- Associated Press - Saturday, December 2, 2017

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - In New York state government news, Democrats hope to wrest control of the Senate back from Republicans, and several new laws are now on the books.

A look at stories making news:



Could Democrats soon control almost all of New York state government?

That’s looking increasingly likely now that there’s tentative agreement to end the bitter schism in the Senate between mainline Democrats and the breakaway faction known as the Independent Democrats.

Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, and Independent Democratic leader Sen. Jeff Klein, of the Bronx, say they support a plan, offered by state party leaders, that would unify the two sides and give both Stewart-Cousins and Kline the title of Senate co-leader.

Democrats now have a slim Senate majority, but they aren’t in charge because the eight-member Independent Democratic faction has allowed Republicans to stay in control.

The discord has prevented Democrats, who already control the Assembly and the governor’s office, from exerting complete control over state government. But it’s been a boon to Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has at times played sides against one another to advance his own agenda. And Cuomo, considered a possible White House contender in 2020, has come under pressure from progressives to end the schism once and for all.

“It’s been an ongoing situation that frankly has just been a mess,” he said last week when asked about the dysfunction.

His advice to Democrats? “Put the personal agendas aside. … Stop the shenanigans.”

Reconciliation talks failed in 2014, and several looming complications could derail the new attempt, too. Under the terms of the proposal, the two sides wouldn’t reunite until after the state budget is passed this spring, giving Republicans one more year at the negotiating table. The delay has angered liberal groups who say Cuomo, Klein and Republican leaders are trying to keep the status quo for as long as possible.

Then there are the Republicans, who aren’t resigning themselves to a Democratic takeover of the Senate. They’re hoping for victories next November to keep them in power, and dismiss talk of Democratic reunification as just more of the same palace intrigue.

“There’s a time for politics and a time for governing, and it’s unfortunate that some in Albany can’t ever separate the two,” said Senate Republican spokesman Scott Reif. “We fully expect to grow our majority next year.”



Cuomo signed a number of bills the final week of November. The most significant ones:

DISABLED STUDENT GRADUATION: One new measure will make it easier for disabled students to attend their high school graduation by closing a loophole that had allowed local education officials to keep some students out.

Under current law, local school boards may prohibit students from attending graduation if they haven’t earned a typical diploma. That means students might not be allowed to participate if they received a commencement credential, a diploma alternative available to developmentally disabled students and some other special-needs pupils.

The new law says any disabled student with a commencement credential may participate in graduation events.

PAROLE DECISIONS: Another bill will require state corrections officials to post parole decisions on a searchable, public website within 60 days of a decision.

TEEN SUICIDE: The state will create a task force to study adolescent suicide and recommend policy changes to reduce the number of young people who take their own lives.

TAX CUT FOR LOCAL BREWS: No more local sales taxes on beer, wine, cider and liquor tastings.

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