Members of the New York Senate work on legislative bills...

Members of the New York Senate work on legislative bills in the Senate Chamber. Credit: Hans Pennink

Daily Point

Will pols hit a crime ‘delete’ key? 

Albany’s annual end-of-session scramble over which legislative bills make it to the governor’s desk before the summer adjournment has reached its final few days. At this late hour, the most contentious bill, now given a good chance of success, is the so-called Clean Slate Act, which would automatically conceal from the view of employers, landlords and other private parties an applicant’s past criminal convictions.

One frame for the final debate remains the so-called “carve-outs.” Sex offenders would not have their crimes expunged. Access to a person’s full criminal record would remain legal, for example, for school and law-enforcement officials in hiring employees, and some attorneys and officials in the court system handling cases. Another exception might involve a defendant getting access to the record in efforts to discredit an ex-con as a witness. With details still reportedly in discussion with Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office.

The likelihood of its passage in current form makes the legislation a win for some employers who supported it and a setback for the agenda of prosecutors recently defeated in their bid to reform the state’s discovery laws. Sen Zellnor Myrie’s bill would seal the criminal records three years after sentencing for misdemeanors, and after seven years for felonies.

The District Attorneys Association of the State of New York has argued that all the right exceptions have not been included and questions how it would work regarding out-of-state and federal crimes. The association sees the current sealing laws as already generous; they apply to many felony and misdemeanor convictions and the sealing is conducted under judicial oversight.

Clean Slate is one of those proposals that expired before but returned to life. Many others, of course, won’t make it to the finish line, at least this year. Some of these have an even longer history. A new and narrower incarnation of the perennial effort to allow wine sales in grocery stores, currently permitted in 40 other states, did not make it out of committee in either house despite some discussion, having predictably run afoul of liquor merchants.

Also stalled going into the final turn was a “reform” bill of particular interest to Sen. Mike Gianaris, the deputy majority leader whose Democratic chamber majority declined to confirm Hochul’s first nominee for chief judge of the Court of Appeals, Hector LaSalle. Still in committee in the Assembly, the measure would close a purported loophole in state lobbying laws that allowed the funding and donors behind an influence campaign on LaSalle’s behalf to go undisclosed. The prognosis wasn’t positive but that could always change at the last minute.

As always, the rush-to-adjourn sweepstakes, due to end Thursday, will feature other mini-dramas as well.

— Dan Janison

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Final Point

Housing policy to Albany: I’m not dead yet

Nearly every day this week, a group of about 20 state senators and Assembly members — all Democrats — have been quietly meeting, with a single topic on the agenda: housing. 

The group, one member said, includes those lawmakers who “represent geographically and philosophically a pretty good cross section of the conference in both houses,” including elected officials from New York City and Long Island. Among them, The Point has learned, are State Sens. Kevin Thomas, Brian Kavanagh, Leroy Comrie, Liz Krueger and Michael Gianaris, and Assembs. Michaelle Solages, Fred Thiele, Linda Rosenthal, Ed Braunstein and Julia Salazar. 

The effort has the blessing of both houses' leadership, sources said. The group is discussing a variety of housing issues, from tenants’ rights to planning and residential construction, and is trying to determine whether there still is a path toward housing-related legislation before the session closes Thursday.

Mandates and zoning overrides, along with any punitive measures, are off the table and not part of any proposal under discussion, several members said.

“The most I can say is that there are active discussions, talking about things where there could be a consensus on housing,” one of them told The Point. 

New versions of “good cause eviction,” which in its initial form would have added tenant protections and limited rent increases, and of 421a, a New York City-based tax credit for developers, are on the table. So is the idea of incentivizing local governments to create their own housing plans or build additional units. Much of the focus, one member said, has been on New York City’s needs, as Mayor Eric Adams has made housing a priority but requires state legislation to move forward. But group members also noted that Long Island’s housing needs are part of the discussion, too.

“We really have a housing crisis that we need to solve and we need to be thoughtful about it,” one group member said. “It’s all about working together to solve this issue … And I’m hopeful we can continue these conversations and make them more public at the end of the day.”

Multiple group members noted that they’re limited in what they can do because the conversations are taking place outside of the budget process, which means legislators cannot fund the efforts right now. Budget appropriations would need to take place next year.

One group member told The Point that any bill likely would have to be printed by Monday night — which leaves a “pretty tight time frame.” While members were headed home from Albany Thursday, sources said the group may meet virtually in the coming days.

Multiple members said they felt encouraged.

“It’s really been productive,” one said. “We’ve had substantive discussions about real housing issues that were completely lacking during the budget process, which was one of the reasons for its failure. Even if nothing comes out of this now, I’m still going to feel like we moved the ball down the field heading into next year.” 

The member noted that while the legislature did not support Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Housing Compact, many lawmakers initially hoped to get something housing-related done during the current session. 

“I can’t tell you the number of my colleagues I talked to who said, ‘We’re disappointed we didn’t do anything,” the member said. “Now, we all feel better that at least we’re trying to do something rather than let the opportunity go by.”

Will the group’s efforts produce legislation this session? 

One member called it “completely up in the air.”

Said another: “Anything is possible.”

— Randi F. Marshall

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