When she was sworn in to office on Aug. 24, Kathy Hochul pledged to take a different track as governor from her predecessor, the scandal-tainted Andrew Cuomo.
Now, as she gives her first address to state lawmakers outlining her own agenda and plans for New York, the new governor's speech will be the first time in a decade someone other than Cuomo will be steering the state in a new year.
Challenges, however, remain the same as those facing her predecessor: An unrelenting COVID-19 pandemic that is resurgent once again with skyrocketing, though potentially midler cases that have nevertheless threatened to disrupt schools, hospital systems and the broader economy.
Many, if not at all, of the issues Hochul faces this year will flow from the ongoing public health crisis.
"COVID will be the central sort of discussion point because we're not out of the pandemic and there's a lot of issues that have been addressed with regard to how the state is going to deal with schools and public services," said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group. "But I suspect she's going to be talking about the climate crisis. It's not like the climate crisis went away."
The State of the State is typically a big picture speech, with the details of how to pay for it given in the budget proposal to be released in the coming weeks. The spending plan itself is due to be adopted by March 31.
Hochul will deliver the address in the state Assembly chamber, a return to a tradition that had been broken by Cuomo as he gave the presentations in a far larger convention center in Albany across the street from the Capitol.
But the speech will still be different. In a nod to the pandemic, social distancing rules will be in effect, with a limited number of lawmakers and spectators in the chamber for Hochul's speech.
Already, Hochul has signaled she wants to limit the terms of all statewide elected officials — potentially limiting how governors like Cuomo in the past can amass an outsized amount of power.
"I think to a certain extent there's been some recognition that New York's governor has gotten too strong and needs to have the power cut back," Horner said.
Term limits have been proposed before, and there's no guarantee the proposal can get to the finish line, Horner said.
"I think the odds are much better than they have been in the past," Horner said. "Typically, there's been no real effort by the executive to muscle through something on term limits. But it requires a constitutional amendment."
Hochul has already pledged more money to boost pay for health care workers, continue to move forward with increasing direct aid to schools as pushed by advocates and wants to find ways of keeping struggling people in their homes. Advocates like Marina Marcou-O'Malley of the Alliance for Quality Education are also watching for whether Hochul will embrace calls for universal child care.
Lawmakers have backed legislation to put such a program in place after the pandemic highlighted child care problems, especially for working-class New Yorkers.
"As the pandemic started, we saw that essential workers like health care workers could not have done what they did without access to child care," she said.
At the same time, jobs are yet to fully bounce back in a state that has been hit hard by the pandemic. Justin Wilcox, of the pro-business group Upstate United, urged Hochul to focus on expanding the Brownfield cleanup program and relieve small businesses from unemployment insurance costs.
"No governor in recent history comes better prepared to tackle the issues of upstate New York, or knows them better," he said. "One of the things she's said from the get-go was really there is no economic recovery until small businesses recover and we agree 100% on that."
There are still the additional political crosscurrents of an election year for all legislative seats as well as the governor herself. Thorny issues stemming from criminal justice law changes like reinstituting cash bail for people facing criminal charges will likely linger through much of the six-month legislative session.