ALBANY — Natural disasters, cancer treatment, judge training, athletic trainers, suspended drivers, deer culling, a wildlife derby and a major switch in local elections.
Those are some of the issues on the table as Gov. Kathy Hochul approaches a Dec. 31 deadline for signing or vetoing scores of bills approved by the State Legislature earlier this year.
The stockpile is not unusual: Legislators pass thousands of bills during the session, which ends in June, but forward them to the governor, when requested, in batches through the rest of the year, partly to spread out the work. Sometimes it’s to allow behind-the-scenes discussions about the implications of a bill. More than 100 bills still await gubernatorial decisions this year.
Here’s a scorecard:
WHAT TO KNOW
- More than 100 bills passed by the State Legislature are awaiting Gov. Kathy Hochul's signature or veto as a Dec. 31 deadline nears.
- They include one that would switch most county, town and village elections — outside of New York City — to even-numbered years.
- Other measures would allow cannabis farmers to sell stockpiled crops to Native American tribes for resale, and remove some procedural barriers for someone who previously pleaded guilty to later challenge a conviction.
This is easily the biggest political issuing pending: a bill that would switch most county, town and village elections — outside of New York City — to even-numbered years, putting them on the ballot during gubernatorial or presidential elections.
Democrats and Republicans each make a civics argument on the bill: Democrats point out voter participation is higher when the governor or president is up for election, and counties will save money by holding fewer elections.
Republicans say local issues won’t get the attention they deserve in even-numbered years and local races will be dominated by national themes.
Then, there is the bare-knuckled political reason for either side: Even-numbered years historically favor Democratic turnout; odd-numbered years, Republican.
Weighing on Hochul’s decision: The Democratic-led Senate and Assembly favored the bill, and Democratic state chairman Jay Jacobs has been on record favoring it.
Like almost every year, a slew of criminal justice bills went through the legislature. Among those is one advocates say will make it easier to challenge wrongful convictions.
The measure would allow someone who previously pleaded guilty — perhaps under pressure to plea bargain — to later challenge a conviction by removing some procedural barriers for getting a court to consider new evidence besides just DNA.
Backers note a recent ruling by New York’s top court that said state law dictates a person who pleaded guilty can later challenge a conviction only if there is DNA evidence to support their claim.
Another measure would compel judges who hear criminal arraignments to take at least three hours of training annually on the state’s bail law.
The controversial new law eliminated prosecutors’ option to request bail on most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies — while keeping it available for certain crimes and circumstances.
At a legislative hearing earlier this year, a top administrative judge acknowledged training on the new law isn’t mandatory, while legislators pointed out there are anecdotes wherein judges say bail wasn’t an option in a case when it actually was. That sparked this bill, approved with bipartisan support.
Several bills in limbo are driven by Island issues.
One would lower the number of moving violation-based suspensions — from seven to five — before a driver could be charged with first-degree aggravated unlicensed operation of a vehicle and perhaps lose their license.
Supporters call it “Angelica’s Law,” named after Angelica Nappi, a 14-year-old who was killed in 2008 when a man with seven prior suspensions drove through a red light in Medford.
Another measure would allow Southold to develop a “deer management plan,” working through the state Department of Environmental Conservation. If approved, a limited number of “deer cull permits” could be issued to qualified hunters to trim what officials call a local “explosion in deer population.”
One measure would offer a safety valve to cannabis farmers who haven’t been able to sell their crops because of the state’s slow, litigation-marked rollout of legal marijuana dispensaries. It would allow them to sell stockpiled crops to Native American tribes for resale.
Backers say some farmers are facing financial ruin and need a way to sell their crops now. Opponents have quietly raised questions about whether the bill would give an unfair upper hand to tribal dispensaries.
Other bills would:
- Require athletic trainers to be licensed and make them mandated reporters for suspected child abuse. Trainers would have to pay an initial $150 licensing fee and $58 every three years thereafter.
- Amend the state’s 19th century wrongful death statute to allow families to receive money for “emotional harm” caused by a wrongful death. Hochul vetoed a similar bill last year.
- Prohibit most employers from compelling employees to sign “noncompete” agreements to not work for a competitor. There would be an exception for broadcast companies. Big banks and Wall Street firms strongly oppose the bill.
This bill would create a commission to study the impact of slavery on Black New Yorkers, along with potential reparations. This loosely follows a similar initiative in California, where a task force in June released a list of 100 potential policies to address racial discrimination.
Disasters, cancer and wildlife derby
One bill would speed up the timetable for insurance companies to investigate and pay out claims stemming from natural disasters. Among other things, a claim would have to be accepted or rejected within 15 business days after the close of an investigation and claims paid within three days of being settled.
Other bills would:
- Force insurance companies to cover “biomarker testing,” a tool in cancer care.
- Ban any “wildlife derby” or similar competition for killing squirrels, coyotes, woodchucks and foxes, among other animals. It wouldn’t apply to more established competitions for fish, bear, turkey or white-tailed deer.