Gov. Kathy Hochul has put her signature on a number of bills set to take effect on New Year’s Day.
The bills passed by the state Legislature and signed by Hochul range from lengthening the voter registration period to ensuring college athletes can't lose their scholarships if they take an endorsement deal. In some cases, lawmakers have spent years attempting to get these bills signed into law. All told, there are over 100 bills set to take effect this year, including at least 39 on Jan. 1.
Though some of these bills passed the state Legislature months ago, Hochul didn’t have to sign them until they’re “delivered,” a procedural term meaning when lawmakers send a bill to the governor for her to sign or reject. In practice, the state Legislature offers a governor a kind of deference in deciding when to review the bill for approval or veto.
'Wrong Church' Bill: As Gothamist previously reported, the law will allow voters who cast an affidavit ballot at an unassigned poll site the ability to have that ballot count. The “wrong church” rule has prevented thousands of affidavit ballots from being counted in New York’s elections since it took effect in 2005, with New York City having the most affidavit ballots dismissed. A 2021 report by Vote Early NY, a voting rights advocacy group, found that nearly 13,800 affidavit ballots were disqualified during the 2020 general election because they were cast at the wrong poll site.
Impact: The law follows the passage of several election reforms passed this year to help bolster voting access across the state. Currently, New York is currently the eighth-worst state when it comes to voter turnout, according to a 2022 study by the U.S. Elections Project.
Voter Registration: New York residents will now be able to register to vote up until 10 days before an election, whether it's a general election, a primary or a special election. Previously, the cutoff was 25 days before an election.
Impact: New York has long faced criticism for its low voter turnout, and this will give people more time to register to vote.
More Judges in NYC: The bill creates 14 more justice posts in New York City — four in family court and 10 in state Supreme Court — in New York City. While family court justices are appointed by the mayor, Supreme Court justices are chosen by voters.
Impact: The hope is to fix what advocates and lawmakers say is a backlog of cases. In the case of family court, some cases were held as long as a year during the pandemic — keeping families from having their cases heard in a speedier manner.
Paid Family Leave Care for Siblings: Starting in 2023, New Yorkers will be able to take paid family leave to care for a sibling with a serious health condition. Previously, New Yorkers could only take this time to care for a spouse, domestic partner, parent/stepparent/parent-in-law, grandparent or grandchild who was deemed seriously ill, injured, impaired or suffering from a physical or mental condition. This change applies primarily to New Yorkers who work for companies that directly pay benefit claims. New Yorkers are encouraged to verify when sibling care is covered by their employer’s Paid Family Leave insurer.
Impact: The new law, which originally passed in 2021 but not effective until 2023, is meant to aid situations in which a sibling is the main caregiver for someone who is seriously ill.
Removing Independence Party: The law prohibits political parties from using "independent" or "independence" in their name, forcing the Independence Party to rename its party. It is technically still a party in the state but failed to reach the required number of signatures in 2020 to automatically get a ballot line.
Impact: The renaming of the party is meant to prevent New Yorkers from mistakenly registering for it when they mean to say they are an independent voter with no party affiliation. A 2012 Daily News editorial said thousands of voters registered for the party thinking it meant they were identifying as being independent from any political party. Lawmakers leaned on the pieces as justification for the new law.
Student Athlete Compensation: The law makes clear that students at New York colleges and universities — specifically those in the NCAA — can receive compensation from endorsements without losing their scholarship. Student athletes can also hire an attorney or agent for such business deals without being penalized.
Impact: The new law comes after the NCAA began allowing student-athletes to receive compensation from selling their image or likeness, which comes as universities reap revenues from someone’s popularity and performance in a sport. Data collected by the U.S. Department of Education shows Syracuse University — home to an array of teams including basketball, football and hockey teams — generated $76 million in revenue between July 2020 until June 2021.
Cosmetic Testing on Animals: This bill makes it illegal for retail stores to sell cosmetic products found to have been tested on animals. Those violating the law can face a $5,000 fine, an additional $1,000 for each day a business violates the law, and a potential probe by the state attorney general. The law’s passage builds on a global trend. Products that have been tested on animals have been outlawed in other countries, including India, Canada and Switzerland.
Impact: The move could compel cosmetic companies that still test their products on animals to consider alternative methods to stay competitive in the New York market, which has yearly revenues that run in the billions of dollars.