The State Legislature doesn't have enough time to explore significant topics...

The State Legislature doesn't have enough time to explore significant topics or assess detailed bills, some lawmakers say. Credit: AP/Hans Pennink

A "post-budget hangover."

That's how one state lawmaker described the abysmal status of inaction in Albany. 

With the budget a month late, and the legislative session due to end June 8, there seems to be little appetite — or time — for legislators to get anything significant done in the 10 working days they have left. Instead of an active, engaged body tackling legislative priorities, holding hearings and passing legislation, the disappointing scene in Albany this spring seems closer to The Walking Dead.

It doesn't have to be this way.

Meaningful, even nation-leading laws have been debated and passed during the final weeks of previous sessions, although six months of actual lawmaking seems hardly enough for a state as complex as New York.

Not this year. With an absurdly short window and little appetite to act, it's unlikely anything of substance will happen on consequential topics. Even on smaller local housing, environmental and social issues, advocates are finding it more difficult to be heard. No one seems to know what will move forward.

And this legislature got a $32,000 pay raise last year, bringing annual salaries to $142,000 apiece. But they're in session for just 60 days between January and June, with 10 to go.

Yet, there's a lot to do.

Lawmakers may need to further address the migrant crisis, which could ripple beyond New York City to the surrounding suburbs, including Long Island. They could make big moves, if they wished, such as crafting an alternative housing effort with incentives for municipalities to develop plans to move construction forward. Or at least tackle simpler housing fixes: A bill sponsored by State Sen. Monica Martinez would allow for faster issuance of building permits.

They could push for further criminal justice fixes, particularly on the sharing of evidence in court cases. Or take up State Sen. Kevin Thomas' legislation to address data privacy. They could work to reduce the state's solid waste, through legislation now known as the Packaging Reduction and Recycling Infrastructure Act, or address flood disclosure rules in home selling. They could try again to restore state recognition of the Montaukett Indian Nation. Dare we mention: They could even hold actual oversight hearings.

Or they could do nothing.

The problem, some lawmakers said, is that there's not enough time to explore significant topics or assess detailed bills. They should speak up. The session ends far too early and is way too short, even though it's not an election year for state offices. It's easier, it seems, to take a pass. Deep rifts over failed judicial nominations, housing and criminal justice issues are still raw.

That's not leadership by the Democrats who control the executive chamber and the legislature.

It's time to act.

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.

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