ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Thursday was the final day of New York State’s legislative session, typically the last chance for lawmakers to pass bills for the year unless they call back a special session.
On the final day of the legislative session, Senate Republican Minority Leader Rob Ortt called the failure to fully repeal the governor’s pandemic-related powers a “missed opportunity.” He said, “I truly believe my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, they want to be a coequal branch of government. They want to be restored to the normal standing we have in the state. And yet they didn’t have the courage, the guts, the willingness to do it.”
First-term Republican Sen. Mike Martucci would have liked to see the legislature fully remove the Governor’s Emergency Powers as he faces multiple allegations of sexual harassment. “We’re slated to leave today with no real resolution to all the scandals and controversy that’s been surrounding the governor,” Martucci said.
Ortt also brought up the investigations surrounding the governor’s handling of COVID in nursing homes. He stressed that there will be no excuse for the legislature not to take action on impeachment when the attorney general issues her report and the federal government comes back with the results of its investigation.
The Senate Minority Leader also criticized the state’s budget for passing with a record amount of tax increases. His Democratic counterpart, Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, meanwhile, stressed that the legislature did what it had to do to help New Yorkers.
“That budget, first and foremost, was there to respond to the crisis at hand,” Stewart-Cousins said. “And we took bold action to jumpstart New York, to jumpstart the economic recovery from COVID.”
As it all came to a close, most of the landmark pieces of legislation like legalizing recreational marijuana and mobile sports betting had already passed much earlier in the year.
Stewart-Cousins also highlighted the Less is More Act that passed in both houses of the legislature overnight. It would largely eliminate the practice of incarcerating people for technical parole violations. Legislative leaders will decide when to send the bill to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who would have ten days to sign or veto it.
Still, other issues like parole reform were still being discussed in the final hours. “Everyone will say this has been a very strange legislative session,” said Sen. Jeremy Cooney from Rochester, who started the job during the pandemic. “For me, it’s what I know.”
Cooney says fully funding foundation aid for schools through the budget was a highlight. “Every year the budget is a bigger and bigger number but this year we finally made the commitment to fully funding education in the state of New York.”
Freshman Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani also says the budget was historic, specifically the legalization of recreational marijuana. “That is a huge victory for justice and a huge victory for justice across the state. I think there are aspects of our budget that are truly remarkable.”
Even so, other proposals Mamdani would like to pass weren’t taken up, like the New York Health Act to create a single-payer system. “It is hard to leave here with a full heart and a sense of joy when I know that New Yorkers are dying because of our inaction,” he said.
Some criminal justice advocates criticized the legislature for failing to pass more bills to help people who are denied parole. Reforms like elder parole also remain uncertain.
This year, there was a democratic veto-proof supermajority in the legislature. Despite that, some progressive measures like a carbon tax didn’t move through and continue to be worked on.