As usual the end of the New York State legislative session was a harried affair. The session was supposed to end Thursday but didn’t end until early Saturday morning as leaders came to an agreement on several key issues and ignored others. In the year when the two former leaders of the Assembly and Senate, Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos, were sentenced to prison for financial self-dealing, there was no sense of outrage or urgency to try to restore the public’s trust. Only minimal ethics reforms were passed at the last minute to increase transparency in reporting.
Good government groups said that the ethics reforms didn’t get at the issues that Silver and Skelos were convicted of which were self dealing to financially benefit themselves and in Skelos’ case, his son, Adam. The Legislature did not act on a proposal to limit outside income or to close the controversial LLC loophole that lets donors set up unlimited numbers of “limited liability corporations” which can make donations. The only conclusion one can draw is that legislators want to keep it that way. The Assembly though did previously approve a change regarding that issue.
Regarding other issues, no action was taken on allowing the Uber and Lyft ridesharing services to operate in upstate New York. Something could have and should have been done that would have improved transportation options for many in upstate areas. Ridesharing would certainly benefit older persons as I have noted before.
Meanwhile, regarding some of the other issues of concern to human services advocates, the Legislature did take action to again reject what is known as “step therapy.” This insurance practice requires patients to “fail first” on a drug specified by an insurer before having access to other drugs which a doctor believes is more effective. Patient advocacy organizations rallied on this issues which pharmaceutical companies worked on in a less public way.
A bill was passed to allow for the creation of Advanced Home Health Aides who nurses could assign some functions. Senior citizen and disability advocacy organizations pushed this legislation to allow persons to have greater options to live in the community and not have to go to a nursing home to get needed care.
Earlier in the week, the Governor and legislative leaders came to an agreement to expand access to breast cancer screenings including allowing time off for public employees for screenings. For the second straight year, the Assembly passed a bill to subject electronic cigarettes to the provisions of the Clean Indoor Air Act but the Senate took no action.
Senator John DeFrancisco tried in the Senate to open up the paid family leave legislation to exempt businesses with under 50 employees. However, that provision didn’t even get a Senate vote and advocates for the program feel the Senator was trying to score political points with the business community.
The aid in dying or physician assisted suicide bill died itself with no further action in the Assembly Codes committee. It is doubtful the bill could have passed that committee as several Democrats were opposing it. The bill will be back next year for another battle.
So, now Albany is in recess and the Legislature is unlikely to return until after the November elections. The political landscape could look vastly different when the results come in. Democrats are hoping to take control of the State Senate and have a number of opportunities in seats where Republicans are retiring or not running again. And, 2017 could be a wild year in which New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio seeks re-election while fighting Governor Cuomo and both of their administrations remain under investigation by US Attorney Preet Bharrara.