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Senate Leader Stewart-Cousins Previews Remainder Of NYS Legislative Session

NYS Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins
Courtesy of the Office of NYS Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins
NYS Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins

The leader of the New York State Senate gave an overview of the remaining weeks of the legislative session Tuesday.  

Democratic New York State Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins began the virtual briefing by echoing the sentiments of President Joe Biden, who said he is “praying the verdict is the right verdict” in the trial of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin. Jurors were deliberating in the case following the death of George Floyd last May.

"Everybody is just a bit anxious as we await the results of the trial. I know, as the family and everybody knows, of George Floyd, that no matter what happens, there can really not be true justice," she said.

After the jury found Chauvin guilty of all three charges Tuesday afternoon, Stewart-Cousins released the following statement.

"While I’m heartened by this verdict and believe it’s an important step towards accountability, we must remember that this verdict is not true justice," Stewart-Cousins said. "True justice would mean that George Floyd would have walked away from that encounter alive. It would mean that he would be able to watch his daughter grow up. If we had true justice in this country, the kind that lives up to our ideals, countless other Black men and women wouldn’t see the same fate as George Floyd. While we cannot change the past, we can change what happens next. We can decide that we can no longer tolerate a policing system and a justice system that only serves some and not all. We can commit to real reform, to real justice, and to a better system of policing that truly keeps our communities safe instead of tearing them apart. My thoughts are with the Floyd family and the mostly Black and Brown families across this country who have lost a loved one to police violence.”

On other subjects, Stewart-Cousins says the new system by which the legislature oversees Governor Andrew Cuomo’s emergency pandemic powers is working.

The Westchester Democrat was asked about oversight of the embattled governor’s COVID-19 declarations after lawmakers rolled back the emergency powers last month.

"Part of what the governor must do because of the clawback of the emergency powers is to alert the committees and alert us of the different changes he is making in a timely basis, which he has done," she said.

The legislature granted Governor Cuomo extraordinary powers to deal with the pandemic in 2020.

Stewart-Cousins says now that the state budget is done, she is expecting a busy finish to the legislative session. It comes after lawmakers legalized recreational marijuana and mobile sports betting in the spending package. Stewart-Cousins says her conference hasn’t yet discussed a single-payer health care bill favored by progressives in Albany.

"I'm sure it will be a very intense period between now and June when we adjourn for the summer," she said.

Stewart-Cousins says given the raft of harassment allegations against Governor Cuomo and questions about the production of his pandemic memoir last year, the Senate could also consider new ethics reforms.

"We have spoken about ethics reforms and looking at some of the possibilities and making changes to J-COPE, and we're always looking to strengthen accountability and transparency, so you can be assured that we've already started to have those conversatiosn and we'll continue to have those conversations, and I do believe there's an appetite for, ethics, like everything else, there's always an appetite to strengthen various pieces that obviously need to be strengthened," she said.

Stewart-Cousins, who has called on Governor Cuomo to resign, says she hasn’t spoken with the governor about an outline for the end of the session.

"I haven't had any conversations with the governor about a particular legislative agenda, but we'll be moving and we will continue to work with our partners, the Assembly, et cetera, and move legislation as we see fit," she said.

With Cuomo’s hopes for a fourth term potentially diminished, the Senate leader was also asked if she could mount a run for governor in 2022.

"No, I'm not planning a run for governor," she said.

The session is scheduled to run through June 10.

A lifelong resident of the Capital Region, Ian joined WAMC in late 2008 and became news director in 2013. He began working on Morning Edition and has produced The Capitol Connection, Congressional Corner, and several other WAMC programs. Ian can also be heard as the host of the WAMC News Podcast and on The Roundtable and various newscasts. Ian holds a BA in English and journalism and an MA in English, both from the University at Albany, where he has taught journalism since 2013.
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