Legislative Hearings on COVID-19 & The Current State of the 2020 Legislative Session

On Friday, May 1st, the New York State Legislature announced that they will be holding two joint public hearings discussing the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on New York State. Specifically, the hearings, which will be held using mostly video conference technology, will see lawmakers examining how the Coronavirus, and the State’s economic shutdown, has affected New York’s small businesses, farms, health care, and minority communities, and actions the Legislature could take to address the affects. Currently, the Legislature has set a date for one of the two hearings. The first Legislative Hearing, which took place on Wednesday, May 13th discussed “the current and future impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on small businesses, including farms, across New York State and whether the federal response is sufficient in relation to the disproportionate impact on the State and effective in targeting the businesses most in need.”

The second Legislative Hearing will take place on Monday, May 18th at 10 A.M. During this Legislative Hearing, lawmakers will be seeking “recommendations on how to approach and mitigate the disproportionate adverse impacts of COVID-19 on minority communities, which may include disparate impacts to industries, services and local governments and institutions including the surrounding health care system, through enhanced federal funding and appropriate policy initiatives.” You can find the full notice of the second Legislative Hearing here: https://assembly.state.ny.us/write/upload/publichearing/20200511.pdf

There have still been no announcements about when, or if, the State Legislature will return to the State Capitol for Session this year. Some lawmakers have expressed their growing frustration about the uncertain future of the Legislative Session. One lawmaker said, “We’re not getting any sense of urgency to get back to work.” Both Legislative leaders have expressed a desire to return, but a spokesperson for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said a lot depends on if federal aid is approved for the State, saying, “Out Assembly Majority members have introduced many worthwhile COVID-related bills and we understand the desire to consider these important issues. There is a direct correlation between what the federal government will do and our ability to implement many of these things.” Senate Spokesperson Mike Murphy has said, “We have a lot of work to do,” and “We will be back in Session and leadership has created various work groups of Senators to move forward COVID-related bills on everything from housing to voting to revenue.”

Many good government groups have been calling on the Legislature to return, often pointing to the New York City Council which has been doing work and holding session remotely. “They need to figure out how to move those bills through committee, or whatever procedures they’re using now, and they need to go to work being lawmakers,” said Common Cause NY’s Executive Director Susan Lerner. The New York Public Interest Research Group sent the Legislative Leaders of both parties a letter calling on the Legislature to act on several issues. The group’s Executive Director, Blair Horner said, “A lot has changed since the beginning of the 2020 Session… (but) pandemic-related and non-pandemic issues warrant Legislative action.”

If you have any questions, feel free to contact our office.