The end of another state legislative session has taken place in Albany. Analysts’ consider what happened in June a bitter stew of bills that gets cooked up on deadline by backroom horse-trading, lobbyist pressure and little or no public debate, or review. Hardly new news, a time period known as “the big ugly.” How ugly? Upstate Republican Assemblyman Brian Kolb, considered the completion of the 2017 legislative session a clear reminder of “how dysfunctional state government is, and how much will be required to fix it.” One word applies, insidious, further defined as crafty, deceptive and even devious.
I have researched the web sites of both the assembly and senate to try to determine just what was accomplished. The assembly takes credit for fixing loopholes, strengthening regulations, protecting tenants and elders from abuse, preventing gun owners at risk for harming themselves, raising the age for marriage consent, protecting employee privacy in reproductive choice, proposing the renaming the Tappan Zee Bridge after Mario Cuomo, and even including E-Cigarettes in the Clean Air Act. On a positive note the assembly passed a bill to close the LLC loophole in state finance law to diminish the influence of wealthy donors.
The senate sent to the governor nine bills in June. One changes employee contribution rates, others, services and treatments for managed care recipients, the sale of bonds in Buffalo, extending the effectiveness and expiration of existing law, and last but not least renaming a portion of a state highway system to honor Major General Harold Greene.
How many of these bills materialize is yet to be determined. What was avoided includes a litany of major concerns begging for attention including: ethics and voting reform, procurement & economic development oversight, capping state debt, campaign finance reform, restrictions on public-sector pension payments, and term limits, all closeted for the benefit of a few at the expense of many.
My next column will address six areas of needed reform that will reduce the state’s cost burdens and improve its climate for growth. Stay tuned in.