The legislative session this year generated a lot of headlines when it came to strengthening abortion rights, LGBTQ rights, banning plastic bags, new gun control laws and efforts to stem climate change by cutting emissions.
And, after a swing to the left with large Democratic majorities in both chambers, lawmakers could go even further next year. A caveat: it’s an election year. And an added wrinkle: Many lawmakers will be juggling both session and a potential primary challenge looming for them when they return home in June 2020.
So, let’s look into the crystal ball and take a look at some issues that may dominate the 2020 session:
Decriminalizing sex work: Despite a well-publicized effort and rallies in Albany and in New York City, a proposal that was meant to decriminalize sex work stalled at the state Capitol. Gov. Andrew Cuomo this month questioned whether there was time to tackle an issue that is sure to draw both headlines and controversy. Lawmakers and advocates may try again in the 2020 session, armed with written legislation and a sharpened argument. Opponents will likely point to quality-of-life issues.
Single-payer health care: Democrats in the Legislature who support the plan are almost certain to try again next year. Bill sponsors are holding a series of public hearings on the issue and tout the bill, which has been changed and rewritten after a report estimated a previous version would double the size of the state budget, but also bring down health care costs for New Yorkers. A single-payer bill is perhaps the biggest concept plan state lawmakers can think of and one that Cuomo is very leery of given the cost and scope of the legislation.
Legalizing marijuana: Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes was clearly unhappy with the outcome of the marijuana debate in Albany, which ultimately led to a smaller, decriminalization measure that also expunged the records of those who have been arrested and convicted of non-violent marijuana-related offenses. She blamed Long Island Democrats, specifically, for the broader legalization bill’s failure. Will the incentives change for Long Island lawmakers in an election year? Maybe not. But the push will intensify to do something again on the issue.
Money for education: C’mon, it’s an election year! No matter who is in charge of the Legislature, it becomes an imperative for lawmakers in an election year to boost school spending, a key bread-and-butter issue for many voters.
The top of the ticket: The Democratic agenda could also be dictated by who is at the top of the presidential ticket for the Democrats. It’s not hard to see presidential nominee Bernie Sanders, for instance, intensifying the debate over single-payer health care in New York, or one of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s many policy proposals being adopted and modified for the state level.
NY State of Politics: