The state Legislature wrapped up its 2019 legislative session in the early hours of Thursday morning, concluding one of the more consequential years for Albany in recent history.
The year saw a flurry of activity that began in January as Democrats gained control of the state Senate, with pledges to not squander power like the party did a decade ago during its short, unhappy stint in the majority.
Empowered by comfortable majorities in both chambers, the Legislature approved bill after bill Democrats had long pushed for, only to be stymied each year:
- Measures meant to make it easier to vote in New York
- A strengthening of abortion rights and gun control
- Environmental measures
- Allowing undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses and state tuition assistance
- A ban on plastic bags, protections for transfer individuals
- A law that makes it easier for abuse victims to file lawsuits
- Sexual harassment law changes
- A congestion pricing toll plan for New York City
- An increase in the smoking age and new labor rights for farm workers
They didn’t get everything: A bill to legalize marijuana fell short of support and a gestational surrogacy measure promoted by Gov. Andrew Cuomo did not get a vote in the state Assembly.
Ultimately they settled for a bill decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana possession and expunging records of marijuana-related offenses.
And the session still ending like it often does: Bleary eyed lawmakers putting the finishing touches on bills after a marathon night of voting, an omnibus “big ugly” bill introduced after dark.
Cuomo also got a last-minute approval for his budget director, Robert Mujica, to sit on the board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
Still, Democrats wielded power this year in ways they had not been able to before in Albany. Taken together, the accomplishments represent changes to the lives of everyday New Yorkers.