Politics As It Happens: “Hostile” amendment overruled as Senate debates OPWDD cut during passage of Aid to Localities budget bill

The Senate debate on the Aid to Localities budget bill (Senate 2603 E) concluded with a vote passing the measure by 51-9 at about 3:30 am today.  The bill, the biggest of the budget bills, contains funding for many agencies and areas including OPWDD voluntary agencies which were cut by 4.5%.  The Governor had proposed a 6% reduction.

A “hostile amendment” was put forward by Queens Democratic Senator Tony Avella to fully restore the cut. That amendment was one of two hostile amendments advanced during the Aid to Localities debate.  Both were ruled out of order by Republican Senator Joe Griffo, acting as the Chair on behalf of Majority Leader Dean Skelos.  That ruling can be overruled by a majority vote of Senators present.  Twenty six members, all from the Minority, voted to overrule but fell short of the 30 votes required.

Nonetheless, there was ample opportunity to for Senators to speak to the issue which was clearly a dominant, if not the dominant theme during the floor debate.  Among many Senators from both parties speaking against the cut were Senators Avella, Tkaczyk, Carlucci, Krueger, Kennedy, Sanders, Gipson, Rivera, Dilan, Maziarz, Golden, Peralta, Parker and others.  Senators spoke about people with developmental disabilities; families of people with developmental disabilities in their districts; the lessons of Willowbrook; group homes; the impact of cuts on direct care staffing; and, the controversial funding methodology which had been the subject of news reports from almost two years and is the basis for the cut.  Also discussed was budget language included to deal with the cut over the next few months.  Some Senators called on the Governor to add additional funding prior to the close of the legislative session.

The primary aim of the effort to enact a budget amendment was to make certain that the issue of the enormous funding reduction to OPWDD maintains an absolutely essential high profile.  In the Senate, that goal appears to have been accomplished for now.

To see a video of this session go to: http://www.nysenate.gov/sessions/2013  Click the session for March 27th.

The Assembly will consider the Aid to Localities budget when it reconvenes tomorrow at 10:30 am.  Like the Senate, it is expected that a hostile amendment will be introduced by the Minority Party to fully restore the cut.   In the Assembly, the Minority is comprised by Republicans.

You can watch the Assembly proceedings at http://assembly.state.ny.us/av/