There’s unfinished business to hash out in the final month of the New York legislative session
There’s one month to go until the 2023 New York state legislative session ends, and several issues still need to be negotiated.
Some major items didn’t make it into the state budget, which was over a month late when it was approved on May 2. One is Gov. Kathy Hochul’s ambitious plan to build 800,000 housing units in the next decade to help ease the affordable housing crisis.
It included a proposal to allow the state to override local zoning laws if local government leaders resisted plans to build new homes and apartments. The Legislature objected to that, and the governor eventually dropped all her housing proposals from the budget.
Democrats who lead the Senate and Assembly also want any housing package to include more rights for tenants.
The governor, speaking April 27 when she announced a conceptual budget agreement, said she’ll try again.
“We're going to take the time necessary to talk about other ways that we can make sure that we're building housing stock, we are looking at the suburbs, we are going to talk about our transit hubs,” Hochul said. “And find a path forward, because we're not surrendering on this issue.”
But Hochul said with so little time left in the session, any action to ease the housing crisis may have to wait until 2024.
“Let’s sit down with the (Senate and Assembly) housing chairs and come up with a thoughtful approach, work on it throughout the next year as well,” Hochul said. “And look at it again in next year's budget.”
The new budget includes changes to the state’s bail reform laws, but some other criminal justice changes did not make it into the package.
A measure known as Clean Slate is gaining some momentum and key backing. It would expunge the records for some people convicted of crimes who have served their sentences, enabling them a better chance to get a job.
The state’s Business Council supports it, as do many companies, including National Grid. And Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said it’s a top priority.
“We will definitely consider Clean Slate before the end of the session,” he said.
Survivors of sexual harassment, including former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson, are pressing for a bill that would outlaw nondisclosure agreements of all kinds.
Carlson, who sued the former head of Fox News, Roger Ailes, for harassment and retaliation signed a nondisclosure agreement as part of a settlement. As a result, she said, she can’t talk publicly about what happened, even though it’s been the subject of numerous news articles and a Hollywood movie.
She has since co-founded the survivors’ advocacy group Lift Our Voices.
“This bill puts the power back in the hands of the survivors,” Carlson said. “The only way to fix bad behavior at work is to be able to talk about it. We need to stop silencing people with forced arbitration and NDAs. Every worker deserves a voice.”
Supporters of the bill say the NDAs protect perpetrators and allow them to continue the harassment, because victims aren’t allowed to warn others.
The push comes at a time when two members of the State Assembly, Pat Burke and Juan Ardila, have been accused of harassment. In Ardila’s case, it was before he was an elected official. It also comes as Hochul fired a top political adviser, Adam Sullivan, over allegations that he fostered a toxic work environment and was demeaning to younger women on the governor’s staff.
Other measures being considered as the session winds down include Aid in Dying, which would give terminally ill people the right to use medication to end their lives at the time of their choosing, and bills to strengthen voting rights, including a requirement that ballot amendments be written in plain, easy to understand language.
The legislature could stay past the final day of session scheduled for June 8 if they wanted more time to tackle these issues. But Heastie said that’s unnecessary.
“I don’t see a need to extend session by any days at this point,” Heastie said.
Last year, the session ended in early June to leave time for primary elections in late June, but lawmakers reconvened in early July to strengthen the state’s gun laws, after a U.S. Supreme Court decision struck down the state’s concealed carry statute.