Sunday, December 25, 2016

Special Session Talks Collapse

What appeared to be the coming together of a post-Christmas special session devolved, appropriately enough on Festivus, into an airing of grievances. 
Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan on Friday night officially pulled the plug on having his chamber return to Albany before the start of the new year, saying the package that had been under discussion was not enough to justify a reconvening of the Legislature. 
“At the end of the day, however, there just isn’t enough in this package to justify convening a special session and bringing 213 legislators back to Albany before the end of the year,” he said in the statement.
The session, which could have been held as early as Tuesday, would have considered a variety of proposals, ranging from expanding ride sharing apps like Uber and Lyft outside of New York City to funding for supportive housing and a hate crimes task force. 
The session would likely also have paved the way for the first legislative pay increase since 1998. Lawmakers earn a base pay of $79,500, though many earn more through leadership stipends, and, of course, per diems. 
While the Democratic-led Assembly had been considered especially eager to strike an agreement and trigger the salary increase through the re-authorization of a pay commission, lawmakers in the GOP-controlled Senate had been relatively unenthused throughout this discussion. 
“As Senate Majority Leader, I believe that the public deserves a Legislature that listens and is responsive to its concerns,” Flanagan said. 
“While I believe many of the issues we have discussed have merit, some of the specific provisions have raised concerns that warrant further deliberation. We look forward to continuing those discussions when the Legislature is scheduled to return in January.”
Barring a re-opening of the talks, the collapse of a deal could have profound repercussions for the 2017 legislative session. 
Word spread Friday evening of a potential deal that could have also included ethics-related measures such as more oversight of procurement procedures – a discussion sparked by the latest public corruption scandal that reached into the governor’s inner circle – and a public financing system for judicial campaigns. 
But just as quickly as talk of a deal surfaced, so did oppositions to the proposals – and talk of recriminations from anonymous sources involved in the negotiations. 
One source with direct knowledge of the talks groused that Flanagan could not deliver the votes in the GOP-controlled Senate for the session, due the closely-divided nature of his chamber. 
The source added that “this was after weeks of negotiation in which he himself agreed to do the deal,” suggesting the legislative leadership and Gov. Andrew Cuomo were in agreement at one point, but rank-and-file lawmakers themselves could not be brought along. 
A second source sympathetic to Flanagan, meanwhile, blamed Cuomo for the deal’s demise, saying the governor had the most to lose if a session is not ultimately held. 
“He meddled with independent pay commission and nixed potential pay hike,” the source said, “now faces angry Legislature.” Post

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