Two days. That’s all that’s left in Albany’s legislative session, slated to end Thursday. A lot can get done in two days, if there is a will to do something. And that’s what has us worried.
Take ethics reform. It looks like Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo gave up his leverage when he abandoned his effort to include it in the state budget. Predictably, nothing has happened since. No bill has been approved to strip public pensions from officials convicted of job-related felonies — despite overwhelming public demand and repeated statements from the governor, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie that they want to get this done. Also left hanging are Cuomo bills that would help close a loophole that allows large campaign contributions from secretive limited liability companies, and that would crack down on the super PACs that spend huge amounts of dark money on elections.
This is the easy stuff. Lawmakers have dismissed out of hand the more meaningful changes, such as limiting or banning outside income, which is at the heart of the corruption exposed in numerous courtrooms recently. And it’s not as if lawmakers aren’t capable of making progress on important issues. We applaud recent agreements to combat heroin and opioid abuse, address safety at rail crossings, deal with the scourge of zombie homes and expand breast cancer screening. It’s past time to take a modest step forward on ethics reform.
Another bill with clear benefits for NYC residents is pioneering legislation that would require a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions across the state of 50 percent by 2030 and eliminate them by 2050. It passed in the Assembly but is stuck in the Senate, despite having 31 co-sponsors, including most of the NYC delegation, at presstime; 32 votes are needed for passage. The NYC region is the state’s ground zero for climate change. Recent research ranked the metro region first in the nation in the total value of homes at risk for damage from storm surges and second for the number of homes at risk. Remember Superstorm Sandy’s destruction? Flanagan must let this bill come to the floor for a vote. And his colleagues must pass it.