Final deals elusive as NY lawmakers aim for adjournment

06.17.16 | Bob Price

New York lawmakers lumbered toward adjournment Thursday, seeking to strike final deals on proposals to extend Mayor Bill de Blasio's control of New York City schools and rein in government corruption that would allow them to end the 2016 session.

The Senate and Assembly will return Friday hoping to approve a potential compromise linking the continuation of mayoral control of schools to a possible state Constitutional amendment that would strip state pensions from lawmakers convicted of corruption.

While education in New York City and the state's chronic corruption problem would seem to have little in common, such political bartering is common as lawmakers seek to close down the session.

Mayoral control of the schools remains the most significant undecided issue. Senate Republicans have supported a one-year renewal of the policy first enacted in 2002. Assembly Democrats and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo want a three-year extension.

A possible compromise emerged late Thursday that would extend the policy for one year - and in exchange the Senate would agree to the Assembly's version of the pension forfeiture amendment.

Stripping the pensions of crooked lawmakers became a popular proposal after unrelated scandals involving former Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Republican Senate Leader Dean Skelos, who remained eligible for their pensions despite federal corruption convictions.

Because it would revise the state Constitution, the proposal would need to pass both chambers again next year before it could go on a ballot.

Meanwhile, lawmakers have already worked out agreements on proposals to combat opioid addiction, expand breast cancer screening and allow bars and restaurants to sell alcohol before noon on Sundays. Those bills began working their way through the Legislature Thursday evening, when the Senate passed the heroin and opioid addiction bill.

The measure will restrict opioid prescriptions to seven days and expand treatment options while changing insurance rules to make it easier for addicts to seek help. The bill now moves to the Assembly.

"Every day, lives are being lost and families destroyed by the scourge of heroin and opioid abuse," said Senate Leader John Flanagan, R-Long Island, who added that he hoped the bill will "bring hope to communities battling opioid abuse throughout New York."

Among the many bills making progress Thursday was a measure requiring public schools to test their water for lead. Schools built after 2014 would be exempt from the rule, and those facilities that find lead in their water system would get financial help from the state to fix the problem. The bill now awaits a vote in the Assembly.

"The increasing incidents of lead contamination in school drinking water systems demand that we take short- and long-term actions to strengthen testing, reporting and remediation requirements," said Sen. Tom O'Mara, a Chemung County Republican.

Several high-profile bills are not expected to get votes, including more significant ethics and campaign finance reforms. Other proposals not expected to pass include a bill permitting ride-hailing services including Uber to expand upstate and legislation requiring the labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients.

Also on the bubble: legislation to legalize and regulate online daily fantasy sports games, which were thrown into turmoil last year when Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said they amounted to illegal gambling.