Capitol Notes

Legislative amendments might offer hint of Senate’s COVID-19 agenda

Recent amendments to bills dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic might shed some light on the agenda for an upcoming session of the state senate, which is scheduled for next week, according to a joint legislative announcement on Friday.

While senators have introduced dozens of bills responding to the outbreak, about a dozen were tweaked in the last few days. These changes could mean nothing or they could mean the legislative language is getting finalized in advance of a floor vote.

The Senate leadership has not indicated what specific bills they’re considering, and one Democratic senator said Friday morning that the upcoming agenda hadn’t been set yet. Committee meetings are scheduled for Tuesday, May 26 and session is expected the “days following.”

One possible item comes from Sen. Alessandra Biaggia, a Westchester County Democrat, who introduced a bill in early March that would add a public health emergency to the existing list of reasons why New Yorkers could vote via an absentee ballot. The measure would codify the executive order authorizing this same right for the June 23 primary elections and ensure it’s available moving forward.

Biaggi’s office said Thursday’s changes, which include a new definition of “illness,” create a more defined set of circumstances for when the provision would be implemented. As to whether it’s getting a vote next week, they responded, “Fingers crossed.”

Sen. Brian Kavanagh, a Manhattan Democrat, had his legislation creating a “COVID-19 emergency rental assistance program” amended on Friday. He recently talked about the measure on The Capitol Pressroom, where Kavanagh also discussed his role on the group of senators tasked with finding solutions to the state’s housing crisis.

His office confirmed there are conversations about the bill, but stressed that nothing had been decided.

Also amended recently are senate bills creating a state small business protection program, making it easier to get an absentee ballot and suspending evictions of rent regulated tenants in certain situations due to COVID-19.

“The Senate will be convening session next week to pass legislation addressing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said in a statement Friday. “While the work may look different, it very much continues.”

The Assembly is also scheduled to convene next week, with all meetings and sessions expected to be done remotely.



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