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5 things to watch as NY’s legislative session ends

The state legislative session is scheduled to end this week in Albany and state lawmakers are trying to strike final end-of-session agreements on a range of issues.

At the same time, key nominations are being considered this week as well as the Legislature seeks to gavel out for the remainder of the year. Here are five things to watch this week.

1. Sealing records. 

A bill to seal as many as 2 million criminal records in New York has stalled for the last several years in Albany as more high-profile criminal justice law changes have taken center stage.

The measure, known as the Clean Slate Act among its supporters, once again came back into the conversation following the passage of the budget in May that included a narrowing of the controversial cashless bail over the objections of criminal justice reformers.

As in prior years, business organizations have supported sealing records, and top Democrats — including Gov. Kathy Hochul — have signaled they want to reach an agreement. Hochul on Sunday indicated the specifics will very much matter, including the length of time post-conviction in which record sealing would take effect and which charges would not be included.

2. Housing. 

The governor did not get her housing policies in the $229 billion budget agreement and it seems unlikely the broad strokes of what Hochul has called for — allowing the state to override local zoning, targets for home building in communities — will be included in any agreement this week.

Housing advocates are also pressing for the approval of a bill that would make it harder for landlords to evict tenants and place restrictions on rent increases. Landlord organizations remain opposed.

Meanwhile, efforts to extend a tax exemption known as 421a are up in the air. Some Democratic lawmakers and labor groups want changes to the exemption that is meant to encourage affordable housing.

3. Environmental concerns. 

A raft of environmental legislation is being pushed for in the final days. That includes measures that did not find a home in the budget, including a bill to align utility regulations with the ambitious goals of reducing carbon emissions in the coming years as well as a measure to cut down on packaging waste. Utilities and business organizations have raised concerns with both measures. But conservation advocates and environmental groups are making a concerted push to pressure lawmakers to adopt the measures if not this month, then as a way to potentially prime the proposals for next year.

4. Wrongful death expansion. 

Earlier this year, Hochul vetoed a measure that would have expanded the state’s wrongful death law. Supporters are trying once again to get a revised version of the bill over the finish line.

The measure would expand who can bring a wrongful death claim in New York as well as cover emotional anguish. Proponents contend the bill is meant to update an out-of-date wrongful death statutes. Opponents — including medical societies, local government groups and lawsuit reformers — warn the revised measure still does not satisfy their concerns over the impact on insurance premiums and potential lawsuits.

5. Confirmations. 

Each end-of-session brings a host of confirmations for the state Senate to consider, many of them to boards and authorities. But this week, lawmakers are expected to consider the confirmation for a key post in Hochul’s cabinet: the state health commissioner.

Hochul has nominated Dr. James McDonald to the prominent public health position, replacing Dr. Mary Bassett, who resigned at the end of last year as the state health commissioner.

Senate Health Committee Chairman Gustavo Rivera last week indicated McDonald’s nomination will easily pass.

McDonald’s appointment and pending confirmation comes at a crossroads for public health. Pandemic-era rules, including vaccine mandates for health care workers, are being relaxed by state officials. At the same time, the remade world of public health has led officials to take a more pro-active approach for spotting the next emerging COVID variant or infectious disease.

Source: Spectrum Local News