It was an anti-climactic ending for this session in the New York State legislature; the Assembly passed an omnibus Women’s Equality Act (which, among other items, would have protected women’s access to reproductive health care services) but the Senate decided to take up the agenda as individual bills. New Yorkers were highly anticipating debate on fair elections reform based partly on a successful New York City model of public financing for campaigns, but that too was left on the cutting room floor.
So, which bills garnered a vote? What high profile issues got precious debate time? What did the legislature not take up or refuse to consider? Here is Reform Jewish Voice of New York State’s legislative session roundup:
What did not head to Governor Cuomo’s desk?
The Women’s Equality Act: Without a vote in both chambers on identical legislation, the Women’s Equality Act met a tumultuous and disheartening end. It is possible that the legislation may receive additional consideration if Governor Cuomo decides to call a special session of the legislature. The Assembly can also decide to pass the nine bills adopted by the Senate.
Fair Elections Reform: The corruption in New York’s political system has been on display recently but among the issues punted by the state legislature was fair elections reform intended to clean up the campaign finance system through stricter enforcement mechanisms and a public financing option based on the successful New York City model. Governor Cuomo has also expressed his intent to establish a Moreland Commission to investigate ethics and campaign finance violations.
What did the legislature agree on?
The S.A.F.E. Act: After the tragedy in Newtown, CT, the legislature pushed through a broad sweeping bill regarding gun laws in New York State, which included provisions that ban high-capacity magazines, require stricter enforcement of background checks, ban the sale of assault weapons on the internet and increase penalties and sentences for certain criminal infractions. When Gov. Cuomo signed the legislation, he called it the toughest gun law in the United States. In a late-night session at the last minute, the legislature amended provisions to include exceptions for retired law enforcement officers regarding the possession of ammunition.
An On-Time Budget: The $141.2 billion budget extended the millionaires tax that was due to expire, included federal relief funds for Hurricane Sandy and enacted a long-awaited increase in the state minimum wage. Over the next three years, the minimum wage in New York will increase from its current $7.25 an hour to $9.00 an hour.
Casino Amendment Headed to the November Ballot: Legislators supported a referendum for the November ballot to amend the state Constitution to authorize up to seven casinos. They also adopted another measure that will only allow four of the seven to be developed in the next seven years in these locations: the Southern Tier, the Albany area and the Catskills.
Tax-Free New York: The legislature approved Governor Cuomo’s local tax-free initiative that will allow companies participating in “Start-Up NY” to not pay sales, property, corporate or business taxes for ten years in New York. The program will also exempt employees of “Start-Up NY” companies from paying income tax. It is intended to bring new business into the New York State economy.
For a session that began with promise, it fizzled out without taking action on many crucial issues. RJV will continue to advocate for policies that promote justice and equality and hope that we can count on you to help us! Sign up for our newsletter here.