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Senate Democrats shift focus to post-budget agenda

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Senate Democrats shift focus to post-budget agenda
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Lawmakers finally returned to Albany Monday after an extended spring break. Senate Democrats have a post budget agenda they're looking to work on, but they still have to convince the leadership of the majority coalition to bring bills up for a vote. Time Warner
Cable News reporter Zack Fink has the story.

Senate democrats have numerous pieces of legislation they have sponsored that could fairly be labeled as progressive.

For Senator Daniel Squadron, that's the "fair wage act," which would require a higher wage for workers at big box stores. Squadron had to use a senate maneuver to even get the bill considered.

"One of the last bastions of transparency in the ever closing state senate is that each member can call a vote of three bills in committee a year, and this is one of the ones I was able to force it onto an agenda," Squadron said.

That agenda is the senate labor committee's. There is nothing in the rules allowing him to force a vote by the full senate, which means the legislation will likely end up dead.

"It's always frustrating when important bills that have an impact on tens of thousands of people in the state get frozen out of consideration for votes on the floor," said Sen. Liz Krueger, (D) Manhattan.

Senator Krueger has a bill requiring wage equity between men and women. That too faces an uphill battle in the senate which is controlled by republicans and a breakaway group of five democrats.

Jeff Klein heads the breakaway group of democrats known as the independent democratic conference or IDC. He denies any suggestion that the two democratic factions should be looking to reconcile to form a new majority.

"Again, I mean we just came out of a budget process that was historic. One of my priorities and the mayor's priority was universal pre-k. We have a statewide program in place," Klein said.

Another priority for democrats has been the DREAM Act, which provides state tuition assistance for undocumented immigrants. Klein was criticized for bringing it to floor vote prematurely.

"In our society and especially in our legislature we have a democracy. We put bills on the floor. Legislators vote their conscience, and unfortunately there weren't enough votes to pass the DREAM Act," Klein said.

One of the Klein's top priorities is campaign finance reform a watered down version was included in the state budget, but advocates would like to see more. And there is pressure on Klein and Governor Andrew Cuomo to deliver on this.

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