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Albany faces sticky issues at end of legislative session

ALBANY – For an end-of-a-session week that old Albany hands call the quietest in years, state government honchos in this capital city are finding wrapping up legislative affairs anything but easy.

Legislative leaders emerged from an early Monday evening session with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo still stymied on how to address a host of education-related issues ranging from continued mayoral control of New York City public schools to issues affecting charter schools in upstate cities.

Senate Majority Leader John J. Flanagan left no doubt in his remarks to reporters that all the issues have an effect on the others.

"I look at these things in totality and not necessarily in isolation," the Long Island Republican said.

Flanagan, Independent Democratic Leader Sen. Jeffrey D. Klein and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie huddled with Cuomo for about a half-hour Monday evening, leaving with no deals. But Klein and Flanagan both expect to meet their Wednesday recess deadline, and finish with a flurry of bill passages.

The main obstacle still revolves around finding a way for Mayor Bill de Blasio to continue his control of the vast New York City school system – as he has for the past several years and which just two years ago was proposed for Buffalo schools.

"We talked about mayoral control, of course, and how it could be done," Klein said.

The GOP Senate has proposed three bills extending de Blasio’s control of schools for varying periods. But that issue appears to be linked to an education tax credit that would benefit charter schools, often a darling issue for Republicans. Now, the challenge could include finding a compromise measure that affects both issues, as well as the normally routine extension of sales tax laws for some upstate counties.

One issue upon which legislative and executive leaders may be nearing an agreement could be a "Buy American" provision in major state procurements.

"We're close to a three-way agreement," Klein told reporters.

Cuomo, in his early 2017 budget proposals, sought to strengthen current state Buy American regulations by expanding the current standard to include all goods and products, as well as all procurements — not just construction, reconstruction, alteration, repair, maintenance or improvement of public works.

Also, he seeks to clarify that preference should be given to goods and products that are substantially produced or made in whole in the United States.

Cuomo noted in his budget message earlier this year that only procurements of structural steel, reinforcing steel and other major steel on construction contracts greater than $100,000 are subject to existing Buy American provisions.

Cuomo says state budget was 'worth the wait'

The bill moving toward approval would require the purchase of American-made structural iron and steel for all road and bridge construction projects over $1 million in value, with a number of important exceptions. They include unreasonable cost increases, purchases not in the public interest and emergencies.

Other issues still await resolution.

-- Discussions still lie ahead over guidance of the state's economic development programs. The idea of reviving more oversight for the state comptroller has been gaining traction.

-- A child victim "look back" period is being supported by various victim advocacy groups looking to extend the civil and criminal statute of limitations. The measure is expected to encounter stiff opposition from the Catholic Conference and other groups who argue the statute should not be extended.

-- Various bills are before the Legislature that could provide relief from historically high Lake Ontario water levels along the New York shore that already has caused millions of dollars of damage.

-- The idea to serving alcoholic drinks in some theaters did not survive the budget process, but a push is on again by some theater owners.

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