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That transparency thing in Albany

ALBANY - Say you are a lawmaker -- or even a member of the public -- and you want to see the actual tax package agreement affecting millions of New Yorkers or maybe even some of the details on a plan to spend $1 billion on infrastructure projects.

And let's say in less than an hour both houses are scheduled to gavel into special session to begin taking up the bills.

Might it be unreasonable, by now, to have the actual bills in hand to maybe look at, much less really study?

Well, of course, the answer is yes, at least in Albany, where some things never change.

As for today's schedule, both houses are scheduled to go into special session at noon to take up the tax hike-and-cut package and other deals announced via press release yesterday. The Senate, at least, then plans to immediately break and discuss the whole thing in separate GOP and Democratic closed-door conferences. Presumably by then lawmakers -- not all of whom make it a habit to go over the fine details of legislation they vote on -- will have the bills in hand if they want to check out the provisions.

In the Assembly, Democrats already conferenced the issues yesterday, though, again, actual bills were no where to be seen. Once it hits the floor, Assembly Republicans, concerned about the tax hike portion of the plan, might have a thing or two to say on the topic -- one in which they played no role during the past couple weeks of closed-door talks.

--- Tom Precious

Special session nixes Schroeder swearing-in

   Assemblyman Mark J.F. Schroeder says all the plans he made to accommodate the 2,000 people he invited to his ceremonial swearing-in Wednesday night as Buffalo comptoller are subject to "Murphy's Law -- if anything can go wrong, it will.
   Schroeder called en route to Albany Wednesday morning to explain the special session of the Legislature has derailed plans for the ceremony he had scheduled at his School 72 alma mater in South Buffalo.
   "I thought I had this great idea, and boy, did it come crashing down on me," he said.
   Schroeder instead will be making his last appearance on the floor of the Assembly after winning the election for comptroller in November. His seat will remain vacant until a special election is called by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, but the future of the district is also clouded by reapportionment.

--- Robert J. McCarthy

Live blog from Legislature session on restoring cultural funding at 2:30 p.m.

37 arts and culturals to be added to county budget

There's been plenty of talk of Shakespeare in the chambers of the Erie County Legislature lately.

On Tuesday, the Legislature expects to put money behind all that talk.

A bipartisan budget deal that came together Friday would give $931,841 to dozens of theaters, galleries and other cultural organizations shut out of the Erie County budget last year.

That's $45,000 more than what the Greater Buffalo Cultural Alliance requested last month when it asked county lawmakers to return to funding amounts allocated in the Legislature's adopted 2010 budget.

Legislators added three organizations -- the Colored Musicians Club, Langston Hughes Institute and the Michigan Street Preservation Corp./ Nash house -- to the list.

Here's the breakdown of what the county's Finance, Management and Budget committee approved on Friday:

  • African American Cultural Center $132,411.00
  • Alleyway Theatre $7,016.00
  • American Legion Band of Tonawandas $4,677.00
  • Ballet Artists of WNY (Neglia) $10,523.00
  • Big Orbit Gallery $17,142.00
  • Buffalo Arts Studio $30,000.00
  • Buffalo City Ballet $13,096.00
  • Buffalo Naval & Servicemans Park $20,000.00
  • Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus $25,000.00
  • CEPA $47,140.00
  • Colored Musicians Club $15,000.00
  • Community Music School of Buffalo $2,432.00
  • El Museo Gallery $6,548.00
  • Explore & More $23,808.00
  • Folkloric Dance $1,871.00
  • Hallwalls $51,426.00
  • Irish Classical Theatre $73,710.00
  • Just Buffalo $51,426.00
  • Kavinoky Theatre $10,523.00
  • Lancaster Opera House $11,225.00
  • Langston Hughes Institute $15,000.00
  • Locust St Neighborhood Art Classes $10,523.00
  • Michigan Street Preservation Corp/Nash House $15,000.00
  • Music Is Art $45,000.00
  • Musicalfare Theatre $33,332.00
  • New Phoenix Theatre $25,000.00
  • Pierce Arrow Museum $4,677.00
  • Polish Arts Club of Buffalo Inc $8,000.00
  • Road Less Traveled Productions $4,750.00
  • Roycroft Campus Corporation $9,677.00
  • Shakespeare In the Park $85,710.00
  • Springville Center for the Arts $14,031.00
  • Squeaky Wheel $13,714.00
  • Theatre of Youth $51,695.00
  • Ujima Company $30,000.00
  • Western New York Artists Group $3,742.00
  • Young Audiences of WNY $7,016.00

The full Legislature will vote on the proposal Tuesday. It will then go back to County Executive Chris Collins, who could veto the measure. Legislators on Friday said they did not anticipate a veto.

View all of the Legislature's proposed budget amendments on the table here.

--Denise Jewell Gee

Panepinto eyes Grisanti challenge

    A Buffalo attorney with strong ties to the Democratic organization established by former
Assemblyman Sam Hoyt is polling voters in the 60th Senate District as he explores a candidacy
against Republican incumbent Mark J. Grisanti.

   Mark P. Panepinto, 47, said he hopes polling results available next week will expedite a
process that could lead to his entrance into next November's contest. Grisanti, who upset
former Democratic Sen. Antoine M. Thompson in the overwhelmingly Democratic district in 2010,
is expected to face a tough re-election challenge after committing to remain a Republican earlier this

   "Before I decide to turn my life upside down next year," Panepinto said, "I owe it to my
family and friends, whom I will be asking for help, to see if I can be competitive."

   The Grisanti seat ranks as one of the top objectives of Senate Democrats for 2012,
according to Sen. Michael Gianaris of Queens, chairman of the Democratic Senate Campaign
Committee. He has visited Buffalo several times this year to lay the groundwork for the 2012
campaign, and has flatly predicted that Democrats will retake the seat.

   Panepinto said he has met with Gianaris, Erie County Democratic Chairman Leonard R. Lenihan
and officials of the Working Families Party in Brooklyn to lay groundwork for his candidacy.
He said he can already rely on a Democratic organization based on the West Side that includes
Assemblyman Sean M. Ryan and outgoing County Legislature Majority Leader Maria R. Whyte for

   He acknowledged nothing is yet certain about the district because its boundaries are almost
certain to change following the upcoming reapportionment process. But he said he feels good
about a district he believes will include the West Side and North Buffalo, and believes his
Italian heritage will help him challenge Grisanti.

   "I never would be doing this poll if I weren't approached by enough people," Panepinto said

   His wife, Catherine Nugent Panepinto, was elected to State Supreme Court in 2010.
  The only other Democrat to express interest in the seat is Hamburg attorney Michael
L. Amodeo, who is exploring a candidacy in the event the new district extends along the lake
shore into the Southtowns, as envisioned by some observers.

--Robert J. McCarthy

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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 |