Governor Hochul moves from campaigning to governing
New York leaves little time for a newly elected governor to relax after her campaign. Under the state Constitution, she has until February 1st to introduce her plan for the Executive Budget. While her proposal is being developed, she also has to act on any legislation that was approved during the last legislative session – which in 2022 ended in early June—but has not yet made its way to her desk.
During the legislative session, a bit more than 1,000 bills passed both houses. Under New York’s Constitution, the governor has 10 days to act on legislation once those bills are sent to the governor’s office. Under the informal rules, the governor requests which bills she wants to act on in order to ensure adequate review. If she does not act on the legislation within that 10-day period, the bill automatically becomes law. If vetoed, both houses can work in concert to override that veto if two-thirds majorities in both houses vote to do so.
In terms of the bills that have gained legislative approval, all must be sent to the governor by the end of the calendar year. If a bill is sent to the governor on the last day of the calendar year – or when the legislature is technically out of session – the rules are different. Under those circumstances, the governor has 30 days in which to make a decision. If she does not approve the legislation during that period, the bill is automatically vetoed (so-called "pocket veto").
As of Election Day, a bit more than 400 of the 1,000 bills had not yet been sent to the governor. Now that the election is over and she is getting ready for the 2023 upcoming legislative session, the governor began to act on those remaining bills. Within three weeks of her election to a full term the governor had acted on more than 100 bills so far this November.
Among those 100 were two bills that she approved last week. One was legislation that prohibited hospitals from placing wage garnishments or liens on the homes of those patients who had outstanding medical bills. After all, patients are not “buying” hospital care in the same way as they may buy a car. Usually, outstanding medical bills are the result of inadequate – or non-existent – health insurance.
Another bill that the governor approved placed a two-year moratorium on the use of old fossil fuel plants to perform an energy-intensive type of cryptomining. The crypto companies were using these old plants to power currency transactions. Environmentalists were rightly concerned that the use of such power facilities was undermining the state’s climate goals due to the emission of greenhouse gases from these plants.
Governor Hochul also issued some vetoes. Last week, she vetoed bills that her office said could potentially have a fiscal impact yet were approved outside of the normal budget process. This is not the first time that the governor has vetoed legislation. During the budget process she issued 33 vetoes of budget items added by the Legislature. None of those vetoes were overridden.
As mentioned earlier, the governor still has nearly 300 bills to consider prior to the end of the calendar year. At least two of them are considered consequential.
One bill is known as the Grieving Families Act. This bill updates an 1847 New York State law that governs how families may claim financial compensation in the event someone in their family is killed by the negligence of someone else, also known as the wrongful death statute. If approved by the governor, the legislation would modernize the law by allowing families in the tragic circumstance of the death of a loved one to sue to receive compensation for both their economic (current law) and non-economic loss (loss of companionship for example). Current law measures the loss of a loved one solely by the economic loss to the survivors, which discriminates against those who are less-well-off, or in cases where the killed individual was a senior or a child. The bill also expands the definition of a “family” to include those with close relationships with the deceased, not just those fitting the definition of a traditional family of 1847.
A second bill deals with the costs of owning digital products. This legislation would require manufacturers of digital electronics like cellphones and computers to make diagnostic and repair information and parts available for sale to independent repairers and do-it-yourselfers. This will prevent manufacturers from creating a monopoly on repair services and forcing consumers to pay, often inflated prices, for repair exclusively through their repair divisions. According to a study by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (USPIRG), the average family in New York would save approximately $330 per year and reduce electronic waste by 22 percent if the governor approves this first-in-the-nation legislation.
The governor has her work cut out for her but depending on how she addresses these issues and the hundreds others still under consideration, she could make a big difference in the lives of New Yorkers.
Blair Horner is executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group.
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