New York Now; 43
Coming up next on NEW YORK Now the special Senate committee is now set to examine the fate of Hiram Montserrat. What you know who's on it and what the chances are the clean senator gets to keep his job. Also an important bridge in New York has been closed and is causing major problems for folks up in the north country. We're talking about people losing their jobs but talking about businesses on both sides losing a tremendous amount of business. And Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman talks about what can be done to alleviate the state's overburdened family court system. It's all next on New York now. Funding for New York now is provided by the New York State Health Insurance Program offering New York State Public employers and employees of the Empire plan a plan as great as the Empire State. Additional funding provided by W.A. support for New York nows website comes from Philips Lytle.
But what. Says New York no. Hi everyone and welcome to New York now I'm Matt Ryan. And I'm Casey Seiler. One week after Senator Hiram Montserrat was convicted of misdemeanor assault. Democratic Conference leader John Sampson has appointed a committee to investigate whether further action is needed against the Queens legislator. And that story tops our look at this week's headlines. The nine member committee appointed by Sampson consists of five Democrats and four Republicans along with the chair of the committee. Manhattan Senator Eric Schneiderman the four other Democrats are all women from downstate Dianne Savina Ruth Hassel Thompson Andrea Stuart cousins and Toby answer. The Republicans chose western New York member of Katherine young as one of their four
selections Young is one of only two Republican female senators. No word yet on when proceedings will begin. Montserrat was found guilty of a misdemeanor assault charge stemming from an incident last December when his girlfriend's face was slashed by a broken glass. This problem has got to be resolved within a month. It has to be because the payments that are due on us here in December and we are at least three billion dollars behind on those payments. And this is one of those situations where when you spend money that you don't have you're going to have to pay the bills and balance the books. It's as simple as that. Governor David Paterson held a public leaders meeting Wednesday to discuss ways the state could close its 3 billion dollar budget gap. Patterson mentioned more than once that the state may not be able to pay many of the large bills that are due in December including a one point six billion dollar one for school aid. The governor said he will call a special session in the very near future.
Although he did not specify a date he also said he's thinking about addressing a joint session of the legislature as a way to continue to hammer home the state's fiscal woes. In other news a major bridge that New Yorkers use every day has been closed due to concerns about its safety. The Crown Point bridge which crosses southern Lake Champlain was closed last Friday by the Department of Transportation and Tuesday the governor declared a state of emergency for Essex County and the neighboring area around the structure. The concrete supports for the bridge are deteriorating in its left local legislators. Frustrated. What we need is a subsidy for the ferries. People have got to be able to take a ferry and it has to be very very cheap so that they can at least get back and forth. We've got to have a plan. Everyone knew this bridge was in terrible condition and yet we really had no plan. It was just being discussed to rebuild rehabilitate and hopefully by the end of the
week we will the end of the week or early next week we will at least have some results from the core drillings to know whether there's just the one. Peer that is a problem or if all of the peers are experiencing the same problem. The closing has hit the local economy hard already as some residents who are trying to get to neighboring Vermont's now have to commute almost 100 miles to get around Lake Champlain. We'll have more on this story as it develops in the coming weeks. And finally this week the EPL environmental advocates gave out their annual report card to members of both chambers Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was named legislator of the year with a score of 101. The Manhattan speaker won the award according to the organization based on his leadership role on the MTA refinancing and the green jobs green New York act. A score of 17 given to a number of Republican senators was the lowest on the average Democratic state senators
scored far better than their Republican counterparts. Seventy three to 30 to be exact. But Democrat Craig Johnson from Long Island was the recipient of the EPL oil slick award given to the public figure who has done the most to derail the state's environmental protections. The organizations say the Johnson fording the progress on legislation that would have required manufacturers to recycle toxic electronic wastes. All right now it's time to break down and analyze some of these news items and for that we welcome back to the reporter roundtable Kyle Hughes of NYS NYS dot com and Karen the wit of New York State Public Radio a couple topics I want to get to. First off the leaders meeting that happened earlier this week Paterson once again pleading his case in front of the legislators and the public about the dire conditions of the state. Are the leaders buying into what he's saying. Well I mean they're they're giving lip service to a certain degree. It appears the assembly is more on the same page as he is than the Senate is but the Senate has a problem
with. So being pretty disorganized and chaotic and not necessarily having the votes to even do it if they wanted to do it I think they simply strategies start to develop go along with these budget cuts that the governor's proposed as best as we can get it over with. Don't draw attention to ourselves and hopefully the governor will either get blamed or get the credit for them and just kind of stay out of the fray they've been sort of doing that for the last year is all the chaos is going on with the Senate but the Senate Democratic leader John Sampson had some other ideas want to refinance all those tobacco bonds which Governor Paterson shot down immediately but the Senate is still pursuing saying hey you know we can get a better interest rate we can change the terms than we can. Get five hundred million dollars and maybe not have to do these mid-year school late cuts and Patterson called it was a nonstarter. Yeah I'm pretty much against it so so they're not really sure where it's going I think the problem is that they don't know how serious the governor is about these cuts because in the past he's been known for changing his mind remember about a year ago he wanted that soda tax and spend a lot of time in state the state talking about it and then he sort of dropped it said well I guess nobody
wants to do that. Now he said he was against taxing the rich and he ended up you know agreeing to that last April so I think people are trying to gauge well is he really serious How far can we go with pursuing other ideas it sounds like the Senate Democrats are willing to take that a little further for at least a few more weeks I would say. Now special session Do we have any idea when this is going to happen. Well the things that actually were twenty seventh and they said 20. Well they originally they were going to have it yeah 27 but it conflicted with fundraisers for the assembly Democrats in the Senate writing this those nuclear missiles. So now it's like going to be sometime after Election Day which I believe is November 3rd. Yeah and that I would guess before Thanksgiving which is at the end of the month because that the deadline that they're up against a corner the governor is mid-December when the state has to make certain payments that unless they do something at that point they might have a cash flow problem they have to delay those payments. I mean there is a real hard deadline according to the governor of December 15th where they do have a scouse of billions of dollars in payments. Governor Paterson his budget people say we don't really have the
money to make all these payments so it is getting serious and you know time is. Running out to do anything other than cuts the longer they delay on this whole thing and again a Democrat should mention that they haven't talked about a government shutdown or anything like that which I see in other states talking about delaying these payments or payments that would go to school districts primarily to cities to county governments and they might have to wait for the money or borrow. Right but it certainly wouldn't be good for all those entities and it would certainly make them pretty nervous I think about you know how they're going to pay for things in turn. Paterson pretty adamant he doesn't want to go down that down that route and the only mayor saying form it would especially since he's hammered home so many times. Yeah yeah he also mentioned the possibility of addressing a joint session of the legislature which is obviously that and very rare outside of the state and I just don't see the hard to know how serious he is about that because afterwards he kind of admitted he was thinking out loud about that which I just recall yes. Where did I meet you before I jumped on it because that would be a major undertaking kind of like a
second State of the state take a lot of time a lot of preparation so if he wants to put his resources in that way and I you know I can when it's last time there actually did something I would have to go back to September 11th I think they had a special session within days and they did that but I'd normally as you say it's state of the state. But I think what he's trying to say is circumstances are dire and you know what you know what I'm starting to believe him. Yes you know in the past they've always found ways to sort of make up money and find money and they say the sky is falling and it isn't but this time it really does seem like it's real like it's the end of the road for him we saw him again butting heads with Obama this week on this very issue because Obama wants to control the bonuses the payouts to Wall Street people and Paterson is saying well that's fine but it's going to cost us maybe a billion dollars in New York State in terms of tax revenue things like that but it is you know we got about a minute and a half left we also mentioned in the headlines the special Senate committee is now ready to hire a Montserrat investigation we told we told our buddy who's on it. What are the chances that something concrete is going to come out of this.
If you get a felony you're tossed out of the misdemeanor there you know there's no I think it's another sort of Damocles offense or a way to describe it hanging over Montserrat head now he's going to be sentenced I believe at beginning of December maybe December 4th. And they they've got this panel now in special counsel and the meter is running on all that to course and the idea is I think to get him out whatever it takes to get him out because nobody wants him there. Yeah I think you know hopefully they'll do it efficiently based on how this time it has had its problems it might be a little bit difficult to do that and his sentencing is the beginning of the summer. They're going to have a result before then are they going to wait to see what I think they'll have or I think they'll have a result I mean what more needs to be found out about this and it is a grand jury there was a trial this conviction of NYS and we asked Dot Com and Karen Witt of New York State Public Radio thanks for joining us. Time now for our weekly New York now poll question. With the continuing bad economic news coming out of our state this week we asked Have you seriously considered moving out of New York
in the last year due to the state's fiscal woes. Log onto our website org slash New York now and make your vote counts or email us and why now. We love hearing from you. Let's take a look at last week's results when we asked Which statement best describes how you feel about the governor's proposed budget cuts. Eleven percent said too much. Fifty six percent said not enough and 33 percent said just right. Let's hear from our viewers starting with William and Alfred who voted not enough. He says Governor Paterson is correct. The legislature needs to act and act now cuts cuts. Rich in Glens Falls voted just right and said the rich have already been asked to sacrifice. Now it's time for the rest of us. Passing the buck is no longer an option. And finally Paul in Albany says no matter how draconian the governor's initial proposals may sound the legislature and special interest groups will react so negatively that he will have to compromise. Thanks to all those who took the time to write them. And we look forward to
hearing from you next week. As many of you already know a trip to family court can be frustrating enough but the emotional issues one has to deal with are just part of the problem. As Irene Jay Liu tells us in this week's New York now feature story across the state. New York's family courts are overwhelmed especially in the five boroughs of New York City. And it's getting worse with the recession. This year alone court appearances have gone up 26 percent from 2008. That's 2.6 million court appearances spread across the one hundred forty three family court judges across the state. And the strain is affecting the amount of time judges can spend on each case. We've asked him a head that given the case loads in a number of court days that a judge in a hearing a foster care case would only have 42 minutes a year to spend on a child's case which is really not enough time to make decisions that about their safety their permanency and well-being the services they need. It's been nearly 20 years since the legislature has increased the number of family court judges in New York City
and over the past 10 years only for new family court judge ships have been created statewide. Meanwhile the legislature has created 53 judgeships in other courts. So why the disparity. Family law has never been a prestigious part of the practice that's one reason I think the family court in particular the vast majority of litigants in family court are poor people and people of color or people of color. And so they are not viewed as the politically powerful or important group and so their needs don't get high priority in the legislature. There's also the political question. The largest growth of judgeships has been in the court of claims these particular judgeships are very valuable to political leaders because they're appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate. Family Court Judge ships don't offer the same sort of political currency their elected positions in most parts of the state except in New York City where the mayor appoints them. That's been a sticking point in the partisan politics of Albany. Republicans didn't want to give the appointments to Democratic mayors in the 80s and early
90s. More recently Democrats have been reluctant to give appointments to the Republican mayors Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg. But that may change this year. Last month the Democratically led Senate passed legislation that would create 21 new family court judge ships including seven in New York City. If the bill becomes law it would be the single biggest expansion of family court judges in three decades. But before that happens it still needs to pass in the assembly and meet the approval of Governor David Paterson. Both have cited the cost of the new judges as their biggest concern. When it gets to my desk I'll consider it but the premise is correct. The family court system needs to be expanded and we need to give younger people in the system a greater opportunity we need to expand the notification of court of court attorneys that represent children the dangers of domestic violence which are not often covered in family court proceedings. But it's hard to expand anything until we get our fiscal house in
order. The office of Court Administration estimates that 21 new judgeships will cost around 18 million per year. But the Senate says the cost won't impact this year's budget which currently faces a three billion dollar shortfall because the courts will use their existing budget to pay for the new positions for the rest of this year. After that it would be taken up in next year's budget negotiations. But some policy makers have suggested that the judiciary's budget which totaled 2.6 billion this year could absorb the cost of moving forward. New York now recently sat down with the chief judge of the Court of Appeals Jonathan Lippman to talk about the need for additional family court judges as well as a number of other topics. In your previous role as chief administrative judge you and former chief judge Judith Kaye advocated strongly for increasing the number of family court judges. What is the most I'm probably the most important case is that we do. It certainly deals with issues that have all the most critical to the average citizen which is their family their
children. It's the most fundamental issue and the cases have been increasing over the last decade dramatically. This is. Fundamental issue that needs to be addressed by the policy makers. It's been nearly 20 years since family court judges have been established in New York City. Meanwhile the legislature has routinely extending core objects ships in the court claims. The Supreme Court city court. Why do you think the family court judges have been neglected particularly given the need that you illustrated. Well I think in the home there isn't a constituency constituency that is strong enough for our families and for our children. And I think it's easier to create these other judgeships many of them particularly in the court of claims or by appointment of the governor. But to allow the situation of family court to continue to become
more stressful a debilitating for the court system for the. People who come into that court seeking justice is wrong. And I think there's a consensus in the legislature that this needs to be addressed and it is my hope that that will happen this year. Now how do you spoken with the governor about this issue. We've spoken with the governor and the governor's council and was hopeful that no guarantees but we're hopeful that that they certainly understand the importance of this issue and the relatively minimal that the really nominal fiscal impact this year although you know I'd be the first to acknowledge that down the road judgeships cost money and the people who support the judges you know in the courtroom costs money in the back office people. But the investment is minimal in terms of the benefits that ultimately will be
received. The impact of these cases on the. The courts can't even be just spelt numbers. They were they are the most difficult the most emotional the most gut wrenching cases and they take a great deal of time and consideration and they are stressful for everybody. So again this is an area where if we're going to put resources into the court system I can't think of a better place to put it. In August I think it was reported that you had been speaking with the governor and legislature about this issue 11 years judges have gone have gone to that pay raise Could you give us an update of your things stand then. Yeah I have been speaking to them in August and every day since we're going to continue speaking to them. There were three court cases those cases will be heard on January 12th. At the court of appeals we are hoping that that this issue will be resolved by the legislature and the
government by the policymaking branches before that case comes on because really that's where it should be resolved. And not only do we need to pay increase. I don't think in the end that's the answer believe me will get one will take it will be delighted will be thrilled. But in the long run there has to be a permanent mechanism by which judges are able to get regular increases in their compensation. Like other people do you know periodic increases so we can build a judiciary that tracks and retains the best of the bench. We can't do that when the people who would even think about becoming a member of the judiciary see the judges haven't had even a cost of living increase in a decade. Isn't exactly a great the promotion to get the best people on the bench. And speaking of politics in the legislature
your court recently ruled that it was legal for Governor David Paterson to appoint Richard Braddock as the town governor. Now I know that you can't speak about the details of race but you know needless to say it was a controversial ruling. Critics of the ruling of the majority ruling have called called it a political deal that was brokered between you and Governor Paterson who appointed you and Speaker Silver who it's often been reported that is a friend of yours from childhood. I mean how do you respond to those to those critics. Well look again we don't talk about the case when we come onto the bench we take off whatever political hats we have and if we had them I don't think the history of this court in that case or any other case reflects that I think that you know I haven't seen those. The comments that you're talking about the beauty of being in the in the
judiciary is that we insulated from that kind of discussion and commentary. You know I just know that that the we have on our court judges are appointed by many different governors and they're of different parties. It has no effect on how we rule on the cases. We are by definition the non political branch of government. So the other two branches of government could talk of those ways or say whatever they want. We we again we we were all on the law that said we do want business. That's what we're all about. And that's how we're going to continue doing business regardless of the political winds of the day this is the the wisdom of all of the constitutional design of our branch of government. All right thank you Irene. Now time for our latest installment of Capitol Confidential where this week Casey Seiler examines the murky majority situation
that exists right now in the Senate chamber. When is a state senator not a state senator. It's more than a rhetorical question these days as Democratic and Republican members of the chamber prepared to consider the fate of Senator Hiram Montserrat who as you know by now was found guilty of misdemeanor assault. On Tuesday the Senate's Democratic majority took the first step toward a possible expulsion of Montserrat if that happens it would mark yet another historic milestone in a year that's already seen more than its fair share of them. Historians are furiously digging to find the last time a member of the Senate was booted from the chamber for anything other than the standard route conviction of a felony. In the past quarter century there have been three of those all for financial crimes. Montserrat suggestion would also reduce the Democratic majority to 31 members dropping them below the magic number of 32 required to maintain control in a 62 member body. The Democrats razor thin margin has gotten them in trouble or at least discomfort a number of times already this
year in March. Votes to approve the state budget were delayed by the brief hospitalization of Ruth Hassel Thompson who was suffering from pneumonia. In the end Hazell Thompson was allowed to cast all of her votes at once. Ending the impasse in July Senator Daniel squadron's honeymoon brought the opposite of rest and relaxation to his Democratic colleagues who were left to deal with the demands of Republican members who held up passage of any legislation until a resource sharing deal had been worked out. The prospect of Montserrat forced exit raises another question if he or any other member is stripped of his status as a senator. Is it still a 62 member body. Put another way what a Montserrat less Senate be comprised of 61 members which could therefore be controlled by a 31 member majority. The state constitution alas is pretty vague on the question. In one section it notes that passage of legislation requires a majority vote of members elected which leaves hanging the question of whether or not Montserrat would continue to be
a member. If he is shown the door so far this question remains moot. Mainly because everyone involved understands that Monserrat seat could be filled in a matter of weeks through a special election that would almost certainly be won by another Queens Democrat in the interim. It's hard to imagine a situation that would require the Democrat non-majority to push the question which would almost certainly be decided by the courts. A branch of government that's been dragged into the activities of its legislative co-equals quite enough in the past six months. For now Democrats will proceed with caution on all fronts and hope that every member of the conference stays healthy and out of trouble. You can follow the twists and turns of the Montserrat case and more at our Capitol Confidential blog. Just go to Times-Union dot com. All right thank you Casey and thank you all home for watching NEW YORK Now next week. Preview of the upcoming trial for Senate Majority Leader Bill riddle have analysis from the special session. Well done.
Have a great weekend. Funding for New York now is provided by the New York State Health Insurance Program offering New York State Public employers and employees the employer plan a plan as great as the Empire State. Additional funding provided by wy Niti support for New York nows website comes from Philips Lytle.
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- Hosts Matt Ryan and Casey Seiler provide reports on political and legislative headline news. Coverage includes the creation of an inquiry committee following Queens Senator Hiram Monserrate's conviction for misdemeanor assault. Subsequent news stories include a brief report on a meeting held by Governor David Paterson to close the state's budget gap, the closure of the Crown Point Bridge across Lake Champlain due to safety concerns, and the EPL Environmental Advocates' annual scorecard on the environmental voting records of New York's state legislature. New York Now's "Reporter Roundtable" comments on these stories; panelists include Kyle Hughes of nysnys.com and Karen Dewitt of New York State Public Radio.
- 'New York NOW' is New York State's Emmy-nominated, in-depth public affairs program, featuring news, interviews and analysis from the Capitol. Each week, the program probes politicians, civil servants, journalists and others as they examine the impact of public policy on residents of the Empire State
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- APA: New York Now; 43. Boston, MA: WMHT, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_131-12893358