Saturday, June 22, 2013

Legislative Session Draws To Close, Some Issues Elusive

Lawmakers in the Senate and Assembly put to bed some of the major, big-ticket items that had been proposed and pushed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo were proposed earlier this year.

Those bills include a tax-free incentive program for job-creating busniesses to settle near college campuses. The second passage of a constitutional amendment was backed by lawmakers as was the approval of enbabling legislation to build four upstate casinos in three different regions, partly the product of a deals Cuomo struck with the state’s Indian tribes that operate their own gaming facilities.

As a response to its poor performance during Superstorm Sandy, the Long Island Power Authority is essentially being phased out and privatized.

That’s only a snapshot of this week. In January, Cuomo was able to push through a controversial gun control law that to him remains one of his major accomplishments alongside same-sex marriage legalization in 2011.

Lawmakers and Cuomo also passed the third on-time state budget in as many years that included an early extension of the state’s millionaires tax and a minimum wage increase.

But the session is also notable for what could not get accomplised as Cuomo faces increasing difficulty in pushing some measures through the Legislature.

The Senate would not agree to hold a vote on a measure to strengthen abortion rights through codifying Roe v. Wade. Whether other aspects of the proposal become law is in doubt because the Assembly and Senate passed competing versions fo the proposal.

A state version of the Dream Act to provide tuition assistance to the children of undocumented immigrants was also not taken up.

An effort to publicly finance political campaigns based on the model of the New York City system was never voted on in the Senate, as was a proposal to curb stop-and-frisk arrests by decriminalizing certain amounts of marijuana.

And remember when Cuomo proposed repealing Wilson-Pakula in response to the arrest of Sen. Malcolm Smith on charges that he sought to bribe his way onto the New York City mayoral ballot?

That proposal, like the other pieces of Cuomo’s anti-corruption agenda in response to the rash of scandals to hit the Capitol, went nowhere.

Now Cuomo plans to convene a Moreland Commission panel to investigate campaign finance violations at the state Board of Elections.

The hope, it appears, is to shine a light on abuses within the current system.

But the commission could also simply show just that much of what is allowed in the current campaign finance system is ultimately quite legal.

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