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NY Dream Act bill nixed, Senate leadership blamed

Tuesday, March 18, 2014
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Supporters of the New York DREAM Act hold photos of undocumented students who are not eligible for college tuition assistance during a rally at the Capitol in Albany, May 21, 2013.
Supporters of the New York DREAM Act hold photos of undocumented students who are not eligible for college tuition assistance during a rally at the Capitol in Albany, May 21, 2013.

— Advocates for a bill to allow access to state financial aid for New York students in the country illegally vowed Tuesday to fight on and lobby to include the narrowly rejected bill in the budget.

The New York Dream Act failed in a 30-29 vote — two votes short of the 32 needed for a majority — Monday after failing to receive all Democratic votes or any Republican support.

There are 32 Democrats in the state Senate. Sen. Ted O'Brien, a Democrat from the Rochester area, was the only member in his conference to vote "no" on the bill, and Sen. Simcha Felder, from Brooklyn, who caucuses with the Republicans, also voted against the bill.

The bill is now caught in the crosshairs of Democratic lawmakers looking for someone to blame.

Mainline Democrats, along with labor unions and advocacy groups, are blaming the Senate leadership for orchestrating a vote with little notice while some key Republican lawmakers were absent.

Advocates and the Senate sponsor, Sen. Jose Peralta, claim they were informed that some Long Island Republicans would cross party lines and vote for the measure. But ultimately, every Republican voted against it.

Members of the Senate Democratic conference think they were "set up" by Sen. Jeff Klein, co-sponsor of the bill and co-president of the chamber, and Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos.

"It was clearly designed to fail so they can close the issue," Sen. Michael Gianaris, a Queens Democrat, said.

Klein called the allegations "utter nonsense," defending his decision to bring the bill to a vote. He said advocates, along with Peralta, were urging a vote at a news conference on Monday, and Klein obliged.

"It's unfortunate we didn't have votes to pass, if indeed every duly elected Senate Democrat voted yes on that bill, we would have had the 32 votes to pass it," said Klein, a member of the breakaway group that runs the Senate with the Republicans.

Democratic conference leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said the bipartisan coalition between the breakaway Democrats and Republicans was created to bring forward progressive issues in a bipartisan fashion. Klein rebutted, saying he never promised to bring Republican votes; his job was to get the bill to the floor.

Klein denied he could have managed the bill better, saying: "I was asked to bring the bill to the floor for a vote, and a vote was taken."

Going into budget negotiations, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Klein all support the Dream Act. Advocates hope that's enough political capital to see the measure put in the $137.2 billion budget due April 1.

 

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