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Capitol Bureau

The dismantling of one of the last Occupy encampments in New York ended with pepper spray and arrests, as Albany City workers moved in and took down tents at the Occupy Albany encampment.

Occupy Albany’s camping permit expired at 7 am, by mid afternoon city workers moved in and began dismantling tents. When workers tried to take down the last tent, protesters seized it and began marching up and down the city streets in the midst of the evening rush hour. They chanted “Occupy Albany all day, all week”, and “banks got bailed out, we got sold out”.

One of the biggest issues facing state lawmakers in 2012 is the redrawing of new district lines. The topic has been the elephant in the room during much of this year, with Governor Cuomo threatening to veto any lines that are gerrymandered and not drawn in a non partisan manner. 

The first public meeting of the state’s new ethics commission came on the day that another State Senator pleaded guilty to felony corruption charges. Questions were raised about the closed door portion of the commission’s meeting.

Shortly after noon, The Chair of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, Janet DiFiore, called the meeting to order.

“We have a tremendous amount of work ahead of us,” DiFiore told the assembled commissioners.

State Comptroller  Tom DiNapoli’s office is helping municipalities comply with the complexities of the new property tax cap, but he says it’s too early to tell yet what the out come of the new law will be.

DiNapoli says so far, around one fifth of counties have taken preliminary steps to override the cap, as they are permitted to do under the law as long as they can muster a 60% majority vote from their county legislature or board of supervisors.

State lawmakers have not yet released their proposed  maps for new district lines. A government reform group has tried to fill the void by releasing its own set of maps that it says are a model for non partisan districts.   

Sue Lerner, with Common Cause, says her group has released proposed maps of legislative districts that it says are non partisan, and are based on grouping regions and neighborhoods with similar characteristics together.

“They’re built on factors that are important to people, not politicians,” said Lerner.

The state’s new ethics commission, announced this week,   is already raising some questions after holding its first meeting in private, without public notice.

Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders announced their appointments to the new Joint Commission on Public Ethics, or JCOPE early in the week. It was the last possible day before the commission was, under law, required to begin its work. 

The first meeting was held late Thursday. It was a private teleconference, and no public notice was given.  The Associated Press first reported the existence of the meeting.

A study by the New York State School Boards Association finds three quarters of the state’s school districts would have exceeded the new 2% property tax cap, had it been in effect for the current school year budget. 

The group predicts that the new tax cap and schools are “on a collision course.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo has introduced legislation that would require coaches at high schools and universities to report suspected incidents of child sexual abuse. The governor says the bill is in response to the alleged sex abuse charges against Syracuse University basketball assistant coach Bernie Fine.

Under current state laws, coaches are exempt from rules that require teachers and school health care professionals to report to police any suspected child sexual abuse. Cuomo says the legislation would close that gap.

Governor Cuomo and legislative leaders have released the names of their appointments to the newest version of the state ethics commission Monday. The Joint Commission on Public Ethics, or JCOPE, by law begins its work on Tuesday.  

Governor Cuomo named Janet DiFiore, the District Attorney of Westchester County, to chair the commission. He also appointed Seymour Knox the IV, who is VP of Corporate Relations for the Buffalo Sabres, as well as the chair of a private equity firm, and Mitra Hormozi, who worked for Cuomo when he was Attorney General.   

When Governor Cuomo convinced the legislature to pass a new temporary income tax surcharge on New York’s wealthiest, it was an abrupt policy change from the anti tax views that the governor had advocated as recently as October. But, As Karen DeWitt reports Cuomo’s reversal will likely do him more political good than harm.

Governor Cuomo, in his first day on the job back on January 1st of this year, laid out his position on raising taxes pretty clearly.

“I say no new taxes, period,” Cuomo said on January 1.

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