Albany’s ‘Extraordinary Session’ Ends With Ordinary Dysfunction


In the early hours of Thursday morning, the state assembly passed an omnibus bill containing a jumble of legislation that failed to make the cut before the state government’s session officially ended last week. It passed the senate on Thursday afternoon (after being briefly held hostage by Brooklyn state senator Simcha Felder) and was signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo during a press conference. 

Among the loose ends tied up was the extension of mayoral control over New York City schools, which would otherwise expire tomorrow, as well as a three-year extension on various local taxes in Lower Manhattan. Lots of essential legislation — speed cameras, universal healthcare, additional MTA funding, basic rights for female New Yorkers — was left on the cutting room floor, but at least Cuomo’s father will be the namesake of the new Tappan Zee Bridge!

“He would say, ‘I don’t want a bridge named after me,’ ” the governor told reporters at the press conference, explaining that the elder Cuomo often pooh-poohed such frivolous acts of vanity.

Cuomo said that while the special session was initially called to extend mayoral control over schools, other state agenda items were appended as the session convened. Many would argue that the issue of mayoral control and the tax extenders should have been prioritized in the regular session, and that nonsense like the bridge need not have been addressed at all. (Cuomo’s office explicitly said it was not on the table for discussion, but life comes at you fast.)

“The bill and the whole special session epitomizes the dysfunction of the state legislative process,” said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York. “It’s little wonder people feel their government is about politicians serving their own interests first.”

Once the bill was signed, the press seized the opportunity to ask about the future of the MTA, after Cuomo declared a state of emergency for the agency this morning and pledged an extra $1 billion toward its resuscitation. Cuomo’s only action prior to Tuesday’s A train derailment had been to propose legislation to add more seats to the MTA board in order to “control it,” which he already does.

“I think control is control,” he said today. “Six seats is not control. If you really want to make a dramatic change, it’s hard to build consensus.”

He also quashed the idea of a tax as a viable revenue stream for the agency, saying that it’s unlikely that the Republican-controlled state senate would be on board.

“The local governments have all heard my position, which is that we should put in more money,” he said.

Asked whether there was a future for congestion pricing, Cuomo was doubtful. “It’s a nice idea, but it’s been talked about for years, and it was very controversial and didn’t go anywhere,” he said. “I don’t see any change in the political appetite.”