New York's new $212 billion budget does a lot, including increasing taxes on upper income earners, boost education spending to record levels, provide funds to undocumented immigrants affected by the pandemic and creates a framework to allow for mobile sports betting. Prior to the budget, the state Legislature approved the legalization of cannabis and a bill to curtail the use of solitary confinement.
So, what's next on Albany's to-do list? Here are some possibilities:
1. Parole law changes
Progressive groups, including the Working Families Party, Citizen Action and unions like the Communications Workers of America are making a push to overhaul New York's parole laws. The effort includes measures to make it easier for incarcerated people to be released, such as the Fair and Timely Act, as well as elder parole provisions.
A range of criminal justice measures have gained steam in recent years in Albany, though they have faced push-back from Republicans as well as some suburban and upstate Democrats. Parole reform has long been on the docket for progressives after measures to curtail solitary confinement, cash bail and other provisions to limit incarceration were approved.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an even greater emphasis on these issues amid high positive rates in prisons and jails.
2. Climate change
The state Senate on Tuesday is holding a public hearing on a measure that, among other things, would set a pollution fee for companies in New York. That money, in turn, would be used to bolster efforts to combat climate change, including in communities of color that could be adversely affected by floods and air quality.
The measure would be the latest bill to cross the desks of elected officials in Albany to deal with the issue. The state is already moving toward switching to renewable energies by the middle of the century.
3. The Cuomo controversies
Gov. Andrew Cuomo was asked Monday about his priorities for the rest of the year. His answer is a common one given by the governor this time of the year: "operationalize" the budget. In other words, nothing that has to do with the legislature.
But as he continues to face controversies and scrutiny, including sexual harassment allegations, questions over his handling of nursing home fatalities, a reported $4 million book deal worked on by government staffers and more, the legislature may find itself continuing to focus on Cuomo's potential impeachment.
While Cuomo has denied any wrongdoing, prominent and rank-and-file Democrats have called for Cuomo to step down and an impeachment investigation continues to add issues as part of its review.