Today in Albany, lawmakers are meeting for the first day of the New York State 2020 Legislative Session. State senators and assembly members are gathered at the Capitol for the 203rd term since the founding of our state and country.
Over the past year, we've seen what it is like to live in a totalitarian state having one-party in charge of making the laws. This happened because of the flip of the state Senate from red to blue in 2018. The Republican Party lost its Senate majority, and New York State lost its balance. The makeup in the Senate chambers is currently 40 Democrats and 23 Republicans.
The Republicans held the Senate majority near exclusively since the end of WW2. Apparently, this loss of power was more of a shock to some GOP senators than most people imagined. Since the spring of 2019, a Republican Senator, Catharine Young, resigned and eight other GOP senators have announced they do not plan to seek reelection.
The reluctant eight leaving office or ending political careers are, Richard Funke, George Amedore, Betty Little, Joseph E. Robach, Michael Ranzenhofer, Robert Ortt, and Chris Jacobs. Another is Senator Bob Antonacci, who was just sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice in Onondaga County.
When the going gets tough… the tough apparently leave. Being in the majority for all those years must have been really cushy if only one year in the minority prompted these senators to call it quits. The GOP senators should have commiserated with their fellow Republicans in the State Assembly. The Assembly GOP has been in the minority for the past 45 years; they were last the majority power in 1975.
In the 2020 state senate elections, keeping these senate seats red will be difficult without the horsepower of incumbency. The hope is there will be a backlash towards Democrats for the debacle we are now living with known as criminal justice reform. With this wind at the Republican's backs, not only will the contested senate seats remain red, but a few currently blue seats might also be flipped.
But, if by some chance, all of those former GOP senate seats turn Democratic, the state senate will be on its way to having a Democratic Super Majority. If that happens, the Senate will have the power to override a governor's veto of any and all legislation. Remember, there have been times in the past year even our left-leaning Governor Cuomo has nixed legislation he felt went too far out of line. Imagine if every looney bill became law because it couldn't be overridden with veto authority.
We should all hope for balance again in our state legislature. The Assembly leaning to the left and the Senate leaning to the right kept state spending in line, along with legislation that was debated, deliberated, and compromised. Now there is no need for negotiations when making laws. The laws enacted last year in the one-party rule were steamrolled through with little or no discussion, even among the Democrats.
It was only after the new laws were thoroughly read last summer did we realize the gravity of what had passed. Now, even some Democrats are feeling the heat because they blindly voted along party lines for bail and evidence reform. When officials such as Mayor De Blasio begin to backpedal away from bail reform, you know it was hastily and badly written. Also, the farm-labor bill shouldn't be left off the list of outrage for rural upstate voters. Both of these legislative works are being considered for amendments in this coming session.
Now is the time for the Republican Party to make strenuous efforts to win back the Senate in the fall elections. All of the senate seats are up for grabs, including those held by freshman Democrats who beat incumbent Republicans by slim margins in the anti-Trump wave of 2018. If the reluctant eight don't have the stomach to run an uphill race, the Republicans in those districts better pick good candidates.
We still need to brace for the potential damage of one-party rule for the rest of this legislative year. We may be dealing with such things as one-size-fits-everyone health care, more restrictions on firearms owners, and lord only knows what will become legalized.
Conservatives have a couple of things going in their favor. First, in a General Election, the power of the secret ballot allows middle-of-the-road Democrats and Independents to vote for whomever they choose. Second, according to the legislative calendar, the lawmakers are luckily only together in Albany for 57 days this year. Just imagine the damage they could do if they were making laws full-time.