Skelos opposes Cuomo on abortion, campaign finance

One day before the Democratic governor is expected

One day before the Democratic governor is expected to meet with leading women's groups, Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said he isn't budging on abortion. (Credit: Steve Jacobs, 2010)

ALBANY -- The legislature's top Republican said Tuesday he remains steadfastly opposed to two of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's top priorities: strengthening the state's abortion law and using public dollars to finance political campaigns.

One day before the Democratic governor is expected to meet with leading women's groups, Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said he isn't budging on abortion. Skelos also said that while he's reviewing election-law proposals in the aftermath of recent scandals, no change would stop "crooks and idiots" from conspiring to break the law.

Cuomo's promise to safeguard abortion rights has sparked some of the most contentious fights of the 2013 session, though he hasn't spelled out exactly what he's proposing. In a public-radio interview Tuesday, he said he wants to ensure that current rights under federal law are protected. He tried to shift the pressure to the politically split Senate, which he said doesn't want to vote on an abortion-rights bill.


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"They've avoided the choice for a long time because they don't want to answer the question," Cuomo said.

The governor hasn't presented legislators with a specific proposal, Skelos said.

Besides, Skelos said, there's no need to pass a bill just to re-state abortion rights because it's unlikely the U.S. Supreme Court would overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade case.

"In New York State, whether you are pro-choice, pro-life, everybody knows that those laws are not going to be changed," Skelos said. "There's no need to bring it up. Absolutely no need."

Skelos also reinforced that he strongly opposed "using taxpayers' dollars to fund [political] campaigns." Activists and Democrats, including Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), have stepped up their push for public financing in the wake of recent political scandals.

Federal prosecutors have charged state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Queens) and five others with conspiring in a bribery scheme to rig a spot for Smith in the Republican primary for New York City mayor.

Skelos said he's reviewing election-law proposals but added that "there isn't a law that would have stopped those crooks and idiots from doing what they did."

Silver, who appeared with Skelos at a news conference to promote summer-camp scholarships, didn't take issue with his counterpart.

But he said he believes "the climate is ripe" for enacting campaign-finance and election-law changes this year.

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