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Lawmaker wants restrictions on drone aircraft in NYS

By Tom Precious

ALBANY – A Brooklyn Democratic assemblyman is joining the expanding list of legislators around the country seeking to limit the use of drone aircraft by state and local government agencies and private companies.

Citing privacy concerns, Assemblyman Nick Perry’s legislation, introduced Tuesday, would set limits on drones used by law enforcement and other agencies in the collection and storing of evidence, including audio and video recordings, involving criminal and regulatory investigations unless specifically okayed by a search warrant.

The bill memo accompanying the legislation says the purpose is “to protect New York state residents from unwarranted and unauthorized use of drones or other unmanned aircrafts to conduct surveillance upon them inside their homes or place of worship or within the closed confines of their property or other locations where a person would have an expectation of privacy.’’

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Today in City Hall

By Jill Terreri

Good morning,

Today, the Common Council's Claims Committee will discuss various settlements totaling $4.4 million with people who have claims against the city, including the families of two firefighters, who are set to receive $4.1 million.

The Council already approved two settlements on today's agenda: $70,000 to settle a property damage claim from Iskalo Electric Towers LLC and $49,000 to a woman and her son, Yevette Paulding and Javon Fogan, related to allegations of excessive force by the Police Department. Both were time-sensitive, according to the city's Law Department, and were approved by the Council on March 19. 

The committee meets at 11 a.m. in Council Chambers. 

Today promises to be more quiet than yesterday, when the Council renewed a hotly debated food truck ordinance and rejected calls for tougher restrictions on the trucks. 

That debate, and a public hearing on designating the Trico complex a local landmark, drew many people to the Council Chambers. 

The Council's Legislation Committee did not act on the local landmark designation, but heard from preservationists about why the building should receive the designation. No representatives of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, which has an agreement with a city agency to develop the property, spoke at the hearing. The campus has said it would like to demolish part of the complex to make way for an expanded Innovation Center.

I recorded the comments made during the hearing in a live blog.  

Ellicott Council Member Darius G. Pridgen, who represents the campus, said the Council would vote on the designation on April 30.  

New, stricter medical marijuana bill introduced

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- Lawmakers have introduced a measure with stricter provisions than failed past efforts to legalize marijuana sales to New Yorkers with a "severe debilitating or life-threatening'' health condition.

The new bill, which ends such past ideas as letting people grow their own marijuana, would have the state health department regulate the process that would include allowing a certain number of private for-profits or not-for-profits to grow the plants and sell the drug under new security protocols to patients with treatment plans approved by a physician, physician assistant or nurse practitioner.

The measure was introduced by its past sponsors, Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, a Manhattan Democrat, and Sen. Diane Savino, a Staten Island Democrat. Savino has more political power this year as one of five breakaway Democrats who jointly run the Senate with Republicans. The bill has 68 co-sponsors, including 10 Senate Democrats. It has previously sailed through the Assembly.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has opposed the idea of medical marijuana legalization, though advocates believe he could be flexible, especially since he is already promoting a plan to relax marijuana possession laws. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have medical marijuana laws. Advocates say the measure will more strictly regulate the drug than prescription painkillers; patient advocates in the past have said marijuana will be cheaper, less addictive and less dangerous than many of the painkiller prescriptions they take.

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Sleepy eyes and all, Senate passes budget bills

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- Tully rule notwithstanding, the Senate pulled an all-nighter and passed the 2013 state budget bills shortly before 5 this morning. [They broke for a spring break, a vacation that was to begin last week but was stalled with budget snags; the Senate is due back April 15.]

"We should be very proud of the results of this budget,'' Senate co-leader Dean Skelos, a Long Island Republican, told colleagues shortly before the house adjourned.

"We achieved a budget that is fiscally responsible. This budget is pro-taxpayer, pro-family, pro-jobs and builds on our successes of the past two years,'' he said.

Democrats, though, spent hours noting the fiscal plan's shortcomings, including cuts for developmentally disabled people, public health programs and a minimum wage hike that is less than what many Democrats had sought.

"Our work is not done. we've left too many people behind,'' said Senate Democratic conference leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, a Westchester County Democrat.

The all-night session is a break with the tradition of the Senate that has held largely in place since 1997. It was that year when Sen. Michael Tully, a Long Island Republican, died of a heart attack following an all-night gathering.

"This is a vampire bill,'' said freshman Sen. Terry Gibson, a Dutchess County Democrat, in urging colleagues, unsuccessfully, to hold the budget deliberations during daylight.

The Assembly is due back tomorrow to take up the budget bills.


Wednesday's must-reads from Washington

By Jerry Zremski

With the Supreme Court once again pondering gay marriage, who better to analyze the shift in public opinion on the issue than the Times' indespensible Nate Silver?

Gov. Andrew Cuomo seems to have gotten burned by moving fast and furious on gun control, but Politico asks: has Washington moved too slowly?

Think that big business pays too much in taxes? Think again.

Video: Supreme Court appears to lack consensus in gay marriage case

Washington Bureau Chief Jerry Zremski recaps today's arguments before the nation's high court and looks ahead to Wednesday's gay marriage case.

2 p.m. live blog: Food truck debate and vote

By Jill Terreri

I'll live blog the Buffalo Common Council's Legislation Committee, which begins at 2 p.m. today. On the agenda is a public hearing on designating the Trico complex a local landmark, and an ordinance amendment governing food truck fees and operating rules. A large crowd is expected. 

The Council will vote at 4 p.m. on the food truck ordinance. There may be a break in the action between meetings. I'll let you know. As always, I'll paraphrase what is said, unless I use quotation marks.  


Tuesday's must-reads from Washington

By Jerry Zremski

WASHINGTON -- All eyes are on the Supreme Court today and tomorrow as it hears two potentially landmark cases on gay marriage, so it's fitting that today's top must read is on that topic.

In the New York Times, John Harwood gives us a breakneck tour through the fastest-moving civil rights movement in American history:

Meanwhile, on an entirely different topic, The Washington Post says Chinese spying could be an inside job:

And The Hill tells us that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg now "likes" Washington:


Today in City Hall: Restaurants to propose tough regulations for food trucks

By Jill Terreri

Good morning,

Today in City Hall, a crowd is expected at 2 p.m. in Council chambers as lawmakers hear from the public on what kind of restrictions and fees should be imposed on food truck operators.

The Council has its own proposal that it is expected to vote on during a special session at 4 p.m. today, but lawmakers will hear from interested parties on what the city should do before the existing food truck ordinance expires April 1. The Council could propose changes to the city's ordinance based on what they hear today.   

Food truck owners and their supporters are expected to show up at 2 p.m. and advocate for lower permit fees (as they did two weeks ago), while a contingent of brick-and-mortar restaurant owners will propose tough new regulations on the trucks, from where they can operate to a new rule that would require a GPS unit in each truck so the city can track them.

Continue reading "Today in City Hall: Restaurants to propose tough regulations for food trucks" »

Jimmy (Fallon)'s Law makes it into final budget

By Tom Precious

Albany -- Here is the provision of Jimmy’s Law. It is the expansion of the state’s film and television tax break program, which likely will be used by NBC when Jimmy Fallon takes over the Tonight show and re-locates it to Manhattan from Los Angeles next year.

The provision, contained in the "revenue" budget bill introduced before midnight last night, permits "relocated" television shows to get in on the tax reductions for working in New York.

The paragraph states: "Relocated television production shall mean, notwithstanding the limitations of subparagraph (i) of paragraph three of this subdivision, a television production that is a talk or variety program that filmed at least five seasons outside the state prior to its first relocated season in New York, the episodes are filmed before a studio audience of two hundred of more, and the relocated television production incurs (i) at least thirty million dollars in annual production costs in the state, or (ii) at least ten million dollars in capital expenditures at a qualified production facility in the state."

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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 |