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Cuomo, lawmakers still seeking agreements as session draws to a close

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The New York state legislature is due to adjourn later this week, but there’s still no agreement by Assembly Democrats on an education tax credit sought by Gov. Andrew Cuomo that would allow donors a tax credit when they give up to a million dollars for private school scholarships and some public school programs.

Assembly Education Chairwoman Cathy Nolan has an alternative proposal that she says would provide a tax credit to lower income parents who send their kids to private or religious schools. Nolan says the bill is in response to accusations from pro-education tax forces, who have sent negative mailers to the constituents of some Assembly Democrats as well as done robo-calling, that Nolan says implied lawmakers were against the school children.

“Since we all care about children and it gets tiresome have people telling you don’t,” Nolan said. “And certainly there’s no reason to do anything for rich guys.”

But Nolan would not rule out approving the governor’s proposal, if it were part of a larger deal that included other items that Democrats want, like the renewal of New York City’s rent laws.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, emerging from a private meeting with Cuomo, denied that the governor is trying to squeeze Democrats on the issue, and says for now he’s focused solely on renewing the rent laws.

“I’ve been very clear from the day I got elected speaker, its rent, rent, rent and more rent,” Heastie said.

Senate Republicans approved an eight year extension of the rent laws, but Democrats are seeking to strengthen tenant protections.

On Tuesday afternoon, Cuomo and lawmakers announced in a statement that they have reached a deal on one issue -- combating sexual assault on college campuses . They’ve agreed to a statewide definition of affirmative consent, as a “knowing, voluntary, and mutual decision among all participants to engage in sexual activity.” The measure also includes a clear student bill of rights, a requirement that colleges report incidents of sexual violence and follow up disciplinary measures to the state Education Department. It also creates a new unit in the New York State Police called the “sexual assault victims unit” and provides $4.5 million to rape crisis centers.  

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.