News from the Associated Press - January 6, 2014

Associated Press
January 6, 2014

Cuomo speech likely to focus on budget, tax issues

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is set to lay out a vision for the last year of his first term and is expected to keep state spending limits while proposing new property tax relief.

With both high poll ratings and a campaign bank account with more than $28 million, the Democrat's State of the State address Wednesday is expected to repeat other recent themes like closing or revamping failing schools.

He will reverse course on medical marijuana, announcing action that will allow a limited number of hospitals to dispense it for certain ailments.

Aides known for tight-lipped discipline haven't leaked much else so far, though Cuomo in December emphasized continuing an overall 2 percent limit on spending growth and applying savings to help New Yorkers offset local property taxes.


Groups to call for NY ban on 'fracking' at speech

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - Environmental groups opposed to natural gas drilling using high-volume hydraulic fracturing plan to make a lot of noise at the Empire State Plaza this week.

They plan to form a quarter-mile-long line of sign-waving, chanting protesters along the underground Concourse between the Capitol and the convention center where Gov. Andrew Cuomo is giving his State of the State address on Wednesday. A similar protest last year drew more than 1,000 people from around the state.

John Armstrong, spokesman for Frack Action and New Yorkers Against Fracking, said in a statement that the groups are calling on Cuomo to ban fracking.

Cuomo has said he's waiting for his health commissioner to complete a safety review before making a decision on fracking.


Appeals planned in federal suit against NY gun law

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Opponents of New York's new gun law plan to appeal a federal judge's ruling this week upholding its main provisions that banned sales of some popular semi-automatic rifles and large-capacity magazines.

The New York State Rifle and Pistol Association says Friday it has filed a notice of appeal with the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in the lawsuit that includes sportsmen's groups, firearms businesses and gun owners.

Separately, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says his office will defend Judge William Skretny's ruling, while also appealing his decision to strike down parts of the law.

Skretny found the 2013 law's seven-bullet limit for loading still legal 10-round magazines was "arbitrary."


NY task force reviews rollout of education reform

New York's education policymakers say they really were listening, even to the shouting, during a series of public forums held to explain a slate of education reforms.

A Regents task force this month will begin reviewing comments from the 20 statewide forums with an eye toward smoothing the way forward for the ongoing shift to more demanding K-12 learning standards, student testing and teacher evaluations.

Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch appointed the six-member task force. Tisch says the forums may have been contentious but produced some good points.
Many parents, teachers and students described excessive and stressful student testing and a loss of creativity in the classroom.

The first meeting of the task force is scheduled for Wednesday. It's to finish its work in February.


White House: Biden to appear with NY gov in Albany

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - The White House has announced that Vice President Joe Biden will appear at an official event with Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday in Albany, but no details were provided.

Cuomo's office didn't immediately comment on Biden's visit, announced on Sunday.

The governor will sketch out his 2014 agenda on Wednesday in the last State of the State address of his first term. He told reporters in December that economic development, taxes and government reform are among his top issues.

Biden appeared at an event in Clifton Park, north of Albany, in 2009 to tout the federal economic stimulus program. President Obama made a stop at the University at Albany's nanotechnology center in 2012, and has also appeared at General Electric Co. in Schenectady and Hudson Valley Community College in Troy.


Plan set to restore imperiled fish in NY waters

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - The state Department of Environmental Conservation has adopted a restoration plan for sauger, a walleye-like fish that biologists call one of New York's most imperiled fish species.

The fish used to thrive in the Great Lakes, St. Lawrence and Allegheny rivers and Lake Champlain, but they've become scarce because of pollution and habitat loss. Only a small remnant population remains in Lake Champlain.

The DEC hopes to re-establish sauger in the Allegheny River, Lake Champlain and Lake Erie watersheds by 2030. The plan calls for stocking, documenting and improving habitat, population monitoring, and public outreach.

Biologists say Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River may no longer be able to support sauger populations because invasive zebra mussels have increased the water clarity and dams restrict access to key habitats.

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