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Sandy recovery needs may force governor to alter agenda

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Albany/HV: Sandy recovery needs may force governor to alter agenda
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Governor Andrew Cuomo has managed to get most of his agenda enacted during the last two legislative sessions, but year three might be different because of Hurricane Sandy. Zack Fink explains.


Republicans and Democrats often agree that state government has functioned more effectively under Governor Andrew Cuomo. But there are some wild cards that could threaten that newfound stability.

There is the unprecedented power sharing arrangement in the State Senate, which has produced a fragile coalition government. And looming over just about every state issue is the continued need to rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

That could mean a shift in focus for an ambitious governor.

"Does it take a tremendous amount of time from the administration? Yes," Cuomo said on January 10.

Cuomo's State of the State address last week clocked in at roughly one hour and 20 minutes. At least 20 minutes of that was dedicated to Hurricane Sandy. The 2012 State of the State was one hour long.

"The reason it went long is because it's a long agenda," Cuomo said.

But state leaders said that while Hurricane Sandy presents them with brand new challenges, including financial ones, it won't crowd out the rest of the agenda.

"Clearly, it's put Sandy at the top of the agenda, especially in areas that have been directly impacted," said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. "But the state will be directly impacted. The loss to the economy will be measured in terms of revenue anticipation."

Other lawmakers said they are now focused almost exclusively on Hurricane Sandy relief for their districts.

"My district has been completed devastated by Hurricane Sandy, so going into this legislative session, that is going to be my number one priority, is looking at ways we can help my constituents rebuild," Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis said Tuesday.

No one has said yet how much the storm will end up costing the state. $60 billion in aid recently approved by the federal government certainly helps. Hurricane Sandy also did not prevent lawmakers from acting quickly to enact the strictest gun laws in the nation this week. Rarely does such landmark legislation get done so early in the legislative session.

There is no script for this because there is no precedent for this kind of storm. In an age of multi-tasking, state leaders will be forced to do just that, because the full strain of Hurricane Sandy-related need may not make itself known for some time.

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