How much will Hurricane sandy affect the agenda for the upcoming legislative session in Albany? NY1's Zack Fink spoke with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver about the upcoming session and the storm in an exclusive interview.
New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has already introduced a bill requiring new property tax assessments for damaged homes. Lawmakers will also be holding hearings on what kinds of other bills will need to be drafted. One idea is to mandate that buildings have backup generators.
"Well, it's certainly something, as you do new construction, where do you put it, how do you connect it, these are all issues for experts to really talk about," Silver said. "People had generators but they had them in sub-basements and it got flooded."
Silver represents Lower Manhattan, which is still reeling from the storm. 80 percent of the businesses in the South Street Seaport, for example, have not reopened. Many other financial district businesses want to reopen but can't because they have no phone service.
"We need Verizon to step up to the plate and finally put some telephone and communications equipment in place," Silver said. "We have been out for too long already, and there are businesses and buildings that have no phone service, no internet service, and they rely on that service for their business."
The speaker said he is strongly urging the federal government to start a grant program.
"A lot of these businesses are highly leveraged," Silver said. "They borrowed a lot of money to go into business. They've lost business. Many of them lost inventory."
NY1 also asked the speaker what he thinks about the new power sharing arrangement in the State Senate that shuts out Democrats.
"If they pass my minimum wage bill as a result of this partnership, then fine. That's wonderful," Silver said. "If they pass my campaign finance reform bill, that's wonderful. They will be a success. That's what's important. Results, not the politics of it."
The final piece in all of this is Governor Andrew Cuomo, who will outline his goals for the upcoming legislative session in his State of the State address next month. It remains to be seen whether his priorities will need to change in order to meet Sandy-related needs.