Capitol Watch: Transportation Hearings, Pre-Budget Break
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — In New York state government news, lawmakers are taking a week off after a frenzied start to the 2019 session that saw quick passage on bills strengthening gun control rules, protecting abortion rights and relaxing the statute of limitations on child molestation.
But not every legislator is getting time off, as the state Senate is planning the first of several hearings on transit Tuesday.
Here's a look at stories making news and upcoming events:
PAUSE BUTTON: The Senate and Assembly will not be in session this week as lawmakers return home to their districts following the first six weeks of the session.
The mid-winter break is an annual tradition, even in years when lawmakers do very little in the first weeks of session. This year, however, lawmakers may actually deserve some rest and recuperation after a busy start to the year.
Democrats won control of the state Senate in November, giving the party control of both chambers of the Legislature and the governor's office for the first time in decades. Once the session began in January they wasted little time passing several high-profile bills that had long been blocked by the Senate's former Republican masters.
They include bills authorizing advance voting, strengthening state gun control laws, codifying federal abortion protections in state law, banning offshore drilling and extending the statute of limitations on child molestation to give victims more time to sue or seek criminal charges against their alleged abusers.
Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed several of the measures into law already, though he has yet to act on the Dream Act, which would extend state financial aid to students who entered the country illegally as children. Cuomo supports the bill and is expected to sign it soon.
When they return, lawmakers will begin the hardest part of their annual session: passing a new state budget.
TALKING TRANSIT: Not every lawmaker will be taking some time off this week.
The Senate has scheduled the first of five hearings on transit Tuesday in Manhattan.
While New York City's aging and dilapidated subway system will no doubt dominate much of the hearing, lawmakers leading the hearing insist the focus will be on the challenges facing bus and rail systems around the state, not just the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
"Millions rely on New York's transit networks every day, and they deserve effective, reliable, and safe transportations options," said Senator Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo and chair of the Senate's Transportation Committee. Tuesday's hearing will also include members of the Senate Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Committee.
Additional hearings are planned for Long Island, the Hudson River Valley, Syracuse and Buffalo. Dates have not yet been announced.
UPCOMING: Feb. 26: Lawmakers return to Albany
April 1: State budget due