There was some activity at the Capitol this week, so I thought I might give you and update about what did (or didn’t) happen as well as some election information.
So, what will I share?
- Little Accomplished in Extraordinary Session
- Legislative Leaders Re-Elected by their Respective Conferences
- Update on Unresolved Races
- Profiles of Newly Elected Legislators
Little Accomplished in Extraordinary Session
The Senate and Assembly returned to Albany this week in response to the Governor’s call for an extraordinary session. The Governor’s agenda included addressing the current fiscal year $315 million budget deficit through spending cuts, bailing out the NYC OTB, eliminating the notification required prior to the closure of State facilities, and creating a commission to evaluate and adjust judicial salaries.
The Senate was only in session on Monday. Senate Democrats, missing one member, took up just a few bills and a small number of gubernatorial nominations. The Senate did not consider the Governor’s spending cuts, but did approve the bill creating a judicial salary commission.
The Assembly was in session on both Monday and Tuesday. In addition to approving the judicial salary commission bill, the Assembly also approved the NYC OTB bailout and other bills submitted by the Governor for consideration in the extraordinary session. The Assembly also returned to “regular” session and gave final passage to three bills that the Senate approved earlier this year: imposing a moratorium on natural gas exploration through May 15, 2011, enacting the wage theft prevention act, and a “chapter amendment” to a measure requiring utility companies (among others) to pay prevailing wages to service workers.
All three of these bills are considered to be unfriendly to business. The gas exploration bill, due to the bill being poorly written, jeopardizes up to 5,000 current and future jobs. The bill will actually put a stop to almost all gas extraction. The Wage Theft bill adds additional paperwork requirements for employers and could lead to litigation and damages for back wages. The final bill, known as the Service Workers bill, adds more work classifications to the definition of “service worker” and will likely result in higher energy costs for homeowners and businesses.
On Tuesday, Governor-elect Cuomo criticized the Legislature for its inaction, especially on its failure to make budget cuts.
According to published reports, the Senate may return to Albany within the next few weeks to take up at least some of its unfinished business.
Legislative Leaders Re-Elected by their Respective Conferences
All four of the legislative conferences have re-elected their current leaders for the 2011 legislative session.
On Monday, Senator Dean Skelos (R-Nassau County) was re-elected by Senate Republicans as head of their conference. Currently Senate Minority Leader, he is likely to assume the position of Temporary President and Senate Majority Leader in January. Skelos said Senator Tom Libous (R-Binghamton), will remain as his top deputy.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) was re-elected by the Assembly Democratic Conference on Monday. He has served as Assembly Speaker since 1994.
Also on Monday, Senate Democrats re-elected Senator John Sampson (D-Brooklyn) as their leader. Currently serving as the functional Senate Majority Leader, Sampson is likely to become Senate Minority Leader in January. Sampson said that Senator Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) will continue as his top deputy.
Earlier this month, the Assembly Republican Conference re-elected Assemblyman Brian Kolb (R-Canandaigua), as their leader. Kolb will continue to serve as Assembly Minority Leader.
Update on Unresolved Races
Last week, incumbent Democratic Congressman Dan Maffei conceded to Republican Ann Marie Buerkle in the race for the 25th Congressional District in Central New York. According to an unofficial count, Buerkle leads by 561 votes, with a few hundred left to be counted. Buerkle’s win means that the GOP has picked up at least six New York House seats this election cycle.
The only House race that remains unresolved in the nation is in Suffolk County’s 1st Congressional District. Incumbent Democrat Tim Bishop leads Republican challenger Randy Altschuler by 214 votes with less than 2,000 votes left to be counted.
With the results of two Senate races still outstanding, it is still not certain which party will control the State Senate in 2011. On Tuesday, incumbent Democratic Senator Antoine Thompson (D-Buffalo) conceded to his opponent, Republican Mark Grisanti. This victory means that the Senate Republicans one step closer to regaining control of the State Senate, as they will have at least 31 seats in January.
Two Senate races remain unresolved as of this writing.
In Nassau County’s 7th Senate District, incumbent Democrat Craig Johnson trails Republican challenger Jack Martins by over 400 votes. Democrats have asked for a hand recount of all the ballots, which could prolong the ballot count for weeks.
In Westchester County’s 37th Senate District, incumbent Democrat Suzi Oppenheimer leads Republican challenger Bob Cohen by about 370 votes. Roughly 1,500 ballots must still be counted, and about 400 ballots are being contested.
While the Assembly remains comfortable in Democratic control, the Assembly Republicans picked up a number of seats this fall. In the 1st Assembly District in Suffolk County, incumbent Democrat Marc Alessi conceded to Daniel Losquadro last Wednesday.
Two Assembly races remain unresolved as of this writing. If the current results hold, the Assembly GOP will hold 51 seats in January.
In the 89th Assembly District in Westchester, incumbent Republican Robert Castelli leads Democratic challenger Thomas Roach by 111 votes.
In the 100th Assembly District, which includes parts of Dutchess, Ulster and Orange counties, Republican Tom Kirwan holds a 166 vote lead on incumbent Democratic Assemblyman Frank Skartados. Kirwan held the seat for seven terms before losing to Skartados in 2008.
Profiles of Newly Elected Legislators
Tom O’Mara, 53rd Senate District
Republican Tom O’Mara, who has served in the Assembly since 2005, was elected to replace Senator George Winner, to represent this Southern Tier/Finger Lakes district. O’Mara is a former Chemung County District Attorney and Chemung County Attorney. He practices law with Davidson & O’Mara law firm in Elmira.
O’Mara’s priority issues include jobs and economic development, addressing property taxes, reforming Albany, fair distribution of education funding and protecting sportsmen’s rights.
Claudia Tenney, 115th Assembly District
Republican Claudia Tenney ran without opposition for this seat, replacing outgoing Assemblyman David Townsend, who gave up the seat to run for Oneida County Sheriff. The 115th A.D. includes parts of Oneida and Oswego Counties in central New York.
Tenney served as Townsend’s chief of staff and legal counsel for six years before running for the seat. Her legislative priorities include enacting a property tax cap, term limits for legislators, reforming Albany and stopping unfunded mandates on school districts and local governments.
Kevin Smardz, 146th Assembly District
Republican Kevin Smardz was elected to this, which was vacated by Jack Quinn, who ran unsuccessfully for State Senate. The district includes the southern portion of Erie County. Smardz is a member of the Hamburg Town Board, and is the media director for Southtowns Christian Center, a nondenominational church in Hamburg.
His priority issues include reducing state spending, reforming Albany and job creation.
Stay Tuned…there is always more to come!