Addressing climate change, affordable housing and public safety are among the key issues for Democrats in the New York state Senate this year as Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins on Wednesday outlined the conference's plans for 2023.
Details will matter, and as lawmakers returned to Albany for day one of the legislative session, the outline of the agenda was a broad-based one. But many of the issues align with what Gov. Kathy Hochul has called for in recent weeks.
That could be important for Hochul as she seeks to pass her second budget this year since taking office in August 2021 and is clashing with progressives over her choice to lead the state Court of Appeals.
The first day of the session is often a day to project unity, however, and the governor herself is yet to fully outline her plans until she delivers her State of the State address next Tuesday.
For Stewart-Cousins, she will once again lead a supermajority in the Senate chamber, with Democrats holding a strong numeric advantage over Republicans. Nevertheless, she pointed voter concerns that had developed over the election season, including the cost of living and crime.
"We see families across our state from being stretched at both ends," she said. "The affordability crisis touches every nerve in our communities and underpins the hardships New Yorkers are facing."
Stewart-Cousins called for "corrective action" on housing that should include a statewide policy, she said.
"The current market is failing to provide adequate supply and leaving too many families without a roof over their heads," she said.
At the same time, Stewart-Cousins acknowledged concerns reflected back in polling over crime in New York — an issue Republicans repeatedly raised last year on the campaign trail.
But as advocates have pushed back against efforts to make further changes to the laws that ended cash bail and overhauled discovery provisions, Stewart-Cousins indicated a wider approach will be taken.
"We're listening to the real fears New Yorkers have about their communities and we understand perception is powerful," she said. "But we have to remember crime cannot be solved with a single solution. Public safety and justice can go hand and hand."