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Albany lawmakers round the final turn of the session

A worthy compromise on climate change, but other bills need more care - or delay

A statue stands beside the New York State

A statue stands beside the New York State Capitol building in Albany on May 22, 2019. Photo Credit: Bloomberg/Victor J. Blue

Sometimes, the meat grinder Albany becomes as the legislative session lurches toward a close manages to spit out a prime piece of legislation. Sometimes, it disgorges drivel. And sometimes, it churns out both in a hunk of undigestible lard known as the Big Ugly.

For better and for worse, 2019 is playing to form.

On the plus side, talks among Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Democratic leaders of the State Senate and Assembly are putting the finishing touches on nation-leading climate change legislation. It features a sensible compromise on carbon removal: A carbon-neutral economy by 2050, with at least 85 percent coming from carbon reduction. The measure wisely sets in law several Cuomo goals — that 70 percent of the state’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2030 and 100 percent by 2040. Less clear is how money will be spent in disadvantaged communities; funds should be for climate change-related programs only, not nebulous jobs doled out by politicians.

Still in the grinder: legislation that would codify when developers must pay prevailing wage — the hourly salary for union workers often established in collective-bargaining agreements. A bad bill could cost jobs, rather than create them. A good bill would mandate that only projects with a significant percentage of public funding pay the higher wages. Exemptions for nonprofit projects and those with significant lower-cost housing are essential.

It’s ridiculous that an issue as culturally norm-changing as legalizing recreational marijuana is re-emerging at this late hour. It would be best to resolve major issues openly and precisely. If it does move forward, all communities should have the choice to opt in to the sale of pot; at least the necessary debate can be had at the local level. It also would allow these jurisdictions to learn best practices from those who might opt in from the start, like NYC. We have similar concerns about a loosely drafted bill to grant driver’s licenses to immigrants here illegally and whether personal identifying information of this group would be routinely available to law enforcement.

We queasily await what emerges.


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