The year’s legislative session is coming to a close in Albany — the last session day for the State Senate and Assembly is June 19, and as usual, there is plenty of unfinished business.
“From a district perspective, and for many of my colleagues, I think number one is trying to deal with any local issues,” said State Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, the deputy minority leader.
Local legal issues aside, it is unclear what will make it to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s desk before the end of session. After Democrats gained control of the Senate last fall after years of Republican control, the Senate and Assembly passed a slew of bills on gun control, criminal justice, voting, reproductive health and more, but there are a number of issues — like rent control — that have not been addressed.
Gov. Cuomo has a list of 10 priorities that he still wants to finish up, including marijuana, providing drivers licenses to undocumented state residents, the Equal Rights Amendment adding sex equality to the state constitution and ending the gay panic defense. The offices of Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie declined to comment on the leader’s priorities for the end of session.
It is not only leadership, however, that has legislation they would like to see passed before the end of the session.
Sen. Griffo is still working on legislation he hopes to pass addressing a shortage of physicians, particularly upstate, and is currently consulting with doctors about how to address issues of debt, expensive malpractice insurance and other barriers.
“It’s going to be a work in progress,” he said.
He also hopes to pass mandate relief — S. 2017A – preventing state government from implementing new unfunded mandates on local governments and reviewing those already in place.
“My hope is we would continue to focus on making New York more affordable,” Sen. Griffo said. “That should be one of our focusses.”
Assemblyman Ken Blankenbush, R-Black River, said that Democratic majority priorities continue to be out of touch with upstate residents.
“They want parole for cop-killers, taxpayer funded raises for inmates and prison closures in our communities,” Mr. Blankenbush wrote in a statement to the Times. “We want to increase funding for drug treatment. They want to legalize marijuana and fund heroin injection sites. We want to rebuild our local roads and bridges and create great jobs doing it.”
Mr. Blankenbush has been repeatedly critical of the major push by Democrats on criminal justice reform this session, a criticism he continued in his statement.
“We know how precious the last few days of session are,” he wrote. “That’s why we’re fighting so hard for our priorities and fighting against their dangerous agenda.”
State Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, declined to comment, saying she was busy with meetings all week. Staff for Assemblyman Mark C. Walczyk, R-Watertown, said he was tied up with legislative business.
The Gist of It
n END OF SESSION: With the State Legislative session ending on June 19, lawmakers are all rushing to pass their priorities before the six-month recess
n GRIFFO: State Sen. Joseph Griffo said he is trying to finish and pass legislation addressing a shortage of physicians upstate and providing relief from unfunded mandates
n BLANKENBUSH: Assemblymen Ken Blankenbush said he is focused on increased funding for drug treatment and infrastructure while slamming Democrats