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State legislators plan to OK paid sick leave for quarantined workers

ALBANY — Legislators will return to the State Capitol on Monday with plans to approve bills to guarantee paid sick leave for quarantined workers and to ease qualifications for candidates to appear on election ballots in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, officials said.

They may also discuss the possibility of enacting an “accelerated” budget ahead of the state’s April 1 fiscal deadline, one key lawmaker said, perhaps acting by the end of the week.

That prospect has some lawmakers urging Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo not to load up the budget with controversial policy changes — such as changing bail laws and legalizing marijuana — which has become an annual practice in budget negotiations.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) said lawmakers plan on holding a legislative session day as scheduled Monday, though all nonessential staff have been ordered to work remotely.

The main item on the Monday agenda, officials said, is a proposal to help individuals who have been told to self-quarantine because of contact with an infected person or other circumstances. Typically, self-quarantines are ordered for 14 days.

Details were still being discussed Sunday, but the idea is to ensure such individuals are eligible for up to 14 days paid sick leave.

Provisions are being considered for smaller businesses, with some of the costs covered either by temporary disability insurance programs or paid family leave laws.

Separately, officials said legislators need to approve legislation to facilitate Cuomo’s order, issued last week, to end the process for gathering signatures to qualify for the ballot as of 5 p.m. Tuesday. The governor’s order also reduces the number of signatures needed by 70%.

For example, a candidate for State Senate would need just 300 signatures rather than 1,000.

But lawmakers also must change the deadline for turning in petitions, which currently is April 2, officials said Sunday.

Assembly Minority Leader William Barclay (R-Pulaski) said legislators may look to wrap up the budget early because of the circumstances.

“When the Legislature returns to Albany tomorrow, it will do so with a goal of reaching an ‘accelerated’ final state budget agreement over the next five days,” Barclay said in a statement.

Barclay noted that Cuomo, a Democrat, previously has suggested the budget agreement include non-mandatory items such as legalizing marijuana and commercial surrogacy. That would be a bad idea, Barclay said.

“This is not the time for these measures to receive full and proper consideration,” the Republican said.

The governor said Sunday he wasn’t requesting the legislature to enact the budget this week, but also left it open by saying lawmakers could act if “if they want to.”

Legislative and executive branch staff have been discussing the possibility of working out an accelerated budget, officials said Sunday.

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