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Lawmakers Return For Another Week To Try To Break Gridlock

NYS Capitol

  It turns out the legislative session will not be ending as planned and will continue on for at least another week.

After a week of gridlock, Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders decided to take a break and adjourn for five days. Before they left, they renewed New York City’s expired rent laws, but only for five days, until Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan initially said Senators were going home for good on Thursday. Republicans had already approved a straight eight year extension of the rent laws. That would leave Assembly Democrats, who  want to strengthen tenant protections, to either take or leave the bill.  But Flanagan said he’d still be in Albany, negotiating the unresolved issues.

“I will stay and work with the governor and the speaker to get done whatever we need to,” Flanagan said. “I don’t see any reason why our members need to be here.”

Later, Flanagan relented after Governor Cuomo called him into a private meeting.  

As the stalemate wore on, even the long-time tradition of three men in a room seemed to deteriorate, as Senate Flanagan and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie were repeatedly called into separate closed door meetings with the governor, and emerged tight-lipped about details. Speaker Heastie would not comment on the productivity of the meetings.

“The governor asks you to come down for a meeting, and we’re trying to get something done, I’m not going to tell him no,” Heastie said.

Governor Cuomo maintained a five day silence, with no public appearances or briefings the entire week. Cuomo even skipped a fundraiser at the Plaza hotel in New York City as the talks dragged on.  

The ongoing corruption scandal has been a factor, Heastie and Flanagan are new in their leadership posts, after the former Speaker and Senate leader were arraigned on multiple corruption charges earlier this year, and forced to resign their posts. The federal probes are continuing.

The Senate left late Thursday evening, while the Assembly remained for a few hours on Friday, to approve a bill to protect abused workers at nail salons, one of the few agreements reached in the past several weeks.  It was prompted by an exposé in the New York Times.

Assemblyman Ron Kim is a prime sponsor. He says it helps shines a light on a “shadow” economy that’s “comprised of mostly female immigrants.”

Lawmakers hope they can wrap up a resolution on the rent laws, and a related property tax cap as well as a tax break for real estate developers. They have also yet to agree on renewing mayoral control of New York City schools, and an education tax credit pressed by Cuomo that would allow donors who give up to $1 million up to $750,000 in a credit on their taxes. The money would primarily fund scholarships for poor children to attend private and religious schools. So far, there’s been no agreement on any of those issues.

Speaker Heastie summed up the impasse this way.

“People have different ideas, different constituencies, different ideologies,” Heastie said.  

Lawmakers will have to overcome those differences if they want to adjourn the session for the summer.  

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.
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