Housing advocates are frustrated and ethics watchdogs are positively morose. But lawmakers here have made at least one demographic happy this week: the mimosa set.
With precious little time remaining for the legislative session, which is to end Thursday, the antepenultimate day in Albany was marked by the usual closed-door negotiations among Democrats, who run the state Assembly, and Republicans, who rule the state Senate.
Among the major issues still hanging in the balance were proposals to hem in the corrupting influence of money in elections, a proposal that could encourage more affordable housing and a bill to address the threat of climate change.
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In the meantime, however, there was the issue of brunch.
In a joint agreement between the Legislature and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo — announced Tuesday just after the breakfast shift but before the lunch rush — the state will allow restaurants and bars to start serving drinks Sundays at 10 a.m.
Establishments with liquor licenses outside New York City will be allowed to apply for as many as 12 special permits a year for even earlier sales, beginning at 8 a.m. — perfect for international soccer matches and unexpected visits from your in-laws.
The Alcohol Beverage Control Law, which dates to the Great Depression, had made thirsty diners and dipsomaniacs wait until noon.
In a statement, Cuomo, a Democrat, cast the deal as a blow against “this state’s archaic blue laws” and part of a larger, more long-term policy of his administration to support New York’s alcohol industry, which he said created “some of the best beer, wine, cider and distilled spirits in the world.”
The first call for alcohol, which was packaged along with a range of other changes to the law, came as a peculiar bookend to an agreement on how to deal with another addictive substance: heroin.
The drug, which has rapidly spread across the country in recent years, was the subject of a large package of programs and policies outlined Tuesday, including easing access to treatment, expanding wraparound recovery services and limiting opioid prescriptions for acute pain to seven days, with some exceptions.
State Sen. John J. Flanagan, a Long Island Republican and majority leader, whose party has been aggressive in response to the heroin crisis, said the plan would “bring hope to communities battling opioid abuse throughout New York.”
Hope, however, was fading elsewhere. If any part of the legislative session seemed bound to disappoint, it was the failure thus far to pass major ethics reforms, despite the recent corruption convictions and sentencings of two former legislative leaders: Sheldon Silver and Dean G. Skelos.
The inertia has deeply frustrated government watchdog groups who have repeatedly gathered in the Capitol to push for anti-corruption measures and did so again Tuesday. Their priorities: closing the campaign finance loophole that allows limited liability companies to donate like individuals, rather than businesses; limiting legislators’ ability to earn money for jobs held outside the Legislature; and making the state budget process more transparent.
But the two reforms that Cuomo and the Legislature have discussed — stripping pensions from legislators convicted of felonies and limiting the reach of independent expenditure groups — amount to little more than a distraction from the real issues, the watchdogs said.
One advocate, Barbara Bartoletti, the legislative director of the League of Women Voters, appeared ready to concede defeat for now, leaving it to the voters to demand change during the fall elections and “make sure some of these people don’t come back next January.”
Other issues seemed increasingly likely to be pushed to next year, such as ride-sharing — its backers were pessimistic they would get a deal to allow an upstate expansion — and the tax break and development program known as 421-a, which was the subject of some last-minute negotiations with little progress. The issue of when and how long mayoral control of New York City’s schools would be extended was also still a mystery.
Daily fantasy sports, meanwhile, seemed to be pushing hard for a deal to become legal in the state, complete with paid appearances from former National Football League quarterback stars Vinny Testaverde and Jim Kelly.
And while the session has had little in the way of recent excitement, the Assembly speaker, Carl E. Heastie, a Democrat from the Bronx, said much could happen between now and the Thursday deadline.
“We’ve still got two days,” he said.
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Categories: News, Schenectady County