Regulators pushed to go big on clean energy plan

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Environmental groups and labor unions this month are pushing the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to adopt more than 1,500 megawatts for projects in order to meet the goals set under the new clean energy standard.

Not doing so would create a "tale of two grids" in New York — as upstate power producers are on track for the goals set under a measure meant to shift the state to cleanr energy in the coming years, while the downstate region still has a ways to go.

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Capital Region lawmakers call for broader state worker pay hikes

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The lawmakers who represent the Capital Region on Monday urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo's budget office in a letter to include non-unionized state workers in performance advances and longevity pay increases.

Many of the workers, deemed management/confidential, did not receive or have been scheduled to receive salary increases and benefits. Often those workers hold the same title as unionized workers, but did not receive similar increases in pay.

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Tax returns show Cuomo's pandemic book deal worth $5.1 million

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany
UPDATED 8:19 PM ET May. 17, 2021

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's deal to write a book last year about the COVID-19 pandemic was worth $5.1 million, the governor's office revealed on Monday.

His 2020 tax returns made available for public inspection on Monday show Crown Publishing paid Cuomo $3.1 million last year as the first of several installments.

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Local officials praise, caution lifting of New York mask mandate

BY Morgan McKay New York State

Fully vaccinated New Yorkers can finally say goodbye to their masks starting on Wednesday.

This announcement came after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued their new guidance last week that fully vaccinated adults can go without a mask indoors.

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Asm. Bronson on his bill to increase number of mental health professionals

BY Susan Arbetter New York State

A bill sponsored by two Rochester lawmakers, Assemblyman Harry Bronson and Senator Samra Brouk, will address the shortage of mental health professionals during a time when the need for mental health services is very high.

A6008/S5301 would require clinical experience for certain mental health practitioners in order to make diagnoses and create treatment plans.

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Top New York health department official leaves

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A top official at the state Department of Health who reportedly tested family members of Gov. Andrew Cuomo for COVID-19 has left to "pursue other career interests," a spokesman on Monday said.

The Washington Post reported earlier this year that Dr. Eleanor Adams tested Chris Cuomo and other family members for COVID-19 in the early days of the pandemic when supplies were scarce. Adams also reportedly played a role in writing a report on nursing home deaths during the pandemic that was later edited by advisors to the governor.

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Cuomo says harassment allegations 'distorted' by the media

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday the allegations of sexual harassment, misconduct and inappropriate behavior have been "distorted" by the media and he vowed to tell his side "when the time is right."

Multiple women have accused Cuomo of harassing or inappropriate behavior over the last several months, and Attorney General Letitia James's office has hired two outside investigators to conduct a probe of the allegations.

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Stewart-Cousins: SCOTUS abortion case 'deeply concerning'

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The top Democrat in the state Senate on Monday called the decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a major abortion case is "deeply concerning" and underscores the state's own abortion law approved in 2019.

The court on Monday signaled it would hear a Mississippi case that challenges the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that established a constitutional right to abortion, providing a chance for the three-seat conservative majority on the court to make its mark on the issue.

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Lawmakers: Get rent assistance funds out the door

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

State lawmakers are calling for an expedited process for tenants and landlords to again access in rental assistance approved earlier this year by the state and federal governments.

The push comes as New York extended its moratorium on evictions until August as the economic aftershocks of the COVID-19 pandemic continue, and smaller landlords have struggled to absorb the financial loss created by the public health crisis.

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State officials urged to ease mask rules following CDC recommendation

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

State officials in New York are facing bipartisan calls to ease mask wearing rules for people who have completed their vaccination cycle for COVID-19 as recommended by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A biparitsan group of county executives from the Hudson Valley and Long Island on Sunday in a joint statement pointed to the drop in COVID-related hospitalizations and deaths as well as more New Yorkers being vaccinated.

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Report: Charlotte Bennett, 3 other women, subpoenaed as part of state AG's Cuomo investigation

BY Nick Reisman New York State

A spokeswoman for attorney Debra Katz confirmed to Spectrum News Saturday morning that Charlotte Bennett, a former aide to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, has received a subpoena as part of the state attorney general’s investigation into allegations of sexual harassment leveled against the governor.

The New York Times reported Saturday that Bennett, along with three other women who have accused Cuomo of sexual harassment or inappropriate behavior, have also received subpoenas.

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Questions remain around Hoosick Falls’ possible new water source

BY Susan Arbetter Hoosick Falls
UPDATED 8:14 PM ET May. 14, 2021

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) had its shot last night during a public forum to convince the residents of the Village of Hoosick Falls that its chosen water source proposal is the best option for them.

You may remember that this eastern New York community’s drinking water was contaminated by PFOA from two companies: St. Gobain and Honeywell, leading to its designation as a Superfund site.

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Pet store worker uses TikTok in an effort to remove stigma

BY Morgan McKay Albany/Capital Region

A bill is moving through the New York State Legislature that would ban the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits at pet stores.

The intent of this bill is to crack down on high-volume breeding facilities, known as puppy mills. But many pet stores say this bill would put them out of business.

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Businesses wait for new guidance on mask-wearing in New York

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Businesses are awaiting guidance on new mask-wearing rules for New York as some lawmakers are calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to back the federal government's new recommendations.

Albany Restaurant Association President Jason Pierce said eateries and bars are poised for a comeback as COVID-19 pandemic guidelines are eased and more people are vaccinated.

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After census results, population concerns continue

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The U.S. census last month reported New York's population grew by 4.2% over the last decade, but issues surrounding population loss in upstate communities continue to abound for business organizations.

The pro-business group Upstate United on Friday released a report highlighting what the organization called concerning population trends and sluggish growth for New York.

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Sales tax revenue shows signs of recovery

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Sales tax collections by local governments in April sharply increased compared to the same month a year ago as the economy starts to show signs of a nascent recovery following the pandemic-inducted shutdown in 2020.

Comptroller Tom DiNapoli on Friday in a monthly sales tax report found tax collections for local governments grew by 45.7% in April, totalling $1.5 billion. That's an increase of $464 million from last year.

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Bill could make homeownership easier for first responders, teachers

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

First responders and teachers would have an easier time securing a home loan to buy a house under a measure proposed this week by Republican Rep. John Katko.

The bill, which has backing from Democrats in the House as well, would be aimed at supporting firefighters, EMTs, paramedics, police and teachers when purchasing a home under the Federal Housing Administration with a proposal modeled after the VA Home Loan Program.

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New law blocks debt collectors from stimulus funds

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A new state law approved Thursday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo will bar debt collectors from accessing stimulus funds in bank accounts, a measure that had been sought by consumer groups.

The law would cover the federal stimulus approved in 2020 and earlier this year, barring debt collectors from taking that money in summary judgments, debt collection and other forms of asset seizure.

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COVID-19 vaccine mandate unlikely for younger students in the fall

BY Morgan McKay City of Albany
UPDATED 9:07 PM ET May. 13, 2021

New York has now started administering the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for 12-to-15-year olds.

The federal Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use of the vaccine on Monday and the New York-based vaccine review panel approved the rollout on Wednesday night.

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Will Stefanik's rise have a political impact in New York?

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik's rise in Congress could mean big things for her district back home and have an impact on the congressional elections next year.

Fulton County Republican Chairwoman Susan McNeil said Stefanik's expected rise to a top leadership position in the House of Representatives could bode well for upstate New York.

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New York won't ease mask rules just yet amid review of CDC recommendations

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New York officials will not ease the state's mask rules for vaccinated people just yet as Gov. Andrew Cuomo pledged a review of the recommendations made earlier on Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

No timeline was given for when the review would be finalized, but Cuomo said he would turn to State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker and other health experts in neighboring states for advice.

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Rural hospital aid gains bipartisan support in New York

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A bipartisan group of congressional lawmakers from upstate New York on Thursday embraced a bill meant to aid rural hospitals struggling with a change in Medicare that has left them owing millions of dollars.

At issue is a change in how hospitals were reimbursed under the Medicare program, and the retroactive change has left 16 small, rural hospitals in upstate New York owing between $15 million and $20 million to Medicare contractors, the lawmakers said.

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Cuomo: 'Feeling uncomfortable' is not harassment

BY Morgan McKay New York State

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is facing allegations of inappropriate conduct from multiple women, said on Thursday that “feeling uncomfortable” is not harassment.

His remarks came after being questioned at a news conference about why he apologized for his behavior while maintaining he did nothing wrong.

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DiNapoli: Sharp rise in identity theft in New York last year

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Identity theft complaints in New York sharply increased last year during the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly doubling as more people filed for unemployment insurance and shopped online, according to a report released on Thursday by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli's office.

The report found 67,000 complaints were filed statewide last year, an 85% rise from 2019 and four times the total annual amount from a decade ago.

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Climate and Community Investment Act: Two perspectives

BY Susan Arbetter New York State
UPDATED 10:37 AM ET May. 13, 2021

The nut of the argument over a climate bill wending its way through the Legislature is about its cost to consumers. But proponents of the Climate and Community Investment Act (CCIA) say some politicians and business organizations have been spreading misinformation.

Here's a little background:

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AG James warns against gouging at the gas pump

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The New York attorney general's office is keeping an eye out for gasoline price gouging after the Colonial Pipeline was shutdown for several days following a major hack of the company.

The pipeline is back online, but delivery is not expected to return to full capacity for several days, and the hack caused some temporary supply issues in parts of the country as well as panic buying.

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With Cheney gone, Stefanik formally courts leadership job

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Rep. Elise Stefanik on Wednesday formally moved ahead with a bid for the No. 3 leadership position in the House Republican conference with a letter to fellow lawmakers outlining her plans for the conference chair post.

Stefanik's letter came soon after Republican lawmakers voted to remove Rep. Liz Cheney from the conference chair job as she continues to criticize former President Donald Trump and his false claims surrounding the 2020 election.

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Progressive groups line up behind single payer bill in New York

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A range of progressive groups on Thursday will begin a formal push for the passage of the New York Health Act, a bill that would pave the way for a single-payer health care system in New York.

The groups include Our Revolution, the political organization formed out of Sen. Bernie Sanders's presidential run in 2016, as well as the New York Progressive Action Network and the Campaign for New York Health.

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Some question if Assembly probe of Cuomo is 'window dressing'

BY Morgan McKay Albany/Capital Region

Mounting criticism over what some are calling a “stalled” investigation is starting to rise to the surface in Albany.

Over two months ago, the Assembly launched an impeachment investigation into the numerous scandals facing Governor Andrew Cuomo.

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How New York might boost electric vehicle ownership

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New York in the coming years will be required to reduce its carbon footprint and shift to renewable energy, and lawmakers hope a first step will be to make it easier to buy an electric car.

The state is lagging in electric car ownership. Assemblywoman Pat Fahy said that needs to change.

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Why lawmakers are eyeing hedge funds for tax actions

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A coalition of progressive advocacy groups and Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday called for a package of tax actions targeting hedge funds they say have helped to trigger austerity budgets around the globe.

The measures include a bill that would allow countries to to negotiate down their debt, some of which is held by hedge funds, without being blocked by the debt holders. Lawmakers also called for the passage of a capital gains tax, which is meant to tax income from investments like stocks the same wages.

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NY Senate GOP asks Cuomo to suspend state gas tax

BY Morgan McKay City of Albany

Senate Republican leaders penned a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday, asking that he suspend New York’s gas tax after a ransomware attack forced one of the nation’s largest pipeline operators to shut down operations.

The Colonial Pipeline, which runs from Texas to New Jersey, transports roughly 45 percent of the East Coast’s fuel supply, carrying 100 million gallons of fuel per day between Texas and New York.

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Cuomo wants beaches, pools at full capacity by July 4

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Beaches and pools in New York can open Memorial Day weekend with six feet of social distancing in place, with the goal of having those facilities at 100% capacity by the July 4 holiday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday said.

The announcement comes as 50% of all adult New Yorkers are now fully vaccinated and the COVID positive rate in New York is continuing a steady, weeks-long decline. The statewide positive rate in the last day stood at 1.10%, Cuomo said.

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Lawmaker proposes pilot program for direct cash payments

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang's cash relief proposal is gaining attention in upstate New York.

One thousand low-income households in Monroe County would receive $500 monthly payments under a two-year pilot program proposed by Democratic state Sen. Jeremy Cooney.

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"No excuse" absentee voting clears key hurdle in New York

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A constitutional amendment ending the requirement voters have an excuse to obtain an absentee ballot was given final approval in the state Assembly on Tuesday along with a provision allowing New Yorkers to register to vote on Election Day.

The amendments will go before voters in November for final consideration before they can be added to the state's constitution.

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State Senate to consider domestic worker protections

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The state Senate on Wednesday is set to approve a package of bills meant to provide protections and rights for domestic workers in New York by insuring access to temporary disability benefits and bolstering support for caregivers.

The bills are largely aimed at ensuring domestic workers — a term that can describe a wide range of jobs within a home — can take time off without risking their jobs. At the same time, the measures would allow for great flexibility during a health emergency or crisis.

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Some issues that remain as strange legislative session winds down

BY Susan Arbetter City of Albany

The New York State Legislature is expected to adjourn for the year on June 10.

There are several questions looming over the next month: What will lawmakers focus on? And will lawmakers be able to focus with the results of three investigations into Gov. Andrew Cuomo dropping at some point in the near future?

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Adult victims act advances in Albany, advocates seek final approval

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A bill that would make it easier for the adult survivors and victims of sexual assault and abuse to file lawsuits is gaining momentum in the state Legislature as a key committee in the state Senate voted to advance the proposal.

The bill would create a one-year look back window for victims and survivors of sexual assault, abuse or rape to file lawsuits no matter how long ago the abuse occurred. The measure mirrors the Child Victims Act, approved in 2019, and could have a wide-ranging impact for those who suffered the trauma of sexual abuse.

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Cuomo touts economic reopening as controversies loom

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Pandemic guidelines are set to ease in the coming days in New York as the state moves toward a broad reopening of the economy. The COVID positivity rate and hospitalizations are declining as more people are being vaccinated.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, facing multiple controversies and investigations back in Albany, was at the Javits Center on Tuesday in Manhattan to tout the facility's new expansion and tie it back to that reopening. Cuomo in recent weeks has sought to focus on a good news stretch of guidelines that will allow more people to attend sporting events and extended restaurant and bar hours, as well as the expansion of vaccine access.

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Republicans press for Assembly impeachment investigation into Cuomo to move quicker

BY Morgan McKay City of Albany

The Assembly impeachment investigation into the numerous allegations facing Governor Andrew Cuomo was launched two months ago on March 11.

Since then, the Assembly Judiciary Committee, which is leading the impeachment investigation, has met two times, but without another meeting scheduled, Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay pressed the committee to move “expeditiously.”

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Stefanik's rise in GOP a potential boon for her North Country district

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Look at the congressional leadership in Washington and try not to find a New Yorker. It's tough.

There's Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democratic House Conference Chair Hakeem Jeffries. Rep. Jerry Nadler leads the powerful Judiciary Committee. Rep. John Katko is the top Republican on the Homeland Security committee, and would be handed the chairman's gavel if Republicans win majority control. And now Rep. Elise Stefanik is set to become the new Republican conference chair, putting her third in the GOP leadership in the House.

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Calls grow for strengthened mental health services for kids

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

As children face ongoing mental health struggles amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a group is calling for 50% of federal stimulus funds for mental health to be directly sent to services that benefit kids.

In a statement Tuesday, The Campaign for Health Minds, Healthy Kids pointed to the pandemic creating a year of loss and uncertainty for children, ranging from disruptions in learning to the financial distress a family be experiencing and the possibility of losing a loved during the crisis.

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New York Senate Republicans call for laws to protect police

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Republicans in the state Senate on Tuesday called for a package of bills meant to bolster protections for police officers across the state amid a broader push by Democrats in the state Legislature to continue with changes to criminal justice laws.

The measures come amid a year-long examination surrounding the role of police and law enforcement agencies in communities across the state and country following last year's protests and civil unrest stemming from the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

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Aid-in-dying bill push moves forward with new ad

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A bill meant to allow terminally ill patients to choose a medical aid-in-dying option has stalled over the last several years at the state Capitol. But now a new push is underway to see the measure approved his year as the legislative session winds down in Albany.

The group Compassion & Choices on Tuesday released a new ad featuring a Brooklyn resident and her late mother making calling for the pass of the bill.

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Union says more mental health treatment options needed

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New York's largest public workers union on Monday called for expanded treatment options for mental health services as public health advocates worry anxiety and depression are on the rise amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Civil Service Employees Association is making the push as part of Mental Health Awareness Month, but also weeks after lawmakers approved a $212 billion state budget that reduced the number of state-operated treatment beds in New York, a move the union opposed.

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New York evictions could end up in searchable database

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Evictions in New York could one day be found in a searchable, public database as lawmakers try to demonstrate the scope of the problem amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The state Senate on Monday approved a bill creating the database days after passing a broader bill that extended a moratorium on evictions in the state to August.

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Rep. Tonko goes 'bold' on climate change with the CLEAN Future Act

BY Kevin Frey Washington, D.C.

With a Democratic White House and Democrats in control on Capitol Hill, calls to combat climate change in Washington have gained renewed energy.

But while the Green New Deal and President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan have grabbed headlines, an upstate New York congressmember in a key leadership position is pushing a plan he argues will make a big difference: the CLEAN Future Act.

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New York correctional officers union sues to stop HALT solitary confinement law

BY Morgan McKay City of Albany

The union that represents correctional officers in New York filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the state and the Department of Corrections in an effort to overturn legislation that limits the use of solitary confinement in prisons.

“If it wasn't for someone hearing my screams, I don't know how this situation would have turned out,” corrections officer Hayes said, detailing an attack she experienced last year while working in a prison. “I was viciously attacked. The HALT bill is designed to help the most violent incarcerated individuals. The HALT bill is also designed to hurt those who protect and serve the state of New York.”

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Schuyler Center: The current child care model doesn’t work

BY Susan Arbetter New York State

In an interview with NPR on Sunday, U.S. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said “issues around child care” are one of the factors contributing to the lower-than-expected March jobs report.

U.S. employers added 266,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department reported Friday, far fewer than expected.

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An early start to GOP primary focuses on electability

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

It's sometimes best to think of a gubernatorial campaign in two phases. In one, a candidate outlines what they would actually do in office: cut taxes, aid for schools, etc. But for Republicans like Rep. Lee Zeldin, the first phase is to demonstrate you can actually win.

And that's no small task for a Republican in New York, where the party is shut out of power statewide and hasn't won a race statewide since 2002. Zeldin was in Saratoga Springs on Monday on another leg of trip to upstate counties to make his case he can break the streak of losses by Republicans.

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Bill calls for allowing medical flight crews to carry and dispense blood in New York

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Chuck Margarites was on the scene nearly three years ago when a stretch limousine crash killed 20 people in Schoharie. The certified flight nurse says precious time could have been saved for one patient if the air ambulance crew was able to carry and distribute blood before reaching the hospital.

"It may have saved us 30, 40 minutes in the field, which would have benefitted the patient," he said.

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Zeldin backs Stefanik for Republican conference chair

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin on Monday backed Rep. Elise Stefanik's bid to become the third-ranking GOP lawmaker in the House of Representatives.

A leadership vote is expected on Wednesday for the House Republican conference chair post currently held by Rep. Liz Cheney in what is viewed as a battle over the direction of the future of the Republican Party. Cheney has been deeply critical of former President Donald Trump; Stefanik has been a prominent supporter.

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Cuomo: Tourism needs to recover to bring back New York

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New York's tourism industry needs to make a comeback to get the state's economy moving again. But first, New Yorkers and tourists alike need to feel safe, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday said at a news conference.

"We need to get tourists back for those hotels, for those restaurants, for Broadway," Cuomo said. "That's a big engine for the economy. They're not going to come back unless it's safe."

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Cuomo impeachable? He thinks question is moot

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Democrats in the state Assembly are moving forward with an impeachment investigation of Gov. Andrew Cuomo that has drawn in virtually every controversy he has faced since the start of the new year.

But what constitutes impeachment in New York is an undefined concept in the state's constitution. Unlike the U.S. Constitution, there are no "high crimes and misdemeanors" for impeachment in New York.

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Stefanik has McCarthy's backing for leadership post

BY Nick Reisman Washington, D.C.

House Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Sunday signaled he is backing Rep. Elise Stefanik for the No. 3 job in the conference's leadership, replacing Rep. Liz Cheney amid a heightened debate over the party's direction.

"Everyone in leadership serves at the pleasure of the conference," McCarthy said in an interview on Fox News.

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State lawmaker wants to crack down on forged vaccine cards

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

State lawmakers are considering a bill that would make it easier for prosecutors to take on vaccine card forgery cases in New York amid a rise in fakes being circulated.

The bill, backed by Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz, would add language to the definitions of second-degree and third-degree forgery to address fraudulent vaccination cards.

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Stefanik's rise seeded in New York's North Country

BY Nick Reisman and Kevin Frey City of Albany
UPDATED 8:30 PM ET May. 07, 2021

The first thing to know about the 21st Congressional District in New York is that it's big. Very, very big.

The district is the geographically largest in the eastern United States, running through much of the state's border with Canada and Vermont to the exurbs of the Capital Region and over through Central New York.

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New York buys 1,263 acres in Adirondack Park

BY Dennis Yusko Warren County

New York state's purchase of 1,263 acres in the southern Adirondacks includes Huckleberry Mountain in Johnsburg, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday.

The newly protected land adjoins Wilcox Lake Wild Forest, including Crane Mountain.

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Survivors speak out in advance of judiciary committee vote on Adult Survivors Act

BY Susan Arbetter New York State

According to a group of women advocating for survivors of sexual abuse, an expose in Huffington Post published this week underscores the urgent need for passage of the Adult Survivors Act (A.648 Rosenthal/S.66 Hoylman).

Ambra Battilana Gutierrez, Evelyn Wang, the wife of mayoral hopeful Andrew Yang and Marissa Hoechstetter are among the group of women who are fighting for their day in court. They appear in a public service announcement for the Adult Survivors Act produced by Safe Horizon, which you watch here.

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Lawmakers want to combat hate speech, misinformation on social media

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Misinformation and hate speech online is leading to concerns our democracy is being undermined by social media. Now, state lawmakers say action is indeed.

"We know that violent hate speech has no consequences," said Assemblywoman Pat Fahy. "So just as the courts have ruled you cannot yell fire in a crowded movie theater when there is no fire, it's the same here."

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Bill would require New York college students receive COVID vaccine

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Students attending colleges and universities in New York would be required to receive a COVID-19 vaccination under a measure proposed by Democratic state Sen. Brad Hoylman.

The bill is meant to limit the spread of the virus on college campuses, which have struggled to remain open during the pandemic and have seen infections spread quickly among students, while also protecting nearby communities.

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Comptroller's office auditing state unemployment system

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli's office is auditing New York's unemployment system amid concerns over fraudulent claims made during the COVID-19 pandemic.

DiNapoli's office this week confirmed the audit, which began in mid-February this year, is underway.

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Cuomo extends alcohol-to-go for eateries

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Customers with take-out orders at restaurants in New York state will continue to be able to order alcohol under an extension approved Thursday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The order extends the alcohol-to-go provisions until June 5, a measure put in place last year as businesses, schools and other public gathering areas were shut down to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Restaurants were allowed to continue take-out orders during that time before being able to reopen with limited seating.

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How more business transactions could go remote

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The COVID-19 pandemic has altered daily routines and, increasingly, how business is being conducted, with state officials considering changes induced by the public health crisis over the last year.

Lawmakers later Friday will hold a hearing on whether licensed notaries can conduct electronic notarizations. While seemingly mundane, the measure could be another step toward an economic recovery that makes life a little different on the other side of the pandemic.

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Funding could be boosted for PFAS testing in private wells

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Owners of private wells could soon be in line for federal funding to test and clean up PFAS contamination in drinking water based on an amendment backed by U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

The amendment was attached to a drinking water infrastructure approved this month by the U.S. Senate. The provision also includes funds to replace lead service lines, drinking water and clean water state revolving funds and a pilot program for the Environmental Protection Agency for low-income water assistance.

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NY HERO Act signed, but concerns over funding linger

BY Morgan McKay City of Albany
UPDATED 9:24 PM ET May. 06, 2021

The New York HERO Act was signed on Wednesday night by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but it came with some caveats.

This act will require businesses to have enforceable COVID-19-related safety protocols in place.

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Why advocates want a 'clean slate' for criminal convictions

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

People with criminal convictions can have trouble securing a job or housing once their sentence is up, and now state lawmakers are considering a bill to address the concern.

Lawmakers on Thursday held a public hearing to consider a so-called "clean slate" bill that would seal and eventually expunge criminal convictions from the public record. Advocates argue the measure would help people secure employment once their sentence is completed while also helping to reduce recidivism.

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What role can government play in fighting climate change?

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The federal government over the last year has marshalled resources as part of Operation Warp Speed to deliver millions of shots in arms to vaccinate people for COVID-19.

But David Van Slyke, the dean of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, said the effort existential threat of our time, fighting climate change, cannot use the same tools.

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JPMorgan Chase backs bill to expunge criminal records

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

JPMorgan Chase, in a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and top state lawmakers, endorsed a bill that would allow for the expungement and sealing of criminal records.

The measure, known as the "clean slate" bill, lessens the impact of criminal convictions on a person once their sentence is completed.

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Lawmakers call for better reporting of social media disinformation, hate speech

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Two Democratic lawmakers in the state Senate and Assembly on Thursday unveiled three bills meant to enhance reporting of hate speech and misinformation online.

The bills, backed by Sen. Anna Kaplan and Assemblywoman Pat Fahy, would require social media companies to provide and maintain tools for reporting hate speech as well as misinformation surrounding vaccines and elections.

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Delgado makes renewed push for limo safety bills

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Democratic Rep. Antonio Delgado on Thursday signaled he is making a renewed push to bolster stretch limousine safety following a crash in 2018 that killed 20 people.

The bills, backed alongside fellow Democratic Rep. Paul Tonko, would add stretch limousines to fall under the defintion of commercial motor vehicles, while another would push states to take stretch limousines deemed unsafe off the road.

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PEF president Wayne Spence re-elected

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Public Employees Federation President Wayne Spence was re-elected to another three-year term, the labor group on Wednesday announced.

Spence was first elected in June 2015 to lead the state's second-largest public workers union of mostly white-collar employees in New York.

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Cuomo signs bill requiring COVID safety guidelines for workplaces

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A bill that requires workplaces to have COVID-related safety measures in place was signed into law on Wednesday night by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

But the approval of the bill came with an agreement with Democrats in the state Legislature that amendments would be added in the coming weeks to provide businesses with a clear timeline for fixing violations before being immediately at risk of a lawsuit.

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Two opposing views of single-payer health care

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany
UPDATED 6:51 PM ET May. 05, 2021

The New York Health Act would pave the way for a single-payer health care system in the state, replacing the current private insurance system in place.

Naturally, the measure has drawn a range of views. Sen. Gustavo Rivera, the bill's sponsor in the state Senate, points to the cost reductions for families who grapple with the cost of insurance.

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Why former Rep. Brindisi wants a voting law changed

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Last year, Democratic Rep. Anthony Brindisi lost his House seat by a razor-thin margin of just over 100 votes. While the outcome was disappointing, even more ballots were rejected because people voted at the wrong polling site.

"What was more frustrating to me was knowing there were hundreds of legally registered voters who cast their ballot in my election, but through no fault of their own, never had their vote counted," Brindisi said on Wednesday.

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Report: Students lacked access to devices for learning

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

More than 200,000 students over the last school year lacked access to devices needed to learn remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, a report released Wednesday by the New York Civil Liberties Union found.

The report compiled survey data from school districts across the state, comprising 2.6 million students. The findings show hundreds of thousands of students, nearly one in 10, lacked access to devices to access learning and remote classroom instruction.

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Cuomo approves bill codifying voting rights for people on parole

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A bill codifying the rights of people on parole to vote was signed into law Tuesday evening by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a move cheered by criminal justice reform advocates.

State lawmakers gave final approval to the bill last month and Cuomo's signature comes three years after he approved an executive order extending voting rights to people on parole. At the time, Cuomo pointed to the laws barring people on parole supervision being disproportionately people of color.

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Independent venues seek clarity on New York reopening

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

New York is planning a broad reopening in the coming weeks after more than a year of COVID-19 releated restrictions on public gatherings. A coalition of arts and culture venues this week, however, raised concerns about the need for specifics.

The New York Independent Venues Association, in a letter to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, called for more specifics for reopening by May 19 — a date announced by the governor this week as the COVID-19 positive rate falls in the state and more people are vaccinated.

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Stefanik gains support for key leadership post

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Rep. Elise Stefanik is gaining the backing of fellow Republicans to replace Rep. Liz Cheney in a key leadership position within the GOP caucus.

The office of Pennsylvania Rep. Guy Reschenthaler confirmed Tuesday night to Spectrum News' Washington bureau he is whipping votes for Stefanik, a development first reported by The New York Post, for the role of House Republican Conference Chair.

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Silver's release from prison splits Albany lawmakers

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is back home in Manhattan after serving less than a year of a prison sentence set to last until 2026.

His release has split lawmakers in a Capitol he once ruled with little question for a generation in state government. On the one hand, some lawmakers wanted to see Silver remain in prison, a sign that even after leaving office more than five years ago, the former speaker remains a lightning rod. But other lawmakers called for compassion amid word of Silver's failing health and during a pandemic.

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AARP on nursing home staffing bill: 'It misses the mark'

BY Susan Arbetter New York State
UPDATED 5:41 PM ET May. 04, 2021

Last month, a provision passed in the state budget that requires nursing homes to use at least 70% of their total revenues on direct patient care, and of that 70%, almost half, 40%, now needs to be used for staffing.

Tuesday, the legislature took another step to protect seniors. Both houses passed a Rivera/Gunther bill (S.6346/A.7119) requiring nursing homes to have enough staff for each resident to receive at least three and a half hours of direct care each day.

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What’s next in New York's 'tightest ever' timeline for redistricting?

BY Susan Arbetter City of Albany

Now that the Census numbers are out, New York’s Redistricting Commission will start the process of drawing new maps for both congressional and legislative seats.

According to Blair Horner, executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), the historical trend has been “that the gravitational pull is really downstate, in terms of population.”

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Planning process underway to reopen state Capitol, state agency chief says

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The top official at the state agency charged with overseeing and maintaining the New York State Capitol on Tuesday in a letter to state lawmakers said a planning process is underway for the building's potential reopening.

In the letter obtained by Spectrum News, Office of General Services Commissioner RoAnn Destito wrote the public health and safety requirements for the building are currently being reviewed.

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Fixes needed for unemployment system, Senate Republicans say

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Republicans in the state Senate on Tuesday urged the state to strengthen the unemployment system in New York amid a surge of jobless claims due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The lawmakers want a forensic audit of the state's information technology systems to identify weaknesses and also bolster digital infrastructure.

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Overtime in New York reached all-time high, report finds

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Overtime costs at state agencies in New York reached a record $850 million in 2020, a 5.5% increase in earnings from the previous year, a report by Comptroller Tom DiNapoli's office released Tuesday found.

The overtime increase is part of an upward trend in New York, but also came amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the government's response.

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State websites could soon be translated to a dozen languages

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

State agency websites in New York may soon be required to offer translations into the top 12 languages spoken by residents in the state under a bill approved by the Democratic-led state Senate on Monday.

The bill would translate New York government websites as access as become more important for government information amid the ongoing pandemic, the measure's sponsors said.

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New York officials pushed to adopt clean fuel standard

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A coalition of 67 organizations composed of environmental groups, energy firms and car manufacturers on Tuesday is set to release a letter calling for the adoption of a clean fuel standard for New York.

The standard would be set as a means of reducing the effects of climate change in New York as the state moves toward reducing carbon usage over the coming decades.

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Gillibrand: Dropping military chain of command in sexual assault cases 'significant'

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand for the last decade has called for changes in how the U.S. armed forces investgiate and prosecute sexual assault cases, arguing it should be done outside of the chain of command.

For years, the change has faced resistance within the military. On Monday, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley told the Associated Press he was droppping his opposition.

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Proposed curriculum would deal with how to interact with police during stop

BY Morgan McKay City of Albany

A new bill introduced by Republican State Sen. Alexis Weik would require people applying for a driver’s license to complete an online course on how to interact with police officers if they are pulled over.

“If you're being pulled over by a police officer, you clearly did not follow a rule of the road or there's a matter that needed to be attended to, if you've got a taillight out or something like that,” Sen. Weik explained. “So therefore, for everyone's safety, if everyone knows what to expect, then everyone's going to feel a little more comfortable with the process, and they're going to be safer.”

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Lawmakers continue push to reopen Capitol

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Before the pandemic kept out tourists, school groups and advocates who trekked to the building from around the state, New York's state Capitol was an often bustling place.

COVID-19 has changed that, with the Capitol virtually empty for the last year, save for mask-wearing lawmakers, staff and some journalists who can access the building.

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