Capitol Confidential

A weekly News, Politics and Government podcast
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The Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge is a 3-mile span over the Hudson river that connects Rockland and Westchester counties, just 25 miles north of New York City. It's a major commuter route, and bears hundreds of thousands of vehicle crossings each day. It replaced the long-ailing Tappan Zee Bridge in 2017, amid much fanfare from state and local officials. Now a comprehensive report from Brendan Lyons, the Times Union's managing editor for investigations, details a whistleblower’s account of the alleged coverup of potential structural flaws in the construction of the bridge — a dispute at the heart of a court case that remains under seal.  On this episode of the Capitol Confidential podcast, Times Union Editor Casey Seiler speaks to Lyons about the story, and its implications.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is facing perfect storm of threats to his administration, finding himself both in the crosshairs of an investigation by the FBI and the Justice Department into his handling of nursing home deaths due to COVID-19, and accused of sexual harassment by multiple women. Cuomo addressed the sexual harassment allegations during a press conference this week, in which he apologized for his behavior. On this episode of Capitol Confidential, Times Union Capitol Bureau Managing Editor Brendan Lyons speaks to an alleged victim of sexual harassment, who says Cuomo's apology falls short and he should resign immediately.
A recent admission by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s top aide, Secretary Melissa DeRosa, that they withheld nursing home coronavirus data to state legislators over fear that President Donald J. Trump would use the data against New York continues to roil the governor’s administration. In turn, a federal investigation into Cuomo’s handling of the virus in the long-term care facilities is on the docket and legislators are seeking to impeach the governor. On this episode of the Capitol Confidential Podcast, Times Union Capitol Bureau Managing Editor Brendan Lyons and reporters Amanda Fries and Ed McKinley discuss the latest news surrounding Cuomo and his administration, and the legislature's unrest. We also hear from Assembly Minority Leader William Barclay and Assemblyman John McDonald and get their take on the nursing home controversy that has engulfed New York. 
New York Attorney General Letitia James released a searing report this week finding that the state Department of Health underreported the deaths of nursing home residents who died from COVID-19 by as much as 50 percent. The 76-page report follows a months-long investigation by the attorney general’s office into allegations of patient neglect and other conduct that jeopardized the health and safety of residents and employees. State health officials responded by again defending their actions, and pointed to specifics in James’ report that reaffirm the findings in a state-commissioned study released in July. On this episode of the Capitol Confidential Podcast, Times Union Capitol Bureau Managing Editor Brendan Lyons and reporters Amanda Fries and Chris Bragg break down the report and its implications.  
This week, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo unveiled two budget proposals. Both are contingent upon how much New York state receives from the federal government. Cuomo even threatened to sue if the state doesn't get the $15 billion in federal aid that he has requested. That's enough to fill the budget gap that the governor and budget officials have cited for months. Capital Confidential host Amanda Fries talks with reporters about what the executive budget means for the region. What happens if the state doesn't get the requested federal aid? Capital reporter Edward McKinley answers that question and the possible revenue generators that could help close the gap. The executive budget paints a bleak picture for localities – especially those that rely on state aid. Albany reporter Steve Hughes shares what this means for the region's cities, and how they're preparing for the reduction in state aid. There are some promising elements in the proposal that would help revive the economy and support small businesses, business reporter Larry Rulison says. Even though the state has rolled back its financial support of schools, education reporter Rachel Silberstein says federal relief funds from the last stimulus will be directed to school districts. Read more about the highlights in the executive budget proposal.      
North Country Representative Elise Stefanik has been a steadily rising star in the Republican party since she joined Congress in 2014. Her stock rose sharply during the Trump presidency, when she aligned herself with the administration and actively supported its policies. She won a fourth term representing New York's 21st district handily this past November, with widespread support from local leaders and lawmakers. Yet more than a week after a violent siege at the U.S. Capitol and the second impeachment of Donald Trump, she remains steadfastly supportive of the outgoing president and his unfounded claims of election fraud. And that stance has produced blowback from both inside and outside of her district—signaling potential cracks in a previously sound red wall.
As a violent mob of President Trump's supporters broke into the United States Capitol Wednesday afternoon, a smaller protest also turned violent outside the New York State Capitol. Times Union Managing Editor Brendan Lyons, Washington correspondent Emilie Munson and State reporter Ed McKinley discuss the events of this week, New York lawmakers' reactions, and what it all means for government at both the federal and state levels.   *This podcast was recorded on Thursday, a day after the protests.
The first FDA-approved coronavirus vaccines have arrived in New York this week, and the state has started vaccinating front-line healthcare workers. Times Union Capitol Bureau reporter Amanda Fries leads a discussion of the state's plan for the initial doses with reporter Ed McKinley and Washington correspondent Emilie Munson.  Also on this episode, the latest on sexual harassment allegations leveled against Governor Andrew Cuomo this week, and an interview with State Senate-elect Michelle Hinchey.
This week New York State Senate Democrats declared that they'd gained a history-making "supermajority," after the absentee ballot count in several key races swung the results in their favor.  Times Union Capitol Bureau reporters Amanda Fries and Chris Bragg join Managing Editor Brendan Lyons to talk about the development, and what it means for legislative priorities going into the year. Will they address progressive agenda items like recreational marijuana? And will they exercise their veto-proof majority to go over Governor Andrew Cuomo's head? That all remains to be seen as the Legislature prepares for the new session in January. Also on this episode, Brendan Lyons checks in with Deputy Majority Leader, Senator Michael Gianaris, for his take on the supermajority.
As the counting of absentee ballots in New York continues, the ultimate power balance in the state Senate and Assembly remains somewhat murky. A number of close races in both chambers that initially appeared in favor of Republican candidates after Election Day seem to be narrowing even further as the numbers come in, and the final outcomes are still not definitive. The process may take weeks yet, and will determine whether this historically blue state saw a legitimate surge in support for Republicans, or simply witnessed a red mirage. In this episode of the Capitol Confidential podcast, Times Union Capitol Bureau reporters Amanda Fries and Chris Bragg weigh in on where things stand in with as-yet un-called races, and what the future may hold for absentee voting in New York's elections. 
State Senate Democrats were confident going into the 2020 election that they'd come out with a supermajority. But as the returns came in this week, it became clear that it wasn't as likely as they'd hoped. Instead, it was the GOP leaders who celebrated a potential increase in their ranks. But as Times Union Capitol Bureau reporters Amanda Fries, Chris Bragg and Edward McKinley observe in this episode of Capitol Confidential, the final outcome of the balance of power in New York is still being tallied.  
What are the scenarios that could play out on Election Night? Will it be decided before the sun rises, or will there be protracted legal battles that will delay the final result for weeks? Capitol Bureau reporter Ed McKinley and Washington correspondent Emilie Munson answer these questions and more in this special edition of Capitol Confidential.
Times Union editor Casey Seiler and state editor Brendan Lyons discuss the history of the controversial New York law 50-a, which protects police records, and the likelihood of a historic repeal this week.
As New York state battles the coronavirus pandemic, Washington correspondent Emilie Munson checks in with Capital Region Rep. Paul Tonko on the $2 trillion stimulus package Congress passed. Meanwhile, state editor Brendan Lyons connects with a nurse working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 fight at a hospital in Long Island.
New York State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker talks to the Times Union's Brendan Lyons about the coronavirus, how it spreads, and what New Yorkers should be doing to slow it. 
What's it like to be the first woman in the room during state budget negotiations after decades of all-male closed-door talks? A special edition of the Times Union's CapCon political podcast features a discussion with state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins that addresses that very question.
Two recent reports are sounding the alarm about the state's Medicaid spending this year, which could result in future cuts to health care or education. Mark Ustin, a health care lobbyist and veteran of the Pataki administration, joined the podcast to explain what this means for New Yorkers who use and pay for Medicaid. The conversation touched on recent efforts to curb Medicaid spending in New York, creative budgeting practices and what might be gleaned from the state's mid-year financial update.  
New York's gambling landscape is far from settled, with the next big shakeup likely to be the introduction of casinos into the New York City area. One potential recipient of a casino license is the Empire City Casino in Yonkers, where harness racing and electronic gaming is available. Empire City Casino President Uri Clinton joined the podcast to discuss the continuing evolution of gambling in New York, the future of racing in Yonkers and the competition for gaming dollars in the region. He also explained what the January purchase of the facility by MGM Resorts means for the development of the site.
Assemblyman Ed Ra isn't naive enough to think that even his best floor debate can stymie legislation being advanced by his Democratic colleagues, who enjoy an overwhelming majority in the chamber. But the Long Island Republican, who serves as the assistant floor leader for the GOP, does believe he plays an important part in the legislative process by raising concerns, asking questions and (in some cases) prompting bills to be amended. Ra joined the podcast to talk about life on the floor in the Assembly, including the preparation involved in a debate, his goals as a member of the minority, and his preferred candy for a sugar rush.
Legislation enabling undocumented immigrants to apply for driver's licenses had a lot working against it in Albany this year. Despite Democratic-control of the state government, the proposal was wildly unpopular with members from the New York City suburbs and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo seemed unenthusiastic about the issue. Sen. Luis Sepulveda, the Bronx Democrat who helped shepherd the proposal across the finish line, joined the podcast to explain the uphill battle for the year's most unlikely new law. The conversation addressed the last-minute declaration from state Attorney General Letitia James, support from upstate Senate Democrats and the governor's relationship with the legislation.  
Joyce Mitchell made her case for parole on June 4 at the women's prison in Bedford Hills. The former Clinton Correctional employee has been incarcerated for nearly four years due to her role in aiding a high-profile prison escape in 2015. Following the hearing, Mitchell was denied parole. The Times Union has turned excerpts of the transcript from the hearing into a bonus episode, with editors Susan Mehalick and Sara Tracey lending their voices.
For about a decade, reporters in Albany would take their Monday morning cues from Ken Lovett's weekly column, which would be filled with state government scoops. This past February, the veteran reporter retired from journalism on his own terms after 25 years of Capitol coverage. Lovett joined the podcast to talk about his time with the state's two prolific tabloids: the New York Post and Daily News. The conversation addressed his approach to reporting, the pressure to break news and occasions when his work took him out of Albany.
Assemblywoman Amy Paulin is one of the busiest lawmakers in Albany, where she routinely shepherds the most bills through the legislative process. She joined the Capitol Confidential podcast to explain her approach, and how it has evolved since joining the Assembly nearly two decades ago. The conversation also touched on how she finds sponsors for legislation in the state Senate, her affinity for policy details and what's on tap for next year's session. She also explained the challenge of getting a bill through the Assembly that would legalize paid surrogacy.
It's a time of transition for the New York Racing Association. This includes a new leader, David O'Rourke, who is steering the organization through an evolving gambling landscape, major changes at their tracks and concerns about equine safety. He joined the Capitol Confidential podcast to talk about all this, and much more, including the legacy he hopes to leave. Editor's note: This interview is also featured on New York Now
In the waning days of the legislative session, state lawmakers and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo agreed to ambitious energy and emissions goals to help combat climate change. And while it's clear where New York needs to end up, it's not so clear how we'll get there. Business Council of New York's director of government affairs Darren Suarez and New York League of Conservation Voters President Julie Tighe joined the podcast to highlight the potential paths New Yorkers might follow, and how it will change life as we know it.
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Podcast Details

Created by
Jessica Marshall
Podcast Status
Potentially Inactive
May 11th, 2018
Latest Episode
Mar 8th, 2021
Release Period
Avg. Episode Length
26 minutes

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