The first is the one that has people talking across the nation - the legalization of same-sex marriage. Like many others, I watched the Senate proceedings leading up to the passage of the bill. Senator Duane was quite right to say that there were no villains in the chamber. I certainly do not consider Senator Marcellino, who represents me, to be one - though I respectfully disagree with his vote. Nor is Senator Díaz a villain; he was the only Democrat to oppose the bill, and he gave a rambling speech in explanation of that vote. He ended up sparring with the Lieutenant Governor over his being cut off. I was particularly impressed with Senator Grisanti's remarks. He truly struggled with his decision, and I commend him for his deep consideration as much as his affirmative vote. I'm also proud of Senate Majority Leader Skelos for bringing the bill to a vote on the floor; he could have stopped the bill, but he chose to allow the people's representatives to have their say.
I have a question for those who think that same-sex marriage is a bad idea, or that it diminishes opposite-sex marriages in any way whatsoever - what does the inside of your small intestine look like? I have heard plenty of gloom and doom on this today. Some people would have you believe that the Earth is now graced by a crater in the exact shape of New York State - look no further than the comments on this Patch story. I find their objections quite humorous, for they ring hollow. If you can explain how any citizen of this state is harmed by the Marriage Equality Act, please do so; comments are open and will not be deleted unless they are bona fide spam.
Earlier in the evening, the Legislature passed an omnibus bill that includes a stringent cap on property tax hikes for municipalities and school districts in this state. The bill isn't perfect - the cap provisions exclude some pension increase costs, and it extends the rent control "emergency" that has existed for only seventy years or so. But those are more than palatable concessions. Given that pensions are regulated by statute (not collectively bargained, and thus beyond direct municipal control), it seems fair not to hold local governments and school districts hostage to potential increases in fund contributions. And the rent control...well, that was pretty much the price of buying off Sheldon Silver.
Last month, when the framework of a deal was put in place, NYSUT and NYSSBA* screamed bloody murder. That's a clear sign as can be that the Governor's proposal on this matter was the right course for our state. The big thing about this new law is that it gives voters meaningful choice on their school district votes. Here in Northport, it was made clear that whether a budget had passed or not, taxes would go up. Now, without an affirmative vote (whether at the 50 or 60 percent threshold, depending on the size of the hike), the tax levy remains flat. There are already threats; the Governor is set to veto a bill that could undermine the cap. I am, however, hopeful that this new legislation can start us on the path toward cost containment in the public sector. This job is by no means done - meaningful mandate relief has to be next - but the property tax cap is a good step in the right direction.
* Respectively, New York State United Teachers and the New York State School Boards Association.