Could the legislature return for a summer session?
Less than a month after the legislative session officially ended, Governor Cuomo’s been calling for the State Senate to come back and work on what he says is unfinished business.
Cuomo says the Senate, which is led by a Republican coalition, needs to come back and vote on a measure that would codify the rights in the landmark US Supreme Court decision Roe v Wade into law. The governor believes the ruling is in danger of being overturned, now that President Trump has picked Brett Kavanaugh as his nominee for the Supreme Court.
31 Democrats in the Senate say they’d vote for the law. One Republican vote is needed in order for the measure to pass.
Cuomo’s been holding campaign-style rallies around the state, comparing the situation to that of 1970, when several Republicans sided with Democrats to decriminalize abortion in New York.
“Go back to Albany and vote on the bill as a matter of conscience,” Cuomo said, on July 13th, to applause. “Let the people of this state know where you stand.”
Cuomo’s political opponents, including his primary challenger Cynthia Nixon, say the governor’s had eight years to pass the measure, known as the Reproductive Health Act, and they question why he’s waited to press the bill. Cuomo says he’s been unsuccessful in the past in convincing Republicans to put the measure on the floor for a vote.
Cuomo says Senate also needs to come back to renew 140 speed cameras near schools in New York City. Without action, the authorization or the cameras expires in a few days.
“You must pass the speed camera bill,” Cuomo said. “We’re not going to take no for an answer.”
A Senate GOP spokeswoman, Candice Giove, says Senators don’t like the bill as written and want to make changes. They object to a provision that allows non-doctors to perform abortions. Pro-choice advocates, including Planned Parenthood, say the bill does not go further than the rights already defined in Roe that have been law in the nation since 1973.
Assembly Democrats have already passed both measures. Speaker Carl Heastie, who was in the Hudson Valley visiting Olana, the historic home of 19th-century painter Frederick Church, says he’d also like the Senate to come back and approve the bills that his house already voted on. He says the Reproductive Health Act does not need to be amended.
“Women’s health is not something I am interested in negotiating,” Heastie said. “Either you support a woman’s right to choose or you don’t”.
Meanwhile, in May, Senate Republicans approved a bill on ethics reform, in reaction to two corruption convictions this year involving former associates of Governor Cuomo. Cuomo’s former closest aide, Joe Percoco, was convicted of bribery while the former head of the governor’s economic development program was found guilty of bid rigging. Three upstate developers were also found guilty on corruption charges.
The measures would increase transparency in economic development projects by making a public database of all of the contracts the state has with developers. The other would reinstate the state Comptroller’s oversight over the contracts.
Heastie says the Assembly won’t come back to approve those measures, though, until there’s agreement from Governor Cuomo on them. He says the rules would affect state agencies that Cuomo oversees, so the governor needs to have some input on the legislation. And he questions whether any law can really stop people from committing crimes.
“It’s about transparency and confidence,” Heastie said. “I’m still waiting to see if we can come up with the first bill on people’s morality. When people are doing the wrong thing they know it’s the wrong thing and they just hope they can get away with it.”
Heastie also says he thinks the current system is working, because those who violated the law are being “brought to justice”.
The governor has backed an alternative plan that included a new inspector general under his power to root out corruption. But lately, he’s said he already overhauled the bidding system within his administration to prevent further corruption.
A spokesman for the State Senate, Scott Reif, says there are no plans at this time to return to the Capitol for a summer session.