First Month of NY Legislative Session a Busy One By Luke Perry
New York Democrats did exceptionally well in the 2018 election, holding the governorship, expanding control in the Assembly, and taking control of the Senate. The new legislative session, which began earlier this month, has already produced significant changes in policy and process.
“Three men in a room”
The negotiating process between the legislature and governor is no longer dominated by “three men in a room.” Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the new Senate Majority Leader, has met with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Governor Andrew Cuomo, to begin deliberations about policy reform and the state budget. Stewart Cousins served as Minority Leader since 2012 and became the first woman and first African-American to preside over the NY Senate this session.
New Yorkers will now be able to vote up to 10 days before Election Day, joining 37 states who have already adopted early voting procedures.
State and federal primaries are now required to be held on the same day. New York was the only state to separate them last election cycle. People 16 and 17 years of age can pre-register to vote to be automatically registered upon turning 18.
The “LLC loophole,” which enabled individuals to create limited liability corporations and donate large sums of money to candidates, was addressed by capping political spending at $5,000 annually, the same as corporations, and implementing increased disclosure requirements.
New Yorkers who move in-state will no longer have to re-register at the local board of elections. Same day voter registration and “no excuse” absentee voting will become law if voters support related referendum amending the state constitution.
The Reproductive Health Act removed abortion from the criminal code. Though New York permitted abortions three years prior to Roe v. Wade, a 1970 law considered homicide “conduct which causes the death of a person or an unborn child with which a female has been pregnant for more than 24 weeks.” The new law state that “every individual has the fundamental right to choose or refuse contraception or sterilization” an “every individual who becomes pregnant has the fundamental right to choose to carry the pregnancy to term, to give birth to a child, or to have an abortion, pursuant to this article.”
Late term abortions will now be under the purview of medical practitioners based on the health of the pregnant woman and the viability of the fetus. The act also makes the judicial precedents in Roe codified in state law, should the case be overturned by the Supreme Court.
Undocumented immigrants are now eligible to receive state tuition assistance for higher education, per The DREAM Act, named after “dreamers,” undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. Undocumented individuals are eligible for scholarships and to participate in the 529 College Savings Program. The law will impact approximately 146,000 children who were educated in the New York public schools, but were previously ineligible to receive financial aid for college. Six other states have passed similar legislation, including California and Texas.
Luke Perry (@PolSciLukePerry) is Chair and Professor of Government at Utica College