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Much was left undone in chaotic 2018 legislative session

Spectators watch members of the New York Senate

Spectators watch members of the New York Senate vote on bills in the Senate Chamber at the state Capitol during the last scheduled day of the legislative session on Wednesday, June 20, 2018, in Albany, N.Y. Credit: AP / Hans Pennink

ALBANY — The 2018 state legislative session ended in the early hours of Thursday after an often bitter partisan divide yielded some wins but also left many of the biggest statewide initiatives on the negotiating table.

“What stood out to me this year was all of the political pressure affecting the process,” said Susan Del Percio, a New York political consultant and national commentator. She cited the dissolution of the Independent Democratic Conference in April that had effectively provided GOP majority control of the Senate, and the already heated race for governor.

“It all but ensured that nothing would get done,” she said.

The Senate has been left divided 31-31 since May when Sen. Tom Croci (R-Sayville) left to rejoin the Navy, and tensions ran high in the closing minutes of the session.

Left undone were proposals to address school shooting, such as Cuomo’s “red flag” bill that would allow teachers and principals to report potentially dangerous students to judges in order to end the students’ access to guns, and another to put police officers outside New York City schools.

Also failing to pass were top issues of the session: Legalizing sports gambling, as nearby states are already moving to adopt the lucrative business; and legalizing recreational use of marijuana. Democratic efforts to protect through state law contraceptive care now allowed under Obamacare and abortion rights now assured under the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision also failed.

There also was ultimately no action to eliminate cash bail; to remove student test scores from consideration in job evaluations for teachers and principals; to raise the smoking age to 21; or to prevent the Trump administration from allowing energy drilling off the state’s coast.

“We weren’t able to accomplish a lot of policy things, but I don’t think the political universe is going to change in November,” said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx). He said Republican senators blocked many issues and predicted a Democratic Senate majority for 2019.

“Obviously, we got a ton of things done in the budget,” said Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport), who blamed Assembly Democrats for blocking some measures such as tax breaks. “Certainly we’ve done our business.”

The Assembly’s Democratic majority failed to support Senate measures to require more accountability and transparency in how the Cuomo administration awards billions of dollars in contacts and tax breaks to employers in exchange for job promises and economic development.

On Wednesday, the legislature approved a late Cuomo priority to use eminent domain to buy land that will be used to connect rail service directly to LaGuardia Airport. The legislature also agreed to create a commission to hear complaints of misconduct by prosecutors.

And the legislature did have time to rename part of a Sullivan County highway as “The Woodstock Way” near the historic concert venue and to correct the decades-old typo in the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge to add a missing “z.”

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