Wednesday is the last scheduled day of the New York State Legislature’s 2017 session and it appears ready to do … not much.
That may be a relief to some who believe, not unreasonably, that the less Albany does the better off New Yorkers are likely to be. But there is a problem: What is perhaps the most corrupt state government in the nation is doing nothing to improve its ethics.
It’s a circular problem, of course. If the Legislature weren’t corrupt, it wouldn’t need to act. Being demonstrably and provably corrupt, though, it wants nothing to do with changing the conditions that enable too many of its members to play fast and loose with their influential public positions. Thus, there is no effort to restrict sources of outside income or to impose reasonable limits on campaign contributions or to close the notorious “LLC loophole” that encourages vast contributions from businesses. It’s as shameful as it is predictable.
What the Legislature is doing, beyond some routine matters, is arguing over the structure of education in New York City and, as part of that, with raising the cap on the number of charter schools allowed in the state. Western New Yorkers have an interest in both issues.
In New York City, the issue is extending mayoral control of the schools. That has worked well in New York, beginning with the administration of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. But while the Legislature granted Bloomberg six-year terms of authority, it has limited Bill de Blasio to a year at a time.
Some of the resistance stems from the usual petty politics. De Blasio campaigned for Democratic control of the Senate, so the Republicans still in charge aren’t pleased. They need to get over it. New York City wields disproportionate influence over the entire state, which makes improved education there a legitimate statewide concern.
More substantively, Senate Republicans want to increase the number of charter schools in the state, which would also be a statewide benefit. But the Democratic Assembly, which lives deep in the pockets of the teachers unions, opposes new charter schools. Its members, too, need to get over it, or identify something they want in exchange from the Senate – assuming that, for some reason, keeping New York City schools moving in the right direction isn’t enough.
But Wednesday is the last day. Is anybody optimistic?