Gridlock consumes Senate as legislative session grinds to a halt

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By Michael Lieberman, Association VP of Governmental Affairs

The state legislative session came to an end last week, with a majority of the state’s major legislative issues unresolved. The session was marked by partisan gridlock in the Senate, especially in the final weeks, after the makeup of the chamber became split evenly along conference lines.

In April, the eight-member Independent Democratic Conference rejoined the mainstream Democratic Party, and Democrats picked up two seats in special elections. This gave Democrats a numerical majority with 32 seats. Sen. Simcha Felder of Brooklyn, who conferences with the Republicans, decided to remain with the Republicans through the end of session to avoid the turmoil and likely legal battles that would ensue if he were to switch sides. Then, Sen. Tom Croci, a Republican from Long Island, was recalled for active duty in the Navy and forced to abruptly leave Albany. This resulted in an evenly-divided chamber, with 31 Democrats and 31 Republicans, and little room to advance legislation.

Even lawmakers and legislative leaders said this session was remarkable for the amount of unfinished business.

Despite the dysfunction in the upper chamber, the New York Credit Union Association worked hard to advance a pro-credit union and pro-consumer agenda at the state level.

In particular, the Association and credit union advocates were able to block legislation that would have expanded the powers of check cashers, as well as legislation that would have greatly increased the difficulty and complexity of collecting consumer debt. Progress was also made regarding mortgage foreclosure reform, with support gained in both houses for legislation that would simplify the process of foreclosing on a vacant or abandoned property.

The credit union movement was certainly heard in Albany during the Association’s State Governmental Affairs Conference in April, when more than 125 credit union representatives took to the Capitol to advocate for credit union interests. The advocates helped to successfully raise awareness among lawmakers about the credit union difference.

Ultimately, the fate of the Senate will be determined in the November elections. There are ten Senate seats that are considered to be in play in November, only two of which are held by Democrats. Given the “blue wave” of Democratic enthusiasm that is expected in New York, Democrats are generally viewed as having a distinct advantage with respect to taking control of the Senate. However, in politics, as in life, anything can happen.

Either way, credit unions have fostered strong relationships on both sides of the aisle, and will be well-positioned regardless of who takes the reigns in November.

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