State Senate leader previews remainder of legislative session

Apr 21, 2021

The leader of the New York State Senate gave an overview of the remaining weeks of the legislative session Tuesday. 

Democratic State Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins began the virtual briefing by echoing the sentiments of President Joe Biden, who said he is “praying the verdict is the right verdict” in the trial of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin. Jurors were deliberating in the case following the death of George Floyd and later issued guilty verdicts on all charges.

"Everybody is just a bit anxious as we await the results of the trial. I know, as the family and everybody knows, of George Floyd, that no matter what happens, there can really not be true justice," she said.

On other subjects, Stewart-Cousins said the new system by which the legislature oversees Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s emergency pandemic powers is working.

The Westchester Democrat was asked about oversight of the embattled governor’s COVID-19 declarations after lawmakers rolled back the emergency powers last month.

"Part of what the governor must do because of the clawback of the emergency powers is to alert the committees and alert us of the different changes he is making in a timely basis, which he has done," she said.

The legislature granted Cuomo extraordinary powers to deal with the pandemic in 2020.

Stewart-Cousins said now that the state budget is done, she is expecting a busy finish to the legislative session. It comes after lawmakers legalized recreational marijuana and mobile sports betting in the spending package.

Stewart-Cousins said her conference hasn’t yet discussed a single-payer health care bill favored by progressives in Albany.

"I'm sure it will be a very intense period between now and June when we adjourn for the summer," she said.

Stewart-Cousins said given the raft of harassment allegations against the governor and questions about the production of his pandemic memoir last year, the Senate could also consider new ethics reforms.

"We have spoken about ethics reforms and looking at some of the possibilities and making changes to JCOPE, and we're always looking to strengthen accountability and transparency, so you can be assured that we've already started to have those conversatiosn and we'll continue to have those conversations, and I do believe there's an appetite for, ethics, like everything else, there's always an appetite to strengthen various pieces that obviously need to be strengthened," she said.

Stewart-Cousins, who has called on Cuomo to resign, said she hasn’t spoken with the governor about an outline for the end of the session.

"I haven't had any conversations with the governor about a particular legislative agenda, but we'll be moving and we will continue to work with our partners, the Assembly, et cetera, and move legislation as we see fit," she said.

With Cuomo’s hopes for a fourth term potentially diminished, the Senate leader was also asked if she could mount a run for governor in 2022.

"No, I'm not planning a run for governor," she said.

The session is scheduled to run through June 10.