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Deal in works to rename Tappan Zee the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge

ALBANY – Get ready to cross the Hudson river over the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo bridge, formerly known as the Tappan Zee.

That is one of the deals at hand in a special legislative session this week, according to Democrats who control the Assembly.

Another deal is an extension for counties to continue imposing additional sales tax levies on consumers for an additional three years, according to Assemblyman Sean Ryan, a Buffalo Democrat.

Another  deal previously approved by both houses provides assistance for homeowners affected by this year's flooding along Lake Ontario communities will now have Cuomo's blessing. It will total about $55 million.

It will provide relief to homeowners, businesses, farmers and owners of multiple dwellings. Those covered can apply for state grants at various levels of between $20,000 to $50,000, according to legislation the Assembly  approved early this morning.

The bill sets conditions on owners of second homes. It states that owners of non-primary residences shall be eligible for financial help if they had gross incomes under $275,000 in 2016. The measure also provides $10 million to localities in four counties that sustained flood damage: Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Allegany and Monroe.

"It's a good outcome for all New Yorkers and certainly helps Erie County maintain its fiscal stability,'' Ryan said of the deal that he said includes the sales tax provisions needed to balance budgets of counties across the state.

It all needs final passage of the Senate Thursday, and Senate officials initially threw cold water on Assembly Democrats' claims of final agreements.

On sales tax extensions, counties will continue to have the ability to set higher sales tax rates. Those additional levies are worth $1.9 billion across the state, and $278 million in Erie County.  Counties had been threatening service cuts and higher property taxes if lawmakers and Cuomo failed to strike a deal on the sales tax extension authorization.

Officially, the lawmakers returned to Albany to provide a temporary extension of a lapsing law that gives the mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, control of his city’s schools.

Other items crept up, though.

The governor did get an item personally close to him: the ability to re-name the Tappan Zee Bridge after his late father. Mario Cuomo, when he was governor, had re-named the bridge to honor former Gov. Malcolm Wilson.

To get his bridge name change, Cuomo offered up some teaser ideas to legislators. He offered to name a state park in Manhattan after a retiring Democratic Assemblyman and parts of a state highway after an 88-year-old Republican senator. It all made it into one big, 72-page bill.

On a more limited scope, Mohawk Valley lawmakers were pressing for a bailout deal for a financially ailing harness track that is increasingly unable to compete with casino gambling in the region. That measure made it into the final bill passed this morning by the Assembly and awaits approval by the Senate today.

Hours later, another New York City issue arose: additional speed cameras located near schools.

Legally deemed an “extraordinary session,’’ most of Wednesday was anything but that. Legislators grumbled about being asked, once again, to sit around awaiting talks in which most were not directly involved. Staff grumbled that the issues could have been easily resolved during the regular session that ended last Wednesday. And some lobbyists grumbled that they had to be at the Capitol just to play a kind of what-if defense in the event some issue dear to one of their clients suddenly surfaced.

 

For the governor, the bumpy session’s end could present a challenge to his portrayal of 2017 as his best session since taking office in 2011. The state budget this year, adopted nine days after the fiscal year start in April, was his latest. And this week, he needed to use the constitutional powers reserved for governors to call a special session to get lawmakers to return to Albany to consider a package of measures that mostly extend laws already on the books for a decade or more.

 

Among the other unrelated items crammed into the measure is authorization for state purchases of forest preserve lands in the Adirondack and Catskill parks.

Some lawmakers were unimpressed.

"Today's extraordinary session produced nothing to celebrate. There is no victory in completing work that should have been done weeks ago. No one deserves praise for passing bills in the middle of the night out of public view,''  said this morning after the Assembly's early morning passage of the single bill.

Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb lamented that the special session ignored steps to try to deal with high-visibility corruption cases that have hit the Capitol, such as restoring oversight powers to the state comptroller over economic development spending.

The most immediate thing Republicans and Democrats could agree on was no one wanted to be in Albany another day.

“Hopefully no,’’ Senate Independent Democratic Conference leader Jeff Klein said when asked about the possibility of returning again Thursday. For the senator, that goal did not work out so well, as the Senate is expected back today about mid-day, officials said late Wednesday.

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