by Steven Marrocco – MMAWeekly.com
The past two weeks have not been kind to the UFC’s interests in New York. Turmoil within the Senate has ground to a halt its legislative business and impeded the state assembly.
Day two of the Senate’s special session wrapped up Wednesday in near total chaos, with representatives feuding over control of the proceedings and refusing to address bills placed on the agenda by the Governor.
In other words, a fight is getting in the way of fights in New York.
UFC president Dana White has long had his eye on Madison Square Garden, promising an event there by the end of the year.
Senate bill S2165A and assembly bill 2009-B, which seek to legalize MMA in the Empire State, have remained in committee since the battle broke out.
There has been no indication the Senate version of MMA legislation will be heard.
On the assembly side, multiple legislators MMAWeekly.com spoke to said there were no special sessions planned for the myriad of bills left on its desk, but none ruled out the chance of going back to Albany.
But Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Marc Ratner doesn’t hear any singing just yet.
“Here’s my feeling as to what’s going to happen: Eventually, the Senate’s going to have to get back in session,” Ratner told MMAWeekly.com. “Once the Senate’s back in session, they’re going to have to pass some bills. Then the Assembly’s going to have to come back before the end of the year or before the end of summer and they’re going to have to look at some of these bills. The session is, at this moment, over. But this is my prediction: they’re going to have to meet again.”
Of course, if the assembly decides to return before the close of 2009, MMA’s fate will rest in which bills they decide to address. That power lies with the Speaker of the Assembly, representative Sheldon Silver.
“In each of the last several years, the assembly has come back into special session two, sometimes three times after their regular session,” said a staffer for Herman D. Farrell, Jr., chair of the assembly’s Ways and Means committee where bill 2009-B was stranded. “However, during those special sessions, most of the bills that have been considered are of an economic nature. It is not unheard of for program bills to be considered during special session, but it’s not common.”
Ratner said the sheer volume of unfinished business actually improved his company’s chances.
“There’s going to be a lot of bills out there that only one house has passed,” he said. “I think the assembly passed around 150 or 200 bills in the last couple of days before they adjourned. So if the Senate changes any of those, they’re going to have to come back, they’re going to have to have some compromises. So I feel there’s still a chance that it will be done this year. Maybe I’m being more optimistic than some, but that’s the way I feel.”
Assemblyman Jonathan Bing, who’s argument for the MMA legislation helped it pass the Tourism, Arts, and Sports Development committee June 3, was hopeful the bill would be addressed sooner than later.
“There’s a good chance we’ll be back in Albany for one reason or another before then, and my hope is that when the legislature does re-convene, whether it’s later this year or early next year, that we can go forward on this legislation,” said Bing. “Certainly I will advocate for the bill to be brought up as soon as possible, but in terms of when that’s going to be, that’s made by the speaker.”
However, if the bill does not see the light of day before the year’s end, Bing says he will make the case once again in January. There, Bob Reilly, the “accidental opposition” to the bill, will take another chop at the sport.
A representative from Speaker Silver’s office declined comment on the likelihood of the MMA bill being placed on the agenda.
“The assembly is always available to return at the call of the Speaker, but as of now, there is no assembly session at this time,” the representative stated. “The bill is still being reviewed through the committee process.”
Regardless of the outcome in Albany, Ratner will soldier on.
“What’s happening is unprecedented in their political history,” he said. “I feel very strongly that if the Senate hadn’t had what happened to it, with guys changing sides, that we might have a bill on the Governor’s desk already. But it did happen, and we’re going to go forward. I’m still cautiously optimistic that in the year 2009, it will be passed.”