Thursday, January 20, 2011

Mandate Relief Redesign Team

Today was my first meeting of the Governor’s Mandate Relief Redesign Team (Team), established by Executive Order 6.  This group of 30 will examine local government mandate relief through local consolidation, shared services among school districts.  The stakeholders around the table included organizations such as:

• NYS Association of Counties
• New York Conference of Mayors
• New York State Association of Towns
• New York State Department of Education
• New York State Council of School Superintendents
• New York State School Administrators Association
• New York State School Boards Association
• New York State United Teachers
• Civil Service Employees Association
• New York State Business Council
• Office of New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
• Upstate Building Trades Association
• Citizens Budget Commission
• and both Senators and Assembly Members from the Majority and Minority.

The Team will submit a first set of recommendations to the Governor by March 1, 2011 for consideration in the Fiscal Year 2011-12 budget process.  The Team will continue to review until the end of Fiscal Year 2011-12.

The League was invited to participate because of our wide membership and our credibility as a civic organization involved in many of the issues being discussed.   It was an interesting 2 hours, everyone around the table appeared to be interested in the final goal, which is to make NYS a more efficient and economical government.  Today the Team spent most of the time talking about pension reform but nothing concrete was decided.  This Team looks to be an active and interesting endeavor.  I will keep you posted as we move ahead.

To submit your mandate Relief Redesign Recommendations, please visit their website:

Session Activity

This week’s session ended around noon on yesterday. The Committee Agenda is not yet out in either the Senate or Assembly, but it is very clear the Republicans in the state Senate are beaming and are glad to be back on the majority side of the Senate. As their first several bills the new Senate Republican majority introduced and passed a set of measures which would curb state spending, reduce regulations and require a 2/3 vote for legislators to raise taxes. These measures are one house bills which are unlikely to be passed by the Assembly Majority.

I will keep you posted, please be sure to check back.

Monday, January 17, 2011

LWVNYS Capitol Beat

Barbara Bartoletti, Legislative Director, LWVNYS
E-Mail: or Phone: 518-469-8905

As the 2011 legislative session gets under way, the League is going to bring back to life an old friend called “Capitol Beat.”  Updates will contain legislative information about League issues, as well as political gossip.  We will also outline the budget and of course, will chronicle the always-lively end of session. We welcome your comments posted on the blog page.

State of the State

A new Cuomo era has begun.  The 2011 Legislative Session began on New Year’s Eve when Governor Andrew Cuomo was sworn in as the 56th Governor of New York State.

On New Year’s Day, a Saturday, Governor Cuomo signed the first executive order of his administration with symbolism that extended through his entire first five days in office.  Executive Order No. 1 removed immediately the unsightly and ineffective concrete barriers that had lined State Street under his offices since shortly after the September 11th attacks.  This order  also reopened to the public the Hall of Governors on the second floor of the Capitol where the Governor’s offices are, much as they had been when his father, Mario Cuomo, was Governor.  The Hall of Governors had been closed to the public since 1995 by then Governor George Pataki, coining the term “Fort Pataki.”  These two moves were to symbolize the re-opening of government to the people.   "We will reopen the Capitol, literally and figuratively," Cuomo said in his inaugural speech.

Governor Cuomo signed the third Executive Order of his administration Sunday which requires his chamber staff and top state officials to complete an ethics training course renewable every two years.  The training will be offered by the Commission on Public Integrity.  The training will begin on January 31st, and must be completed within sixty days.  Mr. Cuomo says it's imperative that all government officials be versed in ethics rules and regulations and that top government employees have no questions, no gray areas, and no possibility of confusion regarding what is proper and what is not.

Governor Cuomo’s first week in office produced six Executive Orders:

No. 1. Removing the Barriers to State Government

No. 2. Review, Continuation and Expiration of Prior Executive Orders

No. 3. Ethics Training

No. 4. Establishing the Spending and Government Efficiency (SAGE) Commission           

No. 5. Establishing the Medicaid Redesign Team

No. 6. Establishing the Mandate Relief Redesign Team

Full text of all the Governor’s Executive Orders:

His next symbolic move was to downscale his inaugural ceremony by having it in the Governor’s Reception Room, known as the War Room, televised but open only to a small audience of family and friends.  In his short (18 minutes only) inaugural address the new Governor stated “This is an austere setting.  And it should be, in my opinion. No grand celebrations. There’s a lot of disappointment vis-à-vis the government. There’s a lot of suffering from the economy. And I don’t think a grand ceremony or a lavish ceremony would be appropriate.”   His speech was about restoring people’s trust in their government in order to  build a better New York.

Outlined in his speech were three top priorities:

   1. Cut Government Spending
“We need to correct decades of decline and billions of dollars in overspending. The special interests who have ruled our government for years must give way to the people’s agenda.”

   2. Partnership
“To the state legislators, I say I reach out to you to form a new partnership, because in truth the partnership between the Executive and the Legislature has not been working well for years and that must change.”

   3. Create a More Open, Responsive Government
“I will lift the veil of secrecy that now surrounds Albany and I will communicate in every way I can, ways never used before, but I need the people to join in.  I said in my campaign this effort is not going to be about “me” but “we.” We the people formed the government, we the people must reform the government, and that’s going to have to start today…”

Full Inaugural Address:

In continuing his theme of restoring the people’s confidence in government, on Monday, January 3, 2011, Governor Cuomo announced that salary cuts for New York State employees would  begin at the top.  Mr. Cuomo said he would give back 5 percent of his $179,000 salary, or $8,950, in order to “lead by example” as the state grapples with its huge budget deficit. He also said he would cut the pay of his lieutenant governor and top aides and reduce the budget of the Executive Chamber.   He stated,  “The working families of New York cannot afford tax increases; the answer is going to have to be that we’re going to have to reduce government spending.”

All of these actions were a precursor to the big event of the Governor’s first week in Albany:  the annual State of the State address.  This address normally takes place in the Assembly Chamber filled with legislators and lobbyists.  The Assembly Speaker and Senate Majority Leader then have their respective Press Conferences in their own conference rooms in the Capitol.  Andrew Cuomo cast that tradition aside when he announced that this year’s State of the State address would be held in the Convention Center of the Empire Plaza, which is within the complex but down the concourse from the Capitol.  Mr. Cuomo’s intent was two-fold; by removing the State of the State from the Assembly Chamber, it took the control away from Speaker Sheldon Silver and allowed the new Governor to take control.  He then instituted a lottery to allow New Yorkers, regular people, to attend the State of the State; the symbolism here was quite obvious, returning state government to the people.  For the first time, this new Governor also used a PowerPoint presentation for his State of the State address; he also did not use a teleprompter, but used old fashioned notes.  The affair, which typically is like the first day of school, greeting old friends that have not been in the city for several months, had the added symbol of the public being welcomed into state government.  Unlike other State of the State addresses, the other symbolic move at this one was to allow the two legislative leaders to speak before the Governor.   There were 2200 people at the State of the State, much larger than the number one would normally see in the Assembly Chamber.  Speaker Silver took full advantage of his allotted time speaking for nine minutes to outline his priorities.  Senate Majority Leader Skelos was a little less verbose; his priorities took only seven minutes.

Mr. Cuomo talked about the state being in a:
  • Time of crisis
  • Need to Transform our Government
  • Time for Change
  • Seize the Opportunity Now
Mr. Cuomo also indicated the Government was again open for business touting his concept for economic regional councils and private public partnerships.  His also indicated his support for a 2% property tax cap.  He outlined his intent to reorganize state government with a commission styled after the Berger Commission in order to downsize government.  He announced a one year wage freeze and stated that his budget would reduce spending.

The Governor showed he has a sense of humor with his now much touted ships passing in the night, complete with a visual of Captain Skelos and Commander Silver with the best part being the plane bombarding his ship with special interest missiles.  The notable aspects of his speech for the League was his outlining of an agenda for government reform.  Mr. Cuomo has talked since the campaign about state government losing credibility, voter confidence and integrity.  To combat this, the Governor outlined ethics reform, redistricting reform, campaign finance reform, and reducing the pay to play culture in Albany.  We look forward to further details on these reform initiatives.  Other initiatives that the Governor talked about were mandate relief, government consolidation, and juvenile justice reform which earned him the biggest applause of the afternoon when the Governor said,  "Don't put people in juvenile justice facilities just to give people jobs!"

The Governor ended on what he thought was a high note by telling the legislature it could be the best in the nation to which there was little applause.

The reviews of the speech were that this new Governor has an aggressive agenda and both leaders said afterward they were at least open to his proposals.  This has the earmark of an fascinating session.

Several receptions followed given by the Comptroller, Speaker and Majority Leader, even they were scaled down affairs.  These receptions were attended by lobbyists and Albany insiders (at least that much hasn’t changed.)

With such a grand first week in office, we look forward to what the coming weeks have to offer.

And the beat goes on…