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NYS Senate Deputy Leader Says Lawmakers To Limit Time At The Capitol

New York State Senate Deputy Majority Leader Mike Gianaris
Karen DeWitt
NY Senate Deputy Leader Mike Gianaris

The New York state legislature has postponed its session until at least Wednesday, in order to figure out how to conduct its business safely under new regulation released by the CDC regarding human density in light of the spreading coronavirus. 

Two Assemblymembers have the virus and are recovering. Both the Assembly and Senate say they are working out ways to have members come to the Capitol to vote on legislation, but to also stay safe and help prevent the spread of the illness. One of the ideas is for 10 or so members to come to the chamber to vote, then return to their offices, so the next 10 could come in and cast their votes. 

Senate Deputy Leader Mike Gianaris, who was at the Capitol, says lawmakers will try to agree on as much as they can remotely, including many items in the state budget, and then come in to vote. But he did not rule out leaving some big ticket times, like legalizing marijuana, for later.  

“We’re trying to be incredibly efficient this week, to only come in as necessary,” Gianaris said. “But in that short time do as much as we can to move the state forward.”  

Gianaris says a big challenge will be closing a multibillion dollar budget deficit that could grow as the state spends more health care dollars treating those sick with the virus. He did not rule out a proposal on raising taxes on the wealthy to help pay for it. 

The public is barred from the Capitol for now for safety reasons, so lobbyists and protest groups cannot come offer their views on the spending plan. 

Gianaris says many of the issues have been discussed for months, and the varying positons are already well known. And he says there is always phone and email.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.
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