Government Relations Newsletter— Vol. 3
Welcome to NYSBA’s Government Relations Newsletter. Stay informed about what is happening in the legislative arena and learn about NYSBA’s advocacy on policies that matter to members.
NYSBA Issues on the Move: NYSBA’s Department of Government Relations has been actively lobbying key stakeholders in the State Legislature and Governor’s office on behalf of members. We advocated for the following:
- Workplace Sexual Harassment Hotline (S.812-a/A.2035-b): Legislation supported and partially drafted by NYSBA’s Women in the Law Section was signed into law in March. This bill requires the Division of Human Rights to establish a toll-free, confidential, and safe legal hotline for reporting workplace sexual harassment. The hotline will connect complainants with experienced pro-bono attorneys who will help make them aware of their legal rights and advise them on the specifics of their individual cases.
- Notice of Deportation in Plea Deals (S.2903-a): For the second consecutive year, the Senate passed Association recommendations requiring the courts to notify a non-citizen defendant of the risk of deportation prior to accepting a plea deal. NYSBA will be pursuing a sponsor in the Assembly in the coming weeks.
- The Repeal of Judiciary Law 470 (S.700/A.5895): For the second consecutive year, the Senate passed legislation supported by the Association removing statutory requirements to maintain a physical office space in New York State. The bill remains in the Assembly Judiciary Committee. With the state budget now settled, NYSBA looks forward to redirecting lawmakers’ attention to this important legislation. See NYSBA’s Support Flyer.
- Various matters that were subject to budget negotiations. (see more information below)
Gov. Hochul’s first budget: What NYSBA issues were addressed, and what was not:
What was included:
Brownfield Cleanup Program: A 10-year extender to the Brownfield Cleanup Program was included in the final budget. NYSBA’s Environmental and Energy Law Section met with key stakeholders to advance NYSBA’s legislative proposal, which resulted in getting the program extended for another 10 years.
Educational Funding for Incarcerated Individuals: Incarcerated individuals were not allowed to receive Tuition Assistance Program funding. Several NYSBA groups (most recently the Task Force on Incarceration) recommend repealing the ban on funding, and that was done in the budget.
Bail and Discovery Modifications: Two weeks before the final budget was due, the Governor released a proposed “10-point safety plan,” to amend the bail, discovery, and Raise the Age laws. After reviewing the Governor’s proposal, NYSBA issued a letter calling on the Legislature and Governor to address these complex reforms outside of the rushed budget process. Despite calls from numerous advocacy groups to not impulsively change the laws impacting New York’s most vulnerable populations in such a truncated timeline, certain provisions were still included. Ultimately, more modest changes that allow judges to order bail in cases involving repeat offenders or crimes that involve serious harm were added to the budget. Additionally, the discovery laws were altered to allow judges to consider whether the district attorney acted reasonably and in good faith when complying with discovery rules.
Health Care Workers Investments: Health care workers will see a bump in their paychecks as the state raised the minimum wage for these workers by $3 over the next couple of years. Additionally, funding was dedicated to providing health care and mental hygiene worker bonuses ranging from $500 to $3,000 depending on salary and length of service. NYSBA’s Elder Law and Special Needs Section advocated for both proposals as crucial investments in the healthcare workforce and infrastructure.
What was omitted:
The “Clean Slate” Act
: NYSBA supported legislation that would have provided for automatic sealing of certain criminal convictions. The Governor and Legislature have competing legislation what would allow for the sealing of certain misdemeanor convictions after 3 years, and certain felonies after 7 years. However, the proposals differ substantially over when those time periods would begin. The Legislature’s proposal would allow for sealing much sooner and is fully supported by NYSBA. See NYSBA Support Flyer.
Assigned Counsel Rates: Raises to the Assigned Counsel Rates was a hotly debated issue during budget negotiations. While nearly everyone agreed the pitiful rates were the cause of an access to justice crisis in the courts, discussions dissolved without a deal on the final night due to disagreement on how the rates should be funded. NYSBA will continue to push for the raises in the stand-alone legislation sponsored by Senator Bailey and Assemblyman Magnarelli that provides for a state-funded doubling of the rates and an annual cost of living adjustment.
Raise the Age Rollbacks:
NYSBA opposed amendments that would make it easier for children charged with certain crimes to have their charges addressed in criminal court, rather than the more appropriate family court.
NYSBA opposed amendments that would allow children to be housed in adult correctional facilities in certain situations, ignoring the intent and mandates of the Raise the Age laws.
NYSBA Leadership on the Move:
In early April, leadership of the New York State Bar Association travelled (virtually) to Washington, D.C., to lobby members of the New York Congressional Delegation on the Association’s federal priorities for 2022. Priorities this year include support for the Equality Act, providing greater student loan relief for attorneys and non-attorneys and legislative reform to address the crisis in immigration representation.
These requests come on the heels of two legislative successes this year: reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC).
A new priority for the Bar this year was support for VAWA reauthorization. This landmark law was first championed by now-President Biden when he was in the Senate in 1993. Tragically, authorization of VAWA and its critical programs lapsed due to Congressional inaction. The impact of VAWA legislation over a quarter of a century has been transformative, directly impacting the lives of countless survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and dating violence. Fortunately, a deal was reached on reauthorization, and it was included in the Omnibus Appropriations bill that provided funding for the federal government through September 30, 2022.
Also included in the Omnibus Appropriations measure was funding for the Legal Services Corp (LSC). LSC is an independent non-profit corporation established by Congress in 1974 to provide financial support for civil legal aid to low-income Americans. New York has seven LSC grantees: Legal Aid Society of Mid-New York, Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York, Legal Assistance of Western New York, Legal Services NYC, Legal Services of the Hudson Valley, Nassau/Suffolk Law Services Committee, and Neighborhood Legal Services (Buffalo). For FY22, LSC received$489 million, $20 million over last year’s appropriation level.
Sections and Committees 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 the specific legislation or the legislative process generally? Please contact our Government Relations Team with questions or concerns.
Department of Government Relations Team: