The start of the legislative new year is now just hours away.
Usually lawmakers across the state have made the trek to Albany, preparing to start the first day of session that is usually more ceremonial and a chance for new members to get familiar with Capitol procedures.
For the third straight year, state Democrats will control both houses of the legislature, potentially bolstering policy ideas such as increased taxes on the ultra-wealthy, single payer health care, and criminal justice reforms.
State Senate Republicans will be entering into the new legislative year with fewer members than they did in 2019, but seven newly-elected Republicans will be joining their ranks.
On Tuesday, the minority conference introduced their upcoming legislative agenda, titling it “Reset New York,” outlining key bills they say will help prioritize restarting local economies.
Although Democrats will control which bills will ultimately be brought to the floor for a vote, Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt says Republicans will strongly oppose tax increases of any kind.
“You will never be able to convince me that New York’s primary problem is a revenue problem,” Minority Leader Ortt explained. “It is a spending problem and the evidence of that is before there was ever a pandemic, we were $6 billion in the hole.”
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are also calling on the Legislature to rescind Governor Andrew Cuomo’s emergency executive power.
Starting next week, Ortt says Senate Republicans will be introducing a hostile amendment every day the Legislature is in session, calling for an end to these emergency powers.
“It’s not about the party, it isn’t about who is in the executive position,” Ortt said. “It’s that we need to be here and if there are significant changes to laws then we should be a part of that deliberation.”
The Legislature granted the governor this power to override any statute or law at the beginning of March, when COVID-19 cases started to quickly overwhelm the state. Decisions needed to be made immediately and acted upon quickly.
Although the governor’s emergency powers technically expire at the end of April, Republican lawmakers are still pushing to regain back some of that control.
“He hasn’t made split second decisions in months,” Ortt said. “He has been deliberating; he’s just been deliberating with a very small group of folks in these decisions.”
“One more time: Any pandemic emergency order can be rescinded by a joint legislative resolution that doesn’t need the Governor’s signature. But pandering politicians are going to pander,” Governor Cuomo’s senior advisor Richard Azzopardi said in response.
Lawmakers will have to face the challenges of filling the looming budget deficit and as hesitant as Republicans are to look at revenue raisers, the conference says they will be supporting mobile sports betting.
Support for recreational marijuana on the other hand is still being decided among Republican lawmakers, but Democrats say they are aiming to pass that legislation this year.