The state budget is expected to pass within the next month, but lawmakers at the state Capitol are diving into a range of complicated and emotional issues ranging from gun control to making it easier for the survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file lawsuits.
"These are, in some cases, very big issues that have multiple sides, and they're issues that deserve a discussion," said Sen. Robert Ortt (R - North Tonawanda). "But I don't know if the budget is the right place to have that discussion, and I don't know if the public benefits."
On Wednesday, Senate Democrats sought to raise the gun control issue on the floor of the chamber, proposing a series of hostile amendments to other bills that were voted down on procedural grounds. Senate Republicans, meanwhile, plan to push for school safety funding in the budget.
"I think we have to look at our schools and I think everything should be on the table, and obviously, people need resources to make schools safer," said Senate Minority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D).
Advocates for the Child Victims Act once again pressed their argument for the bill, emboldened by Governor Andrew Cuomo including the proposal in his budget plan. The bill would extend the statute of limitations for sex abuse and assault survivors to file lawsuits. It has languished in the Senate, however.
"This year, we have an opportunity to see finally where the Republican Senate stands on the Child Victims Act," said Sen. Brad Hoylman (D - Manhattan).
Packaging policy in a fiscal spending plan is not new this year, but it's increasingly frustrating lawmakers, especially Republicans, as the state constitution gives Cuomo a wide degree of power over the budget-making process.
"He does have leverage, but I think the legislature has to start pushing back, even on some of the bills that have been vetoed by the governor," said Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb (R). "Not once since I've been here have we tried to override one of the governor's vetoes."
Lawmakers expect to pass the budget by March 29, several days before the start of the new fiscal year.