Ethics Reform and Local School Control were the Losers in the Mixed Bag of Albany's 11th Hour Deals
Lawmakers voted late Friday and into Saturday morning to finish the 2016 Albany legislative session. And while there were a handful of last minute deals, some say the outcome was very mixed, with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio faring particularly poorly. State House Reporter Zack Fink has a roundup of what happened.
At the end of an exhausting final week, Mayoral control of New York City Schools was renewed , but only for a year and with new "transparency measures," neither of which Mayor Bill de Blasio wanted.
"I think it's transparency that works," said Assemblyman Jeff Klein, a Democrat whose district includes parts of the Bronx. "We are all curious and I think parents have a right to know how much money is being spent on each school in the city of New York."
The State Senate had offered a three-year extension but Assembly Democrats including Education Chair Cathy Nolan opposed it because it included the Education Tax Credit which allows a fund for public school children to attend private schools.
Nolan also opposed a bill allowing testing for lead in the water supply of schools across New York State but she was overruled and the bill passed both houses.
"I'm not the last word on anything here," said Queens Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan. "As a Committee Chair it is my responsibility to do due dilligence. There are still a lot of questions about how the bill would be implemented.
Following the corruption convictions of the two legislative leaders last year, lawmakers did pass an ethics package, although reformers criticized those reforms as weak.
"What they passed doesn't address any of the big problems which are mainly that big businesses and people doing business with the State of New York can make gigantic campaign contributions," said John Kaehny, with the good government group Reinvent Albany. "All legally."
$150 million was allocated for supportive housing for the homeless, a fraction of the $2 billion that was promised. The Cuomo administration says the balance can be applied at any time in the future.
"Technically it can get negotiated later," said Queens Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi. "The practicalities? There is no shot. Everybody goes back to their district in an election year. Nobody's going to be focused, nobody's going to want to cut a deal."
In the end both houses voted on everything late Friday night into Saturday morning. Insiders say this a classic Albany strategy that's been used for decades. Since the final negotiations are so intense and so exhaustive by the time lawmakers get the bills late on Friday night they just want to vote for them and go home, and that seems to be precisely what happened this time around.
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