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New York’s governors often get their way with the Legislature by using their pulpit to bully lawmakers. But Cuomo could have a lot to lose if he antagonizes his fellow Democrats or complicates the debate just before legislators are due to end their session on Thursday.

Many of them already have called for his resignation, and those in the Assembly may, at some point in the coming months, be asked to vote on articles of impeachment. Suffice it to say, he doesn’t have a great deal of good will in the bank at this point.

“There’s probably nobody who’s going to be happier this year that we’re gone than the governor, for obvious reasons,” Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt said. “You have an Assembly impeachment investigation. I’ve been critical of the pace, and I’ve questioned how serious or in-depth that investigation really is and what we can expect, but I think we can all expect that when we’re out of session, it’s certainly not going to move into hyperdrive.”

The governor’s most prominent role in policymaking is always in talks over the state budget due at the end of March. But in a normal year, he can be expected to have a long list of non-budgetary priorities for the remaining weeks of session.

These are usually detailed in “program bills,” legislation that is directly authored by the governor’s office. In a typical year in recent decades, a governor would introduce about 25 of these by this point in the session. Cuomo has used them in past years to deal with dozens of major topics, such as same-sex marriage, medical marijuana, gun control and rent regulations.

Heading into the final week of this year’s session, he had introduced two. Neither is likely to go down in the history books: One was a technical measure letting the state pay the bills when the budget ran a few days late, the other was a step in contract talks with state police.

He introduced a few more this week. But the most significant of them — a measure that changes the leadership structure at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority — seems to have done little to upend the debate in Albany, as it’s essentially an attempt to adjust the structure of an agency the governor already effectively controls.

Asked for comment, the governor’s office pointed to remarks he made in April in which he said he would not be too focused on policy in the coming months.

“Oh, on the policy priorities, my policy priorities were passed in the budget. I had outlined them before and all the main policy priorities were passed. The priorities going forward for me, with the Legislature, it’s going to be confirmations,” Cuomo said on a conference call at the time. “This is a very operational phase for state government. These mass vaccination sites are a tremendous operational burden to set up. Then the pop-up sites, then the partnerships with the churches, then the public education that goes along with it.”

Cuomo’s ability to dominate end-of-session policy talks was diminished in 2019, when Democrats took control of the Senate to go along with their domination of the Assembly. That allowed them to negotiate without relying on the governor to mediate between the two houses.

“The Legislature, since we took the majority, has been very firm about driving our agenda, that’s our job, it’s our responsibility,” Senate Deputy Leader Mike Gianaris said. “The governor gets to sign or veto what we pass, and that’s when he gets to have his say.”

But even in 2019, the governor still weighed in on what the Legislature should be doing. He regularly held press conferences and took to the airwaves to complain that lawmakers wouldn’t pass a state-level Equal Rights Amendment, placed a ban on “gay panic” defenses on the June agenda, helped negotiate the nation’s most sweeping climate measure, and taunted his fellow Democrats that they couldn’t pass a rent control bill that would make tenants happy. (They did, in fact, pass such a bill.)

Now, he’s barely opining on policy even when asked. His views on parole reform, one of the most contentious issues in Albany at the moment, came up during a recent press appearance. He responded by saying that candidates for the New York City mayoralty, an office that has no role in bills like this, should weigh in on it.

“Let a New York City mayoral candidate say, ‘This is what I think about bail reform, this is what I think about parole reform, this is what I think about release of disciplinary records of police officers, these are the changes we want to make,'” he said. “I would have a debate just on crime to drill down into specifics because there are no conceptual answers to these problems and too much of the political dialogue now is at 64,000 feet. ‘Well, I would reform the police.’ How!?”

Cuomo hasn’t even inserted himself into the types of issues that he would usually focus on passing, or at the very least, try to take credit for once passed.

Take, for example, a bill called the Adult Survivors Act, which would unlock a one-year lookback window for adult survivors of sexual abuse to file a civil claim, regardless of how long ago the abuse happened and even if the statute of limitations has expired. It’s an extension of the Child Victims Act, which Cuomo spent years promoting before he signed it with fanfare in February 2019.

Has Rosenthal, the Assembly sponsor, been talking about the bill with Cuomo?

“I haven’t been,” she said. “I don’t know if anyone else has, but you know, we don’t engage with him on every issue. He gets his say when a bill goes to his desk.”

Or consider a bill that attempts to reopen gun manufacturers to liability for some gunshot deaths. Cuomo has been a central figure in the national debate over this policy. A 2005 federal law that limits the types of suits that can be brought against firearms companies was authored in part as a response to his proposal to use Housing and Urban Development to help bring such suits when he was serving as HUD’s secretary in the late 1990s. But he hasn’t opined on the current bill, which seeks to get around that federal law.

“Our colleagues across the aisle, they’re probably happy with” Cuomo’s absence, Ortt said. “He’s not driving them, he’s not pushing them into a tough spot or a corner. And I’m sure they would love to get out of here — I don’t for a second believe they want to be here when the attorney general comes back with her report. I’m sure they would love to be out of Dodge when that day comes.”

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Guinea declares end to latest Ebola outbreak

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“I commend the affected communities, the government and people of Guinea, health workers, partners and everyone else whose dedicated efforts made it possible to contain this Ebola outbreak,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

“Based on the lessons learned from the 2014–16 outbreak and through rapid, coordinated response efforts, community engagement, effective public health measures and the equitable use of vaccines, Guinea managed to control the outbreak and prevent its spread beyond its borders.” The U.N. said it will continue to provide post-illness care.

The CDC welcomed the news in a statement.

“I commend the government and first responders in Guinea for ending the country’s Ebola outbreak,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. “Our heartfelt sympathies are with the people who lost loved ones to this disease. CDC remains committed to supporting survivor programs and helping strengthen global preparedness and response capacities that can prevent or extinguish future Ebola outbreaks.”

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Hard-line judiciary head wins Iran presidency amid low turnout

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In initial results, former Revolutionary Guard commander Mohsen Rezaei won 3.3 million votes and moderate Abdolnasser Hemmati got 2.4 million, said Jamal Orf, the head of Iran’s Interior Ministry election headquarters. The race’s fourth candidate, Amirhossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, had around 1 million votes, Orf said.

Hemmati offered his congratulations on Instagram to Raisi early Saturday.

“I hope your administration provides causes for pride for the Islamic Republic of Iran, improves the economy and life with comfort and welfare for the great nation of Iran,” he wrote.

On Twitter, Rezaei praised Khamenei and the Iranian people for taking part in the vote.

“God willing, the decisive election of my esteemed brother, Ayatollah Dr. Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi, promises the establishment of a strong and popular government to solve the country’s problems,” Rezaei wrote.

The quick concessions, while not unusual in Iran’s previous elections, signaled what semiofficial news agencies inside Iran had been hinting at for hours: That the carefully controlled vote had been a blowout win for Raisi amid the boycott calls.

As night fell Friday, turnout appeared far lower than in Iran’s last presidential election in 2017. At one polling place inside a mosque in central Tehran, a Shiite cleric played soccer with a young boy as most of its workers napped in a courtyard. At another, officials watched videos on their mobile phones as state television blared beside them, offering only tight shots of locations around the country — as opposed to the long, snaking lines of past elections.

Balloting came to a close at 2.a.m. Saturday, after the government extended voting to accommodate what it called “crowding” at several polling places nationwide. Paper ballots, stuffed into large plastic boxes, were to be counted by hand through the night, and authorities said they expected to have initial results and turnout figures Saturday morning at the earliest.

“My vote will not change anything in this election, the number of people who are voting for Raisi is huge and Hemmati does not have the necessary skills for this,” said Hediyeh, a 25-year-old woman who gave only her first name while hurrying to a taxi in Haft-e Tir Square after avoiding the polls. “I have no candidate here.”

Iranian state television sought to downplay the turnout, pointing to the Gulf Arab sheikhdoms surrounding it ruled by hereditary leaders, and the lower participation in Western democracies. After a day of amplifying officials’ attempts to get out the vote, state TV broadcast scenes of jam-packed voting booths in several provinces overnight, seeking to portray a last-minute rush to the polls.

But since the 1979 revolution overthrew the shah, Iran’s theocracy has cited voter turnout as a sign of its legitimacy, beginning with its first referendum that won 98.2% support that simply asked whether or not people wanted an Islamic Republic.

The disqualifications affected reformists and those backing Rouhani, whose administration both reached the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and saw it disintegrate three years later with then-President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal of America from the accord.

Voter apathy also has been fed by the devastated state of the economy and subdued campaigning amid months of surging coronavirus cases. Poll workers wore gloves and masks, and some wiped down ballot boxes with disinfectants.

If elected, Raisi would be the first serving Iranian president sanctioned by the U.S. government even before entering office over his involvement in the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988, as well as his time as the head of Iran’s internationally criticized judiciary — one of the world’s top executioners.

It also would put hard-liners firmly in control across the government as negotiations in Vienna continue to try to save a tattered deal meant to limit Iran’s nuclear program at a time when Tehran is enriching uranium at its highest levels ever, though it still remains short of weapons-grade levels. Tensions remain high with both the U.S. and Israel, which is believed to have carried out a series of attacks targeting Iranian nuclear sites as well as assassinating the scientist who created its military atomic program decades earlier.

Whoever wins will likely serve two four-year terms and thus could be at the helm at what could be one of the most crucial moments for the country in decades — the death of the 82-year-old Khamenei. Speculation already has begun that Raisi might be a contender for the position, along with Khamenei’s son, Mojtaba.

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Apathy greets Iran presidential vote dominated by hard-liner

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“My vote will not change anything in this election, the number of people who are voting for Raisi is huge and Hemmati does not have the necessary skills for this,” said Hediyeh, a 25-year-old woman who gave only her first name while hurrying to a taxi in Haft-e Tir Square after avoiding the polls. “I have no candidate here.”

Iranian state television sought to downplay the turnout, pointing to the Gulf Arab sheikhdoms surrounding it ruled by hereditary leaders and the lower participation in Western democracies. But since the 1979 revolution overthrew the shah, Iran’s theocracy has cited voter turnout as a sign of its legitimacy, beginning with its first referendum that won 98.2% support that simply asked whether or not people wanted an Islamic Republic.

The disqualifications affected reformists and those backing Rouhani, whose administration both reached the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and saw it disintegrate three years later with then-President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal of America from the accord. Former hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, also blocked from running, said on social media he’d boycott the vote.

Voter apathy also has been fed by the devastated state of the economy and subdued campaigning amid months of surging coronavirus cases. Poll workers wore gloves and masks, and some wiped down ballot boxes with disinfectants.

If elected, Raisi would be the first serving Iranian president sanctioned by the U.S. government even before entering office over his involvement in the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988, as well as his time as the head of Iran’s internationally criticized judiciary — one of the world’s top executioners.

It also would put hard-liners firmly in control across the government as negotiations in Vienna continue to try to save a tattered deal meant to limit Iran’s nuclear program at a time when Tehran is enriching uranium at its highest levels ever, though it still remains short of weapons-grade levels. Tensions remain high with both the U.S. and Israel, which is believed to have carried out a series of attacks targeting Iranian nuclear sites as well as assassinating the scientist who created its military atomic program decades earlier.

Whoever wins will likely serve two four-year terms and thus could be at the helm at what could be one of the most crucial moments for the country in decades — the death of the 82-year-old Khamenei. Speculation already has begun that Raisi might be a contender for the position, along with Khamenei’s son, Mojtaba.

Khamenei cast the first vote from Tehran, urging the public to “go ahead, choose and vote.”

Raisi, wearing a black turban that identifies him in Shiite tradition as a direct descendant of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, voted from a mosque in southern Tehran. The cleric acknowledged in comments afterward that some may be “so upset that they don’t want to vote.”

“I beg everyone, the lovely youths, and all Iranian men and women speaking in any accent or language from any region and with any political views, to go and vote and cast their ballots,” Raisi said.

But few appeared to heed the call. There are more than 59 million eligible voters in Iran, a nation of over 80 million people. However, the state-linked Iranian Student Polling Agency has estimated a turnout will be just 44%, which would be the lowest since the revolution. Officials gave no turnout figures Friday, though results could come Saturday.

Fears about a low turnout have some warning Iran may be turning away from being an Islamic Republic — a government with elected civilian leadership overseen by a supreme leader from its Shiite clergy — to a country more tightly governed by its supreme leader, who already has final say on all matters of state and oversees its defense and atomic program.

“This is not acceptable,” said former President Mohammad Khatami, a reformist who sought to change the theocracy from the inside during eight years in office. “How would this conform to being a republic or Islamic?”

For his part, Khamenei warned of “foreign plots” seeking to depress turnout in a speech Wednesday. A flyer handed out on the streets of Tehran by hard-liners echoed that and bore the image of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2020. A polling station was set up by Soleimani’s grave on Friday.

Some voters appeared to echo that call.

“We cannot leave our destiny in the hands of foreigners and let them decide for us and create conditions that will be absolutely harmful for us,” said Tehran voter Shahla Pazouki.

Also hurting a moderate like Hemmati is the public anger aimed at Rouhani over the collapse of the deal, despite ongoing talks in Vienna to revive it. Iran’s already-ailing economy has suffered since, with double-digit inflation and mass unemployment.

“It is useless,” said Ali Hosseini, a 36-year-old unemployed resident in southern Tehran, about voting. “Anyone who wins the election after some time says he cannot solve problem of the economy because of intervention by influential people. He then forgets his promises and we poor people again remain disappointed.”

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