albany
UPDATED 7:46 PM ET Apr. 13, 2021

New York State has immediately paused the distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after the emergence of a rare, but severe blood clotting disorder in six recipients.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration announced that out of an abundance of caution, they are urging states to halt distribution of the single dose vaccine while they investigate reports of these blood clots.

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Why New York is expanding telehealth services

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany
UPDATED 7:17 PM ET Apr. 13, 2021

You're a patient in need of seeing a health care provider. Prior to the pandemic, you would trek to your doctor's office or clinic, peruse back issues of a magazine in the waiting room and then see your doctor.

But today you're doing a telehealth visit. So instead of the trip to the clinic or doctor's office, you've fired up your Zoom app.

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New York is taking another run at repealing SALT cap

BY Nick Reisman New York State

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's spin on the tax hikes in the state budget approved this month is this: they won't really count when the $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions is repealed by Congress.

But it's not entirely clear when, or if, that cap put in place as part of the 2017 federal tax law will actually be thrown in the wastebin by the narrow Democratic majorities in Congress.

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UUP says it’s working with SUNY chancellor to find funding for SUNY hospitals

BY Susan Arbetter City of Albany

SUNY students received a tuition freeze and money for TAP (the Tuition Assistance Program) and SUNY college campuses were provided with more operating aid in the enacted state budget.

But according to Dr. Fred Kowal, president of UUP, United University Professions, SUNY’s three teaching hospitals were left with none of their top priorities satisfied by the spending plan which passed last week.

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Mobile vaccinations sites will bring shots to farmworkers

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany
UPDATED 2:36 PM ET Apr. 13, 2021

Mobile vaccination sites will be set up at farms and other agribusinesses in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday announced.

Sun River Health will administer the mobile vaccination effort, which has been sought for weeks by the New York Farm Bureau as part of a push to vaccinate farmworkers across the state as the spring planting season was about to get underway.

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3 issues that could dominate post-budget Albany

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New York's new $212 billion budget does a lot, including increasing taxes on upper income earners, boost education spending to record levels, provide funds to undocumented immigrants affected by the pandemic and creates a framework to allow for mobile sports betting. Prior to the budget, the state Legislature approved the legalization of cannabis and a bill to curtail the use of solitary confinement.

So, what's next on Albany's to-do list? Here are some possibilities:

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Rep. Mondaire Jones launches political action committee

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Democratic Rep. Mondaire Jones, a newly elected lawmaker from the New York City suburbs, is launching a political action committee, his campaign on Tuesday announced.

Jones's new PAC, called the Policy is Personal PAC, will contribute campaigns to progressive candidates around the country. The PAC has already contributed to Louisiana state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson and Ohio state Sen. Nina Turner, two Democrats running in special elections for vacant House seats.

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State halts Johnson & Johnson vaccinations after reports of blood clots

BY Morgan McKay New York State
UPDATED 10:22 AM ET Apr. 13, 2021

New York has immediately paused the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after the federal government warned of possible blood clots linked to the single-dose vaccine.

“Today the CDC and FDA issued a statement recommending a pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine out of an abundance of caution," New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said. “New York State will follow the CDC and FDA recommendation and pause the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine statewide immediately today while these health and safety agencies evaluate next steps.”

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Cuomo hopes for swift filling of top court vacancies

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a conference call with reporters Monday said he will move quickly to fill multiple vacancies on the state Court of Appeals in the coming weeks.

Nominations to the state's highest court are largely considered pro forma events and often receive swift confirmation in the state Senate. But the vacancies and nominating process come as Democrats in the state Senate have called for Cuomo's resignation amid multiple allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior.

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Progressive think tank finds support for climate change measure

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A progressive think tank and polling firm found broad support among New York voters for a proposed measure that is meant to combat climate change in part by taxing corporations that contribute to pollution.

The poll was released as the state Senate later Tuesday morning is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the proposal, known as the Climate and Community Investment Act.

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Q&A: What's allowed under New York's new cannabis law

BY Morgan McKay City of Albany

Recreational marijuana has now been legal in New York for about two weeks.

While there are portions of the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) that became legal right away, there are certain parts of the law that New Yorkers will have to wait for.

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Can new guidance help schools reopen by the fall?

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany
UPDATED 7:08 PM ET Apr. 12, 2021

State education officials have released long-awaited guidelines for in-person instruction in New York schools. New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta, however, said Monday in an interview the guidance lacks a clear plan for testing in all districts.

"That doesn't give us confidence," he said. "How long will take the state to get that program going where they're doing all the testing?"

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The budget balancing act

BY Susan Arbetter City of Albany
UPDATED 7:05 PM ET Apr. 12, 2021

The just-passed $212 billion state budget is the largest in New York history. Depending on who you ask, the spending plan is either “a mid-2020s fiscal disaster in the making,” as the Empire Center’s E.J. McMahon recently wrote on his blog, or it’s “a couple steps toward liberation” as Assemblyman Ron Kim told members of the media last week.

It won’t be known for years whether the budget is a spend-fest or a long-awaited correction to the tax code. But what is known is that members of the progressive community and advocates for the poor are downright thrilled.

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Cuomo's post-budget plans: vaccines and jobs

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

With the $212 billion state budget officially in the books, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday said he wants to focus on two intertwined priorities: jobs and vaccinations.

Cuomo still faces a litany of controveries and ongoing investigations ranging from the state's handling of nursing homes during the pandemic to multiple allegaitons of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior.

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Cuomo says people who met with him received COVID-19 tests

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

People who would meet with Governor Andrew Cuomo were given COVID-19 tests prior to seeing him in person, he said on Monday, as he continues to face questions over why those close to him received access to the tests last year.

"If I was meeting someone, if you were a reporter coming in to do an interview with me, you would get a test," Cuomo said. "If I was meeting with a county executive, the county executive would get a test. If my family was coming to meet me or I was coming to meet them, they would get a test. That was the protocol."

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Schumer calls for release of $5B in aid for mental health programs

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The $1.9 trillion stimulus package includes $5 billion for mental health programs and providers and should be released now to help those struggling during the COVID-19 pandemic, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Monday said.

The money was included in the stimulus package last month amid widespread concerns over the long-term mental health effects of the pandemic, which has left hundreds of thousands of people dead across the country, spike unemployment and upended everyday life.

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Cuomo: New York to send vaccines straight to colleges

BY Morgan McKay New York State

Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the state will be sending COVID-19 vaccines straight to colleges and universities across New York to encourage college students to get vaccinated before heading home for the summer.

“The 18-to-24 population is a population that is growing in positivity,” Cuomo said during a closed press event at Suffolk County Community College. “We have them in schools; let's use the schools as the base for the vaccine. Makes all the sense in the world. We have the staff at the school, we have the students at this school. Let's vaccinate them at the schools.”

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Comptroller to bar pension investments in oil sands firms

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New York's pension fund will bar investments in oil sands companies that are not moving toward transitioning to a cleaner, low-carbon fuel, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli said Monday morning.

The move is expected to affect seven companies who have business before the pension fund that have not shown they are transitioning out of oil sands.

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Civil Service commissioner departs for independent colleges group

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Civil Service Commissioner Lola Brabham is departing to lead the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities in New York, the group announced Monday morning.

Brabham becomes the first person of color to lead the organization, which advocates on behalf of private colleges and universities in the state.

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Zeldin starts to fundraise fast for governor's race

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin's newly announced campaign for governor is already fundraising aggressively in his bid for the GOP nomination contest that is more than a year away.

Zeldin's campaign a day after announcing his bid said he had raised $1 million toward the effort. The fundraising emails to supporters across the country have not slowed down since then.

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NYSUT backs new COVID guidelines for schools

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The adoption of new COVID-19 guidelines for schools has received the crucial backing of the New York State United Teachers labor umbrella group as school districts in the coming months look toward a full reopening of schools.

The guidelines announced by the state Department of Health largely adopt the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for school buidlings and social distancing rules while also setting immunization rules.

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Albany’s Mayor Sheehan talks police reform

BY Susan Arbetter City of Albany

In the wake of the murder of George Floyd and others, Governor Andrew Cuomo mandated that communities around the state come up with a police reform plan by April 1. Specifically, the governor asked localities to "reinvent and modernize" policing based on community input.

The city of Albany did just that coming up with a list of almost 40 recommendations, some of which could take up to five years to complete.

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It’s 11 o’clock: Do you know where you can get a drink?

BY Susan Arbetter New York State

With the weather getting nicer and people getting vaccinated, a lot of New Yorkers were ready to have a few beers and maybe an order or two of wings at their favorite watering holes around the state this weekend.

While you can still grab some Heinies and order food (in a socially distanced manner), you’ll have to wrap it up by 11 p.m.

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Report assesses media's role in bail law changes

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

In 2019, the newly empowered Democratic majorities in the state Legislature curtailed the use of cash bail in New York. But the law quickly came under fire from law enforcement officials. And a report by the group FWD.US found in many instances the media failed to explain how the measure worked.

The report found the media spread misinformation and unchecked facts about changes to New York's bail laws that ultimately led to more people in jail during the pandemic.

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House Ethics Committee launches investigation of Rep. Tom Reed

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Republican Rep. Tom Reed is facing an investigation by the House Ethics Committee over allegations he groped a lobbyist, the panel on Friday announced.

The committee in a statement said it is "aware of public allegations" that Reed "may have engaged in sexual misconduct" which would violate House rules.

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State Budget Includes SALT Workaround for Small Businesses

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The $212 billion state budget includes a mechanism meant to aid small businesses in New York who could face a form of double taxation due to the $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions.

The measure, backed by state Senator John Brooks, creates a pass through entity tax that would restore federal deductibility to income taxes paid in New York for corporations and partnerships.

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New York Will See Fewer Johnson & Johnson Doses, But It Won't Impact Appointments, Cuomo Says

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Vaccine appointments already made in New York are not expected to be affected by the sharp reduction in Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses for New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday.

New York is set to receive 34,900 doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine in week 18 of the vaccine administration, an 88% reduction, Cuomo said.

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For Older New Yorkers, the Budget is a Mixed Bag

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Reinvesting in nursing homes, expanding telehealth services and efforts to reduce waiting lists for community-based services were among the positives in the state's $212 billion budget for older New Yorkers, AARP New York said.

But the spending plan also came up short for bolstering the state's ombudsman program for nursing homes, the organization found.

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Budget Cuts Restored, Local Health Leaders Look to Next Challenge

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New York's $212 billion budget restored millions of dollars in cuts that would have affected county health departments as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to strain resources throughout the state.

But as public health officials on the local level are breathing easy after the budget reprieve, they also want state officials to help them gird for the next public health emergency.

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Zeldin's Entry Marks Early Start to Governor's Race

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin's announcement on Thursday launching his campaign for governor marks an unusually early — and unofficial — start for the 2022 election season.

Hours after Zeldin's announcement, North Rep. Elise Stefanik's political team issued its own statement not ruling out a run for her as well.

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State Budget Fills SUNY and CUNY Coffers

BY Morgan McKay City of Albany

The New York state budget restored nearly $75 million in cuts to both SUNY and CUNY and invested an additional $56 million.

On top of that, the spending plan also included the largest increase to the Tuition Assistance Program, otherwise known as TAP, in over 20 years.

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Freshman Senator Michelle Hinchey on Budget

BY Susan Arbetter New York State

There’s a New Yorker cartoon of two people watching a group of aliens arriving on Earth. They say to each other, “To be honest, I’m less troubled by the alien invaders than I am by the leader we’re taking them to.”

To that point, I’m always interested in hearing what new elected officials who come to Albany think about the place and its people.

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Budget Done, But Controversies Linger for Cuomo

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

As lawmakers were putting the final touches on the state budget, Governor Andrew Cuomo, a floor below them at the state Capitol, praised the Legislature's work for putting it together amid the pandemic.

"I want to thank the Legislature for getting this budget done in what is a surreal situation," Cuomo said.

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A New & Improved Rent Relief Program?

BY Susan Arbetter New York State

Tenant advocates are cautiously optimistic about a new rent relief program that passed in the state budget.

At first glance, the "COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program," or "CE-RAP," looks a lot better than the previous iteration of the program, according to advocates like Laura Felts, co-director of United Tenants of Albany, who says the old program may have only reached 1% of needy tenants.

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5 Things to Know About Property Tax Relief in New York

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The newly approved $212 billion state budget includes relief for qualifying homeowners in New York who pay among the highest tax levies in the country.

But not everyone will qualify for the relief as part of the state budget, which is tied to household income. Here are five things to know about the provisions, known commonly as "circuit breaker" plan, which will come in the form of income tax credits.

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Survey: New York Small Businesses Continue to Struggle

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A survey of small business owners in New York released Thursday by Facebook found only 59% are confident in their ability to remain open for six months.

The findings underscore the challenge the state faces in jump-starting its economy after being one of the hardest-hit states in the early weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Rep. Lee Zeldin to Run for Governor

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin will seek the GOP nomination for governor in 2022, he announced Thursday morning, becoming the first to enter a rapidly shifting field of potential candidates.

“I am ready to go all in on this mission and bring New York back from the brink and return it to glory," Zeldin said in a statement released by his campaign. “For many, this feels like a last stand to save our state. Losing is not an option.”

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Safety Net Providers Win 2-Year Delay for Prescription Drug Change

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Safety net providers won a two-year delay in a change to the state's Medicaid program they worried would have made the cost of prescription drugs to fight illnesses like AIDS and hepatitis C more expensive.

“Small community health clinics rely on this funding to provide critical services to our patients, many of whom are living with HIV/AIDS. This much-needed delay will allow us to continue to fight back against COVID-19 – and ensure that our patients have the life-saving medication they depend on. We are grateful to the leadership of the Senate and Assembly for all the work they’ve done on behalf of our communities,” said Michael Lee, the secretary of RWC-340B and COO of Evergreen Health Services.

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New York Lawmakers Finalize $212B Budget

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

State lawmakers late Wednesday evening put the final touches on a $212 billion spending plan that will be New York's primary operating document for the next year.

The budget sharply increases spending, directing much of the new money to schools, health care, renters and small landlords, as well as to undocumented immigrant workers affected by the pandemic. It raises taxes on millionaires to help pay for the new spending this year and in the next several years.

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One Rejected Tax? A Surcharge on Second Homes

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The new $212 billion state budget raises taxes by about $4 billion, affecting upper income earners as well as corporations based in New York.

One tax that was once rejected, however, was a surcharge on second homes in New York.

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New York Voters Will Consider $3B Environmental Bond Act

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Next year, New York voters will decide whether to borrow $3 billion to bolster infrastructure for waterways and sewers around the state -- all in anticipation of the effect of flooding and damage due to climate change.

"We know climate change is going to be impacting us in that way," said Julie Tighe, the president of the New York League of Conservation Voters. "New York is likely to see more intense storms and more frequent storms and we need to be prepared for that."

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Education Advocates Pleased With State Budget's Record Funding for School Aid

BY Susan Arbetter City of Albany
UPDATED 5:39 PM ET Apr. 07, 2021

Education advocates are a pretty staid bunch, not apt to throw a party or spike a football, but some say they are quite pleased with the enacted education budget.

“The biggest thing is that the legislature obtained a transformational change by fully funding Foundation Aid.” state Senator Shelley Mayer told Capital Tonight. “Many of our members ran on this issue as the top issue in their district.”

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Staffer Gives New Details About How Cuomo Allegedly Groped Her

BY Spectrum News Staff Albany/Capital Region

The Albany Times Union is reporting new details of allegations from a current executive branch staff member who says Governor Andrew Cuomo groped her at the Executive Mansion last year after becoming aggressively more flirtatious with her over several months.

The woman wishes to remain anonymous, but sat down with the paper to describe what allegedly happened last November and an alleged attempt later by the governor to ask her not to tell anyone what happened.

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Cuomo Focuses on Pandemic Recovery in Budget Briefing

BY Ryan Whalen Buffalo

ALBANY, N.Y. — Gov. Andrew Cuomo said when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are three main focuses: managing the virus that continues to exist, relief for people and industries that have been impacted and rebuilding the state based on the experiences of the past year.

"There is no going back," he said. "The question is who deals with this new reality and stands up and confronts it with energy and imagination and creativity."

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Reed No Longer Co-Chair of "Problem Solvers Caucus" He Helped Found

BY Ryan Whalen Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In 2017, New York Republican Tom Reed and New Jersey Democrat Josh Gottheimer helped start the House Problem Solvers Caucus, a bipartisan group of Congress members with a mantra of putting politics aside and finding common sense solutions.

Four years later, the group has grown to 58 members, evenly split between the two parties, and Reed and Gottheimer had been its only two chairs. That changed Wednesday, as the caucus announced on Twitter the election of Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-PA, as the GOP chair.

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New York Still Taxing Unemployment Benefits, Despite Federal Exemption

BY Morgan McKay New York State

New York will still tax the unemployment benefits New Yorkers received in 2020, despite changes on the federal level, according to State Budget Director Rob Mujica.

Numerous lawmakers have been pushing the state to change its own laws due to the pandemic, saying it is unfair to New Yorkers who lost their jobs when New York went on “pause.”

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Budget Opens Door to a New York City Casino

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Eight years ago, New York voters approved a referendum that would ultmately pave the way for the construction of four casinos all north of the New York City metropolitan area.

Now, gambling interests are eyeing the lucractive downstate market as the new $212 billion budget opened the door for a review of building a casino in the region.

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CFE Attorney Rebell Feels Vindicated, But Show Him a Court Order

BY Susan Arbetter New York State

After 28 years of fighting for a sound, basic education for every student in New York, activists like attorney Michael Rebell of the Center for Educational Equity at Teachers College, Columbia University, are celebrating a victory that has been delayed multiple times: a commitment by the state legislature to fully fund the state’s primary education formula, Foundation Aid.

"I feel somewhat vindicated, yes. We’ve been fighting this battle now for, God, ’93 is when we started (the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit)," Rebell said. "But I do have a lingering concern. In a sense there’s a little bit of déjà vu with me."

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Cuomo Says He Had No 'Intimate' Oversight of COVID Testing

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

People who visited Gov. Andrew Cuomo during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic would be tested for the virus, the governor said Wednesday, responding for the first time to reports his family members had access when supplies were scarce.

But at the same time, Cuomo said he was not deeply involved at that level of testing for COVID.

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State Worker Raises Restored in Budget Deal

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New York's $212 billion budget will restore $600 million in raises retroactively for state workers that had been withheld over the last year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday said.

The provision will affect thousands of state employees, many of whom are members of the Civil Service Employees Association.

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Budget Deal Includes Cuomo's Police Reform Plan

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Last year, as protests and demonstrations were held around the country in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced local law enforcement agencies would be tasked with developing reform plans.

The carrot was local aid, which could be withheld if the plans aren't in place by April 1. The potential stick? The appointment of a monitor by the state attorney general's office to oversee the department.

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CSEA Blasts Mental Health Service Cuts

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The state's largest public workers union on Tuesday knocked a provision in the agreed-to $212 billion state budget that will cut 200 beds used for inpatient mental health treatment services at the Office of Mental Health.

The cut is part of a broader trend in the last seven years as 20% of inpatient beds have been slashed by the state.

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How New York's Budget Responds to Climate Change

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Clean water infrastructure, funding for parks, and a priority for renewable energy are among the measures funded in the state's new $212 spending plan announced on Tuesday by lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

All told, a combined $29 billion in public and private sector funds will be used for "green infrastructure" efforts that are meant to bolster the state against the worsening effects of climate change.

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Breaking Down the State Budget Details

BY Morgan McKay City of Albany

The New York State Legislature is on its way to finalizing the largest state budget in New York’s history totaling $212 billion. The money funds education and health care, and is meant to aid the state's economy in its recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The budget raises taxes on upper income earners, and it generates more revenue with the legalization of mobile sports betting.

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Common Cause on Cuomo’s Book Deal

BY Susan Arbetter New York State

According to The New York Times, Governor Andrew Cuomo may have received $4 million to write his latest book, “An American Crisis.” But that cannot be confirmed because the governor hasn’t yet released any details surrounding the book deal, even to JCOPE, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, the state’s ethics watchdog.

Cuomo also reportedly had staffers help him work on the book. Some of the same staffers may have quashed unflattering nursing home death numbers to ensure the governor’s public image remained untarnished.

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Senator Addabbo on Mobile Sports Betting: “The Benchmark… Is the Super Bowl”

BY Susan Arbetter City of Albany

While Senator Joe Addabbo, chair of the Senate’s Racing, Gaming & Wagering Committee, would like to see mobile sports betting operational by September of this year to correspond with the beginning of the football season, the key he says is to be up and running by January 2022, in time for the Super Bowl.

“The benchmark for me, Susan, is the Super Bowl. That is the event of the year that we look at in terms of revenue, in terms of business,” Addabbo told Capital Tonight.

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Analysis: Supermajorities Flex Their Muscle in Albany

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany
UPDATED 6:13 PM ET Apr. 06, 2021

For more than a few years, the idea New York state would legalize marijuana was nearly laughed out of Albany. It easily passed last month.

The idea that solitary confinement in New York's state prisons would somehow be curtailed did not have the slick backing of well-polished lobbyists, but the formerly incarcerated people who lived the experience. That bill got done this year, too.

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3 Ways the Budget Will Impact New Yorkers

BY Nick Reisman New York State

New York's tentative $212 billion budget is perhaps one of the most far-reaching spending plans in the last decade. It will increase taxes on upper income earners in New York, provide more money for schools and health care programs, and create a framework for continuing to fund these programs in the future.

The budget is a massive document; it takes state lawmakers hours to debate it and pass it, let alone be briefed on, ahem, what's actually in it.

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Cuomo, Lawmakers Reach Deal on $212 Billion State Budget

BY Morgan McKay New York State

Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders have reached an official agreement on a $212 billion state budget that includes tax increases on the wealthy, a record amount of funding for school aid, and rent relief for New Yorkers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This will be New York’s largest state budget in history, but also includes more than $12.5 billion in direct aid from the federal government.

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Will Tax Hikes Help or Hurt New York's Economy?

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New York's tentative $212 billion budget raises taxes by $4 billion, a burden being carried by businesses and some of its wealthiest residents. The tax increases come as New York is working to cut through a recession induced by a pandemic that has killed tens of thousands of people, shuttered businesses, and thrown 2 million people out of work.

For business organizations, it's yet another sign New York is a costly state to operate in. For progressives, the budget could be a rising tide that lifts all boats.

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Why School Aid is a Big Deal This Year in the Budget

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Three years ago, Cynthia Nixon launched an unlikely bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in part over a push to boost direct aid for schools in New York's budget.

Nixon did not win. But the idea ultimately did.

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Assemblyman Colin Schmitt Launches Bid for NY-18

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Republican Assemblyman Colin Schmitt on Tuesday announced he would run for the the seat in the 18th Congressional District in the Hudson Valley next year.

If he secures the GOP nomination, Schmitt would be running for the seat held by Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who is leading the House Democrats' campaign arm this cycle.

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Dem Party Chair Pleads for Peace in Excluded Workers Fight

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New York Democratic Committee Chairman Jay Jacobs on Tuesday sought to defuse the increasingly heated debate among lawmakers in Albany over a proposed fund that would provide aid to undocumented workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lawmakers are considering whether to devote about $2 billion toward what is being called the excluded workers fund as the state budget negotiations continue to drag on.

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Sources: Formerly Incarcerated Won't Qualify for Excluded Worker Funds

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Formerly incarcerated people won't qualify for funds under a new $2 billion framework for the creation of a fund meant to benefit people not covered by federal pandemic unemployment aid, two sources familiar with the discussions said.

The creation of the excluded worker fund, which is set to benefit undocumented immigrants who do not qualify for federal aid, has spilled over into a public fight between legislative Democrats in Albany.

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Heastie: Enough Votes to Pass Excluded Workers Fund

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie on Monday said there are enough votes to approve the creation of an excluded workers fund in the state budget that would provide assistance to undocumented immigrants.

But the message was also wrapped in a tweet critical of Sen. Gustavo Rivera, a fellow Bronx Democrat like the speaker, amid an intraparty fight over the fate of the measure that has been among the more controversial measures holding up a finalized agreement for the state budget.

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