New York state lawmakers are spending the final weeks before a crucial budget vote talking about taxes, the minimum wage and paid family leave. However... efforts to address Albany's chronic corruption problem are -- once again -- getting little serious attention. More than 30 lawmakers have left office after facing criminal or ethical allegations in the past 15 years, including the Legislature's former top two lawmakers who were convicted of corruption crimes last year. Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed restrictions on lawmakers' outside income but the Senate has so far balked, and the Democrat is now focusing on efforts to raise the minimum wage and pass paid family leave. One sign of movement came late Friday... when Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie proposed limits on outside pay and tighter campaign finance rules.
State Senate Republicans have begun pushing a tax cut proposal they say would cut the tax rate for 5-million New Yorkers by 25-percent by the year 2025. Local Senator Cathy Young... who chairs the Majority's Finance Committee... says the "25-by-25" plan would also benefit seniors and small businesses. During a recent appearance in Jamestown... Young said most people in her district would benefit from the proposal. Young says the proposed cut... which would lower the tax rate from 6.85-percent to 5.14-percent. She says that would be the lowest middle-income tax rate in 70 years. Young says the GOP also wants to increase the tax-exemption for senior citizens on their pensions... which is now 20-thousand dollars. She says they would increase that to 40-thousand dollars before taxes are taken out. Young believes that would give the more incentive to stay, and retire in New York state. She agrees the proposal faces challenges in the Assembly... where Democratic leaders support raising taxes on millionaires... while giving middle-and lower-income taxpayers more modest relief.
New York lawmakers are largely exempt from the state's open records law -- a shortcoming that Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to address. To mark national Sunshine Week... the Associated Press filed freedom of information requests with four top lawmakers seeking their schedules and email correspondence from the first week of February. Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate and Assembly declined to provide the information, citing their rules that don't require it. Cuomo wants the law to cover the Legislature. But... transparency advocates say Cuomo's office needs reform the most. The administration has been criticized for slow and limited disclosures under the law that already applies to executive agencies. In one example... the AP requested information about the state's response to Ebola in 2014. The information still has not been provided.
The Panama High School girl's basketball teams' great season came to an end Sunday in Glens Falls... just short of a Class-D Championship. In a game broadcast on Media One Group Station WHUG-FM. The Lady Panthers put forth one of their strongest efforts, falling to Huevelton (HUE-vil-Ton), 62-to-60. At one point... Panama fell behind by 13 points after the two teams were tied at half-time. However... the Panthers mounted a comback... led by Senior Emilee Sperry. Sperry scored 14 of her team-high 17 points in the second-half. Taylor Bowen adds 14 points for Panama... which ends the season 21-and-5.
An Ohio man is now jailed on numerous charges after leading police on a slow-speed pursuit... and, running into a Sheriff's patrol car in the town of Ellington. Sheriff's officers were called to the scene for a "suspicious vehicle" shortly before 6 AM last Friday morning. Deputies say the pursuit began when the driver, 39 year-old Jay Head of Uniontown, failed to comply with officers trying to pull over his car. Deputies say Head allegedly struck a patrol car during the pursuit... causing serious damage... but, no injuries. The suspect was finally pulled over on Waterboro Hill Road... and, arrested without futher incident. Head was treated for a minor injury. He was later arraigned on charges including second-degree criminal mischief... second-degree reckless endangerment... and, driving while under the influence of drugs. He sent to the county jail on 20-thousand dollars bail.
North county labor organizations, residents and other groups are being credited with providing enough cases of water to fill most of the lobby of the Boardwalk Market in the city of Dunkirk. The more than 400 cases of water are being sent to Flint, Michigan... which has been slammed by a major water crisis. Doug Stock, President of the Dunkirk Area Labor Council, says he is pleased with the outpouring of support for the Labor for Flint initiative. Donations of water and money came flowing in, not only from the Dunkirk-Fredonia area, but from other parts of Western New York. Stock, who helped organized the effort, thanks everyone in the community who helped out. He especially thanked the North County United Way for their help. In addition to the water... Stock says they raised more than 2-thousand-700 dollars in monetary donations. Several local labor unions had representatives on hand early last weekend to assist with loading the truck. A pickup truck filled with cases of water will also make the journey.
New York's attorney general has joined 20 colleagues from around the country in urging the U.S. Senate not to delay acting on the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy. Eric Schneiderman says that he and other state attorneys general are writing to the Senate to urge them to consider a nominee from President Barack Obama to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Republicans have vowed to block any nomination until Obama's term ends. The letter says that failure to consider a nominee would be unprecedented and would undermine the rule of law and the functioning of the court system. The letter's signees include attorneys general of 19 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. All are Democrats.
Pregnant women in New York whose sexual partners have recently traveled to countries impacted by the Zika virus can now get free tests for the infection. The state Department of Health made the change this month at the request of Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Authorities were already offering tests for pregnant women who had traveled to affected areas, or for anyone exhibiting signs of the virus. So far... the state has found 40 cases of the mosquito-borne virus. It has been linked to serious birth defects. The virus has been reported in South America, Mexico, the Caribbean and parts of Asia. The broader tests come as researchers explore how the virus may be spread through unprotected sexual activity.
New York state health officials are investigating a possible mumps outbreak at SUNY-Buffalo. The state Department of Health says the university has identified two probable and four suspected cases of mumps among its students. Students are on spring break until March 21st. SUNY Buffalo is reviewing immunization records to identify students who may need to either be vaccinated or excluded from school when classes resume. Mumps is a highly contagious viral disease characterized by fever, headache and swelling of the salivary glands. While the mumps vaccine is not 100 percent effective, two doses of the vaccine provide the best protection against mumps.