State leaders negotiating 'clean-up" bill

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ALBANY -- Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Wednesday that a last-minute "clean-up" bill being negotiated behind closed doors contains some "stray cats and dogs," but he wouldn't name them.

Good-government advocates warn that historically these "clean-up bills" at the end of legislative sessions fix more than typos and clerical errors. Clean-up bills have been criticized for decades as "the big ugly," often cramming in significant measures, sometimes to benefit special interests, without public debate.

"There are a number of corrections, primarily from the budget document that was prepared and done," Cuomo said. "A budget is a feat of logistics and operations, and some items inadvertently dropped out of the budget on a technical level."

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The governor added: "There may be some stray cats and dogs we may have to work on also, but it primarily is a technical correction bill."

He wouldn't say what the strays were: "Not at this point . . . We are not discussing any specific bill, just a number of issues."

He also wouldn't identify the issues: "They are just premature, because they are just discussions at this point with one house or another. We have no agreement and no bill, and I'm not optimistic we will have one in any event."

Asked if he would order a "message of necessity" to suspend the state constitution's requirement of three days' public review of bills before a vote, Cuomo said: "It depends on what's in the bill."

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who is negotiating the clean-up bill with Cuomo and Senate leaders, said Wednesday he didn't know what was in it.

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"That's one of the major bills still being discussed," Silver said, adding that he also doesn't know how much notice the public will get before a bill is passed.

The session is scheduled to end Thursday.

"The question is, will it be stray cats and dogs, or a wolf pack loaded with goodies for Albany's fat cats?" said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group.

"They get jammed through with very little scrutiny," he said. "We find out about the bad news later. That doesn't mean that will be the case this time, but there certainly is enough historical evidence to show they include poorly conceived, poorly drafted legislation or just bad ideas."

One indicator is that the Senate has already confirmed many of Cuomo's nominations to top jobs and judgeships. Traditionally, the Senate confirms a governor's judges only after big legislative deals are struck.

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"That's their leverage and the fact that they are moving on the nominations shows the larger agreement is moving ahead without much fuss," Horner said.

 

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