Coronavirus Changes Legislative Operations; Three Legislators Infected

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The coronavirus outbreak has required major changes in the way New York state government operates. As Politico recently reported, former Pataki aide Bob Bellafiore—who was on Gov. Pataki’s staff on September 11, 2001—said, “‘There is no precedent for this in any way, shape or form… You can’t even have a committee meeting without causing a health risk.’”

Members of the Legislature typically meet in crowded offices, conference rooms, and legislative chambers. Because of the coronavirus, that has changed. Last week, the State Senate passed bills in an almost-empty chamber. The Senate’s flexible voting procedures do not require senators to be physically present when bills are being voted upon. The State Assembly, on the other hand, does require members to be in the chamber to vote. On March 19, members of the Assembly voted in rotating groups of 12 to 15 in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus.

To date, three members of the State Legislature—Asms. Charles Barron, Kimberly Jean-Pierre, and Helene Weinstein—have tested positive for the coronavirus. Lawmakers and staffers who may have been placed at risk were tested.

The New York State Capitol has been closed to members of the public and has undergone a deep cleaning in an effort to prevent the further spread of the virus.

New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms appreciates the measures being taken to preserve the health of elected officials, staff, and the public.