Talks Over Some New York State Bills Stretch Into New Year

A minimum-wage bill for ‘carwasheros’ and the creation of a special high school in Syracuse are among the stalled measures

Jimmy VielkindDec. 29, 2019 7:00 pm ET
The fate of 11 bills that the New York state Legislature passed earlier this year isn’t likely to be decided until 2020, as Gov. Andrew Cuomo has delayed signing them into law over a variety of concerns, a gubernatorial aide said.

The measures in question run the gamut, from authorization to establish a special high school in Syracuse to a bill that would extend minimum wage requirements to workers at carwashes, known as carwasheros, who are now exempt because they receive tips.

As of Friday, the Democratic governor had signed 746 bills and vetoed 165 measures, plus a number of budget items. After bills are approved by both the state Senate and Assembly, they are held in the Legislature until Mr. Cuomo requests them. People involved with the final 11 bills said they are in discussions with Mr. Cuomo’s aides on how to assuage his concerns.

A bill cannot be amended after it is passed. Lawmakers are instead crafting “chapter amendments,” which are bills that instantly amend other bills. Some chapter amendments came about as a result of minor errors during late-night drafting sessions. Chapter amendments crafted at year’s end are usually more substantive.

This year, 935 bills passed both the Democratic-controlled state Assembly and Senate—only the second time since at least 1995 that the number has topped 900, according to an analysis by the New York Public Interest Research Group. A senior adviser to the governor, Rich Azzopardi, said the percentage of vetoes was roughly in line with the past five years and that a record number of chapter amendments has already been agreed upon.

Normally Mr. Cuomo has 10 days (excluding Sundays) to sign or veto legislation that hits his desk, and bills become law if he takes no action within that window. But the rules changed after Dec. 26. That is 10 days before the Legislature formally ends its session. Mr. Cuomo now has 30 days to consider the bills, excluding Sundays, and they are pocket vetoed if he takes no formal action during that period.

“We’re talking to the governor’s office, we’re engaged with the advocacy groups and unions to figure it out,” state Sen. Jessica Ramos said of the carwashero bill.

Ms. Ramos, a Democrat from Queens, said she was upset that the governor vetoed a bill she sponsored that would have legalized e-scooter rentals as well as electric bikes that are popular with delivery workers, many of whom are immigrants.

Mr. Cuomo vetoed the measure on the day after Christmas, saying it contained inadequate safety protections, including a requirement that riders wear helmets. Mr. Cuomo’s other recent vetoes included legislation that would have established an independent office to advocate for utility consumers and a bill that would have let federal judges, regardless of where they sit, officiate weddings in New York.

Mr. Cuomo explained he vetoed the latter measure because some of the judges were appointed by President Trump, who the governor said “does not embody who we are as New Yorkers.” A White House spokesman didn’t respond to a request for comment.

QUINN FOR MAYOR? Former New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has been calling longtime allies to gauge support for a 2021 mayoral bid, a person who received one of the calls this month said.

Ms. Quinn, a Democrat, ran for mayor in 2013 but lost in a crowded primary to current Mayor Bill de Blasio. Ms. Quinn serves as vice chair of the New York State Democratic Committee and is working as chief executive of Win, an organization that operates homeless shelters in New York City.

In an interview, Ms. Quinn didn’t deny that she was making calls but said she is focused on her work at Win.

Potential and declared mayoral candidates include current City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Comptroller Scott Stringer, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, nonprofit executive Dianne Morales, contractor Joycelyn Taylor and Loree Sutton, the former head of New York City’s Department of Veterans’ Services.