The end of another state legislative session looms in Albany and, as usual, “the big ugly” is taking shape. That’s the pungent stew of bills that gets cooked up on deadline by backroom horse-trading, lobbyist pressure, and little or no public debate or review.
This one is a little different from those of recent vintage. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has been relatively quiet and disengaged. And neither the State Senate nor the Assembly has expressed its passion for big legislation that it simply cannot leave the capital without getting done.
That’s a shame. Because big issues do need to be addressed, ones that voters care deeply about and that are at the heart of our democracy — voting reforms and ethics reforms.
Neither chamber is really doing anything about ethics reforms, but the Assembly did tackle some voting problems, with bills that included early voting and a provision to let counties use electronic pollbooks rather than printed ones, which would speed up voting and allow poll workers to direct wayward voters to correct polling places. The two measures, however, are stuck in the Senate Rules Committee, which is controlled by Majority Leader John Flanagan. He needs to bring them to a vote. And Cuomo, a professed proponent of voting reforms, should throw his weight behind the proposals.
While extending mayoral control of New York City’s schools remains the highest-profile issue, there are others that deserve action:
Procurement reform — The scandal over alleged contract-fixing involving aides to Cuomo and officials at SUNY Polytechnic University makes clear that independent oversight of contracts is needed. We prefer legislation that would return responsibility to the state comptroller, an elected position generally filled by smart and independent public servants. But we could support a compromise from Sen. Jeff Klein that would create a chief procurement officer with similar powers appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate.
Kendra’s Law — This law, which lets courts order some mentally ill people to get treatment or be committed, is expiring. Renew it.
Shoreham-Wading River forest — After the Senate passed a bill to protect 800 acres by adding it to the core pine barrens area, the Assembly seems poised to do the same, as it should.
Tesla — Allow Tesla to open 20 sales locations statewide instead of its current five. Better to serve consumers than protect other car dealers.
Ride-hailing — A compromise to ban Level 1 sex offenders from driving while they remain on the state’s private registry and ensure quick electronic checks of the registry is sensible. Passage also would remove one stated reason for the Nassau County taxi industry’s opposition to Uber, Lyft and company.
Suffolk plastic bag fee — A Senate attempt to block Suffolk’s recently passed 5-cent fee on disposable plastic bags is as wrongheaded as its earlier block of New York City’s similar legislation.
1,4-dioxane — A bill to ban this carcinogen from household cleaning products is a good start toward getting it out of public water wells.
Child sexual abuse — Extending the statute of limitations for criminal and civil cases of child sex abuse has stalled for years, but if victims’ advocates are willing to support a proposal for a one-year tribunal that would screen past cases before they go to court, it’s time to move this forward.
Suffolk farmland — A bill that would circumvent a referendum that let farmers sell development rights in exchange for public money by now allowing them to build certain structures on that land should be rejected. It would only wind up in court, where Suffolk has lost before on this issue and would again. Terms of a public referendum can only be undone by another referendum.— The editorial board