Capitol Watch: What didn't get done

Expect big focus on marijuana next session

June 24, 2018 - 12:00 pm
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ALBANY, N.Y. (WBEN/AP) — In New York state government news, lawmakers left a lot of unfinished business when they wrapped up their legislative work for 2018.

High-profile proposals that didn't get a vote include proposals to authorize sports betting, eliminate cash bail and authorize early voting.

Now that the session is over, lawmakers will turn their attention to the fall campaigns, which Democrats hope will give them control of the state Senate.

Meanwhile, the administration of Gov. Andrew Cuomo finalizes a long-awaited report on marijuana legalization.

Here's a look at stories making news — and key events coming up this summer.

WHAT DIDN'T GET DONE: With Democrats in charge of the Assembly and Republicans controlling the Senate it's not surprising that a large number of high-profile proposals from either chamber ended up on the cutting room floor when lawmakers adjourned Thursday morning.

Democratic misfires include the child victims act, which would extend the statute of limitations for child molestation and create a one-year window for victims to sue over decades old abuse. Democratic leaders such as Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie also failed to persuade the Senate to pass criminal justice reforms, including a prohibition on cash bail for all but the most serious violent offenses.

On the GOP side, the Senate's push to legalize sports betting sputtered, as did a Republican plan to increase transparency in the state's multi-billion-dollar economic development programs.

Concerns arose in the Assembly over determining the venues for the wagering — casinos, racinos, off-track betting parlors, mobile devices — and the "integrity fee" sought by some of the pro sports leagues for bets placed on their games.

For economic development reforms, the Senate GOP and some Assembly Democrats sought a "data base of deals" that would make it easier to track who's receiving state tax breaks and other subsidies, whether the recipients are creating the number of jobs promised and what each job cost to create. A separate bill would restore the state comptroller's authority to review state contracts before they're acted on.

SUMMER HEAT: Lawmakers will now return to their districts for a summer of campaigning ahead of the fall elections. Democrats are hoping anger at President Donald Trump and other Washington Republicans will translate into a blue wave that hands them control of the state Senate. The chamber is now missing one member, leaving Democrats and Republicans tied with 31 seats each. Republicans have held on to power only because of the support of a lone renegade Democrat, Sen. Simcha Felder of Brooklyn. Democrats could take over — giving the party control of the entire Legislature — even if they pick up just one or two new seats.

The governor's race will also heat up as Cuomo looks to fend off three major opponents: Republican Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, "Sex and the City" star and political activist Cynthia Nixon, a Democrat, and former Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, running as an independent.

Other races include the contest to replace disgraced former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, a Democrat who resigned after women he had dated accused him of abuse. Schneiderman has denied the allegations.

Democrats have a four-way primary race between Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, New York City Public Advocate Tish James, Fordham Law professor Zephyr Teachout, and Buffalo attorney Leecia Eve. The winner will face Republican attorney Keith Wofford.

POT REPORT: A report on marijuana legalization is expected to be released any day by the Cuomo administration. Health Commissioner Howard Zucker told reporters recently that the report will recommend legalizing recreational pot — but he said the details of how it could be regulated and taxed will have to wait for the report.

Whatever its conclusion, look for a big legalization debate next year in Albany.

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