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STATEMENT: Highlights of the 2023 Legislative Session

Alex Dery Snyder June 13, 2023

 

For Immediate Release: June 13, 2023

Contact: Alex Dery Snider, 202.641.5124

 

Empire Justice Center Issues

Highlights of the 2023 Legislative Session

 

With the end of the official legislative session, Empire Justice Center shared an overview of highlights of the work achieved, and the work still to be completed.

 

“Every legislative session is unique, and this was another one for the record books. This year featured multiple critical committee leadership transitions after the election, an abbreviated amount of time between the budget passing and the end of session, and the political conversation being dominated by big-ticket items that, with a few notable exceptions, went largely unresolved, for the time being” said Kristin Brown, Empire Justice Center President and CEO. “Especially given those dynamics, Empire Justice is gratified to highlight three bills that passed both houses that will positively impact on our client communities when signed by Governor Kathy Hochul. Removing barriers to access is in our organizational DNA and these three bills do that in access to civil justice, child care, and gender affirming health care – we could not be more proud in lauding sponsors, and partners in the advocacy community who worked so hard to make these future policy changes happen. We look forward to working with legislators and advocacy partners to ensure these bills are signed and to advance legislation that remain on the table.”

Empire Justice Center joined with advocacy colleagues to support the following bills impacting low-income and marginalized New Yorkers; these bills passed both chambers, and we encourage Governor Hochul to sign them into law.

 

  • Notarization Bill –S.5162 (Hoylman-Sigal)/A.5772 (Lavine)
    • This bill amends CPLR 2106 to allow litigants in civil cases to swear to a statement under penalty of perjury without having to notarize the document, removing an outdated burden to access to justice in civil proceedings.Once signed into law, New York will join the federal government and the over 20 other states who have eliminated the burdensome and often discriminatory process of requiring documents to be notarized in civil matters. The need for the legislation rose out of recognition that NY needed to remove barriers to the justice system for New Yorkers who have difficulty accessing notaries, whether due to transportation, lack of notaries in rural communities, digital divide challenges and other issues. Empire Justice worked closely with NY Legal Services Coalition to secure passage of this critical legislation.

 

  • Decoupling bill to provide child care assistance for parents who work nontraditional hours — S.5327 (Brisport) / A.4986A (Hevesi) 
    • This bill will provide equitable access to child care for children whose parents work non-traditional hours. Currently, when a parent or caretaker applies for a child care subsidy, social services districts limit the hours approved to correspond to the parent or caregiver’s hours of work. When parents work irregular or split shifts or non-traditional hours, or if the parents or caregivers combine work with education and training, the social services districts only approve childcare for the hours of work with a small add-on for transportation. This causes a disruption in both child care and work as parents or caregivers must go back and forth to a child care provider between shifts.  The passage of this bill will provide the children of parents who work irregular or non-traditional hours with consistent care, allowing the children to thrive and their parents to succeed. Empire Justice Center is proud to have played a role in getting this legislation passed.

 

  • Safe Harbor Bill (A6046B Bronson/S2475B Hoylman-Sigal)
    • This bill will provide protections to people seeking or providing gender-affirming care. Empire Justice is glad to see this legislation pass in New York, but also look forward to working with the legislature and our fellow advocates to further increase protections provided to transgender and gender non-conforming children and their families.

 

The following bills passed the Senate but not yet the Assembly. With the Assembly planned to return later this month, we encourage leadership to take up these bills.

  • Coverage for All: Providing for coverage for certain individuals under the 1332 state innovation program — S.2237 (Rivera) / A.3020 (González-Rojas)
    • The legislation will provide Essential Plan coverage to individuals who would otherwise meet enrollment criteria but are currently precluded from participating based on their immigration status. Specifically, it would direct the Commissioner of Health to amend the 1332 waiver request to the Federal government, to then use the federal “pass through” funding. Not only would this provide critical coverage, it will allow New York to access federal dollars, and will also save the state about $500 million a year on what it currently spends on Emergency Medicaid for this population. The coverage for all campaign did herculean work to support this bill which will provide essential health care to our immigrant communities in NY. We look forward to seeing it pass when the Assembly returns to Albany.

 

  • Private Education Debt Registry Bill – S.5056 (Thomas) / A.5286 (Epstein)
    • The bill requires the NYS Department of Financial Services to establish a registry of private student loan debt owed by New York State residents. Private education creditors would be required to submit basic information to the Department. Student debt is a significant issue for young people, impacting many aspects of their lives. It is also a substantial issue for older New Yorkers who co-sign loans for children or still owe debt of their own. We know the amount of federal and state student loan debt but currently have no information regarding private student loan debt. This bill would provide regulators and lawmakers a full picture of the status of student debt in NYS.

 

  • Private Right of Action for Mortgage Servicing Regulations —  S.564A(Kavanagh) / A.2131A (Dinowitz)
    • This bill provides homeowners the ability to raise violations of NYS mortgage servicing regulations promulgated by NYS Department of Financial Services (Part 419) as a defense to a foreclosure, bring a counterclaim, or file an affirmative action against a mortgage servicer for failure to comply with the regulations. Servicers ignore and routinely violate the regulations because there is no mechanism for enforcement in individual cases. Homeowners must have the ability to raise material violations of state regulations as a defense to a foreclosure, or seek redress when a violation causes financial harm.

 

  • Deed theft bills —6569 (Myrie) and S.6577 (Kavanagh) / A.6656 (Weinstein)
    • Deed theft and foreclosure rescue scams prey on homeowners, and the efforts have been getting more sophisticated. A package of bills addressing Deed Theft and advanced by the Attorney General made progress this cycle. While Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP) is the best first line of defense against deed theft, New York needs additional tools to deter scams and bring justice for those who have been victimized. 6569 (Myrie) will criminalize deed theft, giving the Attorney General authority to investigate and prosecute, and S.6577 (Kavanagh) / A.6656 (Weinstein) will streamline procedures for a federal, state or local government to stay proceeding to recover possession or quiet title when there is a good faith reason to believe the owner was the victim of deed theft.

 

  • Language Justice – S.3381(Kennedy) / A7235 (De Los Santos)
    • This bill expands the New York state language access policy to improve accessibility to state agencies and their subdivisions. In particular, the bill includes the most common languages by region, in addition to the most common languages in the state overall, and it prioritizes languages based on the most recent arrivals within the past five years; it also includes access to American Sign Language. Language justice is a fundamental human right, and we strongly encourage this expansion.

 

  • Fair Medical Debt Reporting – S.4907 (Rivera) /A.6275 (Paulin)
    • This bill will prohibit medical debt from being collected by a consumer reporting agency or included in a consumer report. This will remove an unfair barrier for low income New Yorkers working to get on their feet, financially. While the credit reporting agencies have voluntarily agreed to not report medical debts below $500, this does not protect many patients in New York State, where health care prices are notoriously high – and where people of color carry much higher amounts of debt than their white counterparts.  We join Community Service Society and Health Care for All New Yorkers in calling for its final passage.

 

And we are looking toward the work to be beyond this session:

  • We are grateful for the progress with the bill requiring timely registration of contracts – 4877 (Mayer) / A.2740 (Paulin). However, nonprofits in New York need a more comprehensive approach. We look forward to working with our colleagues in the New York Legal Services Coalition to address this.

 

  • Much work remains in ensuring New Yorkers have access to safe and affordable housing. Senator Kavanagh and Assemblymember Solages introduced legislation (7297/A.7636) to codify the Homeowner Protection Program (HOPP) which funds non-provides in every county of the state to preserve homeownership. HOPP agencies assist homeowners with mortgage foreclosure, tax delinquency, accessing state and federal assistance, and combating deed theft and foreclosure rescue scams. We hope we will see progress with the Statewide Right to Counsel in Eviction Proceedings (SB 2721 May / A.1493 Joyner), and we will continue to advocate for leadership to address the woeful inadequacy of the Shelter Allowance.

 

  • The Consumer and Small business Protection Act — 795 (Comrie) / A.7138 (Weinstein) — updates New York’s primary consumer protection statute (GBL § 349) to conform with the vast majority of state consumer protection laws that broadly prohibit unfair business practices. Our current law prohibits only consumer-oriented deceptive practices only and does not apply to small businesses. The bill enhances access to justice for consumers and small businesses harmed by unfair credit, insurance, higher education, health care and many other transactions that target and extract wealth from people of color.

 

  • We will also continue to push for the passage of the Gender Identity Respect, Dignity, and Safety (GIRDS) – S.2860 (Salazar) / A.709A (Rozic).This bill would require that jails and prisons provide access to commissary items, clothing, and other materials that are consistent with an incarcerated person’s gender identity, address incarcerated individuals in a manner consistent with their gender identity, and presumptively house incarcerated people consistent with their gender identities, unless the person opts out of that placement. It would also place a fourteen-day limit on involuntary protective custody, aka solitary confinement, which many facilities currently use to house transgender people in lieu of housing them consistent with their gender identity.

 

To find out more about Empire Justice Center, visit our website, www.empirejustice.org.

 

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Empire Justice Center is a nonprofit law firm that seeks to make the law work for all New Yorkers, especially those who need it the most. We do so by identifying critical issues, developing and implementing creative solutions and monitoring ongoing results. Our staff has protected and strengthened the legal rights of people in New York, especially historically marginalized communities for more than forty years. We do this through three major service areas.  We teach the law by providing training, support and technical assistance to legal services and private attorneys and other community-based advocates to help them better serve their clients. We practice the law by providing direct civil legal assistance and undertaking impact litigation. And we improve the law by engaging in policy analysis, research and advocacy. 

Empire Justice has offices in Albany, Rochester, Yonkers, White Plains and Central Islip and Hempstead on Long Island.