New York State Legislature

Tom Magnarelli / WRVO News (file photo)

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York election workers would have to start counting absentee ballots earlier under legislation that passed the state Senate Wednesday.

Lawmakers, including Sen. Mike Gianaris, say the state must prevent another election year like 2020, when delays, litigation and mistakes by election boards who faced a flood of absentee ballots led to days, weeks and in some instances months of confusion over election results in New York.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News (file photo)

The 2021 New York legislative session is in its final hours, with many items yet to be resolved. Criminal justice reforms continue to dominate at the end of the session, just as they have for the past two years.

Here’s a look at what seems to be in, and what seems to be out.

A bill that would seal some criminal records for those convicted of misdemeanors and some felonies will be ready for a vote in the Senate and Assembly by the sessions’ final day.

Actor and 2018 candidate for governor Cynthia Nixon was among advocates for single-payer health care who rallied Monday at the State Capitol. They are urging lawmakers to approve the New York Health Act before the session ends.

The legislation, which is sponsored by the Health Committee chairs in both houses of the Legislature, has enough support among Democrats to pass. But it’s uncertain whether the measure will get a vote before the session ends.

WRVO News (file photo)

As the New York State Legislature’s session draws to a close, lawmakers are considering several criminal justice changes, including what’s known as the Clean Slate legislation. It would expunge some criminal records for those who have already served their time in prison. 

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP)  New York failed to provide desperately needed protective gear, testing and help with staffing for group homes serving residents with developmental and intellectual disabilities at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, leaders of those homes and family members told lawmakers at a legislative hearing Thursday.

Staffing levels in New York's system supporting individuals with disabilities have dwindled since the COVID-19 pandemic, which advocates say threatens the quality of care for some of the state's most vulnerable residents.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Supporters of a measure that would end some legal immunity for police officers who injure or kill a citizen during an arrest rallied Wednesday at the State Capitol. They say the practice, known as qualified immunity, gives bad cops too much protection. 

Qualified immunity is a legal principle that gives government officials, such as police, personal immunity from civil lawsuits when something goes wrong, unless a plaintiff can prove that the officer deliberately violated their constitutional rights.

New York Now

Democrats who lead the New York State Legislature are moving ahead with several criminal justice reforms in the remaining weeks of the 2021 session. But Republicans, who are in the minority party, are pushing back, saying the measures go too far and will contribute to the rising crime rate across New York.

Assembly Republican Leader Will Barclay said the crime rate in major cities in New York increased in 2020, and that concerning trend is continuing in 2021.

WRVO News (file photo)

The New York State Legislature is scheduled to end its session in mid-June, and lawmakers have a long list of priorities they hope to finish before then.

Criminal justice reform tops the list for many Democratic senators and Assembly members, including changes to the state’s parole system. Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, speaking on public radio station WCNY’s "The Capitol Pressroom," said parole needs to be reformed.

WRVO News (file photo)

Wednesday marked the easing of many COVID-19 restrictions in New York state, but at the State Capitol, many of those rules remain in place, including mandatory masks in some circumstances.

On Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that the state would comply with new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rules that say fully vaccinated people no longer have to wear masks or practice social distancing.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News (file photo)

The New York State Legislature approved measures that will require hospitals and nursing homes to meet minimum staffing levels of nurses and other health care staff.

Measures mandating minimum staffing at health care facilities have been around for several years, but the spotlight on stressed and understaffed hospitals and nursing homes during the COVID-19 pandemic finally prompted the bill’s passage.

Senate sponsor and Health Committee chair Gustavo Rivera spoke before the vote.

Governor Andrew Cuomo's office

The New York State Legislature for the first time rescinded some of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s restrictions that were put in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic, including an unpopular rule that prohibited bars and restaurants from serving alcohol unless the customer also ordered food.

Lawmakers said with the infection rate going down and vaccinations increasing, the restrictions are no longer needed. Cuomo said he was planning to end the orders anyway.

New York State Senate

Democrats in New York will move to curb a handful of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s pandemic-related directives Wednesday, including one that has required patrons at restaurants to purchase food if they’re planning to drink alcohol.

It’s the first time that Democrats in the Legislature have acted to reverse one of Cuomo’s orders after they approved legislation last month that limited the governor’s emergency powers.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Westchester, said the state’s declining COVID-19 statistics mean the long-standing directives can be scrapped.

WRVO News (file photo)

Supporters of a measure to ensure better workplace safety during future pandemics are urging Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign the bill, which was passed by both houses of the state Legislature this week.

The bill -- known as the New York Health and Essential Rights, or HERO, Act -- requires that the state health and labor departments design minimum standards for health and safety during outbreaks of airborne viruses and all infectious disease outbreaks.

stgermh / Flickr

State lawmakers in New York could take the first step this year toward scrapping the state’s current ethics agencies and replacing them with a new, more powerful panel less likely to be influenced by elected officials.

Sen. Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan, said in an interview on New York NOW, that there’s appetite in the state Legislature for an ethics overhaul in Albany, and that it could start this year.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News (file photo)

Criminal justice advocates in New York state say they hope to build on recent victories, such as the legalization of adult recreational use of marijuana, to gain more reforms for members of Black and brown communities who are incarcerated at a higher rate than white New Yorkers. 

Advocates and progressive-leaning Democratic lawmakers hope that in the legislative session’s remaining weeks, measures that reform the state’s parole system will be passed.

governorandrewcuomo / Flickr

Progressive Democrats in the New York State Legislature took a victory lap after passing a budget that achieves many of the groups’ long-term goals, including a substantial increase in taxes on the wealthy and the fulfillment of a 15-year-old court order to fully fund the schools. Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, embroiled in several scandals, put the best face on items that did not go his way.

Progressive advocate and director of Invest in Our New York, Rebecca Bailin, spoke at a rally held in the April sunshine outside the Capitol, just below the windows of Gov. Cuomo’s offices.

J. Stephen Conn / Flickr

Five days into the new fiscal year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders say they have a “conceptual agreement” on a new state budget. If the deal holds, it would include $4 billion in new taxes, including higher income tax brackets on millionaires and a tax increase for some large corporations.

If the budget agreement is approved, New Yorkers who make more than $1 million a year would see their taxes increased by nearly one percentage point. Two new higher tax brackets would be added for those with annual incomes over $5 million and over $25 million.

formulanone / Flickr

April 1 has arrived with no agreement on the state budget, and for the first time in over a decade, there’s no clear indication of when a spending plan might be passed.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli warned that if the impasse lasts beyond next Monday, the paychecks of some essential state workers might be delayed.

On the first day of the new fiscal year, just one of 10 budget bills had been approved. The debt service bill was passed on the evening of March 31. Senate Finance Chair Liz Krueger could not say when the remaining nine might be ready for passage. 

Elsa Olofsson / Flickr

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill legalizing the adult use of recreational marijuana into law Wednesday, hailing it as an historic moment and saying, in a statement, that it “rights the wrongs of the past by putting an end to harsh prison sentences” and will embrace an industry that will grow the state’s economy.

Elsa Olofsson / Flickr

New York will legalize marijuana for adult, recreational use after Democrats struck a deal on the issue Saturday, with a vote expected next week from the state Legislature.

The agreement is the result of years of negotiations between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state Legislature in New York, which will become the 16th state to approve legalization.

Lead sponsors Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, D-Buffalo, and State Sen. Liz Krueger, D-Manhattan, cheered the agreement in statements Saturday evening.

-JvL- / Flickr

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The New York Legislature has passed a bill to limit Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s emergency powers at a time when he’s facing sexual harassment allegations and scrutiny over his administration’s reporting of deadly COVID-19 outbreaks at nursing homes.

Democrats who have expressed disappointment in the governor in recent days have trumpeted the bill as a “repeal” of Cuomo’s emergency powers. Those powers are set to sunset at the end of April when the state of emergency ends, unless the Legislature acts to end it sooner.

formulanone / Flickr

The New York State Senate and Assembly plan on Friday to strip Gov. Andrew Cuomo of sweeping emergency powers enacted under the COVID-19 pandemic.

The action comes as Cuomo is embroiled in scandals over his nursing home policies during the coronavirus and allegations that he sexually harassed former staffers.

But there are questions about how effective the new law will be.

Jim Bowen / Flickr

New York state legislative leaders have announced agreement on a bill to curb Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s emergency powers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The measure comes as Cuomo is embroiled in two scandals:  One over his nursing home policies during the health crisis, and another over accusations that he sexually harassed former staffers.

Cuomo, legislature still far apart on marijuana legalization

Feb 25, 2021
Brett Levin / Flickr

With only about a month left before Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York legislature must agree on a budget for the next year, the two parties are still far apart on a proposal to legalize adult use marijuana.

Last week, Cuomo amended his legalization proposal, the Cannabis Regulation and Taxation act, in three particular areas. It added provisions to allow for delivery services for marijuana products, reduced felony punishments for illicit sale of marijuana, and outlined some specifics on how particular tax proceeds would be administered for social and racial equity programs.

Matt Ryan / New York Now (file photo)

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Several New York lawmakers are proposing a tax hike for individuals making at least $300,000 per year in hopes of bringing in an estimated $15 billion in annual revenue.

It’s the latest proposal to raise taxes on high earners and is the only legislation so far this year to propose raising taxes on people making below $1 million. The bill’s left-wing backers include Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and the Working Families party.

Rachel May, Ellen Abbott

Onondaga County's two state senators help make up what is now a supermajority of Democrats in the chamber and they hope to use that support, and their positions as chairs of Senate committees, to enact a shared agenda that touches on everything from climate change to election reforms.

Governor Andrew Cuomo's office

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is due to release his state budget plan this week, as the state confronts the largest budget deficit the governor has faced in his decade in office, much of it due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The state was already facing a $6 billion structural deficit when the fiscal year began last April. Cuomo had been managing some of the shortfall by practicing some bookkeeping tricks, including delaying Medicaid payments due to health care providers for a few days at the end of the past two fiscal years, so that they fell into the next fiscal year.

WRVO News (file photo)

The New York State Legislature began the 2021 session with a strengthened Democratic base and intensifying challenges, including the ongoing pandemic and the growing budget deficit. 

Karen DeWitt / WRVO Public Media

Republican members of the state Legislature want to rein in some of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s emergency powers that he has held through the COVID-19 pandemic, saying it’s time for more than just one branch of government to make all of the decisions.

Matt Ryan / New York Now (file photo)

New York state lawmakers held a special December session Monday to enact new protections for tenants unable to meet rent payments, due to pandemic-related job losses and other financial challenges.