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Skelos: Hollywood exemption to gun law is wrong

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- The Legislature’s top Republican said he is opposed to giving movie and film companies a special carve out from the gun control law so that action scenes shot in New York could include actors armed with assault weapons.

Senate co-leader Dean Skelos, a Long Island Republican, told The Buffalo News this afternoon that he is concerned about the mixed message such a special provision for Hollywood would send.

Critics have said the idea of letting film companies used now-banned assault weapons – even with blanks – in movies shot in New York sends a confusing signal, especially to children, at a time when new gun restrictions are being put into law.

“I indicated my opposition,’’ Skelos said of talks he is having with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and other legislative leaders on possible changes to the gun law.

“My concern is why are you doing for Hollywood and others cannot do the same thing?’’ Skelos said in an interview today. “I don’t believe they should be treated any differently.’’

Skelos noted the interest the state has in the movie and film industry – it spends hundreds of millions of dollars on tax breaks to lure studios here. “We have a tremendous amount of film tax credits which are going to be helpful to that industry,’’ he said.

Asked about the status of the talks over the Hollywood exemption to the gun law, Skelos said, “As we speak right now, that’s one of the issues that’s outstanding.’’

Skelos confirmed the new budget deal will include a provision relaxing the ban on sales of ammunition clips with more than seven bullets. Gun makers have said they would not make New York-specific gun clips to comply with the April 15 deadline to stop selling 10-round magazines.

Of the gun law, Skelos said "the biggest mistake (was that) was rushed. We should have slowed up the process a bit more.''

NOTE: See the full video interview with Skelos -- including his discussion of the state budget and 2014 gubernatorial politics -- later today on



Tolbert's delay in declaring mayoral candidacy has roots in history

By Robert J. McCarthy

Bernard Tolbert, the former chief of the Buffalo FBI who is weighing a bid for mayor this year, has received lots of unsolicited advice in past weeks.

Some friends are telling him he has waited too long to declare his candidacy. Others say he is right to "keep everyone guessing" as he continues exploring a Democratic primary race against two-term incumbent Byron W. Brown -- who officially announces on Saturday.

But Tolbert is still not offering any hints, even as he attends a host of citywide events like last Friday's St. Patrick's luncheon at the Buffalo Irish Center and the 60th annual dinner of the National Federation of Just Communities Wednesday night at the Hyatt Regency Buffalo.

Continue reading "Tolbert's delay in declaring mayoral candidacy has roots in history " »

New UB center getting state funding boost

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- A new University at Buffalo science center engaged in engineering and science innovations that is generating growing interest around the country will get a large infusion of state funding to expand its work.

The UB Center of Excelllence of Materials Informatics is getting $500,000 in funds from the new 2013 state budget, up from the seed funding of $200,000 a year ago, Assemblyman Robin Schimminger, who heads the Assembly economic development committee, said this morning.

The facility was born in last year's budget. Senate and Assembly negotiators set aside $250,000 in recent budget talks for the center and Schimminger said the Assembly is now adding another $250,000 on top of that.

"The recently designated center represents a world-class initiative, which has captured the imagination and recognition of area leaders. Not only does it put the University at Buffalo on a unique path, but it is also aimed at addressing a worldwide shortage of rare earth elements,'' the Kenmore Democrat said.

The center is based at UB's Amherst campus at the engineering school and has about 50 faculty members engaged in its work, which uses science and technology to develop new or modified materials in an array of products from better insulated windows to water purification systems to devices to better detect cancer.

The new money will go all for the center's operating budget.

Schimminger said UB Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics will be getting about $880,000 in the new budget. That facility is one of the original six such university-based science facilities begun in 2001 in New York.

Sen. Tim Kennedy, a Buffalo Democrat, said Gov. Andrew Cuomo's budget had proposed eliminating funding for the new materials informatics center in his 2013 state budget plan.

"It's all part of the incubator approach that the centers bring to job creation in Western New York,'' Kennedy said. "When you fund them and allow these centers to do research they were made to do it allows spinoff job creation with small businesses in the community to really anchor themselves in Buffalo and build off that,'' Kennedy said.


Truckers beware: new cell phone restrictions in budget

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- Here are some of the provisions in one of the new budget bills regarding operators of commercial vehicles.

The bill states that the definition of illegally using a cell phone includes the current provision that it is within the "immediate proximity of the user's ear and the new: "with respect to a person operating a commercial motor vehicle, holding a mobile telephone to, or in the immediate proximity of, the user's ear, or dialing or answering a mobile telephone by pressing more than a single button, or reaching for a mobile telephone in a manner that requires such person to maneuver so that he or she is no longer in a seated driving position, restrained by a seat belt that is installed in accordance with section 393.93 of title 49 of the code of federal regulations and adjusted in accordance with the vehicle manufacturer's instructions."

Hands-free use will be permitted, "provided, however, that for purposes of this section, a mobile telephone used by a person operating a commercial motor vehicle shall not be deemed a "hands-free   mobile telephone" when such person dials or answers such mobile telephone by pressing more than a single button."

Three budget bills introduced

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- Weary fiscal staffers got three bills into print overnight in time to start passing portions of the budget on Saturday (yes, another weekend of fun in Albany).

The bills are:

1: A3001A, legislative and judiciary

2: A3005D, public protection and general government

3: A3008D, transportation, economic development and environmental conservation (call it the TED bill if you want to sound like an Albany insider).

True to tradition, lawmakers yesterday passed the first budget bill: authorizing billions of dollars to service paying the state's debt.


Budget deal: Like, "conceptual,'' dude

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo is calling it an "agreement in concept.'' Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver prefers the term "conceptual framework.''

Read about some of the details of the tentative budget deal tonight on The Buffalo News homepage.


Lawmakers being told to leave, come back Saturday for budget

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- Senate Republicans were told this evening to expect a short day tomorrow and to go home if they want before returning Saturday to possibly start passing budget bills. Senate Republicans say the return time is set, tentatively, for 2pm Saturday.

That gives time for bills to age the three days without a message of necessity. Lawmakers expect some bill passage Saturday, with a good portion of the work being done late Sunday afternoon into Sunday.


Major legal challenge to NY-SAFE Act coming tomorrow

 By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- The National Rifle Association's affiliate in New York will file a lawsuit in court tomorrow seeking to overturn the state's gun control law.

Tom King, president of the New York State Rifle and Pistol Association, would only say the suit will challenge "the constitutionality of a number of issues'' contained in the NY-SAFE Act, which was passed in January.

Continue reading "Major legal challenge to NY-SAFE Act coming tomorrow" »

White smoke? First major budget bill heads to printer

By Tom Precious

ALBANY -- The so-called Article VII budget bill dealing with public protection and general government has gone to the legislative print shop, a sign of progress after a week of on-again, off-again movement.

Under one plan, lawmakers are being told to be available late Saturday afternoon to begin passing budget bills, and then coming in later in the day Sunday. [That leaves at least part of Monday for some last-minute action before Passover starts at sundown.]

Continue reading "White smoke? First major budget bill heads to printer" »

Cuomo seeks to relax bullet clip restrictions

By Tom Precious

ALBANY – Gov. Andrew Cuomo is backing down on a provision in the new gun control law that in three weeks would have banned gun shops from selling weapon clips that hold up to 10 bullets.

With opposition still active by gun rights groups and owners, Cuomo said the law passed in January has “inconsistent’’ provisions that permit people to have 10 bullet magazines at a competition or gun range but makes it illegal to have more than seven rounds in the magazine. Gun makers say they do not make seven-round magazines, and gun rights groups say Cuomo’s gun bill was crafted as a way to limit their gun purchase rights by going after the clip sizes.

Under the plan being negotiated at the Capitol, Cuomo said it will still be illegal for people to have more than seven bullets in a clip, even if that clip has a 10-round capacity. The only exception is at gun ranges and at shooting competitions.

The law grandfathered in existing 10-round clips purchased before April 15. Now, those larger clip sizes will still be allowed to be sold after April 15 in New York if the deal is finalized. The plan was first floated by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on Tuesday.

Cuomo, whose poll numbers have been dropping, especially upstate, said the change has nothing to do with anything other than what he characterized numerous times as inconsistent language. Cuomo said any push to permit people to still put up to 10 bullets in the 10-bullet capacity clips is a “non-starter.’’

UPDATE: After meeting with Cuomo this afternoon, Silver sought to downplay the change. "It's a change to accommodate commerce, basically. They're not being made in sevens,'' he said of seven bullet clips.

Asked if he was worried about more, larger clips being in circulation, which was the stated intent of the lower magazine sizes when Cuomo and lawmakers cut the deal, Silver said: "The issue is not the magazines. The issue is the people and what they do with them ... We're banning assault weapons. We're not going back on banning assault weapons. That's a tremendous accomplishment in this 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 |