State Senate

Common Cause: Legislature Must Stay in Session Post-Budget

BY Susan Arbetter City of Albany

Susan Lerner of the good government group Common Cause NY says the legislature is a co-equal branch of government and cannot cede its responsibility to the governor by leaving town (figuratively speaking) after the budget.

Furthermore, she says any claim that lawmakers can’t do their job because of technology is rubbish.

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Sen. Jim Seward Hospitalized For Coronavirus

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Sen. Jim Seward and his wife Cindy have both tested positive for coronavirus, his office announcced on Monday.

Seward has been hospitalized at Albany Medical Center and has exhibited mild symptoms. In a statement, Seward's office said he "is expected to make a full and complete recovery.

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New York State Legislature Moves To Vote Remotely

BY Nick Reisman New York State

When state lawmakers cast votes for the state budget this week, many of them might not be in the chamber — or in Albany for that matter.

Both the state Senate and Assembly are taking steps to formally allow for remote voting during a declared emergency.

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Senator Urges Cuomo To Open Gun Shops

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Republican state Sen. Robert Ortt in a letter this week to Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged him to open gun and sportsmen stores in New York amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Keeping them closed, Ortt argued in the letter, deprives New Yorkers of their Second Amendment rights. He pointed to neighboring Pennsylvania, which has allowed gun stores to operate on a limited hours basis.

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NY Senate Republican Leader John Flanagan Won't Seek Re-Election

BY Nick Reisman New York State
UPDATED 2:28 PM ET Mar. 25, 2020

Republican Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan on Wednesday announced he would not seek re-election this November, ending a career in Albany that started in the state Assembly and spanned more than 30 years.

Senate GOP Leader John Flanagan not seeking re-election pic.twitter.com/PUsUJImhcv

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Stewart-Cousins Questions Pulling Back on Medicaid Spending in Pandemic

BY Nick Reisman New York State

Throttling spending in the state’s Medicaid program is being questioned by the top Democrat in the state Senate, who said in an interview on Tuesday the state’s hospitals were already being asked to shoulder the heavy burden of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“We’re asking out hospitals and supportive services to do much more, to increase capacity from 50 to 100 percent,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said. “We’re asking a lot from hospitals and caregivers, for all of our sake. So we want to make sure we are supportive of those efforts in everywhere.”

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Flanagan Knocks Paid Sick Leave Bill

BY Morgan McKay City of Albany

A three way agreement on paid sick leave legislation was announced on Tuesday, but not all lawmakers are pleased with the new bill.

Republican Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan say that the bill goes too far and allows someone to take a paid sick day if they need to deal with immigration issues or if they need to go to court.

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Voting in the Days of Coronavirus

BY Nick Reisman New York State

The state Capitol is big. Five expansive floors with open spaces and vaulted ceilings, several grand staircases that look like they were designed by MC Escher, and two chambers for the 63-member state Senate and 150-member Assembly.

But the space, like anywhere, is finite. And that makes social distancing all the more difficult.

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Lawmakers Won't Convene For Now

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The state Legislature will not meet today and Tuesday as planned, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said in a statement.

The development comes as the Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are facing a state budget deadline of April 1 amid the coronavirus pandemic that so far has accounted for more than 900 confirmed cases and left seven people dead.

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Bill Would Allow Public Bodies To Hold Meetings Via Teleconference

BY Nick Reisman New York State

A bill backed by Sen. Brad Hoylman would allow public bodies like community boards and community education councils to conduct their meetings through teleconference and not through in-person meetings during declared emergencies.

The measure is meant to halt the spread of coronavirus in New York, while still allowing governing bodies to meet and conduct business.

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New York Officials Move To Counteract Coronavirus

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

State lawmakers on Monday evening were poised to approve a $40 million bill meant to help New York respond to a potential coronavirus outbreak in the state.

The bill was first proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo last week, part of an effort to purchase equipment and other resources to repsond.

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Michelle Hinchey Endorsed by CWA for State Senate

BY Nick Reisman New York State

Democratic state Senate candidate Michelle Hinchey has been endorsed by the Communications Workers of America, a labor group that represents 1,800 workers in the Hudson Valley and Albany areas.

"It is an honor to receive the support of the hard working men and women of the CWA," Hinchey said. "One of my top priorities is to invest in our upstate infrastructure, specifically addressing the lack of broadband access in our upstate communities."

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Stewart-Cousins Says Judicial Discretion Would Have 'Guard Rails'

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Judges will have "guardrails" and a "check list" for determining whether a person should remain in jaill pending trial, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins told reporters on Wednesday.

The comments from Stewart-Cousins, made at an appearance at the Times Union, appeared to be part of an effort to assuage advocates who are concerned Democrats in the state Senate were pushing for a rollback of the law that ends cash bail for misdemeanor and non-violent felony offenses.

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Cuomo Says Talks Held On Bail Law Changes

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Talks are being held over potential changes to the state's new law that ends cash bail for misdemeanor and non-violent felony offenses, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Friday.

At the same time, Cuomo continued to urge deliberation on the issue, which has become a flashpoint at the Capitol and in New York over the direction of the state's criminal justice system.

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Stewart-Cousins Makes LATFOR Appointments

BY Nick Reisman New York State

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins has appointed her conference's deputy, Queens Democrat Mike Gianaris, to the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment.

Stewart-Cousins also appointed Phil Chonigman, a geographic systems professional who works on and specializes in political geography. She also appointed Eric Katz, the Senate Democratic conference's deputy counsel who oversees floor operations.

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Two Labor Unions Endorse Mannion For Senate

BY Morgan McKay Central NY

Two union groups have now endorsed Democratic candidate John Mannion for a central New York state Senate seat.

The North Atlantic States Regional Council of Carpenters and Ironworkers Local 60 are both throwing their weight behind Mannion, they announced Thursday.

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State GOP Backs Stec For Senate

BY Morgan McKay City of Albany

New York Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy endorsed Wednesday GOP Assemblyman Dan Stec in his run for the 45th Senate District seat.

This seat is currently being held by Republican Sen. Betty Little who is retiring after this legislative session.

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Brooks Bill Would Expand STAR Property Tax Freeze

BY Morgan McKay City of Albany

A bill introduced this week by Long Island Sen. John Brooks is meant to change the way public education is funded by giving property tax relief to some homeowners.

The bill would provide $1.7 billion in tax cuts to homeowners that currently live in school districts that are heavily dependent on property taxes to fund the local schools.

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State Lawmakers: Unfreeze Trusted Traveler Registrations

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Two dozen state lawmakers have signed a letter urging the Department of Homeland Security to no longer bar New Yorkers from applying or re-registering for trusted traveler status.

The letter, sent by Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, comes as Gov. Andrew Cuomo and President Donald Trump are yet to resolve the issue, which affects programs that enable people who have passed a background check to have easier travel through ports of entry and across borders.

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Lawmakers Want To Crack Down On Ghost Guns

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Democratic state lawmakers have introduced a pair of bills meant to curtail the proliferation of so-called "ghost guns" — firearms that lack serial numbers and can't be traced by law enforcement agencies.

"With a cursory Google search, anyone can obtain an assembly kit containing parts, instructions and detailed templates for the technical work required to create their own ghost gun," said Sen. Brad Hoylman, one of the bill's sponsors. "Law enforcement officials are speaking out, saying ghost guns are a clear and present danger in New York. Yet somehow, a loophole in federal law means this is all completely legal."

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Democrats Hit Rough Patch In Albany

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Democrats last year, energized by their new majority in the state Senate, approved bill after bill of legislation that had been long-sought by the progressive left in New York.

And now two of the measures -- one allowing undocumented immigrants to apply for driver's licenses and a law that restricts cash bail to only violent felony charges -- are being challenged at multiple levels of government.

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Bail Law Compromise Exposes Democratic Rift In Albany

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The floated compromise by Senate Democrats that would change the state's new bail law landed with a thud with Democrats in the state Assembly on Wednesday.

Some blasted suburban lawmakers who had been pushing for changes to the six-week-old law that ended cash bail requirements for misdemeanor and non-violent charges.

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State Senate Bills Address Property Tax Exemptions

BY Nick Reisman New York State

The state Senate Tuesday approved a pair of bills addressing property tax exemptions and whether they have become too much of a burden for local governments.

One of the bills would create a task force to examine the issue of exemptions being granted and the current process.

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Lawmakers Want Backseat Passengers Buckling Up

BY Morgan McKay New York State

Two Democratic lawmakers want legislation that would require passengers to buckle up in the backseat of a car, even when riding in an Uber or Lyft.

According to AAA New York, a person in a crash while riding in the backseat without their seat belt is eight times more likely to be seriously injured and twice as likely to be killed.

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Lawmakers See Mixed Bag In Education Spending

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Every year, a similar drama unfolds: The governor proposes more spending for education, advocates say it isn't enough, lawmakers want tweaks that are meant to benefit their schools back home.

This year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo wants to upend the process of how state government funds schools. He's calling for $826 million in extra funding, but that's only part of it.

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Bail Law Debate Enters Politically Delicate Phase

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A sea of police uniforms covered the bottom portion of the grand staircase commonly referred at the Capitol as the Million Dollar Staircase.

The event, a press conference featuring Republican lawmakers in the state Senate and Assembly -- drew law enforcement leaders from around the state on Tuesday as opponents continued to press the issue of repealing the law that ends cash bail requirements for misdemeanors and non-violent felony offenses.

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Business Groups Urge Lawmakers To Not Reclassify "Gig" Workers

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A coalition of business groups on Thursday released a letter urging top lawmakers in the Assembly and Senate to not pass legislation that would reclassify workers in the so-called "gig" economy.

At issue is a push to provide traditional labor benefits and collective bargaining rights to workers who provide services for apps like Uber, Lyft and Grubhub. The move would come after California approved similar rules to address workers who the companies argue are independent contractors.

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Cynthia Nixon Endorses New York Democratic Socialists

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Activist, actress and former gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon on Thursday endorsed the half-dozen candidates endorsed by the New York City Democratic Socialists of America.

Those candidates backed by Nixon include Sen. Julia Salazar and Senate candidate Jabari Brisport, who is seeking to represent the district being vacated by retiring Sen. Velmanette Montgomery.

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Why Are People Leaving New York? Lawmakers Want Answers

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

A bipartisan pair of state lawmakers on Thursday announced a plan to examine why people are moving out of New York.

Republican Sen. Jim Tedisco and Democratic Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, in a statement, pointed to the most recent Census figures that showed New York's population dropped by 76,790 residents in the previous year.

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Democratic Senator Harckham: I Did My Homework on Cannabis Bill

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany
UPDATED 4:21 PM ET Jan. 29, 2020

Democratic Sen. Peter Harckham was a willing student of marijuana legalization.

Last year, he wanted a slower process as lawmakers worked their way through the negotiations of the bill — which ultimately ended with the session ending in June and no broader deal on the measure.

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Senate GOP Plans Bail Law Roundtable

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany
UPDATED 2:45 PM ET Jan. 29, 2020

Senate Republicans on Wednesday announced plans to hold roundtable discussions on the state's new cash bail law, a sign GOP lawmakers will continue to highlight the issue through the state budget season at the Capitol.

The law ended cash bail requirements for misdemeanor and non-violent felony offenses last year, but has grown increasingly controversial in recent weeks.

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Senate To Pass Payroll Firm Bills

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The state Senate on Tuesday is set to take up a package of bills meant to strengthen regulations and penalties for payroll companies after an upstate firm suddenly shut its doors last year, leaving businesses and their employees in the lurch.

The legislation includes creating criminal penalties for intentional misappropriating payroll and tax funds. Another bill would hold a company liable when an employee wrongfully misses a paycheck. A third bill clarifies wage theft guidelines, while lawmakers also want the Department Financial Services to review regulations guiding payroll firms.

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Kaplan Backs Limits To Outside Income for Legislature

BY Nick Reisman Albany/Capital Region

A measure that would restrict state lawmakers from earning outside income should be put into effect by the legislature itself, Democratic Sen. Anna Kaplan said on Monday.

Kaplan's support for the move comes after a state court blocked a pay commission's provision that capped the amount of outside income lawmakers earn at 15 percent of their legislative salaries. Lawmakers now earn $110,000 annually.

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Lawmakers Push For EMPIRE Act

BY Morgan McKay New York State

Less than 3 percent of stolen wages are recovered by the Department of Labor, according to a report by worker advocacy groups.

Led by Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner and Sen. Brad Hoylman, workers and lawmakers will rally at the Capitol tomorrow calling for the passage of the "Empowering People in Rights Enforcement Worker Protection Act" which supporters are calling EMPIRE.

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Bill Would Ban Facial Recognition Software For Law Enforcement

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Democratic state Sen. Brad Hoylman on Monday introduced a bill that would ban the use of facial recognition software and biometric surveillance by law enforcement in New York.

The bill comes after The New York Times revealed this month an app licensed to law enforcement agencies around the country, called Clearview AI, has scrapped millions of photos from social media sites.

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Serino Wants Lyme Disease Funding Added To Budget

BY Nick Reisman New York State

Sen. Sue Serino in a statement on Sunday called for more funding to be added to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's budget plan to combat Lyme and tick-borne diseases.

Serino, a Republican who represents the Poughkeepsie area, wants the money to be added into Cuomo's 30-day budget amendments, due out next month.

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Bill Would Crack Down On 'Faithless Electors'

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Democratic Sen. James Skoufis is pushing legislation that would require New York electors to vote for the winner of the state's presidential election, or face being removed.

The bill is meant to crack down on so-called "faithless electors" -- members of the electoral college who, in effect, go rogue and vote for a candidate other than the winner of the state's vote.

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Aaron Gladd Won't Run Again for State Senate Seat

BY Nick Reisman Albany/Capital Region

Democrat Aaron Gladd will not run again for the state Senate district he sought in 2018.

Gladd ran a competitive race against Republican Daphne Jordan, who at the time was running to replace Republican Sen. Kathy Marchione.

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Senate Democrats Met With NYPD Commissioner and Sheriffs To Discuss Cash Bail Law

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and members of the Democratic conference this week met with key law enforcement officials amid the ongoing controversy surrounding the state's new cash bail law.

On Tuesday, Democratic lawmakers met with New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea to discuss the law. Earlier in the day on Wednesday, they huddled with sheriffs, including Ulster County's Juan Figueroa and officials from the state sheriff's association.

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Skoufis Gets A GOP Endorsement

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Democratic state Sen. James Skoufis on Tuesday was endorsed by George Meyers, the Republican supervisor of the town of New Windsor.

Skoufis is running for a second term in a Hudson Valley seat that he flipped in 2018. The district had been represented for a generation by the late Republican Sen. Bill Larkin, who retired from the chamber that year.

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Seward Won't Seek Re-Election to State Senate

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany
UPDATED 3:46 PM ET Jan. 20, 2020

Republican Sen. James Seward on Monday announced he would not seek re-election to a central New York seat he's held since 1987.

Seward is the latest GOP state lawmaker to announce plans to not run again this year or retire.

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Hudson Valley Democrats Bolster Campaign War Chests

BY Nick Reisman New York State

The Hudson Valley is once again expected to be a contested battleground area for Republicans and Democrats in the state Senate this year.

And, accordingly, Democrats are raising money to run with an eye toward being competitive.

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Here and Now - Jan. 15

BY Nick Reisman Albany/Capital Region

Good morning! Here is what's happening around New York today.

At 10 a.m., Assembly Republicans will be joined by victims impacted by the new criminal justice reforms and law-enforcement officials to call for Assembly Democrats to address bail reforms that recently went into effect. LCA Press Room, Room 130, Legislative Office Building, Albany.

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Here and Now: January 14

BY Nick Reisman Albany/Capital Region

Good morning! It's going to be a busy first lobby day of the new year in Albany. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, meanwhile, is departing for Puerto Rico. Here's today's schedule: At 8:15 a.m., Gov. Andrew Cuomo will hold a press briefing before departing for Puerto Rico. JFK International Airport, Queens.

At 9:30 a.m., Assembly Real Property Taxation Committee Chair Sandy Galef will take testimony to examine changes to the STAR Program provided in the State Fiscal Year 2019-20 budget. Hearing Room C, Legislative Office Building, Albany.

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Senate Approves Automatic Voter Registration, Polling Site Bills

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany
UPDATED 5:10 PM ET Jan. 09, 2020

The state Senate on Thursday approved the latest package of election law bills meant to make it easier to vote in New York.

“Voting is the bedrock of democracy. We must do more to help eligible New Yorkers participate in the political process and have their voices heard,” said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. “These bills build on the voting reforms we passed first thing last session, and will empower more New Yorkers to register to vote and utilize early voting opportunities.”

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Krueger Pushes DEC For Tighter Plastic Bag Rules

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Democratic state Sen. Liz Krueger in a letter to the Department of Environmental Conservation raised concerns with proposed regulations for the state's coming plastic bag ban in March.

Specifically, Krueger is concerned with the inclusions of thickness requirements for both "film plastic" and "reusable bag" that she called "unnecessary" and can still lead to single-use carryout bags that are just thicker.

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Cuomo's Speech Focuses on Progressive Bona Fides

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany
UPDATED 6:16 PM ET Jan. 08, 2020

It wasn't the longest State of the State Gov. Andrew Cuomo has ever given, but it was still super-sized with proposals, accomplishments and goals for the new year.

State of the State addresses are traditionally not meant examples of nitty-gritty policy wonkery -- an address that's largely left up to the state budget presentation in the coming weeks.

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Bellone Endorses Lunsford For State Senate

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone on Thursday is set to endorse Democratic state Senate candidate Jen Lunsford for the Rochester-area district that is being vacated by Republican Rich Funke.

Lunsford is making her second bid for the state Senate in 2020.

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Funke Joins Growing List Of State Senate Republican Departures

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Sen. Rich Funke became the latest Republican to announce retirement plans by the end of next year.

Funke, a Republican elected in 2014 to a Democratic-leaning seat in the Rochester area, quoted the Bible, saying “for everything in life there is season. There is a time for a beginning, there is a time to end. I’ve always believed that.”

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Child Victims Advocate Eyes Run For SD-46

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Gary Greenberg for years was fed up with the state Senate and the stalled Child Victims Act, a proposal that is meant to make it easier for the survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file lawsuits.

Greenberg is a victim of childhood abuse himself. But as an adult, he has money. And with that money came some power to move the needle on the issue in Albany.

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32BJ SEIU Endorses Gianaris’s Re-Election

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

The re-election of Sen. Mike Gianaris, the deputy majority leader for the Democratic conference, was endorsed on Thursday by union 32BJ SEIU.

“We are proud to endorse Senator Mike Gianaris for re-election,” said union President Kyle Bragg.

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Door Cracks Open Further To Tax Hike For Rich

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Middle-income earners and working class New Yorkers should not take the brunt of closing a $6.1 billion budget gap, but there’s a “discussion to be had” over whether richer people should be asked to pay more, Sen. Mike Gianaris said in an interview Wednesday on NY1’s Inside City Hall.

“I think there’s a discussion to be had about whether we want to focus on some of the wealthier individuals in the state who can certainly afford to contribute a little bit more when times are tough,” he said when asked about a potential tax increase. “But that’s something we haven’t resolved yet.”

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Robach Becomes Latest GOP Senate Retirement

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Republican Sen. Joe Robach on Wednesday became the latest GOP state lawmaker in the chamber to announce he will not seek re-election in 2020.

Robach joins Sens. Betty Little, George Amedore and Michael Razenhofer in the last several weeks in announcing his retirement plans.

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Republicans Face Hurdles For NY Senate Comeback

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

For just over 10 minutes on Wednesday morning, Senate Minority Leader John Flanagan answered virtually the same, albeit differently worded question over and over again from reporters: How can you retake the majority amid a wave of departures?

Flanagan insists he isn’t waving the white flag.

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NY-17: Carlucci Receives Construction Trades Council Nod

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Sen. David Carlucci on Monday received the endorsement of the Rockland County Building and Construction Trade Council in his bid for the Democratic nomination in the 17th congressional district.

“I am proud to have the support of the hardworking men and women of the Rockland County Building and Construction Trades Council,” Carlucci said.

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Stewart-Cousins Says ‘First Fallback’ Won’t Be To Raise Taxes

BY Nick Reisman City of Albany

Raising new revenue through taxes is not the “first fallback” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins on Monday told reporters during a retreat of the Democratic conference.

The state faces a $6.1 billion budget gap ahead of the state budget due March 31, fueled in large part by a gap in Medicaid spending.

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