Bruno May Can Rent Law Vote

Daily News Albany Bureau, June 11, 1997
State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno yesterday wavered on his vow to force Senate approval of his rent law overhaul, conceding that a vote could trigger political backlash against some senators from the city.

As Sunday's midnight deadline for the expiration of state rent protections loomed closer, Bruno (R-Rensselaer) said the Senate might let the laws expire without a vote.

Republican senators from the city and suburbs are under tremendous political pressure from tenant constituents to buck the Senate's GOP leader and vote against an overhaul.

Bruno has a 35-to-26 Senate majority. At least five of nine city-area Republican senators would have to vote for Bruno's plan to provide the 31 votes needed for passage.

Tenant groups have specifically targeted those lawmakers with threats of political revenge at the polls next year if they approve the plan backed by Bruno and Gov. Pataki that would lift protections as renters move out or die.

Bruno acknowledged that "more than one" GOP senator asked him to delay the vote he had vowed to hold before Sunday's deadline. "I am not going to expose my members any more than I have to," he said.

That left at least one of the key GOP senators breathing a sigh of relief.

"I think it's a step forward," said State Sen. Guy Velella (R-Bronx). "I have been urging him to move to the center. He's trying to be reasonable."

But Bruno, Pataki and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) held a day-long series of meetings without breaking the bitter deadlock that threatens to kill rent protections for more than 2 million tenants.

Pataki, criticized by tenants for his plans to attend a GOP golfing fund-raiser hosted by a top landlord advocate, delayed his appearance for yesterday's meetings. But he flew to Long Island for the fund-raising dinner last night.

Sources said the down-to-the-wire negotiations are focusing on several issues. The big sticking point is the Pataki-Bruno demand for vacancy decontrol, a plan declared nonnegotiable by Silver.

Also under discussion is the GOP call for lowering the $250,000 income eligibility limit for rent protection. Pataki has recommended a $175,000 ceiling, $50,000 higher than what's demanded by Bruno.

Sources said Republicans want to close loopholes that might let tenants circumvent any new income limits.

The negotiations also focus on whether to extend the current rent laws beyond Sunday's deadline. Pataki has offered to extend rent protections for senior citizens and the poor until a new law can be negotiated.

Bruno repeatedly has vowed to block renewal even for a few days. But a source close to Bruno said yesterday the Senate leader might consider a limited extension.

Negotiating time is running short because Silver, an Orthodox Jew, left Albany last night to observe the two-day religious holiday of Shavuoth.