Despite starting 2024 with three opportunities to pocket veto legislation, Gov. Kathy Hochul officially wrapped up the legislative business of 2023 by signing all three bills at the end of January.
Hochul signed the last holdover on Tuesday. The bill, known as the Rape is Rape Act, will expand the legal definition of rape to include forms of violent sexual misconduct not currently covered by the criminal charge. On Friday, Hochul signed two other bills relating to retirement saving accounts for freelancers and timely insurance payouts following natural disasters. Each included technical changes that had been agreed to by lawmakers and the governor.
Hochul had until the end of January to act on the three bills left on her desk to start out the new year. Unlike the rest of the year, when the governor has just 10 days – excluding Sundays – to act on a bill before it automatically becomes law, Hochul had a 30-day clock on the bills that lapsed into the new year. And at the end of those 30 days, inaction from the governor would have resulted in an automatic veto – also called a pocket veto – rather than automatically becoming law like most of the rest of the year. Still, pocket vetoes have been relatively uncommon in recent years. And Hochul didn’t proactively veto any holdovers either, like she did at the start of last year.
Last month, Hochul took her final action of 2023, choosing to veto the Grieving Families Act for a second time. And in the days before Christmas, she issued other vetoes on a few high-profile bills, including ones banning non-compete agreements, making it easier to challenge wrongful convictions and preventing New York from contracting with businesses that contribute to tropical deforestation. At the same time, she approved many other pieces of legislation, including one bill that moves many local elections to even years and another that closes a loophole which has allowed landlords to raise rents in rent-stabilized buildings. The governor also signed a bill to create a state task force to study reparations for slavery in November.
The state Senate and Assembly jointly approved 896 pieces of legislation during the 2023 session, which was not a record number, but impressive nonetheless. Four were proposed constitutional amendments that the governor takes no action on.
Governors in New York typically take time for their office to review legislation before requesting it from the Legislature. Although lawmakers could send a bill to her desk any time they want, they generally wait until the governor asks for them to send the legislation in order to ensure she has sufficiently reviewed it or engaged in any additional negotiations for amendments to the bill before signing.
This post was last updated on Jan. 30.
Grieving Families Act – A6698/S6636
Sponsored by Assembly Member Helene Weinstein and state Sen. Brad Hoylman-Sigal, the Grieving Families Act would have allowed the families of wrongful death victims to receive compensation for emotional harm they suffered. The bill has a decades-old legislative history and would update the state’s 175-year-old wrongful death statute. Hochul vetoed a version that passed last year. In her veto this year, Hochul again cited concerns about intended negative impacts on small businesses and the possibility of increased insurance premiums as a result of the legislation. Although lawmakers made several changes to the bill last year that addressed concerns the governor raised in her initial veto, Hochul indicated that they did not do enough.
Public campaign finance tweaks – A7760/S7564
Sponsored by Assembly Member Latrice Walker and state Sen. Zellnor Myrie, this legislation would have made changes to the state’s new public campaign finance program, including making the first $250 of any donation matchable. Currently, any donor who gives more than $250 either at once or in parts cannot have any of their donation matched in public funds unless the candidate returns the excess. Hochul’s veto was applauded by good-government groups and advocates for public campaign finance, who charged that the tweaks would have diminished the efficacy of the program to decrease the influence of big money on politics. “Her veto today ensures that New York can retain its rightful place as a national leader in countering the pernicious role of wealth in politics and that everyday New Yorkers can have a fairer say in our state’s political system,” Joanna Zdanys, senior counsel in the Elections and Government Program at the Brennan Center for Justice, said in a statement. In a veto memo, Hochul said the bill “would effectively reduce the impact of small donors on elections, in direct contravention” of the original purpose of the state’s public campaign finance system.
Challenging wrongful convictions – A2878-A/S7548
Sponsored by Assembly Member Jeffrion Aubry and Myrie, this bill would have made it easier for someone wrongfully convicted of a crime to have that conviction overturned, even if that person pleaded guilty, by removing procedural barriers to having new evidence heard by the court. In a veto memo, Hochul said that she supports the intent of overturning wrongful convictions and noted that she has approved numerous criminal justice reforms since taking office as well as existing avenues for post-conviction relief. But she said this bill is overly broad and would “create an unjustifiable risk of flooding the courts with frivolous claims.”
Noncompete ban – A1278-B/S3100A
Sponsored by Assembly Member Latoya Joyner and state Sen. Sean Ryan, the bill would have banned most employers from forcing employees to sign noncompete agreements, with limited exceptions for broadcast employees. The legislation faced fierce opposition on Wall Street and by other major employers. In a statement in anticipation of the veto, Ryan said he and lawmakers were willing to “heavily compromise” after weeks of negotiations to ban low- and middle-income noncompete agreements, but that the governor’s office rejected the offer. He added that he plans to reintroduce and pass the legislation again in 2024. In a veto memo, Hochul said that she has “long supported” limits on non-compete agreements and added that she tried to negotiate with the Legislature “in good faith on a reasonable compromise,” but criticized lawmakers’ “one size fits all approach.” Hochul said she remains open to legislation that limits low- and middle-income noncompete agreements, but didn’t mention the compromise that Ryan said lawmakers offered.
Building owner transparency – A1628/S2694
Sponsored by Assembly Member John McDonald and state Sen. Neil Breslin, this bill would have required the disclosure of the people behind a limited liability corporation that owns a building or property leased to the state. (Hochul did sign the semi-related LLC Transparency Act with amendments. See below.) In a veto memo, Hochul said that potential landlords looking to lease to the state must fill out a “Vendor Responsibility Questionnaire,” and that the state works to “identify a natural person” if the questionnaire lists an LLC. She said adding an additional requirement for the state when seeking spaces to rent would make those negotiations more difficult.
New York Deforestation-Free Procurement Act – A5682-AA/S4859-A
Sponsored by Assembly Member Kenneth Zebrowski and state Sen. Liz Krueger, the bill aimed to ensure that companies contracting with the state are not contributing to tropical deforestation overseas. Environmental advocates said that New York would have been the first state to end its procurement of products that contribute to tropical deforestation and denounced the veto. Krueger said she is “incredibly disappointed” about the veto, adding the bill is not “some esoteric issue for tree-huggers.” Zebrowski said he would continue to work toward passing legislation that achieves the goal of the vetoed bill. According to a veto memo from the governor, the state already bans the use of certain tropical hardwoods and there is no evidence of abuse of existing exemptions. She also said that the bill would impose overly burdensome certification requirements on businesses looking to contract with the state.
Electric vehicle charging – A1122/S0110
Sponsored by Epstein and Krueger, this piece of legislation would have required commercial garages with electric vehicle charging stations to ensure the public has access to those charging stations. Hochul said in a veto memo that the bill would discourage commercial garages from participating in existing programs meant to increase public access to electric vehicle chargers by “creating operational challenges” for those garages.
Lobbying transparency for gubernatorial nominees – A5786/S4152
Hochul vetoed legislation inspired by the 2023 session’s chief judge battle. The legislation would have required lobbying groups to disclose spending on campaigns for or against gubernatorial nominees, like the campaign run by the group Latinos for LaSalle in support of Hochul’s ill-fated nominee for chief judge. Hochul cited “significant new reporting requirements” and “implementation costs not already accounted for” in her veto memo.
Task forces and commissions
Hochul issued a blanket veto for 32 bills that would have created various task forces, commissions, offices, reports and the like. She offered a joint explanation that the proposals would have collectively incurred $35 million in unbudgeted expenditures and asserted that some of the bills were redundant.
Offshore wind wind transmission bill – A7764/S6218A
Hochul vetoed a bill that would have allowed parkland in the City of Long Beach on Long Island to have an offshore wind transmission line and would have helped expedite an ongoing project. But the legislation had strong local opposition, including from the local state legislators.
Electric bill transparency – A1190/S0334
The governor rejected legislation that aimed at making consumer’s electric bills more transparent by requiring utility companies to include certain additional information. Hochul noted that she vetoed an identical bill last year, stating that it would lead to more costs to the ratepayer that outweighs any benefit from increased transparency, as well as administrative burden on utilities.
SIGNED WITH AMENDMENTS
LLC transparency – A3484A/S0995B
Sponsored by Assembly Member Emily Gallagher and Hoylman-Sigal, the legislation would define limited liability company beneficiaries and require those beneficiaries’ disclosure as a means to combat anonymous corporate ownership, like when an LLC owns rental properties. Hochul approved the bill, but included a chapter amendment that the list of LLCs would not be available to the public, only to state agencies who “have a law enforcement interest” in the data. In a joint statement, Hoylman-Sigal and Gallagher applauded Hochul for signing the bill, but said “the fight is not over” with regards to the lack of a public database. In the statement, they crossed out the word “transparency” from the bill name and replaced it with “disclosure” as they contend that there is no true transparency without access for the public.
NEXT STORY: Hochul signs Rape is Rape Act