State Assembly returns Tuesday to take care of unfinished business
The New York State Assembly returns Tuesday to take care of some unfinished business that it did not complete before the official end of session earlier this month. The Democrats who lead the chamber have a limited agenda, but advocates are holding out hope for more.
The Senate has already adjourned for the year. Before they closed down business on June 9, senators approved a number of measures that advocates hope the Assembly might take up in its two-day session.
John Kaehny with the government reform group Reinvent Albany said the Assembly could pass a bill that would require secretive limited liability companies, or LLCs, to disclose details of their business. LLCs are often used to mask ownership of large real estate tracts in the state.
Kaehny said there’s another measure, approved in the Senate, that places restrictions on “pay-to-play” campaign donations, where donors contribute large sums of money and later are awarded state-funded contracts.
Kaehny said it would help make up for the passage of a measure in both houses that significantly weakens New York’s public campaign finance laws.
“There’s a fair number of probably 10 bills or so that we think would be great to see them enact in the Assembly and send on to the governor,” Kaehny said. “And maybe get some redemption for what was a pretty crummy move.”
The Senate also approved a measure known as Coverage for All, which would fund health care for some low-income immigrants who are undocumented.
It stalled in the Assembly, and Governor Kathy Hochul, who would need to approve the measure for it to become law, is cool to the notion. Hochul said the federal government has authorized the use of $2 billion to be spent on the coverage, but she said if the state were to commit to funding it long term, the total cost would be closer to $13 billion.
“It's not just saying that that $2 billion is going to be there forever, because it won't be,” said Hochul, who said that if the federal government wanted to provide the entire $13 billion, then “that makes it a lot easier on the state.”
Hochul said she needs to look at everything “holistically” and weigh the impact on the state’s finances before deciding.
Advocates for immigrants, including Make the Road New York, call it a “common sense” measure and point out that the state’s Business Council, as well as major health care stakeholders, back the bill.
The Assembly so far has committed to only a few items. They include approval of an updated wrongful death statute that would make it easier for the families of victims to bring suit in civil court. Governor Hochul vetoed a similar bill earlier this year.
A bill that the state Senate approved to give the Hochul administration pre-authorization for a new gaming compact with the Seneca Nation of Indians has now been dropped. The legislation became controversial after word leaked out that the secretive deal could include a new gambling casino in Rochester. Local elected leaders said they were blindsided by the plans. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said in a tweet Friday evening, that “the sentiment of the Assembly’s Monroe County delegation — coupled with the potential loss of union jobs — is concerning, and we cannot move forward with a vote on the compact at this time”.
Another item that probably won’t be on the Assembly’s agenda -- any actions to ease the state’s housing crisis. That effort failed after Hochul rejected a deal between Senate and Assembly Democrats to revive a tax break for developers who include affordable housing in their construction projects, as well as more tenant protections.
Hochul, who withdrew her housing plan during budget talks when it became clear that the Legislature would not support it, said the more pressing need is providing more rental housing.
“Yes, protect tenants. But number one, I have to build more housing. We need more units built,” Hochul said. “Because otherwise, landlords will always be able to charge more because it's a simple matter of supply and demand. And that is something that the Legislature didn't quite understand.”
Hochul said she might try to act on her own to work around the legislature by issuing executive orders. She said her team is looking at alternatives to act on what she says is an affordable housing “crisis.”
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