ALBANY – As the state continues to struggle to deal with the migrant crisis and a halt on the state’s fledgling cannabis industry, Gov. Kathy Hochul told reporters on Thursday that she is weighing several options to deal with the issues, including recalling the state Legislature for a special session this fall.
The state’s legislative session typically runs from January through June, but members can be recalled to Albany by the governor if they believe circumstances require it. Last year, Hochul convened an extraordinary session in late June following the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of the Roe v. Wade decision to pass legislation to protect access to reproductive services, including abortion.
Speaking at Tech Valley High School in Albany, Hochul once again reiterated the migrant crisis is a federal issue, not a state one, but said she’s exploring all options.
“With respect to a special session, certainly I’m entertaining all our options. Right now, we’re working closely with the [New York City] mayor. To resolve this, I believe the answer comes from Washington in the form of work authorizations,” Hochul told reporters. “I will say I’m exploring all our options on the state level. What the state of New York can do in the confines of the law.”
Hochul in recent weeks has increasingly put pressure on the Biden administration to provide more resources to address the migrant crisis that has overwhelmed the state. Hochul on Thursday noted she had another call scheduled that day with the White House chief of staff. She has also called on President Joe Biden to issue an emergency order or put pressure on the Republican-led Congress to pass legislation to allow for expedited work authorizations, which she says would allow the asylum seekers to afford their own shelter and services, thus easing the crisis.
“I say that I have two crises: one is the humanitarian crisis of thousands of migrants coming to our state. I also have a workforce shortage crisis. I have literally 460,000 unfilled jobs. I have 5,000 farm jobs that are begging to be filled right now the harvest is upon us,” the Democrat said. “So, I’m trying with my attorneys literally every day to find a path as the governor of the state of New York to find a mechanism until such a time the federal government changes the rules.”
Hochul has seen her poll numbers drop due to the crisis and Republicans leaders in the state Legislature sent a letter to her last week calling for a special session to deal with the issue. The letter calls for funding for affected communities, revoking the state’s sanctuary status and ensuring local control for communities.
On Thursday, state Sen. James Tedisco, R-Glenville and Assemblywoman Marianne Buttenschon, a Democrat, announced they introduced legislation that would stop one municipality from transferring asylum seekers to another without notification or permission.
Due to local control, many upstate counties have sought to ban the shipping of asylum seekers from New York City. Following the shipping of more than 200 asylum seekers in Rotterdam this summer, the Schenectady County Legislature unanimously approved an emergency order prohibiting the relocation of asylum seekers to the county.
That same local control does not allow the state to unilaterally end the city’s “right to shelter” law, which Hochul said is largely why so many asylum seekers have been brought there, noting the state has long been a sanctuary state.
“Why they’re coming to New York State is the “right of shelter” that is a construct of litigation from 1981. It’s a consent decree between parties where they agreed that New York City would provide shelter to whoever requested. I don’t think in a million years it was anticipated to be an unlimited, universal right to have shelter provided to the entire world at [the] cost of taxpayers with no end in sight,” Hochul said. “We need relief. But, also, if we can get these people to work, if we’re allowed to let them work, they can be independent [and] they don’t need work.”
In addition to the migrant crisis, the state’s cannabis industry came to a halt last month following lawsuits challenging the Marijuana Regulation and Taxation Act (MRTA) under the state’s Constitution. The bill was signed into law by then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2021 and legalized adult-use recreational marijuana and established the regulations for the state’s cannabis industry.
One lawsuit was filed by a group of disabled veterans last month, which led to a judge putting a hold on the industry. The state has sought to end the halt while the litigation is decided in court, but so far, has lost that argument. The state is scheduled to once again appear in court to address this case in Ulster County on Friday.
State Sen. Jeremy Cooney, chair of the state Senate Subcommittee on Cannabis, announced its first-ever public hearing on the ongoing legal challenges scheduled in Albany on Oct. 30. The state Office of Cannabis Management has issued more than 450 CAURD, or retail, licenses and only about 20 stores are currently open statewide, including Upstate Canna Co. in Schenectady. The rest remain in limbo.
“It’s very disheartening to me to know we were on a path, we had 30 or more individuals who met the equity standards that tried to undo the challenges of the past and over-prosecuted neighborhoods, all set to start their businesses and litigation from larger corporate entities from out outside the state have shut that process down,” Hochul said. “I want to call that out.”
One of the solutions proposed by legislative leaders is changes to the MRTA law that would address the problems raised by the lawsuits, which would render the lawsuits obsolete and allow the industry to resume. Changes to the law would also require the state Legislature to be recalled to Albany.
This is not the first time lawmakers have proposed a special session this fall. State lawmakers adjourned this year’s session without taking up several high-profile bills, including Seneca gaming contract, which is set to expire on Dec. 9.