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The 2019 New York State legislative session will get underway in less than a month with a major change in the cast of characters including the new Democratic Majority in the Senate. Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins was elected the Majority Leader and she will have a big job trying to set the tone with fifteen new members of the Democrats 40 members. They will be able to move many bills that have been stopped by the Senate Republicans in the last several years. The Majority Leader will have to make key decisions about who will lead various committees. Senator Sue Serino who had been chair of the Aging Committee will be replaced by a Democrat. Long-time Senator Kemp Hannon who chaired the Health Committee for many years was defeated. Senator Gustavo Rivera was the ranking Democrat on that committee but it is unclear if ranking members will all take over to chair their committees.
A big concern for lobbyists and advocates will be the new faces on the Senate staff. There is a big turnover of staff who are the people they have been dealing most on a day to day basis. Many staffpersons who have worked on the Senate majority staff are losing their jobs and Democrats have to quickly hire many new staffpersons for committees and for central staff including budget and finance staffpersons.
Democrats will continue to have the majority the Assembly and there will be just the normal turnover with some new members. Program and budget staffpersons in the Assembly do not know now who all their counterparts will be on the Senate staff who they will need to interact with on a daily basis.
Advocates and lobbyists as well as the media and public are trying to figure out how the Assembly, Senate and Governor Cuomo are going to interact, especially if the two houses stake out more liberal positions than the Governor. Cuomo will be tested to see if he will support many of the reform measures new members and both majorities in the houses want including voting and ethics reforms. Democrats are expected to push for legislation to enact early voting and ending a loophole allowing corporations to donate huge amounts of money. Democrats led by Assembly Health Chair Richard Gottfried will again push hard for a state single payer health system with his NY Health bill.