New York lawmakers have passed a $142 billion state spending plan that includes new spending on schools, changes in teacher evaluations and new ethics disclosure rules for lawmakers. The Senate passed the budget late Tuesday night and the Assembly wrapped up early Wednesday morning, just after the start of a new state fiscal year. Republican Senate Leader Dean Skelos praised the budget's $1.4 billion increase in school funding. Gov. Andrew Cuomo touted investments in the upstate economy and new ethics rules that will require lawmakers to disclose more about income from their outside jobs. Rank-and-file lawmakers were less impressed, with even some supporters saying the budget was put together behind closed doors and then rushed through with little time for them _ or the public _ to review the details.
New York lawmakers have approved legislation to overhaul statewide teacher evaluations, which would require firing those found ineffective three years in a row. The state Senate's 36-26 approval of the budget measure followed complaints by several minority Democrats that poverty, not teachers, is the underlying problem for the troubled schools in the state. Supporters note the legislation increased overall state aid to public schools by $1.4 billion to $23.5 billion. The Assembly's 72-54 approval followed criticism by several of that chamber's minority Republicans that there was little time to consider the voluminous budget bills, some printed only hours earlier.
The new teacher evaluations will be based partly on student test scores. Another portion will be based on classroom observation of teachers by a school administrator and by an independent evaluator.
State Senator Cathy Young says lawmakers are now in the process of adopting a "fiscally responsible state budget" that controls spending, monumentally increases school aid... and, reduces the tax burden to help create jobs and grow the economy. Young says it's the fifth-straight year the state will have an on-time spending plan. The Olean Republican adds it will include many initiatives that make the state a more affordable place to live, work and do business. Young says the budget lives within a 2-percent spending cap... and, rejects unaffordable tax increases. She adds the Senate GOP has "led the charge" to boost school aid. As a result... she says the budget will provide schools with a 1.4-billion dollar increase in overall school aid, and includes another dramatic reduction in the Gap Elimination Adjustment. Young adds the final budget will provide a more than 50 percent reduction in the GEA... and, puts in place enough progress for full elimination next year. She adds there will also be meaningful property tax relief by providing "larger" property tax freeze rebate checks... and, recipients of the STAR and Enhanced STAR programs will continue to see tax relief. Elimination of the Energy Tax Surcharge will also be accelerated.
It's officially Spring... but, a quick moving storm system in Pennsylvania brought mid-Winter like conditions yesterday morning in the Jamestown-area. We may see a little more snow this morning... but, the system that dropped 2-to-3 inches moved out by mid-afternoon Tuesday. Forecaster Steve Welch of the National Weather Service in Buffalo says the greatest amounts were in the higher elevations near the Pennsylvania state line. Welch says we will get a break from this colder than normal weather pattern on Thursday. Welch says most areas will see temperatures between 60 and 65 Thursday... with some rain moving in Thursday night. However... Welch says don't get out your shorts just yet... another cool down is on the way for the weekend.
A Russell, Pennsylvania woman is being treated for non-life threatening injuries after she lost control on slushy road conditions in the town of Kiantone... and, her car rolled onto it's roof. Sheriff's officers say 56 year-old Marcia Wilkins was southbound on Route 62 about 11 AM Tuesday morning... when her car skidded and struck a guard rail. Deputies say Wilkins' vehicle then overturned. She was taken to WCA Hospital for treatment. Sheriff's officers were assisted at the scene by State Police... and, the Kiantone and Frewsburg Fire Departments. No charges were filed.
The Chautauqua County jail population's overcrowding situation has stabilized for now. However... Sheriff Joe Gerace says it will likely be increasing sometime in the near future. Gerace says he can't wait for a Criminal Justice Coordinating Council to begin meeting. He says County Executive Vince Horrigan has been working to get all of the stakeholders together. Besides involving all of the usual groups in the county's criminal justice system... Gerace says they are reaching out to some other organizations... including not-for-profits. He says they could help in providing "alternatives to incarceration." Gerace says the jail population reached an all time high last fall, and, about 30 inmates had to be boarded out to other jails. He's hoping that the council will come up with some recommendations that could avoid this practice.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has banned non-essential, state-funded travel to Indiana after that state adopted a religious freedom law critics say opens the door to discrimination against gays and lesbians. The Democratic governor announced the ban Tuesday, saying it shows the state stands by ``our LBGT family members, friends and colleagues.'' The ban will apply to all state agencies -- including its public universities and colleges -- and means they wouldn't be able to participate in athletic or academic events in Indiana. Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy signed a similar travel ban on Monday. State Republican Chairman Ed Cox dismissed Cuomo's move as a ``stunt'' and said that if he wants to take a stand for human rights he should cancel a trip to Cuba planned for next month.
The state Attorney General has announced a settlement with the National Junior College Athletic Association to eliminate a rule adopted in 2012 that limited sports eligibility mostly to students who attended at least three years of high school in the U.S. The NJCAA board has voted to eliminate the rule requiring 75 percent of the players on a team to meet that threshold. The association's membership includes 525 public and private junior and two-year colleges across the country... including 41 in New York. One is Jamestown Community College. The concern among some of the open-enrollment schools was that others were fielding older foreign athletes. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says several public junior colleges in New York brought the rule to his attention last year... noting it's negative impact on urban schools with many immigrant students.
The state Senate has confirmed a Republican county executive to chair the Thruway Authority board. Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney was nominated by Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo to the unpaid position at the authority responsible for the state's systems of toll highways and canals. Mahoney is an attorney and former prosecutor. Howard Milstein, the billionaire appointed by Cuomo to chair the Thruway Authority board, resigned last year.
Fans of "The Rolling Stones" in western New York will be getting some "Satisfaction" this Summer as the Rock 'n Roll legends will appear in Buffalo as part of their North American "Zip Code" tour. It'll be the first time the Stones have appeared in Buffalo sicne 2001. The band's 15-city stadium tour will include Ralph Wilson Stadium on Saturday, July 11th. The tour begins with an appearance in San Diego's Petco Park on May 24th. Tickets and VIP packages for the Ralph Wilson Stadium Show go on sale Monday, April 13th at 10 AM. Ticketing information is available at Rollingstones-dot-COM.