The recent convictions of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos will have a profound effect on the business of the 2016 legislative session in Albany. Not only will there be calls for new ethics legislation but that and all other bills will be considered during an unpredictable election year at both the state and federal levels.
Republicans who control the State Senate by a one vote margin which is augmented by the support of the Independent Democratic Caucus would normally be worrying about their prospects in a Presidential election year and this one with Hillary Clinton almost certainly running at the top of the Democratic ticket and perhaps someone like Donald Trump or Ted Cruz at the top of the Republican ticket.
Republicans, especially on Long Island, have to be concerned about the backlash against Skelos whose seat is now open upon his conviction and will probably have a strong Democratic candidate in that district and others on the island where Democrats are gaining in registration. The Republicans’ concern will also be complicated by issues like the push to raise the minimum wage to $15 that Governor Cuomo and Democrats are pushing.
The other issue that looms in the background is that the big donors to the Republican cause who helped funnel millions in campaign money will be looking over their shoulders in light of what was revealed in the Skelos and Silver trials. Fear of even the appearance of illegality may cause some donors to be less engaged or give less.
The other big issue is how the Independent Democratic Caucus positions itself. It joined with mainline Democrats to try to win the majority in 2014 but when the party lost outright, the IDC resumed its arrangement as a partner with Senate Republicans. Presumably they would again line up to try to gain a Democratic majority with Senator Jeff Klein, head of the IDC and Senator Andrea Stewart Cousins, the Democratic Minority leader working together.
Election years usually bode well for issues popular with the public so with the minimum wage and paid family leave as big concerns, legislators may be more interested in supporting those as well as issues popular with seniors and other voters back home.