Lawmakers in Albany tried to carry on business in the wake of one of the worst scandals in recent decades that has overshadowed most other news coming out of the Capitol. Much of this week’s legislative session has been canceled, but politicians who were in town insisted that their agendas are not being derailed.
Anti-corruption proposals are proliferating in Albany, following two high profile bribery scandals. Some of them focus on the long neglected state Board of Elections, which hasn’t even had an investigator on staff in over a year.
Dueling pro and anti fracking filmmakers held screenings and promotions for their films, as they await a decision by Governor Cuomo on whether fracking will go forward in New York. That could come by the end of the month. As Karen DeWitt reports, at one point in the day , the two sides confronted each other in the halls of the Capitol.
Phelim McAleer is the creator of Fracknation, a film that claims to rebut charges made by environmentalists and the popular anti fracking movie “Gasland”. He came to Albany to hold a screening of his film.
Given the sluggish economy, State Senator Mark Grisanti says this is no time for a legislative pay raise.
Legislators' salary is currently about $80,000 annually plus per-diem. The Buffalo Republican says when the issue was brought up, he and many of his colleagues pledged to vote against it.
"This job is a privilege, not a right. You should be happy to serve the public and have integrity while you're doing so. If you don't like the pay scale and you're in the position already, then leave the position and find something else to do," Grisanti said Friday.
Anti-fracking advocates rallied in Albany to try to convince Governor Andrew Cuomo to ban the natural gas drilling process in New York. The advocates included actress Debra Winger, filmmaker Josh Fox and environmental leader Bill McKibben, as well as activists from communities across New York’s Southern Tier. They asked Governor Cuomo to tell his environmental officials not to go ahead with fracking in New York.Debra Winger appealed to the appearance- conscious Cuomo’s sense of legacy, and asked him to rethink his plans, and “push the rest button”.Author and activist Bill McKibben says t
Governor Cuomo defended his administration against criticisms that he has not been transparent enough, saying he’s trying to do more.
Governor Cuomo defended his record of releasing documents and other information to the public, saying his administration has taken “unprecedented steps” and has gone to “exorbitant” levels to communicate. Cuomo was the target of newspaper editorial recently that criticized him for being secretive and controlling in his handling of archive files during his time as Attorney General, among other things.
The legislative session that’s concluding in Albany seems to be more about what’s not getting done that what is getting accomplished. Governor Andrew Cuomo at this time last year was intensely lobbying lawmakers to pass a bill to legalize gay marriage. This year, he has taken a more hands off approach to the end of the current legislative session. The governor introduced a bill on how to make teacher evaluations public, but said he would not push the legislature to approve it. “If the Senate or the Assembly want to pass the bill, great,” Cuomo said.
Supporters and opponents of a plan to allow limited hydrofracking in New York’s Southern Tier region confronted each other at the state Capitol .For months, the Cuomo Administration has been signaling that it might permit the gas drilling process known as hydro fracking in a few areas in the Marcellus Shale region where the majority of people in communities want the gas drilling process to begin.
Governor Cuomo, who won national praise and attention for championing the passage of same sex marriage in New York, calls President Obama’s support of gay marriage a “major advancement for equal rights in this country.”
Cuomo says he “applauds the President’s courage” and believes that Mr. Obama’s support will “boost” efforts to advance marriage equality in many state where it is to legal, or where efforts are underway to ban gay marriage.
And Cuomo believes it will help change minds, saying people will think “if he can revisit an issue, than so can I”.
President Obama was in Albany on Tuesday touting the region's growth in high-tech manufacturing.
After an introduction from Governor Andrew Cuomo, the President took the stage at the University at Albany's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering.
While much of his speech focused on a 5-point "to-do" list for Congress, which he says will help turn around the economy, Mr. Obama said he came to Albany because the region's high-tech manufacturing cluster represents the economic future of the nation.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz is facing questions regarding a fundraiser he held last week in Albany.
The Albany region is a rich resource for statewide politicians, but reasons for the local official to tap into that audience remain unanswered. The News reports that a spokesperson for Poloncarz has also refused to divulge who attended and how much money was raised. Those questions, though, will be answered during the mandatory reporting period in July.
The new state budget approved by Albany this week will increase state aid to schools over the levels the Governor had proposed.
Locally, that means some jobs and academic programs will be preserved, but the aid will not cover all of the budget gaps for local schools. A majority of the increased aid will go to what are considered high-needs districts, such as Buffalo.
The News reports that the only district in Erie and Niagara Counties not to receive aid was Holland.