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New York state lawmakers prepare to leave Albany for the year as session winds down

New York state lawmakers prepare to leave Albany for the year as session winds down.
Composite Image by Dave Lucas & Jim Levulis
New York state lawmakers prepare to leave Albany for the year as session winds down.

As New York's legislative session heads toward an end, lawmakers are scrambling to get their priorities passed.  

The final push at the capitol has been derailed by Governor Kathy Hochul's 11th-hour decision to pause a congestion pricing plan that was supposed to begin June 30th.

Blair Horner is with the New York Public Interest Research Group.

"The end of session is really about time and time management," Horner said. "How many bills can you get done with the time allotted? And yesterday lawmakers spent a lot of time determining how to respond to the governor's congestion pricing announcement."

Horner says without a new $15 toll for most drivers entering lower Manhattan, the M-T-A budget has been thrown into question.

 "There's hundreds of bills that will be dealt with in the next 24 hours or however long they're here, and so there's a lot of issues that will live and die depending on how much time there is left to wrap up the session," said Horner. 

Other bills in question at this late moment in the session include a perennial effort to approve a medical aid-in-dying package. 108th district Assemblyman John McDonald is Democrat:

"The advocates, both for and against, have been very strong throughout the process," McDonald said. "I can't tell you today, at this moment, whether that bill is going to pass or not. I think there might be enough votes, but I'm not 100% sure, and our leadership is making sure that members are very comfortable with the decision on the bill."

McDonald says he'll support the bill if it passes. He is a licensed pharmacist and avowed activist when it comes to battling the opioid epidemic.

"I've been focusing not only on pharmacy related items, but more importantly, opioid related items. I know that there are surveys out there that say the government's still not doing enough, and you know, it's a sensitive issue, because it's a healthcare issue as well, but we've recently just passed legislation that allows hospitals to dispense more than one day's worth of buprenorphine. For people who come into the ER, are struggling with substance use, want to get initiated on buprenorphine, but giving them one day and saying, 'Have a nice day,' is not going to be acceptable. So we've been expanding that to a three day supply, which gives us enough time for the hospitals to work with case management to connect people to services and the treatment, which I think is critical. I'm also trying to shepherd through in the last few moments, a bill that will allow paramedics in the field to start to initiate patients on buprenorphine," McDonald said. 

The Democrat adds he's working with 109th district Assemblymember Pat Fahy and state Senator Neil Breslin to get a bill through to create the Pine Hills Association Development Authority, which would guide the repurposing of the College of St. Rose campus in Albany now that college is closing.

 Other issues being discussed include the New York HEAT Act and a new proposed bottle bill, along with the Safe For Kids Act that would regulate children's access to social media, a Hochul priority.

43rd district Republican Senator Jake Ashby says there's been "a lot of consensus on issues" this session, with many "hits" and "misses."

"There was bipartisan agreement on population loss, and I think that there are a number of things leading to that, including lack of economic activity, public safety, housing, workforce issues," Ashby said. "But despite bipartisan agreement on those issues, there wasn't real bipartisan agreement on solutions or strategies. And that's unfortunate, because we do have bills out there that would address this. I have a housing bill that I think is better geared towards upstate than the governors. And there's bipartisan support for that. It's supported by Assemblyman McDonald, and when we look to public safety, you know, I championed a bail reform bill last year that, you know, drew some controversy, but at the same time, the state of New Jersey had adopted something similar, and there was data analysis involved in driving judges decisions that I think we should take a look at."

Democratic Assemblymember Phil Steck of the 110th district says the last-minute crunch often frustrates lawmakers.

"I think that this session has not as accomplished as much as I would like," said Steck. "I think the big problem is that we waste the first two months doing what are called chapter amendments. That is threats by the governor to veto bills unless changes are made. The changes are usually minor and not very significant, and it wastes a lot of time, because we got to repass the bills, then we do the budget, and it leaves precious little time to do the type of things that assembly members are interested in."

NYPRIG’s Horner says the pressure is on. "Lawmakers will be heading to the exits tonight, could be early tomorrow morning, instead of leaving yesterday, which is what they were expected to do," Horner said.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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