2017 Legislative Session - Not over yet!

Much has been discussed in the last few days about the end of the 2017 Legislative Session. Only two days ago the Governor held a press conference to discuss the end of the 2017 session. During that event, he discussed many of the successes in the budget process this year and some end of the legislative session initiatives that may not go down in history as being life-changing but do make a difference in people's lives. That being said, I do not believe we can say comfortably that the legislative session is over by any stretch of the imagination and I for one am hoping that the Legislature reconvenes as soon as possible to address unfinished business.

What is that unfinished business? It is down to two issues — Mayoral Control of New York City (NYC) schools and sales tax extenders for upstate counties. Now I am sure that many of those who I represent may not care about Mayoral Control of NYC schools as it does not impact them directly and as a citizen, I understand that sentiment completely. As an informed legislator, I see the importance of Mayoral Control of NYC public schools because the lack of Mayoral Control will result in a reversion to the extremely political process of management of education in NYC schools. Admittedly, not all of my NYC colleagues are fans of Mayoral Control and a small percentage want to end it, a small percentage support expanding charter schools as part of a Mayoral Control extender, and the rest support a straight extension of Mayoral Control. The overall position in the Assembly Majority is to extend Mayoral Control in its current form. Mayoral Control ends June 30th (Yes, next week).

As for the extension of sales taxes in upstate counties, these extenders have a positive impact of holding down property taxes not only at the county level but also at the local level as many of these agreements also provide some revenue allocations to local governments. In Albany County alone I am advised that $69 million is at risk. That is funding that cannot be made up on the back of taxpayers and therefore advancing the extenders is an issue that I have been strongly advocating to address in quick fashion as many county executives and legislative bodies are putting together their 2018 budgets at this time. All sales tax extenders are set to expire November 30th.

Those are the two issues that need to be resolved and are seemingly tied together. To be clear, the Assembly had passed a bill back in May that extended Mayoral Control for 2 years and also in the same bill provided ALL counties with their sales tax extenders. Unfortunately, the Senate put forth different versions of the bills and the Governor has not negotiated a three-way agreement to date. As I mentioned before, to the average resident here in our area it is yet another frustration as "we" are tied to addressing a NYC issue and if not addressed "we" will suffer. I fully understand the frustration as I feel it as well. At the same time, my colleagues in the New York City, all 65 of them, are very frustrated with the Mayoral Control issue and are concerned about failed education initiatives. Yes, we have had our issues in our urban areas but it is nothing compared to what many of this children have experienced in NYC. From an inside-baseball perspective, this is an issue that has to be finalized by the leadership in both houses and the Governor. It is part of an ongoing simmering dispute that is complicated to explain as there are thousands of moving parts. Suffice it to say, anyone who has dealt with a situation involving varying interests will understand what I mean and the leaders have dug in ... for now.

The solution — an agreement must be reached by the leaders as soon as possible and when that occurs, the Legislature and Governor will come back to Albany to finish our work. Ideally, all of this will occur in time to make the June 30th deadline for Mayoral Control. It should be understood that if the date comes and goes, it is not the end of the public school system as the process to disband and recreate local school boards is lengthy. That being said, why put everyone through the process when all agree Mayoral Control should exist for the most part as it currently stands. Meeting the June 30th deadline represents government functioning properly and accomplishing the people's work. To miss the deadline of June 30th, irrespective of the impact on NYC schools just sends the message that New York State government is not functioning in the interests of the public.

Stay tuned and I hope to have better news this time next week!