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State budget-related deals are close

Karen DeWitt
WRVO News (file photo)

Deals on some issues tied to the state budget are coming together as lawmakers rush to meet the New York state budget deadline.

Agreements on permitting ride-hailing services outside New York City and a measure to treat 16- and 17-year-olds as juveniles in the court and prison system, known as Raise the Age, were coming together Thursday.

Democrat Kevin Cahill, the Assembly sponsor of a bill to expand ride-hailing services outside of New York City, confirmed there is agreement between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature on allowing services like Uber and Lyft to operate in upstate and Long Island.

“Now it appears there’s a three-way agreement to recognize their unique business model,” Cahill said. “And provide a means by which they can conduct business in New York the same way they do in other states.”

Cahill said the compromise will allow the ride-hailing services to regulate themselves, including devising specific rules for background checks, provided they allow the state Department of Motor Vehicles to monitor the regulations.

Individual cities and counties with more than 100,000 people would have the option of accepting those rules, or opting out and banning the services. He said Assembly Democrats had sought more local control over regulating the companies and rules similar to safeguards for taxi drivers, like fingerprinting.

The ride-hailing companies will be required to provide $1.25 million in insurance for drivers riding with passengers or on their way to pick them up, and $75,150 of insurance protection for drivers without anyone else in the car. Drivers will be part of the New York City Black Car Fund that provides health coverage if they are injured on the job.

Uber and Lyft — as well as some state and local politicians, including Cuomo — say ride-hailing services will boost the upstate economy. Cahill is not convinced.

“I don’t think it will do particularly much for the upstate economy,” said Cahill.

He also said claims by the companies are “spin” and “not based in fact.”

Another major non-spending issue connected to the budget is to treat 16- and 17-year-olds accused of crimes to be treated as juveniles, not adults, in the state’s court and prison systems. Supporters want the teens to be processed in family court, and if found guilty, placed in a juvenile detention center.

A compromise emerging between Cuomo and legislative leaders would divert some of the teens accused of violent crimes to a new “youth court,” said state Senate Independent Democratic Conference Leader Jeff Klein.

“There would be family court for the less serious cases and youth court for more serious,” Klein said. “But we’re still talking about the logistics.”

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who championed the issue, holds a slightly different view of what the youth courts could mean. He views them more as a “temporary mechanism” before the teens’ cases are ultimately addressed in family court.

“The idea that there’s going to be a total separate court to handle all cases for 16- and 17-year-olds, that’s not correct,” Heastie said.

The governor and lawmakers also are close on a third item, a multi-billion-dollar bond act to provide infrastructure for clean water, said Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan.

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.