Capitol Watch: Hate crime response, nuclear bailout scrutiny
By DAVID KLEPPER, Associated Press
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — In this week’s New York state government news, lawmakers plan to discuss the state’s response to what they say is a rise in hate crimes and take a close look at plans to bail out three aging nuclear plants.
Here’s what’s coming up in the week ahead:
FIGHTING HATE CRIMES
Lawmakers plan to consider new proposals to increase penalties for desecration of a grave or graffiti on mosques, synagogues or churches in response to acts of vandalism reported around the nation.
Sen. Jeff Klein, a Bronx Democrat and the leader of the Independent Democrats, says his group is also proposing to make graffiti a hate crime when it targets a person’s race, religion or other personal characteristics.
“This is a country built on the principles of freedom and tolerance, where individuals are welcome to worship freely,” Klein said. “As the grandson of Holocaust survivors, to see this occur in America in 2017 is deeply disturbing and we must send a clear message to anyone who believes that they could strike fear into any religious group: Hate will not be tolerated in New York State.”
Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced a special police task force to investigate hate crimes and is calling for $25 million to help religious schools step up their security.
Lawmakers will scrutinize the state’s plan to bail out three upstate nuclear plants, a policy that could cost ratepayers nearly $8 billion over the next 12 years.
Cuomo’s administration negotiated the deal, which is intended to ensure the aging plants continue to operate as the state ramps up its use of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. The Democrat’s top energy officials argue that if plants were allowed to close they would likely be replaced by power plants to generate energy from fossil fuels.
The bailout also protects hundreds of high-paying jobs in the plant’s host communities, a key priority for upstate lawmakers.
Critics of nuclear power and some environmental groups have blasted the subsidies in what they say is an industry that poses grave risks to the environment and public safety.
An Assembly hearing on the bailout is scheduled for Monday in Albany.
Senate Democrats plan to unveil their own higher education affordability plan this week, a possible alternative to Cuomo’s proposal to make state college tuition free for middle-class students.
Talks over the state budget continue as lawmakers inch closer to the April 1 start of a new fiscal year.
Much of the work now is being done behind closed doors as the leaders of the Senate and Assembly look for consensus on education spending, taxes, funding for transportation, water infrastructure and a host of other issues.
The two chambers plan to vote on their own budget proposals — so called “one-house budgets” — the week of March 13.