New York’s annual legislative session finally drew to a close early Saturday after a flurry of activity in recent days saw lawmakers pass major legislation on gun control, abortion rights and the New York City public education system.
More than 1,000 bills cleared both houses of the state Legislature during the five-plus month session, which started in January and marked the first of Gov. Kathy Hochul’s tenure. Of those, Hochul still has to act on nearly 800 of them, which will be sent to her office in tranches between now and the end of the year.
The session had been scheduled to end Thursday, and the state Senate wrapped up its voting around 2:30 a.m. Friday. The Assembly went into overtime, entering an extra marathon day of voting that stretched from late Friday morning until 8 a.m. Saturday before finishing its work. The lower chamber wrapped without taking up the Clean Slate Act, a bill favored by criminal-justice reform advocates that would have automatically sealed most criminal convictions after a period of time.
Now, Hochul and the Legislature will soon turn their attention to the campaign trail, where statewide elected officials and all 213 state lawmakers are on the ballot this year. And what they did – and didn’t – get done in Albany will be a central element of their election narratives.
Here’s a look at the big-ticket measures lawmakers passed during the 2022 session and the ones that were left behind.
What did pass
1. Mayoral control of schools
For the past two decades, it’s been an Albany tradition: Every few years, the New York City mayor travels to the state Capitol to plead with lawmakers to extend mayoral control over the city’s school system.
Such was the case again this year. In the end, Mayor Eric Adams won an extension – albeit only for two years. And it came paired with a companion bill that will require the city to significantly reduce class sizes by 2027, which Adams likened to an unfunded mandate.
The state Senate passed both bills Thursday afternoon and the Assembly followed suit later in the night. Hochul has not said whether she intends to sign them into law. She had been pushing for a four-year extension.
2. Getting Brian Benjamin off the ballot
The first major scandal of Hochul’s tenure came in April, when her hand-picked lieutenant governor, Brian Benjamin of Harlem, was arrested on bribery-related charges.
That led to a major headache: Benjamin had already accepted his position on the June 28th primary ballot. Absent a move out of state, there wasn’t an easy way to get him off the ballot.
So Hochul successfully convinced lawmakers to change state law to allow someone who has been charged with a crime to decline a ballot position even if they had already accepted. That allowed Benjamin to remove his name from consideration. He was replaced with new Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado, the now-former congressman from the Hudson Valley.
3. To-go drinks
Every year, New York’s massive state budget is filled with various measures that have little to do with the state’s overall finances. And this year was no different.
One of those issues was the return of to-go cocktails at restaurants and bars. Hochul made it a priority, and it was tucked into one of the bills in the $220 billion state budget lawmakers approved in early April.
Now, customers can get mixed drinks to go from their favorite restaurant – so long as they also order a “substantial food item."
4. NYCHA Trust
This was a win for Adams.
The state Senate and Assembly both passed a bill creating a Preservation Trust for the New York City Housing Authority. It’s a new public-benefit entity that would shift thousands of NYCHA units from Section 9 to Section 8 of the federal Housing Act, which would open up new revenue sources for the public housing system.
The state Legislature passed the measure despite some concerns from progressive lawmakers and tenants. Hochul has pledged to sign it into law
5. Gun control bills
Spurred to action by the recent mass shootings in Buffalo and Texas, the Legislature passed New York’s most sweeping gun-control legislation since the SAFE Act in 2013.
Among the 10 bills approved by lawmakers is a measure that would require a license to purchase a semi-automatic rifle, such as an AR-15. That would have the effect of increasing the minimum age for purchase from 18 to 21. (New York City already required a permit for long guns.)
Lawmakers also implemented a measure that would require new handguns to be equipped with microstamping capability, provided the state Division of Criminal Justice Services deems the technology “viable” first. The mandate wouldn’t take place until four years after viability is determined.
6.Voting Rights Act
In the session’s waning days, both houses of the Legislature approved the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act of New York.
The measure would give the state some of the nation’s strongest protections against voter discrimination, making it easier for the state attorney general to bring action against a city, town, county or school district that disenfranchises voters of color.
Hochul had pledged support for a version of the Voting Rights Act in her State of the State address in January.
7. Protections for abortion providers
This week, lawmakers approved a series of measures meant to protect abortion providers. It was a direct response to the leaked draft U.S. Supreme Court decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that guaranteed federal abortion rights.
Hochul is expected to sign the measures into law. Among other things, they would protect providers from being hit with professional misconduct claims or denied medical malpractice insurance just because they perform abortions.
8. Adult Survivors Act
In 2019, the Legislature passed the Child Victims Act, which gave victims of sexual crimes a one-time window to file lawsuits against their attackers and institutions that harbored them, regardless of the statute of limitations.
Now those who were adults at the time they were victimized will get their chance as well.
The new Adult Survivors Act will temporarily lift the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits related to sex crimes that occurred when the victim was at least 18 years of age, giving them a one-year window to sue. The window will open six months after Hochul signs the bill into law.
9. Speed cameras
This is another bill Adams pushed for.
State lawmakers extended New York City’s speed camera program for an additional three years, allowing them to remain in up to 750 school zones until July 1, 2025. The measure will also allow the cameras – which automatically ticket speeding cars in school zones – to operate continuously. Previously, they were restricted to the hours of 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
10. Space heater crackdown
In response to a fire at a Bronx apartment building that killed 17 people, the Legislature approved a bill cracking down on subpar space heaters.
Once signed by Hochul, the measure would require all portable electric heaters sold in New York to have a thermostat and an automatic shutoff feature. It would also require the heaters to be certified by Underwriters Laboratories or a similar safety certification body.
11. Expediting NYC casinos
In 2014, New York voters approved up to seven full-fledged, privately held casinos statewide. But the first four were restricted to areas outside of the New York City region, at least until 2023.
As part of the state budget, Hochul and lawmakers included a provision speeding that process up. It allowed the state Gaming Commission to get started with the approval process for the remaining three licenses this year rather than next, which will ultimately speed everything up by a few months. But it’s a lengthy process, with no licenses expected to be awarded in 2022.
12. Buffalo Bills stadium funding
This is another major item that was included in the state’s $220 billion budget this year, and it’s proven to be a controversial one.
In one of the budget bills, Hochul and state lawmakers committed to spending $600 million on a new football stadium for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills. Under the agreement, Erie County taxpayers would be on the hook for an additional $250 million.
13. Gas tax reduction
Hochul and lawmakers also agreed to a temporary gas tax reduction as part of the budget, and it just took effect on Wednesday.
Under the gas-tax holiday, the state’s share of taxes will be cut by about 16 cents through the end of the year. It was a response to rapidly rising gas prices that have put the squeeze on drivers across the state, but some economists questioned whether it was the most effective way to provide relief.
14. Cash bail changes
With crime rates still high in New York City – and Hochul’s political opponents seizing on the issue – the governor pushed for a series of changes to the state’s 2019 cash bail reforms, which prevented judges from imposing cash bail requirements for most misdemeanor and non-violent felony charges.
Among the tweaks secured by Hochul, lawmakers agreed to a measure making it easier to incarcerate repeat offenders, even if they’re only charged with minor theft while a separate charge is pending.
15. New congressional districts
After the state’s new system for drawing congressional and state legislative district lines imploded, the Legislature’s Democratic majorities drew new lines on their own and passed them in January. Hochul quickly signed them into law.
It wasn’t long before the courts threw the lines out, ruling that lawmakers hadn’t followed proper procedure. And in the case of the congressional lines, the state courts ruled Democrats gerrymandered the lines to their party’s benefit.
Since then, a court-appointed special master drew new lines, and the congressional and state Senate primaries were moved back to Aug. 23rd to accommodate. The statewide and state Assembly primary elections remain on June 28th.
What didn't pass
1. 421-a extension, Good Cause Eviction
Adams and Hochul were big proponents of extending the soon-to-expire tax break known as 421-a, which allows developers to reap tax benefits for building New York City housing with a certain percentage of affordable units.
Progressive lawmakers, meanwhile, wanted to see a bill known as Good Cause Eviction passed. It would cap annual rent increases and require that a landlord have “good cause” to evict a tenant.
In the end, neither of the measures got done. Hochul has vowed to push for a 421-a extension when lawmakers return in 2023
2. Equality Amendment
While lawmakers were able to pass some abortion protections, the Senate and Assembly were unable to strike a deal on the Equality Amendment, which would have changed the state constitution to make clear no one can be denied equal rights based on “race, color, ethnicity, national origin, disability, or sex including pregnancy and pregnancy outcomes, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.”
That would have had the effect of enshrining abortion rights in the state constitution at a time when Roe v. Wade is potentially on the brink of being overturned.
Changing the constitution is a lengthy process, however. It requires passage by consecutively elected sessions of the Legislature before it’s put to a statewide referendum for final approval. If lawmakers don’t approve an amendment by the end of the year, it would push final passage into at least 2025.
3. Even-year elections
There was a brief, late-session push to approve a bill that would consolidate town and county elections in even years, lining them up with presidential and statewide elections rather than keeping them in odd years. (It wouldn’t have applied to New York City or other cities, whose elections are constitutionally set for odd years.)
The idea, according to the bill’s Democratic sponsors, would be to boost voter turnout, since way more voters show up at the polls for presidential races.
Republicans mounted an aggressive pushback, arguing that Democrats were trying to rig local elections to their benefit, knowing that New Yorkers have overwhelmingly backed Democratic presidential candidates for more than 30 years.
It fizzled. Neither house ended up passing the bill.
4. All-Electric Buildings Act
The Senate, Assembly and Hochul weren’t able to get on the same page regarding a bill that would prevent fossil fuel hookups in new buildings in New York, similar to a measure already approved by New York City.
A bill in the Legislature would have prevented gas hookups by the end of 2023 for buildings less than seven stories high, and by mid-2027 for buildings of more than seven stories. Hochul had pushed for a measure that would have homed in on 2027. Neither measure passed before lawmakers adjourned
5. Clean Slate Act
Criminal justice reform advocates were all in on the Clean Slate Act, a bill that would automatically seal most misdemeanor and felony records (not including sex crimes) after a person has completed their sentence and a waiting period of three or seven years, respectively. Supporters of the measure say it would have given people a second chance and made it easier to get jobs and housing, which is often difficult for those who previously have been convicted of crimes.
The Senate approved the measure Wednesday. But the state Education Department and other institutions, including the Catholic Church, raised significant concerns, leading to a flurry of last-minute negotiations. A last-second amendment helped assuage the Education Department’s concerns, but it wasn't enough – the Assembly never put it to a vote before wrapping up its work.
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the name of the Equality Amendment.