M.T.A. Bill Advances; Vote Not at All Imminent

ALBANY—Majority Leader Malcolm Smith's M.T.A. bailout bill has now been amended—the changes are mainly technical—it most likely must "age" another three days before the chamber can vote on the it. That's one hurdle, but the legislation has a much bigger obstacle ahead: Smith doesn't appear to have 32 votes to actually pass the measure.

The bill was voted out of the Finance Committee along party lines, and not before Republicans were able to voice more  criticism of the bailout package.

One, State Senator Bill Larkin, called it "bullshit."

State Senator Carl Kruger, who chairs the Finance Committee, emphasized that the bill will likely be further amended. "This is the first step in a process, not the end of the road," he said. "This is not the end, this is only the beginning."

According to Josh Ehrlich, an attorney for the Finance Committee, the bill was amended to clarify that a $1 drop-off fee, which may not survive to become law, applies only to medallion taxis, not livery cabs or limousines. The bill was also amended to require an audit of the M.T.A. (the original version of the bill said lawmakers "may" do an audit, now it reads "shall") and to tighten up residence requirements. Ehrlich said the amended bill must age three days before it can be acted on; Senate spokesman Travis Proulx could not immediately confirm that. The State Senate is not scheduled to be in session Thursday or Friday.

The pressure is on. Fifty taxis drove to the Capitol to protest the drop-off fee, according to David Pollack, executive director of the Committee for Taxi Safety. Several of them attended the finance committee's meeting.

"That is absurd," said Jawaid Toppa, a cab driver from Floral Park. "The taxi drivers of the City of New York did not create the M.T.A.'s financial mess."

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