Government Relations Newsletter— Vol. 1

By Department of Government Relations

Government Relations Newsletter— Vol. 1

2.10.2022

By Department of Government Relations

Government Relations Newsletter

Welcome to NYSBA’s Government Relations Newsletter. Stay informed on what is happening in the legislative arena and learn about NYSBA’s advocacy on policies that matter to members.

What’s happening in the State Capitol:

On January 18th, Governor Hochul released the executive budget outlining several of her policy and funding goals for the state of New York. Lawmakers and staff are combing through thousands of pages of proposed legislation and holding hearings in preparation for budget negotiations that will dominate the next two months of session. The executive budget serves as the Governor’s opening position for these talks. The Senate and Assembly will soon establish their own starting positions with the release of their respective one-house budgets. A final budget is due April 1st.

NYSBA Issues on the Move:

Over the past month, the Department of Government Relations has actively been lobbying key legislative and executive branch stakeholders on behalf of membership. The following notable bills have seen legislative movement of late:

  • The Repeal of Judiciary Law 470 (S.700/A.5895):
    Legislation supported by the Association removing statutory requirements to maintain a physical office space in New York State was unanimously approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and is awaiting a vote in the full Senate. See NYSBA’s Support Flyer
  • Raising the Assigned Counsel Rates (S.3527a/A6013a):
    Legislation was amended at the urging of the Association to include crucial state funded raises to assigned counsel rates for both 18b panel attorneys and attorneys for children in line with Association policy. Previously, the bill only provided for increased rates under the county law and did not provide a funding source.
  • Appellate Review of Suppression Rulings (S1281/A5688):
    Legislation supported by NYSBA’s Task Force on Racial Injustice and Police Reform and the Committee on Mandated Representation that will facilitate appellate review of suppression rulings was voted out of the Senate Judiciary Committee and is on third reading in the Assembly.

Also of note, President T. Andrew Brown submitted testimony on behalf of the Association calling on legislators and the Governor to ensure that another budget session does not pass without addressing the shortage of attorneys for indigent clients and children due to the inadequate Assigned Counsel Rates. He also discussed other important Association legislative priorities such as court restructuring and police reform. A copy of his full testimony can be found here.

Association Policy Crossover with the Executive Budget:

The Governor’s executive budget includes several policy proposals that may be of interest to members. As with past state budgets, the devil is in the details, and whether the Association will vocally support or oppose reforms under consideration is still being carefully reviewed. However, below are a few of the are the overarching issues on which NYSBA has been out in front that were included in the Governor’s first proposed spending plan:

Voting and Elections:

The Governor’s budget includes a proposal to allow voters to register 10 days ahead of an election instead of the current 20-day deadline. NYSBA’s Special Committee on Voting Participation report recommended such a change in 2013. That report also supported same-day voter registration, which required a constitutional amendment be passed by the Legislature in two consecutive sessions, but regrettably it was voted down by New Yorkers in November 2021.

Corrections and Reentry:

The Governor’s “Jails to Jobs” initiative includes proposals to: restore incarcerated individuals’ eligibility for the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP); expand educational release and furlough programs in prisons; fully staff the Parole Board as provided by state law; and establish a new transitional housing program for incarcerated individuals that will provide housing for 90 days post release. These concepts have been recommended by various Association committees over the years to allow individuals in contact with the criminal justice system to have meaningful access to rehabilitative services while incarcerated and to support successful re-entry upon release.

Civil Rights:

A proposal to amend the Human Rights Law and prohibit discrimination in housing matters against individuals with prior criminal convictions was also included. In 2019, the Report of the Task Force on Incarceration, called on the Legislature to expand the Human Rights Law to provide for this protection to increase access to housing.

Brownfields Cleanup Program:

A proposal to extend the Brownfields Cleanup Program past its scheduled sunset date of 2022 to 2032. The proposal also makes several changes to the program impacting fees and tangible property credits. The Association has its own affirmative legislative proposal adopted by the Executive Committee in 2021. This proposal has been and will continue to be advanced with the Governor’s office and the Legislature.

Ethics:

JCOPE would be scrapped under the Governor’s proposal and replaced by the Independent Commission on Ethics and Lobbying in Government. While the Association has not considered abolishing JCOPE, it has set forth guiding principles for government ethics in its 2011 report from the Task Force on Government Ethics. The guiding principles: independence, transparency, due process, and full participation of lawyers in government.

Gun Violence:

The Governor’s budget would create an “Office of Gun Violence Prevention” to be housed within the Department of Health. The new office’s stated purpose would be to collect data to track emerging gun violence and deploy resources to those areas. Collecting data on gun violence is one of the 15 overarching recommendations of NYSBA’s comprehensive report for the Task Force on Mass Shootings and Assault Weapons.

Health Care and Nursing Homes:

Several funding and policy proposals were included in the Governor’s budget relating to the health care industry and nursing homes. Over the last two years, NYSBA has issued comprehensive reports in these fields providing several guiding recommendation for policy changes. This includes adoption of the Crisis Standards of Care, a 2022 state legislative priority of the Association.

The Department of Government Relations will continue to work with sections and committees to review budget and standalone legislation to ensure the New York State Bar Association’s voice is heard when forming the policy of the state.

Section and Committee members are encouraged to use their expertise and get involved in the legislative process. Please see NYSBA’s Government Relations website for existing legislative memos and advocacy content.

Questions about a specific bill or the legislative process generally? Please contact our Government Relations Team with questions or concerns.

Department of Government Relations Team:

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