Good Morning from Washington, D.C….
The United States Senate adjourned for the year early on Saturday morning with plans to return to Washington on January 3rd. This means no votes on the Build Back Better Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and any number of other Democratic priorities until 2022, at the earliest. This despite energetic efforts by President Joe Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to get at least the Build Back Better Act done this year. President Biden acknowledged that negotiations would drag into 2022, giving Schumer and Pelosi the cover to close up shop for the Holiday Recess. “It takes time to finalize these agreements, prepare the legislative changes, and finish all the parliamentary and procedural steps needed to enable a Senate vote,” the President said.
As far as voting rights and Democrats’ prospects in 2022 midterms, Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) had an equally dire pronouncement, saying “I’m afraid we won’t retain the majority if we don’t pass voter protection legislation, which our constituents also expect us to do.”
Back in New York…
The New York State Department of Health recorded the highest number of COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began, and things in State government are beginning to sound reminiscent of March 2020 (to put into context, Thursday’s case count was 58% higher than April 2020). “The winter surge is in full force,” Governor Kathy Hochul said. “And I believe it’s going to be even stronger and more virulent and I believe we’re in for a rough ride this winter season.” Hochul delivered several admonishments and pleas to New Yorkers to get vaccinated, boosted, and stay safe. She threatened additional measures while standing pat on her vaccinate or mask mandate. Just last month, Governor Hochul promised to have workers back in the office by January.
Nonetheless, Hochul’s campaign continues to roll with endorsements by the politically potent Hotel Trades Council and Steelworkers as well as several legislators, including some who had previously endorsed erstwhile opponent Tish James.
With under a month until the January 5th opening of the Legislative Session and Governor Hochul’s first State of the State Address, the growing spread raises questions as far as what Albany will look like this year. Tackling the largest wave of COVID-19 yet also does not leave a lot of room for many of the major issues facing the decision makers in Albany this year as they head toward Legislative and Gubernatorial primaries in June.
Many in Albany are also questioning that political calendar. Petitions are scheduled to begin in March with primaries set for June 28. The complication, of course, is redistricting. New York’s Independent Redistricting Commission is required to provide a map on or by January 15, 2022. If that map is rejected by the Legislature, the Commission has until February 28, 2022 to provide a second map. Only when both maps have been rejected, and rejected by a 2/3 majority of the legislature, is the legislature empowered to draw its own lines. Doing so, even with the best will in the world, takes time. Even without COVID concerns, this puts that primary calendar in doubt.
Further, a few bills were introduced in the Legislature to crack down on “volunteering” of official State employees on unofficial work, like Cuomo’s book. “No government employee should be ‘volun-told’ to do work outside their official duties that personally enriches their superior,” said State Senator Todd Kaminsky.
As we head into Christmas week and prepare for the New Year, on behalf of all of us at O’Donnell & Associates, thank you for being our friends, our clients, and a part of our team. Every one of us is grateful for the opportunity to partner with you to make New York a better place to work, to live, and to raise our families. Please accept our best wishes for a successful and prosperous New Year.
Finally, a programming note. The Monday Morning Memo will not publish on December 27th and will return on Monday January 3rd with a preview of Governor Hochul’s State of the State, scheduled for January 5th. Until then, and as always, please reach out with questions or concerns.
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