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by Jay Gallagher

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Paterson woes paralyzing state, league official says

Charges that Gov. David Paterson and State Police may have interfered in a probe of a domestic-violence incident is distracting the governor and Legislature from dealing with urgent matters like ethics reform and agreeing on a new state budget, the League’s legislative director said today.
“The only thing anybody is talking about in Albany now is this latest scandal,’’ said the League’s Barbara Bartoletti. “People in New York are suffering, and the last thing they need is inactivity in Albany.’’
The New York Times reported today that Paterson talked to a woman who claims she was beaten by David Johnson, a key Paterson aide. She initially sought an order of protection in State Supreme Court in the Bronx but later withdrew the request.
The paper also reported that unidentified members of the State Police visited the woman at her Bronx apartment - a visit she took as an attempt to intimidate her into dropping the charges, she told the paper.
In the wake of the story, Paterson announced he was suspending Johnson without pay and asked Attorney General Andrew Cuomo - his likely opponent in a gubernatorial primary later this year - to investigate.
Meanwhile, activity on adopting a new ethics bill and a state budget appear to be stalled.
Paterson earlier this month vetoed a League-supported bill that would have forced lawmakers to disclose more details of their outside income and business dealings, reshuffle the agencies responsible for enforcing ethics laws and strengthen the Board of Elections’ power to enforce campaign-finance laws.
In a message accompanying his veto - later upheld by the state Senate - Paterson pointed out that the measure would not have changed the system for financing campaigns or imposed term limits on lawmakers.
“The Governor said he had a better idea, and now he needs to do it,’’ Bartoletti said.
She also pointed out that while the domestic-violence charges and speculation about Paterson’s future is dominating the Capitol, valuable time is passing in which adopting a new state budget. They are supposed to have a spending plan in place by April 1 and are struggling on how to close a potential deficit of $8.2 billion.
Bartoletti said negotiations over a new spending plan, which traditionally happen behind closed doors, should be held in public.

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