Photo Credit: Twitter
Senator Simcha Felder (left) at a recent press conference with Councilman Kalman Yeger.

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s comment that it’s virtually a miracle that any piece of legislation gets passed by both houses of New York’s legislature is especially true for the session that wrapped up earlier this month.

“We have the most conservative people in the country in the state of New York,” Cuomo said Monday in Syracuse, “and we have socialists at the other end of the spectrum. To get something done, you have to somehow find a way to forge consensus and to bring people together, even if they’re diametrically opposed.”

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Cuomo’s solution for drawing a consensus is to apply pressure.

“When you apply pressure, you can actually solidify that which is strong. This legislative session more was done intelligently than probably any legislative session that I’ve participated in, and that’s from the budget right through the end. It is not easy, especially now in this super-heated political environment,” Cuomo said.

Assembly Republican Leader William Barclay (R – Oswego County), was critical of the legislative results, especially regarding the budget.

“While there were a few notable pieces of legislation passed that will help everyday New Yorkers recover from Covid-19’s economic devastation, New York has moved too far in the wrong direction, and we must ensure we get back on track before more residents pack their bags and head for the exits.

“Too little was done to protect and strengthen their quality of life in the long-term,” Barclay said. “A federal bailout in the amount of $12.7 billion brought New York off the brink of financial disaster. But that money is only a temporary fix. This session will be remembered as one that raised taxes too much, spent far too much and left New York State unsafe and unaffordable.”

In the upper house, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D – Yonkers, Westchester County) focused on legislation that passed, some of which has not been taken up by the Assembly, and some pieces of legislation that passed both houses but have not been signed yet by the governor. Some pieces of legislation became law.

“We legalized recreational marijuana to begin undoing the damage done in so many of our communities by this prohibition and opened a new $4.2B industry for our state,” Stewart-Cousins said. “We continue to improve our justice system. We passed the H.A.L.T. law to end prolonged segregated confinement and we passed groundbreaking ‘less-is-more’ legislation to improve outcomes for individuals reintegrating back into society…. We banned ghost guns, declared gun violence a public health crisis and gave victims of gun violence recourse in the courts against companies that irresponsibly distribute deadly weapons. We brought stakeholders of all sides together to produce landmark bills on hospital and nursing home staffing standards. After the devastation we saw in senior residences during the pandemic, the Senate took action to improve oversight care and accountability in these facilities.”

 

Senate Republican Leader Robert Ortt (R – Niagara County) focused during his remarks wrapping up the legislative session on Cuomo’s possible impeachment trial. “The biggest missed opportunity again is the governor, under multiple investigations, multiple scandals, a governor who lied to the people of New York, who lied to the people of this body and yet he remains with pandemic powers. There is no sunset, the sunset is whenever the state of the emergency ends and there has been no attempt to end emergency powers.

“We did pass a bill that funded potential impeachment and the impeachment trial. That means that there will be no excuse when the attorney general issues her reports or when the federal government comes back with their conclusions on their investigation. There is a lot that our conference found that is lacking.”

Ortt also focused his remarks on the lack of public safety legislation being passed in the Senate. Senate democrats “continue to push, advance and pass what I view as very dangerous policies that undermine the public safety of the state of New York and the public safety of those who are tasked with enforcing our laws and protecting our communities – whether it’s rhetoric, talk of dismantling, defunding or reimagining the police, or the bail reforms, or the attempt to pass the Clean Slate Act, which would hide the records of even violent offenders from landlords or potential employers.”

On a more local level, Senator Simcha Felder (D – Brooklyn) sponsored 29 bills and had two measures signed into law by the governor.

As slowly as some believe the wheels of progress turn in the state legislature, when a measure gets the fast-track it takes just a matter of hours for it to move through both houses of the legislature.

Case in point: A measure Felder got passed on the last day of the session provides a deduction for repayment of amounts reported in a taxpayer’s income in a previous tax year. This legislation adds a new subtraction modification, effective for tax year 2021, for taxpayers that repaid overpayments of taxable government benefits.

Assemblyman Simcha Eichenstein (D – Brooklyn) did not have great success with the 19 bills he sponsored. Two of these passed the Assembly on the last day of the session but went nowhere in the Senate. Many of the remaining 17 bills languished in the transportation, codes, cities, health, education and ways and means committees.

Assemblyman Daniel Rosenthal (D – Queens) sponsored 34 bills this past session. Three passed both houses but have not yet been sent to the governor for his signature. One other bill passed the Assembly but went nowhere in the Senate. The other 30 measures languished in 15 committees including judiciary, economic development, transportation, small business, governmental employees, election law and social services among others.

Freshman Assemblymember Phara Souffrant Forrest (D – Brooklyn), sponsored two bills and had one measure passed by both houses on the last day of session doing away with community supervision for parolees.

In the bill memo section justifying this action it states: “New York re-incarcerates more people on parole for technical violations like missing an appointment with a parole officer, being late for curfew or testing positive for alcohol than any state in the country, with the exception of Illinois. Permitting people to earn accelerated discharge of community supervision for good behavior would allow the state to concentrate finite resources on those who are most in need and who pose the greatest risk.”

It could take as long as six months for the governor to act on many of the 892 measures passed by both houses this year.

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Marc Gronich is news director of Statewide News Service. He also operates the website JBizTechValley.com. He has been covering government and politics since 1981. His Albany Beat column appears monthly in The Jewish Press.