With about six weeks until the end of June, legislators have more than enough time to pass bills on a number of important issues, from legalizing marijuana to expanding absentee voting for the upcoming primary and special elections.
Lawmakers will also have to deal with the economic ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic, help small businesses, homeowners and renters, and figure out new revenue streams for the state.
Good government groups like Common Cause New York have already called on the legislature to continue legislating remotely. With all of the teleconferencing technology at their disposal, lawmakers should be able to host meetings, hearings and even votes.
That’s not to say it will be easy or familiar. This legislative session won’t likely be as productive as last year’s, when legislators passed sweeping tenant protections, bail reform, congestion pricing, driver’s licenses for undocumented New Yorkers and more.
Lawmakers and their staff will need to work around the clock to talk to advocates, brief the press, run bills through committees and convince their colleagues to sign on. Like every New Yorker, they have family obligations, help their children with schoolwork and care for the elderly, all while figuring out how to stay healthy during the pandemic.
They have to listen to constituents, help them figure out government processes and solve neighborhood problems. If they’re interested in returning to Albany next January, they will have to run for re-election as well.
There is no precedent to follow for how to legislate during a crisis like the one unfolding in New York. But for the good of the people who elected them to office, state lawmakers must continue their work for the rest of the legislative session.