Single-party rule is returning to the state Capitol as Democrats will formally assume the mantle of governing the state Senate later today as the 2019 legislative session bigs amid the expectation lawmakers will take up long-stalled measures.
It’s also a history-making day for the Legislature: Andrea Stewart-Cousins will become the first black woman to lead a majority conference in New York state government.
Stewart-Cousins will be sworn in by Chief Judge Janet DiFiore around 1 p.m. along with a brief organizational meeting of the Senate. Across the building, the Assembly will convene at around midday.
The day is nearly 10 years in the making, a decade after Democrats last held power in the Senate, a disastrous two-year term marred by a legislative coup. Virtually the entire leadership of the Democratic conference is now out of office and, in many cases, serving time in prison.
It’s going to be a lot of pomp and circumstance today: Speeches and receptions, mixed with the formal installation of the legislative leaders.
But lawmakers may savor this day as a chance to catch their collective breath. The coming weeks are expected to bring a flurry of legislative activity to reform election and campaign finance laws, strengthen the state’s abortion and contraceptive rights measures, pass new gun control legislation and potentially legalize marijuana for adult use.
Still, there will be speed bumps and land mines along the way.
The state budget may be one of the biggest of all in less than three months: Gov. Andrew Cuomo will likely be at odds with lawmakers who are pushing to sharply increase education aid by $4 billion as called for by education advocates and a single-payer health care proposal that he has signaled is too costly for the state.
Cuomo has telegraphed both a desire to work with the freshman lawmakers — some of whom have strong political and personal differences with him — while also urging them to find ways of notching accomplishments, not simply promote a cause.
Democrats may also seek ways of containing the increasingly powerful governor as well as he enters his third term, including investigations by committees with subpoena power.