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This Week from Albany: Special session sputters

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) – This week in Albany, talk of a special session focused on legislative pay sputters and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo weighs legislation to increase funding for public defenders.

Many lawmakers had hoped to return this month to authorize a pay hike. But late Friday Republican Senate Leader John Flanagan said the talks have not “borne fruit.”

Lawmakers had also been looking at funding for hate crimes investigations, government ethics reforms and a proposal to allow Uber to expand upstate. If no special session occurs those issues will be taken up next year.

A guide to what’s coming up in the Capitol:



State lawmakers may not get their first raise in 17 years after all.

Top legislators and Cuomo spent several weeks negotiating a possible lame-duck holiday session focused on raising legislative pay. But late Friday Senate Leader John Flanagan, R-Long Island, issued a statement saying “those talks have not borne fruit.”

“There just isn’t enough in this package to justify convening a special session and bringing 213 legislators back to Albany before the end of the year,” he said.

New York now pays its legislators $ 79,500, the third-highest legislative salary in the country. A leading proposal would bump that to $ 99,500. Lawmakers haven’t had a raise in 17 years, however, and many say pay hasn’t kept up with the responsibilities of the job.

Any pay raise would have had to be approved by Dec. 31 in order to take effect in 2017.



Groups who had been counting on a special session to advance their issues will now look to the 2017 session, which begins Jan. 4.

Uber and Lyft had hoped lawmakers might use the special session to authorize regulations allowing them to expand into upstate cities such as Buffalo, Syracuse and Rochester. The two ride-hailing services are now prohibited from doing business outside of New York City.

Cuomo had also crafted a list of possible special session topics, including government ethics reforms as well as funding for housing and homelessness and a new task force created to investigate hate crimes.



Cuomo has until Dec. 31 to act on a bill intended to ensure the poor have access to public defenders.

The legislation passed earlier this year would gradually transfer responsibility for paying for public defenders from local counties to the state.

It follows a 2014 settlement between the Cuomo administration and New York Civil Liberties Union requiring better indigent defense services in Suffolk, Washington, Ontario, Onondaga and Schuyler counties.

New York City and the counties not covered by the settlement are required to fund attorneys for criminal defendants unable to afford one.

Cuomo has until Dec. 31 to sign or veto the measure.



State lawmakers are likely to have plenty more to say about a wealthy businessman who co-chaired President-elect Donald Trump’s state campaign saying he hoped President Barack Obama would die from mad cow disease and that the first lady would “return to being a male.”

Carl Paladino, a millionaire real estate developer who unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2010 as a Republican, was responding to a survey by Artvoice, a Buffalo publication that asked local artists, performers and business owners for their New Year’s wish list.

Paladino, a member of the Buffalo school board, confirmed to the AP the answers published in Artvoice were his.

A spokeswoman for Trump, who earlier this month met with Paladino in Trump Tower, didn’t immediately comment.

But Democrats and civil rights groups were quick to condemn them.

Cuomo called the remarks “racist, ugly and reprehensible.”

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

Source: www.washingtontimes.com stories: Politics

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