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Legislature Still at Odds Over Cuomo’s Top Issues

 


By and THOMAS KAPLAN, NYTimes
ALBANY — The annual legislative session sputtered into overtime on Monday night with no visible progress on critical elements of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s ambitious first-year agenda, while legislative leaders battled behind the scenes on a host of contentious issues.

Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times
Dean G. Skelos, the majority leader of the New York State Senate, after meeting on Monday with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.
The highest-profile battle, over whether to legalize same-sex marriage, continued without resolution as protesters sang and shouted in the Capitol, and a small group of lawmakers continued to negotiate language to protect religious groups that do not support same-sex marriage from the threat of legal sanctions.
But the Legislature was also at odds over New York’s rent regulations, after Republicans in the State Senate balked at the broader tenant protections and expanded oversight of landlords that are being sought by Mr. Cuomo and Assembly Democrats.
The stalemate over rent has stalled movement toward a final vote on Mr. Cuomo’s deal with legislative leaders to impose a cap on local property taxes.
The delays on rent, property taxes and same-sex marriage — each high-priority issues for Mr. Cuomo — mean that lawmakers will remain in Albany in special session for at least a few more days.
The Assembly speaker, Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, said Monday that virtually every aspect of the rent laws, which limit rent increases on more than a million apartments in New York City and its suburbs, remained on the table as lawmakers sought a deal acceptable to both Mr. Cuomo and Senate Republicans, who are closely allied with the real estate industry.
“It’s all of the issues,” Mr. Silver said, a few hours after meeting with Mr. Cuomo and Dean G. Skelos, the Senate majority leader, in the governor’s office.
Assembly Democrats are seeking to raise the income and rent thresholds at which landlords can begin charging tenants market rate, while at the same time indexing those thresholds to inflation. Those changes are intended to help stem the steady loss of rent-regulated units, tens of thousands of which have reverted to market rate as inflation and annual increases pushed rents past the existing thresholds.
Democrats have sought to bundle the tenant-friendly changes they have proposed with the renewal of tax breaks sought by real estate developers and landlords.
But after the meeting on Monday, Mr. Skelos, a Long Island Republican, signaled that he considered the Assembly proposals onerous and unacceptable.
“We’re not looking to protect the wealthy,” he said. “We’re looking to ensure that rent stabilization helps affordability.”
Mr. Skelos said that one specific proposal of Assembly Democrats — to raise the income threshold at which tenants can lose the protection of rent regulations, to $300,000 from $175,000 — was “unconscionable.”
Though Mr. Cuomo has said publicly that he wants to expand rent regulations and not merely extend the existing laws, his specific bargaining position is unknown. Tenant advocates, who fear that Mr. Cuomo will settle for a deal that raises the current thresholds but does not index them to inflation, pressed him on Monday for a stronger package of tenant protections.
“What has been floated, it would be such a piddling improvement it’s laughable,” said Michael McKee, treasurer of the Tenants Political Action Committee. “We’re not going to accept a piddling reform and say that it’s a victory.”
Meanwhile, protesters on both sides of the same-sex marriage issue strode through the corridors of the Capitol, forming a crowd as raucous as any that has gathered there in months. Members of the clergy and gay-rights activists held placards, while state troopers, some armed with bright yellow Tasers, watched over them.
Dr. Jan Taylor, 50, a family physician from the Albany suburbs, stood outside Mr. Skelos’s office clutching rosary beads. “I’m here for my children,” she said. “If gay marriage passes and marriage is redefined, I think that will unleash a social experiment on our children, which they have not consented to. And that’s unfair to them.”
Linda Barat, 53, a homemaker from New Rochelle, also said she was there for her children — a daughter, 18, who is straight, and son, 20, who is gay.
“They’re equal,” she said. “There’s no difference between them. And I want them both to have the opportunity of marriage, and everything it entails.”
A few yards away, the former Giants wide receiver David Tyree lingered with the leaders of several groups that oppose same-sex marriage, which delivered petitions to Mr. Skelos that they said had the signatures of 63,000 New Yorkers who agreed with them.
Mr. Tyree, who earned fame for an acrobatic, late-game catch in Super Bowl XLII in 2008, told reporters that he thought his mythical reception may have been part of a larger plan.
“Perhaps God orchestrated that play to give me a platform for what I’m doing here today," he said.