Yesterday, Hodes & Landy attended the grand opening of the Albany Times Union’s Hearst Media Center, for a rare, live discussion between Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and reporter Casey Seiler of the Times Union, to discuss the dynamics of their working relationship, the challenges of representing each conference and end of session priorities. With only 17 days left in the Regular Session, the Legislature will be pressed to pass a multitude of district-focused, non-budget bills.
Their demeanor was friendly and casual as they talked about throwing elbows playing basketball and having open lines of communication as they stridently work to represent their conferences within the Constitutional authority and responsibilities of the Legislature.
Flanagan said the Senate’s agenda centers on various “quality of life” issues, including supporting the State’s water and transportation infrastructure, addressing the opioid addiction crisis and increased and gang violence.
Meanwhile, Heastie expects his chamber will continue to work on immigration reform and expanded child care. Heastie was gravely concerned by the prospect of reductions in federal funding for health care and tax deductions.
When asked how they can possibly plan for potential Federal changes that would directly impact New York’s enacted State budget, they readily agreed that legislators would return to Albany for a Special Session, if necessary.
Setting aside the Federal uncertainty, both Heastie and Flanagan agreed there are a number of unsettled issues that directly impact the lives of New Yorkers. Flanagan acknowledged that the Governor achieved most of his policy goals through the budget process, but reiterated that controversial issues like procurement reform, mayoral control of the NYC public school system, and 421-A could still be debated prior to the end of session.
Finally, as they talked about recent budget negotiations with the Governor and the long hours each conference put into debating some of the higher profile proposals, Flanagan made a point to express appreciation for the Speaker and his willingness to work through the issues, calling it “healthy friction.” Heastie agreed and said he felt like the pendulum of influence is beginning to swing back to the Legislature.
Both attested to their longstanding relationship and that in the end it’s about doing the “people’s work,” with Flanagan jokingly referencing that they enjoy a better relationship than that of their predecessors. Casey Seiler agreed saying, he couldn’t imagine such an open public dialogue between Skelos and Silver.
Hodes & Landy will continue to utilize this blog to provide updated news and commentary throughout the legislative session.