Nearly every time a state budget gets agreed to, the top leaders in the state Senate and Assembly have a "Kumbaya" press conference with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who sometimes hands out chachkies to commemorate the deal.
Even with the social distancing restrictions put in place by COVID-19, it would be unlikely Cuomo this week holds hands with his governing partners once a budget deal is reached.
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and much of her Democratic conference in the chamber has called for his resignation amid allegations of sexual harassment and revelations the state under-counted the deaths of nursing home residents during the pandemic. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie has said Cuomo should seriously consider stepping aside, and his chamber has launched an impeachment investigation.
And yet, the world continues to turn: Stewart-Cousins and Heastie were both quoted, along with Cuomo, when New York officials finalized the bill to legalize adult-use cannabis in New York, with the governor pledging to sign it into law once passed.
"Legalizing adult-use cannabis isn't just about creating a new market that will provide jobs and benefit the economy -- it's also about justice for long-marginalized communities and ensuring those who've been unfairly penalized in the past will now get a chance to benefit," Cuomo said Saturday night. "I look forward to signing this legislation into law."
It's not quite "Kumbaya" in Albany. But the agreement highlighted what is becoming a split screen experience for state government: An impeachment investigation going forward in the Assembly here, pronounciations about taxes in the budget by the governor there, lawmakers calling for Cuomo's resignation in Albany, Cuomo hundreds of miles away in New York City promoting vaccine distribution.
Cuomo has insisted his problems, which include a federal investigation over his administration's handling of nursing home deaths, won't be a distraction in the world of governing. The implicit message seems to be this: All of these threads will continue to unspool, but never intersect.
The guts of the state budget and many high-profile bills in Albany each year is actually done by staff, very smart and hard-working people you never see on camera or quoted anywhere. But the governor does more than just shake hands (or in this case, bump elbows) when it's all over.
Team Cuomo hopes the marijuana agreement can show the work of governing will still get done amid these head-spinning days. That test comes this week.