EDITORIAL: Call special legislative session anything but “extraordinary”

The state Capitol Building in Albany.
PHOTOGRAPHER:

The state Capitol Building in Albany.

Maybe they should come up with a new name for when the state Legislature comes back to Albany to do its job.

This week’s “extraordinary session” of the Legislature was anything but.

That is, unless you count addressing the landlord-tenant crisis by kicking the problem down the road a few months while landlords struggle to make ends meet.

Unless you count applying a surprise fix to the state Open Meetings Law without any notice, public comment or justification.

Unless you count keeping lawmakers in the dark about the details of the legislation they were considering and the exact language of the bills until well after the special session started.

Unless you count extending the session into the late hours of the night, when few people other than legislators, staff and capitol reporters are paying attention.

The traditional “Three Men in a Room,” way of governing in New York has been replaced by “One Man and Two Women in a Room,” but the process and the outcome haven’t changed a bit, judging by the special session.

If state residents were expecting a new way of doing things under new Gov. Kathy Hochul after the unceremonial departure of Big Bad Wolf Cuomo last month, they didn’t get it this week.

In fact, the extraordinary session was more ordinary Albany politics.

First, they created the current eviction situation themselves, forcing the governor to call everyone together to address a problem that easily could have been anticipated and addressed before they left Albany in June.

The state has had access to $2.3 billion in federal rental assistance funding since the beginning of the year. Yet even now, only about 7% to 8% of the money has gotten to the people who need the relief. Had they gotten the money out the door on time, they might not have needed to extend the eviction moratorium in the first place.

And they didn’t even figure out in the session how to speed up the distribution of the money.

In this extraordinary session, they also missed an opportunity to fix a number of other issues they failed to address in June, including amendments to the bail reform law, extending alcohol delivery so bars and restaurants could make up losses from the decline in business, and allowing sex abuse victims to bring civil action against their abusers beyond the statute of limitations through a one-year look-back window.

And given the potential covid-related problems we face, they could have considered giving the new governor some limited executive powers so she wouldn’t have to make mere recommendations to businesses, schools and government agencies.

So unless you count the usual backroom deal-making, undercutting the Open Meetings Law and not finishing unfinished business to be “extraordinary,” this thing needs another name.

The “business as usual session” sounds about right.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

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