Are New York Democrats Delivering on the Progressives’ Wish List?

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ALBANY — With only three weeks before the Legislature is to adjourn for the year, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo emerged after the Memorial Day weekend with a 10-point agenda of things he wants to see accomplished by the end of session.

The governor’s issues included some pressing concerns — new rent regulations to replace ones that expire in June — as well as some decades-old ideas (an Equal Rights Amendment, for instance, which the governor wants to enshrine in the State Constitution).

Mr. Cuomo also used one of his two radio interviews on Tuesday to bash his fellow Democrats — suggesting that the State Senate, now led by Democrats, had not done much but obstruct “progressive” legislation — and basically confirmed that he would like to run for a fourth term in 2022.

Long before that happens, of course, Mr. Cuomo will be engaged in the end-of-session sprint alongside the Democratic speaker of the Assembly, Carl E. Heastie, and the majority leader in the Senate, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Westchester County Democrat whose spokesman called the governor’s attacks on Tuesday “strange” and “bizarre.” (Republicans, shut out of leadership in either house for the first time in nearly a decade, have little hope of passing any of their plans this year.)

So here’s a rundown of what is likely to happen by June 19, the last day of session, and what issues may wait till next year.

To call anything a certainty in Albany is practically begging to be wrong, but at least two issues this year seem as close to guaranteed as possible.

The first is a renewal of New York City’s rent regulations, which expire in June. They seem on track to be not just renewed but strengthened, with Democrats in control of the governor’s office and the Legislature for the first time in nearly a decade. “I think we’re going to have the best rent reform package we’ve ever had,” Mr. Cuomo declared on Tuesday on WAMC radio.

But housing activists have warned against complacency — not only because of the perennially powerful real estate industry, which has launched an ad blitz defending landlords, but also because of Mr. Cuomo himself, who they fear may water down reform. The real estate industry has donated generously to the governor.

Mr. Cuomo said those connections would never influence him. “If you ever ask for a favor because you’re a contributor, it’ll be the last conversation we ever had,” he said.

But he also made clear that he wouldn’t tolerate any efforts by activists to exclude him from the negotiations: “Negotiate a package, send it to the governor, don’t include him,” he said. “O.K. Then I won’t sign the package. And then you have no rent reform laws.” So much for certainty.

The other almost sure thing is less contentious (which is in part why it may seem like a safe bet). The state’s minority- and women-owned business program, which promotes government contracts for underrepresented groups, expires at the end of this year. Mr. Cuomo has promised to renew it.

Hopes for legalizing marijuana in New York this year have been like Schrödinger’s cat: seemingly dead and alive at the same time.

On Tuesday, all signs seemed to indicate that they could be resurrected, after Mr. Cuomo declared legalization one of his end-of-session priorities. Just days earlier, legislators had introduced a new legalization bill, which they said was designed to appease key players — including Mr. Cuomo, a converted marijuana skeptic — by scaling back some of the more far-left proposals. So far, so good.

But those hopes might soon be snuffed out, because the governor also made clear that the blame game for the previous failures would continue. Mr. Cuomo said the State Senate was holding up marijuana because it didn’t have the votes. But senators and Assembly members have blamed Mr. Cuomo for walking away from negotiations.

“I don’t think it’s going to be on the merits, I think it’s on the politics,” Mr. Cuomo said on Tuesday on WNYC. On that, at least, probably everyone can agree.

Mr. Cuomo’s other stated priorities are similar political minefields. He backed a proposal to allow driver’s licenses for undocumented residents, which has gained momentum in the Assembly. But last time the issue came up, 12 years ago, it was sideswiped by fervent opposition from lawmakers and the public.

This time, even with progressives making immigrant rights a priority in response to the Trump administration, the bill still has to win over more moderate members of the Legislature, such as Democrats from Long Island and upstate.

The governor also called to authorize gestational surrogacy — allowing a woman to be compensated to carry a child for an infertile or gay couple, for instance — despite the opposition of the Catholic Church. And he pitched a prevailing wage proposal, which would require any project receiving state subsidies to pay workers on par with union rates. Business groups say the bill could send construction costs skyrocketing.

Also potentially thorny could be a proposal to require universal vaccinations. Mr. Cuomo did not include a bid to eliminate nonmedical exemptions to inoculations in his 10-point agenda, but when asked on WNYC about a measles outbreak raging in Brooklyn and Rockland Counties, he said he supported the bill. The chairman of the Assembly health committee has raised First Amendment concerns about the bill.

“You have a right to your religious beliefs. You don’t have a right to infect my child,” Mr. Cuomo said.

Few things happen in Albany without Mr. Cuomo’s blessing, and there were some notable omissions from the governor’s priority list on Tuesday.

At the same time as Mr. Cuomo was conducting his radio interviews on Tuesday, lawmakers in Albany were holding a hearing on a single-payer health bill. But Mr. Cuomo has derided the progressive proposal as impractical in its potential cost. (Republicans share his feelings, and called the proposal a “costly, bureaucratic nightmare.”)

Mr. Cuomo also made no mention of climate change legislation, though he had made a state-level Green New Deal one of the centerpieces of his third-term agenda during a speech in January.

Legalizing gambling via mobile devices is also still up in the air, even though sports betting will probably soon be allowed in casinos around the state. Still, competition from New Jersey may build pressure on neighboring New York to get a piece of the action.

And while supporters of the so-called medical aid in dying act — legalizing what is sometimes known as “assisted suicide” — had been cheered by Mr. Cuomo’s recent declarations of support, the governor said on Tuesday that he believed the bill was “a bridge too far” for this legislative session.




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