Coverage of Albany and New York State Government

Topics (click to jump):

Governor Releases 2013-14 Executive Budget
Governor Launches Open Budget Web Site
Assembly Speaker Announces Leadership Appointments, Committee Chairs
Senate Majority Coalition Announces Committee Assignments
Legislature Gives Final Approval to Redistricting Reform Constitutional Amendment
State Recovers Million in Medicaid Fraud
Court Hears Arguments on Challenge to NYC Soda Ban
State Bar Association Releases Reports
Political Update
Coming Up
 
 
Governor Releases 2013-14 Executive Budget

On Tuesday, Gov. Cuomo released his 2013-14 Executive Budget proposal.  The Governor is proposing a $136.4 billion spending plan, a 1.9% increase over the current fiscal year.  Including expected federal funds relating to Hurricane Sandy aid, the budget proposal totals $142.6 billion.  His budget would eliminate a $1.3 billion state deficit. 

Budget highlights include a 4.4% school aid increase, which includes $75 million in competitive grants to fund some of his education programs; increasing the state’s minimum wages from $7.25 per hour to $8.75 per hour; a third round of the Regional Economic Development Councils (REDCs); a state’s tourism initiative; and support for Superstorm Sandy recovery and rebuilding projects.

Watch the Governor’s Executive Budget presentation
Read the budget briefing book
See the Governor’s budget PowerPoint presentation

In a press release , Gov. Cuomo said:
 
"By making difficult decisions over the past two years we have brought stability, predictability, and common sense to the state's budget process.  For the third consecutive year we are closing the deficit with no new taxes or fees and putting forward a budget that holds spending growth under two percent. Two consecutive fiscally responsible budgets have drastically reduced the deficit we face in this fiscal year and those we will face in years to come. As a result, we are able to make critical investments to build a world-class education system, support job creating projects in all corners of the state, provide assistance to local governments, and rebuild communities that were hit hard by Superstorm Sandy."
 
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver expressed his support for the proposal:
 
“Governor Cuomo's 2013-14 State Budget builds on our success over the last two years and proposes to close the state's fiscal gap in a prudent manner. I am encouraged that the Governor has included a minimum wage increase as part of the budget. I firmly believe an indexing provision is crucial to ensuring that it keeps up with rising costs for low wage workers and provides them certainty. Raising New York's minimum wage has long been an Assembly priority and I look forward to a productive dialogue on this and other issues in the weeks ahead as we work to enact an early budget for New York.”
 
Senate Republican conference Leader Dean Skelos said:
 
“While the Senate’s Finance Committee will review the entire Executive Budget over the next few weeks, I am encouraged by the plan Governor Cuomo has submitted today.  It restrains spending, eliminates a manageable deficit without new taxes or fees, and invests in job-creation initiatives.  This budget is a blueprint for building on the progress we’ve made over the last two years in getting New York back on track.”
 
An aide to the Governor told reporters that the Governor will begin a statewide television advertising campaign this week regarding budget proposal, and urging residents to push lawmakers to embrace his ideas.  The effort, which will be paid for by the Cuomo 2014 campaign, will discuss his plans for economic development, holding the line on new tax increases and various investment efforts, an aide said Wednesday.

The Legislature begins its Joint Legislative budget hearings on the Governor’s proposal next week. 
 
The Governor’s 21 day amendments to the Executive Budget proposal are due by February 12, and his 30 day amendments are due by February 21.
 
The state’s 2013-14 fiscal year begins on April 1.

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Governor Launches Open Budget Web Site

In conjunction with his budget address, Gov. Cuomo announced the launch of openbudget.ny.gov , a web site that provides public access to current and historical state budget information.
 
The site includes a number of analytical tools, and allows data to be downloaded in a number of formats. 
 
Gov. Cuomo said:
 
“Open Budget is bringing the people back into government by taking budget data out of government file cabinets and making it available to the public for the first time in an easy-to-access, downloadable form. This will facilitate research, analysis, and innovation.  As a first step in my Open New York initiative, Open Budget provides a powerful tool for transparency and accountability, fostering citizen engagement and enhancing the public's trust in government.”
 
The Empire Center for New York State Policy announced a similar state budget analysis tool on its SeeThroughNY web site.  
Also this week, the New York City Comptroller’s launched a new web site, CheckBookNYC, that will allow users to view and analyze information about city spending.

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Assembly Speaker Announces Leadership Appointments, Committee Chairs

On Thursday, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver announced the Assembly’s leadership appointments and committee chairs for the 2013-14 legislative session.
 
With numerous vacancies resulting from retirements, there are a number of members who will be serving in new capacities.
 
These include:

  • Jeff Aubry (D-Queens) was named Speaker Pro Tempore;
  • Keith Wright (D-Manhattan) was named Housing Committee Chair;
  • Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) was named Labor Committee Chair;
  • Felix Ortiz (D-Brooklyn) was named Cities Committee Chair; 
  • Steve Cymbrowitz (D-Brooklyn) was named Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Committee Chair;
  • Danny O’Donnell (D-Manhattan) was named Corrections Committee Chair;
  • Kevin Cahill (D- Kingston) was named Insurance Committee Chair;
  • Amy Paulin (D-Scarsdale) was named energy Committee Chair;
  • Chuck Lavine (D- Glen Cove) was named Ethics & Guidance Committee Chair.

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Senate Majority Coalition Announces Committee Assignments

On Thursday, Senate Co-Leaders Skelos and Klein released the list of Senate committee assignments for the 2013-14 legislative session.
 
New positions include Michael Nozzolio (R-Seneca County) as Codes Chair, and Patrick Gallivan (R-Erie County) as chair of Crime Victims, Crime & Corrections. Joe Robach (R-Monroe County) will chair the new Senate Committee on Infrastructure and Capital Investments.
 
A number of Democratic Senators will chair committees.  Senator Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn), who conferences with Republicans, will chair the Children & Families Committee and the Subcommittee on Education for New York City.  Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) member Senator Malcolm Smith (D-Queens) will chair the Social Services committee.  His IDC colleague Diane Savino (D-Staten Island) will chair the Labor Committee, and David Valesky (D-Oneida) will chair the Commerce, Economic Development and Small Business Committee.  
 
The Senate’s Majority coalition has also offered committee chairmanships to Eric Adams (D-Brooklyn) and James Sanders (D-Queens), though Sanders said that he will not accept the offer.

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Legislature Gives Final Approval to Redistricting Reform Constitutional Amendment

On Wednesday, the Senate approved “second passage” of a constitutional amendment to establish a new, independent body to oversee process of redrawing state legislative district lines after the 2020 census.  The proposal will be on the November ballot, and will take effect if approved by voters.

For the last four redistricting cycles, the line drawing process was undertaken by the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment, known as LATFOR.  LATFOR was controlled by the parties in the majority in each house, and critics charge that it drew lines that were designed to bolster those majorities.
 
Under the proposed constitutional amendment, the new redistricting commission would have 10 members. The four leaders of the Democrats and Republicans in the Assembly and the Senate would each get two appointments. Those eight members would then pick two people who have not been enrolled in a major political party for five years.

Good government groups are split on the proposal, with some saying that it will be ineffective, while others arguing that it will force compromise.

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State Recovers Million in Medicaid Fraud

On Wednesday, the state attorney general’s office announced that the state recouped $335 million in Medicaid funds that had been obtained or spent fraudulently, the highest recovery in seven years.

Attorney General Schneiderman said:

“Part of my first major initiative when I took office was to bolster the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit with additional prosecutors, investigators, and auditors, in order to even more aggressively root out fraud and return money illegally stolen from New York taxpayers and their government.”

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Court Hears Arguments on Challenge to NYC Soda Ban

Opponents of the New York City ban on the sale of sugary soft drinks larger than 16 ounces in locations like restaurants, movie theaters, street carts and stadiums argued against the measure in court this week, saying the New York City Department of Health overstepped its authority.

The limits on certain large drinks are scheduled to go into effect in March.  City attorneys argued this week that the limits are a legitimate way for the city’s Board of Health to curb obesity.

Lawyers for opponents of the ban argued in State Supreme Court in Manhattan that the Bloomberg Administration didn’t have the authority to push the regulations through without City Council approval. They plan to request a stay that will delay the implementation of the regulations until the case is decided.


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State Bar Association Releases Reports

The New York state Bar Association (NYSBA) released two reports at its annual meeting this week, calling on the state to modernize its election system and to provide greater support for Family Courts in the state.

The Election Modernization report calls on the state to improve the voter registration process, allow statewide Election Day registration, improve ballot design, expand recruitment and training of polling place workers, and impose criminal penalties for voter suppression, among others.

The Family Court report calls for more Family Court judges, expanding and enhancing mediation programs, authorizing digital filing of pleadings in more types of proceedings, and increased collaboration between the courts, the bar and the community.

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Political Update

The last unresolved state legislative race, for the newly created 46th Senate District, ended this week as Democrat Cecelia Tkaczyk (pronounced KAT-chik) was sworn into office on Wednesday.  The 46th SD includes Montgomery and Green Counties, and parts of Albany, Schenectady and Ulster counties.  Her election was certified last week, 73 days after Election Day.  She won by 18 votes out of more than 126,000 cast.
 
While the Democrats won 33 of the Senate’s 63 seats, they remain the Senate’s minority party because six Democratic Senators have joined with the Senate Republicans as the Senate Majority Coalition. 

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Coming Up


The Legislature is in session next Monday and Tuesday, January 28 and 29.
 
On Tuesday, Jan. 29, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman holds his second hearing on his proposed regulations to require nonprofit groups, including 501(c)(4) “social welfare” organizations that are registered with the state, to report the percentage of their expenditures that go to federal, state and local electioneering.
 
On Wednesday, Jan. 30, the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee holds a public hearing in Long Island on “the environmental causes and effects of extreme weather events.” 
 
Joint Legislative Budget hearings begin on Monday, January 28, and run through Feb. 27th.
The schedule for next week is as follows:
 
Mon., Jan 28 at 9:30 am – Local Government Officials/General Government
Tues., Jan 29 at 10:00 am – Elementary & Secondary Education
Wed., Jan. 30 at 10:00 am – Health/Medicaid 
 
The Governor’s 21 day amendments to the Executive Budget proposal are due by February 12, and his 30 day amendments are due by February 21.
 
The New York State Board of Regents holds its next meeting in Albany on February 11 and 12.

Prepared by AMSNY


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