Albany Agenda

High-profile bills are languishing in the Assembly

The state Senate has passed several bills this year that haven’t gotten the OK from the lower chamber.

State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins has bills waiting in the Assembly that her chamber has passed.

State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins has bills waiting in the Assembly that her chamber has passed. NYS Senate Media Services

On a number of key recent bills, the state Senate and Assembly can’t get on the same page as the legislative session comes to an end.

State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins told reporters in May that she and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie have been able to work together on passing legislation and finding compromises to push bills over the finish line.

“It’s certainly not like we don’t find ways to talk together and make sure that good law happens,” Stewart-Cousins said.

She was responding to a question about why it was unclear if a package of sexual assault bills would pass the Assembly given the Democratic supermajority.

For example, the NY HEAT Act, passed in successive years by the state Senate, has yet to secure support in the Assembly after dying in the lower chamber last year.

The bill would cap utility bills for lower-income New Yorkers at 6% of their annual income and eliminate a subsidy for utility companies that incentivize new gas hookups. Climate activists have pushed for the bill because it also would bring the state closer to achieving the goals outlined in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. It was left out of budget negotiations this year by the Assembly, amid intense pushback from the natural gas industry.

More recently, a bill that would allow past sexual offenses to be used as evidence in sex crimes cases is hitting a wall in the Assembly. Introduced after disgraced film producer Harvey Weinsten’s 2020 rape conviction was overturned, the bill passed in the state Senate on Tuesday. Assembly members thought the scope of the bill was too wide and legal professionals also expressed concerns.

Other bills like the Climate Superfund Act, which would make fossil fuel companies contribute to funding for climate change necessitated infrastructure, or the Fashion Workers Act, which would expand workplace protections for models and regulate management companies, add to a list of bills that the Assembly has chosen to not take up after being approved by their Senate colleagues.

But some in the Assembly pushed back on the idea that the chamber doesn’t act on state Senate bills, adding that there are some bills the state Senate doesn’t pick up as well.

“We have more than 100 members and a very rigorous committee process,” said Assembly majority spokesperson Mike Whyland. “We are not going to apologize for being a deliberative house where members and staff thoroughly review bills and allow all members to express their opinions to Assembly leadership.”

State Senate majority spokesperson Mike Murphy said as far as he was concerned, the two chambers work together well.

However, with just days left in the session, a lack of collaboration could leave some bills as unfinished business when June 6 and the end of the session rolls around.