Skleinos Touts Gun Control
Senate co-presidents Dean Skelos and Jeff Klein touted their bipartisan credentials at a Crain’s New York breakfast panel discussion this morning, declaring that just because they have disagreements doesn’t mean their experiment in coalition government isn’t succeeding.
“Jeff and I will not agree on everything and when we do disagree, it doesn’t mean the coalition is not working,” said Skelos, a Republican from Nassau County. “As Jeff has said, he’s not interested in making Republicans in Democrats and I’m not looking to make Democrats into Republicans.”
Skelos this week was critical for the first time on Tuesday of the speed with which the gun control legislation passed the chamber, saying that in hindsight that the chamber may have acted “in haste.” The lawmaker said chapter amendments to change the law may be released next week.
Today however he praised the gun control law as a “major” early victory and a sign that the coalition can work, singling out the anti-crime provisions and expansion of Kendra’s Law that Senate Republicans were able to include in the measure.
“The final bill contained a number of IDC legislative goals and many of the anti-crime initiatives for Senate Republicans,” Skelos said, adding, “In the end members were free to vote however they wished. Not everyone was happy with the bill and many of our members voted no, but it was an example of how government can work and I believe that is a positive step forward.”
Later in the forum, Skelos said he would like to see some clarifications on the gun control law to carve out provisions for law enforcement, as well as whether gun owners should surrender their clips.
Klein praised Skelos and Republicans for inserting the anti-crime provisions, reiterating that the deal was a “very important first test” for the coalition.
“I think Republicans played a very important role in something I supported: Doing something about illegal guns. Remember we passed the toughest gun law in the nation I’m not optimistic that other states or even the national government is going to do the same thing,” he said. “So we’re really subjected with illegal guns coming in from other states and the way we do that is to toughen the penalties.”
The Bronx Democrat did indicate he was open to clarify the law for retired law enforcement officers so they could keep the firearm they carried.
“Other than that, I don’t think there are really any other changes that we need,” Klein said.
It has been several days, however, of daylight between Skelos and Klein on the Reproductive Health Act, with the GOP declaring he was staunchly opposed to the measure at a Conservative Party convention. Klein, who supports abortion rights, said last week he was hopeful a women’s equality package could be passed, but has noted several Democrats in the mainline conference are opposed to abortion.
Both lawmakers are also on the opposite side of whether to increase the state’s minimum wage, though Skelos has signaled he’s willing to negotiate with Gov. Andrew Cuomo on the issue, as has the governor himself.
But there were areas of agreement and, of course, mutual praise.
Both backed the governor’s proposal to allow local governments to lock in a stable pension rate now at the expense of future savings.
“I support the governor’s proposal,” Klein said. “I think it could be an important tool for localities if they choose to buy into the system. We just passed tier six, we’re just allowing local governments to buy into those savings now.”
Skelos even opened the door to being supportive of the Dream Fund to help pay for the college education of the children of immigrants, as long as it’s paid for with private donations.
“One of the things I will be discussing with my conference, I think there is support … that as long as it’s private money to educate people who are already here, I think that’s something that could pass.”
Klein didn’t necessarily agree with Skelos and the Senate GOP’s push for the 18-a assessment utility assessment surcharge should be allowed to expire, but he did say that whether the tax expires “should be something we looked at.”
A special h/t is due to Crain’s Andy Hawkins for facilitating the audio of the panel discussion.
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