Italian ice cream, and a bit of normalcy, back to Albany
ALBANY – At around 6:30 p.m. on the last scheduled day of the 2021 session, state senators and their staff were given Italian ice cream.
It’s an Albany tradition that dates back to at least the 1980s. But it faded last year – the image of lawmakers gathering to smile and eat dessert at a time when indoor dining was banned. in New York and where the Capitol was primarily used as a film studio for the nationally televised Cuomo Show would have had enough the Marie Antoinette vibe.
Thursday’s choice of lemon, lime or watermelon paved the way for the conclusion of a week that looked more like the status quo than at any time since two members of the Assembly tested positive for Covid -19 453 days ago. Of course, the public is still banned from the Capitol. But committees have often had a decent in-person presence, a growing number of Democrats can be found in hallways without masks, and Republicans have almost entirely dispensed with covering their faces when outside chambers.
“More members are physically present in the bedroom, there is the option to sit together in the living room on a bipartite basis, which we haven’t had for a year,” said Senator Shelley Mayer (D -Yonkers). “It’s a mutual feeling that things are going a lot better – people are eager to do our jobs and then go home. We have worked hard, it has been a very trying time.
“We do a lot of things, we have colleagues in the room, there is more camaraderie,” said Assembly Member Andrew Hevesi (D-Queens). “We are coming back to a sense of normalcy. “
Storm Covid-19 could enter the rearview mirror of the capital of a state that was the epicenter of the pandemic during its worst days. But it’s entirely possible that Albany is simply in the eye of a very different storm.
When the Assembly returns to town, it could be to hold New York’s first impeachment trial in over a century. Otherwise, members will have to explain why they refused to take action against Governor Andrew Cuomo – at a time when the building will likely be reopened to protesters.
“I don’t think it’s going away,” Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt said of the mountain of allegations that Cuomo faces. “The Attorney General has his job to do, and I expect her to do it. I expect that at some point this investigation will be completed and that this report, or some sort of report, will have to be made public, “he added, referring to Attorney General Tish’s investigation. James on the Governor.
Whatever happens to the governor, next year’s legislative session has a very good chance of being more consumed with politics than any session in state history.
In the last gubernatorial election, neither Republican Marc Molinaro nor Democrat Cynthia Nixon launched their challenges against Cuomo until March 2018. Nixon made national headlines, but with the primary not until September and the two challengers considered to be important outsiders, neither has dominated the legislative elections. session which ended in June.
The primary has since been moved to June, just weeks after the 2022 session ended. And hardly anyone would predict that Cuomo, even if he manages to maintain his re-election hopes, will enter the New Year as a big one. favorite to win a fourth term. As other gubernatorial candidates focus on collecting petitions in March, their campaigns may begin to stifle the focus on the state budget.
Aside from the lack of public access to the Capitol during this year’s session, Cuomo’s absence was the biggest difference between this June and the end of the sessions of yesteryear.
He reappeared a bit as a policy maker towards the end, as he lobbied for the Legislature to approve a plan to reorganize the MTA.
This has been linked to talks on legislation to seal more criminal records, leading to a session on the last day of the session in which the Capitol and Twitter were filled with gossip and rumors about an impending deal that would be rushed. by the Legislature after sunset – the type of talking that’s all too familiar to Albany this time of year. However, no agreement was reached and the senators returned home without passing the “Big Ugly” deal which is common in June.
There was a taste of normalcy, in other words, but the full sense of business as usual was not quite there yet.