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Legislature opens session with pledge to take on Cuomo

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan Photo Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

ALBANY — The Legislature opened its 2017 session with a warning to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo that the body will re-assert itself as an equal power in state government, portending a rocky session.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) began delivering the traditional opening speech usually filled with optimism and promises of cooperation when he referred to Article 3 of the state constitution. It states, “The legislative power of this state shall be vested in the Senate and Assembly.”

Flanagan continued: “Not the attorney general, not the comptroller and not the governor.

“I am going to stand up for the primacy and independence of the body,” Flanagan said to a standing ovation from all members in the usually fractious Senate.

Without mentioning Cuomo, Flanagan advised the senators: “If people get up tight because you are acting like public officials, get over it. Get over it.”

Rank-and-file members in the Senate and Assembly are still angry at Cuomo, who derailed a pay commission in December that was expected to raise legislators’ pay for the first time since 1999. The commission appointed by Cuomo and legislative leaders was expected to increase lawmakers’ base pay by about 25 percent, to $99,500 from the current $79,000. But Cuomo required legislators to pass several of his proposals, including ethics proposals, which ultimately sunk negotiations on Dec. 23.

“He has essentially treated the Legislature like we work for him,” said Sen. Kevin Parker (D-Brooklyn) in an interview. “We do not work for the governor.”

A day before, Assembly Republican leader Brian Kolb (R-Canandaigua) swore in his new members and promised “to remind the governor that this not a dictatorship . . . . our governor will wake up to the fact that is not all about him.”

Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi“Senator Flanagan didn’t get a pay raise so now he wants a return of member items and pork barrel spending. They still don’t get it and that’s why 70 percent of New Yorkers don’t believe they deserve a raise.”

On Wednesday, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) sought to tone down the friction between his members and Cuomo.“I’m sure people are disappointed,” Heastie said. “There is probably a mourning period, but people are ready to move on.”

A veteran Assembly member, however, said anger remains hot among legislators.

“Members are unhappy with what he has done,” the Assembly member said on the condition of anonymity. “But we also know we can get into more trouble if we say it. So no one is saying anything.”

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