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Senate Republicans passed a to amend Gov. Andrew Cuomo's SAFE Act gun control package to a vote at about 2 this morning. The bill has already passed the Assembly. The amendment would exempt former law enforcement officials from the SAFE Act's ammunition restrictions. Fourteen legislators voted against the amendment.

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The bill drew a storm of opposition and outcry from Republican legislators who want a full repeal of the act.

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A number of Republican Senators including Sens. Kathy Marchione, Cathy Young and John DeFrancisco voted against the amendment saying that they did not there should be a special exception for one group of "law abiding citizens" and that they instead favor a full repeal.

Sen. Marty Golden voted for the measure and argued that law enforcement officials need to carry firearms because they can run into people they put into jail. "If anyone has the right to a 10-bullet magazine it is the people that have the experience to use them," said Golden.

Sen. Greg Ball said that people on "his side of the aisle" voted on the bill at 2 a.m. because they, "don't want to know what is going on."

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Keeping the SUNY Downstate Hospital in Brooklyn solvent was a major focus of the budget debate in the Senate last night. The budget bill as passed calls for the financially troubled institution to come up with a "sustainability plan" by June. Sen. Kevin Parker and a number of his colleagues from Brooklyn don't feel that is enough.

SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher said earlier this year that Downstate is losing $8 million a year and needs over $150 million to survive another year.

Parker introduced a hostile amendment to the budget health bill that would have given Downstate $150 million and required the legislature have oversight over any restructuring plan. The amendment was ruled out of order and Democrats did not have enough votes to overrule.

The current budget language requires SUNY to submit a sustainability plan by June and implement it in two weeks. It also loosens up the bidding process on contracts so the school can save money.

Sen. Gustavo Rivera questioned Sen. John DeFrancisco at length about the budget language on SUNY Downstate. Sen. Daniel Squadron also spoke passionately about preserving the hospital.

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