Capitol Watch: Paroling Murderers And Drinking Water Safety
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — In New York state government news, Republican lawmakers want to know more about recent decisions to parole convicted murderers, and environmental groups and residents in areas impacted by water contamination are calling for tougher state standards.
Meanwhile, Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has to correct the record on his campaign's contacts with a company under federal investigation for political contributions.
Here's a look at stories making news:
PAROLES AND PARDONS: Republican lawmakers are second-guessing the state's parole board after several high-profile and much-criticized decisions to release convicted murderers.
GOP leaders in the Senate have set two days of hearings this week to review the board's parole policies — as well as Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo's move to restore voting rights to thousands of former inmates.
Several Republican lawmakers have accused the state parole board of disrespecting victims and their families — and say Cuomo is trying to run up his vote tally by giving former inmates the right to vote — something more than a dozen other states have already done.
Earlier this year, the board released 70-year-old Herman Bell, a former Black Liberation Army radical who killed two New York City police officers in 1971. Last month, Marilyn Tinning, 75, was released after serving 31 years for killing her baby daughter in 1985. She was also suspected in the deaths of eight other children.
Cuomo's office notes that the parole board acts independently and that Cuomo himself has disagreed with some of its decisions.
The hearings will be held Monday in Albany and Tuesday in Hicksville, Long Island.
DRINKING WATER: A deadline is looming for a commission tasked with studying the state's drinking water after several local communities dealt with industrial contaminants.
The Drinking Water Quality Council was supposed to issue recommendations by October 2 as to whether the state should set new standards for the acceptable levels of toxic chemicals like PFOA and PFOS in the water New Yorkers drink.
PFOA has contaminated drinking water in Hoosick Falls in Rensselaer County, while PFOS has contaminated drinking water around an Air National Guard base in Newburgh and groundwater near another base on Long Island. The chemicals are linked to problems such as cancer and thyroid disease.
On Thursday Hoosick Falls residents and representatives from several environmental advocacy organizations urged the panel and the state's Department of Health to set strict standards.
CUOMO CORRECTION: Cuomo just can't shake questions related to $400,000 in campaign contributions he received from a Hudson Valley health care company that are now the subject of a federal investigation.
The donations came from Crystal Run Healthcare, its executives, their spouses and company doctors. The company, a physicians' partnership, later received $25 million in state funds to help pay for two new medical clinics — which were already under construction. Company physicians later alleged in a lawsuit that they had never been consulted about the donations.
The use of so-called "straw donors," in which a company uses employees or their families to funnel cash to politicians, is illegal. The company has denied any wrongdoing, or any involvement in a pay-to-play scheme to curry favor with Cuomo.
Now the details of the company's contact with Cuomo are coming under scrutiny.
In a meeting with The Albany Times Union editorial board Cuomo initially denied that the company contacted his campaign to discuss potential problems with the donations.
Cuomo's campaign ultimately acknowledged that that was false, and that the company had in fact reached out. The admission came only after The Times Union said it was preparing a story that suggested Cuomo's account was incorrect.
Cuomo told reporters on Wednesday that he simply didn't know.
"This is not the biggest matter in the hemisphere from my point of view," he said. "After the meeting, we went back and checked. There had been a conversation with a lawyer for the campaign months earlier, by the counsel to Crystal Run. I did not know that when I said there were no conversations."