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Debate Over NY Primary Date May Be More About Logistics Than Politics

New York lawmakers want fewer elections. They say they can save millions of dollars by consolidating primaries for state and federal offices into one day, but they can’t agree on when that day should be.

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The Broome County Legislature approved a new Office of Energy Development during its meeting on Thursday, though the purpose of the office is not clear.

A leading budget watchdog group is urging rejection of a key component of Governor Cuomo’s budget plan. It would allow cities and schools to put off some payments to their pension funds.

The Governor’s proposal, known as the pension stabilization plan, would allow schools and municipalities to “smooth” out their pension payments over a 25 year period, by paying less now, but more later.

Governor Cuomo made several changes to his budget plan in 30 day amendments . As Karen DeWitt reports, the amendments range from imposing a teacher evaluation plan on New York City, to cutting the cost of hunting licenses.

Cuomo amended his budget to impose a teacher evaluation system on New York City. The Bloomberg Administration and the teacher’s union failed to reach agreement by a January deadline set by Cuomo, and the City stood to lose hundreds of millions of dollars in school aid.

The state’s largest teachers union has filed a lawsuit against the state’s property tax cap, arguing it’s unconstitutional.

New York State United Teachers President Dick Iannuzzi says the cap, passed by Cuomo and the legislature in 2011, arbitrarily limits property tax increase to 2%, regardless of whether a school district is rich or poor. The lawsuit also charges that the tax cap violates the principle of one person one vote, because a supermajority of 60% of voters is required to override the cap.

A group pressing for public campaign financing has compiled a list of large corporations who gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to some New York lawmakers. They charge that the donations are preventing the legislature from closing what they say are corporate tax loopholes.

On Tuesday, New York state officials announced another delay of their final decision on hydrofracking. The Department of Environmental Conservation will wait for a report on the health protections in its environmental review of fracking, then the environmental review can be completed. The delay could be less than a month, or it could be much longer.

A document from Governor Cuomo’s Administration assessing the health impacts of hydro fracking, written several months ago, says the gas drilling process is likely safe if proper precautions are taken by the governor’s environmental agency. 

A February deadline on New York’s process to allow high-volume hydraulic fracturing will be missed, with Governor Cuomo’s Health Commissioner now saying he needs more time to complete an ongoing health study.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah said he wants to study potential health impacts from hydrofracking further, and will review some new comprehensive studies on  health and fracking that have been released over the past few weeks.

High volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, has been hailed as the long-sought answer to our global energy dilemma, and an environmental catastrophe in the making. New York state is now in the final steps of evaluating the safety of this unconventional practice to extract gas from shale formations extending under large sections of the state, and the outcome of this review is expected to play out within weeks or even days.

Dueling pro and anti fracking filmmakers held screenings and promotions for their films, as they await a decision by Governor Cuomo on whether fracking will go forward in New York. That could come by the end of the month. At one point in the day, the two sides confronted each other in the halls of the Capitol.

Phelim McAleer is the creator of Fracknation, a film that claims to rebut charges made by environmentalists and the popular anti fracking movie “Gasland”. He came to Albany to hold a screening of his film.

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