Governor signs another round of bills passed by state legislators
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed 1,138 bills passed in 2019 and 2020 by the state Assembly and Senate, which next week begin a new, two-year legislative session. Another 12 await his signature — including four related to the closure in April of the Indian Point nuclear power plant. He has vetoed 192.
The 2020-21 session will have a different look, as Democrats in November won a “supermajority” in the Senate to match the one they’ve had for years in the Assembly. That means both houses have enough votes to override a Cuomo veto, which may play a role with issues such as legalizing marijuana, raising taxes on the wealthy, eliminating cash bail and placing limits on solitary confinement.
Below are summaries of select laws enacted in November and December and the votes cast by Republican Sue Serino (whose Senate district includes the Highlands), Democrat Sandy Galef (whose Assembly district includes Philipstown) and Democrat Jonathan Jacobson (whose Assembly district includes Beacon).
Evictions and foreclosures
On Dec. 28, Cuomo signed a measure that places a moratorium on COVID-related residential evictions until at least May 1 if a renter submits a hardship declaration. Landlords who own 10 or fewer rentals also can file declarations with lenders to prevent foreclosures.
Senate passed 40-21 (Serino voted no)
Assembly passed 96-50 (Galef voted yes; Jacobson voted yes)
On Nov. 10, Cuomo enacted legislation to deter “strategic lawsuits against public participation,” or SLAPPS. According to the New York Civil Liberties Union, “a SLAPP isn’t meant to be won; it’s just meant to be so ruinously expensive and time-consuming to defend that the victim agrees to self-censor if the suit is dropped. SLAPPs are one of the many ways powerful figures use the legal system to punish critics, silence journalists and whistleblowers,” and stifle free speech.
State lawmakers passed an anti-SLAPP law in 2008 but it only applies to “a public application or permit,” which most often involves real-estate deals. The expanded law will allow a court to award a defendant fees and costs if he or she is sued over “an issue of public interest.”
Senate passed 57-3 (Serino voted yes)
Assembly passed 116-26 (Galef voted yes; Jacobson voted yes)
Right to publicity
On Nov. 30, Cuomo signed a bill into law that establishes a “right to publicity” that protects “personal characteristics that have commercial value,” such as a (usually famous) person or performer’s name, picture, voice and signature, for 40 years after death.
The legislation also creates penalties for publishing fake, sexually explicit depictions of dead famous people, or deepfakes, and prohibits the creation of simulated performances. It allows depictions of a dead famous person as a fictional character if there is a “conspicuous disclaimer” and exempts literary or political works and journalism, including parody and satire — as well as, notably, use by political campaigns. The law will apply to anyone who dies on or after May 29, 2021.
Senate passed 60-0 (Serino voted yes)
Assembly passed 140-1 (Galef voted yes; Jacobson voted yes)
Immigrants in court
On Dec. 15, Cuomo signed a law banning non-citizens from being detained by federal immigration authorities while appearing in state courts unless a judge has issued an arrest order. An immigration-related arrest at a courthouse based on an administrative warrant or without a warrant is no longer allowed.
The law builds on an executive order that Cuomo issued in 2018 that banned the arrest of non-citizens seeking essential services on state property.
Senate passed 42-18 (Serino voted no)
Assembly passed 97-44 (Galef voted yes; Jacobson voted yes)
On Dec. 22, Cuomo enacted a law that will allow the Department of Motor Vehicles, agencies that administer public-assistance programs, and county and city departments of social services to automatically share data with the Board of Elections to register eligible voters.
According to a schedule provided in the law, the DMV will begin automatic registration in 2023, followed by the Health and Labor Departments and the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance in 2024. The State University of New York will follow in 2025.
Senate passed 40-20 (Serino voted no)
Assembly passed 86-55 (Galef voted yes; Jacobson voted yes)
On Dec. 2, Cuomo signed a law that will create a seven-member task force to study property tax exemptions to determine if any should be revised or eliminated. Sen. Pete Harckham, a Democrat whose district includes eastern Putnam County, sponsored the bill. He pointed to a 2012 study that concluded that $826 billion worth of property in the state — or about a third of the total — is exempt from local and/or school taxes.
Senate passed 43-19 (Serino voted no)
Assembly passed 140-1 (Galef voted yes; Jacobson voted yes)
On Dec. 22, Cuomo signed legislation suspending the use of facial recognition or other biometric technology at public and private schools until July 1, 2022, to allow time for the Office of Information Technology and the Education Department to study the systems and recommend privacy guidelines and restrictions.
Senate passed 46-14 (Serino voted no)
Assembly passed 118-24 (Galef voted yes; Jacobson voted yes)
Other laws that went into effect last month
■ Requires hospitals and nursing homes to offer plant-based food options to patients for every meal and snack.
Senate passed 46-16 (Serino voted no) [Serino said she supports the goal of the bill but felt, because it required the Department of Health to take immediate steps to create regulations, it was ill-timed amid the pandemic.] Assembly passed 141-0 (Galef voted yes; Jacobson voted yes)
■ Authorizes state courts to compile data on misdemeanors and violations and requires law enforcement to publicly report arrest-related deaths.
Senate passed 60-2 (Serino voted yes)
Assembly passed 100-44 (Galef voted yes; Jacobson voted yes)
■ Requires that notices and signs required for pesticide applications be printed in English and Spanish.
Senate passed 55-5 (Serino voted yes)
Assembly passed 138-3 (Galef voted yes; Jacobson voted yes)