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What Came Out of NY's Turbulent Legislative Session

(AP Photo/Tim Roske)

New York lawmakers have ended one of the state’s most turbulent legislative sessions. It was marked by the resignation of both its leaders over federal corruption scandals.

The session dragged on for an extra week as Governor Andrew Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, and Senate leader John Flanagan spent days negotiating agreements on several contentious key issues, like the state's property tax cap and an education tax credit.

WSHU’s Mark Herz spoke with Albany Reporter Karen DeWitt to wrap up this eventful legislative session.


What got through this session? What got passed that people care about?

It definitely was a rougher session than in the past, at least under Governor Cuomo. It seemed like it was going to be more like the dysfunctional days of Governors Spitzer and Patterson. In the end, they made a lot of compromises. The New York City rent laws were extended for four years with some tenant protections. It was tied to a four year extension of the 2 percent a year property tax cap, which is important to homeowners on Long Island and upstate voters as well as businesses. They also put in some new rebate checks which coincidentally will come in just in time for the 2016 elections. That's something the Republicans wanted. They hope it will help them to hold onto their very slim 32 seat majority in the Senate. A number of items ended up being dropped and they'll deal with them later. Cuomo had wanted an education tax credit that would benefited donors who give up to $1 million to help send poor children to private schools. Instead, $250 million are going to private and religious schools for mandated services. New York Cardinal Dolan said schools were already owed that money anyway. So it wasn't really a stellar end of session. It was almost as if they tried to tie up all the loose ends so they could get the heck out of town.

One of the big issues was ethics. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara is going after the way things get done in Albany, "this three men in a room," where the leaders of each legislature and Cuomo do everything behind closed doors. Why couldn’t the legislature or Cuomo do something about this themselves?

Well, that’s very interesting, and I think Preet Bharara was the most disruptive force in the session because two of the three men in the room, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate leader Dean Skelos, were both arrested and charged in multi-million dollar corruption schemes by the U.S. Attorney’s office. They had to resign their posts. They’re still keeping their legislative seats, but they were replaced by new leaders and it was extremely disruptive in the session. Although, in the end, those two new leaders went back in the room with Governor Cuomo and they did solve just about everything behind closed doors in one big bill known around here as the “Big Ugly” or, as Governor Cuomo was trying to call it, “the Big Lovely.” So even thought the leaders were replaced, the way of doing business continued.

Mark is a former All Things Considered host and former senior editor with WSHU.
Karen has covered state government and politics for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 New York and Connecticut stations, since 1990. She is also a regular contributor to the statewide public television program about New York State government, New York Now. She appears on the reporter’s roundtable segment, and interviews newsmakers.
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