Four days remain on the legislative schedule in Albany, and there still is no sight of State Sen. Tom Croci. The Sayville Republican’s recent decision to return to active duty in the Navy left the chamber in the paralysis of a 31-31 GOP-Democratic split. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo seems uninterested in intervening to get significant legislation moving. Nothing controversial and little of substance is being passed by both the Senate and Assembly and readied for Cuomo’s signature.
This is an abdication of their responsibility to work for the people.
There’s still time for Albany to revert to form and indulge in the last-minute horse-trading that produces the infamous big ugly — a pastiche of unrelated bills in which everyone holds one’s nose and gets something.
One issue not ripe for some grand bargain is sports gambling. It’s too complicated to rush, with too many winners and losers, like the off-track betting corporations in Nassau and Suffolk counties. Lawmakers should examine it thoroughly and, yes, hold hearings. Legislation can be passed in January or put in next year’s budget.
Plenty of other bills demand attention. Here are some of them:
ETHICS — The state’s wretched history of corruption demands reform. Good ones include a bill from Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli to return to his office authority to review contracts and appropriations, legislation to create a “database of deals” with information about taxpayer subsidies to corporations and jobs created as a result, a measure to place limits on pay-to-play campaign contributions from state vendors, and a bill to make clearer exactly what’s in the state’s $160 billion budget.
EDUCATION — A bill to decouple teacher evaluations from state tests is not the answer when it fails to include some way to evaluate teachers. Produce an alternative and solve the problem in the next session. While an allied proposal to increase the number of charter schools and remove regional caps is good, a provision to allow yeshivas to operate outside state educational standards is a non-starter.
As for Cuomo’s “red-flag” legislation — which would allow teachers, along with school officials, family members and police officials, to go to court to seek a psychiatric evaluation of someone they believe is dangerous and should be denied access to guns — school districts should have the primary responsibility for interventions. But there might be instances when teachers need that ability to act. Pass the bill.
ENVIRONMENT — Several bills important to Long Island deserve passage, including banning offshore drilling in New York waters, creating a program for safe disposal of pharmaceuticals, reducing the cost of alternative septic systems to homeowners by letting trained surveyors rather than engineers design the placement of basic systems, prohibiting the use of large nets to catch huge amounts of bait fish called menhaden critical to whales and striped bass, and requiring the use of low-nitrogen fertilizer on Long Island to reduce water pollution.
LOCAL — Two bills to help fix Nassau’s assessment mess would give officials more flexibility to pay commercial refunds out of a dedicated fund so residents don’t keep bearing the brunt of that cost, and raise the Nassau Interim Finance Authority’s debt ceiling so it can issue bonds to clear the tax refund backlog. A third measure — to give a 10 percent property tax exemption to some residents who have not challenged their assessments and whose houses are valued at $500,000 or less — deserves more support. And the latest effort to undo the Long Island Power Authority Reform Act should be ignored again. Until LIPA can age out of expensive power-purchase agreements, the utility needs flexibility to adjust rates to deal with short–term variances in energy use.