Here's How Sheldon Silver First Became One of the Most Powerful People in New York

Silver in 2013
Sheldon Silver's days as Speaker of the New York State Assembly could be numbered following his arrest on January 22 on charges of massive corruption and graft, into the millions of dollars.

But in 1994, when he was voted into the assembly's highest seat under strange circumstances, it was done with a quickness that alluded to his propensity for making deals and doing favors in Albany.

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Democratic Challenger Zephyr Teachout Wants Cuomo to "Resign Immediately" After Allegations of Meddling In Corruption Panel

As far as Albany skulduggery goes, this one is almost too on-the-nose: a New York Times investigation out today alleges that Governor Andrew Cuomo's office interfered with an anti-corruption commission, making sure it was unable to investigate any alleged corruption emanating from people or groups with close ties to the governor.

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Bronx Assemblyman Michael Benedetto's Bill to Ban Youth Football Has Little Support

Christopher Farber
Brownsville's Mo Better Jaguars.
America's views on youth football are shifting quickly. This became particularly apparent on Thursday, when ESPN reported that participation in Pop Warner dropped by 10 percent from 2010 to 2012, and Robert Morris University released the results from a poll showing that 40 percent of respondents supported a ban on kids playing tackle football before high school.

But if these stats are early signs of football's decline, they are very early signs. Football is America's Game, entrenched in the culture. It is the product that drives a multi-billion-dollar company. It is the thing we watch most each week and each year. "It is righteous, and only a jackass would cancel it," Hunter S. Thompson wrote in 2004,

Into that quicksand steps Bronx Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, who in February became the first legislator in America to introduce a bill banning youth football in his state. His Thursday stood in contrast to the data about how much people were turning against football.

"I received a awful lot of criticism about this bill," Benedetto, who represents the 82nd Assembly District in the East Bronx, said at a press conference that day, the Times-Union reported. "I have certainly received dozens of emails for and against -- mostly against -- this proposal, I'll be honest."

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Before June 1st Deadline, DOE & UFT Submit Their Own Teacher Evaluation Plans

Remember the teacher evaluations debacle from a few months ago? You know, the one where the tensions between the UFT and Bloomberg administration cost New York City's public schools nearly $300 million in state funds? Yeahhhhh, that one.

Well, after a solution fizzled and the jobs of hundreds of New York City teachers evaporated into thin air with next year's budget, Governor Cuomo set the next deadline dance to June 1st. If the two sides really, really couldn't sit down and sort out their differences by that day, Albany would intervene on their behalf and put in place a state-led evaluations system - one that would probably peeve the UFT and the Department of Education but whatever. Tough luck for the sore losers.

But yesterday, the State received different plans from both of the frenemies to see just how ideologically "distant" they claim to be. As of now, the plans submitted yesterday have not been made available to the public. However, a glimpse at what happened back in January kinda gives us an idea of where the UFT and DOE stand.

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The New York Senate Is Very Concerned About the Human Body Parts Trade

Wikimedia Commons
In any normal legislative session for New York state, hundreds of bills pass through the Assembly and Senate without garnering much public attention. They could propose renaming a bridge in a town you've never heard of after Pee Wee Herman. They could include changing the benches from plastic to wood in a state park somewhere upstate. Or they could be about human body part trade.

Yesterday, in a 60-1 vote, the New York Senate passed a bill that would prohibit the sale of human body parts, unless the practice is validated by law (i.e. hospitals, clinics, etc.). For whatever the reason, current public health law only covers the territory of human organs, not body parts. And that's become a huge problem.

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John Raskin Has a Plan to Make the G Train Less God-Awful

g train.jpg
G is for greenbacks, baby.
It's been a long, mean winter for the MTA. In 2010, the agency's budget woes led to a 7.5 percent fare increase, 1,000 lost jobs, and draconian service cuts across the boroughs. In 2011, Governor Cuomo reached an agreement with unions to freeze wages, and 2012 got by, barely, without cuts or hikes.

But now for some good news: 2013 is looking way, way better. And as the Voice's John Surico mentioned last month, there's even a little unexpected cash involved--the 2013-2014 budget passed in Albany surpassed the MTA's expectations by some sweet $40 million. Now, the obvious question: How the hell do we spend it?

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Mayor Bloomberg To New York State: Follow My Lead On Soda Ban

Two weeks from today, Mayor Bloomberg's citywide ban on the sale of soda pop beverages above the 16 oz. size will take full effect. Once that occurs, all establishments regulated by the City's Health Department are expected to toss their fizzy beverages into the trash. Expect rioting from the New Yorkers for Beverage Choices (or whoever else is still morally opposed to this infringement of our civil drinking liberties).

However, there is a legislative linchpin in this ban that exempts hundreds of commercial businesses from soda pop regulation: if a grocery store, supermarket or bodega makes less than 50 percent of its sale from processed foods, that enterprise is under the oversight of New York State's Department of Agriculture, not the City.

In essence, this loophole will leave New Yorkers with the ability to walk right into, say, Gristede's and buy all of the 32 oz.'s of soda they wanted but the inability to do the same at any local pizzeria.

With that being said, the entire efficacy of the law (as well as the anti-ban advocates' immense frustration) comes into question. What's the point of having a half-ass soda ban? If this exemption exists, we can't even really call it a 'soda ban' - it's more like a 'soda inconvenience,' if anything, right?

Well, Mr. Bloomberg has apparently asked himself these questions, too. So, yesterday, he told Albany to jump on his banning bandwagon in an attempt to ensure that every 32 oz. in the State goes unturned.

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Gov. Cuomo Has Decided: The State Will Take Over Teacher Evaluations

John Surico

Looks like State Education Commissioner John King wasn't kidding.

Yesterday, the Associated Press was informed by an anonymous Cuomo administration official that, in his 30-day budget amendments coming up this week, the governor will position Albany to be the central arbiter of a still-not-disclosed statewide teacher evaluations deal; one that will garner millions of Race to the Top funds for New York. After a threat from Mr. Cuomo a few weeks ago, this is the official announcement that, yes, things have gotten that bad.

But this will only happen if the City and its teachers can reach a deal by the newly set deadline, September 17th.

This transfer of power away from the local municipalities is a direct result of the inability of New York City, along with a few other school districts, to get their act together on the controversial subject. The core of the 2010 law passed by state lawmakers -- to outsource responsibility to local municipalities on coming to an accountability agreement -- broke down late last month when Mayor Bloomberg's Department of Education walked out of negotiations with the United Federation of Teachers. 

And, as we know, the teachers union has had a rough past dealing with City Hall wrested with mayoral control over educational policy. So we can't blame them for losing $250 million in state aid, leading to a free fall in the Mayor's budget that will result in the dismissal of 700 teachers, right?

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State Ed Head John King Is Not Waiting Any Longer for a Teacher Evaluations Deal

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But can you really blame him?

After the collapse in talks between the mayor's Department of Education and the UFT last month, Albany went ahead and extended the deadline for yet another month for the City (and other areas -- it's just not us!) to come to some sort of agreement on teacher evaluations. The new deadline -- the upcoming date of March 1st -- is meant to give the two feuding parties a fresh start on negotiations that could secure over $300 million for the City in state and federal aid.

And, for state education commissioner John King, that's seriously all we're getting.

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New York Becomes First State to Pass Gun Control Bill After Newtown

Categories: Albany, Cuomo, Guns

Last week, Governor Andrew Cuomo's State of the State address was entitled "New York Rising." What happened yesterday in Albany might explain why.

In a 104 to 43 vote, the New York State Assembly officially passed the NY Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement (SAFE) Act on Tuesday afternoon. The bill was handed down from the State Senate, where it passed 43 to 18 late Monday night. In a signing ceremony on Tuesday evening, Governor Cuomo, alongside other top state officials, signed the bill, making New York the first state in the country to pass significant gun control measures after what happened in Newtown a month ago.

As President Obama weighs 19 executive orders related to the issue on a federal level, the NRA issued a statement in response to New York's new law, calling it an "all-out assault on the Second Amendment and the law-abiding citizens of New York." But, if the large margins in both of New York's chambers are any indication, the gun-toting lobby group may be in the serious minority on this one.

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