State Legislature Ends Session With Flurry of New Bills

Albany legislators ended their session last Friday after completing several key, and sometimes controversial, pieces of legislation. In the session’s final days Governor Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers negotiated, and eventually passed, a local property tax cap, extended rent regulations, approved Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s taxi proposal to allow street hails outside Manhattan and legalized same-sex marriage.

Cuomo made same-sex marriage one of his top priorities, but it appeared the Republican controlled State Senate would not bring the marriage equality bill to the floor for a vote. After several days of negotiations, Republican lawmakers—led by Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Nassau County)—added several amendments designed to protect religious institutions from discrimination lawsuits if they choose not to recognize or officiate same-sex weddings.

The bill was brought to the Senate floor late Friday night where it passed 33-29. Every Senate Democrats except Ruben Diaz (D-Bronx) voted in favor of the bill. Four upstate Republicans helped tip the balance: Jim Alesi, Roy McDonald, Stephen Saland and Mark Grisanti.

Also pivotal for the bill’s passage was local Democratic Senators Joe Addabbo and Shirley Huntley. Both voted against a same-sex marriage bill in 2009, but citing changing community values and constituent responses, both Senators changed their vote.

Response for the new measure has been predictably mixed. In Howard Beach, Addabbo has received some backlash. Last week Father Rob Keighron from St. Helen’s parish criticized the vote and urged people to vote Addabbo out of office.

Addabo has supporters as well. Randy McNeil, a Howard Beach resident and business owner, told The Forum he fully supported Addabbo’s vote.

The other major debate during the legislature’s last days was rent regulation. The law protects thousands of city tenants in rent-stabilized apartments. Republicans had wanted to simply extend the regulations while Democrats fought to enhance protections for tenants.

The Democrats won, and made it harder for landlords to “decontrol” a rent-stabilized apartment, raising the threshold by 25 percent.

“Rent regulations had to be enhanced this year—not simply extended—to give hardworking New Yorkers access to affordable housing,” said Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven).

Also included in the rent regulation deal was a cap on local property taxes. The new 2 percent cap, is designed to prevent upstate and Long Island towns from raising property taxes to regain revenue whenever Albany cuts funding.

The state legislature also approved Bloomberg’s taxi plan. Opposed by yellow taxi drivers, the bill would allow certain designated livery cars purchase medallions at a discounted rate and pick up street hails in the outer boroughs.

There were criticisms of the plan, with some wondering why Albany was voting on the issue.

“This matter should have been decided or negotiated with the New York City Council,” Addabbo said in a statement. “Many state lawmakers, like myself, believe the state legislature was being used to circumvent the usual city government legislative process pertaining to these types of matters.”

There were also complaints from livery cab owners who said the bill would not help their businesses and community residents who feared this would only increase illegal street hails.

by Eric Yun


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