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Albany goes into overtime with marathon voting session expected to last into the weekend

ALBANY – The state Assembly is heading toward legislative overtime as state lawmakers push to wrap up their business for the year.

Close votes on controversial bills highlighted Democratic divisions in both legislative chambers on Friday.

A bill to overhaul the public campaign finance system undermining small donors passed the state Senate – which is expected to finish its business by early Saturday morning – by a single vote ahead of an Assembly vote.

More than 20 moderate Democrats in that chamber voted against legislation to automatically seal most criminal records over time ahead of its expected passage in the Senate.

But some of the biggest news to emerge in the final days of the legislative session concerns what Albany Democrats could not pass this year – including a comprehensive affordable housing deal amid skyrocketing rents.

Thousands of units might have gotten built had the Legislature approved an extension of the 421a tax abatement for real estate developments for projects already underway though the exact number is hard to say, according to Andrew Fine policy director at the housing advocacy group Open New York.

Carl Heastie speaking at a microphone with Al Sharpton and other people standing behind him.
Lev Radin/Pacific Press/Shutterstock

Other ideas like boosting tenant protections and unlocking limits on the legal Floor Aspect Ratio in New York City to allow buildings to pack more units into the five boroughs by allowing taller residential buildings.

“There were a lot of different bills at the end of session that could have produced better, more efficient, and less expensive homes over time, and the Legislature chose to do none of them,” Fine said.

A key reason why was a refusal by Gov. Kathy Hochul to play ball in the final days of the legislative session after suburbanites helped scuttle her own affordable housing push in the budget process, according to state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx).

Andrea Stewart-Cousins speaking with an interesting expression at a press conference in front of a wooden wall.
Hans Pennink

“It was clear that we could not come to an agreement with the governor on this plan. It takes all three parties,” Stewart-Cousins and Heastie said in a joint statement.

Hochul spokeswoman Julie Wood fired back that Democratic lawmakers had many months to demonstrate they were serious about housing.

“Unlike the more than 500 bills the legislature has passed since January, no housing package was ever even introduced, let alone passed, for the Governor’s review,” Wood said.

A bunch of men standing together on a brownstone staircase as Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay speaks at a press conference.
Zach Williams/NY Post
Close up of Kathy Hochul face inside a legal library

Legislators have challenged the governor on other fronts in recent days, including the state Senate rejection of her pick to lead the New York Power Authority.

Both chambers have also passed the “Grieving Families Act” to loosen laws on filing for wrongful death lawsuits after Hochul vetoed the proposal last year.

However, the Assembly and state Senate are hardly on the same page on a few high-profile bills dividing progressives and moderate Democrats.

Here are two examples:

  • The Assembly appears unlikely to vote on legislation to provide low-cost health care to illegal immigrants despite that bill passing the state Senate Thursday night.
  • A proposal to allow New York City to lower speed limits to 20 m.p.h. has also stalled in the lower chamber despite sailing through the state Senate.
  • Legislation to require lead testing for real estate transactions is one example of a bill that has passed the Assembly but not the state Senate as of Friday evening.

More than 250 bills have only passed the Assembly since Monday while nearly 700 have only passed the state Senate as of Friday evening – a number that will narrow significantly before final votes happen in both chambers.

There is nothing unusual about hundreds of bills only passing one chamber or the other though divisions over issues like health care for illegal immigrants highlight how moderates in the Assembly in particular are resisting progressive ideas in the final legislative stretch.

“As always with Albany, new or controversial items take time and there’s not always an appetite to do too much in one session that may rock certain legislators’ boats,” an Albany insider told The Post on Friday.

Photo of the state Capitol from outside with a large statue of Phil Sheridan on a horse in foreground.
Getty Images

Democratic lawmakers and Hochul did agree on a litany of progressive ideas in the budget process such as banning natural gas for future residential buildings, expanding rental assistance for public housing residents, and expanding green energy programs – alongside record-high funding for public schools.

Progressives also grit their teeth while Hochul and moderates push through changes to state bail laws and a proposal to allow more charter schools in New York City.

But the latest state budget in a decade drained the political oxygen from the hallways of power in Albany in the final month of the session after an eventful year that also included a fight between Hochul and state Senate Democrats who ultimately made her the first governor to ever have a judicial pick rejected.

The collapse of a prospective housing deal this week fueled expectations that the final days of the session might be relatively uneventful.

“They will do a lot of bills between now and the end of the week, but it may be a session that ends more with a whimper than a bang,” Blair Horner, executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group told The Post on Thursday.