If you haven’t read much about the details of the “mandate relief” provisions approved by the Legislature as the session ended last week, there’s a good reason for it: virtually none of the relief priorities cited by the state’s major local government groups were included. Compared to this, the Senate Republicans’ lengthier one-house mandate relief bill was downright trail-blazing, since that measure at least touched on a few potential big-ticket items such as binding arbitration guidelines for police and fire unions, and costly prevailing wage requirements for government contractors.
The principal innovation in the enacted bill is the creation of an 11-member Mandate Relief Council, controlled by seven gubernatorial appointees, to “identify and review mandates that can be eliminated or reformed, and make such other and further inquiries, reports and recommendations as the council may deem necessary and prudent to effecctuate its mission of mandate relief.”
All of which is highly necessary, of course –because, you know, we can’t expect the Governor and the Legislature to actually peruse stuff like this. Or this. Or this. Local governments would have the right to “ask the council to review a specific statute, regulation, rule or order of state government to determine whether such statute, regulation, rule or order of state government is an unfunded mandate or is otherwise unsound, unduly burdensome or costly so as to require that it be eliminated or reformed.” Would the Triborough amendment qualify for consideration under that wording?
Mandates excluded from the purview of the council included “those which are required to comply federal laws or rules or to meet eligibility standards for federal entitlements” — i.e., Medicaid, welfare and virtually every income-transfer program administered and co-funded by county governments and New York City.
In the wake of this legislation, one not-exactly-burning question is whether the council will replace the governor’s Mandate Relief Redesign Team, last seen engaged in punting practice on the same issues sidestepped by the Legislature.
Speaking of burning, the Council was created as part of an all-new Section 666 of the state Executive Law. “So the bill drafters have given it the mark of the devil,” observes one local government official. “Maybe someone in the Legislature has a sense of humor.”