Monday, January 31, 2011

We Want Names!

The Empire Center for New York State Policy has announced their continued effort to gain access to names of more than 44,000 retired police officers collecting benefits from the New York City Police Pension Fund.
In response to a recent court ruling that would block the public release of those names, the Empire Center is appealing the decision.
“The names of public employees and retirees have always been regarded as public information under New York’s FOI law,” noted Tim Hoefer, director of the Albany-based Empire Center. “Because taxpayers foot the bill for the salaries of government workers and retirees, they have a right to know who they are and how much they are paid, just like any private company’s board of directors know who their employees are and how much they are paid. Access to this data also provides a means for scrutinizing spending on a case by case basis, adding a level of accountability previously unknown in government spending.”
The data was initially requested by Hoefer a year ago, but was denied on the basis that the Police Pension Fund was only required to release a list of individual pension amounts. This interpretation allowed them to withhold the names of the pension recipients, which prompted the Empire Center to file a legal challenge to this reasoning.
The challenge was rejected, with the courts originally siding with the Police Pension Fund, saying it could provide pension amounts while withholding the names of pension recipients. The Empire Center, represented by attorney David A. Schulz of Manhattan, has appealed the decision to the Appellate Division of the state Supreme Court.
Pending a decision on the appeal, the Empire Center today posted a complete database of retirement allowances for 44,370 retired New York City police officers, minus the names withheld by the pension fund.
This is the Empire Center's interpretation of that data:
The data show the average pension of New York City police officers who retired in 2009 was $58,563, up 19 percent from the $49,066 average pension of officers retired in 2000. The amounts do not include an additional $12,000 “variable supplement” payment collected by retirees with regular service (non-disability) benefits. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed the elimination of this supplement, also known as the “Christmas bonus” because it is paid in December.


McCaughey at CPPAC

Introduced as someone who has read the Obama health care legislation from “cover to cover,” former Lieutenant Governor Betsy McCaughey spoke Monday at the Conservative Party’s Political Action Conference about the dangers in health care today.
“We are in the fight of our lifetime,” said McCaughey.
In remarks that were very well received by the crowd at the Holliday Inn on Wolf Road in Colonie, McCaughey stressed the threat to freedom, values and our way of life that exists because of “Obamacare.”
She argued that the legislation shifts money, about half a billion dollars, away from Medicare and into Medicaid. The older crowd responded audibly to this point, as McCaughey highlighted how the changes would ruin the quality of life for senior citizens. She cautiously walked way back from the death panels she was scaring people about in 2009, to the point where she never actually mentioned them.
Now that “Obamacare” has been passed, McCaughey said the next frontier is in the court systems, with 26 states challenging the legislation’s constitutionality, and in the U.S. House of Representatives, which will try to remove funds from this measure. “We’re going to starve the beast,” she said.
McCaughey’s message then moved into other fiscal issues and what she described as a bloated federal budget, including the money spent on foreign aid. This perpetual enemy of conservatives was again used as a punching bag, as she noted that aid will increase 50 percent over the next five years. “We need it right here at home,” said McCaughey.
In New York State the big fiscal message was the repeal of the state’s corporate tax in the upper 50 counties. McCaughey said this proposal would attract businesses, which would increase revenue through personal income and sales taxes.
The big news for the future, though, was when McCaughey asked if she would run against U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in 2012, when she runs for her first full term.
McCaughey, who seemed happy to be asked the question, said, “I would consider it.”
(A version of this article appeared online in the Daily Gazette at http://www.dailygazette.com/news/2011/jan/31/0131_health/)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Senate Tax Cap Supported by Unshackle Upstate

The New York State Senate introduced a tax cap bill on Saturday (which they back dated for Friday so they could pass it on Monday) at the behest of Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
While many fiscally conservative groups have come out in support of this idea, UnShackle Upstate is the first organization to endorse the actual proposal.
The group implores New Yorkers to encourage their state senator to vote for the bill, which they characterized as a "loud and clear response" to the state's heavy tax burden.
As evidence of the proposal's merit the group lists a series of points in its favor:
- 48 states have some form of limits on property taxes
- Our neighbor Massachusetts demonstrates Property Tax Cap success:
- Property tax burden has dropped from #3 to #33 in the nation
- State funding for local schools has stayed strong -- #5 to 7 in the nation
- Student achievement among the highest in the nation
- Funding less stable in lower-income cities without diverse tax bases

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Taxman gets 21st Century

As a consequence of New York's desire to pinch pennies the Tax Department is encouraging citizens to embrace the technological era we live in and file their taxes electronically.
(In a release littered in typos) the department estimates that if every eligible taxpayer, which is about 10 million people, filed electronically it would save approximately $20 million in processing costs each year.
According to a source in the department, those processing costs go to Bank of America, who essentially turn paper filings into electronic copies. He said the department is trying to reduce their reliance on this outside contractor and hopefully get the number of paper filers low enough that the state could process all the paper filings.
People who file electronically must use specific computer software (think TurboTax) in order for the IRS or the state to process the form.
This practice is a growing trend in New York, with paper forms declining nearly 10 percent last year. The department hopes to match that figure.
The release cites numerous personal benefits for people who e-file:
1. No trip to the post office (but you will have to go to a store and buy the tax software).
2. Your return will be accurate and will be processed faster, which means you could get your refund faster (or a quicker notice concerning owed taxes).
3. Your information is protected (because no one has ever cracked the internet).
Ok, so I may seem down on electronic filing, but I'm actually just down on this release from the Tax Department. They simply should have said: THE STATE HAS NO MONEY AND WE CAN SAVE MONEY IF YOU USE YOUR COMPUTER! DO IT OR WE'LL RAISE YOUR TAXES!
It works because it's reasonable and fear mongering.
Now enjoy this Beatles cartoon that ends in them singing George Harrison's TAXMAN...

The Fun in Unfunded Mandates

In the wake of a bill introduced by Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Rockville Centre, earlier today, a related bill has been introduced that seems to be its partner in crime.
Senate Bill 2707 has been introduced by Stephen Saland, and it would essentially require the state to pick up the tab for any mandates on local municipalities and school districts. (GOD I NEED BILL MEMOS! This stuff is indecipherable without them!)
The intent of the bill is to prevent "irresponsible state actions" that take away the control from local municipalities.
The bill would basically prevent any unfunded mandates that create an additional cost for a municipality or school district.
It is likely that this bill will be passed on Monday, as it seems to go hand in hand with SB 2706. There are currently no companion bills in the Assembly for either bills, and it is doubtful that Speaker Sheldon Silver would ever let these bills pass, let alone come up for a vote in his chamber.
It should make for great theater though...

School Tax Cap Introduced:Updated

On Saturday the Senate introduced a bill (SB 2706) from Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Rockville, which establishes limitations upon school district and local government tax levies.
According to the bill's text, it was introduced at the behest of the Gov. Andrew Cuomo, and it likely represents his opening gambit before he unveils his budget on Tuesday. While it hasn't been scheduled for a committee meeting yet, the bill was back dated for Friday so it will have aged enough to pass on Monday.
The bill seems to exempt New York City from these restrictions on tax levies, but the rest of the language is jargon that goes way above my head.
I have deciphered the fact that a local government can exceed the tax levy with a 2/3 majority vote of that local government body.
There are other exceptions in the bill, like when two organizations consolidate.
For the entire bill language go to the Assembly Public Info site and input the bill "s2706". If anyone has added insight into this legislation, leave a comment or shoot me a tweet @poozer87.
A teacher in Western New York had this comment: "all they will do with this tax cap is make small school districts and town government go bankrupt so that they can force them to consolidate."

Restrooms for the Public!

Tired of stores refusing to offer access to their restrooms? Well in the New York envisioned by Assemblyman Steven Englebright (and the parents of small children everywhere), businesses would not be allowed to deny the public access to the restroom designated for paying customers only.
Englebright has reintroduced (AB 3768), an old failure from the past that has never had a senate companion or advanced out of the Economic Development Committee.
What's really interesting about the proposal is that the memorandum for the bill doesn't lay out a justification. That section on the memo just lays out the summary of provisions, probably because the justification would simply revolve around the needs of small children and senior citizens.
If businesses choose to not comply with this provision (if somehow it became law), they would have to pay $500 per denial.
And who says New York is hostile to businesses? Oh yeah, anyone who knows about Assemblyman Englebright.

DaNews from DiNapoli

Am I the only one who thinks it is a little sad that Comptroller Tom DiNapoli essentially puts out his own newsletter? It's sort of like how Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb has a weekly address, except DiNapoli always seems to be touting a minor accomplishment or warning of impending economic doom. At least Kolb keeps it simple with his party's talking points.
One of the interesting highlights is the revelation that state tax collections still lag behind payouts for certain programs, which has resulted in a reliance on delayed payouts for programs like STAR.
On a different note, it appears that the state paid nearly $239,000 for health insurance benefits for deceased or ineligible retirees. ABout half that money has since been recovered.
And finally, if you're not sitting down you might want to, because DiNapoli is now releasing Weekly State General Fund Cash Watch Numbers!!!
“Taxpayers should know what’s going on with the state’s finances,” DiNapoli said. “Every week we’ll post the cash watch on the State Comptroller’s website.”
He said that people are focused on next year's budget gap, but are ignoring the challenges in the present fiscal year, which ends on March 31. "In the next three months, the state is facing a General Fund budget gap of well more than $1 billion. If no action is taken, the General Fund cash situation could become very precarious and next year’s budget gap could reach $11 billion. We have to monitor this situation very carefully," said DiNapoli.
For Week Ended January 7, 2011*
General Fund Balance on 1/1/11:
$3.142 billion
Receipts & Transfers from Other Funds:
$25.93 million**
Disbursements & Transfer to Other Funds:
($1.18 billion)
General Fund Cash Balance 1/7/11:
$1.986 billion

The State Comptroller’s office processes approximately 232,000 state payments daily. In State Fiscal Year 2009-10, it processed more than 76 million payments totaling approximately $107 billion.

*This information is a summary of weekly activity recorded in the state’s accounting system and does not include post-closing adjustments, which will be reflected in the Comptroller’s monthly Cash Report.

**General Fund receipts are reduced by $2.4 billion to reflect the deposit of personal income tax receipts into the State Special Revenue Fund to finance School Tax Relief Fund (STAR) payments to schools that were made on Jan. 3, 2011, which were delayed from December.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Sampson's Whimper

In a response to Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos', R-Rockville Centre, victory lap on Thursday, Senate Minority Leader John Sampson has reiterated his cry baby posture.
Characterizing the potential rules changes as a brazen power grab, Sampson scoffed at the idea that Skelos was promoting an era of bipartisanship. Skelos had argued that because he had elevated three minority members to committee chair posts, which is more than ever in the past, he was essentially extending a meaningful olive branch.
"True bipartisanship is not about responding to the pleas of politicians for committee chairs," said Sampson.
His more weighty allegation was that the Republicans were introducing a constitutional crises by removing power from the Lt. Governor's position, just because it is currently held by a Democrat.
He said, "It is political pandering at its worst, and something Republicans never would have attempted were the Lt. Governor a member of their party.  Threatening the integrity of our State Constitution, which has protected New Yorkers for over 200 years, is politics at its lowest form.  There must be a better way."
The rules reform are likely to pass the Rules Committee on Monday, when all the Republicans members will be present. They will then probably pass the Senate with all of the Republicans voting in favor and possibly some of the Independent Dems who were awarded committee chairs.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Majority RULES in the NYS Senate

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Rockville Centre, released a letter today for Minority Leader John Sampson, which basically tells his Democratic colleague, "Tough."
The disagreement stems from an attempt on Tuesday by the Senate Republicans to pass a series of rules changes, which would have the impact of lessening the authority of the lieutenant governor and would ease some term limit restrictions. The changes stalled (temporarily) in the rules committee on Tuesday, when one Republican on the committee was missing from the 85 minute meeting. Because Republicans couldn't muster 13 votes, the proposal ended up being pulled by the chair.
Now, though, Skelos has said that the rules changes will happen in the upcoming week, as they advance out of committee and to the floor. "I expect that these rules will also pass the Senate with bipartisan support," he said.
In addition to accusing Democrats of delaying the senate from acting on critical issues, like the looming budget deficit, Skelos argued that he was actually being more conciliatory than his immediate predecessor. Specifically, he cited the assignment of committee chairs as evidence of his bipartisan approach.
"I have selected three Democrats to serve as committee chairs, which is more members of the minority party than any Majority Leader has ever chosen to head up Senate Standing committees," said Skelos.
The rules meeting has not been scheduled yet, which is in keeping with the impromptu nature of these meetings.

Malfeasance for Malfeasance's Sake

In order to prevent a future economic crises like the one New York is currently engaged in, Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, has introduced the O.U.T. of Debt Act.
The legislation would require the Comptroller to be immediately notified of any over-expenditure of taxpayer monies and that all leftover funds are allocated to the general fund to pay down debt
“For New York’s government it should be O.U.T. with end of the year spending binges. Too many agencies attempt to empty their coffers at the end of the year to justify their budgets. This is when deficits build up,” said Tedisco.
“Oftentimes, a state agency will have a small amount of money left over at the end of the year and unilaterally go on a last minute spending binge. Pretty soon this impulse spending adds up to big dollars."
One recent offender, according to Tedisco, was the senate democrats, who overspent on their staff by $10 million. He also cited $1.2 million in so-called “discretionary” raises at the end of the year that were handed out by SUNY honchos.
“This bill won’t erase New York’s $10 billion deficit on its own, but it will provide the kind of spending transparency the state needs to get out of debt and save taxpayers from getting fleeced by end of the year spending sprees,” said Tedisco.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sneak Peak from State of the Union

President Barack Obama has released some of his remarks for his State of the Union address. He says the way forward is through bipartisan efforts, because we have to, considering how hard the challenges ahead are.
Here is the rest of his prepared remarks that been leaked:
At stake right now is not who wins the next election – after all, we just had an election. At stake is whether new jobs and industries take root in this country, or somewhere else. It’s whether the hard work and industry of our people is rewarded. It’s whether we sustain the leadership that has made America not just a place on a map, but a light to the world. We are poised for progress. Two years after the worst recession most of us have ever known, the stock market has come roaring back. Corporate profits are up. The economy is growing again.

But we have never measured progress by these yardsticks alone. We measure progress by the success of our people. By the jobs they can find and the quality of life those jobs offer. By the prospects of a small business owner who dreams of turning a good idea into a thriving enterprise. By the opportunities for a better life that we pass on to our children. That’s the project the American people want us to work on. Together.

Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a satellite called Sputnik¸ we had no idea how we’d beat them to the moon. The science wasn’t there yet. NASA didn’t even exist.

But after investing in better research and education, we didn’t just surpass the Soviets; we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs.

This is our generation’s Sputnik moment.


I'm guessing that he will also say, "The State of our Union is Strong, but it got a little weaker with the passing of Jack Lalanne."

Angry Musical Chairs

The fallout from yesterday's flap over seating in the senate and allegations of racism continued in earnest and in jest today.
The latter came in the form of a tweet from Sen. Kevin Parker, who tweeted, "So, where am I sitting in the Chamber today? :-)" While he has no fun poking fun at his colleague right now, it is hard to imagine that Parker would be ok with people ribbing him for his declarations of racism in the past, which have included him threatening to fight people in committee.
On the more serious end of the spectrum, Republican Sen. Joseph Robach and Democratic Sen. Joe Addabbo had a frank talk this morning in the Legislative Office Building. Robach's message was essentially, not cool man. Not cool.

McDonald Races Ahead

Senator Roy McDonald, R-Saratoga, came out swinging during today's Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee.
"Last year I was too nice," said McDonald, in a committee meeting that was supposed to revolve around the testimony of New York State Racing and Wagering Board Chairman John Sabini.
“It cannot be tolerated again,” said McDonald, in regards to the ambiguity surrounding last year’s meet and changes to the distribution of Video Lottery Terminal money that shifted millions away from the Saratoga Springs area. “It will not be tolerated again.”
Sabini sidestepped McDonald’s host of complaints, as he subtly seemed to characterize the senator’s virulent defense of his constituency as trivial and beside the point.
“The problem with racing is that we fight over the crumbs,” said Sabini. “No one ever tries to make the pie bigger.”
The meeting then touched on the future of Off-Track Betting, the possible expansion of VLTS and how to expand interest in New York horse racing.
When the discussion seemed to stall on generating more revenue from betting, McDonald interjected that they were missing an outlet by not promoting family oriented fun. He argued that the I Love New York program should be utilized to encourage tourism spending in conjunction with racecourse activities.
All in all, though, the senator found the meeting to be very positive. “These meetings are going to be more open than they have been in the last couple years and we’re going to be driving right to the point,” said McDonald, who felt he had been too nice in defending his racing interests last year.
Now, he said, “I’m not going to be pulling any punches.”

Sunday, January 23, 2011

New Yorkers Endorse Cuomo's Agenda

On Tuesday the Siena Research Institute released a poll that surveyed New Yorkers on a variety of issues supported by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
His most popular position is closing the $10 billion budget deficit without borrowing money or raising taxes, with 87 percent of those polled in his corner. One can only imagine how well other imaginary positions would have polled, like a Championship for the Knicks...
Luckily the poll avoided the hard question New YOrkers don't want to face, which is whether they support cutting services to close the budget deficit. I'm guessing people wouldn't endorse that one with the same tenacity as their support for impossible positions.
Here is a list of the other issues that were raised and the results (you need to actually click on it to see the numbers. Whoops!):


To the poll's credit, though, it does ask voters how likely it is that the government will realize Cuomo's agenda.
Most likely because of the GOP controlled Senate and Cuomo's fiscal conservatism, 68 percent of New Yorkers believe the state will become more business friendly. What that really means is that people think there won't be new regulations, fees or taxes on business, but I digress.
The property tax cap is also viewed as a real possibility, with 60 percent of voters believing in its likelihood. It stands to reason that the other 40 percent have met the New York State Assembly.
The big issue, of new taxes to close the budget deficit, is one that New Yorkers oppose, but believe will happen. Only 43 percent of voters believe that there will be no new tax increases in the budget, compared to 38 percent thinking taxes are likely going to be raised and 19 percent believing with certainty that there will be tax hikes.
Oddly enough 51 percent of voters believed that nonpartisan redistricting is likely to become law, which makes me believe that 51 percent of people polled don't know what the word "self-interest" means.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Backpack bill

Democratic Assemblyman Dennis H. Gabryszak has your kid's back. At least he wants to lighten the load on their back, as laid out by a bill (AB 6857) he has reintroduced that would study the effects of heavy backpacks on elementary school students.
The bill's memo suggests that some kids are carrying backpacks that weigh 40 pounds or more, and can contain "textbooks, binders, calculators, personal computers, lunches, a change of clothing, sports equipment and more." (Seems like that student is a hungry fashion conscious geek jock.)
Citing a 1999 study that declared "3,400 pupils between 5 and 14 years of age, inclusive, sought treatment in hospital emergency rooms for injuries related to backpacks or book bags," Gabryszak argues that we need to study whether this trend is occurring in New York too.
Interestingly enough, the bill doesn't propose lowering the weight in backpacks while the study is being conducted. Also, the assemblyman doesn't offer any suggestions about how to solve the problem (if it exists at all).

State Layoffs? PEFFFF

The New York State Public Employees Federation has basically told Gov. Andrew Cuomo to rethink a proposal he floated this week that the state might need to layoff between 10,000 and 15,000 employees.
In a statement on Thursday, PEF President Kenneth Brynien said his organization understood the state's drastic fiscal crisis, but rejected the idea of massive firings.
"It would have a chilling effect on the state's economy and undermine the state's fragile recovery. We should all be working together to create jobs, not more layoffs," said Brynien.
"If the goal is to cut costs, PEF has several suggestions on how to achieve savings without damaging state services and harming the dedicated public employees who provide them. What cannot be lost in this debate is this is not just a spending problem, it is a revenue problem."
This release seems to embody a growing hostility between labor organizations and the Cuomo administration. On Wednesday morning during the Mandate Relief Team's meeting, CSEA's Fran Turner went on the defensive about labor benefits.
Remarks from her and NYSUT representatives were sparked by other teammates who suggested something needs to be done about pension costs. THe threats against union workers included team chairman Larry Schwartz's suggestion that there might be a Tier 6 negotiation.
The response from the labor people was essentially that the state needs to take advantage of low hanging fruit savings in technology advances and health care.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Goodbye Kaitlyn Ross

Today will always be remembered by the Capital Region, and not because some Bears fan named Barry visited, but because it is the final day of work for Capital Tonight reporter Kaitlyn Ross.
The self-described "Gentle Giant," gained fame during the past election season with her prolific texting under the handle kaitlynross1 and through a cellphone video she captured of Carl Paladino and Fred Dicker.
Ross stood out from her peers because she wore her emotions on her sleeve, like on Primary Night in 2010 when she got swept away in Paladino pandemonium. "It's important to have a personality," said Ross, in an interview during the fall. "It's important to pepper yourself in with your stories."
This strategy worked for Ross, who had an infectious smile and charmed viewers and interviewees alike.
On one such occasion, she recounted how Jimmy McMillan ended up offering to let her tickle his toes, after he had previously promised to perform verbal jujitsu on her.
I personally was awestruck by how nice she was to me, even though I should have been treated like an annoying fan, who didn't know how to mind my place. (The last time I saw her she greeted me with a hug.)
This was echoed by Liz Benjamin, who said, "Kaitlyn is our ambassador. She's possibly the nicest person in our [work] pod."
Ross was also well liked by her colleagues in the capitol, as evident by this recent tweet from TU reporter Jimmy Vielkind: "@kaitlynross1 I'm really going to miss you, Kait. On behalf of all of us at @TUCapCon, God speed and be in touch." In fact, since it was made public (on my twitter feed) that Ross was leaving for Florida, her account has received numerous signs of support and well wishes.

She previously commented on the close bond she and her colleagues share, which stemmed all the time they spend together. After a hectic day in the capitol, Ross said the inevitable question would be, "Where are we going?"
Unfortunately the answer is now Florida, but Ross is going by herself. She will be missed.

Cox Rains on GE/Obama Parade

New York State Republican Party Chairman Ed Cox released a statement today in response to President Barack Obama's visit to the GE plant in Schenectady, in which he said the president put on a publicity stunt.
Cox alleges that the president has no reason to take any credit for the GE deal with India that served as the backdrop for the visit. "It wasn't President Obama's deal. GE's record of innovation, its quality products and American workers made this deal possible," said Cox.
Additionally, the chairman said that reckless spending, regulations and photo ops don't create jobs.
He also lambasted the president for not mentioning the extension of the Bush-era tax cuts (because obviously this was the right time to do that?).
Regarding the new Jobs Council that the president created, which will be led by GE CEO and Chairman Jeff Immelt, Cox said it was just like all the other commissions the president had created.
"This commission, like the more than a dozen other councils and commissions he has created during his administration, is a publicity stunt meant to divert attention from his lavish spending policies and a failure to create an environment where businesses can grow."
On the whole, this statement from Cox seems to have the timeliness and meaning of Sarah Palin's erratic webcast last Wednesday.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

This Should Happen

I am totally invested in this future. It should run after Capital Tonight, before Capital Tonight or just for 5 minutes inserted into an episode of Capital Tonight.

Easy As 1,2, TAX CUT!

On Wednesday the NYS Senate, now back under control of the Republicans, successfully passed the JOB CREATION & TAXPAYER PROTECTION ACT of 2011. This three prong approach to reviving the state's economy and alleviating the burden on taxpayers hit all of the GOP's talking points.
The first part was Sen. Jim Alesi's extensive list of tax cuts (SB 1891), which included a credit that will equal the amount of withholding generated from each new employee that is hired by a business, eliminated the personal income tax surcharge one year early for small businesses and offered a manufacturing tax cut.
The effect of the bill will be at least a shortfall of $400 million, according to the bill's memo.
The second part was from Sen. Mike Ranzenhofer (SB 1892), which would amend the constitution so that it would include a spending cap.
The final bill (SB 1919) was from freshman Sen. Zeldin, who doesn't get a first name until I can remember it, which would make it necessary for a 2/3 majority for any future tax increases.
Local Sen. Roy McDonald, R-Saratoga, voted in favor of all the provisions, but acknowledged that they might not all work. “It’s time to push for new measures, some may work and others may not, but it’s necessary that we start this extremely important dialogue," said McDonald.
The conversation must now continue in the Assembly where none of these bills have a chance of passing. Oh divided gov't, you are a fickle b@*$#.

Nanny State 2

Just because he can, Assemblyman Felix Ortiz has reintroduced a piece of legislation (AB 1059) which would require skiers to wear protective helmets when skiing in New York State.
This bill comes on the heel of previous bills that are aimed at saving New Yorkers from themselves.
But that's not all, because people of the state are small children, Ortiz covered his bases by requiring ski resorts to make helmets available for rental and purchase as well as educational information regarding ski accident injury.
The recent death at Windham Mountain was responsible for reinvigorating Ortiz's conviction about this issue (and possibly providing political capital).
“This young woman’s death is one of many that could have been prevented by the use of a protective helmet. Her unfortunate death is a tragedy that should have never occurred. I am hopeful that my bill, A.1059, will pass during this 2011 legislative session,” stated Ortiz.
There is no indication whether Ortiz will push to eliminate downhill skiing for the much safer cross country skiing. Additionally, sledding is still legal in most of the state.

Hospital Modernization Efforts At Risk

On Wednesday U.S Senators Charles E. Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand and Reps. Brian Higgins (D-NY) and Peter King (R-NY) voiced concerns about "foot dragging" by federal officials that put billions of dollars for hospital construction at risk.
In 2006 New York was awarded $2.5 billion for capital improvements at hospitals and health care facilities across New York State, with the stipulation that the projects needed to be completed by September 30th, 2011. The four representatives from New York are alleging that red tape at the state and federal levels delayed construction on projects, which means that many projects across the state are in danger of being stopped in their tracks.
According to a letter the New Yorkers sent to Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob J. Lew: Current regulations require the projects to be finished by the deadline or funding will be cut off. The program through which these 350 projects in NY are being funded is called Federal-State Health Reform Program (F-SHRP). The program provides help to modernize hospitals and create jobs across the state by investing in infrastructure projects. The F-SHRP program’s goals are to promote the efficient operation of the State’s health care system; consolidate and right-size New York’s health care system by reducing excess capacity in the acute care system; shift emphasis in long-term care from institutional-based to community-based settings; expand the adoption of advanced health information technology and improve ambulatory and primary care provision.
“This program invests now in projects that create jobs in the short-term and maximizes taxpayer savings in the medium and long-term,” said Schumer. “This aims to give New York the most up to date and cost-effective hospitals so that patients can receive the highest level of care at the lowest possible cost. Putting a halt to these job-creating projects because of an arbitrary deadline, particularly when the hospitals themselves are not at fault, makes no sense.”
Senator Gillibrand said, "The waiver should absolutely be extended. These are exactly the kind of solutions we need right now. It is common sense."
They said that projects at St. Francis Hospital in Poughkeepsie, NY; St. Joseph’s Hospital in Syracuse; Bassett Healthcare Network in Little Falls, NY; Oswego Health in Oswego, NY; will be particularly hard hit.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Minute 12 of Fame

You Really Like Me!

A poll from the Siena Research Institute that was released on Monday reveals that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has a 70 percent positive rating among New Yorkers and that 66 percent of voters in the state trust the new governor to do the right thing.
“After two weeks as Governor, Cuomo’s honeymoon is in full swing, as he gets strong marks from voters by every measure. For the first time in more than a year, 70 percent of voters have a favorable view of Cuomo, while only 17 percent view him unfavorably, the lowest since August 2009. He is viewed favorably by 78 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of Republicans; 73 percent of downstaters and 65 percent of upstaters; and even 53 percent of conservatives,” said Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg. “A plurality of voters, 44 percent, says he’s doing an excellent or good job as governor, compared to 28 percent who say he’s doing a fair or poor job.
Cuomo's ratings represent a stark contrast with the state's view of the state senate, which is viewed positively by 33 percent of New Yorkers, and the assembly, which is viewed positively by 29 percent of the state.
Part of Cuomo's strength lies in the perception held by a majority of New Yorkers that he is a moderate political figure. This label is not likely to last very long, though, as Cuomo is it is a product of his limited actions as governor. Give him time and he'll be viewed as just another liberal by people he angers.
So far his actions, which have been primarily symbolic have been well received. People apparently like his metaphorical openness and see meaning in his five percent executive chamber budget cut.
“Symbolism matters. By a better than two-to-one margin, voters agree with Cuomo’s decision to reduce his and his staff’s pay by five percent. They call it a good example, not grandstanding. At least two-thirds of voters from every region and party concur,” Greenberg said. “And nearly half of voters – including a majority of Democrats, women and downstaters – believe that in one year Cuomo will have succeeded in making Albany considerably less dysfunctional and getting Republicans and Democrats to work better together. However, a nearly equal number, 46 percent, think that Albany will still be way too dysfunctional, despite Cuomo’s good intentions.”

Friday, January 14, 2011

Environmental Funding Makes Strange Bedfellows

Business & Green groups in New York have teamed up to implore that Gov. Andrew Cuomo restores environmental funding, including a 40 percent cut to Environmental Protection Fund in last year's budget and a 20 percent budget cut to the state's environmental agencies.
Proponents for increased funding include The Chamber Alliance of New York State, New York State Pollution Prevention Institute, New York State Association for Reduction, Reuse and Recycling, New York Farm Bureau, Empire State Forest Products Association, and dozens of members of the We Love New York campaign to restore environmental funding, including The Nature Conservancy New York and Environmental Advocates of New York.
They will be assembling on Tuesday at 11 a.m. in the LCA Press Room to voice their concerns. They argue the following problems as a result of the cuts:

As a result of these deep cuts, the Department of Environmental Conservation is no longer able to adequately monitor air and water pollution, clean up toxic oil and chemical spills, and provide necessary permits for new businesses in a timely manner. The Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation has been forced to shutter parks. Local governments, farmers and not-for-profits working in partnership with the state have been left hanging as they wait for payments for projects already underway.

No Senate Companion for FOIL Bill

On Wednesday, Assemblyman George Latimer's bill (AB 68) on speeding up the FOIL process, will meet its first hurdle as it goes to the Assembly Governmental Operations Committee.
The bill, which is aimed at expediting the appeals process after a trial court has found in favor of a FOIL request action. Traditionally, this period has been responsible for delays as long as 9 months.
Latimer argued that this delay could create a restriction of rights to an individual or make moot the purpose of a FOIL request.
THe future of this proposition is not in doubt in the Assembly, where it was easily passed twice in the last two years. Even in the Senate last year, the companion version by former Sen. Craig Johnson breezed through committee.
The problem is that Johnson is gone, and no companion bill has yet to be proposed, and that Johnson's measure was basically unsuccessful last Spring. It never actually failed a floor vote, but I've got a feeling that's because it was never given a chance to fail.
Now advocates of reform, like Me and Myself, are worried that the Senate will never champion this cause, as Senate Republicans have never been the saviors of open information. To their credit, though, we have confirmed that Skelos and his white brethren have kept around the Overlord of Openness Andrew Hoppin, the Senate's CIO.
So now we play the waiting game.... The waiting game sucks, let's play hungry hungry hippos!

State GOP Slams Senate Dems

Republican State Chairman Ed Cox lambasted the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee on Thursday for allegations that have surfaced regarding the committee's unscrupulous handling of its finances during the past election season.
"Senate Democrats have grossly mismanaged the taxpayers' money and their contributors' money," said Cox. "Under the leadership of Senators Sampson, Smith and Espada, they even overspent their own Senate operations budget by a staggering sum - almost $14 million - and their campaign committee is $3 million in the red."
Cox characterized donation requests by the Senate Democrats at this point as akin to asking for someone to buy the Brooklyn Bridge. He added that they are lost in the woods, but lack the funds for a compass or a map (obviously enjoying the chance to come up with such fun metaphors).

Amedore Ranked

Local Assemblyman George Amedore, R-Rotterdam, has been named the Ranking Member on the Assembly Energy Committee, in addition to assignments on the Assembly Agriculture, Insurance, and Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Committees.
Amedore said he was chosen for the Energy Committee because Minority Leader Brian Kolb recognized the causes he has been fighting for and is aware of his vision to utilize energy policy for the state's turnaround.
“New energy development is going to be a vital contribution to our economy as we move forward,” said Amedore. “Alternative energy technologies bring high-tech, well-paying jobs and are the next boom for New York State and the nation. If we can learn to harness this new wave and effectively translate that into the private sector growth, New York can once again be the leader among other states in alternative energy jobs, research, development and efficiency.”
On the prospect of working with Democratic Committee Chair Kevin Cahill, Amedore said there are areas where they agree and areas where they respectfully disagree. "He and I have a friendship established over the last 36 months and I'm optimistic about working with him," said Amedore.
Amedore did not comment on, and I didn't ask him, whether he looks forward to constantly saying "Minority in the Negative" over and over again as the Ranker on Energy.

Tedisco's Assignments

Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, has been assigned to the Assembly Economic Development, Cities, and Racing and Wagering Committees.
As the floor whip for his party Tedisco didn't expect any ranking positions on committees, but he said he is happy to be on Racing and Wagering, where he hopes to advance a bill that would return VLT money to Saratoga County.
The bill, which is currently referred to the Ways and Means Committee, might need to pass through Racing and Wagering too, but Tedisco is prepared. "I'll make the case in that committee too," he said.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Sampson Cranky

Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson is not pleased with the breakaway conference.
(Video courtesy of INSIDE CITY HALL)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Anti-Robert Byrd Memorial Highway Gym Library Park

Assemblyman Rory Lancman, D-Queens, has introduced a bill that would prohibit legislators from naming facilities after themselves while they are still in office.
This legislation is aimed at preventing the perception of any quid pro quo agreements between elected officials and entities that receive state funds. It would also try to serve to remove another existing advantage that incumbent elected officials are able to enjoy in New York State.
The bill (AB 203) was previously introduced in 2010 and failed to make any headway in the Assembly. Its companion in the senate was either held by the sponsor, former Sen. Craig Johnson, or held for consideration.
This is the kind of bill that I can imagine making a senior member or committee chair say, "Not Over My Dead Body."

Filing Date Extended

The NYS Department of Taxation and Finance today announced that taxpayers will have until April 18 to file their 2010 personal income tax returns.
The decision comes on the heels of the Internal Revenue Service announcing an extension of its deadline.
Taxpayers requesting an extension will have until October 17 to file their 2010 taxes.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Felix's Nanny State

Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, D-Brooklyn, has introduced a series of bills that would help New York become the premier nanny state in the nation.
Ortiz's pursuit to protect people from themselves recently manifested itself in a FOUR LOKO awareness video, in which he pounded them with abandon until he vomited.
Now Ortiz has introduced a bill that would eliminate expiration dates on gift certificates (AB 1604), a bill that prohibits the advertisement of alcoholic beverages during television broadcasts of sporting events (AB 1607) and a bill that requires automobiles sold in this state with model year 2013 and thereafter to be equipped with a blind spot monitoring device (AB 1605).
I haven't scoured through all of his bills for this session, but I wouldn't be surprised if he has one that mandates flossing or one that prohibits beer from being served in glasses larger 6 oz.
Luckily for the freedom loving citizens of the Empire State, these proposals have never progressed in the past and are likely to go nowhere in the future.
I'm not sure what this says about Ortiz's political philosophy, but I definitely think he wouldn't describe himself as wanting to be "New York's cool dad."

NYS Senate Chairs Crowned

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Rockville Centre, has announced the chairs for the standing committees in the Senate.
As reported earlier on 22 Miles From The Capitol, Sen. Farley has not taken over Senate Banks, but Senator Joe Griffo will be at the helm with Farley as his Vice-Chair. Farley, who will have some sort of central leadership position, is not the chair of any committee, including Aging, where he used to have some sway.
In local interest, the Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee went to Sen. John Bonacic, even though Sen. Roy McDonald, R-Saratoga, requested it. He acknowledged last Wednesday that it would probably go to Bonacic, who has seniority in the conference. McDonald did not acknowledge that he might also be passed over because he has an independent streak that the leadership might not be keen on.McDonald did receive the chairmanship of the Mental Health committee, which is presumably where he will be able to shepherd through autism legislation.
Bonacic is also one of three Senators pulling down double duty, as he will also be Chair of the Judiciary committee.
The Republican staffing seems to have dealt a blow to the future of nonpartisan redistricting, as the makeup of the Senate Investigations and Government Operations committee is not too friendly to Valesky's bill (SB 660) on the issue.
Already in a past session, two of the current GOP members voted without recommendation on the proposal. This isn't a full out rebuke of the measure, but its not exactly a warm welcome. In the bill's favor, though, is the fact that Big Cheese Tom Libous has supported the bill in the past.
Full list of committee chairs and Republican members:
majoritycommitteeassignments[1]

Equal Staffing Bill Introduced (Again) in Assembly

Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, has reintroduced a bill in the assembly that has been floated over ten times since 1992.
The bill (AB 1487) requires the equal distribution of legislative staff and resources for every member of the legislature, and it has never even come up for a vote in any past session. Every year the bill is referred to the committee on Governmental Operations, where it is usually not addressed or is held for consideration, which is code for, "THIS WILL NOT BE CONSIDERED."
The bill is aimed at ending an unbalanced dynamic that rewards the majority party members with an uneven amount of staffing compared to their peers in the minority, even though they have a comparable number of constituents (as is argued in the bill's memorandum).
In the assembly this reality is reflective of an overwhelming ineffective minority, which is a pointless objector to the whims of Speaker Sheldon Silver and his huge majority.
Tedisco's bill would call for an even split of the current resources, with members in leadership posts or committee chairs receiving extra staff, with the caveat that they can't be used for constituent services.
This is the type of bill that exposes a reality that makes people shake their head in disgust, but doesn't actually motivate them to care at all. It is that sad truth that allows Assemblywoman RoAnn M. Destito, the chair of the governmental operations committee, the freedom to refrain from even considering the bill in her committee.
This bill has no companion in the Senate, where equal distribution of resources was never even considered until the aftermath of the Senate Coup in 2009, when a more equitable distribution of resources was realized.
Anyway, if you've made it this far in the blog post, then I apologize for wasting your time, because my rant should be held for consideration while I wake up to the corrupt system I'm living in.
Time to watch Jersey Shore now. Night.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Politics is Funny

Fred Armisan may not have perfected his Barack Obama, but it is much much better than his Michael Bloomberg impersonation. For some reason, though, this skit is still funny.

NYS Senate Heroes Promise Action! (updated)

NYS Senate Democrats called on their Republican counterparts today to join with them and pass the tenets of Former NYC Mayor Ed Koch's "New York Uprising Heroes of Reform pledge," as the senate's first order of business in the new year.
“Keep your promise. Pass the pledge,” said Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson, referring to Republicans who signed Koch's pledge during the election season and joined the team of super friends that were supposedly championing reform.


The reforms in the New York Uprising pledge will allegedly:
• Create an independent redistricting commission so legislators can no longer draw their own districts.
• Strengthen ethics and disclosure laws and create an independent oversight commission to improve the standards of conduct and accountability for all elected officials.
• Take the politics out of budgeting to stop the practice of fiscal manipulation that encourages the state to spend more than it has.


Of the current senate's 62 members, 53 of them have committed to the reforms.
The bill for redistricting was proposed this year by Senator David Valesky(SB 660) and was referred to the committee on Senate Investigations & Government Operations. It was previously introduced by Valesky in 2009, when it failed to gain any traction, and again in 2010 when it died in the Senate Finance Committee.

Update: NYS Senate did nothing today.

New Personnel and Priorities for NYS Bar

New York State Bar Association has a hired a new director of Media Services & Public Affairs and laid out their legislative priorities for the 2011 session.
Regarding the latter, the NYSBA called on lawmakers to provide greater access to the justice system for the indigent, to ensure that marriage equality is afforded to same-sex couples, and to reform government ethics.
"A core mission of the State Bar Association is to provide a voice for members of the legal profession and for the public," said President Stephen P. Younger. "Whether it is advocating for effective counsel for indigent New Yorkers or seeking equal legal rights for all citizens, we are committed to enhancing citizens' trust and confidence in our justice system and government institutions. We look forward to working with Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature to ensure that every New Yorker has full and equal access to the justice system."
Regarding the hiring change,Lise Bang-Jensen is now responsible for managing the Department of Media Services and Public Affairs and advancing the Bar Association's objectives.
Prior to joining the State Bar, Bang-Jensen served as senior policy analyst and communications manager for the Empire Center for New York State Policy. She co-hosted "Inside Albany" for 19 years after serving as a Capitol reporter for the Knickerbocker News.
(On a personal note, Lise was very helpful with the first big article I put together at the Daily Gazette.)

Obama postpones local trip

President Obama has announced that he is postponing his trip to Schenectady following the tragic shooting in Arizona on Saturday morning.
Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, endorsed the president's decision.
“President Obama has made the right decision to postpone his trip to Schenectady due to the national tragedy in Arizona," said Tedisco.
"Right now, all of our thoughts and prayers are with Congresswoman Giffords, her family and the family and friends of all the victims of this senseless violence.There will be plenty of time to celebrate good news in Schenectady and when the President is able to reschedule his visit, I look forward to welcoming him to the Capital Region.”
The date of the president's trip has not yet been rescheduled.

Friday, January 7, 2011

UB 2020. It's Back....

New York State Senator George Maziarz, R-western NY, has reintroduced the UB 2020 proposal that gained notoriety when it was championed by former Senator Bill Stachowski, D-western NY.
Maziarz picked up the ball on this issue since Stachowski lost the Democratic primary to Tim Kennedy in September. It is not clear whether Kennedy, who eventually won the seat, is on board with the current legislation, as its not public yet.
The previous bill was designed to transform the University at Buffalo into a model twenty-first century public university. This transformation will reinvigorate the Western New York region, spur the local economy and improve the quality of life of its residents.
Not 100 percent sure what all that means, but a professor at SUNY Geneseo basically made it sound like Buffalo would become a major hub of the SUNY system. As a SUNY Geneseo graduate I am appalled by the idea that the SUNY world wouldn't revolve around its shining star in Geneseo.
It would appear that the current bill could pass the Senate, as it made its way through last year with 45 votes, but with 16 Republicans in opposition. Because this feels like a regional issue, based on the Republicans that supported the bill last time around, it seems like a lot of Democrats from the city will feel free to oppose the measure this time around.
Regardless, though, this proposal has never gained traction in the Assembly, so it may be dead on arrival.
(My crusade still hasn't been addressed, which is that SUNY schools are too cheap four out-of-state students. We need to jack up the rates to generate revenue and open up spots for New Yorkers. States like North Carolina rip off kids who aren't native and students still pay higher prices because they have good schools. Well guess what, so do we.)

NYS Legislature PLANS Short Session

If you didn't like the lengthy legislative sessions that New Yorkers endured in 2009 and 2010, well you can rest easy, because this year the legislature plans on spending even less time in Albany.
If things go to plan (and why not?), our elected officials will be home after June 20th, with this year's calendar including only 63 session days, which is down three from last year.
Also helping matters is the positive encouragement from Sen. Joseph Robach, who was last referenced with his proposal to split NY into two states. Robach has also proposed Senate Bill 705, which requires the legislature to be sequestered if they do not timely pass a budget.
Under Robach's vision, each member would be confined to their legislative chamber until a budget is passed, with adjournments for a meal break (seriously). The legislators would also be placed under the supervision of the state police.
This proposal was also introduced in 2010, with a companion bit of legislation from disgruntled Assemblyman Marc Schroeder. Both bills went nowhere, but here's to hoping they both pass this year. Because let's be honest, who doesn't want to see our legislators put under state police supervision? Would they be escorted on bathroom breaks? This is the kind of future we need to make a reality!

Cuomo Drafts Medicaid Redesign Team

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the members of his Medicaid Redesign Team, which was announced at the state of the State address for the purpose of finding ways to save money within the Medicaid program for the upcoming state budget for the 2011-12 Fiscal Year.
"This team is tasked with the challenge of reversing a decades' long crisis of overspending and waste in our Medicaid system," said Cuomo. "We need to come together to find solutions to bring costs down without compromising care for New Yorkers and that is exactly what this team is going to do."
The Team must submit its first report with findings and recommendations to the Governor by March 1 for consideration in the budget process. The Team shall submit quarterly reports thereafter until the end of Fiscal Year 2011-12, when it disbands.
New York State Medicaid Director Jason Helgerson will serve as the Team's executive director and the state Budget Director will serve as a non-voting member.
The rest of the team includes:
• Michael Dowling, President and CEO of North Shore LIJ Health system.

• Dennis Rivera is the former Chair of SEIU Healthcare and is currently the Senior Advisor to the International President of SEIU.

• Kenneth E. Raske is the President of the Greater New York Hospital Association.

• George Gresham is the President of 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East.

• Dan Sisto is the President of the Healthcare Association of New York State.

• Frank Branchini is the President and COO of EmblemHealth.

• Eli Feldman is the President and CEO of the Metropolitan Jewish Health System as well as the Chairman of the Continuing Care Leadership Coalition.

• Carol Raphael is the President and CEO of the Visiting Nurse Service of New York.

• Linda Gibbs is the Deputy Mayor of New York City for Health and Human Services.

• Ed Matthews is the CEO of the United Cerebral Palsy of New York City as well as the President of the Interagency Council.

• Dr. Nirav Shah is the newly nominated Commissioner of Health.

• Mike Hogan is the Commissioner for the Office of Mental Health.

• James Introne is the Deputy Secretary for Health and the Director of Healthcare Redesign.

• Max Chmura is the Acting Commissioner of the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities.

• Arlene Gonzalez-Sanchez is the newly nominated Commissioner of the Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services.

• Lara Kassel is a Coordinator at Medicaid Matters New York.

• Karen A. Ballard is the President of the New York State Nurses Association.

• Stephen J. Acquario serves as the Executive Director of the New York State Association of Counties.

• Dr. Jeffrey A. Sachs is the Co-Chair of the JFK Jr. Institute for Work Education at City University of New York.

• Ann F. Monroe is the President of the Community Health Foundation of Western and Central New York.

• Steve Berger is the former Chairman for the Commission on Health Care Facilities in the 21st Century and a board member for the Partnership for New York City.

• Dr. William Streck is the Chair of the New York State Public Health and Health Planning Council.

• Elizabeth Swain is the CEO of the Community Health Care Association of New York State.

• Senator Kemp Hannon is the former Chairman of the Senate Committees on Health and Housing. Senator Hannon was appointed by the Majority Leader of the Senate

• Senator Tom Duane is the former Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, 2009-2010. Senator Duane was appointed by the Minority Leader of the Senate.

• Assemblyman Richard N. Gottfried serves as the Chairman of the Assembly Committee on Health. Assemblyman Gottfried was appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly.

• Assemblyman Joe Giglio of the 149th Assembly District currently sits on the Medicaid Waste, Fraud and Abuse Task Force. Assemblyman Giglio was appointed by the Minority Leader of the Assembly.

Remember BP? NY DOES

The New York State Common Retirement Fund will co-lead a class action lawsuit against BP, on the basis of its poor safety practices.
NYS Comptroller Tom DiNapoli is leading the suit with the Ohio Attorney General, who represents his state's public pension funds.
"BP publicly distorted its safety procedures and its level of preparedness to respon to a catastrophe such as the Deepwater Horizon explosion, thereby misleading investors and causing the value of BP's stock to plummet when the truth was exposed," said DiNapoli.
He argued that his responsibility to bring the suit on behalf of NYS was derived from his role as the trustee of the pension fund.
BP lost approximately 40 percent of its stock price following the incident in April. The state's pension fund held about 19 million shares at that time.
In July, NYS filed for co-lead plaintiff status in the lawsuit against BP. The suit also accuses the company of misleading investors in its ability to clean up the spill in a timely manner.

Sen. McDonald's State of the State Response

A Message From Dean

It's Good to be the King

Here is a picture of new Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Rockville Centre, on the day he becomes the official leader of the Senate.

(Photo by All-Star Barry Sloan)

It's....General Electric

A white house official has confirmed that President Obama will travel to Schenectady, New York, Tuesday to visit the birthplace of General Electric.
The president will tour the Schenectady facility with GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt, and then make remarks on the importance of growing the economy and making America more competitive by investing in jobs, innovation and clean energy.
The GE plant in Schenectady is a direct beneficiary of GE's power turbine deal with India announced during the President's trip last November. The site is the home to GE's largest energy division, including steam turbines, generators, wind and solar, and the future home of GE's advanced battery manufacturing facility.
During his trip to India, the president made remarks about the importance of working with the fastest growing economies in the world to promote American business interests.
"So often when we talk about trade and commercial relationships, the question is who’s winning and who’s losing," said the president in Novemeber. "This is a classic situation in which we can all win."
President Obama then outlined a working relationship between General Electric and the India based company, Reliance.
Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, said he was thrilled that the president was visiting General Electric, which he characterized as the leader in clean energy and nanotechnology.
"General Electric is the cornerstone of our fast growing high technology industry here in the Capital Region," said Tonko. "It was recently named the third fastest growing high-tech job market in the country. This was the basis for the discussions I had with the President during his visit to Hudson Valley Community College in September of 2009.
“As the birthplace of an industrial and innovation revolution a century ago, General Electric and Schenectady combine to form an ideal backdrop for the President’s visit, and I look forward to again welcoming him to the region.”

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Aubertine Finds Life After Senate

Former Senator Darrel Aubertine, D-North Country, has been nominated by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to serve as the Commissioner of the Department of Agriculature and Markets.
Aubertine previously served as chair for the senate's Agriculture Committee and the senate's Rural Resources Commission. Before serving in the senate he spent five years in the Assembly, during which time he was the chair of the Commission on State-Local Relations.
"Darrel's experience and expertise in agriculture is unparalled," said Cuomo. "He fought for years on behalf of farmers in the state legislature and delivered real results. New York's agricultural community will thrive with Darrel at the helm of this critical department, and I thank him for his service."
The position requires approval by the senate.

Farley's Future

Senator Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, who chaired the Senate Banking Committee for years during the Republican's long stretch as the majority party, won't even acknowledge that he wants his old post again now that his party has retaken control of the chamber.
"I expect I will be in a leadership position," said Farley, while predicting that he will have a large role on the banking committee.
Farley suggested there may be some sort of financial services committee, which may regulate the consolidated agency proposed by the governor in the state of the state address, and he floated the idea that he could lead that.
For the most part, though, the senator seemed keen to promote the idea that he didn't need to be the Chair of Banking to play a major role in policy, because he could leave his imprint from a central leadership position.
Farley has already been named to the Finance Committee and the Rules Committee

Republican Composition of Finance Committee

Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Rockville Centre, has appointed Senator John A. DeFrancisco, R-Syracuse, to serve as Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
DeFrancisco previously served as the Ranking Member of the committee, during which time he gained some notoriety for his floor battles with Chairman Carl Kruger over Democratic budget maneuvers.
“I am honored that I have been named Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee,” said DeFrancisco. “This is a very important position in the Senate and for our State, given the fiscal crisis our State is facing. I am anxious and excited to begin the hard work that is needed to remedy our State’s financial situation.
Skelos commended DeFrancisco's previous work on the committee, and classified him as a stalwart fighter for exposing the problems with the state budget (remembers those battles I mentioned?).
Skelos said, "I am very confident that he will do a tremendous job leading the Senate Finance Committee, working with our conference and all the members of the Senate, as well as the Assembly and Governor Cuomo, to meet the difficult budget challenges we are facing right now.”
Senator Owen Johnson,R-Babylon, will serve as Vice Chairman of the Finance Committee, which will also include Senators Jim Alesi (R-C Perinton), John Bonacic (R-C-
I, Mount Hope), Hugh Farley (R-C, Schenectady), John Flanagan (R-C-I, East Northport), Charles Fuschillo (R, Merrick), Martin Golden (R-C, Brooklyn), Kemp Hannon (R-C, Garden City), Bill Larkin (R-C, Cornwall-on-Hudson), Ken Lavalle (R-C-I, Port Jefferson), Betty Little (R-C-I, Queensbury), Carl Marcellino (R, Syosset), Mike Nozzolio (R-C, Fayette), Joe Robach (R-C-I, Rochester), Steve Saland (R-C, Poughkeepsie), Jim Seward (R-C-I, Oneonta) and Senator Cathy Young (R-I-C, Olean).

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

We (don't?) Need a Hero

"New York doesn't need a Superman," said Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville. "It needs a Solomon. We had a governor who thought he was the Man of Steel and would steamroll anyone who got in his way (a reference to Gov. Elliot Spitzer)."
Tedisco said that Gov. Andrew Cuomo needs to be wise enough to understand when to pick his fights, but also be reasonable enough to use persuasion.
In addition to a Solomon, though, Tedisco said Cuomo could use Teddy Roosevelt's big stick. "That big stick is the support of his agenda by the voters and taxpayers of New York State," he said.
Even with his legislative stick, Tedisco said that Gov. Solomon will need to serve as an addiction counselor to a Democratic Conference that is addicted to taxing and spending.
“His real challenge is to ween them off their addiction of taxing and spending. That has been the challenge for all of the [recent] governors," said Tedisco.
No word yet if the Comptroller's office needs a Green Lantern or whether Eric Schneiderman should be replaced by King David.

Future of the Property Tax Cap

Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, surprised a packed Convention Center on Wednesday afternoon when he signaled his willingness to embrace a property tax cap.
The cap, which has been passed by the senate at 4%, has never really been considered in the Assembly. During the 2010 election season the cap gained a lot of traction, but it didn't appear to have gained the support of Speaker Silver, who would basically decide what moved through his chamber. Now it looks like Silver, and by extension the Assembly, is ready to act.
But hold your horses say Republican lawmakers. "The devil is in the details," says Republican Senator Roy McDonald. He warns that Silver may not be prepared to do what is necessary to alleviate the tax burden of New Yorkers, which McDonald says is a 2% tax cap.
McDOnald, who wanted to give Silver the benefit of the doubt, said that Silver might embrace the 4% cap, which would fall short. Ultimately, though, he predicted the 2% cap would pass the Assembly, because that is what voters want.
Assemblyman George Amedore, R-Rotterdam, suggested this issue could be a bargaining position for the Speaker. He said Silver might trade in this chip for something else down the road.
Assemblyman Jim Tedisco took the cautiously optimistic approach saying, "I like what the speaker had to say, but I take it with a grain of salt, because actions speak louder than words.”

Ahoy Matey!

So there was definitely a navigational theme for Wednesday's events, which began during Speaker Silver's preamble to the State of the State.
Silver said, at this crucial juncture let us adjust our sails together "and set our great state on a course for hope, prosperity," and the promise of a better day.
But he wasn't the only seafaring politician New York had to offer, with Cuomo taking the metaphor to new heights. The best part of Cuomo's speech was when he explained the passing ships in the sea on the budget process, which came with a picture of battleships that represented Cuomo and the legislative leaders.
Cuomo got some major laughs when he pointed out that the missiles from the special interest ships (think submarine sneak attack akin to World War I) were hitting his ship.

Senate Shakeup

Following the escape of four Senators from the Democratic Conference, Senator Neil Breslin remains hopeful that they'll come back.
It was shortly after 10 a.m. that Senators Jeff Klein, Diane Savino, David Carlucci and David Valesky announced that they were leaving the Democratic Conference to form their own Independent Democratic Conference .
"I hope we convince them that they're part of a team," said Breslin. He argued that if the Democrats all stick together they'll be back in the majority.
Breslin, who is a moderate, said he wasn't approached by the four Senators about joining their Conference. He said he wasn't surprised either, because they know he is part of a team (The Democratic Dodgers?). As part of a team, Breslin said it is your duty to stick it out when you don't agree with the direction and try to change things internally.
Going forward, it will be interesting to see what role the new Conference has on the floor. Additionally, I'm wondering who the next floor leader will be for the Dems, as Klein is probably losing that post. It will probably be a lawyer, with one person close to the state Senate suggesting it could be freshman Senator Mike Gianaris.

County Supervisor on State of the State

Saratoga Springs representative to the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors Joanne Yepsen wants Gov. Andrew Cuomo to address the state's budget and ethics reform during his state of the state address.
"I just want him to hold tough on all his promises and hope that the unions as well as the local governments will work in cooperation to bring down this deficit," said Yepsen. "Because until we get our fiscal hosue in order we can’t do anything.”
Yepsen, who was a staunch advocate for ethics reform during her failed bid to unseat Sen. Roy McDonald in the 43rd Senate District, said the state has got to address ethics.
"We need new laws in NY State that will hold these public officials accountable," she said.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Local School Audit

The Comptroller's office has released an audit of the Ballston Spa Central Schoool District, which concluded:
That the district implemented practices and procedures to identify and realize cost savings related to energy consumption and special education. The district continually facilitated meetings with key officials, such as the coordinator for facilities and security, to discuss potential cost savings. In addition, throughout the budget process, the board, superintendent, assistant superintendents, principals and department heads met regularly to discuss potential areas of cost savings. District officials are expected to continually seek methods of increasing efficiency and reducing costs within their departments.



Here is a link to the full report:
http://www.osc.state.ny.us/localgov/audits/schools/2010/ballstonspa.pdf

Top Spots Filled

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the appointments to several positions in his administration, including a new commissioner for the tumultuous Department of Environmental Conservation.
Joseph Martens, who has served as President of the Open Space Institute since 1998,
directing and overseeing land acquisition, sustainable development,
historic preservation and farmland protection, will be the new head of DEC.
He replaces the interim commissioner who was put in place after Pete Grannis was fired, most likely for telling truth to power, while the public reason was insubordination.
Cuomo said that Martens will bring the highest level of stewardship to our state's
beautiful natural resources. "Joe knows how to strike the critical balance between defending our natural resources from pollution and destruction while at the same time fostering a climate of economic renewal and growth. His experience and record as a competent and productive manager will breathe life into this vital agency," said Cuomo.
The move was applauded by green movement guru Robert Kennedy Jr., who said, "Joe is an outstanding choice to lead such a vital agency at such at an important time."
Other appointments include the return of Dede Scozzafava, who will serve as Deputy Secretary for Local Government at the Department of State.
Scozzafava, a Republican, gained notoriety when she endorsed a democrat during the special election for the 23rd Congressional District seat in 2010.
The other appointment is Joseph Percoco as the Executive Deputy Secretary. He recently served as the Campaign Manager for Andrew Cuomo 2010 and formerly worked as Special Counsel to Cuomo in the AG's office.

Farley's First Bill of 2011

Senator Hugh Farley, R-Niskayuna, has proposed his first bill of the new legislative session and it is a throwback from the past.
Senate bill 982 amends election law and state finance law, and is aimed at creating an informed voting public by requiring the listing of the total debt expected from a bond act that is on a ballot proposition.
The bill argues the current dynamic, which now mandates that the proposition must show the principal amount of proposed debt is misleading and hides the actual costs to the taxpayers. Farley argues that this an especially sharp contrast on the issue of long-term debt, where interest payments can end up doubling the principle costs.
This proposal has been floated numerous times since the early 1990s, but has never gained traction in the NYS Assembly, where it has been proposed by Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, R-Schenectady.

Monday, January 3, 2011

'Toga County Board Chairman Selected

Today, Town of Saratoga Supervisor Tom Wood was chosen to be Chairman of the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors.
Wood, who was elected in 2003, replaces Bill Peck of Northumberland. On Thursday, Peck applauded Wood as an excellent choice to lead the county.
Today's news was endorsed by NYS Roy McDonald, R-Saratoga.
“Tom Wood is a great friend and an even better elected official working diligently for the people of the Town of Saratoga and Saratoga County. I want to congratulate him on this wonderful honor and look forward to working with him closely on many important Saratoga County issues," said McDonald.

Drastic Times Call For Drastic Measures

As Gov. Andrew Cuomo plans to detail his secret economic plan (akin to fictional President Bartlett's secret plan to fight inflation?) at the State of the State, one NYS Senator has rekindled a proposal from May 2010 that would help limit the state's debt.
Republican John Flanagan, and nemesis to Democrat Suzie Oppenheimer, has reintroduced a bill for 2011 session that would (presumably) enact a statewide salary freeze for all public-sector employees. The language of the new bill has not been released, but this was laid out in the bill he brought last year.
Assuming the proposals are the same, Flanagan is proposing the suspension of all scheduled increases in salary or wages of employees of the state, municipalities and school districts for a period of one year.
I don't really understand this part, but it also "provides that no retroactive pay adjustment of any kind shall accrue or be deemed to accrue during the period of wage freeze and no such accruals shall be paid at the time the wage freeze is terminated."
The previous bill's memorandum mounts this defense:
Precedent for this bill occurred in 2003 whereby the Buffalo Fiscal
Stability Authority Act (BFSA) was adopted and empowered the City of
Buffalo to impose, among other measures, a wage freeze. Prior to that,
in 1975, the New York State Financial Emergency Act was enacted and
authorized New York City's wage freeze. Both wage freezes were chal-
lenged on constitutional grounds and were upheld by federal and state
courts.

Flanagan's bill acknowledged that the measure wouldn't solve the state's problems completely. In his justification he said it would help alleviate the current deficit and set the right tone for the future.
The fiscal benefits he predicted are:
Enacting a wage freeze at this juncture would realize substantial
savings: NYS, $400 million; Suffolk County, $65 million; Nassau County,
$30 million; The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, $100 million;
New York City $1 billion.


His proposal in May of 2010 received very little traction, to the point where it was never addressed in committee and had no companion in the Assembly. Maybe 2011 and the GOP controlled senate will yield different results

Cuomo Takes Pay Cut

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that he and his executive staff will reduce their salary by five percent. The reduction will also include the budget for the executive chamber.
"Change starts at the top and we will lead by example," Governor Cuomo said. "Families and business owners in every corner of the state have learned to do more with less in order to live within their means and government must do the same."
Carol Kellermann, president of the Citizens Budget Commission, said, "The Governor's announcement of cuts in the Executive Chamber budget, including cuts to his own salary, demonstrate that sacrifices will be necessary in all aspects of State government if New York is to regain its fiscal health."
The Secretary to the governor, Steve Cohen, is currently in the process of reviewing all executive chamber expenses to determine where the cuts will come from.

The End of an Era?

During the Christmas Show of Saturday Night Live the weekend update featured what could be the last segment with Fred Armisen as NYS Gov. David Paterson. In the video, he, NYC culture snob Stefan and Snooki sing a holiday song. It's not the best Paterson appearance, but it is still worth watching.

Senator Wants Emphasis on Language

Senator Ruben Diaz, D-Bronx, has written a letter to Dr. Merryl H. Tisch, the Chancellor for the NYS Board of Regents, in which he advocates against budget cutting measures that eliminated all languages taught in schools besides Spanish and French.
"It is my fervent belief that the New York State Board of Regents should be setting a standard of excellence in education by continuing to support the study of many languages, including Italian, Latin, Hebrew and German," said Diaz.
"In this global market, we must realize the importance of language skills as well as the study of different cultures. It is essential that we provide more options to New York students – not less."

Hunger Action Network Rally

On Tuesday, the Hunger Action Network will hold its 22nd Annual People's State of the State Rally.
The rally will call for job creation for welfare participants and other low-income individuals, strengthening the state's safety net and promoting progressive revenue options to resolve the state's projected $9 billion deficit.

It is Time for Wall Street to Bail out Main Street
Make the Minimum Wage a Living Wage, Not a Poverty Wage
Raise Unemployment Benefits
Cut the Military Budget to Fund Human Needs
NYS has a $9 Billion Deficit
Make the Rich pay their fair share of taxes
Protect the Safety Net


On the group's flyer it advocates for food in lieu of bombs. The group negatively characterizes Gov. Andrew Cuomo's fiscally conservative approach, while ignoring his recent decision to let a tax cut for the rich lapse, which seems to be in keeping with the group's philosophy.
The event takes place at the State Street entrance to the Capitol at 11:45 a.m.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

BZZZZZZZ

The NYS Senate, which has spent the last two years updating its website to allow increased participation for New Yorkers, is currently beta testing a feature called "BILLBUZZ."
BILLBUZZ works in conjunction with the site's comment feature that allows people to offer their input on bills and other legislative actions. Through BILLBUZZ subscribers are sent daily emails that pull in recent comments made on the bill's of specific senators that they choose. THe limitation, though, is that the senate's OPEN LEGISLATION site only tracks senate bills, except for Assembly bills that are substituted on the floor.
Check out the new feature:

http://billbuzz.nysenate.gov/

Also, stay tuned for future changes to the senate site, which is now under GOP control. The Republicans don't exactly have a history of promoting openness or any sort of tech savvy, but it is still unclear what the future will hold.
One thing seems likely, though, is that Senate Chief Information Officer Andrew Hoppin is likely to be on his way out.
Under Hoppin's control, the senate site began offering floor transcripts, committee votes and webcasts of public hearings and committee meetings.
As of December 22 he was still in the process of transitioning the senate in a "responsible manner" and hadn't made job plans for 2011.
Here is the latest version of the senate's new version of OPEN Legislation, which came out this past week: http://open.nysenate.gov/legislation/
Unfortunately the Senate site still relies on data from the Bill Drafting Commission.

Cuomo's Website

The changes in New York keep on coming, as yesterday Gov. Andrew Cuomo put his own stamp on the governor's website.
On the site, Cuomo offers a message for the future and his vision for the website.

You have given me a tremendous honor to serve as Governor of the great State of New York. Your trust in me is humbling and deeply appreciated as we begin a journey to make New York the Empire State once again.
My website will be a focal point of communication, information, and discussion – for the State’s most pressing issues and our most strategic initiatives. But, most importantly, it will be your way to join together with other New Yorkers to make our State work for all of us.
Please visit often to stay informed and participate in the dialogue


Cuomo promised to reach out to New Yorkers in new ways, which has included twitter and a flickr account. It will be interesting to see how he uses the internet to promote openness, especially with the future of the Legislative Retrieval System....

New York Loves Lucy.

New York State Senator Catherine Young, of Western NY, has introduced two bills for the upcoming legislative session that pay homage to comedian and actress Lucille Ball.
Young, who is based out of Olean, represents a district near the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Center in Jamestown, NY.
One bill authorizes the DMV to create a distinct Lucille Ball license plate. The second bill designates the bridge on interstate route 86 over North Main Street in the town of Ellicott as the "Lucille Ball - Desi Arnaz Memorial Bridge."
In 2011, Lucille, who was born in Jamestown, would have turned 90.
Both bills have been introduced in previous sessions with the goal of promoting tourism.

Let's Get Ethical!

Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an Executive Order today that requires ethical training for all top chamber staff and top state officials.
"Honor and integrity will be a hallmark of this administration, and I am confident that we have assembled a team that reflects that commitment," Cuomo said. "Nonetheless, it is imperative that Chamber staff and other high ranking government officials be versed in the ethics rules and regulations that apply to them. Top government employees should have no questions, no gray areas, and no possibility of confusion regarding what is proper and what is not."
Training must begin by Jan. 31st and be finished within sixty days. The Executive Order also requires officials to participate in this ethics training every two years. The training will focus on the rules about serving in government.
Blair Horner, the legislative director of NYPIRG, said the measure addresses real problems and establishes a new tone that needs to be followed up. "We hope that this is the first step in a journey to overhaul New York's woefully inadequate ethics laws," he said.
A signed statement certifying participation must be submitted by each individual for their personnel file.

Cuomo: Open for Business

(Editor's Note: A version of this article appeared in the Daily Gazette.)
With the start of his administration on Saturday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo tried to set a new tone in Albany with a ribbon-cutting and the removal of more than 200 tons of concrete barriers on the State Street entrance to the capitol.
“This capitol has become a physical metaphor for the isolation and alienation of our people,” said Cuomo in his inaugural remarks, referring to barriers and barricades in and around the Capitol that were put in place because of heightened security. “This is the people’s meeting place and they should be invited in, and today my friends we will reopen the Capitol, literally and figuratively.”
The changes include the removal of 29 concrete barricades that were erected on State Street during the administration of Gov. George Pataki and the opening of the second floor of the Capitol, which had previously been mostly closed to the public. The barriers on State Street have been a nuisance and an eyesore since they were put in place and the restrictions on movement on the second floor, which is the governor’s floor, have hindered access by reporters and the public.
Referring to the changes, Cuomo said, “It is a symbol of a new approach, to reconnect with people, to build back trust and defeat the power of special interest with the power of the people.”
According to a spokesman for the governor, the executive order to remove the barriers was the product of continuous discussions with the state police, as there were concerns over safety. The removal, which was done by Department of Transportation employees, was paid for by Cuomo’s campaign funds.
In commemoration of the opening of the second floor, Cuomo cut a ribbon stretched across a doorway that in the past was guarded by an officer from the state police. “Cutting the ribbon is symbolic of opening up the second floor,” said Cuomo.
Assemblyman Bob Reilly, D-Clifton Park, who attended the governor’s open house at the Executive Mansion, said the symbols of the day were good, but needed to be accompanied with more substantive measures that would really reflect the theme of openness.
Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, R-Glenville, said the gesture was meaningful and suggested that it should be followed by the removal of economic barriers that are crushing New Yorkers. “I totally support the metaphor,” said Tedisco, with the understanding that it’s not going to create one new job.
Referring to Cuomo’s advocacy for increased access to the Capitol, he said, “Let them into the economy also.”
Cuomo described the symbolic gestures of his first day in office as having the effect of removing a veil of secrecy that previously surrounded Albany and said now he needs the people to join in.
“The people aren’t engaged, and that’s going to have to change,” he said. “If there is a silver bullet in the barrel to recapture Albany, it is the re-engagement of our citizens.”
The importance of symbols was not echoed throughout the administration, though, with Cuomo's secretary Steve Cohen saying that Saturday was not about metaphors.
Workers began removing the barriers early in the morning on New Year’s Day, with Cuomo supervising the removal of the final barrier shortly after his inaugural address in the early afternoon. He thanked workers for giving up their holiday and lamented the fact that he couldn’t help them.

Here is the Executive Order:
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed an Executive Order, the first of his administration, removing physical barriers erected in and around the New York State Capitol in order to give the public greater access to their government. As a result of the Executive Order, a series of concrete barriers stretching the length of the Capitol along State Street will be immediately removed

The order also reopens the Hall of Governors on the second floor of the Capitol to the public. The Hall, where many of the executive chamber offices are located, has been closed to the public since 1995.

"This is more than just a symbolic gesture, this literally reopens areas of the Capitol building that have been closed to the public for years," Governor Cuomo said. "In order to restore faith and trust in government, we have to tear down barriers that have excluded people from the governing process. Today we take the first step in that effort."


When I came to the Capitol on Wednesday I realized that the 3rd floor Majority offices were also open to the public. Here is the video of Leader Skelos opening the way for more openness.

Split NY?

I was a little surprised when I discovered this bill, but apparently a proposal from Senator Robach (western NY), which would allow voters to opt for the division of the state is not a new bill.
Senate Bill 712, provides for a referendum on the question "Do you support the division of New York into two separate states ?" THe bill, which doesn't have a companion (yet), has been proposed at least five times since 2000.
The argument of its advocates is that there are distinct social and political concerns that divide upstate and downstate.
I'm not sure this bill reflects the message of yesterday's inauguration, which was that the ENTIRE state should rally around the new governor.
I wonder if Carl Paladino would be the governor of Upstate New York, or just Buffalo New York, because Cuomo won upstate too.
Does this proposal bother anyone else? Is anyone surprised by how common it is?

Gov. Cuomo: Please Come In

(Editor's Note: A version of this article appeared in the Daily Gazette)
CAPITOL — On Saturday, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo preached openness with his words and his actions, he also opened up the executive mansion to 300 lucky New Yorkers that won a chance to meet him and his Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy.
For two hours, Cuomo, with various family members and his girlfriend, Sandra Lee, and Duffy exchanged pleasantries with people who mostly just wanted to wish the incoming governor good luck. Sometimes the short conversations would uncover a shared experience or provoke a chuckle, but almost everyone was left smiling after the interaction.
The occasion was a long time coming for Rochelle Filler of Glenmont, who said the experience was pretty exciting.
“We have tried for many many years to get an opportunity to do this on the day of the inauguration and we just got lucky this year,” she said.
Filler characterized the mansion as impressive and said, “My kids all want to live there.”
Built in 1856, the Executive Mansion is located at 138 Eagle St. and was most recently the home of outgoing Gov. David Paterson. Cuomo, who lived in the building when his father was governor, does not plan on living there.
Ben Salem, of Bethlehem, was struck by the size of the mansion. “It was giant,” he said.
The experience was a bit of a surprise for Salem and his family, who had laughed at family patriarch Andrew Salem when he decided to enter the lottery for the tickets.
Albany resident Bill Rider was encouraged by his brief encounter with the governor and said that Cuomo grasped the severity of the issues facing the state.
“I told him that I was very optimistic and that I realized he had a tough job ahead of him, but I thought that he was the right man for the right time and wished him luck,” said Rider. “He said, ‘Thank you very much’ and said he understood that it was a difficult time and that he was up for it.”
Rider’s son Kevin, 12, said the governor was nice and very polite.
Dave Green of western New York, who supported Cuomo’s election bid, said he wished the governor good luck. He said he was very excited about the team of Cuomo and Duffy.
In the immediate future, Green said, jobs are the biggest issue facing Cuomo.
Wearing Cuomo/Duffy buttons, Clifton Park sisters Natalie, 15, and Leanora Landau, 12, who had met the governor when he was attorney general, said it was nice to see him again. Natalie said that once she is able to vote she would support Cuomo in a bid for a second term.
For Ron and Marilyn Silverman of Albany, this was their third meet-and-greet with a New York governor, with the first being Gov. Nelson Rockefeller. They said this experience was the warmest and most organized.
The Silvermans said they were optimistic about Cuomo’s chances for a successful term in office and characterized the first couple as “down to earth.” Marilyn Silverman was especially taken with Sandra Lee, who said she had discovered three restaurants in Albany that she wanted to try.
“I want to know the three restaurants,” said Marilyn Silverman.