This originally appeared in The Point, the editorial board's newsletter for insiders. To subscribe, click here.
The pinball game that is New York politics lit up anew on Wednesday with State Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan telling The Point that he would consider calling his conference back for a special session by September, including to consider abortion legislation.
“I am not averse to coming back,” Flanagan told us. “But first there has to be a legitimate agreement with the governor and the speaker on all outstanding issues,” he said.
Flanagan said that included local bills, speed cameras, teacher evaluations and lifting the cap on the number of charter schools downstate, and abortion.
Flanagan said he wanted Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to have a “legitimate conversation” about state laws on abortion, which the majority leader said already protect most women seeking to end pregnancies. Flanagan also said the Reproductive Health Act that Cuomo supports goes way beyond the protections in Roe v. Wade, and there would be little support for it in the GOP. However, if there were new legislation, he would take it to his conference. “Given the magnitude and seriousness of this issue, we would need to have detailed discussions in our conference on the specific language,” he said.
While there always was a possibility legislators would return to Albany to address some local measures that didn’t get passed in the Big Ugly’s last days in June, the emergence of a U.S. Supreme Court vacancy and the chance that Roe v. Wade could be overturned changed the calculation. In recent days, Cuomo has attacked State Senate Republicans for not passing a bill that would expand abortion rights in New York, and he demanded that lawmakers return to Albany.
While Speaker Carl Heastie was steadfast that there was no need for the Assembly to return, on Tuesday he said the Reproductive Health Act needed to pass. And some senators started to agitate for a special session.
Earlier Wednesday, Sen. Martin Golden of Brooklyn became the first Republican to publicly demand that his conference return to renew New York City’s ability to operate speed cameras in school zones. Golden is under heavy pressure in his district because the current speed-camera authorization expires on July 25.
And Long Island freshman Sen. Elaine Phillips, who supports abortion rights and faces a strong challenge in her Nassau district from North Hempstead Town Councilwoman Anna Kaplan, suddenly on Tuesday signed on as a co-sponsor of the speed-camera legislation. Was she sending up a flare that she wants to return to Albany to vote on a new abortion bill to mute the issue for the November election?