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State Legislature ends '07 session in discord; return to Albany likely

The Assembly wrapped up its last couple hundred bills Friday, ending a divisive 2007 session that produced as many incidents of ill will as major policy initiatives.

Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer and State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno traded barbs again, and the bad feelings made their way down to the staff levels when a low-ranking press aide to the Republican leader was barred from attending a governor's news conference. A Bruno spokesman called it a "childish and petty" act.

The governor spent part of Friday blasting lawmakers -- particularly the GOP-led Senate -- for ending its session Thursday night with a host of major items still on the table.

"Where are you? Why is the Senate chamber quiet today?" he asked.

Despite the rhetorical wars, the governor has the legal authority to call the Legislature back into special session whenever he wants. Moreover, both the Assembly, Senate and governor said they expect lawmakers to return, possibly in just three weeks, to take up some of the major items that dropped off the table Thursday after talks between Spitzer and Bruno blew up.

Spitzer accused Senate Republicans of trying to hold talks hostage to pork-barrel demands, while they said he would talk no deals on anything unless they backed a campaign finance overhaul they say is designed to drive Republicans from office. "The 2007 legislative session that began with promise and achievement ended with a whimper," Bruno said in a statement Friday. "The blame for that lies squarely on the governor's shoulders due to the fact that he still hasn't figured out how to govern." When Spitzer was attorney general, Bruno said he had a record built on the power to "subpoena and threaten."

"He is finding out that he doesn't have those powers as chief executive," Bruno said.

And the governor, as he has done several times this year since taking office, threatened to take his complaints on the road into the districts of Senate Republicans to appeal directly to voters and local media outlets.

In the Assembly, meanwhile, Friday was grind time. Most of the major bills involving Western New York programs had either been approved or killed off before Friday.

Still on the table for later this summer are issues involving limiting campaign donations, expanding the state's DNA databank, improving school nutrition, tax cuts for seniors, additional assistance for upstate businesses, siting of new power plants, and how to spend what could be in excess of $1 billion on various capital projects, including several in the Buffalo area, such as renovation of the downtown Hyatt.

In the Albany lesson that no bill ever truly dies, the Legislature gave final approval to a measure to permit two-wheel electric scooters to operate on public roads and bike lanes. Segway, the manufacturer, lost its battle year after year to environmentalists and safety advocates to legalize what the legislation calls "electric personal assistive mobility devices." The Assembly Friday, following the Senate Thursday, gave Segway, and its well-connected lobbying firm, the bill it has been pushing for years.

e-mail: tprecious@buffnews.com

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