The regular 2018 New York Legislative Session concluded late last night with little fanfare. The final week of session is typically a flurry of activity marked by tense, last-minute negotiations, and unexpected compromises. However, this year’s “End of Session” lacked the usual frenetic pace we have come to expect.
While both the Senate and the Assembly were up late voting on many local and non-controversial bills, they failed to pass legislation dealing with many of the more controversial topics, including additional gun control, teacher evaluation reform, sports betting, safe staffing in hospitals, and renewal of the New York City traffic camera program. Additionally, a package of transparency and election reform bills failed to advance. Governor Cuomo did not aggressively push for end-of-session legislative priorities as he has done in the past, stating publicly that essential issues were addressed in the budget.
The political dynamic in the Senate was a significant factor in this session’s anti-climactic closure. Currently, the Senate is split between Republican and Democrats 31-31 which forced each issue to be negotiated between the two Senate conferences, not an easy task in this Election year.
The failure to renew the New York City traffic camera program was a point of contention and reveals growing partisan divides in the Chambers. Both Houses introduced separate omnibus bills concerning local tax extenders critical to local governments throughout the state. The Assembly version included the renewal of speed cameras. The Senate version did not. Due to the inability to reach consensus on a larger omnibus bill, a series of smaller tax extender bills were passed by both Houses. With no legislation renewing their authority, the 140 speed cameras in New York City will be deactivated by the end of July.
Despite the political constraints/gridlock in the State Senate, several noteworthy bills have managed to make headway. The Assembly and Senate approved legislation creating a new commission tasked with investigating allegations of misconduct by prosecutors. The Legislature also passed a bill increasing funding for mandatory costs at public universities. A measure establishing a sexual assault survivor bill of rights passed both Houses. Other measures that passed both Houses include a bill allowing medical marijuana to be used as an alternative to opioids, legislation establishing a take-back program for unused pharmaceuticals, and a bill that expands Paid Family Leave to include bereavement.
Although there remain many unresolved issues, lawmakers will now turn their focus to the Fall elections.