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NY Lawmakers Approve Wide-Ranging Legislation

NY state capitol

NY Lawmakers Approve Wide-Ranging Legislation [Photo: Wally Gobetz, flickr]

New York lawmakers approved legislation Thursday night to continue rent controls in New York City and a statewide property tax cap while providing rebates to homeowners over four years.
The Senate voted 47-12 for the 81-page bill, which also contains new provisions on state education curriculum and testing. Republican Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said those were meant to address concerns of parents and students, including a Regents review of the Common Core curriculum and less secrecy on testing.
The Assembly followed, voting 122-13 shortly before midnight.
"I don't believe we lost much ground," said Assemblyman Nick Perry, a Brooklyn Democrat. He and other city lawmakers said there was a lot of anxiety among tenants in their districts over the possible loss of rent protections.
The legislation, which arrived at lawmakers' desks and computers Thursday evening, detailed the three-way agreement reached Tuesday among their chambers' respective leaders and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
"The property tax rebate is a signature issue for our conference," Flanagan said earlier Thursday. The total value from the rebate and tax freeze is $3.1 billion over four years, he said.
Tax rebate checks will be statewide the first year and income-based the next three years, with a top income limit of $275,000. Rebates the first year are $130 in New York City suburbs and $185 on Long Island and upstate, and a percentage of the existing STAR program tax savings after that based on a graduated income scale, according to an Assembly analysis.
For rent-regulated New York City apartments, with more than two million tenants, Democratic Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said the legislation will extend controls for four more years. It will raise the threshold for vacancy decontrols and add indexing through the rent guidelines board, he said.
"You could always want better, but we have to realize ... this is a bi-cameral legislature, and the Republicans in the Senate have their own vision of what they'd like to see," Heastie said.  "And you do the best you can and try to compromise."
For the many downstate legislators in Heastie's majority Democratic conference, continuing rent controls that actually expired this week were a key issue.
The bill also contains a four-year extension of tax breaks for city residential developers who provide some affordable housing in the apartments and condominiums they build in the city. However, it also requires an agreement within six months between real estate and labor interests to set construction wages, Heastie and Cuomo said.
On education, Flanagan said many people have requested a review of the Common Core curriculum, and the Regents will look at things like the age appropriateness of exams. "We made changes that allow for the release of tests, reduces field testing if not eliminates it, (and) allows teachers to not only see the exam but talk about the exam," he said.