ITHACA, N.Y. — The clock is ticking in Albany as lawmakers are in the last two weeks of the legislative session considering bills that would extend driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, close religious exemptions on vaccines, set new climate and energy goals and legalize recreational marijuana.
Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton (125th Assembly District) & Senator Tom O’Mara (58th Senate District)
The Assembly is gearing up to pass a controversial bill this week that would extend the availability of driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants. The measure is expected to easily pass through the Assembly along party lines, but its fate is less certain in the Senate. Republicans, including Senator Tom O’Mara, vehemently oppose the legislation citing concerns over safety and voter fraud.
“It is a radical, irresponsible, and reckless agenda. I warned before this new legislative session even started that this state would be turned upside down at breakneck speed,” O’Mara wrote in a press release last week.
Several key Democrats who flipped previously Long Island and upstate Republican seats in the Senate will be the deciding factor over whether the bill makes it to the governor’s desk.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is also pushing for legislation to legalize recreational marijuana before the end of the session, though he doubts the Senate will act. Assemblywoman Barabara Lifton is a co-sponsor on the newly revised bill that would do so.
A bill that would end religious exemptions on vaccines appears to have lost momentum in the Assembly. About a week ago, Lifton told The Ithaca Voice she was leaning toward supporting the measure. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins said last month that she has the votes for the bill ready in her chamber, but it hasn’t been scheduled for a vote there either. O’Mara hasn’t returned a request for comment on the legislation.
Rep. Tom Reed (23rd Congressional District)
Last week the House passed the Dream Act, which would allow a pathway to citizenship for immigrant children brought to the U.S. illegally. Rep. Tom Reed voted against the legislation which did pass 237-187. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said his chamber will “probably not” bring the bill up for a vote.
Reed also appeared on CNN to discuss President Trump’s threat to impose tariffs on Mexico to coerce the country to impose more restrictions to stem the flow of migrants coming north to the U.S. border. He was asked whether he supported tariffs as a tool to curb immigration.
“I think when you talk about immigration, you talk about unfair trade practices you’ve got to deploy every piece of leverage that you possibly can against a country and say your behavior has got to change,” Reed said.
He also added he would rather the House focus on passing the United State-Mexico-Canada agreement, the replacement for NAFTA before July 9.
A bipartisan retirement savings bill championed by Reed in the House is facing opposition by a few Republicans in the Senate, who are blocking the measure from moving forward. Last month the House passed the legislation 417-3, but only after Republicans dropped a provision allowing individuals to use 529 education savings funds to expense for private and religious schools.
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand & U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer
Senator Gillibrand sent a letter to New York state lawmakers last week announcing her support of the Climate and Community Protection Act — a hefty piece of legislation that would set aggressive goals around carbon emissions and renewable energy for the state’s energy sector.
“Completing negotiations to improve the Climate and Community Protection Act and enact it into law will put New York State on the path to eliminating carbon emissions while creating thousands of good paying jobs in every corner of our state,” Gillibrand writes in the letter. “New York can be a model for the nation, and there is no time to waste any if we are going to prevent the worst impacts of climate change. It is my sincere hope that New York State will not lose the opportunity to lead by example.”
The CCPA has been the subject of negotiations between state legislative leadership and Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The governor has resisted calls to pass the climate legislation before the end of the legislative session on June 19. Gillibrand joins other national lawmakers including Senator Chuck Schumer and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez in supporting the measure. Assemblywoman Lifton is a leading cosponsor of the legislation.