Here's what did (and didn't) get done in Albany

ALBANY - It's a June tradition at the state Capitol: Lawmakers pass a flurry of hundreds of bills -- often late into the night -- before heading back to their districts for the year.

This year was no different, with the Senate and Assembly passing a combined 819 bills in the final three days of the 2017 legislative session, which reached its scheduled end Wednesday.

But this year's session at the Capitol may be remembered as much for what didn't get done as much as what did, and it may be enough to force lawmakers back to Albany before the year is over.

Here's a look at what did (and didn't) get done in the session's final push:

What got done

New judge, MTA head: New York now has its first openly gay judge on its top court, and a familiar face has returned to help run the New York City public transit system.

Along with the hundreds of bills, the Senate confirmed more than 150 of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's nominations for various state boards, courts and agencies.

Headlining that group is Judge Paul Feinman, who Cuomo picked to fill a vacancy on the state Court of Appeals, New York's high court.

Feinman, who has been a judge for two decades and was elevated from the Appellate Division in Manhattan, is openly gay -- a first for the storied top court.

"I appreciate the Senate going through the confirmation process as quickly as they did," Cuomo said Thursday. "And we have a really, really great judge so I am excited about that."

Joseph Lhota, meanwhile, is returning to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority at a time when Cuomo has been facing increasing criticism for the aging state of New York City's subway system, which has been hit with a rash of delays and attention-grabbing stoppages in recent months.

Lhota, whom the Senate confirmed Wednesday night, was chairman and CEO of the MTA in 2011 and 2012 before resigning to run as the Republican candidate for New York City mayor in 2013. He will return as chairman, but will appoint an executive director to run the day-to-day operations of the system.

The Legislature approved a bill in early June that will ban marriage for those under the age of 17, while 17-year-olds would need a series of court approvals before getting a marriage license. The law, which Cuomo quickly signed, will take effect in mid-July.

The law was in response to a state-by-state push to ban child marriage.

Advocates for the new measure said the old law allowed youths -- young girls, in particular -- to be abused and pressured into marriage and have their lives destroyed.

Assembly woman Amy Paulin, D-Scarsdale, Westchester County, said 14- and 15-year-olds should be "worrying about their schoolwork and spending time with their friends, not whether they have to get married."

"Girls marrying much older men are being abused physically, mentally and emotionally," said Paulin, who sponsored the bill.

Cuomo, the Senate and Assembly reached a deal in the waning days of the legislative session on the New York

Buy American Act, which will force road and bridge contractors to use steel or iron that is made in the U.S. for all projects built with state contracts worth more than $1 million.

There are exceptions to the mandate: State leaders would be able to waive the requirement for a number of reasons, including if its not in the public interest for a particular job or would substantially increase the cost.

The bill was sponsored by a pair of Rochester-area lawmakers: Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle, D-Irondequoit, and Sen. Joseph Robach, R-Greece.

"This legislation makes certain that the materials bought by New York taxpayers will be of the highest quality and are made here at home by American workers," Robach said in a statement.

What didn't get done

Tax extenders: This is a big one for counties and some cities and towns in every corner of the state.

Every two years, counties need permission from the state Legislature to have a sales-tax rate greater than 3 percent, despite most counties charging more for decades. Most counties charge 4 percent, equal to the state's sales tax.

It's a similar story for cities that charge a sales tax and for a variety of other municipal taxes, such as a mortgage-recording tax.

But this year, those usually routine bills were caught up in a fight over mayoral control of the New York City school system.

The Assembly approved the tax extenders in a bill that also extended the city's system of mayoral control; The Senate approved each tax extender individually.

The stalemate didn't break before lawmakers ended their session Wednesday. It means the Legislature is likely to return before November, when the current extenders expire and local governments would begin losing millions in revenue.

NYC mayoral control: Like the tax extenders, neither the Senate and Assembly would blink in this ongoing battle.

New York City's school system, which serves more than 1 million kids, has been under the mayor's control since the days of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who successfully lobbied the Legislature to move away from the city's school-board system.

The Legislature has approved a series of short-term extensions of mayoral control for the city in recent years.

But the Legislature left Albany without reaching a deal, and it's now set to expire at the end of the month.

The Democrat-led Assembly pushed for a straight, multi-year extension of the system. The Republican-led Senate, which has frequently clashed with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, was pushing for an increase in the number of charter schools in the city, which the Assembly wouldn't back.

"I think there should be strong voices all over the city saying that they need to get back and finish this work before June 30," de Blasio said.

Child Victims Act: Survivors have spent years urging lawmakers to extend the statute of limitations for pursuing child sexual abuse crimes.

Some early momentum in the Legislature wasn't enough to get it done.

The Assembly passed a bill that would allow abuse victims to seek criminal charges until they turn age 28, up from the current 23. Victims would be able to seek civil penalties until they turn 50; As of now, the limit is age 18.

Some Senate Republicans, meanwhile, have long raised concern about a measure in the bill that would create a one-year window for past victims to sue their abusers, regardless of how long ago the abuse occurred.

Ultimately, the disagreement tanked the bill: The Senate didn't put it to a vote before ending session.

 

© Gannett Co., Inc. 2017. All Rights Reserved


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