The role the AG's report plays in ending sexual harassment in Albany

BY Susan Arbetter City of Albany

Two advocates for stronger laws against sexual harassment joined Capital Tonight to discuss the blockbuster report released on Tuesday by Attorney General Letitia James that concluded Gov. Andrew Cuomo sexually harassed multiple women.

Erica Vladimer, a co-founder of the Sexual Harassment Working Group (SHWG) told Capital Tonight that she was not surprised by anything that emerged from the report, or the over 170 witness statements detailed in it.

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Cuomo signs bill striking 'inmate' from New York law

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

People in prison in New York will no longer be referred to as "inmates" in state law under a measure approved Monday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The bill approved by the governor addresses what has been a growing concern for criminal justice advocates in the state: The use of the word "inmate" can have a dehumanizing effect for the people incarcerated.

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Anti-poverty group in New York launches vaccine outreach

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The anti-poverty group FPWA on Monday announced it would begin a push to improve vaccination rates in New York and within Black communities amid hesitancy concerns among people of color.

The group launched a request for proposals effort for community groups and faith-based organizations to help boost vaccination rates as the delta variant of COVID-19 has become a predominant concern in the effort to end the pandemic. The goal for grant recipients is to tailor their vaccination message toward combating misinformation within individual communities while also boosting confidence for the vaccination's effectiveness and safety.

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How NY AG's investigation into Cuomo could assist impeachment investigators

BY Morgan McKay City of Albany

The New York state attorney general’s investigation into the sexual harassment allegations against Governor Andrew Cuomo could be in its final stages, despite contract extensions being drawn up for investigators.

Sources tell The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times that the attorney general’s investigation could be wrapped up before the end of the summer.

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Lawmakers say Bills' request to publicly fund new stadium is just a starting point

BY Ryan Whalen Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Bills have reportedly asked the state and county for at least $1.1 billion to cover the full cost of building a new stadium in Orchard Park, according to The Buffalo News.

New York state Sen. Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo, said the team plays an important role in the community, but any commitment to funding is still a long way off.

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How the redistricting process could once again change in New York

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

For decades, New York's political power structure was maintained with a relatively straightforward arrangement: Republicans held power in the state Senate, Democrats in the state Assembly, and both parties were able to draw their own district boundaries, in effect choosing their own voters, locking in their constituents to improve the odds of keeping power after Election Day.

Lawmakers at the federal level even retained lobbyists to ensure their districts could be favorably drawn for the House of Representatives. The process would lead to some faintly ridiculous looking districts on a map, but ultimately shifting demographics upset that careful balance of power. But over the last seven years, things began to change — and could have a wide-ranging impact on who gets elected to office in New York, ultimately affecting what kind of policies are approved in Albany and Washington, D.C.

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New York’s child care crisis: Could the sector be turning a corner?

BY Susan Arbetter New York State

Long before COVID-19, the child care sector in New York was in a state of crisis.

According to Brittany Buffum, director of Workforce Support with the Workforce Development Institute in Syracuse, the system in New York state is quite fragile thanks to decades of under-funding at the state level.

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Cuomo: Mandating teacher vaccinations, mask rules remain a local decision for now

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany
UPDATED 1:17 PM ET Aug. 02, 2021

Reimposing requirements for mask wearing in public gathering places and indoors remains a local-level decision, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Monday, even as he urged officials there to strongly consider taking steps to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 amid a resurgence of the virus.

Cuomo likened the situation to re-watching a movie and knowing the end in advance.

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NY AG's office to extend Cuomo investigators' contracts to December

BY Morgan McKay City of Albany

The New York Attorney General’s office will be extending its contracts with two outside firms investigating sexual harassment allegations against Gov. Andrew Cuomo until late December, according to several sources familiar with the matter.

The contracts for the firms were originally set to expire on September 6, but final documentation is being drawn up to extend the agreement, sources say.

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With COVID-19 cases rising, Cuomo urges private sector to limit customers to the fully vaccinated

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany
UPDATED 11:52 AM ET Aug. 02, 2021

Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Port Authority workers will be required to be vaccinated by Labor Day or submit to weekly COVID-19 testing, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday.

At the same time, Cuomo urged public-facing workers in high-risk jobs like hospitals to be vaccinated and called on school districts to follow suit today. Mandatory vaccinations for nursing home workers and teachers may also be possible, Cuomo said, if COVID numbers continue to rise.

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Gillibrand: Equal pay bill for Team USA needed

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is calling for the approval of a bill meant to ensure U.S. athletes, trainers and coaches who are part of Team USA are paid equally regardless of their gender.

The measure, which comes as the U.S. is competing with athletes from around the globe at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, is meant to address ongoing pay inequities among male and female athletes.

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Rep. Tonko calls for bill making homes more energy efficient

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Encouraging the purchase and installation of electric appliances and equipment in single and multi-family homes would help improve energy efficiency and combat climate change is the main goal of a measure introduced by Rep. Paul Tonko.

The bill would use rebates aimed at low and middle-income households to reduce residential emissions.

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NY counties confused about new mask, vaccine guidelines

BY Morgan McKay City of Albany

Many counties across New York have been seeing, once again, a rise in COVID-19 cases, this time due to the highly contagious delta variant.

The CDC released guidance this week saying people living in areas with high transmission rates should wear their masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status.

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Judge Andra Ackerman’s U-Can court diversion program is growing

BY Susan Arbetter City of Albany

Andra Ackerman grew up in a broken home with an absent father and an addicted mother. From the age of 9, she struggled in multiple foster homes before ending up living with her biological sister. But thanks to what she calls “stepping stones,” or mentors, like a school guidance counselor, Ackerman is now an Albany County Court judge.

Her background informed her decision to create U-Can, a youth diversion program she founded in 2016 when she worked as a City Court judge in Cohoes.

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Could retirement accounts lift workers in New York?

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

There are millions of workers in New York who lack retirement savings accounts to supplement Social Security in old age. For these workers, many of them lower income and people of color, a comfortable retirement — or any retirement at all before death — could be elusive.

But a bill under consideration by Gov. Andrew Cuomo could enable the creation of individual retirement accounts for these workers at small businesses.

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New law aims to improve access to child support payments in New York

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Families in New York could soon have an easier time locating and collecting unclaimed child support funds under a new measure signed into law Friday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The law creates a new process for claiming funds that have been turned over to the state comptroller's office, essentially creating a destination for families to find unclaimed money.

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Baseball designated New York's official sport

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The national pastime is now New York's official sport.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation on Friday designating baseball the state's official sport after the measure was proposed by a fourth-grade class at Cooperstown Elementary School near the Baseball Hall of Fame.

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Billions in federal water funds could soon be available

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

States could soon be in line for more than $3 billion in clean water and drinking water revolving funds as a package of measures works its way through Congress, Rep. Paul Tonko said Thursday.

The package of funding cleared a vote in the House of Representatives amid broader concerns in upstate communities over water contamination issues and efforts to regulate chemicals like PFAS.

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Rep. Katko wants boosted security at southern border

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Republican Rep. John Katko is calling for increased security along the southern United States border with Mexico, including a resumption of the building of a wall.

Katko, the top GOP lawmaker on the House Homeland Security Committee, called for the security effort as polling has shown voters hold a negative view of President Joe Biden's handling of immigration issues more than 7 months after taking office.

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Special education providers across NY seek pay equity

BY Morgan McKay City of Albany

Special education providers are in limbo on whether they will see an increase in funding this year.

State funding for special education providers has always been decided outside the state budget, so there have been numerous years when funding for public schools has been increased, but special education schools saw their budget cut.

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Senator Ramos: Fix the Excluded Workers Fund to get NY back on track

BY Susan Arbetter City of Albany

Excluded workers in New York have spent a full year and a half without receiving any of the benefits from the stimulus programs passed by Congress.

When the state budget passed this spring, there was hope for these hundreds of thousands of workers: a $2.1 billion fund that would provide benefits of as much as $15,600 per worker.

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Syracuse may see over $1M from Cuomo’s gun violence state of emergency

BY Susan Arbetter City of Albany

Governor Cuomo pledged millions of dollars to fight gun violence during an announcement several weeks ago in which he declared a state of emergency around the issue.

To fulfill that pledge, the New York State Department of Labor is partnering with local workforce development boards in each area of the state, along with their networks of community partners to provide job training, credentialing and career placement services to ultimately connect at-risk youth to good-paying, permanent jobs.

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Why lawmakers are taking a statewide look at elections

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Most voters probably do not think about who is running the elections they are casting ballots in, but increasingly state lawmakers in New York are scrutinizing the local officials who oversee them.

Next week, the state Senate will be turning its attention to addressing ways of reforming how elections are run in New York — a way of kicking the tires of democracy.

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New York airports in line for $937M under infrastructure bill

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany
UPDATED 5:33 PM ET Jul. 29, 2021

Airports across New York state are set to receive a combined $937 million in federal funding under the infrastructure bill that is being finalized in Congress, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Thursday said.

The money is part of the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal comes on top of $142 million for electric vehicle charging stations, $1.9 billion for bridge repairs and $11.5 billion in additional reauthorizations.

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AG James reaches deal with EPA to combat smog

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and New York Attorney General Letitia James on Thursday reached a tentative multi-state agreement that is aimed at reducing smog.

The agreement must still be finalized by a court.

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Cuomo signs law banning schools from suing over unpaid meals

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Schools in New York will be barred from collecting unpaid debt for meals under a measure signed into law on Thursday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The new law is meant to build on a broader effort to combat hunger in schools and prevent debt for school meals hindering low-income families. The law also addresses concerns over "meal shaming" in public schools and prevent children who have been unable to pay from being treated differently.

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Pension fund assets grow with minority, women-owned businesses

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The assets managed by minority and women-owned business managers in the state's $127 billion pension fund grew in the last year by $7 billion, a report released Thursday by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli's office found.

“As part of our work to ensure that the New York State Common Retirement Fund remains one of the best managed and best funded public pension funds in the nation, we have built new opportunities for asset management with Emerging Managers and Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprises, and it has paid off,” DiNapoli said. “There is more work to do, but diversity has strengthened our bottom line and demonstrates that expanding opportunities and access is not only the right approach – it’s the best approach.”

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Stefanik calls for expansion in telehealth services

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Rep. Elise Stefanik on Wednesday backed a measure meant to expand telehealth services for patients and medical providers especially in rural areas after a sharp increase in the service during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill would expand access to telehealth services and programs by ending geographic restrictions that have been in place and allow health centers with federal qualification and rural health clinics to provide telehealth services.

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Will public meetings in New York adjust in new COVID era?

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The COVID-19 pandemic altered public meetings in New York, making government participation for elected officials and members of the public in an era of remote video conferencing and social distancing.

Now, as the state's emergency orders for the pandemic fall away, but concerns over rising cases and the delta variant linger, good-government organizations in New York are trying to find a way forward for conducting public meetings with both transparency and safety in mind.

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Some home care workers say they feel 'overlooked,' push for higher wages

BY Morgan McKay City of Albany

The COVID-19 pandemic placed both physical and mental stress on health care workers across the state, but even before the pandemic struck, many of these workers were already battling low wages and understaffing.

Home care employees are facing similar challenges to nursing home and assisted living facility workers, battling low wages that have forced many to leave this line of work.

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Advocates make push for Child Victims Act lawsuits as deadline approaches

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Tom Andriola is an abuse survivor who knows firsthand how difficult it is to come forward.

"Part of the problem with the dynamics of sexual assault is it's fear driven," Andriola said. "Survivors often fear for their lives and their livelihoods. For that reason, it takes them years and years and years just to come forward, even to their closest family and friends."

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Senator May: Home care workers need $4 billion

BY Susan Arbetter City of Albany

The elderly, and those who intend to get old (which I’m assuming is most of us) are facing a crisis in New York.

The population is aging nationally, and New York state is no exception. The Lerner Center at Syracuse University reports that 3.2 million New Yorkers, or nearly one in six people, are currently 65 and older, and the older adult population is growing faster than any other age group in the state.

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New state law seeks to aid human trafficking victims

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A bill that would allow human trafficking victims to recover damages and other relief was signed into law on Wednesday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The new law also amends the current human trafficking law that expands the statute of limitations from 10 years to 15 years after the victimization has occurred.

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Sen. Kavanagh: As of 2019, NY had 2nd lowest rate of gun-related deaths

BY Susan Arbetter City of Albany

The New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013, better known as the NY Safe Act, contains several regulations, including a requirement for background checks around the state regardless of the type of gun being purchased, and restrictions on assault weapons, which the law redefined broadly.

The Red Flag law, also called an Extreme Risk Order of Protection, passed in New York state in 2019. It prevents individuals who show signs of being a threat to themselves or others from purchasing or possessing firearms. It empowers a teacher, school administrator or family member to seek civil court intervention, in which the subject of the court order can have his or her access to guns restricted for one year.

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Cuomo says state workers must be vaccinated by Labor Day, drawing mixed reviews from unions

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany
UPDATED 4:29 PM ET Jul. 28, 2021

New York state will require state workers to be vaccinated by Labor Day or be tested weekly for COVID-19, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday.

At the same time, Cuomo encouraged local governments to take similar steps in New York, as well as school districts in areas where there are high COVID-19 positivity rates. Patient-facing health care workers at public run hospitals will also be required to be vaccinated, Cuomo said.

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New York Bar Association to review vaccine requirements

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The New York State Bar Association on Wednesday announced the formation of a task force to consider whether vaccination mandates should be considered amid growing concerns over the highly contagious delta variant of COVID-19.

The task force was announced by the bar association as Gov. Andrew Cuomo backed a vaccination mandate for state workers in New York, with the requirement that employees be vaccinated by Labor Day or be tested weekly for the virus.

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India Walton, local officials, urge Schumer to take action on voting bill

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Buffalo Democratic mayoral nominee India Walton and dozens of local officials on Wednesday are set to release a letter urging Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to secure passage of federal legislation meant to overhaul voting laws in the United States.

The effort comes as passage of the bill, known as the For the People Act, remains in doubt in the narrowly divided U.S. Senate, where Democrats and Republicans are split at 50 members.

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Progressive groups to make push for upcoming ballot questions in New York

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Fifty progressive and community organizations in New York on Wednesday are set to release a letter urging voters to approve a trio of constitutional amendments to be put to a referendum this November.

The amendments backed by the groups, if approved, would make changes to the state's upcoming redistricting process, key for foundational political power in Albany and Washington, as well as allow for same-day registration for voting on Election Day and create no-fault absentee voting in New York.

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More staffing and boosting wages for staff leaves NY's nursing homes asking: who will pay?

BY Morgan McKay Albany/Capital Region

The COVID-19 pandemic placed tremendous stress on the health care workforce. On Monday, the Senate held a hearing examining some of the challenges facing particularly nursing home and assisted living facility workers.

Nursing home and assisted living facility workers are being paid right now at or near the minimum wage, which for Upstate New York is $12.50 and for New York City is $15 an hour.

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Criminal justice advocates in New York call for prison vaccination data

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany
UPDATED 8:14 PM ET Jul. 27, 2021

State officials are being urged by a coalition of criminal justice organizations to make public data on vaccination rates in New York prisons amid growing concerns over the spread of the delta variant.

Incarcerated people in New York qualify for the vaccine, and those who work in prisons were among the first to do so in New York. But the state is yet to release public data on the rollout of vaccinations in prisons.

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Does bail reform need reform?

BY Susan Arbetter New York State
UPDATED 6:41 PM ET Jul. 27, 2021

Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt and his counterpart in the Assembly, Minority Leader Will Barclay, have both spoken out against Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s decision to declare a state of emergency around gun violence. But Ortt told Capital Tonight that criticism of the governor’s actions in no way means that his conference doesn’t take gun violence seriously.

"Our criticism of the declaration of emergency…is not a denial of a very real threat of increased violent crime. That is a real thing that we take very seriously," Ortt told Capital Tonight. "I just don’t know that the governor declaring a public health crisis is going to do anything to stem the tide."

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Watchdog groups seek more public disclosure from ethics agency

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Good-government organizations on Tuesday called on the main ethics and lobbying regulator to publish financial disclosure statements of senior agency officials online in order to boost transparency in New York's government.

At the same time, the groups urged the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, known as JCOPE, to follow standards of the state's Freedom of Information Law to access records from the agency. The groups, led by Reinvent Albany, also called for the clarification for a public hearing on ethics enforcement, and not have any oversight meeting conducted in private.

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Stefanik: Pelosi to blame for Capitol riot

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi "bears responsibility" for the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, New York Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik said Tuesday.

"It is a fact the U.S. Capitol Police raised concerns, and rather than providing them with the support and resources they needed and deserved, she prioritized her partisan political optics over their safety," Stefanik said.

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Advocates launch push for environmental amendment to New York's constitution

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A collection of environmental groups and labor leaders on Tuesday announced a campaign to push for the final passage of an amendment to New York's state constitution that would guarantee a right to clean air and water.

The amendment has the backing of organizations like Environmental Advocates NY and the Adirondack Mountain Club, as well as labor leaders like Mario Cilento, the president of New York State AFL-CIO.

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Gillibrand backs $1B for bolstering direct care workers

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The direct care workforce and family caregivers could be in line for $1 billion in federal aid amid struggles to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic under legislation backed by U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

Agencies that provide direct care services to people with developmental and intellectual disabiities in New York have called for help in order to bolster its workforce amid a wave of departures, a lack of applicants and growing need.

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Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins on guns, the AG’s investigation and MTA governance

BY Susan Arbetter City of Albany

This is a busy summer for observers of state politics. There are three investigations percolating on multiple allegations against Governor Cuomo. There is a gun violence state of emergency. And while there was a lot of hullaballoo around the signing of the new Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) there appears to be just as much stirring around nominating the heads of the two new cannabis boards created by passage of the law.

Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins discussed these issues with Capital Tonight, starting with her position on the governor’s state of emergency around gun violence, which she agrees with.

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Q&A: What the nursing home inquiry's end means

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The Department of Justice is not pursuing a civil rights investigation of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's handling of nursing home policy during the COVID-19 pandemic as signaled in a letter last week to Republican members of Congress. Earlier on Monday, Cuomo said the initial inquiry, made nearly a year ago, was political in the first place.

To sort out what this means for a separate investigation into nursing home data reporting by the administration, I spoke with Bill Hammond, a senior fellow at the Empire Center. The interview is edited for clarity and length.

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SUNY Cortland professor offers 4 reasons gun violence is on the rise

BY Susan Arbetter City of Albany

According to Dr. Robert Spitzer, the distinguished service professor in the Department of Political Science at SUNY Cortland, Governor Andrew Cuomo is on the right track when he says gun violence is a civil rights issue. But his decision to circumvent the legislature has ruffled the feathers of his political opponents.

“There’s a sentiment that he’s abusing his executive authority,” Spitzer told Capital Tonight. “Leaving that question aside, gun violence is a serious problem. It has increased significantly in New York state and the around the country in the last year and a half. The measures he’s proposed are frankly pretty sensible.”

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Vaccine mandates for public workers a local decision, Cuomo says

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Whether vaccinations should be required for public workers is a local government decision, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday said, pointing to the end of the COVID-19 pandemic state of emergency.

Nevertheless, Cuomo urged local government to take the rise in new COVID-19 cases across the state seriously as hospitalizations due to the virus have once again risen above 500 patients.

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Cuomo again questions integrity of AG's sexual harassment investigation

BY Morgan McKay New York State

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday continued to question the integrity of Attorney General Letitia James’ investigation into the numerous sexual harassment allegations that have been lodged against him.

“I have concerns as to the independence of the reviewers,” Cuomo said at a press conference. “That's what I've said. And is this all happening in a political system? Yes, that is undeniable.”

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Cuomo says nursing home probe was political and 'cruel'

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The civil rights inquiry into publicly run nursing homes in New York and other Democratic-led states in the country was a politically motivated exercise that was part of the "political hyperbole," Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday charged.

The Department of Justice on Friday in a letter to Republican Rep. Steve Scalise indicated it had dropped the civil rights inquiry after officials last year requested nursing home data from several states, including New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

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Cuomo announces 'streamlined' process for rent relief

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A new application process for the state's rent relief program will relax documentation requirements for tenants and landlords in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday.

The state has also set the goal of being current for all pending verified applications by the end of August, when New York's moratorium on pandemic-related evictions is set to expire.

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Lawmakers call for support staff for state's most vulnerable

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

State lawmakers are calling on New York state officials should provide incentives for job training for direct support professionals who care for vulnerable people amid a statewide shortage.

Republican Sens. Sue Serino and Mike Martucci in a joint statement called for the issue to be made a priority in the state as direct care providers for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in recent weeks have increasingly raised concerns over the depleted workforce as the state emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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New law bolsters privacy for domestic violence victims

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Victims of domestic violence in New York will have an added layer of privacy under a new measure signed into law last week by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Domestic violence cases have risen during the COVID-19 pandemic across the country, as more people were forced inside alongside an abuser.

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U.S. border restrictions extension impacts tourism

BY Ryan Whalen Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. — This week, the U.S. government surprised many by choosing to extend border restrictions for Canadian travelers another month even as Canada plans to loosen its own rules on August 9.

New York state Sen. Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, who has been pushing to open the border, said he was very disappointed.

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Should all insurance be disclosed before trial? The Lawsuit Reform Alliance says 'no'

BY Susan Arbetter City of Albany

When a lawsuit is settled, sometimes the money owed to plaintiffs is paid out by insurance companies. It’s why, for example, doctors have medical malpractice insurance.

There is currently a bill called the Comprehensive Insurance Disclosure Act, A.8041 (Lunsford) / S.7052 (GOUNARDES), sitting on Gov. Andrew Cuomo's desk that would mandate that all insurance policies be disclosed to plaintiffs before the start of a trial.

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Syracuse Democratic mayoral candidate Khalid Bey talks I-81 project

BY Susan Arbetter Syracuse

The $2 billion project to replace the Interstate 81 span with a community grid in downtown Syracuse is the largest single project ever undertaken by New York State’s Department of Transportation.

Lanessa Chaplin, of the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), told Capital Tonight on Thursday that the replacement plan must be the result of community input, with a particular focus on the concerns of the people who live adjacent to the span.

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Massive wildfires bring effects to climate to upstate New York

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The cloudy, milky sky this week across upstate New York and much of the northeastern United States could become increasingly more frequent as wildfires become more powerful.

"We will likely see this sort of thing increasingly often," said Nick Bassill, the director of research and development at the UAlbany Center for Excellence. "Right now is one of the worst droughts across the western United States."

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Local and state sales tax revenue continues to grow in New York

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Sales tax revenue in New York between April and June skyrocketed compared to the same period last year, a rebound after the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered many businesses and gathering places around the state, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli's office announced Friday.

Revenue from the tax grew by 49.2% during the second quarter of the year compared to the same time period last year, totaling more than $1.6 billion. The amount of money passed collections during the second quarter of 2019 as well prior to the pandemic and a sign of pent up demand being unleashed.

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Heastie urges patience for Assembly's Cuomo impeachment investigation

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The New York state Assembly's impeachment investigation into multiple controversies dogging Gov. Andrew Cuomo this year should be given the same level patience and "deference" afforded to separate probes facing the administration, Speaker Carl Heastie on Friday said.

The Assembly's impeachment inquiry, being conducted by the chamber's Judiciary Committee, is one of several investigations facing the governor this year, but one that could ultimately determine whether he concludes his third term next year.

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Amid backlog, Health Department addressing EMT certification rules

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The state Department of Health is reviewing regulations that could potentially expand the certification process for emergency medical technicians and paramedics amid a shortage for ambulance services in the state.

At issue is a certification process that had temporarily expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic to include two examinations for emergency medical services, enabling more people to either take the traditional state test or a national exam.

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State lawmakers want to expand programs for children with disabilities

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

State lawmakers on Thursay urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign a bill meant to expand and strengthen programs that serve children with disabilities.

The bill would affect pre-school to school-age children and is meant to provide fair and equitable funding linked to the aid that is given to public schools.

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Cuomo administration lawyer calls lawmaker's warning about criticizing AG 'unreasonable'

BY Ryan Whalen New York State
UPDATED 7:18 PM ET Jul. 22, 2021

ALBANY, N.Y. — The head of the New York Assembly Judiciary Committee, Charles Lavine, warned Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a letter Wednesday that a tweet by spokesperson Rich Azzopardi suggesting Attorney General Tish James may be looking to run against the governor and undermine her investigation into his office could amount to witness suppression.

Here’s the full letter from Assemblyman Lavine re: public comments on AG James by Gov. Cuomo’s communications director pic.twitter.com/IAQQEwO7dQ

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With I-81 draft environmental statement out, what’s next for the 15th Ward?

BY Susan Arbetter Syracuse

The New York State Department of Transportation presented the Interstate 81 Viaduct Project Draft Design Report (DDR)/Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) documents last week. These explore the project’s social, economic, and environmental effects.

Earlier this week, state Assembly Transportation Chairman Bill Magnarelli told Capital Tonight that after reviewing the DEIS, it appeared that the people of Syracuse who live in the shadow of I-81, like those who reside in the Pioneer Homes public housing complex, would have to be, at least temporarily, relocated when the bridge comes down.

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Emergency Rental Assistance Program payments begin as lawmakers question delays

BY Seamus Lyman New York State

The New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA) said it is starting to make payments to applicants in the Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

The state began accepting applications on June 1 for the $2.7 billion available, almost entirely federal funds. OTDA said it began processing test payments on Monday, July 19. It said about $117,000 was paid out and additional payments will go out Friday.

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Medical monitoring key part of proposed $65M settlement for Hoosick Falls residents, ex-EPA official says

BY Susan Arbetter Hoosick Falls

Residents of the village of Hoosick Falls may soon see a measure of justice.

A preliminary settlement of over $65 million has been hammered out to settle a federal lawsuit with three of the four polluters in a case which goes back to 2015 when residents of this Rensselaer County community discovered their drinking water was contaminated with Perfluorooctanoic Acids, or PFOAs.

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New law raises age of consent for marriage to 18 in New York

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A bill raising the age of consent for marriage in New York to 18 was signed into law on Thursday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The new law is meant to build on a prior bill backed and approved by Cuomo in 2017 that was aimed at ending child marriages, but allowed for 17-year-olds to be married with the consent of parents and the courts.

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State lawmakers urge Schumer to secure 'For the People Act' passage

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Democratic state lawmakers on Thursday in a letter to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer urged him to make a package of voting and election law changes a reality by the end of August amid deep uncertainty over the proposal in the chamber.

The letter, signed by 46 lawmakers in the state Senate and Assembly, backed the approval of the "For the People Act" that addresses voter accessibility, gerrymandering of legislative districts, campaign finance law, election security and ethics.

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Bill regulating PFAS chemicals clears House vote

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A bill setting new regulatory and cleanup standards for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance contamination was approved Wednesday in the House of Representatives.

“Thousands of Americans have suffered devastating effects from exposure to PFAS chemicals with little or no action taken by our colleagues in the Senate," said Rep. Paul Tonko, a Democrat from the Capital Region who sponsors the bill. "Today’s vote gives this bold legislation its best chance yet to raise the bar on PFAS safety and protect the health and welfare of all Americans, especially our hardest hit communities.”

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State lawmakers make formal call for overdose emergency declaration

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

More than two dozen Democratic lawmakers in the state Senate on Wednesday formally called on President Joe Biden and Gov. Andrew Cuomo to declare a state of emergency at the federal and state levels amid a sharp rise in overdose deaths in the last year.

The letter was released by state Sen. Peter Harckham, the top lawmaker on the Senate Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Committee, who earlier this month made a similar call for the state of emergency.

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Vernon Downs owner says Cuomo administration strong-armed him, other track owners

BY Susan Arbetter City of Albany

In an article published Wednesday about some campaign donors defecting from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, The Wall Street Journal quoted a former donor to Cuomo who claimed the governor strong-armed him and other racetrack operators in 2011.

Jeff Gural, head of GFP Real Estate and owner of Tioga Downs and Vernon Downs, told the Journal’s Jimmy Vielkind that members of the New York Gaming Association, like himself, were asked to donate $2 million to the Committee to Save New York, a group that supported Cuomo’s agenda.

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Why EMTs, paramedics are facing certification backlog

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Ambulance services are facing a shortage in New York — a statewide problem that's coming at a busy time.

People wanting to be certified as emergency medical technicians or paramedics during the COVID-19 pandemic had an easier time doing so, with an emergency order that allowed them to take one of two tests — a state one, or a national exam. But New York's statewide emergency order was lifted in June, leaving hundreds of people in a backlog waiting to be certified after taking the national exam.

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NY redistricting head wants everyone to have the same say in process

BY Susan Arbetter City of Albany

For the first time in history, New Yorkers will have a say in how redistricting maps are drawn.

The maps, which are informed by the U.S. Census numbers, are critically important and will determine districts for the next 10 years for both the House of Representatives and the state Legislature.

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Bridie Farrell announces congressional bid against Rep. Elise Stefanik

BY Susan Arbetter Northern NY

In the years before passage of the Child Victims Act in New York state, Bridie Farrell was a common sight in the halls of the state capitol in Albany.

Farrell was a member of the U.S. National Speed Skating between 1998 and 2014, with three American records under her belt — in spite of being abused for years by her much older coach.

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Top lawmaker in Cuomo impeachment investigation warns against criticizing Attorney General James

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The top lawmaker overseeing the New York Assembly's impeachment investigation of Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a letter Wednesday warned against criticizing Attorney General Letitia James' separate probe of sexual harassment and misconduct allegations, and that doing so could have "severe repercussions" for the governor.

The letter comes after multiple instances of a top communications adviser to Cuomo has publicly suggested James' investigation is politically motivated and that she intends to run for governor herself in 2022, though James has given no public indication that she plans to do so.

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Which Democrats could run statewide in 2022?

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Less than a year from now, voters will be casting ballots in what could be a range of hotly contested party primaries. But who is running — and for which offices — is up in the air.

Some Democrats who have eyed the Executive Mansion in Albany for the last decade are in something akin to a holding pattern amid the controversies swirling around Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has given nearly every indication he will seek a fourth term in 2022. Still, there is some quiet jockeying behind the scenes among Democrats who are considering statewide bids next year. Here are four of them:

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$16 million to go toward reducing gun violence in cities across New York

BY Seamus Lyman New York State
UPDATED 2:38 PM ET Jul. 21, 2021

New York is providing $16 million to cities across the state as part of a push to reduce gun violence, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office announced Wednesday.

The money will go to 20 cities to be used for workforce training and job placement programs. In early July, Cuomo declared a gun violence disaster emergency and said the state would approach gun violence as a public health crisis.

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How Congress wants to crack down on drugs like fentanyl

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Congressional lawmakers on Wednesday announced a bill meant to crack down on synthetic drugs like fentanyl amid a sharp rise in overdose deaths in the last year.

The proposal, backed by New York Reps. John Katko, a Republican from Central New York, and Long Island Democrat Kathleen Rice, would create a temporary regulation of substances that are similar to the controlled drugs while more research and analysis can be conducted.

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New state law gives legal status to 'kinship caregivers'

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A bill signed into law this week by Gov. Andrew Cuomo extends kinship caregiver status to non-parent relatives and family friends who are raising children in New York.

The bill affects nearly 200,000 children in the state, many of whom are Black and being raised mostly by grandparents, according to AARP New York.

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Grown in New York stamp of approval expands for fiber products

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A new law will expand the state's Grown and Certified Program to include fiber-based textiles like wool, alpaca, cashmere, hemp and linen to receive a key seal of approval.

The measure, signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, is meant to build on a five-year-old program to raise the profile of farm products in New York and build out local supply chais in the state.

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New law meant to help newly jobless find aid in New York

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A bill meant to aid people applying for unemployment by providing them with information for housing, food and utility assistance was signed into law this week by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The legislation comes as unemployment in New York last month stood above 7%, and after the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic shutdown to halt the spread of the virus led to levels of jobless claims not seen in decades.

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Magnarelli: Some families living near I-81 in Syracuse will have to be moved, at least temporarily

BY Susan Arbetter Syracuse
UPDATED 6:19 PM ET Jul. 20, 2021

The elevated portion of Interstate 81 that has divided downtown Syracuse since the early 1960s, and has stood as a failed monument to urban renewal, is one step closer to coming down.

Last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the release of the draft environmental impact statement for the span’s replacement. But even after a decade of debate, there is still plenty of pushback against the plan, and plenty of questions regarding the span’s future.

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Why a lawmaker is concerned New York's cannabis program has stalled

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Five months ago, state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo agreed to a plan legalizing cannabis and allowing the sale of cannabis products. But since then, regulations and guidance for how the emerging industry would be overseen in New York is yet to take shape.

New York's new cannabis industry is yet to move forward and that has some lawmakers worried, and calling for action.

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'Say Yes Buffalo' returns to in-person summer camps

BY Ryan Whalen Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. — After spending large portions of the 2020-2021 school year learning virtually, Buffalo Public School students are getting an opportunity to supplement their education this summer.

The Say Yes Buffalo summer camps are not only returning to in-person sessions, but have expanded to 31 sites, serving more than 1,400 students from pre-kindergarten to 6th grade.

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New York to close 4 mass COVID-19 vaccination sites

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Mass vaccination sites in four locations in New York state will close Monday, July 26, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, as the spate of people seeking to be vaccinated for COVID-19 has slowed in recent weeks.

Vaccination sites at Binghamton University at Gannett Drive, Aviation Mall in Queensbury, Stony Brook Southampton, and the Diana Center at SUNY Orange will cease operations, Cuomo's office said, part of a broader "downscaling" of vaccination efforts to focus on more localized areas.

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Job recovery in New York remains uneven across the state

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Last June, the COVID-19 pandemic led to an economic crisis and skyrocketing unemployment, with New York City reporting nearly one in five people out of work.

A year later, new data from the state Department of Labor shows the unemployment rates in many metro areas of the state have been reduced, some by more than half. But New York City continues to lag.

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State Senate Republicans want New York bail law analysis amid spike in violent crime

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Republicans in the New York state Senate on Tuesday called on state officials to conduct a review of whether the changes to New York's bail laws are linked to the rise in violent crime over the last several weeks.

Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt, in a letter to the Office of Court Administration and the state Division of Criminal Jusitce Services, pointed to the sharp rise in shootings in New York City in 2020 compared to the previous year.

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A.G. James negotiates largest opioid settlement to date

BY Susan Arbetter New York State

A more than $1.1 billion settlement, the largest ever negotiated by New York State Attorney General Letitia James, has been reached in the ongoing legal battle against opioid manufacturers, distributors and consultants.

A.G. James’ office announced the agreement on Tuesday with McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health Inc., and Amerisource Bergen Drug Corporation, all drug distributors.

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New York lawmakers prepare for coming redistricting

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Lawmakers in New York are preparing for the once-a-decade redistricting process that could alter the political landscape in the state and change how voters and regions are represented in the halls of power in Albany and Washington.

Later today, the first of eight regional hearings will be held on the redistricting process, with the commission charged with drawing political boundaries for the House of Representatives and the state Legislature meeting on Long Island.

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New York, once a laggard, expands voting laws

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

For years, New York was a laggard when it came to new voting laws. States, regardless of which party dominated, expanded the ability for people to vote before Election Day and vote by mail.

New York, however, has started to catch up. And on Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo approved the latest changes to the state's voting laws by allowing voters to apply for absentee ballots online and allow for absentee ballots to be postmarked by Election Day for them to be considered timely.

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Why the state, feds have different COVID-19 death stats for New York

BY Susan Arbetter City of Albany
UPDATED 6:15 PM ET Jul. 19, 2021

According to The Associated Press, New York state has reported 11,000 fewer coronavirus-related deaths than the National Center for Health Statistics.

As of last week, New York state reported that 43,000 people had died of COVID-19. Meanwhile, the CDC calculated 54,000.

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Due to COVID-19 related arrears, many New Yorkers at risk of utility shutoffs

BY Susan Arbetter New York State

An analysis by the Public Utility Law Project (PULP) shows that the number of households in New York state in arrears to electric and gas companies increased by one-third during COVID-19.

In March 2020, there were 948,177 accounts totaling $745 million. Currently, there are 1.2 million households that collectively owe in excess of $1.5 billion in back arrears on energy bills.

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Governors seek reimbursement for National Guard following deployment to U.S. Capitol

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The nation's governors on Monday called on Congress to approve funding by the end of July that would reimburse the National Guard after it bolstered security at the U.S. Capitol seven months ago.

The push is being made by the National Governors Association, which was until earlier month co-chaired by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. New York sent more than 1,000 members of its National Guard to Washington following the riot at the Capitol in order to provide an added layer of security ahead of President Joe Biden's inauguration.

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New law allows summer camps to hire licensed professionals

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A new law in New York will allow children's overnight camps and day camps to hire licensed professionals, including psychologists, social workers, mental health practitioners and applied behavioral analysts, as well as athletic trainers.

The measure will also allow regulated camps in the state to meet protections put in place for people with special needs for licensed staff to be in place and hire chiropractors, physical therapists and assistants, occupational therapists, speech language pathologists, audiologists, athletic trainers and applied behavior analysts for the season.

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