Here And Now

Good morning and happy Thursday! Here’s the news.

Happening today:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in New York City with nothing public planned.

At 10 a.m., Senate Health Committee Chair Gustavo Rivera and Assembly Health Committee Chair Richard Gottfried will take testimony regarding the New York Health Act. Memorial Art Gallery Ballroom. University of Rochester, 500 University Ave., Rochester.

Also at 10 a.m., New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will deliver remarks. Madison Square Garden, 4 Pennsylvania Plaza. New York City.

Also at 10 a.m., Rep. Elise Stefanik will host “Coffee with Your Congresswoman” VFW Post 6912, 7744 W State St, Lowville.

At 10:30 a.m., Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will announce statewide funding for a farm-to-school program. Waterfront Elementary School. 4th St., Buffalo.

At 11 a.m., Assemblyman Colin Schmitt will host a press conference to announce that he has been named a member of the New York State Assembly Minority Task Force on Water Quality and is bringing a public hearing to his district later this month to address the water quality issues facing the Hudson Valley. Blooming Grove Town Hall (Court Room), 6 Horton Road, Blooming Grove.

At 11:30 a.m., NYGOP Chairman Nick Langworthy and Dutchess GOP Chairman Mike McCormack will be joined by supporters in front of Poughkeepsie City Hall, 62 Civic Center Plaza, Poughkeepsie.

At 11:45 a.m., Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will deliver remarks at the groundbreaking of Mandela Market’s expansion. 272 E Ferry St., Buffalo.

At noon, de Blasio will deliver remarks at the Firemen’s Monument. West 100th St. and Riverside Drive. New York City.

At 2:30 pm., U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand will stand with union leaders and advocates at the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, District Council 9, Local 201 in Menands to announce her legislation, the Build Local, Hire Local Act. The International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, District Council 9, Local 201. 191 Broadway, Menands.

At 3 p.m., Stefanik will host a second “Coffee With Your Congresswoman.” Johnstown Senior Center, 109 E Main St, Johnstown.

At 4 p.m., NYGOP Chairman Nick Langworthy and Republican candidate for NY-18 Chele Farley will be joined by supporters and local officials in front of Rep. Maloney’s District Office, 123 Grand Street, Newburgh

Headlines:

Ahead of a vote this month on the approval of a plan to close Rikers Island, the City Council is submitting a new proposal to ban the future construction of new jails on the facility’s land, sources confirmed to NY1 on Wednesday afternoon.

Mavis Discount Tire falsified its records of brake work allegedly done on the limo that crashed and killed 20 people in Schoharie last October, according to new court documents filed by the Schoharie County district attorney.

The bombshell development in the limousine crash investigation, first reported by The Times Union, comes as the owner of the limousine is facing criminally negligent homicide charges.

Ronan Farrow’s new book, which alleges former Today Show anchor Matt Lauer raped a co-worker, has NBC executives worried.

Fiscal watchdog groups say New York’s increasing Medicaid costs are due to poor budgeting.

WBAI workers are planning to tape protest shows about the efforts of its parent company to shut the left-wing radio station down.

Lindsay Boylan, who is challenging Rep. Jerry Nadler in a Democratic primary, says she has raised nearly a half-million dollars for the campaign.

The ThriveNYC program, a project by New York City First Lady Chirlane McCray, is being accused of dodging questions surrounding the Chinatown murders of several homeless people.

Implementing raise the age juvenile justice law changes in New York City is off to a rough start.

As some tenants endure long waits from state bureaucrats to determine if they’ve been overcharged by their landlords, they are turning to hiring outside contractors to check their math.

There was outrage last spring when just seven black students were offered admission to Stuyvesant High School. But as middle schoolers prepare to take the entry exam for Stuyvesant and seven other elite public high schools, Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza warns little is likely to change.

Mayor de Blasio’s administration is pushing a rule that would require new hotels in Union Square to hire unionized workers.

New York City is suing e-cigarette vendors, accusing them of marketing their products to kids.

Nassau County Executive Laura Gillen is calling for an investigation after secret recordings show sanitation workers alleging they offer bribes for better routes.

Rep. Kathleen Rice says she wants tougher gun control laws meant to make it harder for domestic abusers to buy firearms.

Gov. Cuomo says the State of New York is suing the International Joint Commission over its regulation of the level of Lake Ontario.

In a visit to Rochester Wednesday, Gov. Cuomo called for legal action to address the fiscal health of Rochester City Schools.

On Wednesday in Albany, about a dozen poll workers gathered at the county board of elections to learn about how voting is changing in New York.

Rensselaer County Executive Steve McLaughlin and GOP operatives worked to pressure Republican Troy mayoral candidate Tom Reale into dropping his bid.

New legislation by Sen. Alessandra Biaggi would work to preserve beehives in New York.

Parents in Saratoga County who work nights and need to sleep during the day may soon be eligible for childcare subsidies.

New York businesses that have filed to complete sexual harassment training are out of compliance with a new state law.

More than 400 jobs will be available in Syracuse, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced. Thanks to a health care group– and a tech group.

Ahead of the November election, Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo and her opponent Adam Bello discussed an issue that many are calling a crisis in the county: Early childhood intervention.

Albany Police Chief Eric Hawkins says the biggest challenge the department currently faces is staffing. The department is budgeted for 342 officers, and currently they are short 47.

Police officers are in Kingston are working to adapt to the city’s growing Spanish-language population.

A small group, mostly unknown to each other, all came for a singular purpose: To provide a dignified farewell to a stranger who recently died alone — former Army Specialist Ambrose Jacob.

In New York’s 27th Congressional District, current Republican state Senator Chris Jacobs is leading the way in fundraising. Although the latest federal reports aren’t out yet, Jacobs said he’s raised more than $1 million and has $850,000 cash on hand.

Former Rochester City Councilmember Adam McFadden has pleaded guilty to one count of federal wire fraud.

A federal judge has denied several parties attempts to get involved in ongoing litigation regarding the legality of New York’s new Green Light Law.

Cost overruns at the George Washington Bridge bus terminal are putting retail space up for grabs.

M. Stanley Whittingham, a Binghamton University professor, is a co-winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his development of the lithium-ion battery.

Actor Cuba Gooding Jr. will begin his trial in a New York court for allegedly groping a woman at a bar.

In national news:

Former Vice President Joe Biden for the first time backed an impeachment drive against President Donald Trump.

Planned Parenthood has amassed a $45 million war chest as part of an effort to flip the Senate and oust President Trump in 2020.

An anti-Trump group is launching $1 million in pro-impeachment ads that will appear in swing states.

Former Rep. Trey Gowdy is joining President Trump’s legal defense team. He led investigations of prominent Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, while in office.

Turkey is now in its second day of an offensive in Syria, a development the president called a “bad idea” after he backed the withdrawal of U.S. troops there.

Trump also downplayed the U.S.’s longstanding alliance with the Kurds, saying they didn’t help us win World War II.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted the U.S. did not give Turkey a green light to invade Syria.

Northern California is facing massive power outages as the utility PG&E tries to stem wildfire risks.

From the editorial pages:

The Daily News writes there are deadly gasp in mental health services that led to the deaths of four homeless men in a murder spree.

The New York Post criticized both Mayor de Blasio and his wife Chirlane McCray for not accepting criticism of the ThriveNYC program.

The Times Union says the return of brook trout to the Adirondacks is a case study in why a carbon tax should be introduced.

Newsday writes President Trump should cooperate with an impeachment probe being launched by House Democrats.

From the sports pages:

The Buffalo Sabres edged the Montreal Canadiens, 5-4, in overtime.

The Nats shocked the Dodgers.

The Cards blew out the Braves.

New Student Loan Advisory Board Created As Regulations Take Effect For Loan Industry

New York’s top financial and banking regulator announced Wednesday the formation of an advisory board to tackle student debt issues.

The Department of Financial Services is creating a Student Debt Advisory Board, which will consider issues like consumer protection, student financial products and services as well as the issues facing communities affected by the burden of student debt.

Members will be appointed by Superintendent Linda Lacewell for a three-year term.

“DFS is proud to be part of New York’s commitment to protecting New York students and their families, and this newly created board will ensure borrowers are incorporated into every step DFS takes, from community outreach to policy and enforcement,” Lacewell said.

“This diverse group of experts will be a significant source of market intelligence and expertise as DFS continues to respond to the concerns of student loan borrowers and ensure consumers’ interests are placed first above industry’s statewide.”

Meanwhile, new legislation is taking effect today that will require companies that service loans held by New Yorkers to adhere to standards similar regulations that govern mortgages and other lending products.

Senate Republicans Report $282K After Primary

Updated: A previous version of this post reported a prior campaign financing cash on hand total.

The campaign arm of the state Senate Republicans have $282,247 in cash on hand, according to a finance report made available following a state Senate primary in western New York to replace former Sen. Cathy Young.

The conference reported $72,121 in July for its housekeeping account, where contributions are unlimited, but spending is restricted to office-related functions.

The cash on hand total for the Senate GOP comes roughly a year before the party mounts a push to regain control of the state Senate, now firmly controlled by Senate Democrats.

The primary that triggered the release of the fundraising report for the Senate GOP was to replace Young, who is suing the campaign committee over a $100,000 payment.

Senate Democrats, who gained the majority last year for the first time in a decade, report $1.7 million in cash on hand in July. Senate Democratic spokesman Mike Murphy said the current cash on hand total is more than $3 million.

NY To Sue IJC Over Lake Ontario Flooding

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-NY, has directed the state Department of Environmental Conservation to sue the International Joint Commission for mismanagement of Lake Ontario water levels.

The state contends the IJC failed to respond appropriately to record high lake levels in 2017 and 2019 which exacerbated flood damage to residences and businesses. Cuomo said the state suffered more than $4 million in property damage that it has still been unable to fully repair and the IJC should be responsible for damages.

The governor said the body’s failure to act compelled the action.

“We have pleaded with the IJC to attend to the New York side of the issue. We have sent numerous pieces of correspondence. There have been meetings. There have been dialogues. There have been phone calls. The congressman (Joe Morelle) has been meeting with them. All sorts of officials have been meeting with the IJC. They have been wholly unresponsive and have taken no actions that has made the situation any better,” he said during a Wednesday announcement in Rochester.

In a June press conference, Cuomo indicated the state was looking into legal action. He gave Republican state Senator Rob Ortt credit for the idea.

Ortt, who is now running for Congress, was conspicuously missing from the executive press release Wednesday. The state senator did release his own statement though.

“Today’s announcement that New York State would be suing the International Joint Commission for damages caused by flooding connected to Plan 2014 is long overdue,” he said. “Although the Attorney General’s office declined to act on my proposal to sue the federal government for damages caused by Lake Ontario’s flooding back in May, I am pleased to see they have had a change of heart and will now seek financial compensation for the residents, localities, and businesses along the lake’s shores.”

Specifically the complain asserts the IJC was negligent in breaching its duty to protect the interest of New York property owners. It also claims the mismanagement was a nuisance because the body “should have been substantially certain that its conduct would cause an invasion of the State’s interest in the use and enjoyment of its land.”

Finally the state said the failure of IJC to increase outflows constituted trespassing or an invasion of NY property.

Judge Denies Involvement Of Several Outside Parties In “Green Light” Lawsuit

A federal judge has denied several parties attempts to get involved in ongoing litigation regarding the legality of New York’s new Green Light Law.

A coalition of immigrant groups from New York, Western New York activist Dan Warren and the New York State Conservative Party will not be allowed to get involved in the lawsuit. Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns challenged the law, which grants driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, in July.

It is scheduled to go into effect on December 14 unless Judge Elizabeth Wolford imposes a temporary injunction.

“Since the filing of this lawsuit, numerous third parties have sought leave of the court to become involved in various ways,” Wolford wrote in a decision and order filed Wednesday.

The judge acknowledged the court has already allowed multiple parties to submit amicus briefs as “friends of the court.”  A coalition of eight states and the District of Columbia filed a brief in support of the defendants, New York State, as did the New York Civil Liberties Union last month.

Wolford also let the Immigration Reform Institute formally put its support in writing for the plaintiff.

“The Court acknowledges that notwithstanding its authority to demand a stringent test for status as amicus curiae, it has been somewhat flexible in allowing the submissions of briefs from amici curiae to date,” she wrote.

However, in the case of the state Conservative Party, the judge ruled it failed to submit a timely brief, making its request more than two weeks after a deadline set by the court with no explanation of justification as to why it was late. Wolford also concluded the party’s argument did not seem to add anything the original complaint had not already addressed.

Warren’s request to intervene as a defendant was actually opposed by both the plaintiff and defendants. The judge said said his concerns about the impact on Erie County taxpayers was speculative and could unnecessarily delay resolution.

Finally, Wolford wrote that a motion to intervene filed by the Rural and Migrant Ministry, New York Immigration Coalition, Hispanic Federal and Intervenors, and four unnamed individuals, was also denied. While she conceded the parties may have different motives to protect the Green Light Law than state leaders, their ultimate objective of protecting it is the same.

The United State Justice Department has indicated it intends to intervene although the judge has not made a ruling with regards to that yet. Oral arguments are scheduled for October 23 in federal court in Buffalo.

Gripper Takes Leadership Post At AQE

Jasmine Gripper has been tapped to become the new executive director of the public education advocacy group Alliance for Quality Education, the organization on Wednesday announced.

Billy Easton, a longtime fixture in education policy debates in New York, will be stepping down from his current executive director role he’s held since 2005.

Gripper is the group’s legislative director.

“The future has so much in store for AQE with Jasmine Gripper at the helm, and with all the parents, educators and students that make this work possible,” said Natasha Capers, co-vice board chair of AQE & Director for the NYC Coalition for Educational Justice.

“Together we will continue to empower Black, Brown and low income families to build the schools New York’s children need and deserve. Many thanks to Billy Easton for his years of service to AQE and his commitment to the fight for educational justice.”

The group has been at the forefront of the some of the most hotly debated education issues over the last decade ranging from funding and charter school debates, often being at odds with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“With Billy Easton’s leadership, the Alliance for Quality Education has established itself as a leader in the state, bringing the voices of parents and students to the forefront to demand that every child has an excellent education no matter their race or zip code,” said Rosemary Rivera, board chair and Co-Executive Director Citizen Action of New York.

“I know that Jasmine Gripper is a visionary leader who has the ability to maintain the culture of the organization to achieve success. She is strategic and her leadership style demands high expectations not only from those who work with her, but also those with the power to create the necessary changes to meet the goals of the organization,”

National Urban League Backs Sands For Downstate Casino

From the Morning Memo:

The National Urban League is joining the push to have the Las Vegas Sands gain a potentially lucrative license to operate a casino in the New York City area.

The casino company has sought to frame its effort to enter the New York City market as part of a jobs creating project, recruiting former Gov. David Paterson as a public face for the push, as well as prominent figures like NAACP New York Conference President Hazel Dukes.

“I look forward to working with Sands to make an impact on the communities that have far too often been left out of the progress and opportunities in this state,” said Marc Morial, the president and CEO of the National Urban League. “The expansion of downstate gaming will not only bring much needed revenue to the state to fund critical services, but it will provide thousands of new jobs and training programs to New York.”

Casino firms this year sought unsuccessfully to speed up the sunset date for upstate exclusivity in casino licenses. The state licenses four commercial casinos with table-top gaming in the Finger Lakes, Schenectady, Hudson Valley and Southern Tier.

Casino operators can have access to the New York City market by 2023 based on an enabling law that dovetailed with a constitutional amendment allowing table-top gaming in the state.

The push from casino operators including Sands and Genting have led to public efforts to position themselves as potential recipients.

“The National Urban League has a strong reputation of success in establishing business relationships around the country, and we look forward to partnering together in New York,” said Paterson, a senior advisor to Las Vegas Sands.

“Our main focus is to provide equal and unparalleled opportunity for all New Yorkers, and through this partnership and the expert knowledge of the National Urban League, I am fully confident that we are putting forth our best team to get the job done.”

But the struggles of some of the upstate casinos, along with what experts have said is a glut in the northeast market of gambling options, have led to complications for operators. Several casinos, both commercial and those run by Native American tribes, have introduced sports books in recent months to take advantage of new laws and regulations allowing bets on sporting events.

Meanwhile, Michael Levoff, formerly a top lobbyist for Genting and a corporate development executive for the company in the United States is joining Las Vegas Sands, the company said.

He was most recently the chairman of the New York Gaming Association.

Levoff led Genting’s push to work with Nassau OTB as well as the ongoing expansion of Aqueduct racino to include a 400-room hotel as well as secure slot machines for the company in Orange County at Woodbury.

Here And Now

Good morning and happy Wednesday. Here’s what’s in the news:

Happening today:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in Albany with nothing public planned.

Mayor Bill de Blasio is in New York City with no public events scheduled.

At 8:30 a.m., Sen. Pat Gallivan’s office will host a small business summit. 1133 Lehigh State Rd, Henrietta.

At 10:30 a.m., Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul will make an announcement. The Main Place. 251 Main St., Hornell.

Headlines:

Gov. Andrew Cuomo reiterated on Tuesday his push for the federal government to act on curtailing the use of vaping products. The move follows the first death in New York of a 17-year-old resident in the Bronx believed to be linked to e-cigarette usage.

At an afternoon event in the Hudson Valley, Senator Charles Schumer proposed a two-pronged approach to curbing vape use. In addition to launching an educational campaign, Schumer is supporting a federal ban on flavored e-cigarettes and vaping products.

The New York attorney general office’s long-winding case against ExxonMobile over concealing the causes of climate change is finally heading to court.

The state Board of Regents officially ended the use of “growth” scores to evaluate teachers, handing more control to school districts and unions over how teachers are reviewed.

Census experts are worried New York’s Complete Count commission is punting on the needed preparations New York needs to participate in the once-a-decade head count of the country.

The City has a breakdown of how the MTA plans to spend billions of dollars to upgrade the subway.

Hate crimes in New York City remain on the rise even as crime overall has declined compared to last year, the NYPD says.

New York City is cracking down on fake tour operators after Alec Baldwin was scammed at the Statue of Liberty with his family.

New York City’s Times Square-style floating billboards will be a thing of the past following a court settlement.

The MTA is going full throttle when it comes to running trains faster. And Gov. Cuomo is backing it, full speed ahead.

The comments MTA workers began gathering from bus riders Tuesday will help shape the future of service in Brooklyn.

The CEO of a New York City charter school network says schools should focus on achievement of students.

Mayor Bill de Blasio was not pleased with The New York Post’s coverage of the ThriveNYC mental health program.

Video shows a New York City worked dispatched to help homeless people after several killings in Chinatown completely ignore a man sleeping on a bench.

The campaign fundraising haul of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is far outpacing her Republican rivals.

A New Jersey man has been accused of scouting New York City bridges as part of planning for terrorist attacks.

The death of a 41-year-old Hudson Valley man was not the result of criminal culpability on the part of a New York State trooper, Attorney General Letitia James’s office said in a statement released Tuesday.

On Gov. Cuomo’s desk is a bill creating a pilot program for the five-hour driver’s education course to be taken online.

Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro met his counterpart, Democratic Ulster County Executive Pat Ryan, at the half-way point of the Walkway Over The Hudson to announce bipartisan action against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Glens Falls Common Council is moving forward with a set of ground rules when it comes to protests on public streets. It comes after some tense moments during recent political demonstrations.

In a letter to friends and acquaintances over the weekend, convicted former Rep. Chris Collins said he is now a Florida resident.

Every time someone stays at a hotel in Onondaga County, there is a 5 percent room occupancy tax. That money is invested in the convention center district, but a trio of hotel owners is behind in its bills.

The chief financial officer for the Rochester City School District has handed in his resignation.

As the Rochester City School District audit committee prepares to hold a special meeting Tuesday evening over a looming $30 million budget deficit, two new developments surfaced regarding what entities should control the city schools.

Nearly 200 officers and colleagues of Rochester Police Officer Denny Wright were in court on Tuesday for the arraignent of the man who is accused of attacking and seriously injuring him.

A shortage in early intervention care providers in Monroe County has created a long waitlist of families needing help for their children, and parents are demanding action.

After months of parishioners voicing mistrust toward the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo over the handling of the clergy abuse crisis, Pope Francis has sent Bishop of Brooklyn Nicholas DiMarzio to Buffalo.

Buffalo’s largest health insurance company is being sued for overcharging hospitals, schools and municipalities for 16 years to the tune of millions of dollars.

Rep. Brian Higgins told Spectrum News on Tuesday the best redevelopment plan regarding the Skyway is to tear it down.

A new book by Ronan Farrow claims former NBC personality Matt Later raped a former colleague of his at the network.

Chief Judge Janet DiFiore is praising courts in Nassau and Suffolk counties for cutting case backlogs.

The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing an LGBT discrimination case that originated on Long Island.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer accused the federal Environmental Protection Agency of not doing enough to stop toxic arsenic seeping into the soil and water in Carmel.

The mayors of Schenectady and Saratoga Springs are taking a MidEast trade mission to learn about “smart cities.”

In national news:

The White House pushed backed against impeachment in a forceful letter, declaring the Trump administration would not cooperate with Democrats in the effort.

The stance by the White House presents a challenge and a threat to the impeachment drive by House Democrats.

The whistleblower has said the president’s call with Ukraine was both “crazy” and “frightening.”

The Ukraine saga has ensnared the relatively low-profile Energy Secretary Rick Perry and his focus on a gas company in the country.

For now, former Vice President Joe Biden’s numbers remain stable in the Democratic presidential nominating contest, despite the focus on his son’s work on Ukraine.

A poll found a majority support of voters support the impeachment push, but do not back removing President Trump from office.

The decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria began with a light-night phone call between President Trump and the Turkish leader.

Western companies are seeing the ability of China to cut support for the NBA as a warning to not step out of line over political issues like the Hong Kong protests.

Trump nominees on the Supreme Court could play a pivotal role with cases on LGBT rights in the workplace now before them.

From the editorial pages:

The Buffalo News raises concerns with how Gov. Andrew Cuomo has raised Medicaid reimbursement rates just as a major donation came from the hospital industry.

Chris Churchill writes in The Times Union that Democrats like Rep. Antonio Delgado are “playing with fire” when it comes to backing impeachment.

Mental health advocate DJ Jaffe writes in The Daily News there should be an expansion of Kendra’s Law to help avert future tragedies involving the homeless.

The New York Post writes the NBA went too far in kowtowing to Chinese officials over the Hong Kong protests.

From the sports pages:

Jets QB Sam Darnold has been cleared to return after battling mono and is ready to start against the Cowboys.

Good news for the Yankees after the Rays roughed up Astros starter Justin Verlander to force a game 5.

Rensselaer County’s Green Light Lawsuit Paused

Rensselaer County’s legal challenge to New York’s law that would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses has been put on a temporary hold by a federal judge this week.

Rensselaer County Clerk Frank Merola had filed the legal challenge over the measure, which passed in June and is set to take effect in December.

U.S. District Court Judge Gary Sharpe approved the stay while a similar lawsuit filed by Erie County Clerk Mickey Kearns is resolved. Kearns filed his lawsuit two weeks prior to the Rensselaer County challenge.

Attorneys representing the state had previously argued the cases should be consolidated, a request Sharpe denied.

Attorney General Letitia James has said the measure, known as the Green Light law, will be able to withstand legal scrutiny.

Cuomo signed the measure, but publicly expressed concerns the law would allow the federal government to gain access to a trove of information on undocumented immigrants. Advocates of the measure say that concern is unfounded.

Bellone Puts Fusion Voting On Blast

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has a very local nit to pick with fusion voting.

It involves the former county district attorney, Tom Spota, his corruption arrest and the local Conservative Party’s support for him. It’s a cliche to note that all politics is local.

But another cliche is this: Timing is everything in politics. And Bellone is putting the concept of fusion voting — allowing candidates to run on multiple ballot lines — on blast as he runs for a third term and a public financing commission could determine the future of the practice.

Bellone has blasted fusion voting in the past after Spota, who resigned in 2017 after he pleaded guilty to federal obstruction of justice charges. Bellone says fusion voting allowed Spota to stay in office.

“Voters had no choice,” he said in an interview on Tuesday with WCNY’s The Capitol Pressroom. “And what I’ve said is, you know, that that’s like a Putin-style election. That’s not an American election. You walk into a ballot booth and you’re supposed to pick a candidate and then you see the same name on every line. It’s almost making a mockery of the voter.”

Bellone isn’t taking any minor party endorsements this year as he seeks a third term. In the interview, Bellone said he’s worked well with the progressive Working Families Party and that it “plays an important role in our politics.

But the WFP sees the commission as a very real threat and has filed a legal challenge to its legality.

The WFP did not initial endorse Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his 2018 re-election, backing his Democratic primary challenger Cynthia Nixon. Cuomo appointed Jay Jacobs, the state Democratic Party chairman and a critic of fusion voting, to the panel.

Bellone in the WCNY interview said he supported the commission altering how fusion voting worked.

“You know, I’m much more concerned about outcomes,” he said. “And I think this commission is appropriate for the commission to be looking at this because at the end of the day, what they’re looking at is how to fix our democracy, and how to make it more inclusive, how to make it more representative of the state as a whole and the people that we serve.”