Saturday, October 31, 2009

Scozzafava drops out of 23rd race

The Associated Press reports today that Republican state Assemblywoman Dede Scozzafava has announced she is dropping out of the race to fill the seat in the 23rd Congressional district.

Her name will remain on the ballot on Nov. 3, according to her campaign spokesman Matt Burns.

The New York Times also reported on this.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Pataki endorses Hoffman

Former New York Gov. George Pataki endorsed Doug Hoffman last night, Conservative candidate for the 23rd Congressional District seat.

"As a businessman, and as a life-long resident of the North Country Doug Hoffman understands the need to lower taxes on working families, the need to stand tall against terror and he won’t back phony stimulus programs that fail to create the jobs we need and leaves a mountain of debt to our children," said Pataki.

The election will take place on Nov. 3, and the other candidates are Republican Assemblywoman Dierdre Scozzafava and Democratic candidate Bill Owens.

Joe Bruno trial

Just to let you'll know, I'll be reporting next week on the trial of former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, who's accused of establishing financial relationships with entities that had an interest in legislation. He's been charged on eight counts of mail and wire fraud. The trial starts Monday.

Here's a story from Capital News 9 about the upcoming trial.

NYC leaders meeting

Here is a story from Capital News 9 about yesterday's leaders meeting in New York City.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Police Get Training to Protect Abortion Providers

More than 80 law enforcement officials, reproductive health care providers and advocates from across New York came together yesterday to discuss how to better protect reproductive clinics and providers, and actions to take against anti-abortion terrorism.

Gov. David A. Paterson signed bill A.8924/S. 6112 into law yesterday that establishes the crime of aggravated interference with health care services in the first and second degrees. Sponsored by Sen. Kevin Parker, D--Brooklyn, and Assemblyman Sam Hoyt, D--Grand Island, the law calls for new felony classifications to further penalize someone who causes physical injury to any reproductive health care provider. The law will protect doctors and staff workers in clinics.

Julie Murphy, investigator with the New York state Police Counter Terrorism Intelligence Unit for Troop G, helped plan the training for yesterday's event and gave a presentation on Operation Safeguard, an outreach program developed by the state Office of Homeland Security that incorporates all law enforcement.

The safeguard plan provides information education and suspicious indicators to reproductive health care centers to help them understand what necessary steps to take if they witness conspicuous behavior in their work place. If wary behavior by any individual is apparent, clincs can call the toll-free tip line 1-800-SAFENYS.

Anti-abortion terrorism hit New York in 1998 when abortion provider Dr. Barnett Slepian was murdered in his home near Buffalo by anti-abortion activist James Kopp.

"The important part is that we recognize that despite anyone's beliefs or feelings about this emotionally charged issues is that it is a law enforcement issue," said Denise E. O'Donnell, deputy secretary for public safety. "We do have an obligation to protect individuals who are providing reproduction services."

The most recent incident occurred this year when Dr. George Tiller was shot and killed in a church in Wichita, Kan. Yesterday's event was developed in response to this murder and is used as a case example to show what law enforcement can do to better ensure our state is safe, according to Murphy.

Cuomo endorses Owens

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo endorsed Democratic candidate Bill Owens today in the race for the 23rd Congressional district seat.

“Bill Owens understands the needs of our working families and he’s worked hard to improve our local economy by creating jobs in upstate New York,” Cuomo said.

The special election will take place Nov. 3. The other candidates in the race are state Assemblywoman Dierdre Scozzafava, who's the Republican Party's nominee, and Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman.

The seat was vacated by Republican Congressman John McHugh, who left to become President Obama's secretary of the Army.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Calhoun Stiffens Drunk Driving Legislation

Assemblywoman Nancy Calhoun, R-Blooming Grove, announced today she has introduced legislation (A.9179) in the Assembly that would increase penalties for driving under the influence with a passenger who is developmentally disabled.

"Nine times out of 10, the person who is driving is in an employment situation and the people who are driving with them may not have the opportunity to [speak out]," said Calhoun. "We think this is an appropriate way to discourage the person [driving] to know they are going to get in trouble."

The consequences under the amended law would punish first time offenders with a fine between $250 and $500 including a possible 48 hour jail sentence; second time offers with a fine between $500 and $1,000 and 10 days in jail, and for each following offense after that, a fine between $1,000 and $5,000 and the possibility of a 30 to 90 day jail sentence would be given.

Calhoun said a constituent brought this legislation to her attention. "We're hoping to work hard to try and get it passed this year."

Sen. Krueger's Call for Monserrate's Resignation Catalyzes a Movement

Following the recent outcome of Sen. Hiram Monserrate’s trial, senators and women’s rights groups are again speaking out — this time for his resignation.

Sen. Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan, was one of the first to speak out for the resignation of Monserrate — the Queens senator who was recently found guilty of misdemeanor assault against his partner and was acquitted of felony charges, ones that would have torn him out of the state Senate — hours after the outcome of his trial.

“I believe that if he was indeed found guilty of a violent crime he should not remain in the state senate,” Krueger said.

“Literally within 12 hours of his being found guilty I put out a statement calling out for Mr. Monserrate to resign on the grounds that a person convicted of a violent crime should not be a sitting legislature in New York state,” Krueger said. “I urged colleagues, organizations, citizens to call for him to resign on the belief that, that was the best and the simple and quick solution to the problem.”

“And many elected, many civic organizations, many women’s organizations have in fact taken up that call and put out a statement calling for him to resign — both U.S. senators [for New York] Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand have called for him to resign.”

The New Agenda is one of the women’s rights groups that has taken up Krueger’s call for Monserrate’s resignation. “The fact of the matter is that he was still found guilty of a charge and at this point, and even prior to this trial really, he does not have the moral authority to be governing in our state,” Amy Siskind, president of the New Agenda, said.

“We are working now with NOW-NYS [National Organization of Women-New York State] and the Eleanor Roosevelt Legacy Committee,” Siskind said. “To collectively speak out about what’s happened here and to urge the members of the committee that’s been formed to call for his immediate resignation.”

NOW-NYS, a women’s rights group, and ERLC, an organization that is “dedicated to building a new generation of pro-choice Democratic women leaders in New York State,” are working with New Agenda to publicly call for Monserrate’s resignation, according to Siskind.

“We’re currently working on an open letter,” Siskind said, adding that the groups plan to get signatures for their open letter “from a number of the women’s organizations and then we plan to send those to the folks that are going to be serving on the panel just to let them know how important this is — what kind of signal we’re sending if we continue to let this man serve in our state government.”

The groups plan to send their open letter to the special committee of inquiry on Monserrate that was created by Senate Democratic Conference Leader John L. Sampson, D-Manhattan, on Oct. 20 and is made up of eight other individuals: Andrew J. Lanza, R-Staten Island, a former chair of the Senate Ethics Committee; John J. Flanagan, R-East Northport, a former chair of the Senate Ethics Committee; James S. Alesi, R-Perinton, a former chair of the Senate Ethics Committee; Sen. Cathy Young, R-Olean; Ruth Hassell-Thompson, D-Mount Vernon; Diane J. Savino, D-Staten Island; Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers; and Toby A. Stavisky, D-Queens, as reported by the Legislative Gazette last week.

Siskind said that the trial outcome wasn’t what she or her group expected. “We were very surprised that he got away with it,” Siskind said. “He deserves to be in jail plain and simple — this is a text book, gender-based, violence-type case where the girlfriend is abused and initially speaks out and then is intimidated into silence.”

Although disappointed with the outcome of Monserrate’s trial, Siskind said she and the New Agenda won’t stop working until the senator resigns. “We are going to continue to work and to galvanize as a coalition of organizations,” Siskind said. “That’s our next step and we’ll just continue to keep the heat on until he resigns,” Siskind said. “However long that takes we’ll keep going.”

Krueger spoke of her future hope. “I hope Mr. Monserrate wakes up tomorrow morning and says, ‘I don’t have any future in the senate, my colleagues have started a committee to figure out how to sanction me. I can’t win reelection next year in my district and the people who are calling me to resign are right,’ and that he will resign, that’s what I’m hoping for.”

Siskind passionately agreed. “The fact of the matter is that he was found guilty of a charge related to domestic violence and he needs to resign. Period. End of sentence.”

Senate Committe Seeks Answers on Cigarette Tax Sales

The Senate Standing Committee on Investigations and Government Operations is holding a hearing today at 10:30 a.m. at Borough of Manhattan Community College to discuss New York state's failure in collecting taxes on cigarettes sold to Non-Native Americans on Indian reservations, announced Committee Chairman Senator Craig M. Johnson.

Last year a law was passed that required these taxes to be collected, but the state Department of Taxation and Finance has been obstructed in their collection efforts.

Witnesses confirmed to appear include the Governor's Counsel Peter Kiernan, Deputy Commissioner of the State Department of Taxation and Finance William Comiskey, representatives from the Seneca, St. Regis Mohawk, Onondaga and Poospatuck nations, as well as representatives from New York City, local governments and the tobacco and convenience store industries, and others.

UPDATE 11:35 A.M.
“The failure to secure this badly needed revenue continues as other states – most recently Florida – have been able to reach tax collection agreements with their local Native American nations,” said Sen. Johnson in a prepared statement. “This committee wants to be helpful in crafting a solution to this problem, but first we – and the public – need to be apprised of where the state and the nations stand.”

Monday, October 26, 2009

Electric car manufacturing company will move to Syracuse

Gov. David A. Paterson announced Oct. 23 that an electric car manufacturing company will be opening a facility in Onondaga County, where Syracuse is located.

Bannon Automotive LLC will be investing $26.6 million for this move.

Paul Wimer, the company’s CEO said that Syracuse’s proximity to the rest of New York and other states; Central New York’s persistent initiative to promote green technology, as well as the support of economic development agencies and local leaders, made the company decide to set up this manufacturing base.

This move will create about 250 new full-time jobs for New Yorkers.

“By locating in Central New York, Bannon Automotive is helping to establish our state as the global leader in the clean energy economy and is building on my initiative to accelerate innovation in electric vehicle technology through the New York Battery and Energy Storage Consortium,” Paterson said. “The market for both electric cars and new battery technologies is expected to grow significantly in the coming years and that means jobs for New Yorkers.”

Paterson announced the New York Battery and Energy Storage Consortium or NY-BEST on Oct. 5 to develop energy storage technology and create jobs for New Yorkers. It includes manufacturing of batteries to be used in hybrid cars.

Support grows for Cuomo's pension fund reform

Support is rolling in from around the state for Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's proposal to create a new 13-member board to oversee the state pension fund.

On Saturday, Cuomo attended a fundraiser in Binghamton for Broome County Executive Barbara Fiala. In a statement from the AG's office, Fiala said, "It is a pleasure to join Attorney General Cuomo and my colleagues from the state Legislature to announce this proposal, which I believe can help restore trust in our government. The state pension system and all New Yorkers will certainly benefit from Attorney General Cuomo's measure, and I thank him for coming to our region today."

This push for reform comes after former state Liberal Party Chair Ray Harding and co-founder of Aldus Equity Saul Mayer pled guilty to fraud in a scheme involving kickbacks for political favors and attempts to secure the fund's investments.

"Ending corruption in the pension system transcends political parties," Cuomo said in Saturday's statement. "Abuse of our pension system has run wild for far too long as politically connected individuals have lined their pockets with taxpayer money.

Cuomo recently received bipartisan support from 22 members of the Legislature's Long Island delegation.

Sen. Brian X. Foley, a Blue Point Democrat and chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, is the legislation's chief sponsor. On Oct. 8, Foley joined with Cuomo, Senate Democratic Conference Leader John L. Sampson and Republican Sen. John Flanagan in introducing the bill.

Currently, state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli is the pension fund's sole trustee. Cuomo's proposal would break up the comptroller's monopoly, establishing a 13-member board to oversee investments.

The governor, attorney general, temp. Senate president, Assembly speaker, and Senate and Assembly Minority Leader would each select a member of the board. The state comptroller would serve as the board's chair. Pension fund beneficiaries would have say in choosing the six remaining members.

1) an active member of the retirement system will be chosen from among active members
2) a retired member of the retirement system will be chosen from among retired members
3) a county employee will be chosen from among county employees
4) a local government employee will be chosen from among local gov't employees
5) a police or fire member will be chosen by the state police and fire retirement system
6) a police or fire member will be chosen by the local police and fire retirement system

According the Cuomo's office, "all members of the board must have investment expertise and shall not have been employees of the retirement system for three years."