One-party rule in the state Legislature means that it falls to Democrats to tie up a lot of legislative loose ends in 2019. Sports betting is just one issue that was left unresolved in the 2018 legislative session. There is also the state DREAM Act, voting reforms, closing the LLC loophole and speed cameras – all issues that were debated in 2018 and failed to pass in the state Senate. While action might come sooner rather than later for some of these issues, action on any or all of them could have profound effects on the state. Here’s where things stand on these issues and what could happen in the upcoming year.
✓ State DREAM Act
This could be the year that immigration advocates finally get the state DREAM Act passed. In contrast to a federal bill known by the same name, the state bill would allow immigrants in New York who entered the country illegally to pay in-state tuition at public universities and ensure that they are eligible for state financial aid programs. The Assembly has passed the bill before and Cuomo signaled that he would sign it, but Republican control of the state Senate in recent years stalled progress on the issue. Democrats are hopeful that they can pass a bill in 2019.
✓ Sports betting
With some states legalizing sports betting, state lawmakers are trying to get New York in on the action. “In New York, sports betting is on its back with its feet and arms sticking in the air,” Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow told The Associated Press in November. Among the sticking points are the tax rate on sports betting and whether legalizing mobile betting for daily fantasy sports would require a constitutional amendment. A 2013 state law authorized sports gambling at four commercial casinos in upstate New York, but the state Gaming Commission still has to finish crafting rules for how sports betting would work now that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in May that states could authorize it. Legalizing mobile sports betting may require a new state law, although there’s some dispute over that point. Hopes are high that the state Legislature will succeed where it failed in the past. At this point, it remains to be seen how high a priority the issue is for lawmakers.
✓ Voting reforms
Incoming state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins has said voting reforms are on the table next year. In particular, she wants to see early voting happen by the 2020 elections. Other changes like automatic voter registration and same-day registration are also in the mix. “We don’t have so many things that we could have to make voting easier,” she told WAMC. “Those kinds of reforms will be among the very first.” Like many other issues, bills aimed at reforming voting were bottled up by the GOP majority in the state Senate. With Democrats now in control of the chamber, a new coalition of advocacy groups has said the time has come to transform New York from being one of the most restrictive states for voting to one of the most progressive. “Early 2019 enactment of these critical, foundational reforms that would change the way Albany operates can and should be the first of many sizable victories for the people of New York under new leadership,” reads a Nov. 26 letter from the Fair Elections for New York coalition to Cuomo and state legislators.
✓ LLC loophole
Now that state legislators appear to be getting a pay raise, pressure is increasing to have them close the LLC loophole. This allows people to circumvent campaign contribution limits by donating as much as $65,100 each election cycle by channeling it through limited liability corporations. Cuomo and other Democrats have said for years that they want to close the loophole in principle, but now they have to put their money where their mouth is. “Supposedly legislators and the governor agree on closing the LLC loophole,” wrote The Buffalo News editorial board. “How that happens is the question.”
✓ Speed cameras
It took a legislative sleight of hand to keep speed cameras on near New York City schools this year. An executive order issued by Cuomo, however, did not solve the problem – it merely punted the issue to next year. But with Democrats now in control of the state Legislature, proponents of speed cameras are optimistic that they can can pass legislation at the state level that would renew the authorization of cameras outside more than 100 schools. The marginalization of state Sen. Simcha Felder and the defeat of outgoing state Sen. Martin Golden also removes two antagonists of speed cameras from the legislative equation. Proponents are not only hoping to renew the program but also expand it. “I don’t get a sense that there is strong opposition, either in the city at this point, or certainly outside the city,” said Tom DeVito, director of advocacy at Transportation Alternatives. “We expect the legislation to move forward expanding and extending the speed camera program.”