After a contentious closed-door meeting with his Democratic conference Tuesday night, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said the bill would not hit the floor for a vote before the current legislative session ends this week.
The embattled speaker said more than 40 of 104 Assembly Democrats opposed the measure — meaning the bill to legalize the immensely popular sport of professional MMA will have to wait to get through the next legislative session sometime in 2014.
“The conference has asked not to put it on the agenda,” Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, said after Democrats met behind closed doors.
New York is the only state in the nation to bar mixed-martial-arts competitions. The measure has passed four years in a row in the Republican-led Senate, but it has failed to garner enough support in the Democratic-controlled Assembly.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, still hasn’t pushed for its approval.
Some Democrats have raised concerns about the violence associated with the sport. They also have questioned how women are treated at the events — a sensitive issue after Silver last month was criticized for not doing more to stop the alleged sexual harassment of female aides working for disgraced Assemblyman Vito Lopez, D-Brooklyn— and Silver's reported $103,000 secret settlement.
Supporters said the legalization of MMA would have been a boost to the economy, and event organizers said they planned to have matches throughout the state — not only at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan, but also in upstate cities.
Lorenzo Fertitta, chairman of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, said the company would continue to push for passage in New York in future years.
Fertitta rejected the claims that the contests are anti-women, saying that Democrats are using that as an excuse to ban it because his Las Vegas casinos are not union shops.
“This year’s new, absurd, offensive and completely erroneous charge used to justify the defeat of MMA legislation was that MMA is anti-woman and leads to domestic violence,” he said in a statement. “This is a deception fabricated by a Las Vegas union that is recklessly and callously trying to use an important societal issue to try and punish the UFC. It isn’t honest and doesn’t work.”
New York remains one of two states to ban MMA, though the Connecticut legislature recently passed a bill to legalize the popular cage fights.