State Senate approves new state budget; Assembly to begin voting Thursday...

One half of the state legislature has approved a new budget for the 2013-2014 fiscal year.  The State Senate approved the final spending bill about 4:30 a.m. Wednesday in Albany.  Lawmakers have been trying to complete an on-time budget for the third-year in a row.  In a printed release... state Senator Cathy Young says the $135-billion spending plan is balanced... and fiscally responsible.  Young adds that it "includes many initiatives that are steps in the right direction to make our state a more affordable place to live, work and do business."  The Assembly will begin voting on matching bills Thursday.
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In addition... Senator Young says the new budget includes a $1-billion funding increase for public schools. The Olean Republican says schools in her 57th Senatorial District will get about $19-million of that.  Final school runs were not made available... but, the increases were seen in two areas favorable for Jamestown.  One was additional restoration of the Gap Elimination Adjustment... and, in foundation aid.


Gerace says state grant for new, emergency communications system will allow mandated project to proceed without any significant borrowing...

The Chautauqua County Legislature are voting tonight on accepting a $6-million state grant to upgrade the county's Emergency Radio System.  Sheriff Joe Gerace says the grant was one of four state-wide that was for the maximum amount awarded by the state Department of Homeland Security.  Gerace says they're very pleased to receive the grant because it will avoid the need to borrow money for the new system.  He says bonding would have "affected all of us as taxpayers."  Gerace says the funding will be used primarily for "networking improvements" that will allow ALL police, fire and public works entities to cross-communicate through a "repeater" system.  He says the current system was designed in the 1970s... and, has several "dead spots" in it.  Gerace says the new system will eliminate those... adding those were the biggest problems in major diasters like the "9/11" attacks, and Hurricane Katrina.  He says the grant should cover most -- if not all of the cost for the system.  He says the move from an analog to digital system will also the "narrowbanding" of local communications from 25 kilohertz to 12.5, as per the FCC.  Gerace says lawmakers will also vote on establishing accounts for the grant monies.


State to spend nearly $28-million dollars on statewide handgun permit database...

State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver says New York will spend $27.7-million to develop the first statewide electronic handgun permit database as part of its new gun control law.  Silver told The Associated Press late Tuesday that the measure will create a central database of pistol permit records now kept at the county level where handgun owners live.  It will allow statewide cross-checking with records of crimes and involuntary commitments to mental health facilities.  The law exempts records of individual handgun owners from the state Freedom of Information Law.  That would avoid the conflict that arose when a newspaper reported the names of handgun permit holders and their addresses.  The funding is in the tentative state budget expected to gain final legislative approval in the Assembly later this week.


Young says new state budget includes $5-million loan to help financially strapped Salamanca...

The final state budget will include a $5-million, no-interest loan for Salamanca, allowing the city to fill a gaping hole in its finances.  State Senator Cathy Young says the Cattaraugus County city has been been experiencing dire fiscal stress... and, was at risk of not being able to pay its bills.  Young says that's because casino revenues from the Seneca Nation of Indians have been withheld since 2009 due to the gaming compact dispute with the state.  Young says a three-member panel led by former state Court of Appeals Chief Justice Judith Kaye has been charged with settling the disagreement through arbitration.  The Olean Republican says this is "tremendous news for the residents of Salamanca, and should allay many of the city's worries.  Not only will this money provide what is needed for Salamanca's current fiscal year... but, it also will allow local officials to plan the coming year's budget."  She adds she's grateful for Governor Cuomo's support in "reaching this solution."


Rabb takes part in Gay Marriage vigil in Buffalo as Supreme Court considerd Prop. 8, and DOMA...

There will be several more national vigils tonight by supporters of Gay Marriage as the U-S Supreme Court hears two major cases.  One of those vigils was held in Buffalo last night... and, a high-profile gay marriage advocate from Jamestown was there.  City Council President Greg Rabb is also the only openly-gay elected official from the region.  Rabb said he was joining others outside the federal courthouse in Buffalo standing in support of striking down Proposition 8 in California... which ban's same-sex marriage... and, the federal Defense of Marriage Act.  He says the idea is to show solidarity with the people who brought those cases before the court.  During Tuesday's arguments on California's ban on same-sex marriage... several justices raised doubts that the case should even be before them.  Rabb says agrees that's a major issue in that matter.  The decision would then revert back to the lower court decision.  As for DOMA... Rabb believes there will be a decision.  He says the key will be how they rule on whether the federal law violates the "equal protection clause" in the 14th amendment.  DOMA was signed by President Clinton back in the 1990s.


Teacher's union says NYS standardized tests in April should not be used as gauge for teacher effectiveness nor against students...

New York's largest teachers union says standardized tests students will take next month should be used to gauge the state's progress in rolling out rigorous new learning standards -- but, not as a measure of teacher effectiveness or against students.  New York State United Teachers tells The A--P it's spreading that message in an ad campaign launching Wednesday.  The ads urge parents to oppose using this year's English and math tests for third-through-eighth-graders in teacher evaluations or student placements.  NYSUT says Tuesday teachers weren't evenly prepared to teach the new ``Common Core'' curricula on which the tests are based.  Education Commissioner John King says in a memo to educators it's important for the state to move forward with standards meant to prepare students for college and careers.


 

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