ALBANY – Mayor de Blasio’s control of the city school system hung in the balance Wednesday as state lawmakers worked through the day to reach a deal that would extend it.
Called back to Albany by Gov. Cuomo, the Senate and Assembly were gaveled into “extraordinary” session during the afternoon but took no action as legislative leaders and the governor negotiated behind closed doors for most of the day on a package that would not only extend mayoral control for a year but address other issues of concern to lawmakers.
“It’s a lot of the issues that are important to us, all of us statewide,” Bronx Sen. Jeff Klein, leader of the Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference said.
In addition to mayoral control, legislative leaders and Cuomo were discussing, among other things, measures to add additional speed cameras in the city, provide flood relief to communities along Lake Ontario and bailout a struggling upstate harness racing track.
Klein said expansion of charter schools, which had been a sticking point, was off the table. “It really is now all about extending mayoral control for at least another year,” he said.
Cuomo, in calling the session, had sent the Legislature a bill that would have not only renewed mayoral control for a year but also renewed several economic development programs in New York City and beefed up pension benefits for some city cops and firefighters.
Lawmakers, especially in the GOP-controlled Senate quickly moved to add additional issues to the discussions.
Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle (D-Rochester) said his chamber was set to pass Cuomo’s mayoral control bill said “there’s still conversations and potentially some hope, that we can do a broader agenda. We’ll wait and see.”
The Legislature ended its regular annual session last week without taking up an agreed-upon bill that would extend mayoral control, which expires at the end of the month. Also in limbo are dozens of local taxes – including the city’s personal income tax – that need to be renewed by the Legislature but have become ensnared in the mayoral control deadlock.
“We’re just having ongoing discussions about mayoral control and a whole litany of issues,” Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-Suffolk County) said earlier in the day.
State Senator Michael Gianaris (D-Queens) slammed the entire process, saying: “This extraordinary session is extraordinarily embarrassing for our state. Make no mistake, this sorry chapter represents a dereliction of duty by state leaders who are failing to perform their most basic responsibilities. Instead of saving our mass transit system and working on other important issues, we’re wasting taxpayer dollars so politicians can come to Albany and stare at each other. It is an outrage of epic proportions.”