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NYSNYS NEWS: Cuomo stays silent as legislators return to Albany this week to try to put to rest a session that refuses to die.
NYSNYS News
NYSNYS NEWS: Cuomo stays silent as legislators return to Albany this week to try to put to rest a session that refuses to die.

By Kyle Hughes
NYSNYS News


ALBANY, N.Y. (June 21) Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislators are due back again this week, trying once more to put to rest a legislative session that refuses to die.

The 2015 session has been one of the most scandal-ridden in history, with both leaders of the Senate and Assembly arrested by the FBI. Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has had to deal with personal crises, a biography that portrayed him as a misanthrope, and the stunning DOCCS Clinton prison break that suggested the dysfunction and corruption of Albany has infected vital state agencies.

Still, for Albany officials still standing, life goes on as normal to a remarkable degree.

Cuomo raised eyebrows with a $2,500-a-ticket fundraiser at the Plaza Hotel in NYC on Thursday, scheduled just as session was due to end. And Monday, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, thrust into the leadership post following the arrest and ouster of Sheldon Silver, holds a $5,000 Democratic Assembly campaign committee fundraiser at Yankee Stadium.

Senate Republicans also held a $5,000 Albany fundraiser two weeks ago, and Senate Independent Democratic Caucus leader Jeff Klein (D-Bronx), who is allied with the Senate GOP, has scheduled a $1,000 fundraiser also at Yankee Stadium on June 30.

As legislative leaders shuffled in and out of meetings with Cuomo last week, they said little to reporters. They are due back on Tuesday to continue the closed-door meetings.

"We're still talking," Heastie said as he pushed his way through reporters after a Thursday meeting with Cuomo.

"This is where it is," he added. "If the governor asks you to come down for a meeting, we're trying to get something done. I'm not going to tell him no."

"The upshot is we are having good discussions with the governor," Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-Suffolk County), said after a separate Cuomo sit-down the same day. "Hopefully the Assembly will get on board with some of the things we are talking about. I need to discuss all these issues with my conference right now."

Each one of the Q&A sessions lasted about one minute, now the norm for a Capitol where transparency is one of Cuomo's favorite buzzwords.

The session close-out has been dominated by New York City issues, with extending the rent laws that hold down Big Apple housing costs topping the list along with its companion issue, the 421-a tax break benefiting big developers in NYC. As a result, issues affecting the rest of the state have taken a back seat.

A big issue that remains unresolved ispassage of an Education Investment Tax Credit to benefit donors to private and parochial schools.

Lawmakers and Cuomo did reach agreement on some minor issues this week including closer state oversight of nail salons that news reports say are known for exploiting their immigrant workforce. The Legislature also agreed on a new law to guide sexual conduct of students enrolled in private colleges. The college law is based on rules already in effect for SUNY that are intended to discourage date rape and sexual misconduct among students.

They also passed a bill to reform the operations of the Port Authority, which was tarred by the Bridgegate investigation of aides to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. The bill must be also be passed by the New Jersey state Legislature, whose leaders appear to have been caught by surprise by the Albany bill's passage.

Yet another bill mandated school vaccinations for meningitis.

Cuomo stayed out of sight, surfacing only on Twitter, a favorite conduit of Albany officials for communicating with press and public.

Over the weekend, Cuomo tweeted out thoughts on Buffalo, where he has lavished state funds and programs, and on gay rights, another signature issue for him. "Aug 28 will be the first-ever #PrideDay at the 2015 @NYSFair celebrating NY's LGBT community," Cuomo tweeted on Friday, following up on Father's Day with another on the same topic. "CNY #Pride Festival revelers celebrate recognition by @NYSFair," Cuomo tweeted, linking to a Syracuse newspaper story on the annual CNY Pride Festival.

Cuomo also tweeted out warnings on the weather, another favorite topic of the governor. "New Yorkers, take precautions against flooding as heavy rain is expected late Saturday and Sunday," he wrote, following it up with another warning about the aftereffects of "Tropical Depression Bill."

He also re-tweeted a post by pop singer John Legend touting the "Raise the Age" bill to stop prosecuting teens as adults. The bill is another one of Cuomo's initiatives that has stalled in the Legislature.

There were no tweets about the stalled legislative session.

Cuomo hasn't held a formal Albany news conference in three months. He has also stopped calling into radio talk shows, another favored communications platform. It's not clear Cuomo will talk to the media once the session is over, since he skipped a similar session after the budget passed this spring.

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