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Politics and Government

Cuomo's agenda in danger as session wanes

There’s three days left in the legislative session, and chances are dimming for a settlement on an abortion rights provision in a women’s equality act, and for reform of campaign financing and other anti-corruption measures. Meanwhile, a new poll finds the public increasingly dissatisfied with Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

As the session winds down, it seems that two of the governor’s top agenda items are doomed in the state Senate.

A coalition of Republicans and a handful of breakaway Democrats have blocked votes on an abortion rights provision that would codify into state law the federal rights granted to New York women under the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. The Senate ruling coalition is also not willing to bring to the Senate floor a bill to adopt public financing of statewide elections.

Cuomo issued a press release urging the Republicans, and the Independent Democratic Conference members to act.

“Senator co-leaders Klein and Skelos should bring this bill, as well as the other bills that would address public corruption, to the floor for a vote of the full Senate before the session concludes this week,” the governor said in a statement.

He also called them into his office for a private meeting. But Senate IDC Leader Jeff Klein says it was not a trip to the woodshed.

“We not yelled at in any way shape or form,” Klein said, smiling. “We had chocolate chip cookies. You can’t get any more social than that.”

The IDC backs the governor on the abortion rights issue, and has introduced an even stronger bill to enact public campaign finance and other reforms.

Advocates of both the abortion rights provision and campaign finance reform piled on against the IDC as it became clear that the bills were likely not advancing.

Family Planning Advocates, the lobby arm for Planned Parenthood, accused Klein of selling out women.  

Karen Scharff, with Citizen Action, which backs campaign finance reform, says she’s frustrated. Scharff say’s the IDC has become a shield for the Republicans.

“Republican issues get to the floor, but progressive issues are stalled,” Scharff said.  

But IDC member Sen. Diane Savino, says despite weeks of lobbying by the governor and women’s groups, the votes for codifying the provisions of Roe v. Wade simply aren’t there. Democrats alone do not have the 32 votes necessary.

“Right now I have not heard one Republican say that they will vote in favor of codifying Roe v. Wade,” Savino said.

Savino says if the bill comes to the floor, as Cuomo and women’s groups desire, it would fail, just as same sex marriage was voted down the first time it came to the floor back in 2009.

“I’ve seen this movie, I know how it ends,” Savino said.

The IDC has put out an alternative women’s agenda that does not include abortion.

And Savino, who is also a supporter of public campaign finance, say she can understand why some members, particularly in troubled upstate districts, might not want to ask their constituents to contribute taxpayer money to fund elections.

Barbara Bartoletti, with the League of Women Voters, which lobbied for both issues, isn’t buying it. She says if the legislature leaves without acting, then the entire  second half of the session, since the budget was passed back in mid-March, will have been a waste of time and money.

“They have accomplished nothing of significance to the state taxpayers, who pay their way to Albany every single week,” Bartoletti said.

Cuomo still needs the Senate, as well as the Assembly Democrats, to agree to other end of session issues -- including permission to site four casinos upstate, and enactment of the governor’s plan to create tax free business zones at college campuses.


Legislative leaders, meeting late Monday with the governor in a private meeting would only say that they have a “framework for further discussions”.


Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver says that “everything” it still on the table.


The end of session negotiating comes as a new poll from Siena college finds that over three quarters , 77% of New Yorkers believe state government is descending back into dysfunction, after a string of arrests, indictments and accusations of bribery, embezzlement and sexual harassment.  


Also Governor Cuomo’s approval numbers, while still comfortable, at 58%, continue on a downward trajectory, reaching the lowest point since he’s been Governor. Republican support had already begun to slide after Cuomo championed new gun control laws back in January. Now, though for the first time Cuomo has slipped significantly among Democrats, slipping eight points.