NY Now Legislative Session Wrap-up

July 31, 2013 at 4:03 pm

Albany statehouse reporters review this year’s legislative session and look ahead to November ballot measures from Albany public TV’s weekly news program New York Now.

The NY Daily News’ Bill Hammond and the Albany Times Union’s state editor Casey Seiler recapped major moments of the past year in the state legislature with New York Now host and managing editor Matt Ryan.

Ryan told viewers Governor Andrew Cuomo “didn’t waste any time in getting his first piece of legislation passed, the NY SAFE Act,” which Ryan described as the defining moment of the session.

The NY SAFE Act, which was passed just weeks after the school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, imposed new gun control  laws. The bill restricted the capacity of semi-automatic weapon magazines and expanded the types of guns that fall under the category of assault weapons, which are illegal in the state. The bill also mandated universal background checks. “It was one of those situations where the ink was still drying on the bill when it passed the Senate and it was a day later that the Assembly passed it,” Hammond explained . This speedy process angered opponents who said they didn’t get a chance to critique the bill and “…it translated into declining poll numbers for the governor, especially among Republicans and conservatives, and especially upstate,” said Hammond.

“The second biggest story of the session was the scandal involving long-time Brooklyn lawmaker Vito Lopez, a powerful assemblyman who ended up resigning his position when the Committee on Public Ethics released their findings on the sexual harassment allegations against him,” said Ryan.

The allegations were made public last August but created new controversy when it was revealed that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver had approved a secret settlement with the accusers and when a detailed report was released in May that described the details of the harassment charges.

Seiler, Hammond and Ryan wrapped up the conversation with a preview of the most controversial of  six November ballot measures: the proposal to build new casinos in upstate New York.

“It’s still very much an open question because, while, yes,  it will approve casinos statewide…the first casinos are going to be upstate. The governor sees that as an economic development plan, but most of the voting that’s going to go on this November is going to be downstate because of the now very hot New York City elections,” said Seiler.

The ballot measures will give voters a chance to decide on  expanded casino gambling, supreme court age limits, disabled veterans civil service benefits, sewage facilities debt limit extensions, state forest land exchange with NYCO Minerals and the Long Lake land dispute settlement.