Heard Around Town

Let the 61-day New York legislative session begin!

New York state lawmakers report to the Capitol part time for six months of the year.

Lawmakers will go to Albany for 61 session days.

Lawmakers will go to Albany for 61 session days. NYS Senate Media Services

State lawmakers are returning to Albany for the first day of the 2024 legislative session. And like in years past, they’re scheduled to work out of the Capitol only for the equivalent of two months.

Like in years past, legislative leaders scheduled their members for 61 session days – days when they’re expected to be in Albany to vote on legislation and to engage in committee meetings. Those 61 days are spread out over a six month period, and most weeks have either three or four working days scheduled, none of which are Fridays. The final scheduled day of session is June 6.

Despite their recently increased salary of $142,000, New York’s Legislature is considered part-time. The state constitution also does not specify how many days legislators are required to meet to do the people’s work. That means working days fall under the purview of legislative leaders, who have long kept session days to half the year and to a limited number of days within that half. The past several years, they have kept the total number of working days to roughly 60.

In the past, the Legislature met for a more condensed period of time, leaving for the year at times as early as mid-March. But timing doesn’t directly relate to productivity. Lawmakers approved just under 900 bills last year over the course of six months. According to The New York Times, lawmakers in 1969 approved 1,500 pieces in a period of time one month shorter.

Lawmakers could meet for more days if they wanted to, but in recent years, they have kept the number of session days pretty uniform. In fact, prior to 2020, legislative leaders scheduled session days until the end of June as opposed to the beginning of the month, but that didn’t mean the total number of working days was higher. Although the session stretched out two or three weeks longer than it does now, lawmakers still had about 60 working days. Legislative leaders decided to condense those days into a slightly shorter time frame to accommodate state office primaries that had just been moved from September to June.

But if one wants to be entirely technical, the Legislature technically meets throughout the year. Most lawmakers just don’t have to be there. The state Legislature hasn’t officially adjourned in five decades, meaning they’re technically always in session and simply in recess. Every few days, a local Albany legislator will gavel in and gavel out session as a formality so that legislative leaders can call their members back whenever they want. If they officially adjourned, only the governor could summon legislators back to Albany. But doesn’t mean lawmakers are engaging in legislative year round like Congress or the New York City Council does.