In advance of next week’s legislative session, the Assembly’s second-in-command told Spectrum News that she’s thinking a lot about “the multiple pandemics we’re experiencing.”
Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes explained that the state is facing three pandemics in concert: COVID-19, the resulting economic downturn, and racial unrest.
“All of these things are combining to create a really big problem for government and it’s going to take bold efforts to pull all this together,” she said.
Unfortunately, any bold effort will likely need a massive injection of funding from Washington, because New York is just about broke.
“My biggest dream is for Congress to take some action and deliver some resources to the state of New York so that we might still be able to provide services to our constituents,” said Peoples-Stokes. “But that’s probably not going to happen by next week unless some miracle happens.”
While there has been movement behind the scenes on revenue raisers like marijuana legalization and mobile sports betting, Peoples-Stokes doesn’t think either issue will be seriously considered next week.
“We’re going to be dealing with 175 bills from the last time we were in town,” she said. “There are also committee meetings. There have been at least 25 committee meetings this week.”
When asked about her take on mobile sports betting Peoples-Stokes said, “I actually would like to see it passed not because I’m in love with mobile sports betting, but I know that a lot of people are. I’m not sure that will be next week, though, to be honest.”
She repeated, “Revenue bills will not be taken up next week, unless that miracle I’m hoping for happens.”
Should a miracle happen, Peoples-Stokes says it would have to be really, really big.
“We need multiple billions. I don’t think millions are going to help us. We need billions,” she said.
The highest-ranking woman in the Assembly told Spectrum News she’s been thinking a lot about how government should respond to the needs of the Black and brown communities in light of COVID-19.
“You wouldn’t have seen the major health disparities as it relates to COVID in Black and brown communities if there were opportunities to get good health care; if there were fair opportunities to get a good education; if there were good opportunities to get good jobs,” she said.
The pandemic has hit poor communities of color hard for multiple reasons.
“A lot of these people were essential. They had to go to the hospital and clean up,” explained Peoples-Stokes. “I think that this is an opportunity to look at this in a holistic kind of way and figure out how do we get all American citizens the promise of America, and we just haven’t done that.”
Peoples-Stokes has introduced bill that would require Buffalo police officers to live in the city of Buffalo. Buffalo is one of the only municipalities in Erie County that doesn’t currently have that requirement on the books.
“It’s one of those disparities that tend to be more negative than it is positive,” she said. “It would add value to the property tax base, and perhaps we wouldn’t be as dependent on the state for AIM dollars.”
But you won’t see Peoples-Stokes calling for the police to be defunded.
“I think this whole option of defunding police is not something that I support,” she said. “I think we need to have law enforcement. We just need to have the right law enforcement that does their job in a moral way, where they won’t mind, quite honestly, being held accountable for the results of their work.”