Now that Democrats control the New York State Senate and Assembly, party leaders and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo have promised to push forward a progressive agenda. And the progressive groups that helped elect that majority say they are going to ensure that promise was more than just campaign rhetoric.
Progressive groups have put together what they call a bold agenda. It includes the legalization of recreational marijuana, passing the Child Victim's Act that would extend the statute of limitations for children who were sexually abused, and election reforms that would expand access to the ballot through early voting, automatic voter registration, and potentially mail-in or online voting.
Jay Bellanca, co-chair of the New York Progressive Action Network, says progressives already have plans to visit the capitol several times this session to lobby for these and other reforms, which he says will be key to Democrats' chances of staying in power. The last time Democrats won control of the senate in 2008 the party was swept out of power the following election.
"There is talk in the capitol of that we don’t want to overreach so we lose our majority again, our feeling is the progressive agenda is popular - Green New Deal, all these things are getting a lot of attention - and I think these senators are paying attention to that," He said. "We are going to remind them that maybe [the reason] they lost their majority was you didn’t do enough."
Republicans, who now only hold 23 of the senate's 63 seats, are already looking forward to the next election. Central New York Sen. Bob Antonacci (R), who now holds the seat of former Senate deputy leader John DeFrancisco, says realistically there will be little his party can do to prevent Democratic legislation from sailing through the chamber over the next two years.
"I would say to my fellow Republicans we've got to be on-target, we've got to be knowledgeable, we’ve got to have our facts straight and we have to work together like we never had to work together," Antonacci said. "I suppose the good thing is that you’ve got nobody else to blame but them now if things go bad. We are not going to be able to stop some of this nonsense that they are proposing."
Antonacci says Democrats should be focused on legislation to help ease taxes on upstate residents and reduce regulations on the business community. But he says there is some room for compromise with Democrats on some initiatives like voting reforms.