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Politics and Government

Assembly GOP Leader calls for special session

NYS Assembly

The Republican leader of the state Assembly is calling for the legislature to return for a special session to wrap up some unfinished business.

The legislature adjourned at the end of June with no firm plans to meet again before next January, but Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb says there’s too much left to do to wait until next year.

“I definitely think we should go back,” Kolb said.  

He says number one on the agenda should be the passage of nine out of ten points of Governor Cuomo’s Women’s Equality Act. He says many Republicans, and some Democrats, don’t want to approve the tenth item, to codify in New York law the abortion rights in the federal Roe v Wade decision. But he says the other nine items, which include cracking down on sex trafficking and harsher penalties for domestic violence, need to be acted on.

The state Senate approved the nine provisions, but the Assembly passed them as part of a larger bill that also included the abortion provision. As a result, none of the provisions in the Women’s Equality Act became law. Kolb says that’s not right.

“There’s votes on both sides of the aisle, and I think what you’re getting is politicking,” said Kolb. “Which I think is, quite frankly, shameful.”

Kolb says he has a family member who was affected by domestic violence, but did not want to offer more details, citing the person’s privacy. He says numbers by Governor Cuomo’s division of Criminal Justice Services, showing that domestic violence rates in New York are rising, is more evidence that action needs to be taken.

The Assembly GOP leader says he’d also like to see mixed martial arts approved, and enact some reforms like term limits for legislative leaders and committee chairs. Kolb would also like to pass a bill to take away the pensions of lawmakers convicted of crimes.  

The Assembly is dominated by Democrats, who have been embroiled in an ongoing sexual harassment scandal involving former Assemblyman Vito Lopez and current Assemblyman Micah Kellner, both of whom are running for New York City Council. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has admitted that he made a mistake when he approved a secret settlement for two of Lopez’s alleged victims, and has fired his top counsel, saying the attorney withheld from him information on accusations against Assemblyman Kellner.  

Democrats have displayed little enthusiasm for returning to Albany before next year.

Assemblyman Kolb has been more reticent than many of his GOP colleagues to directly criticize Assembly Speaker Silver or to call for his resignation. Kolb says while the scandals have been an embarrassment to the entire Assembly it’s really up to the 100 or so Assembly Democrats to choose their leader. He says they are the ones who have the power to vote the Speaker out of office.

“The ultimate goal is saying ‘whose scandal is this,' it’s not ours,” Kolb said. “So let’s look and hold the people accountable for whose scandal it is.”

Kolb says those who want “red meat” won’t be satisfied with his stance, but he says as someone representing the entire state, he feels he needs to take a different tone and try to get Democrats, including the head of the state’s Democratic Party, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, to take some responsibility.

“Let’s keep the flash light on them, rather than looking for political points in the newspaper on what I may or may not say about this,” Kolb said.

The Assembly Minority Leader says he does plan to make the sexual harassment scandals a campaign issue in the 2014 elections. Republicans are outnumbered two to one by the Democrats in the Assembly. He says it’s an opportunity to perhaps gain some more seats.