NYS Assembly wrapping up the 2023 session with approval of a wrongful conviction measure
The New York State Assembly is in town for a brief two-day session to finish debating bills that they did not complete before the scheduled end of the session earlier this month. Here's a look at what is - and isn't - getting done.
Assembly Democrats approved a criminal justice measure already passed in the State Senate. It would allow people who are wrongfully convicted to see their convictions vacated, even if they accepted a plea bargain where they pled guilty to the crime. It would also apply to those convicted under laws that were later found to be unconstitutional or if the crime they were convicted of was later decriminalized.
In a statement, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie says it will allow those who are wrongfully convicted to "seek justice."
Defendants would have the right to access discovery evidence, including all prosecution and defense legal files, and will be able to retest physical evidence in their case.
Opponents include the state's District Attorney's association and Republican lawmakers who are in the minority party in the legislature.
GOP Assemblyman John McGowan says there are already existing procedures to allow people to challenge a conviction.
"This bill is too broad," McGowan said. "The people who are going to like this bill the most are probably criminal appellate attorneys."
The measure next goes to Gov. Kathy Hochul. The governor does not like to say in advance whether or not she will sign or veto a bill.
But the governor, speaking Tuesday, did weigh in on a measure that the Assembly has been considering. Known as Coverage for All, it would access $2 billion in funds from the federal government to help pay for healthcare coverage for undocumented immigrants.
Supporters rallied outside the Assembly chamber.
Leslie Moran with the New York Health Plan Association, which represents the state's managed care plans and supports the bill, says it's the next step toward the goal of getting every New Yorker covered by health insurance so that they can seek treatment before they are so sick that they have to go to the emergency room.
"It takes them out of an expensive setting like an emergency room and the hospitals," said Moran. "We want people to get preventive care, we want them to get primary care, and this helps do that."
Moran says it would also lower costs for the health insurance industry, including premiums for existing policyholders.
Hochul previously said that the state would have to contribute an additional $11 billion over the next few years to pay for the coverage of the immigrants. She says that's not feasible at a time when the state is facing an increasingly high budget deficit.
"I also have to be cognizant of the extraordinary costs that would be imposed on New York state taxpayers at a time when the warnings about our finances are troubling," Hochul said.
The governor's budget division released its updated financial plan earlier in June, showing that future deficit projections have nearly doubled since the governor introduced her spending plan in early February and are now expected to be over $9 billion next year.
Hochul says tax receipts plummeted $6 billion in the month of March.
The Assembly planned to finish up work later on Wednesday.
Supporters of Coverage for All say they aren't giving up.