While some major issues were left out at the end of this legislative session, including the Adult Survivors Act, the Climate and Community Investment Act, the New York Health Act and the Clean Bill Slate, lawmakers adopted many other items on a progressive wishlist that spanned a range of concerns from criminal justice reform to taxation.
“We see that since 2019, when we got the majority, when we get together with our colleagues in the Assembly and push the legislation forward, we have a huge impact on setting the agenda.” said Deputy Senate Majority Leader Michael Gianaris. Capital tonight.
In 2021, Democrats arrived in Albany with qualified majorities in both chambers, which may have contributed to the adoption of recreational marijuana, as well as several budget successes: tax hikes on the rich; record funding for schools; and meet a long-standing legal requirement set by the Campaign for Tax Fairness (CFE) lawsuit.
“(CFE) had been in the works for 15 years, but it took the qualified double majorities of the legislature to finally do it,” he said.
It also helped lawmakers to Governor Cuomo faces multiple scandals, and may have been more willing to make deals this year than in the past.
But, the deputy majority leader conceded, the final days of the session were a disappointment.
“The end of the session, I think, could have been more productive,” he said. “There are 213 members of the legislature… and we missed a bit at the end. “
The Adult Survivors Act, a high-profile bill, which did not simply fail – it did not receive a vote in the Assembly after the Senate unanimously passed it.
The bill (A.648 Rosenthal / S.66 Hoylman) would have opened a window of civil hindsight on prescribed sexual assault survivors who were over 18 at the time of their abuse.
Despite well-known advocates working on behalf of the passage and multiple drafting boards supporting the bill, it came to naught.
Rita Pasarell, co-founder of the Sexual Harassment Working Group (SHWG) emailed a statement to Capital tonight which reads in part:
In 2021, the leadership of the Assembly chose politics over people. We are deeply concerned and confused as to why the Assembly leadership has chosen to keep workers and survivors less safe, despite the Senate passing these common sense reforms. “
On the last day of the legislative session, in what appeared to be a response to angry criticism of the lack of action against the SAA, Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples Stokes released a statement, asserting that the majority of the Assembly had taken action to combat sexual harassment in past years.
“Last month, President Heastie announced the continuation of the Assembly’s Sexual Harassment Working Group and added new members to the group,” part of her statement read. “We support victims of harassment and are committed to making it happen, which means it has to be a deliberative and thoughtful process. “
Gianaris said he could only comment on the Senate’s position.
“We were happy to do it,” he said of the bill. “I was a big supporter of this effort. The Assembly works through their process.
The Adult Survivors Act wasn’t the only bill with substantial support among Democrats that failed to secure a vote in both houses.
Another invoice would have reshuffled the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE), which infuriated lawmakers on both sides after it emerged that the body had approved Cuomo’s $ 5 million book deal and never disclosed the details to the public.
In response, the Senate passed a constitutional amendment to reform the ailing agency.
The Assembly has not considered the question.
When President Heastie was invited by Capital tonight why the question was not put, he said the Senate had not engaged the Assembly on the bill.
The Assembly’s inaction on two bills which indirectly touch on the governor’s scandals has not gone unnoticed by at least one good government group.
“It makes you wonder how well the partnership between Heastie and Stewart-Cousins is working right now, given what happened during the session,” said John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany.
Senator Gianaris rejected the idea, saying the end of a legislative session is too narrow a frame of reference to analyze.
“You come back to the budget and the things we did, it was a legislative budget,” he said. “The priorities were ours. The governor has been fighting against taxation of the rich since he was governor. We have achieved this by working with the Assembly.
“I think we are a bit spoiled for our own success,” continued Gianaris.
On relations between legislative leaders, Senate spokesman Mike Murphy and Assembly spokesman Michael Whyland insisted on Capital tonight that the two are as tight as they’ve ever been.
“Together (the Senate and the Assembly) passed nearly 900 identical bills, one of the highest totals in decades,” Murphy said. “None of this would have been possible without the two houses working together. “
“Are we taking divergent paths on certain issues? Of course, and always has been, but at the end of the day we always find ourselves together, ”said Whyland. “The speaker and Majority Leader have a long-standing relationship, as have our staff.”
But Kaehny compared Albany to the proverbial frog in boiling water.
“Here again, even by Albany’s standards, we have historic scandals involving the governor and yet not a single ethics reform, anti-corruption legislation passed this session,” he added.
Gianaris sees things from another angle.
“It has been, I dare say it, the three most productive sessions since we obtained a majority in the Senate, which the state has never seen, and we certainly want to continue this,” he said. he declares.
While the governor was less present than he usually is at the end of the legislative session, he nevertheless may have seen an opportunity to achieve a substantial goal when the Clean Slate Bill (S1553B / A6399A) turned out to have technical problems.
The bill would have automatically sealed the records of certain convictions.
In an apparent agreement, the governor wanted lawmakers to approve two of his Metropolitan Transportation Association candidates in exchange for a message of necessity, a move that would forgo the mandatory three-day waiting period to vote on a bill.
“The governor of the 11e hour introduced a bill to restructure the upper echelon of the MTA, which is a very important change, ”said Gianaris. “One of the two positions he offered would not be subject to Senate confirmation, which would be a huge change from the current situation.”
Gianaris said the conference had a number of concerns regarding the governor’s bill.
“We weren’t comfortable going forward with a day or two notice to do something so important,” he explained. “There were also questions about the specific candidates he was proposing.”
When asked if the Senate would return in a few weeks to take over the governor’s proposal, Gianaris replied that maybe.
“I think we’ll look at the governor’s proposal,” he said. “We will discuss it in conference. We’re going to talk to stakeholders – the kinds of things we’re supposed to do when we legislate rather than just get something kicked off at 11e hour, and if that ends with our decision to come back and support the adoption of this change, then we will. “
As to any connection between Cuomo’s MTA confirmations and the Clean Slate invoiceGianaris said the bill in question had encountered difficulty in passing, so any deal that might have been in the works fell apart.
“Amendments have been made (to the Clean Slate Bill), and these amendments have been made so that the aging period for bills is running out, in terms of pre-adjournment achievement, and there is has therefore had conversations with the governor to send us the Message of Necessity which allows us to consider it more quickly, ”said Gianaris.
But, Gianaris pointed out, the Clean Slate negotiations never reached that point.
“So this was not even a point where an agreement, although in theory it was being discussed, came to fruition because the elements of the bills did not come together,” he said. -he declares. “In the end, everything was not done. “