ALBANY — With just three scheduled days left in the legislative session and the fate of mayoral control over the city school system hanging in the balance, insiders are amazed at how little behind-the-scenes negotiations there’s been.
“I’ve never seen it like this,” said one prominent legislative source of the end-of-session run up. “At the top staff level or with the leaders, it’s been extremely quiet. There’s been conversations, but really nothing meaningful in a way where we’re driving down on something.”
One problem is neither the Senate nor the Assembly has any top priorities that the other side can use as leverage, legislative sources say. As important an issue that mayoral control is for Mayor de Blasio, it doesn’t carry the same weight for the Assembly Democrats. So they are willing to let it expire rather than agree to the Senate GOP demands for pro-charter school provisions in exchange for renewing the law.
“It’s not about the mayor, it’s about our conference,” one Assembly Dem said. “He’s kind of besides the point.”
In addition, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and many in his Democratic conference are again livid with Gov. Cuomo, who they believe continues to work against them while cozying up to the Senate Republicans, particularly on the issue of charter schools.
“Same song, different day,” Heastie told the Daily News last week when asked if he was disturbed that Cuomo seemingly was siding with the Senate Republicans in the mayoral control fight over his fellow Dems in the Assembly.
Said another Democratic source: “It’s weird he always stands with them. It’s not any different than during the budget when he was standing with the Senate on charters. I think he likes to have the dysfunction over there. He needs that. It allows him to jam things through centrist-wise.”
Meanwhile, Cuomo has been virtually absent from Albany since the state budget was passed in April. The governor said at the time that his major priorities were achieved in the budget and that he would take his cue from the Legislature for the rest of the session.
It’s still possible Cuomo could be at the Capitol for the session’s last week, so deals on mayoral control, extensions of sales and other taxes for localities, and other issues are certainly possible.
And even as Assembly and Senate leaders have raised the possibility of leaving town on Wednesday without extending the mayoral control law, there’s still a possibility the two houses will agree to yet another one-year extension without tying it to another issue, sources say.
Lawmakers are not happy with the idea that they might have to return later in the year to pass expiring tax extenders as well as deal with the mayoral control issue if it’s allowed to expire at the end of the month.
A coalition of more than 100 groups from across the political spectrum has formed a coalition to oppose a convention to develop possible changes to the state Constitution.
New Yorkers Against Corruption is made up of an array of labor unions, liberal and conservative groups, and environmental organizations.
The coalition will run a “multifaceted” campaign starting with digital ads this week, a spokesman said.
Among the groups involved are the state AFL-CIO, the city and state teacher unions, the state Rifle and Pistol Association, Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts, the state Conservative and Republican parties, the New York Civil Liberties Union, and Environmental Advocates.
“I experienced the Constitutional Convention in 1967 and it was a disaster,” said state Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long. “Establishment politicians and Albany insiders will hijack the process and abuse their power as delegates.”
Many of the interest groups say they fear a constitutional convention could result in changes that hurt their respective causes.
“A constitutional convention would give well-funded special interests the ability to control a process that can negatively impact those rights including the right to organize, funding for education, and care for injured worker,” said state AFL-CIO President Mario Cilento.
Every 20 years, including this year, New Yorkers are asked to vote in a public referendum whether to hold a constitutional convention.
Supporters of a convention view it as the best way to fix many of the problems in Albany, including ethics. The public would have to vote on any recommended changes developed at a constitutional convention.
Cuomo is set to nominate to the state Public Service Commission that oversees New York’s utilities a former state Republican senator who helped him pass gay marriage into law into 2011, sources say.
James Alesi was one of just four Senate Republicans who voted for the gay marriage bill. All four quickly either left or were voted out of office.
Alesi, after deciding not to seek reelection in 2013, was quickly appointed by Cuomo in 2013 to the state Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board. PSC commissioners make nearly $110,000 a year.
While in the Senate, he chaired the chamber’s economic development committee and served on the energy committee.