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One-Party Rule in Albany: A Checklist

Here’s what Democrats say they want to get done if they win the State Senate for the first time since the sixties. (If they don’t, these go back on ice.)

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ROCKEFELLER DRUG LAWS
They’d like to scale back the state’s mandatory sentencing for drug crimes, arguing that they’re unfair and target minorities. They’d reduce sentences for nonviolent, low-level offenders and expand judges’ discretion to order treatment instead of jail.

Lefty score: 2
Republicans voted for a slight reduction in mandatory sentences four years ago. Polls show support for changes like judicial discretion.

Over whose dead body:
Removing legislative oversight of sentencing could lead to “wildly divergent” penalties, says the New York City special narcotics prosecutor, Bridget Brennan. She also warns that shorter sentences could drag back down once-ravaged neighborhoods.



GAY MARRIAGE
Despite reservations from some socially conservative members, Democrats say they will probably vote to legalize gay marriage. The Assembly already approved same-sex unions, and Governor Paterson is a supporter.

Lefty score: 4
New York would be the fourth gay-nuptials state but the first to approve it legislatively.

Over whose dead body:
Bronx senator Ruben Diaz Sr., a Pentecostal pastor and Democrat, has declared war on this bill. “My position is not negotiable,” he says. “The game’s not over until it’s over.” The Dems’ fragile hold on the leadership, if they win, means that Diaz has leverage.



ABORTION
They’d establish the fundamental right of a woman to terminate her pregnancy prior to fetal viability and in later stages if the woman’s health is at risk.

Lefty score: 3
It’s not surprising, exactly. But Democrats say they only want to ensure that abortion remains legal in New York should the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade.

Over whose dead body:
Cardinal Edward Egan, whose officials are warning that Catholic hospitals and social-service agencies would be vulnerable to discrimination lawsuits. “It’s a radical bill. If the Democrats overreach with this, it will be at their own peril,” says Dennis Poust, a spokesman for the New York State Catholic Conference.



CAMPAIGN FINANCE
They want to substantially lower political-contribution limits and close loopholes that allow donors to funnel money through limited-liability companies. Last year, Spitzer failed to cut a deal with Republicans that would have lowered the contribution limit for statewide candidates to $15,000 from $55,800. They’d revive Spitzer’s plan.

Lefty score: 2
New York has one of the loosest campaign-finance systems in the nation.

Over whose dead body:
Whatever Senate Republicans are left won’t give up their struggle against this bill. The free flow of LLC money, especially from real-estate developers like Leonard Litwin, has been their lifeblood.



PAID FAMILY LEAVE
They want paid leave for employees tending to a sick family member or caring for a newborn. A leading proposal would provide about three months of $170-a-week leave and would be paid for with a small payroll deduction.

Lefty score: 3
Organized labor is eager for paid leave, which has been enacted in only three other states. The recession makes it a tougher sell than usual.

Over whose dead body:
The bill would increase absenteeism, says the state president of the Business Council, Kenneth Adams. “In a horrible economy, with small businesses struggling to survive, the last thing they need is a new, costly mandate from Albany,” he says.

Have good intel? Send tips to intel@nymag.com.


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