Airplane pilots have a saying: Any landing you can walk away from is a good one. That's a pretty low bar, but it's also a fairly accurate description of this year's legislative session in Albany as it stumbles toward a non-disastrous, uninspiring end.
Final negotiations are taking place this week against a backdrop of chaos, with Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) and Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) driven out of their leadership positions in the Assembly and Senate by federal corruption indictments. Between the pall these continuing investigations cast on how Albany does business and the newly minted leaders -- Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-East Northport) -- there was both a discomfort with making big strides and a lack of expertise in cooking the complex recipes of big legislative change.
So, while there is still some last-gasp shouting and wrangling going on, the cap on increases local property taxes was extended for four years with little controversy. Complex and controversial programs like rent control, extended for four years, and 421a, which creates tax breaks for New York City developers and was granted a six-month extension, got pushed off with very little change.
A tax credit program that would have benefited people who send kids to or donate money to private schools went nowhere, but an agreement was reached to pay these schools $250 million the state already owed them for providing services mandated by Albany, a fairly noncontroversial agreement.
Teacher evaluations and the Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act were way too contentious to be messed with. Mayoral control of New York City schools was extended for just one year. That basically says Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the legislature believe in mayoral control, they just don't believe in Mayor Bill de Blasio, a fact that also undermined the negotiations on rent control and 421a.
There's also a new tax rebate no one quite understands for $1.3 billion. It promises checks to homeowners right before the 2016 elections for the State Legislature.
On issues that saw little progress, there were mumbles about "administrative fixes" to ease all the ills they couldn't fix by law, with rent control and 421a as prime examples. But more than anything else, there was a sense that the normally opaque operations of Albany and "three men in a room" were more difficult than in past years. It's one thing for voters to have no clue what's going on before all the deals are made. It's another level of dysfunction when the legislators themselves, and in some cases even th leadership, don't seem to know what's going on even after the deals are made.
We can accept that this wasn't the year for groundbreaking legislation in Albany. But New York has a lot of problems that need fixing. And we expect quite a bit more next time around.