Governor signs round of bills passed by state legislators

Through this week, Gov. Kathy Hochul had enacted 681 bills passed during the 2023-24 legislative session. Sixty-four bills await her signature and she has vetoed 46.

Below are summaries of select laws and the votes cast by Republican Rob Rolison (whose Senate district includes the Highlands), Democrat Dana Levenberg (whose Assembly district includes Philipstown) and Democrat Jonathan Jacobson (whose Assembly district includes Beacon).

Clean slate

On Nov. 16, Hochul signed the Clean Slate Act, which seals the criminal records of people with misdemeanors and all but the most serious felonies, such as murder and sex crimes. Sponsors say this will remove restrictions on people who find their criminal records are obstacles to employment, housing or education.

Under the law, misdemeanor convictions will be automatically sealed three years after sentencing if there are no further convictions or pending charges, while lower-level felony convictions will be sealed eight years after sentencing or the completion of a prison term, parole or probation.

The law goes into effect in November 2024; the state Office of Court Administration has until late 2027 to identify and seal existing records. By one estimate, more than 2 million convictions will be sealed, although they will be still be accessible to law enforcement, judges, prosecutors and for background checks when hiring teachers, day care workers and police officers, and for gun permits.

“The Clean Slate Act removes a huge obstacle for people who have served their time and are trying to become productive New Yorkers,” Levenberg said in a statement. “I have seen firsthand how genuine rehabilitation efforts, like Hudson Link [in Ossining] prevent recidivism by helping people develop the ability to get what they need through legal means. Other states with similar legislation have seen crime rates go down and employment go up.”

Rolison opposed the law, saying in a statement that it “constitutes an unbelievable new social contract in which ordinary citizens are under state-sanctioned gag orders, unable to ask basic questions of those to whom they are entrusting property such as an apartment or hiring for a job at a family-run business.” He said “the law makes no exceptions for hate crimes where the underlying offense is less than a Class A felony; no exceptions for domestic violence offenses; no exceptions for assaults on police and firefighters; no exceptions for home invasions and homicides other than murder.”

Passed by Senate, 37-25 | Rolison No
Passed by Assembly, 82-69 | Jacobson Yes Levenberg Yes

Liquor sales

On Oct. 14, Hochul signed legislation to expand the availability of alcohol on Sundays, including:

Allowing liquor and wine stores to open as early as 10 a.m. (from noon) and close as late as 10 p.m. (from 9 p.m.), if a county agrees.

Passed by Senate, 59-0 | Rolison Yes
Passed by Assembly, 143-3 | Jacobson Yes Levenberg Yes

Removing a restriction on retail beer sales between 3 a.m. and 8 a.m., making beer available over the counter 24-7.

Passed by Senate, 53-8 | Rolison Yes
Passed by Assembly, 143-3 | Jacobson Yes Levenberg Yes

Veterans

On Nov. 10, Hochul signed legislation that expands eligibility as of April 1 from disabled veterans to all veterans and Gold Star families for free lifetime access to parks, historic sites and recreational facilities operated by the state. See parks.ny.gov.

Passed by Senate, 62-0 | Rolison Yes
Passed by Assembly, 142-0 | Jacobson Yes Levenberg Yes

Hochul also signed a law to establish a program called V.I.P. NY that will set aside 10 percent of paid internships in the Assembly and Senate for veterans recruited through county service agencies.

Passed by Senate, 58-0 | Rolison Yes
Passed by Assembly, 149-0 | Jacobson Yes Levenberg Yes

Doula directory

On Nov. 6, Hochul signed a law that requires the Department of Health to create a directory of doulas in anticipation of birthing services being covered by Medicaid as of Jan. 1.

Passed by Senate, 61-0 | Rolison Yes
Passed by Assembly, 145-0 | Jacobson Yes Levenberg Yes

MTA and disability

On Nov. 20, Hochul enacted a law that requires at least one voting member of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board to be “transit dependent” because of a physical disability. The governor appointed to the position Dr. John-Ross Rizzo, a specialist in rehabilitation medicine and adaptive technology at NYU Langone Health in New York City, who has had vision loss since he was a child.

Passed by Senate, 62-0 | Rolison Yes
Passed by Assembly, 142-4 | Jacobson Yes Levenberg Yes

AED for sports

On Nov. 24, Hochul signed legislation that requires camps and youth sports programs with five or more teams to establish automated external defibrillator (AED) guidelines and to have at every camp, game and practice at least one employee, volunteer, coach, umpire or other adult who is trained on the device. AEDs are used in response to cardiac arrest.

Passed by Senate, 62-0 | Rolison Yes
Passed by Assembly, 144-5 | Jacobson Yes Levenberg Yes

Power lines

On Nov. 22, Hochul enacted a law that allows a report from a resident to trigger a 36-hour deadline for a utility to secure a downed power line. Under the previous law, only a report from a municipal emergency official could start the clock.

Passed by Senate, 61-1 | Rolison Yes
Passed by Assembly, 144-2 | Jacobson Yes Levenberg Yes

Freelance payments

On Nov. 22, Hochul signed legislation known as the Freelance Isn’t Free Act, modeled after a New York City law passed in 2017 to protect independent contractors from “wage theft” by clients.

The law requires anyone paying a freelancer at least $800 within a three-month period to provide a written contract and payment within 30 days unless agreed otherwise. The state Department of Labor will provide model contracts and an administrative process for resolving disputes, and the state attorney general can pursue legal action on behalf of freelancers.

The law excludes sales representatives, lawyers, medical professionals and construction contractors. It also excludes, as hirers, local governments.

A spokesperson for Rolison said the senator opposed the bill because it creates a “new, large-scale program” at the Department of Labor to investigate and adjust disputes but provides no funding, “which is why the governor took the correct action in 2022 to veto it.”

Passed by Senate, 43-15 | Rolison No
Passed by Assembly, 144-1 | Jacobson Yes Levenberg Yes

Drug-testing strips

On Nov. 19, Hochul enacted a law named for Matthew Horan, a Westchester County man who died in 2020 of a fentanyl overdose, that will allow health care professionals and pharmacists to distribute up to five strips at a time that can be used to test for fentanyl or xylazine, which are often added to street drugs but are deadly in amounts as tiny as the equivalent of 10 grains of salt. Since New York State began offering test strips online earlier this year, it has received more than 3.4 million orders. The law takes effect Dec. 19.

Passed by Senate, 61-0 | Rolison Yes
Passed by Assembly, 144-1 | Jacobson Yes Levenberg Yes

Tenant rights

On Nov. 17, Hochul signed bills that:

Require owners of apartment buildings to provide the names and contact information of residents to first responders during emergencies such as a fire, gas leak, building collapse or natural disaster. Under the law, the list cannot be used for any other purpose. The law was prompted by a fire in 2019 in Yonkers in which emergency personnel had trouble getting a list of the 86 residents to ensure everyone had been evacuated.

Passed by Senate, 44-17 | Rolison Yes
Passed by Assembly, 142-3 | Jacobson Yes Levenberg Yes

Ban anyone from installing a keyless security device to gain access to a common area of a residential building without the written approval of the manager or board. The law was prompted by Amazon’s Key for Business program, which allows its drivers to unlock apartment-building doors with a mobile device. According to the bill’s sponsors, an Amazon device was installed on a building in Westchester without the knowledge of the tenants or manager, who found it only after having problems with security access.

Passed by Senate, 61-0 | Rolison Yes
Passed by Assembly, 147-0 | Jacobson Yes Levenberg Yes

Allow the executor, administrator or legal representative of a renter who has died to terminate the lease with written notice to the landlord and payment to date. The sponsors said the legislation will allow units to be more quickly returned to the market.

Passed by Senate, 57-1 | Rolison Yes
Passed by Assembly, 139-0 | Jacobson Yes Levenberg Yes

Ballot measure language

On Nov. 17, Hochul enacted a law that requires proposed constitutional amendments and other ballot measures to be written using a “plain-language” standard. Specifically, the language must be at or below an eighth-grade reading level and with no more than 15 words for the title, 30 words for the question and 30 words for a statement of the practical impact of a yes or no vote.

The law also mandates that the state Board of Elections release the wording of ballot measures at least four months before the election, for public comment.

Passed by Senate, 61-0 | Rolison Yes
Passed by Assembly, 145-0 | Jacobson Yes Levenberg Yes

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

A former longtime national magazine editor, Rowe has worked at newspapers in Michigan, Idaho and South Dakota and has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism from Northwestern University. Location: Philipstown. Languages: English. Area of Expertise: General.

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