ICYMI, here’s the morning memo from earlier today:
In back-to-back session days this week the Democratic-dominated state Assembly approved by wide margins both an increase in the state’s minimum wage to $9 and a two-year ban on the controversial natural gas drilling process known as hydrofracking.
With each of those votes, the longtime Speaker Sheldon Silver managed to have more than 100 members of the 150-member chamber back the bills, which face a different reality over in the coalition-led state Senate.
Passing the measures seemed like a relative layup for Mr. Speaker. There was no need to have his top aide Jim Yates whipping votes on the floor of the chamber as he did during the contentious Tier Six vote around this time last year.
The Assembly more than ever is standing in stark contrast to the state Senate, which is under the control of a coalition majority of 30 Republicans, five independent breakaway Democrats and Brooklyn’s Simcha Felder, an enrolled Democrat conferencing with the GOP.
It is improbable that the coalition could muster the needed votes for bills that are friendly to either liberals or conservatives. So instead, the chamber is required to take the opposite track and vote on measures where there is bipartisan backing, such as the legalization of mixed-martial arts.
But the votes in the Assembly re-affirmed a cemented fact of Albany: Silver has control of his large majority in the Assembly that is itching to pass a host of measures friendly to their liberal base.
In doing so, Silver is sending a firm message smack in the middle of budget season that he can marshal votes and then some in order to pass bills that are on his terms.
The minimum wage increase — set by the Assembly at $9 plus indexing to inflation — was done to signal to both Silver’s fellow leaders in the Senate and Cuomo that a marker was being laid down for the terms of the private negotiations, while also satisfying labor groups who support the Democratic conference.
Meanwhile, the latest fracking moratorium — a two-year ban this time plus a new emphasis on an independent health study from a SUNY school of public health — forces a decidedly non-budget issue that the governor has struggled with into the news cycle.
Both votes were largely party-line roll calls, save for a few conservative Democrats — the usual outliers like Robin Schimminger of Kenmore — voting against them.
All this comes as Silver is tangling with Cuomo over the old chestnut of education aid. Silver and his fellow New York City lawmakers remain concerned over the tussle over aid to education after the United Federation of Teachers and the Bloomberg administration failed to come to an agreement over teacher evaluations.
Meanwhile, the normally tight-lipped Silver has been more than willing to make news in Albany both overtly with the passage of the bills and later after the closed-door budget talks.
As we’ve noted this week before, Silver dropped the news that a so-called Hollywood amendment was under consideration for the gun control law and, later, that a casino siting provision may have been jettisoned from the state budget.
Now, all of this could simply be noise leading up to what’s expected to be the passage of an on-time, if not record-setting early, state budget and Silver may simply see the need to flex his muscles a bit in order to get what he wants on education spending and even restoring some cuts to the mental health budget.
Silver’s power is extensive in the state Assembly over his broad majority, but it is pretty much limited to that chamber.
And there’s another fact that will soon be reaffirmed this month: Cuomo still holds nearly all the cards when it comes to setting the state’s spending priorities for the coming fiscal year.
|Print article||This entry was posted by Nick Reisman on March 7, 2013 at 10:33 am, and is filed under Assembly. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.|