Senate Sends Same-Sex Marriage Bill to Floor Vote

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The New York Senate has sent the same-sex marriage bill to the floor for a vote after days of closed-door meetings in legislative overtime.

Senate Majority leader Dean Skelos said in a statement Friday that the Republican-led Senate was "insistent" that changes be made to the original bill to protect religious groups.

"This is a very difficult issue and it will be a vote of conscience for every member of the Senate," Skelos said.

Days ago, Governor Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders announced a framework agreement for a 2 percent property tax cap for local governments and schools, and a renewal of New York City's rent laws. But, by Friday afternoon, the rent laws had expired, leaving tenants temporarily without protections, and a tax cap bill had not emerged, though aides had insisted for at least 24 hours that the bills were being printed.  

Even before lawmakers had seen the tax-cap legislation, they were passing a bill that critics say would defeat the intended purpose of the tax cap. It would permit schools to borrow money to pay for pension costs for workers, one of the fastest growing budget items for districts and local governments.

"This is bad public policy," said Assemblyman Mark Molinaro, a Republican from the Hudson Valley, who condemned the bill on the Assembly floor.

Other deals that lawmakers thought were agreed upon were falling apart. Cuomo and lawmakers had signed off on a bill to comply with the federal health care law approved by President Barack Obama and congress.

Under the new law, states must set up health care exchanges for uninsured individuals and employees of small business to purchase health care plans. But Senate Republicans rejected the bill. Senator Greg Ball, a  conservative leaning Republican, issued a statement urging his colleagues not to vote for what he called a "first-step towards 'Obamacare.'"

Blair Horner, a lobbyist for the American Cancer Society, which advocates for the health care exchanges, says he’s been told simply that there are "concerns within the conference."

“This is the problem when you are negotiating bills completely in secret,” said Horner. “Certainly it wouldn’t be shocking if no deal gets down until all deals get done.”

And by late Friday, no major deals were finished.

Senator Liz Krueger, a Democrat who is in the minority party in the Senate, expressed her irritation as the Senate, after two days, had only met in session for one hour to pass bills.

“There’s a frustration level building,” said Kruger. “By the citizenry and by me as a legislator and my colleagues.”
Protesters on the gay marriage bill were banned from the Senate halls and moved to an outer stair case, but they remained undeterred, signing and shouting for hours.