When state lawmakers cast votes for the state budget this week, many of them might not be in the chamber — or in Albany for that matter.
Both the state Senate and Assembly are taking steps to formally allow for remote voting during a declared emergency.
The state Senate approved the rules changes to do so early Sunday evening and the Assembly is expected to follow suit later on Monday.
The move is meant to adhere to social distancing guidelines during the pandemic in the tight confines of the legislative chambers. Four members of the Assembly have tested positive for coronavirus.
“During these extraordinary circumstances, it is critical that the People’s House is able to continue to do the people’s work,” Speaker Carl Heastie said. “These changes will preserve the integrity of New York's legislative process in a way that will also protect our members, our staff, the hardworking staff of the capitol and the families we all go home to. This is a historic step that will help save lives and support New Yorkers.”
The budget lawmakers face is a daunting one: Gov. Andrew Cuomo has warned New York is functionally broke and the Legislature is expected to approve a budget that will allow for quarterly adjustments throughout the year.
“During these unprecedented times, our state government requires continuity, and New Yorkers deserve leadership and action,” said Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.