Three Strikes, You’re Out: Albany Flops on Abortion Rights, Campaign Finance, and Medical Marijuana Bills


Remember the provision in the Women’s Equality Act that would solidify abortion rights here in New York in the face of anti-abortion bills popping up in state legislatures across the country? Remember Cuomo’s call for campaign finance regulation in a state electoral system that is drastically outdated and loophole-heavy? Remember the legislative push for medical marijuana in New York in a state with a record high number of weed arrests? Yeah? Well, none of them are happening anymore.

It all went downhill in the Senate just before the state government adjourns on Thursday. Due in large part to a coalition of Republicans and Democrats, the bills were stopped short from making their way to the floor.

Bronx state Senator Jeff Klein, the head of the Independent Democratic Conference, refused to allow the abortion plank in the Women’s Equality Act to proceed, even against a 67 percent approval rating from the voting populace. “I’m not going to bring a bill to the floor to fail” was his reasoning.

Because, as he told the Wall Street Journal, a “threat nationally to Roe v. Wade … didn’t exist.” Like the new laws in Alabama and Mississippi abortion bills that could close the remaining (read: one or two) abortion clinics in those states because of heightened safety requirements.

In terms of the campaign finance bill, which would simply limit how much you can contribute and establish a public financing system (because it’s 2013 and we don’t have one for state elections), the Legislature failed to garner enough supports; liberals were dismayed by Cuomo’s apparent lack of enthusiasm for the anti-big-donor message and conservatives didn’t want the system, especially after seeing what a Citizens United world can bring to campaign treasure chests. Apparently the whirlwind of the Most Ridiculous New York Scandals Ever in late March had no appeal here.

As we know, a measure to legalize marijuana for medical use, which would place New York among a growing number of states that now have similar legislation, passed in the Assembly a few weeks back. Although the Senate refused to visit it at this time, this one’s future still remains hopeful: the support from doctors, farmers and such still carries an electoral punch and there’s, of course, the economic gain.

Cuomo, the main architect behind all three of these bills, expressed serious dismay at his legislative counterparts’ failure to adhere to his agenda. “This has been an ugly few weeks here in Albany, and it has shaken the public trust,” he said in a radio interview. “People feel that there are questions, and I want them to feel confident, and I’m not going to do a half-baked bill.”

As of this month, the governor has seen his latest approval ratings yet during his tenure. His agenda may have failed him (and maybe his immediate presidential aspirations) but he’s not giving up the fight: For the campaign finance bill, he’s setting up a commission to look into the money at play here. Because, in the end, so much opposition to a campaign finance bill is kinda shady.

Enjoy your summer off, Albany. You guys definitely deserved it.