Is gun deal a sign of what’s to come?

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Days before this year’s highly anticipated legislative session opened in Albany, state Sen. Jeff Klein and Gov. Andrew Cuomo joined together to work on tightening the state’s gun control laws.

The move may be a sign of how Mr. Cuomo will work with Mr. Klein and his Independent Democratic Conference to accomplish his agenda over the next two years.

It also may be an indication that Mr. Klein will, with Mr. Cuomo’s backing, challenge senate Republicans with whom he recently formed a power-sharing coalition. 

On Jan. 4, Mr. Cuomo sat down with the IDC to talk gun control and after the meeting, both the governor and Mr. Klein said passing related legislation would be the top priority this session. 

Though the exact details were not available as of press time, Mr. Klein said in a statement that he supports legislation that will “create the strongest assault weapons ban in the country, severely limit the size of ammunition clips and magazines and enhance New York’s mental health screening process to prevent guns from getting in the hands of those who we should protect from — rather than unnecessarily expose to — the dangers of gun violence.”

State Sen. Dean Skelos, who formed the coalition with Mr. Klein to jointly rule the Senate, then announced a plan on Saturday to crack down on illegal guns, contending that is the real problem.

Mr. Cuomo released a one-sentence retort. 

“Any gun policy that does not ban assault weapons ignores the reality of gun violence and insults the common sense of New Yorkers,” Mr. Cuomo said in the statement.

This union between Mr. Klein and Mr. Cuomo is not unusual given the two lawmakers agree on almost every major issue, but it does put Mr. Klein in an uncomfortable spot, siding with Mr. Cuomo against Republicans, with whom he just formed a coalition.

Is this how things are going to go in Albany this session?

During the scrum for power following the November election, Mr. Cuomo wrote an op-ed in the Times Union in early December to say he’s concerned with issues over political labels. Here’s his litmus test for approval:

1. The property tax cap that has finally imposed fiscal discipline
on local governments and provided relief to taxpayers

2.   Campaign finance reform

3. Increasing the minimum wage

4. Reform of New York City’s “stop and frisk” policy

5. Environmental protection and initiatives that address our changing climate

6. The education and Medicaid budget rate formulas that provided fiscal predictability and sustainability

7.   The tax cuts that brought taxes on the middle class tax to the lowest rates in 58 years

8. Education reforms — like teacher evaluations — that bring more accountability to our schools and continued improvement to our SUNY system

9. Protecting a woman’s right to choose

10. Limited and highly regulated casinos introduced as economic development generator

Rank-and-file Republicans would not agree with all of the above, but neither would rank-and-file Democrats. But when asked by The Press in December what he thinks of the ten items, Mr. Klein answered simply.

“I agree with every one of them,” he said.

So if Mr. Cuomo wants to get the above accomplished, his go-to guy in the Senate may be Mr. Klein, leader of the small, yet powerful, Independent Democratic Conference.

At the very least, cracking down on the state’s gun laws is a sign to Democrats that Mr. Klein is not afraid to tackle progressive issues despite his coalition with Republicans. 

“I’m happy to see a movement toward legislation of that nature,” District Leader Bruce Feld, a prominent member of the Benjamin Franklin Reform Democrat Club, said. “You know, I think Jeff’s actions, in terms of the IDC and this unusual relationship, is going to be judged by the results.”

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