New Yorkers can expect to see the job evaluations of their children’s teachers as lawmakers rush toward the end of their session in Albany, but can just about forget about any increase in the minimum wage or a moratorium on controversial natural gas-drilling process.
Facing final hurdles are bills that would restrict teacher evaluations to parents, not the general public; creating a safer system for disabled youths in state facilities, a crackdown on recorded telemarketing calls, more prevention and reporting power to combat cyber bullying, and better protections for domestic violence victims.
There’s little chance of success for some other big items, including an Assembly proposal to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $8.25 an hour, or establish a moratorium on hydrofracking, or fracking, the process of blasting chemical-laden water into the earth to crack shale formations and release natural gas.
Then there are some wild cards, bills pushed harder by one house than the other which could go either way, often decided as much on mood these last long days as on merits. They include banning youths under 17 years old from tanning salons and making public possession of small amounts of marijuana a simple violation instead of a misdemeanor.
“I think we’ve done a lot of things, take a look at the last two years, or 18 months,” said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. “We’ve done a tremendous amount.”
Albany is a flurry of closed-door meetings between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders to make deals, followed by closed-door conferences among the majority parties in the Senate and Assembly to approve the compromises. That’s followed by frantic bill drafting and quick committee reviews to rush the bills to approval before the June 21 end of session.
Among the measures most likely to become law are:
—A protection for teachers that would keep their evaluations from public and media view, but available to parents of children the teacher instructs. It is part of a landmark teacher evaluation law passed earlier this year as a high priority for Cuomo who said it will improve schools.
—A measure to improve the treatment of 1 million disabled New Yorkers under care by six state agencies and hundreds of contractors who operate institutions, group homes and day programs. It would establish a new state agency with a prosecutor and inspector general, complaint hotline and central registries of incidents and abusive workers to help address what the administration described as more than 10,000 annual abuse complaints. Silver is still pushing for independent oversight from the executive branch.
—A crackdown on unsolicited telemarketing calls by restricting prerecorded sales pitches. The agreement would also require greater registration requirements of companies to reduce aggressive calling.
—A new felony for repeat misdemeanor convictions in domestic violence cases as well as a chance for judges to set higher bail to protect victims. Cuomo said Tuesday that the law will assure “innocent victims no longer have to live in fear of harm or continued abuse.”
—A cyber bullying crackdown effort to help schools better prevent and investigate harassment, taunting and worse by electronic messages and social media.
—A deal to establish tighter online oversight of prescription drugs to help curb the black market fueled by painkiller addictions and doctor shopping.
The Senate’s Republican majority continues to refuse to raise the minimum wage pushed by Democrats, while the Assembly’s Democratic majority refuses to accept the Republican proposal to provide tax cuts to businesses to spur job growth.
In addition, a bill environmentalists seek to prohibit fracking in upstate areas to extract natural gas from shale is getting little interest in closed-door deal making. A period of studying reports and public comments continues instead.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.