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Albany's negotiations snagged on rent control hours after law lapses

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) at

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) at the Capitol in Albany on May 13, 2015, with his chief of staff Robert Mujica and communications director Kelly Cummings. Photo Credit: AP / Mike Groll

ALBANY - One day before the scheduled end of the legislative session, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and legislative leaders remained stalled over high-profile items, leading to talk of a short-term extension of the rent-control laws that technically expired Monday.

Besides rent control, lawmakers made no headway on other key laws that also expired, including mayoral control of New York City schools and a tax break for real-estate developers known as 421-a.

"There's discussion, but we're not close to anything," Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) told reporters after a series of meetings with Cuomo.

The governor, a Democrat, has tried to tie an education tax credit for private schools to renewal of the rent laws, which hasn't gone over well with the Democratic-led Assembly.

"I've been clear that I think rent should be attached to housing issues and not these things because when you start to mix and match, it makes things a little more difficult," Heastie said.

Lawmakers are scheduled to adjourn for the year Wednesday, but could stay through the rest of the week if key issues aren't resolved, legislators said.

With leaders at odds, rank-and-file lawmakers began the process of approving hundreds of local bills in the final days of the session.

And Cuomo struck a deal with legislators on a sexual-assault measure that would change the definition of consent on private college campuses, somewhat similar to a policy the governor previously implemented at state universities.

The measure will define consent as a "knowing, voluntary and mutual decision among all participants to engage in sexual activity," the governor, Heastie and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) said in a joint news release.

Students who report a sexual assault will have amnesty against any violations of campus drug or alcohol policies.

The measure also would create a "sexual assault victims unit" within the state police, with advanced training to respond to sexual assaults and work with campus police or local police. First responders such as paramedics also will be required to notify the victim of sexual violence of their right to help from law enforcements agencies rather than campus police.

In addition, the state will provide $10 million for rape crisis centers and the new state police unit, and to work with public and private colleges and universities.

Rent control remained the driving issue for closing down the 2015 legislative session. The tone of the discussion morphed throughout Tuesday, sources said, going from optimism about settling the issue quickly to frustration about the stalemate and talk of punting the issue until January with a short-term extension of the current law.

The Republican-led Senate supports a proposal to renew it for eight years, but would throw in more conditions, such as making tenants verify their income to qualify.

"If the goal is to provide more affordable housing, let's make sure people aren't cheating the system," Flanagan said.

The Democratic-controlled Assembly rejected that and wants to end "vacancy decontrol," the process for landlords to deregulate some apartments.

Renewing the rent laws "is the most important thing to our conference," Heastie said.

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