Elected officials are not in the habit of underselling their accomplishments. Such a quirk would be a bad fit for their chosen profession. It is telling, therefore, that in assessing the large list of substantive legislation approved since January, some Albany pols have had to give relatively short shrift to big achievements just to stay under word count.
Take the press release from Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued last Friday. It runs a healthy 2,200 words. Yet only 34 are devoted to singing the praises of a historic slate of rent-law reforms. Only 30 are about criminal justice reforms, including the elimination of cash bail for most offenses. Given that the release had the title “Most Productive Legislative Session in Modern History,” the governor’s messaging doesn’t seem to have been overtaken by modesty. It’s that there’s a lot to talk about, from LLC reform to climate-change legislation, farmworkers’ rights to gun control, congestion pricing to Child Victims’ Act, the DREAM Act to drivers’ licenses for the undocumented.
But that’s just the stuff they got done. Marijuana legalization, parole reforms, surrogacy, prevailing wage, condo/coop tax abatement restructuring, charter schools–the items left on the table in Albany this year would be enough to fill a couple normal sessions’ worth of work. (The state moved to decriminalize rather than legalize marijuana).
“It’s incredibly extensive,” State Sen. Zellnor Myrie of Brooklyn told WBAI’s Max & Murphy Show on Wednesday, speaking of the Democrats’ record of accomplishment. “And when you’re hitting grand slams every week, you forget about the singles and the doubles that loaded the bases, and so there are things that we did that didn’t get as much play, but really are important for people in our districts. We restored $20 million for foreclosure prevention. We restored $500 million in Medicaid cuts. We got a $618 million increase for our public schools. And that’s just to name a few. We’ve added speed cameras, we’ve regulated student loan lenders, and so there really was just an incredible amount of work done and I couldn’t be prouder.”
Myrie predicted that marijuana legalization would be back on Albany’s agenda soon. Sen. Liz Krueger of Manhattan said it was the complexity of that issue that prevented legalization this time around.
“Well, marijuana, even though people talk about as if it’s one issue, is actually a whole series of complicated issues. And so where you were attempting to get 32 votes in the Senate or 76 votes in the Assembly, you would discover that you’d have people on A, B and C, but D and E were problems, and you would learn D and E are fine over here, but A, B, and C [weren’t],” she said. “So, it was a really giant bill, it kept getting bigger, and I understood that, which meant it was harder to actually sell people on.” Krueger said marijuana legalization had a shot when it was linked to the budget, but lost steam when it became decoupled from the spending plan.
Myrie noted that there was diverse opinion about marijuana in the districts as well:
I think the point has to be made that there is- I’m in full support. I represent a pretty diverse district, but I have a lot of folks in my district who are not excited about legalization. I heard some of this when I would be back in the district, we held forums on this, there would be people that would come up to me, some of my seniors would say “we’re not with this.” Now, I am willing to make the case to my community why this is important for us, not just the decriminalization, but the economic opportunity that it would provide for folks. I think that we do have a lot of support there, but the assumption that even in the districts where there representatives were fully in support, that the support in the district was monolithic, I think is a presumption that we need to fight back against. And so, I’m ready to double down and do the work on education; I’ve been talking to the folks in my community about why this is important and good for us.
Krueger and Myrie also discussed the dynamics between the Senate and Andrew Cuomo, the perhaps beneficially low profile Mayor de Blasio kept this budget season and whether landlords had any basis for their complaints about the new rent laws. Hear our conversation below or listen to the full show, which includes analysis of the Queens DA race and predictions (which readers can now evaluate with the benefit of hindsight) for the June 26 presidential debate.
Max & Murphy: 2 Democratic State Senators Grade the 2019 Session
Max & Murphy: Caban Closes in, De Blasio Debates and two Senators Grade the Session
With reporting by Cyan Hunte