What Albany Lawmakers Have — and Have Not — Accomplished This Year
New school holidays and criminal record seals are in. But many proposals related to tenant protections, developer tax breaks and speed limits have gone nowhere.
Albany lawmakers have passed a lot of bills this session. But many of their major goals — along with Gov. Kathy Hochul’s plan to address the state’s acute housing crisis — have so far gone nowhere.
Big items now awaiting Hochul’s signature or veto include legal protection for in-state abortion providers, a bailout for the MTA in the state budget, a new bill sealing most criminal records and a transparency measure for limited liability companies, or LLCs.
But with the legislative session coming to an end, many goals will likely have to wait another year, including “good cause” eviction protections, a replacement for expired tax breaks for apartment developers, and Sammy’s Law, which would have given New York City the authority to lower its speed limits.
Here’s what the state Senate and Assembly have passed, and what they’ve kicked down the road. THE CITY will update this article as lawmakers wrap up their work in the state capital:
Criminal Justice System
Most proposed criminal justice reform legislation got bottled up this legislative session. But the Clean Slate Act, designed to automatically seal most criminal records of people who stay out of trouble for a number of years, passed both houses of the legislature.
Supporters of the measure argued that a criminal conviction, even for a low-level offense, can make it difficult — and in some cases impossible — for people to land jobs or housing.
People convicted of sex crimes and Class A felonies, including murder, would not be eligible to have their records sealed. All other cases would be sealed three years after someone serves time or parole for a misdemeanor and after eight years for felony cases. That means that employers and other members of the public would not be able to see those conviction records, even as they would still be discoverable in subsequent criminal trials.
Backers of the measure are urging the governor to sign it into law. Hochul has not indicated where she stands on the bill, which would benefit as many as 1.4 million people.
- Criminal justice reform advocates pressing for the so-called Elder Parole bill once again failed to pass a measure that would automatically make any incarcerated person age 55 or older who has served at least 15 years in prison eligible for a parole hearing. A version of the bill was first introduced in May 2018. Backers of the measure had hoped it would pass this year, as Attorney General Letitia James and the district attorneys in The Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan support the measure. But Assembly and Senate leaders did not allow a full vote on it.
- Similarly, a proposed bill first introduced in 2020 to mandate new legal protections during interrogations of juveniles by police also didn’t make it to a floor vote in either chamber. While police must read everyone their Miranda rights — i.e., letting a detainee know they can remain silent, ask for a lawyer and not incriminate themselves — many young people can’t understand what that actually means, according to defense lawyers who represent them.
Few of Hochul’s ambitious housing plans came to fruition this spring. She set out to force communities across the state to produce more development by letting the state override local rules if they failed to hit production targets that aimed to spur construction of more than 800,000 housing units over a decade.
But not only did suburban lawmakers reject Hochul’s zoning proposals, the legislature has now failed to act on three other major measures sought by developers and tenants:
- Lawmakers found no solution for replacing or reforming 421-a, the tax break for New York City apartment developers that expired last year. The controversial tax program had been an incentive to builders to get mostly rental projects going; those in the real estate industry say high taxes on rental apartments and the cost of construction make it nearly impossible to build city housing without it. With no action on 421-a, city officials worry New York’s acute housing crunch will only worsen in the years to come.
- Tenant advocates lobbied hard to get “good cause” eviction protections, which would have limited how much a landlord could raise rent each year and given tenants the right to stay in an apartment unless there was “good cause,” such as a lease violation, to evict them. But the measure went nowhere in Albany again this year after failing to come to a vote in 2022.
- The governor had proposed a tax break and a number of other rules changes to make it easier for developers to convert office buildings into residential apartments. In the Assembly, lawmakers proposed that those converted buildings must include at least 40% of the new units as income-restricted affordable housing. Ultimately, negotiations on the topic came to a halt and no votes in either chamber took place.
- One of two bills that aimed to crack down on deed theft — both supported by Attorney General Letitia James — made it through the session. What passed would enact several measures intended to protect homeowners.
- Legislators passed a bill to close loopholes that allow landlords to take units out of rent stabilization by combining multiple vacant, rent-stabilized apartments into one, or making “substantial rehabilitations.” If Hochul signs the bill, landlords who make renovations will have to seek state approval to raise rents and will be denied if they’ve been found to harass tenants in the five years previous, or if the building had not been in a substandard condition requiring the renovations. The legislation also sets guidelines for how to price merged apartments, ensuring a mega-apartment made from at least one stabilized unit stays regulated.
Few measures that would advance goals under the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act of 2019 passed this session. One notable bill that the Senate passed but did not come to a vote in the Assembly: the NY HEAT Act, which would direct the Public Service Commission to regulate utilities in line with the state’s required greenhouse gas emission reductions. The bill would have also capped energy bills at 6% of income for low-income customers.
- The legislature approved a measure that would require home sellers to notify buyers about whether a property has ever been flooded. Previously, THE CITY has reported, New York State required a flood disclosure but allowed homeowners to pay $500 to waive it, which the vast majority of sellers did.
- State lawmakers also passed the Birds and Bees Protection Act, which limits the sale and use of certain pesticides.
- In a special session, the Assembly passed a bill that would mandate that limited liability companies, or LLCs, reveal the owners behind them. The State Senate had passed its version of the law previously. The measure is intended to make it easier to track activity that is often masked by anonymous LLCs, including in derelict properties.
- The Assembly passed legislation on June 20 that will give legal protection to doctors here that prescribe and send abortion pills to patients in states where they are illegal. The measure is similar to other shield laws enacted in other states — including Massachusetts, Colorado and Vermont — that protect abortion services provided remotely or by mail. The State Senate passed its version of the measure last month.
- The State Senate earlier passed a bill that would have extended health coverage to at least 240,000 undocumented immigrants in the state. But after Hochul voiced concerns about the cost of the measure, the proposal never made it to the Assembly for a vote.
- Sammy’s Law, named for a 12-year-old boy killed by a speeding driver in Brooklyn a decade ago, would have granted New York City the authority to set its own speed limits. Currently, Albany legislators must approve such changes. Pedestrian safety advocates, including Sammy Cohen Eckstein’s mother, went on a hunger strike to push lawmakers to bring it to a vote. The bill passed in the Senate, but hasn’t yet made it to the floor in the Assembly.
- In the state budget passed earlier this spring, the MTA got a bailout of at least $1.3 billion that averted the need for catastrophic service cuts, and allows for more train service on nights and weekends. But the Albany deal for transit does not mean straphangers are spared from fare hikes; the agency proposed a rise in prices last month that would bring the base price of a ride from $2.75 to 2.90.
The state’s hourly minimum wage will increase to $17 in New York City and its suburbs by 2026, and the rest of the state by 2027, in an agreement reached between the legislature and Hochul earlier this session. Downstate, hourly wages will automatically increase to $16 next year and then by 50 cents annually until 2026. In a first, future increases will be indexed to inflation.
But not everyone’s happy.
The boost is about $4 short of the $21.25 minimum wage sought by progressive lawmakers, who say $17 hourly is not enough to keep up with the pace of inflation since 2019, the year hourly wages in New York City reached its current $15 floor.
Sen. Jessica Ramos (Queens), who introduced a bill to raise the minimum wage to $21.25, noted the boost ultimately approved by the governor only increases wages for the city’s low-wage workers by $13 a week. “A $17 wage puts us behind other comparable high-cost-of-living cities like Seattle, San Francisco, and Washington DC, which will all have minimum wages at or around $20 by 2026,” she said in April. “We can do better.”
- Both houses approved a measure that would move local elections in many towns and counties in the state to even-numbered years, which would sync them up with state and national elections. The measure, designed to boost turnout, would not apply to New York City, but the breakthrough is encouraging reformers who hope to push the policy to the five boroughs. The city’s election schedule can only be altered via amendment to the state constitution.
- Lawmakers also passed a bill adjusting the state’s campaign finance rules to allow public matching up to $250 of donations to politicians of any size. Previously, the state’s public matching system emphasized small-dollar donations, using taxpayer dollars to match political donations of only $250 or less.Good-government groups say the recently passed change will undercut the current law, designed to encourage smaller donations.
- Lawmakers passed a bill that would allow New York City to make Diwali a public school holiday, along with a measure that would allow all districts in the state to close schools for Lunar New Year, as New York City schools already do. If Hochul signs the Diwali bill into law, Mayor Eric Adams and city school officials will have to figure out how to square his pledge to honor the holiday with the state’s mandate for 180 days of education. A previous legislative proposal to drop Brooklyn-Queens Day, an anachronistic June holiday celebrating the creation of Kings County’s first Protestant Sunday school, was not adopted.