Final week of session, many unresolved issues

Karen DeWitt / NY Public Radio
June 15, 2012

Governor Cuomo and state lawmakers seem determined that June 21st will be the last day of session.  The limited agenda for the remaining four days includes a bill to reform care for the disabled to curb abuses, and whether to make teacher evaluations public.

As the 2012 legislative session winds down, Governor Cuomo and lawmakers reached some agreements, including a way to more closely monitor prescription drug scripts to detect fraud, and a limit on the use of tanning beds by teenagers. Anyone under 16 will be banned from visiting a tanning salon. 17 year olds may still go, with a permission slip from their parents.

Blair Horner is with the American Cancer Society, which sought a ban on tanning bed use by all minors, citing links between early artificial tanning and skin cancer later in life. He says at least14 to 16 year olds will now be protected.

“We will continue to push for legislation to ban 17 year olds from experiencing this known carcinogen,” Horner said.

Cuomo and legislative leaders were working toward an agreement on how to make newly required teacher evaluations available to parents while still protecting the teacher’s privacy.  They also want to act to curb cyber bullying.

The Governor  is  pushing a package of reform to cut down on decades of abuse of disabled people in state care, with a  proposed new state agency he calls  the Justice Center.  The measure has passed in the Senate, but Assembly   Democrats say they’re concerned the Center would be too much in the control of Governor Cuomo, and not independent enough.

Michael Carey, a disabled rights advocate whose son was killed by a state developmental center worker, agrees, and says the reform package falls short of adequately protecting the disabled . He says the Justice Center is misnamed.

“It’s an unjust center,” said Carey, who said the governor is changing the name of an existing agency without requiring additional protections.

Other disabled advocacy groups support the legislation.

Cuomo has said that if lawmakers don’t agree on reform of the care of the disabled by end of session, he’ll keep them in Albany in special session until they do, saying it would be a “tragedy” if the measure is not passed.

Any agreements will have to come by the end of the day Monday, if the session is to end on Thursday. Cuomo says this time, he wants to follow the legal three day waiting period for bills to be on public view before they are voted on. The governor was criticized after an all-night mid-March session, where the governor gave special messages of necessity for major bills to be passed, sometimes only hours after they had been printed.

Two other issues that have been popular with New Yorkers, raising the minimum wage, supported in the Assembly, and small businesses tax breaks, advocated by the Senate, are not likely to happen. Governor Cuomo has stayed neutral on the measures, and claims philosophical differences between the houses are too great for passage right now.

Lawmakers have not ruled out returning, though sometimes in the fall, perhaps after the November elections to discuss those issues and perhaps other topics.  While there’s been no open talk of a pay raise for legislators, who have not had a raise since 1998, the governor and legislative leaders have not completely ruled one out.