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Weekly podcast: Jerry Zremski looks at week ahead in Washington

Budget talk -- for both this fiscal year and next -- takes center stage this week in the nation's capital.

Jerry Zremski, The News' Washington bureau chief, talks about both in his weekly Politics Now podcast looking at the week ahead in Washington, D.C.

Both President Obama's budget proposal and proposed cuts by Republican members of Congress will have a significant impact on Western New York.

Jerry also discusses two people with Buffalo connections who will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Take a listen to our conversation:

Dowload the mp3 here.

Make sure to also follow @JerryZremski on Twitter.

--Aaron Besecker

A funny thing happened on the way to a tax cap

ALBANY -– Emergency 911 calls with advertisements? Students having to swipe a debit card each time they go to a different class?  An extra fee taxpayers can pay to ensure more timely police response to calls for help?

So goes the possibilities in a new web site that seeks to poke a bit of fun at the property tax cap push at the Capitol.

“It uses a little humor to point out the devastating impact an ill-conceived tax cap plan would have on schools, local governments and vital public services,’’ said Carl Korn, a spokesman for the New York State United Teachers union.

NYSUT is sponsoring the new web site -– –- along with New Yorkers for Fiscal Fairness and the Omnibus Consortium, groups whose backers include unions and a number of groups that are fighting state budget cut plans.

The site, borrowing from the Onion, uses fake headlines and stories to push its point against the tax cap. It includes a phony 911 call, in which the “victim’’ of a car crash gets a series of automated responses one might expect to hear when calling your bank or an airline. “If your emergency requires an immediate response, press 1, followed by the pound sign,’’ the operator says. The caller -– before eventually getting cut off -– has to go through a series of steps, including providing the exact zip code for the accident. The 911 line is complete with a car wash advertisement.

The new web site comes as a group of business organizations today began a new effort to press the Assembly to get on board with the property tax control effort.  The Senate has already approved a 2 percent cap on annual property tax growth.

-- Tom Precious

Audio: Andriatch discusses nepotism, politics on WBFO

Bruce Andriatch, The News' suburban editor, talked about recent examples of brazenness in Depew and West Seneca as a guest of Joyce Kryszak on WBFO-FM 88.7 this morning:

Download the clip and take it with you

Video: What will happen with Chris Lee's seat?

News Washington Bureau Chief Jerry Zremski and News Political Reporter Bob McCarthy take a look at the front-runners for the House seat that Chris Lee resigned earlier this week and discuss the possibility of the district being dissolved in two years.


Early snapshot of WNY lawmakers trying to make laws

ALBANY – It’s been six weeks since they’ve been sworn in, so how are the Buffalo area’s three new members of the State Senate doing, lawmaking-wise?

There’s a wide range of the types of bills being introduced, but so far Sen. Mark Grisanti, a Buffalo Republican, has been the most active in proposing new bills -– with 35.

Sen. Tim Kennedy, a Buffalo Democrat, has introduced seven bills, while Sen. Patrick Gallivan, an Erie County Republican, introduced five bills since Jan. 1, according to a search of bill sponsorships via the Legislative Retrieval System.

The subject matters are all over the board. If you’d like more information about a specific bill, go to the state Senate’s own site -- -- and type the bill number into the search field.

The Senate hasn't yet passed any of the 47 bills introduced by the three new senators. But, then again, only 17 bills have been approved in the 62-member chamber so far this year.

Here are the bills by the three new lawmakers and a brief description of each:

Bill No.



GALLIVAN -- Allows for rifle hunting in Wyoming county


GALLIVAN -- Adopts the interstate compact for juveniles; repealer


GALLIVAN -- Permits the county of Erie to market serial bonds at private sale through June 30, 2012


GALLIVAN -- Allows the Wadsworth Library to redistribute funds held


GALLIVAN -- Restricts retail sale of ipecac syrup to behind the pharmacy counter or under manager control


Bill No.



GRISANTI -- Defines the Richardson Center Corporation as an educational institution and authorizes the commissioner of general services to sell and convey certain land in the city of Buffalo, county of Erie


GRISANTI -- Authorizes the commissioner of general services to release a right of reverter in letters patent conveying certain land located in the city of Buffalo


GRISANTI -- Relates to licensing the practice of polysomnographic technology


GRISANTI -- Relates to instruction on the history of people with disabilities


GRISANTI -- Authorizes the city of Buffalo to adjudicate traffic infractions similar to other cities having a population of less than two hundred thousand


GRISANTI -- Expands the availability of tax credit refunds for start-up high technology companies


GRISANTI -- Provides for the training, examination and certification of dog control officers


GRISANTI -- Provides for election of members of the board of education of the Buffalo city school district in November rather than May


GRISANTI -- Relates to providing firefighters with appropriate equipment and procedures; repealer


GRISANTI -- Requires one trustee of the New York Power Authority be a resident of St. Lawrence County and one trustee to be a resident of Niagara county


GRISANTI -- Requires mandatory compliance with existing safe handling and personal protective measures by workers who come into contact with pressure-treated wood marine piling


GRISANTI -- Requires the placement of one recycling receptacle for drink containers for every four waste receptacles on state owned property


GRISANTI -- Expands the products which may be purchased for public use


GRISANTI -- Enacts the constituent casework protection act


GRISANTI -- Provides electronic toll collection discounts for certain fuel efficient vehicles


GRISANTI -- Relates to the liability of landowners who permit recreational uses of their land


GRISANTI -- Protects certain information on hunting, fishing and trapping license and permit applications from disclosure


GRISANTI -- Establishes a distinctive "New York recycles" license plate, with the proceeds therefrom deposited into the solid waste account of the environmental protection fund


GRISANTI -- Relates to management of wildlife resources


GRISANTI -- Provides that diesel fuel that contains a concentration of sulfur that is less than or equal to 15 parts per million shall not be sold unless it includes biodiesel


GRISANTI -- Enacts the "New York state healthy and green procurement act"


GRISANTI -- Provides that on publicly accessible municipally owned property where trapping is allowed posted signage at entry points must inform readers that trapping is allowed


GRISANTI -- Directs the commissioner of parks, recreation and historic preservation to cooperate with municipalities in establishing adopt-a-park programs


GRISANTI -- Requires rebates to be provided to consumer at the time of purchase


GRISANTI -- Enacts the "private well testing act"


GRISANTI -- Establishes the biosciences commercialization assistance fund within the foundation for science, technology and innovation


GRISANTI -- Relates to creating a tax credit for energy efficiency home improvements


GRISANTI -- Relates to the number of reverse vending machines required for mandatory acceptance of empty beverage containers


GRISANTI -- Enacts the "city of Buffalo historic preservation tax credit act"


GRISANTI -- Relates to payments for residential health care facilities in Erie county and Niagara county


GRISANTI -- Increases the minimum percentage collected by the municipal governments hosting the facility


GRISANTI -- Provides for source separation and disposal of recyclable materials and requires municipalities to adopt local laws providing therefor


GRISANTI -- Relates to modifying the composition of membership of the Buffalo municipal housing authority


GRISANTI -- Relates to persons designated as peace officers


GRISANTI -- Relates to tuition increases, leasing, contracting, and the overall daily operation at the State University of New York at Buffalo


Bill No.



KENNEDY -- Designates South Park Avenue in or near Lackawanna a state highway


KENNEDY -- Provides for a review of rating territory definitions for non-business automobile insurance policies


KENNEDY -- Establishes a tax free time period for storm related products for the month of September


KENNEDY -- Establishes voluntary licensure of master plumbers by the department of state


KENNEDY -- Requires fire company command vehicles to be equipped with a partition or cage separating the front and rear seats


KENNEDY -- Reduces certain on-premises liquor license fees


KENNEDY -- Permits persons with licenses to sell beer or wine products for consumption off premises to provide beer samples


-- Tom Precious 

Add Davis, Quinn to list of potential Lee successors

Add two more names to the list of potential successors to former Rep. Chris Lee, R-Amherst, who resigned Wednesday from Congress.

Both are "Jacks," and both are well known.

Jack Davis, who ran for the seat three times when it was held by former Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, R-Clarence, said he is seriously considering a fourth shot -- but this time as a Republican. The Akron industrialist who ran before as a Democrat, said he returned to his original GOP roots about a month ago.

And sources close to former Assemblyman Jack F. Quinn III, R-Hamburg, said he is also eyeing the seat.

Davis said he has spoken to Erie County Republican Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy, adding that he would resurrect his stance against free trade and that he would once again be willing to spend considerable amounts of his own money.

"I still have a terrible problem [with free trade]," he said. "The country needs me."

He called Lee's resignation a "big disappointment," adding he had lunch with him last week and was encouraged by his positions in Congress.

Quinn lost a race for the State Senate in November and has about $125,000 in a state campaign account, which would be ineligible for a federal race.

--Robert J. McCarthy

Hoyt, Peoples-Stokes gain leadership posts

Hoyt crop Buffalo Assemblyman Sam Hoyt (left) lost his committee chairmanship, but gained a leadership title Wednesday in the 150-member house.

Hoyt, who had been chairman of the local government committee, was named Assembly majority whip -- one of 42 leadership or committee chair titles that carry financial stipends, also known as a lulu.

Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes (right), also a Buffalo Democrat, picked up the title PEOPLES-STOKES crop of secretary of the majority conference.

Although Hoyt loses a committee post, the move brings him an extra $18,000 annual stipend beyond his base salary of $79,500; his local government committee paid him a lulu of $15,000.

The stipend for the post now held by Peoples-Stokes pays $11,000.

The only other Western New York Democrat in the Democratic-controlled Assembly getting a leadership title or committee chairmanship job is Assemblyman Robin Schimminger, a Kenmore Democrat. He keeps the longtime position he has held as economic development committee chairman. 

--Tom Precious

Live chat with Bob McCarthy about Lee resignation

Audio: Zremski on Lee resignation

The News' Joseph Popiolkowski spoke with Washington Bureau Chief Jerry Zremski about Rep. Chris Lee's resignation.

Play the audio by scrolling down and accessing the clip to the left of this story.

A return to budget conference committees

ALBANY –- It’s always fun at the state Capitol when following the law makes news.

So goes a deal officials are trying to announce tonight that will see the Senate and Assembly start up public conference committees to iron out differences over the state budget.

The conference committees were not used the past two years when Democrats controlled both houses of the Senate. It was a lapse that the Senate GOP leader, Dean Skelos, regularly pointed out in noting how the Assembly and Senate failed to abide by their own budget reform law.

Now back in control of the Senate after two years out of power, Skelos is set to announce a deal with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to begin the conference committee process in mid-March, as called for by state law.

The conference committees have been criticized over the years for failing give authority to their rank-and-file members decide the big, burning issues of the budget. And, often, even the individual committees can’t agree on contentious issues -– thereby bumping the matters up to the “mother ship" committee whose membership includes the top leaders of the Legislature.

But the conference committee process does have its usefulness: the meetings can clarify – publicly – the thinking of the two houses over budget disputes. And, for those on-time budget watchers, the sessions do have a way of instilling some sort of discipline to try to get a budget done by the start of the fiscal year April 1.


The Senate and Assembly today announced what they were pushing to announce last night. Here's the release:


Senate Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver today announced an agreement on a joint legislative budget schedule that sets out deadlines the Legislature will adhere to in order to achieve an on-time budget for New York State.

“I am pleased that we are returning to the joint, public budget negotiation process that is set in law,” said Skelos. “This model resulted in passage of an on-time budget in 2008 and I’m hopeful it will help us enact a budget by April 1 that meets the fiscal challenges we face, and addresses the needs of the people.”

 “The Legislature has already moved forward with an aggressive schedule of joint public hearings on the governor’s proposed budget. The schedule we are unveiling today provides a clear roadmap for the path we will take as a collective body to achieve a sound budget for New York State that recognizes the divergent needs of our communities and the fiscal reality of our state,” said Silver (D-Manhattan).

“This process provides for openness and transparency in budget discussions and will allow us to work together to deliver a budget that is on-time and is in the best interests of all New Yorkers,” said State Senator John D. DeFrancisco (R-C-I, Syracuse) Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

 “This schedule provides legislators and the public with an opportunity to actively participate in the very real decision-making process needed to restore our state to fiscal health. Our ultimate goal is to produce a sound, fiscally prudent, fair and equitable on-time budget,” said Assemblyman Herman D. Farrell, Jr. (D-Manhattan) Chair of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee.

The agreed-to legislative budget schedule for 2011 is as follows:

On or before:

February 28                 Senate/Assembly Fiscal Committee Economic & Revenue Reports Released

February 28                 Consensus Economic and Forecasting Conference

March 1                       Revenue Consensus Report

March 15                     Senate & Assembly Budget Actions

March 15                     Joint Senate/Assembly Budget Conference Committees Commence

March 28                     Final Report of Joint Conference Committees

March 28 - 31              Joint Legislative Budget Bills Taken Up by Senate & Assembly


--Tom Precious

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About Politics Now

Robert J. McCarthy

Robert J. McCarthy

A native of Schenectady, Robert J. McCarthy came to The Buffalo News in 1982 following a six-year stint at the Olean Times Herald. He is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and has been covering local, state and national politics since 1992.

Tom Precious

Tom Precious

Tom Precious joined The Buffalo News in 1997 as bureau chief at the state Capitol, where he covers everything from statewide politics and state government fiscal affairs to health care, environmental and municipal government matters. Prior to The News, he worked for news outlets in Albany and Washington, DC.

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri is an Amherst native and has covered politics and government in upstate New York since 2003. She joined The Buffalo News in 2012 and covers City Hall.

@jillterreri |

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski, The Buffalo News Washington bureau chief, has reported from the nation's capital since 1989 after joining The News as a business reporter in 1984. A graduate of Syracuse University, Zremski is a former Nieman fellow in journalism at Harvard University. In 2007, he served as president of the National Press Club.

@JerryZremski |