The end of another state legislative session looms in Albany and, as usual, “the big ugly” is taking shape. That’s the pungent stew of bills cooked up by backroom horse-trading with little public debate or review.
This one is a little different. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been relatively quiet and disengaged. Neither the State Senate nor the Assembly has expressed passion for big legislation that must get done before it leaves the capital. That’s a shame. Big issues do need to be addressed, ones that voters care deeply about and that are at the heart of our democracy — voting reforms and ethics reforms.
The Assembly did tackle some voting problems, with bills that included early voting and a provision to let counties use electronic pollbooks rather than printed ones. That would speed up voting and allow poll workers to direct wayward voters to correct polling places. Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan needs to bring them to a vote. And Cuomo, a professed proponent of voting reforms, should throw his weight behind the proposals.
Other legislation that deserves action:
Mayoral control — No one wants control of NYC’s schools to revert to the old Board of Ed, not even the Senate, which is tying this to charter school expansion. This shouldn’t be an annual bargaining chip. Extend it, period.
Procurement reform — Alleged contract-fixing involving Cuomo aides and SUNY Polytechnic University officials makes clear that independent oversight of contracts is needed. We prefer legislation to return responsibility to the elected state comptroller, but could support a compromise for a chief procurement officer with similar powers appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate.
Kendra’s Law — Renew the law, which lets courts order some mentally ill people to get treatment or be committed.
Tesla — For the sake of consumers, let Tesla open 20 sales locations statewide instead of its current five.
Child sexual abuse — Extending the statute of limitations for criminal and civil cases of child sex abuse has stalled for years, but if victims’ advocates support a proposal for a one-year tribunal that would screen past cases before they go to court, it’s time to move this forward.