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Frustrated Cuomo threatens special legislative session

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With the official legislative session set to end on the 20th, lawmakers at the Capitol remain mired in disputes Thursday over a bill to legalize gay marriage, the now-expired New York City rent regulations, and a property tax cap. Meanwhile, an increasingly frustrated Governor Andrew Cuomo threatened to keep the legislature in special session if they failed to act.

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Reported by

Karen DeWitt
NYS Capitol Correspondent

Governor Cuomo warns he’ll keep the legislature in special session beyond the June 20th ending date if lawmakers do not come up with agreements to extend New York City’s rent regulations, a tax cap, and other issues.

In a statement, Cuomo blamed both Democrats and Republicans in the State Senate for a dispute on the Senate floor that caused the expiration of New York City’s rent laws, after Senators in both parties rejected the governor’s bill to temporarily extend the laws until Friday. Cuomo, saying the senate’s failure to act was “unacceptable and a betrayal of the one million tenants” who live in rent protected apartments. He threatened to call a special session each day if lawmakers attempt to leave town without acting on rent and other topics.

Senate Leader Dean Skelos, after a private meeting with Cuomo, said there's been no progress on any major issues. He blamed Democrats for the rent expiration, saying of the law, “right now, it’s dead.”

Senate Democrats refused to vote for any bill that did not include strengthened tenant protections, even a temporary extension of the laws.  They said they are reflecting their constituent’s wishes.

Senator Diane Savino, a Staten Island Democrat who has broken with the Senate Democratic conference, and is part of an independent faction, the Independent Democratic Conference, also condemned the skirmish that led to the expiration of the laws as “unfortunate partisan bickering,” and the one-upmanship that she says happens all the time at the Capitol.

“Well we one-upped each other last night, and look what happened,” Savino said. “The rent laws expired.”

The rent laws are now closely tied to Governor Cuomo’s proposal for a 2 percent across the board property tax cap.  A deal struck by the governor and legislative leaders several weeks ago would require both laws to periodically expire on the same date.   

Senator Skelos, after another closed door conference with his GOP members, said there’s still no decision on whether to bring the bill to legalize same sex marriage to the floor for a vote.

With the Senate just one vote short of passage, New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg came to the Capitol to lobby Senate Republicans on the issue.

Bloomberg said he told GOP members he believes same sex marriage is in harmony with Republican philosophy, saying it is “keeping government out of areas where it does not belong.”

The Mayor could not confirm that he had changed anyone’s mind, but said he believes that if Senators vote their “hearts” the measure will pass.

“I can’t tell you that anyone has looked me in the eye, and said ‘I’m going to be there,’” said Bloomberg, who predicts if the bill does come to the floor, it will pass with “more than just the bare majority necessary to pass it”. 

Bloomberg also spoke about the expiration of the rent regulations, saying “people should not worry” because, for now, their leases are still in effect, and he said that he expects a deal to be reached soon.

As the week wound down, and no major agreements were in site, speculation at the Capitol centered on when the governor would follow through with his threat to force the lawmakers to remain in Albany until a deal is reached on rent regulations, and whether he would make them stay for the weekend, or allow them to leave and return Monday to continue deliberations. 

Senator Skelos says he’s well aware of the implications, but is philosophical about it.

“I understand his point of view,” Skelos said.

Senators plan to meet in conference again Friday morning, to decide what to do next.

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