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Keystone Crossroads

Lawsuit Challenging PA's Congressional Map Begins In State Court

KEYSTONE CROSSROADS -- Testimony in a fast-tracked lawsuit alleging gerrymandering got underway in Pa. Commonwealth Court Monday. The case could force a new state congressional map before the 2018 midterm election. Eighteen registered Democrats -- one from each congressional district -- claim Pennsylvania's map was drawn unfairly by state GOP leaders to advantage Republicans. Congressional maps have to follow certain rules, such as distributing equal numbers of voters between districts....

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When it comes to the extinction of modern animal species, humans usually end up taking the rap.

The traditional view of the disappearance of the Tasmanian tiger is no different. It follows a well-worn indictment: After the first humans began arriving in Australia (by recent estimates) some 18,000 years ago, the dog-like predatory marsupial began to disappear.

San Francisco's Mayor Ed Lee, known for embracing the "Sanctuary City" label and working to combat homelessness, has died at age 65. Lee was not known to be ill; he reportedly died at a San Francisco hospital in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Member station KQED cites a statement from the mayor's office, saying he died at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital:

The U.S. Department of Transportation released a statement last week announcing it would withdraw a proposed rule that would force airlines to disclose baggage and other fees at the time of ticket purchase. The decision to rescind the yet-to-be-enforced regulation from the Obama administration received heated responses from members of Congress and airline consumer rights organizations.

In a tug-of-war with a massive wildfire north of Los Angeles, authorities said the ground they lost to the fire a day ago had been regained.

Firefighters on the ground, as well as water-dumping fixed wing aircraft and helicopters, had managed to bring the week-old, nearly 232,000-acre Thomas Fire, to 20 percent containment, after retreating from the massive blaze on Sunday.

The fire has destroyed 683 homes, officials said. It has also forced the evacuation of thousands of residents.

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Governor Cuomo’s Court of Appeals nominee was approved in the State Senate on a voice vote, after an unusually contentious process.

Cuomo’s nominee Jenny Rivera had already faced extensive grilling from Senate Republicans, who are in a coalition government with several break away Democrats. Then, during the vote on the Senate floor, some GOP Senators rose to say that she was not the best candidate.

Every year, New York State gives out millions in tax incentives, loans and economic development grants to the private sector. Every state does it, and New York has little choice if it wants to prevent companies from leaving. But additional attention is now being paid to the incentives going to the gun industry in New York.

New York’s newest Senator, Cecilia Tkaczyk, has been on the job for just over a week now, after a two and half month long court battle over absentee ballots resulted in her narrrow eighteen-vote win. Tkaczyk, a sheep farmer, school board member and former legislative housing analyst, is a Democrat who won the newly drawn Senate seat in the Hudson and Mohawk Valleys that was designed for a Republican.

Senator Tkaczyk says she remained confident during the lengthy legal machinations.

Two weeks after passing new gun control measures, New York officials have begun holding public forums to discuss what’s in the law. At Tuesday's forum in Endwell, Broome County, about 100 attendees came out to raise their questions and vent their frustrations over the new law.

State Police Deputy Superintendent Kevin Gagan led the forum and explained how each of the measures will work.

“When it comes to these assault weapons, if you owned one before the law took effect, you can keep it. You just have to register it,” said Gagan.

Moody's credit rating agency downgraded Binghamton's long-term debt from a rating of A1 to A2. They also gave a less-than-perfect rating to new, short-term debt the city plans to issue.

A downgraded credit rating can make it make it more expensive for a municipality to borrow money.

According to Moody's, the decision was made because the city's financial performance over the past two years cannot be verified. Binghamton officials have not submitted a financial statement since 2010.

Two weeks after passing new gun control measures, New York officials are holding public forums to discuss what's in the law.

State Police Deputy Superintendent Kevin Gagan was in Broome County on Tuesday, explaining how the law works.

"When it comes to these assault weapons, if you owned one before the law took effect, you can keep it. You just have to register it."

Assault weapon registration starts in April and lasts a year. Gagan, along with James Sherman from the State Police, tried to keep the forum on the topic of what's in the law.

Governor Cuomo’s pension stabilization plan could face some obstacles in the legislature. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver says he wants to know what the State Comptroller thinks of the idea first.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver says he’s not ready to sign on yet to Governor Cuomo’s plan to allow local governments and schools to “smooth” out pension payments over time, that would allow them to pay less now and more for them later.

Governor Cuomo’s championing of strict new gun control laws in New York has taken a toll on his popularity. A new poll finds that for the first time since taking office, Cuomo’s approval rating has dropped significantly.

The Quinnipiac University poll finds the governor’s approval rating plunged from an all time high of 74% in in December to 59% now. Cuomo lost the most among Republicans, though he also dropped 10 points with Democrats, says pollster Mickey Carroll.

“His numbers overall are way, way down,” said Carroll.

Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos says he’s strongly opposed to Governor Cuomo’s reproductive health act, saying it would lead to too many late term abortions. Pro choice lawmakers and advocates say they disagree with the Senator’s interpretation.

Senator Skelos first voiced his opposition to the Governor’s reproductive health act at the State’s Conservative party meeting, where some conservatives have been angered by the GOP leader’s vote on strict gun control measures earlier in January.

John Archie has owned the Full Belly Deli in Vestal for four years now. He has three employees that work at his store, and, like many New York small-business owners, he’s wondering exactly what the Affordable Care Act means for him and his restaurant.

“My biggest concern is just trying to find out what it exactly means for me in dollars and cents,” he says.

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