2023 End of Session Update

The last day of the legislative session was scheduled to be Thursday, June 8, however, both houses remained in session into the weekend. The Senate finished around 3:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 10. The Assembly was planning to work through the day on Saturday and wrap up late in the evening/Sunday morning. However, in a change of plans, the Assembly ended up adjourning mid-afternoon after deciding that they would come back in two weeks to wrap up the remaining issues. It is unclear at this point if the return in two weeks will be just the Assembly or if the Senate will return as well. The hope is that an agreement may be reached on several outstanding issues that could not be resolved before the scheduled end of session.

The month-long delay in passing the budget created a truncated end of session in Albany. Unlike in prior years, where the end of session included a flurry of legislative activity on major policy issues, the 2023 legislative session ended on a quieter note. The month-long delay meant that the normal eight-week end of session period was shortened to four weeks and true momentum could not be gathered for large scale legislative priorities that we tend to see at the end of a legislative session. Additionally, while the end of session is usually marked by three- way agreements on many priorities between the Senate, Assembly and Governor, we did not see that this year. The communication between the three leaders was extremely limited and many issues that we thought might be discussed were never even breached. This lack of communication and agreement may be part of the reason for the Assembly return in two weeks.

In terms of high-profile bills where there was agreement, there were only a handful that passed in the end. The most significant was the Clean Slate Act. This legislation will seal criminal records for misdemeanor convictions three years after release from incarceration and eight years for felonies post-incarcerations. The bill will not seal records of those convicted of sex crimes or Class A felonies, such as murder. This legislation was supported by criminal justice reform groups, as well as business organizations, who view the bill as a way to help individuals reenter the workforce. It is anticipated that the Governor will sign this bill into law as there was an agreement on this issue.

Three other significant bills passed both houses at the end of session, but their fate remains uncertain. The first bill was a local election bill, which would move most local races outside of New York City to even-numbered years beginning in 2026. Those elected in 2025 would serve a one-year term. Local elections would then fall on the same date as State and Federal elections, which often have significantly larger turnout. The second bill was the Grieving Families Act, which would permit the families of wrongful death victims to recover compensation for their emotional anguish. The third bill was a campaign finance reform bill, which would make changes to the bill passed in 2020 that calls for the public financing of campaigns in New York.

While both houses passed these bills, their chances of becoming law are unclear. For the local election bill, it is unclear where the Governor stands, and the localities and counties across the State have come out very strongly against this legislation. For the wrongful death bill, a similar version of this bill was vetoed by the Governor last session. While changes were made to the bill, those changes were not negotiated with the Governor. Finally, while the legislature has stated that the campaign finance reform bill is making technical changes to clean up the original legislation, many good government groups have said the changes are a move to weaken the intent of the public financing law. The Governor was also not involved in negotiations related to these changes.

There were several issues that many had hoped would be addressed in the final days of session, which were not. After the Governor’s housing proposals failed to be included in the final budget, there was a last-minute push to pass a slew of housing initiatives, including good cause eviction and real estate developer tax credits. However, a deal could not be reached, and session ended without legislation to address housing in New York. Other areas that failed to reach agreement included broad based health care reforms as a result of the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, alcoholic beverage law reforms, charter schools, and an attempt to lower the speed limit in New York City. These areas are all ripe for potential agreement if the Senate returns with the Assembly and three-way conversations are held over the next two weeks.

While legislation is the primary focus of the end of the legislative session, it is also marked by a number of confirmations for state agencies and authorities considered by the Senate. This session, one of the most high-profile confirmations was of Dr. James McDonald as the new State Health Commissioner. Dr. McDonald replaces Dr. Mary Bassett, who resigned at the end of 2022. Dr. McDonald has been acting as the Acting Commissioner of Health since January 1, 2023. Another high-profile confirmation was of Lily Fan who was confirmed as the new Chair of the State Liquor Authority, following the removal of Vincent Bradley as Chair last week.
Other confirmations included appointees to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, other upstate transit authorities, the New York Court of Claims and a wide variety of other authorities, boards, and commissions.

As we have noted, there were many unresolved issues at the end of this session. The Assembly will attempt to resolve some of these issues when they return. We will be monitoring the return closely and attempting to determine if the Senate will also return and whether agreements are reached between the Senate, Assembly and Governor. We will keep you posted on this special session and will be in touch regarding specific legislative issues of importance to you. We will also discuss next steps on key issues and plans regarding the meetings and hearings that will take place over the next few months.

For those who are marking their calendars, the 2024 legislative session will begin on Wednesday, January 3, 2024, with the Governor’s State of the State Address.

As always, if you have any question, please feel free to reach out.

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