Marriage-Equality Bill Stalls in the Face of Rent Regulation and Property Tax Negotiations

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Photo: AP

All day, advocates on both sides of the same-sex-marriage debate have been chanting, singing, and stomping about the halls of the state house in Albany, hoping to have their voices heard by state senators currently considering the controversial issue. Unfortunately for them, it looks like another day will go by without resolution. Cuomo's office reportedly spent the weekend negotiating concessions to fence-sitting Republican senators who said they feared that religious groups who oppose the issue weren't sufficiently protected. But after the Republicans caucused this morning it didn't appear that any movement was impending. The Senate convened and began with some routine business, including honoring the state's oldest teacher. During a break, Cuomo met with Republican senators Kemp Hannon of Queens, Steve Saland of Poughkeepsie, and Andrew Lanza of Staten Island, where the issue was reportedly discussed. Lanza's and Saland's votes are considered in play, as are the votes of Greg Ball of Long Island and Mark Grisanti of Buffalo. When asked by the Observer's Azi Paybarah whether Lanza saw a vote on marriage equality today, he answered "no."

Publicly, the bill is currently one vote shy of passage. Any Republican who will want to join already-announced GOP supporters Roy McDonald and Jim Alessi will want to make sure he isn't viewed as the one vote that turns it into law, which could invite reprisal from conservative groups. One of the delicate negotiations currently under way is likely over whether supporters can find more than one additional vote for the measure, and to whom those votes might belong.

But that's not the only hurdle facing the bill. After his meeting with the Republican senators, Cuomo huddled with Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to tackle a pair of other contentious issues: rent-regulation renewal and a proposed property tax cap. (Silver said afterwards that they did not discuss marriage equality because that "is not an Assembly issue." They've passed a bill four times now.) The state's rent regulations, which were extended last week until midnight tonight, are poised to expire, and despite all the screaming in the hallways of the state house, that seems to be the issue that's going to be addressed first. Cuomo's already introducing an extender, but the assembly speaker says he's looking at something "longer than that." Silver said that during his meeting with Skelos and the governor "no agreement was reached." Negotiations could go on into the night.

Silver also let slip that he, like the public, hasn't seen any of the proposed alterations to the marriage-equality bill that are being hashed out in the Senate, which means that the changes still may not be final. At the very least, it means that no Senate vote is going forward in the immediate future, as Silver will want to okay the wording, too. While he was reluctant to predict how long Governor Cuomo would hold the legislature up in Albany after the session expires today, Silver did admit that he expects to come to work tomorrow. Skelos, for his part, says he expects to be at work for "a few more days." Intel hears that Cuomo's people are talking about a vote on marriage equality closer to Wednesday or even later in the week.