State Assemblyman Ed Ra (R-Franklin Square)
Last week, the Assembly convened a special session to vote on an extension of the eviction and foreclosure moratorium for tenants and homeowners. I knew the bill was incomplete. My colleagues and I drafted an amendment that would provide the same protections to small businesses.
To us, it was an action tailor-made for bipartisan support. Mom-and-pop shops, specialty retailers and family restaurants have been decimated by the pandemic in every community across the state. Government asked small business owners to close their doors, limit operations and invest in costly modifications to slow the spread of the virus.
They had our backs. Our amendment was about having theirs. These dedicated, hardworking people deserve to be a critical part of our state’s economic recovery, not victims of circumstances beyond their control.
Assembly Democrats weren’t interested. They blocked our amendment.
It turns out we weren’t the only people who believed the omission of small business owners from the legislation was a glaring one. After Rep. Ocasio Cortez tweeted that rent protections should’ve been extended to vulnerable small businesses, the governor signaled his support. Shortly thereafter, a spokesman for the Senate Democrats said they were willing to assist commercial tenants.
This illustrates an unfortunate truth about Albany: Democrats will only consider ideas from other Democrats. I don’t honestly believe that the Assembly majority blocked our amendment because they disagreed with it.
I sincerely believe that partisanship is so deeply entrenched in their operations and leadership structure that they did the only thing they know how to do: block our ideas.
If New York state is going to recover from this unprecedented crisis, it’s going to take cooperation. It’s going to take a willingness to try new things. It starts with the right priorities. Instead of prioritizing a pilot program to jam thousands of people into a stadium during a global pandemic, we should be exploring new ways to help support, promote and stabilize small businesses in every community.
Instead of allowing Saturday Night Live producers to skirt health regulations, we should be investing in the community theatres, small concert venues and clubs that are teetering on the edge of solvency because they followed the rules.
And instead of dismissing the ideas of people who don’t share all of our political philosophies, we should be working across the aisle to pass legislation that sets our state up for an unprecedented resurgence. I want to bet on the resolve, the vision and the dedication of hardworking New Yorkers across the state, Republican and Democrat.