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Cuomo plays down prospects for special session

By Tom Precious

ALBANY – Gov. Andrew Cuomo confirmed Albany’s worst-kept secret: that a special session of the Legislature before the end of the year is probably not in the cards.

"I don’t think it’s especially likely," Cuomo told Albany radio station WGDJ this morning. Lawmakers a week ago were putting odds at about 20 percent that they would return before the end of the year – putting off a number of ideas, including the first legislative pay raise since 1999.

Two things happened to throw off the near-annual ritual to bring lawmakers back in December: Hurricane Sandy and the uncertainty, still, over which party will control the Senate come January. Cuomo said he’s been "a little preoccupied" with response duties to the devastating storm, while votes are still being counted in one Senate race that will determine whether Republicans or Democrats run the chamber when a new session starts in January.

But, Albany being Albany, no one is actually ruling a special session out. "If they want to talk, I’m here," Cuomo said of items on his agenda for a possible special session. Some lawmakers are already calling for a December gathering to push through special legislation to respond to Hurricane Sandy, though the picture is murky because no one knows how much the federal or state governments -- or private insurers -- will be paying to deal with Sandy's effects. 

And then there is this little factoid: the Legislature, which never legally adjourns, does not need Cuomo to order a special session for them to return to Albany next month if deals on various matters can be reached. For a legislative pay raise to happen, as many lawmakers publicly or privately want, legislation would have to be passed by December 31. At the state Capitol, that translates to an eternity between now and New Year's Eve for deals to be reached.

How lawmakers would politically justify raising their pay given the state's sluggish economy and the havoc thousands of downstate residents are feeling from Hurricane Sandy, though, would be another matter. 

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