Key issues fall off the table on the final day of the session
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Lawmakers busily passed bills on the final day of the 2018 legislative session, but as the final evening approached they were unable to reach agreement on many major issues.
Mid-morning on the last scheduled day of the legislative session, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan met behind closed doors with Governor Andrew Cuomo, as they tried to resolve differences over a teacher evaluation bill and other topics. Flanagan, who leads the Republicans in the Senate, was asked by reporters whether any deals had been reached.
“Oh no,” Flanagan said. “Just ongoing discussions.”
Flanagan says a plan to expand sports betting in New York, recently made legal in a Supreme Court decision, was left on the table with no agreement.
The Senate GOP leader says the governor’s gun control legislation is also not going to be approved before the Senate adjourns. Cuomo wants to allow teachers to petition a judge to limit a troubled student’s access to guns if they believe the student might harm themselves or others. Flanagan says Cuomo, and Democrats in the legislature should adopt the Republican’s school safety measures instead, which would provide more money for school resource officers.
Cuomo enjoyed a good relationship with Senate Republicans for several years, but lately he’s been in a war of words, with the GOP lawmakers, saying they are beholden to President Trump, while Flanagan has said Cuomo is afraid of his Democratic primary challenger Cynthia Nixon and has been changing his positions on issues to respond to her.
Flanagan says despite that, he and the governor are trying to work together.
“There are no bad feelings,” said Flanagan. “We have tough words back and forth, but we’re staking out positions and we’re here because we want to try to get things done.”
The Senate is gridlocked currently, with 31 Republican coalition members present, and 31 Democrats, presenting another obstacle to final agreements. The GOP still maintains control of the chamber because it has 32 Senators, but one Senator, Tom Croci, is on active duty with the military and unable to attend the session.
The Republican Minority Leader in the Assembly, Brian Kolb, says the Senate stalemate has slowed end of session progress.
“The vote count is split in the Senate,” said Kolb. “So I think it’s very tough to get a deal with the Senate majority.”
But Kolb says Governor Cuomo has been distracted as well and seems more concerned with the growing number of challengers in the governor’s race than he does with negotiating end-of-session issues. In addition to primary challenger Nixon, former Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner has entered the race for governor as an independent candidate.
“Cuomo’s MIA because he’s out campaigning and reacting to everything that Cynthia Nixon does,” said Kolbe. “It bodes for a very quiet end of session”.
Cuomo, speaking to reporters in a conference call one day earlier, acknowledged that many of his priority items will likely not be resolved. They include the Child Victims Act, to give survivors of childhood sexual abuse their day in court, measures to enact early voting, bail reform and expanding access to contraceptives. He says he tried but failed, to get them included in the state budget back in April, and he says since then the political environment has only become “hotter”.
“The issues that are left on the able are fundamental philosophical differences,” Cuomo said. “This is an election year and the people are going to decide these issues in the election.”
Cuomo has vowed to elect more Democrats to the Senate in November.
The session will also end without action on key ethics reforms, despite ongoing corruption trials over the Cuomo administration’s economic development programs.
The measures, approved in the state Senate, would restore the State Comptroller’s oversight of economic development contracts, and create a public website that lists all taxpayer-funded projects, their status, and the number of jobs that are expected to be created. But they are stalled in the Democratic-led State Assembly, where Cuomo allies say they prefer to reach an agreement with the governor first. Cuomo has a different bill that would create a new inspector general in his own office.
Blair Horner, with the New York Public Interest Research Group, says the lack of agreement is disappointing.
“New Yorkers have every right to be angry,” Horner said.
The second of two corruption trials involving former Cuomo associates continues in federal district court. The former head of SUNY Polytechnic, Alain Kaloyeros, and three developers from Buffalo and Syracuse are accused of running a bid-rigging scheme to illegally gain over half a billion dollars in state contracts.