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NYC mayoral control of schools, full-day kindergarten in potential deal

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) heads to a

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) heads to a meeting during a special session in Albany on Wednesday, June 28, 2017. Photo Credit: AP / Hans Pennink

ALBANY — Renewal of county sales taxes for three years, a bill that could lead to providing full-time kindergarten statewide, extension of mayoral control of New York City schools for up to two years and a new name for the Tappan Zee Bridge — honoring the late Mario Cuomo — are elements of a legislative deal that could be voted into law Thursday, legislative sources said.

Other pieces included a new pension benefit for New York City police and firefighters, and funds to help Lake Ontario communities recover from flooding, legislators said after emerging from closed-door meetings at the State Capitol.

Assembly members said they expected to take up the package of bills late Wednesday, after calling the house to order around 9:40 p.m. The Senate, which already had adjourned for the day, could follow on Thursday — if the agreement holds.

Part of the agreement would include a measure sought by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to name the new Tappan Zee after his father. Cuomo will issue a “message of necessity” for this and all other bills in the package to avoid the constitution’s requirement of three days’ public review of all bills before a vote.

The message of necessity also avoids a potentially nasty public debate days after the Senate passed a bill to name the span for Purple Heart veterans.

Legislative leaders and Cuomo wouldn’t confirm the details of what rank-and-filers called Albany’s latest “big ugly” package of disparate bills in which closed-door negotiations made trades on several measures.

“I have to wait until I see the bill,” said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) after he emerged from briefing his members. Cuomo’s office didn’t immediately comment.

Rank-and-file legislators said they were told it’s a deal.

“Deal done. Everything but the kitchen sink,” quipped one lawmaker via email and who wished to remain anonymous because the agreement hadn’t been officially announced.

Few details were available, such as the cost of bringing full-day kindergarten to school districts statewide. New York hadn’t required full-day kindergarten, although many schools have offered it for years.

Lawmakers had adjourned for the year a week earlier without renewing county sales tax rates (including Nassau and Suffolk) and other issues — chiefly because they were tied up over the issue of mayoral control of New York City schools. Cuomo called the special session Wednesday specifically to deal with that.

More than 50 counties need authorization to renew local sales taxes, otherwise they would expire at the end of the year, costing them billions in local revenue. The renewal would mean about $300 million apiece for Nassau and Suffolk.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport), Heastie and Senate Independent Democratic Conference leader Jeff Klein (D-Bronx) met repeatedly throughout the day in Cuomo’s inner office. Meanwhile, the more than 200 other state legislators largely sat and waited.

“One would think things in Albany couldn’t get more chaotic or dysfunctional, yet it always seems to get worse,” said Senate Democratic leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers).

The added cost of the special session is more than $36,000 per day just for the per diem expenses paid to legislators.

Many legislators complained about being called back into session after leaders’ negotiations led by Cuomo failed to come up with an agreement on mayoral control. Some said they expected the session to continue into Thursday or Friday.

“It is an abuse of discretion by a governor to call 213 public officials to a special session without first producing a bill that can be read, digested and voted on,” said Assemb. Tom Abinanti (D-Greenburgh) on Wednesday.

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