Many New Yorkers who have been forced to work from home due to the coronavirus isolation effort have quickly figured out how to communicate with their coworkers and do their jobs.
The state Legislature should be able to do the same.
State lawmakers simply left too much important work undone when they adjourned last week after hastily passing the state budget.
Issues still to be addressed include, but are not limited to, the legalization of recreational marijuana, a potential source of state revenue; Medicaid funding; casino gambling in New York City; financial relief for renters and workers in the gig economy; expansion of voting opportunities, including absentee voting; extending the Child Victims Act another year to give more victims an opportunity to seek justice; court reform; and the usual course of business for bills relating to the environment, economic development, infrastructure and education. On top of all that, there are hundreds of bills proposed by lawmakers to help their local districts and to push a variety of causes and issues.
The fact that lawmakers didn’t accomplish more last week is not totally their fault.
The regular legislative session wasn’t scheduled to end until early June. Had circumstances been the same as in past years, the Legislature would have had plenty of time to address what they didn’t get done prior to the April 1 budget deadline.
In fact, we encouraged lawmakers to focus their attention exclusively on the budget and not try to pass unrelated bills in their haste to abandon Albany for the safety of self-isolation.
But lawmakers need to finish what they started, even if they have to return after the June 23 combined federal/state/local primary and work into the summer. They’ll still have time to campaign for re-election after the people’s work is done.
To just call it quits now, with so much left to do, using the coronavirus isolation period as an excuse, would not only be irresponsible, but unnecessary.
Obviously, they can’t meet in person. Several lawmakers have already tested positive for coronavirus. And it makes no sense to subject themselves, staffs, the media, lobbyists and the general public to potential illness.
But the Legislature has apparently worked out a system of remote voting.
As for committee meetings and regular sessions, they can communicate in much the same way other stay-at-home workers in New York are communicating — via telephone conference call and through teleconference apps like Zoom, Skype, Google Hangouts and UberConference.
They can and must ensure they’re following government transparency rules by inviting the press to teleconference meetings and by posting videos and audiotapes of the meetings on the Senate and Assembly websites.
They can finish the session if they want to.
There’s too much important work remaining to throw up their hands and give up now.