Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Session is Almost Over - Why Hasn't the MMA Bill Passed Yet?


The 2015 legislative session ends on June 17, which means there are only nine work days left for the Assembly to pass the MMA bill. Yes, there's still time to get it done, but it was't supposed to be this hard. After all, Sheldon Silver's arrest and subsequent abdication of the Speaker throne - and his replacement by MMA supporter Carl Heastie - should have cleared all Culinary Union obstacles and paved the way for the bill's easy passage. That hasn't happened, though. Why not?

Last week the New York Times wrote about Governor Andrew Cuomo's legislative agenda in the waning session, and there was this telling paragraph:
But veterans of Albany’s legislative alchemy are not optimistic that many of the tougher issues will be addressed, particularly with two new leaders still earning the confidence of their colleagues.
The "two new leaders" are Speaker Heastie and Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (who got his new gig pretty abruptly when his predecessor stepped down over corruption charges). Since the MMA bill passed through the Senate months ago, Majority Leader Flanagan doesn't have much relevance to our plight. But Speaker Heastie does, and when it comes to getting the MMA bill passed, it seems he might be too new in his role to get us over the anti-MMA hump that has hindered us in the past.

Speaker Heastie has helped to a certain degree. Under Silver, the April 27 Democratic Conference meeting where the bill was discussed and no decision on the issue was rendered would've meant the end of our chances for the legislative session. But the issue is still alive. And there are more supporters in the Democratic Conference than ever before.

Unfortunately, Speaker Heastie seems unwilling or unable to change the 76-vote requirement that Silver put in place, and when he took over Silver's role, it was hoped that that threshold would be lowered. There is literally no reason to keep that requirement in place except to appease certain Assembly members who are against regulating the sport (or really, just against the UFC).

He also hasn't done much in terms of rustling up support for the bill himself. We have 70 votes; we could conceivably get to 76 if Speaker Heastie picked up the phone and called some of those undecideds. He hasn't. He still could, of course, but the clock is ticking.

It would be unfair to place the blame squarely on Speaker Heastie's shoulders. He's new to his position, and his job came about because Silver was forced to step down. (He's like Daniel Cormier, who didn't dethrone the champ, and only got his shot at the title because champ Jon Jones fought the law and the law won). Since he's "still earning the confidence" of his colleague, Speaker Heastie may simply lack the political wherewithal to get the MMA bill done.

We're still in the game. But Speaker Heastie's refusal to change the 76-vote threshold, and acknowledge that the MMA bill has the support of about three quarters of the total Democrats in the Assembly, is why we're still playing at this late stage.

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