Cuomo Calls on Flanagan to Reconvene Senate and Pass Speed Cam Bill

The governor can also call a special session himself, but stopped short of doing that.

Governor Cuomo speaking to reporters alongside members of Families for Safe Streets. Photo: David Meyer
Governor Cuomo speaking to reporters alongside members of Families for Safe Streets. Photo: David Meyer

This morning, Governor Cuomo called on Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan to reconvene the Senate for a special session to enact an expansion of NYC’s school zone speed camera program. Cuomo said passing the Every School Speed Camera Act is a matter of life or death for NYC schoolkids.

It’s the strongest message from Cuomo so far on the speed camera bill, but he can apply more pressure if he chooses. The governor has the power to convene a special session of the Senate himself, a step he has so far declined to take.

If the Senate fails to act before July 25, the program will expire and New York City will be forced to shut off its 140 existing speed cameras.

“They left Albany without passing a very simple bill,” Cuomo said. “A bill that could determine whether young people live or die. They have to go back and pass the speed camera bill before July 25.”

The Assembly has passed legislation to more than double the scope of the program, and the bill has support from a majority of senators. The problem is that the “support” of Senator Marty Golden, whose district Cuomo was speaking in this morning, appears to be fictional.

Momentum for a special session is building as pressure also mounts to pass the Reproductive Health Act, which would codify the language of Roe v. Wade in state law. Most of Cuomo’s appearance in Dyker Heights today was devoted to urging a vote on the Reproductive Health Act.

This week, State Senator Elaine Phillips, a pro-choice Republican from Nassau County facing a competitive challenge in the fall, signed on as a co-sponsor of the speed camera bill, an indication that there’s movement in the Senate on both bills as a package.

Cuomo called on Flanagan to let members of the Republican caucus “vote their conscience” on both cameras and abortion rights. While the governor can convene the Senate without Flanagan’s say-so, it’s ultimately up to the majority leader to bring the bills to the floor for a vote.

Flanagan has said he’s open to a special session but wants to negotiate changes to the Reproductive Health Act and haggle over other items that would require bringing the Assembly back to Albany as well.

Standing next to members of Families for Safer Streets after the event, Cuomo said Flanagan’s attempt to dictate terms was tantamount to obstructing both bills. On the question of speed cameras, Flanagan has a motive to obstruct: The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the police union that opposes speed cameras, has contributed $68,500 to the Senate Republican Campaign Committee since the beginning of 2015.

“There are a number of ways of saying ‘no’ in Albany,” Cuomo said. “You can say no by saying, ‘Well it depends on other bills,’ ‘Well, I’ll do it if the sun doesn’t rise in the morning,’ ‘I would like to do it but I can only do it if the leader calls us back’ — those are all no’s.”

“I’m hopeful that the Senate Republican leadership will do the right thing and stop playing politics with children’s lives,” said Families for Safe Streets co-founder Amy Cohen. “We will not rest until it happens, so if Senator Flanagan doesn’t want to come back, we’ll be at his doorstep shortly.”