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Pre-K, Prison Reform, Special Elections Discussed at Black and Latino Legislative Caucus

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TWC News: Pre-K, Prison Reform, Special Elections Discussed at Black and Latino Legislative Caucus
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Universal pre-k has been at the center of Mayor Bill de Blasio's agenda since he took office last month, and it was the talk of the 43rd annual Black and Latino Legislative Caucus over the weekend, but prison reform and special elections were also on the minds of some lawmakers. NY1's Zack Fink filed the following report.

ALBANY - Giving back-to-back speeches at an Albany church on Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo skipped the annual nighttime gala, which focused on a theme.

"This weekend is all about reclaiming our children," said state Senate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. "So it was everything from health care to economic opportunities to raising the age in terms of criminal responsibility."

On Sunday, the governor unveiled an education program for inmates in state prisons, programs that were mostly eliminated under Governor George Pataki.

Cuomo's announcement struck the right tone with the caucus attendees.

"I actually applaud the proposal," said Assemblyman Carl Heastie of the Bronx. "I think it's something long overdue."

Some caucus members and former caucus members, however, are unhappy that Cuomo has not called a special election for 11 vacant legislative seats, especially those who plan on running for one.

"For the governor to run around here speaking at the mansion, speaking at church services, talking about the black community, and then don't call a special election and you're leaving all of these communities without representation during the budget process," said former City Councilman Charles Baron.

The issue that seemed to be most prominently on people's minds is universal pre-k and the competing plans over how to fund it between the governor and the mayor.

After bringing up the issue publicly in church Sunday, but not mentioning the tax, the mayor met privately with legislators. Many told NY1 that he didn't bring up the tax then, either.

"Well, nobody got into real specifics of it, certainly, but I think everybody knows what the mayor wants and what he needs," said Assemblyman Keith Wright of Manhattan. "But ultimately, we need universal pre-k, not only the city but throughout the whole state."

Mayors from around the state have made clear that they favor the governor's plan, which calls for a statewide program.

"I certainly want to see it for Buffalo and all communities across the state," said Buffalo mayor Byron Brown. "Very pleased that Governor Cuomo has come forward with a plan that would provide pre-k for children all across the state of New York."

De Blasio wants to tax the city's richest residents to pay for a city-only program.

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