Capitol Watch: What’s Left To Do Before Lawmakers Adjourn
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — In New York government news, lawmakers are entering the final weeks of the legislative session and despite a long-list of bills awaiting action many are expecting only a few big accomplishments.
A look at the issues remaining before lawmakers adjourn later this month:
SPORTS BETTING: A recent Supreme Court ruling authorizes states to regulate and tax sports betting. There's already legislation pending in Albany, but Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said there won't be enough time this session to hammer out the details of what's likely to be a complicated law.
CHILD VICTIMS ACT: Child molestation victims have tried for years to get the Legislature to extend the criminal and civil statutes of limitation for molestation, and to create a one-year window allowing victims to sue over decades-old abuse. The bill passed the Assembly again this year, but remains hung up in the Senate, where it has not been scheduled for a vote. Senate Republicans have offered an alternative that doesn't include the one-year litigation window — a deal breaker for many supporters. There's little reason to believe the impasse will be resolved soon.
MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION: State health officials are poised to release a report outlining the state's options when it comes to legalizing recreational marijuana that could guide the debate in the Legislature. But it's hard to imagine lawmakers could work out the complicated details of legalizing pot before the session ends.
PRESIDENTIAL PARDONS: Critics of President Donald Trump have long looked to New York's attorney general as a backup plan if federal investigations into Russian election meddling and the White House don't result in criminal charges against Trump insiders. But a loophole in state law could inadvertently shield anyone pardoned by the president from state prosecution. Former Democratic Attorney General Eric Schneiderman had urged lawmakers to eliminate the loophole — but Schneiderman resigned weeks later following accusations that he assaulted four women, so it remains to be seen if lawmakers will heed his advice.
TEACHER EVALUATIONS: The Assembly has passed legislation to rescind a state requirement that teacher evaluations be tied to their students' performance on standardized tests. Senate Republicans have so far resisted, but it's possible that bill could be a part of a final compromise between the Senate, Assembly and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
PHYSICIAN-ASSISTED SUICIDE: Supporters insist a bill to allow terminally ill people to seek life-ending medication from a physician is slowly gaining momentum, but the bill isn't expected to get a vote this year.
HUMAN TRAFFICKING: Sex crime prosecutors and victim advocates want New York to make it easier to prosecute traffickers by eliminating a requirement that victims — often underage — testify about the abuse in court. That's already the case in 48 other states and the federal government
EARLY VOTING: New York is now in the minority of states that don't allow voters to cast ballots early. Good-government groups have long pushed for the change, noting New York's historically low voter turnout rates and saying that a more flexible voting system might help. Republicans in the Senate question the benefit, however, and say the change could be a financial burden for counties.
ETHICS REFORM: If history is any guide, lawmakers will again leave Albany this year without addressing the state's longstanding corruption problem.