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Skelos: Will consider amending state's new gun-control law

Gov. Andrew Cuomo with Senate Majority Leader Dean

Gov. Andrew Cuomo with Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre). (March 27, 2011) Photo Credit: AP

ALBANY -- The legislature's top Republican said Wednesday he'd consider amending the state's new gun-control law to allow owners to keep their 10-round magazines, one of several possible small-scale changes to the law.

In a wide-ranging breakfast forum in Manhattan, Senate co-leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) also indicated that Republicans were open to raising the state's minimum wage and questioned whether casino investors would embrace Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's plan to limit new casinos to upstate only.

Appearing on the same panel, the other Senate co-leader, Jeff Klein (D-Bronx), signaled that Democrats would consider a Skelos proposal to eliminate a surcharge on utilities that was enacted after the 2008 stock market meltdown.

The two leaders also said their newfangled "majority coalition" -- featuring 30 Republicans and six Democrats -- was functioning well and finding middle ground after one month in action.

Skelos had previously acknowledged that the gun-control law -- enacted just one month after the Newtown, Conn., school massacre -- may have been passed "in haste." He said the Senate is looking to propose some technical amendments, such as continuing exemptions for retired law enforcement personnel to keep their weapons.

He also said lawmakers might propose addressing a provision that would force owners of 10-round magazines to either give them up or place a block in them to limit rounds to seven -- matching the limit under the new law.

"I don't see a reason why people should get rid of their 10-bullet clip," Skelos said at the Crain's New York Business forum.

He added that two major components of the new law won't be amended: the tougher restrictions on assault weapons and the new, seven-bullet limit.

At a separate event in Manhattan yesterday, Cuomo, in response to Skelos' remarks, said: "Whatever he wants to talk about, we'll talk about."

Skelos said Republicans opposed a minimum-wage hike last year because the economy was too fragile and because Democratic legislators wanted to index future hikes to cost-of-living increases. He's more open to a proposal Cuomo submitted last month that raises the rate from $7.25 per hour to $8.75 but doesn't use indexing.

"I'm open to getting it done," Skelos said.

Klein, meanwhile, warmed to a GOP proposal to eliminate the "18-a" utilities tax set to expire in 2014. Cuomo has proposed extending it five years, potentially bringing $1.8 billion to state coffers. Republicans said the tax was never meant to be extended.

"I think Senate Republicans have made a very compelling argument" to kill the tax, Klein said, though he added lawmakers would have to find other revenue to make up the difference.

Skelos reiterated his stance on casinos: that downstate locations shouldn't be ruled out. He said, "If I were an investor" in casinos, his interest upstate would be limited because of the possibility of a metropolitan area venue.

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