ALBANY - ALBANY -- New York lawmakers are expected to reach a deal to allow parents -- and parents only -- to review teacher evaluations as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislators move to close the legislative session Thursday.
Lawmakers must reach an agreement on teacher evaluations by Monday at the latest to vote on the bill before adjournment. Lawmakers and other officials have said the bill will likely outline a procedure by which parents can access the records, perhaps by appointment at the school. Parents would view how their child's teacher is rated, according to ratings categories adopted in March, such as "highly effective," "effective," or "ineffective."
It's just one of the issues that will dominate the final week, along with minimum wage, marijuana laws and oversight of the developmentally disabled.
The two houses introduced bills late Saturday signaling they've agreed to make "knowingly" viewing child pornography online a crime. They were responding to a recent ruling by the state Court of Appeals that determined that simply viewing child pornography didn't constitute the crime of possessing it -- images have to be printed, downloaded or stored.
With most of the high-profile issues settled in March, the governor and legislators have predicted a "relatively quiet" end of session. That's held true so far, with no political dustups.
"This is very different than years past, what it's been. I think this is how it's supposed to be," Cuomo said in a radio interview. "When government is working, it is supposed to be orderly, without drama, working together to make progress. You're not supposed to leave everything to the last week."
For teacher evaluations, the governor and legislative leaders have expressed a desire to block the public and news media from access to the information. Sources close to the negotiations said "the actual mechanics" of giving parents access need to be ironed out. That includes questions such as: Must they fill out a request form in paper or are emails acceptable? Could emails be verified? Would parents have to file a formal Freedom of Information request?
Powerful teachers unions had initially campaigned to keep such personnel records private. But in May, they backed plans to limit access to parents only.
Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) said during a Friday radio interview that officials were discussing "how to balance a parent's right to know and [offering] some protection for teachers in terms of broad-based dissemination."
Cuomo also is pushing strongly to establish a new set of investigators and prosecutors focusing on the abuse of developmentally disabled people in residency and day programs. The governor says the new system will address decades of neglect. But Democrats have raised concerns about independent oversight and reporting. Some advocate that the new regulators report to the attorney general rather than the governor.
Republicans strongly oppose Cuomo's move to decriminalize the possession of 25 grams or less of marijuana. Cuomo's initiative stems from his desire to address a particular issue in New York City: A police officer tells a suspect to empty his pockets, revealing a marijuana cigarette, and then the officer charges him with a misdemeanor because the suspect "publicly displayed" marijuana.
Having allowed a vote last year on legalizing same-sex marriage, Republicans might not want to go along with an initiative that might alienate their base of voters, lobbyists have said. In fact, Skelos has signaled that while he opposes decriminalization of marijuana, he could back a proposal that specifically addresses charges involving a police officer's instructions.
Chances appear to be waning for a minimum-wage hike, lawmakers said. Republicans strongly oppose it and Cuomo, though he supports the concept, hasn't put on a full-court press for it.
"It's still alive," Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) said when asked whether his proposal to hike the minimum-wage from $7.25 an hour to $8.50 was dead.The governor and legislators are close to making deals on less contentious issues, such as a temporary state takeover of the New York Racing Association.
Long Island lawmakers are racing to reach agreements on bills that would help Nassau University Medical Center refinance about $300 million in debt, allow the fiscally strapped City of Long Beach to borrow $15 million, create a new "enterprise" park at the Calverton site in Riverhead, and grant Suffolk County its own traffic violations bureau, allowing it to keep some of the money from fines.
The NUMC proposal is the biggest ticket on the Island agenda. Assemb. Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove) introduced it late in the session and acknowledged that could hurt its chances. But he said lawmakers recognize that refinancing could save the cash-strapped facility $15 million or more in the long run. He said: "I'm confident all are going to act in the best interest of the medical center and the people of Nassau County."
With Ted Phillips
STILL ON THE AGENDA
Here are some key bills the state Legislature and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo are considering as lawmakers move toward adjourning the 2012 session on June 21:
Raising the minimum wage
Granting small business tax cuts
Status: Senate passed, Assembly hasn't acted. Many believe it could be traded for minimum-wage hike, but talk has stalled.
Restricting access to teacher evaluations to parents only
Status: Assembly and powerful teachers unions support it. Senate hasn't showed its hand yet. Cuomo favors the concept - but experts say that's legally tricky.
Decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana
Status: Cuomo and Assembly are pushing hard for it, chiefly to address an NYC situation where police officers instructed a person to empty his pockets, upon which the person displayed marijuana and the officer charged him with a misdemeanor of "publicly" displaying marijuana. Senate wants to address that situation but doesn't favor decriminalizing the possession of up to 25 grams of pot.
Allowing Nassau County to bypass control board to borrow $400 million
Status: With Democrats cool to the idea, its chances are looking unlikely.
Refinancing Nassau University Medical Center debt, approximately $300 million
Status: As a complicated, 11th-hour bill, it faces logistical challenges. But both parties want to get it done.
Creating a Suffolk County Traffic Violations Bureau
Status: The Suffolk delegation strongly supports the bill, which would effectively allow the county, not the state, to keep money generated from fines (although not the state "surcharge.") It's bottled up in the Assembly.
Allowing Long Beach to borrow up to $15 billion to cover a deficit
Status: The Assembly has been advancing the bill; Senate hasn't acted.