As a practical matter, state lawmakers have to be in Albany, in the Capitol, in their seats at their desks, in order to vote.
But a coalition of good-government groups have proposals that could help the state Legislature find ways, like millions of New Yorkers this week, of maintaining transparency and even working remotely.
Common Cause, League of Women Voters New York, NYPIRG, Reinvent Albany and Citizens Union released a set of proposals on Monday that would ensure government transparency during the pandemic.
That includes having the Legislature vote remotely, a prospect that less than a month ago would have been dismissed, but now may be more attractive after three lawmakers in the Assembly have tested positive for the virus.
More broadly, the organizations want state government officials to ensure meetings are held with public access as a concern. That includes providing a livestream of the events and making the recordings available on government websites.
The public should be able to participate in government proceedings through video conference technology, they argue, and at minimum be able to provide input through telephone or written testimony.
The sessions of the state Senate and Assembly are already webcast, as are many, but not all, committee meetings. But voting remains a challenge.
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Lawmakers in the state Senate and Assembly in Albany last week voted in small groups in order to adhere to CDC guidelines that discourage large gatherings.
It’s likely that will continue in the coming days for the state budget, due at the end of the month.
“Neighboring states like Connecticut and Pennsylvania are already making provisions for lawmakers to convene and vote remotely,” the good-government organizations wrote. “New York can too.”