The Capitol in Albany seen from the steps of the...

The Capitol in Albany seen from the steps of the state Education Department Building on Oct. 7, 2019. Credit: Hans Pennink

ALBANY – Lawmakers will resume the 2020 state legislative session on Tuesday with a short list of bills that have two mandatory elements: Must be related to COVID-19.  Can’t cost state money.

Legislators said the agenda as of Friday was still fluid but they were expecting a package of 10 to 20 bills. The Senate and Assembly will hold committee meetings Tuesday — the first time they will be in session since leaving Albany nearly eight weeks ago because of the pandemic. They intend to vote on measures, probably Wednesday and maybe Thursday.

Among the ideas being discussed include housing, absentee voting and whistleblower protections. One being kicked around centers on earmarking a portion of federal aid to help some residents pay rent.

Also, bills to extend local laws that otherwise might expire in 2020 are under consideration.

What’s not on the agenda, legislators and officials said: legalization of marijuana, expansion of sports betting and other potential revenue raisers. New York officials want to wait to see what the next round of federal aid brings the state.

“The message is it’s not the time for revenue measures,” one lawmaker said Friday.

House leaders said they will use videoconferencing and social distancing, and will limit the number of members on the chamber floors at any one time. Debating and voting could occur online. They followed similar procedures in April while voting on a $178 billion state budget.

“The Senate will be convening session next week to pass legislation addressing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) said in a statement Friday. “While the work may look different, it very much continues.”

Voting advocates on Friday issued a list of priorities they want legislators to take up next week to streamline and expand absentee voting amid the pandemic. Some of the ideas center on putting into law some of the measures Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo enacted through emergency powers earlier this year, such as permanently allowing someone to submit an online application for an absentee ballot.

Other ideas include expanding early in-person voting so as to reduce crowds. Legislators said several voting measures could be on Tuesday’s agenda.

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