Two days. That’s all that’s left in Albany’s legislative session, slated to end Thursday. A lot can get done in two days, if there is a will to do something. And that’s what has us worried.
Take ethics reform. It looks like Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo gave up his leverage when he abandoned his effort to include it in the state budget. And, predictably, nothing has happened since. No bill has been approved to strip public pensions from officials convicted of job-related felonies — despite overwhelming public demand and repeated statements from the governor, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie that they want to get this done. Also left hanging are Cuomo bills that would help close a loophole that allows large campaign contributions from secretive limited liability companies, and that would crack down on the super PACs that spend huge amounts of dark money on elections.
This is the easy stuff. Lawmakers have dismissed out of hand the more meaningful changes, such as limiting or banning outside income, which is at the heart of the corruption exposed in numerous courtrooms recently. And it’s not as if lawmakers aren’t capable of making progress on important issues. We applaud recent agreements to combat heroin and opioid abuse, address safety at rail crossings, deal with the scourge of zombie homes and expand breast cancer screening.
It’s past time to take a modest step forward on ethics reform.
Reduce lead in water, and greenhouse gas
Remember Flint? With nine Long Island school districts and many others around the state receiving test results recently that showed lead contamination in their water, it’s hard to imagine anyone would oppose making sure that the water in every school building is tested for lead. A commonsense bill to do that, and to require districts to notify the public of the results, has bipartisan support in the Senate but is stalled in the Assembly. Opponents can howl all they want about this being another state mandate, but it’s a fully funded one — the state would pay for the testing and any remediation. That would require legislators to increase state education aid in next year’s budget, but they’ve rarely been shy about that.
Another bill with clear benefits for Long Islanders is a piece of pioneering legislation, targeted to major power producers and carbon emitters, that would require a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions across the state of 50 percent by 2030 and would eliminate them by 2050. It passed in the Assembly, but is stuck in the Senate, despite having 31 co-sponsors as of presstime; 32 votes are needed for passage. The key is the Republican delegation from Long Island.
Sens. Carl Marcellino, Jack Martins and Phil Boyle have joined Democrat Todd Kaminsky in signing on to the bill, and Ken LaValle said he will vote for it if it reaches the floor. Now Flanagan, Tom Croci, Michael Venditto and Kemp Hannon need to get on board. Our region is New York’s ground zero for climate change. Croci and Venditto, in particular, are strongly considering the bill, remembering the damage done to their South Shore districts by superstorm Sandy. Recent research ranked Long Island and the rest of the metro region first in the nation in the total value of homes at risk for damage from storm surges and second for the number of homes at risk.
Long Island’s senators face re-election this fall and, as always, they will say that they know what’s best for the region and should remain in control of the Senate. This is one of the bills that puts that claim to the test. Flanagan must let this bill come to the floor for a vote. And he and his colleagues must pass it. — The editorial board