2021 New York Legislative Session Concludes

On June 11th, the Legislature concluded an exceptionally unique legislative session. Over the course of six months, 892 bills passed both Houses of the New York State Legislature, with highlights including the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act, which became law in March, the Gender Recognition Act, various gun reforms, protections for workers, renters, and businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and various criminal justice reforms.

However, questions about a possible special session this summer have been circulating after the Legislature finished session without passing the Clean Slate bill or the Governor’s proposal to split the leadership of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Issues regarding the Clean Slate Bill began during the final week of session when it was discovered there was a technical issue with the bill, which would need to be amended. However, amending the bill in the last two days meant that the bill would not be fully aged (i.e., have been in print for three days before it can be voted on), and the Legislature would have needed a message of necessity from the Governor’s office to pass it. In response, the Governor and the Legislative leaders came to an agreement that the Governor would give a message of necessity for the Clean Slate Bill and they would, in turn, pass his proposal to split the MTA’s leadership. However, this deal never came to fruition, with the Senate adjourning at 9 P.M. on June 10th without acting on either bill, and the Assembly finishing the next morning after only passing the MTA split bill.

Another factor that could bring the Legislature back to Albany for a special session is the fact that a majority of the Governor’s administration nominations have not yet been confirmed. Also, nominations to the State’s new Cannabis Control Board, which will oversee the rollout of recreational marijuana in the State, have not yet been announced. Once announced, the nominees will need to be confirmed by the Senate.

In response to Session ending, and questions regarding a possible special summer session, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said, “as our scheduled session concludes tonight, we are proud of the historic progress we made this year. If ongoing discussions on any outstanding issues require action, we stand ready to come back when and if necessary.”

On the other side of the political aisle, although they disagreed with much of the legislation passed this year, Republicans were most vocal about their disappointment that session concluded without the Legislature acting to fully revoke the Governor’s emergency executive powers, which were given to him by the Legislature at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. “In spite of what they will talk about after this session, that’s the story,” said Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt. “A governor with multiple investigations, a governor who lied to the people of New York, a governor who’s being investigated by the attorney general, the U.S. attorney, and the Assembly, and yet he continues to retain all of his pandemic power and continues to horse trade to things that he needs.”

Earlier this year, the Legislature passed legislation, which the Governor signed into law, that did reign in some of the powers by requiring the Governor to provide proper notice to the Legislature, and giving them the ability to repeal any of his directives through passage of concurrent resolutions, but many have said the bill that was passed does not go far enough. However, on June 24th, the Governor lifted the COVID-19 State of Emergency, which ended his emergency pandemic powers.