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Cuomo Casts Doubt On Fate Of Abortion Rights, Public Campaign Finance Measures

New York State Capitol in Albany

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says he’ll know in a couple of weeks whether two key items on his end of session agenda will become law- an abortion rights bill and public financing of political campaigns.

The governor says Republicans, who co-lead the state Senate, continue to oppose a measure to clarify a women’s right to choose abortion. The GOP has also steadfastly been against public financing of campaigns.   

“It is a fundamental ideological difference on choice and public financing,” Cuomo said. “I get it.”

Senate GOP Leader Dean Skelos continues to voice his unease with the abortion rights proposal, saying it’s not needed because women already have those rights under the US Supreme court decision Roe v Wade. Proponents say New York’s abortion laws are antiquated, and need to be updated. Senator Skelos continues to express concerns that the changes might mean more late term abortions.

“Expansion of late term abortion is extreme in my opinion,” said Skelos.

The Senate GOP Leader also maintains that public financing of campaigns is a waste of the taxpayers’ money. The Senate GOP plans to hold hearings on possible abuses in New York City’s public campaign finance system in the coming days.

“I’m not supportive of using tax payer dollars to fund campaigns,” Skelos said.

The governor says while he’s still pushing for those items, there are other issues on his agenda where agreement can more easily be reached, and his list of priorities could be narrowed.

“Those issues, some may fall off, it may become an even smaller handful as we get closer,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo says he has other anti-corruption measures that are perhaps less controversial, and he says it’s possible that an off budget source of funding could be found to pay for public financing.   

He says his Women’s Equality Act contains nine other points, like curbing human trafficking and anti-domestic violence measures.

The governor says there is not even consensus among women’s groups on how a bill to codify the abortion rights in Roe v. Wade should be structured. He says until that happens, he won’t release a detailed plan.   

“We do not have consensus among the women’s groups,” Cuomo said. “Let alone the Assembly and the Senate.”

Cuomo, in a question and answer session with reporters, was asked why he did not simply try to go around the Republicans, and appeal to Democrats in the Senate. Democrats overall hold the greater number of seats, but they are split between the four member Independent Democratic Conference which controls the Senate along with the GOP, and the rest of the Senate Democrats, who hold minority party status.

All of the Independent Democrats, and many of the rest of  the Senate Democrats,  back the abortion rights measure, as well as public campaign financing.

The governor says while he’s willing to ask “whoever can get the votes done to get the votes done,” he’s not sure  if there are enough votes between the IDC and the Senate Democrats to pass the measures.

“I don’t know that that’s true on a lot of these issues,” Cuomo said.

The governor has been reluctant, at least publicly, to involve himself in the internal workings of the State Senate. Although in the past he’s prided himself on working with Senate Republicans in a bipartisan manner.

Cuomo and lawmakers have just over two months left until the official end of the legislative session. Cuomo says the next couple of weeks will be critical in determining what, exactly gets accomplished.      

A lifelong resident of the Capital Region, Ian joined WAMC in late 2008 and became news director in 2013. He began working on Morning Edition and has produced The Capitol Connection, Congressional Corner, and several other WAMC programs. Ian can also be heard as the host of the WAMC News Podcast and on The Roundtable and various newscasts. Ian holds a BA in English and journalism and an MA in English, both from the University at Albany, where he has taught journalism since 2013.