ALBANY – The State Legislature closed its legislative session early Friday, ending a six-month period in which lawmakers scoured bills to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and pass a budget of $ 212 billion.
But with Gov. Andrew Cuomo facing a myriad of scandals and offering no solid post-budget agenda, the session ended Friday with a whimper rather than a flurry of deals that typically occur in June on Capitol Hill. the state.
This meant that the top priorities of some lawmakers and advocates were unfinished, prompting legislative leaders to promise to potentially hold a special session later this year if deals can be reached.
“As always, we know our work is endless when it comes to improving the lives of the people of this great state, and we are ready,” said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, D-Bronx. , in a press release.
Here are some of the key measures left out as lawmakers return home for the summer:
Reforming the parole system
The Democrat-Led Legislature seemed close to a deal in recent days to overhaul the state’s parole system, allowing those released from prison more opportunities to clear their records and better reintegrate into society.
The Senate and Assembly passed the Less Is More Act to prevent those on parole from being returned to prison for technical offenses.
But they failed to agree to seal automatically most convictions after several years or focus parole hearings on the rehabilitation of inmates rather than their original crimes.
The unfinished business has left advocates demanding that lawmakers return to session soon.
“The Clean Slate Act was about to pass last night when the legislature turned its back on more than two million New Yorkers, the overwhelming majority of communities of color, by failing to pass this critical legislation.” , the Legal Aid Society said in a statement. declaration.
Adult Survivors Act not passed
The Senate at the beginning of the month passed a bill this would give adult survivors of sexual abuse in New York a window to prosecute their abusers, no matter how long ago the acts took place.
The measure was modeled on the Child Victims Act, a law passed in 2019 that allows those who were abused when they were under 18 to sue regardless of the statute of limitations. It ends in August.
Some lawmakers have said adults who have been abused should have the same ability to prosecute their abusers, saying it often takes years or decades for people to understand the pain they may have suffered.
But the bill did not get a vote in the assembly until the end of the session.
Gary Greenberg, an advocate for victims of abuse, said the Assembly was biding its time, saying the measure should have a victims fund to allow people to seek legal remedies if they do not have enough money. money to hire a lawyer.
“We look forward to working with all parties to amend the child victims law and pass an adult survivor law that will allow all victims to obtain justice,” he said in a statement.
Authorize Lower State Casinos
Empire City Casino in Yonkers and Resorts World New York City in Queens were pushing the legislature to open the auction for new casino licenses before 2023, which is now the law.
And other casino interests were also keen to open the auction as soon as possible to potentially enable a Manhattan casino.
But parties were pretty much resigned to the fact that the effort was futile in recent days, with Cuomo and lawmakers signaling little support for the early lifting of the casino moratorium.
Now it looks like casinos will be focusing on requests for information for developers who want to build new casinos in the upstate, which will soon be released by the State Gaming Commission.
There are seven authorized New York casino licenses: four went to now open upstate casinos; three are exceptional.
Empire City and Resorts World want approval to convert their video lottery lounges into full-scale casinos with live slots and table games.
Make alcohol sales
Could this be the last call for alcohol to take out restaurants?
Restaurants and bars were push legislators to allow take-out alcohol sales to become permanent after being authorized by Cuomo’s executive order during the pandemic.
But the measure met opposition from liquor stores, who feared a law on books would reduce their profits.
Restaurants have argued that take-out has helped their own finances as they try to recover from the pandemic, but to no avail.
Now, the executive order that allows takeout sales expires on July 4, unless Cuomo extends it again every 30 days.
“The state legislature has made a choice,” the State Restaurant Association said in a statement.
“They chose to protect the antiquated liquor store monopoly, even though they had record sales during the pandemic – and that’s with take-out liquor from licensed restaurants.”
More controls over Cuomo
Democratic lawmakers earlier this year curtailed some of Cuomo’s emergency powers he used during the pandemic to enact mask warrants and business closures.
But Republicans and some Democrats wanted to further strengthen the governor’s authority as he faces multiple inquiries into allegations sexual harassment female aides, underreporting COVID deaths in nursing homes and details of her $ 5 million pandemic book.
“As we head into the summer months, we will work diligently to restore the legislature to its rightful place as a co-equal branch of the New York State government,” the minority leader said. of Coven Will Barclay, R-Pulaski, Oswego County, statement.
The Senate took a step before leaving: they have passed a bill give him the legal authority to go ahead with an impeachment case against Cuomo – if the Assembly votes to impeach him when inquiries are complete.
Joseph Spector is the government and policy editor for the Atlantic Group of the USA TODAY Network, overseeing coverage in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware. He can be contacted at [email protected] or followed on Twitter: @GannettAlbany
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