New York: Cuomo vows to pass quick reforms blocked by Republicans
With Democrats taking control of the state Senate next year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo vowed Wednesday to move quickly to pass reforms blocked by Republicans: tighter ethics laws, early voting, the Dream Act, gun safety legislation and strengthening the state’s abortion law.
“We need ethics reform and there’s no reason not to pass it,” Cuomo said on Westchester radio station WVOX, his first interview since the election that gave him a third term.
He threw down the gauntlet to state lawmakers.
“Legislative jobs should be full time … with restrictions on outside income,” he said.
Cuomo didn’t mention it, but the first pay hike for legislators in 20 years could be his leverage to get the income restriction.
The governor also indicated and the new Democratic majority in the Senate and the Assembly will move to curb pay-to-play politics.
“We need to close the financial loophole, what they call the LLC loophole,” he said.
The loophole allows real estate interests and other bigwigs to steer massive contributions to elected officials through limited liability companies or shell companies. Cuomo has been the biggest recipient — receiving millions in LLC donations over his first two terms.
Cuomo also promised to pass the Dream Act, which would provide tuition assistance for undocumented college students brought here illegally as kids — a law long sought by immigration advocates.
That could be a tough vote for upstate and suburban Democrats. When they were in charge, Republicans blocked the measure, arguing it rewards illegal behavior and would come at the expense of students who are citizens.
Cuomo countered that it was a moral issue.
“The Dream Act, which is giving young people more access to higher education. Why wouldn’t you want to do that?” he asked.
Cuomo also promised Democrats would move to strengthen New York’s abortion law, which Republicans argued was unnecessary.
He also said Albany will finally pass reforms to make it easier for New Yorkers to vote, through early voting and other measures.
“It’s so hard to vote in this state. It is a joke. Let people vote,” said Cuomo.
Cuomo said he also wants to make gun safety one of his legacies. He supports passage of the so-called Flag bill, which would allow a teacher or a family member to petition the court to have weapons confiscated from a person who may be dangerous or emotionally disturbed. He passed a sweeping controversial gun control law — the SAFE Act — during his first term.
“None of these things could get done with the Republican Senate. We can now get it done in a Democratic Senate,” he said.
Cuomo said he believes the new crop of Senate Democrats — including soon-to-be-Senate Democratic Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins of Westchester, the first women to hold the leadership post, will act responsibly and reasonably to maintain the majority in 2020.
He noted Democrats briefly held the majority in 2009-2010 only to lose it to the Republicans two years later.
“She gets the complexity of the politics of New York. This is not a one-dimensional state politically,” he said, noting the diverse state has regions that are conservative and liberal.
“Her conference . . . now represents the politics of the entire state. These are very smart candidates, sophisticated candidates. They understand they have to represents their districts. They also understand the conference has to represent the body politic statewide.”
He said last night’s Democratic takeover of the House of Representatives is a warning to lawmakers who become too recklessly right wing or left wing.
“That pendulum can come back swinging back very quickly,” he said.