It’s been almost a year since I wrote on this blog. And what a year it has been.
In some ways, time has stood still since March 11, 2020. That was the day when New York State announced that there was the first confirmed positive case of coronavirus – or COVID 19. The Governor immediately kicked into action with passing an emergency appropriation along with numerous Executive Orders that gave him broad executive powers to manage during the crisis. The Legislature continued its deliberations remotely and confirmed many of the powers Governor Cuomo asked for under his executive authority.
The Governor became the “voice” of New York State and won kudos (including a television Emmy) for his daily press conferences where he updated New Yorkers (and perhaps even the world) about the status of the State’s reaction to the COVID-19 crisis.
And state government changed as well. It was “all hands” in the Department of Health and the Office of General Services and other agencies as New York scrambled to get the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) needed to protect health care workers and equip the overly taxed health care system. State government pivoted to allow most of its employees to work remotely and agencies, like the NYS Department of Labor, were overwhelmed by the needs of the State’s citizens.
And then there were the 2020 Elections where New Yorkers voted for a new President along with all the members of the New York State Legislature.
The Legislature convened the 2021 Session on January 6th and Carl Heastie was elected as Speaker of The Assembly. Andrea Stewart Cousins will remain as the Majority Leader in the State Senate. With dozens of newcomers, women and people of color now make up the majority in the 63-member State Senate and exactly half of the 150 members of the Assembly.
Today, the Governor gave his State of the State Message to the Legislature. It will be closely followed by the 2021-22 Executive Budget which he will introduce in a few weeks. The Governor has already projected a historic $15 billion budget shortfall, so lawmakers and the Governor’s Administration will be looking for any possible way to raise revenues to close that gap.