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N.Y. City mayoral control remains major obstacle to Albany wrapup

ALBANY – Almost six months of deliberations in the grand chambers of the New York State Legislature are being finalized Wednesday in Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's compact office on the second floor of the State Capitol.

That's where the governor and the three main legislative leaders continue to huddle today as they try to wrap up a relative handful of sticky issues on the last scheduled day of the 2017 session.

Several items remain unresolved, ranging from reform of economic development practices in the wake of indictments stemming from the Buffalo Billion and other projects, to efforts to extend mayoral control of New York City's public schools. As a result, nobody can yet predict when the final gavel will fall.

"We still don't have a deal, unfortunately, on mayoral control," said Sen. Jeffrey D. Klein of the Bronx, leader of the Independent Democratic Caucus. "But I am still optimistic."

After emerging from Cuomo's office soon after Senate Majority Leader John J. Flanagan Jr., Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie also described the process as "ongoing." He pointed to mayoral control as the chief obstacle, and made it clear he is uninterested in linking to it measures to encourage more charter schools that are popular among some upstate and Long Island representatives.

"I have had no discussions on charter schools. That's the Senate," he said. "We're not going to pass a bill that includes charter schools."

Klein seemed to represent a feeling among most New York City legislators to continue granting school oversight in New York City to Mayor Bill de Blasio, as has been the practice for the past several years. But there has been no final agreement as some try to link other issues to its passage.

"It's important we have mayoral control, it works," he said. "Something as important as education should rest with the mayor of the city of New York."

He also said most discussions revolve around a two-year extension of that authority.

Flanagan and Klein said providing flood relief for ravaged communities along Lake Ontario and other communities remains a priority as bills passed by the Senate and Assembly now gain the governor's attention. Both said they are sure the relief bills bringing $90 million in aid will survive and eventually gain the governor's signature.

"All of us are on the same page," he said. "We have to help our state neighbors."

Another top priority among legislators such as Assemblyman Robin L. Schimminger, D-Kenmore, remains reform of the state's economic development practices. Several bills deal with issues such as creating a database of transactions, new oversight authority for the state comptroller, and more oversight of Cuomo's regional council system.

Klein said there has been discussion during the last two meetings. Heastie would not go that far.

"We have no resolution," the speaker said. "I wouldn't say there has been no discussion."

Heastie seemed to underscore the uncertainty of it all when he was asked about his agenda.

"I'm ordering ice cream for today," he said.

Flanagan may have been more optimistic when asked about the overnight disappearance of his stylish goatee.

"This is my end-of-session look," he said while rubbing his clean-shaven chin.

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