It was a day of many firsts. Governor Kathy Hochul, the first woman to serve as Governor of New York, delivered her inaugural State of the State address today, officially kicking off the 2022 Legislative Session. Governor Hochul gave the address from the State Assembly Chamber, returning the address to its traditional home for the first time in a decade. Because of the current surge in COVID-19, attendance at the State of the State address was extremely limited. Visitors entering the Capitol were required to either show proof of full vaccination or test negative for COVID-19. While the second and third floors of the Capitol and the Legislative Office Building were closed to visitors, hundreds of protestors gathered within and outside the Capitol to protest vaccine mandates in New York.

This address represented the first time Governor Hochul was able to lay out her vision for leading New York State. In her crisp thirty-five-minute address, the Governor set an optimistic and hopeful tone for the future of the state, noting that despite the ongoing pandemic, this is “not a moment of despair, but a moment of great possibility.” The Governor pledged a collaborative approach, aiming to work with the Legislature, municipalities, and businesses across New York for the people of New York State. 

The Governor laid out nine main topics of focus in the State of the State address: healthcare, public safety, investment in New York’s people and businesses, infrastructure, housing, climate change, schools and higher education, enhancement of social protections, and ethics reforms. To accompany her State of the State speech, the Governor also released a book containing 220 proposals that encompass her legislative priorities for the session. Although the Governor did not delve into the specifics of many of the proposals discussed, we anticipate more details will emerge during her upcoming Budget Address on January 18. As you know, the Governor and the Legislature will then work towards negotiating a final budget by the April 1 deadline.

Some of the highlights from her State of the State book include:

Healthcare
The Governor has set a goal that New York will rebuild and grow the healthcare workforce by 20% over the next five years. She is proposing a $10 billion investment into the state’s healthcare system, including allocating $4 billion to increase healthcare worker wages. Part of this proposal includes a $3,000 bonus to healthcare workers throughout the state. Further, the Governor proposed making certain Executive Orders permanent, including those that would expand the scope of practice for certain healthcare professionals.

Public Safety
The Governor spoke at length of New Yorkers’ concerns with crime and gun violence. As such, she proposed tripling the resources for the state police’s gun-tracing efforts. Further, Governor Hochul proposed forming a gun tracing consortium with the state police, local law enforcement agencies, and neighboring states to fight illegal gun trafficking into New York.

Investing in New York’s People and Businesses
The Governor proposed a host of tax incentives for New Yorkers and New York small businesses. The Governor will accelerate the previously passed $1.2 billion middle-class tax cut so that it begins in the 2023 tax year, rather than the 2025 tax year. Additionally, Governor Hochul proposed a small business COVID-19 capital investment tax credit, which will provide a tax credit to small businesses that took on COVID-19-related capital expenses. Further, the Governor is proposing permanently legalizing the sale of to-go drinks from bars and restaurants. 

Ethics Reform
Prior to the State of the State address, the Governor released two proposed ethics reforms: instituting term limits for the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General and Comptroller, and banning outside income for those same statewide elected officials while serving in office. The term limit proposal would restrict statewide elected officials to serving two consecutive terms. It would need to be accomplished through a constitutional amendment, which will require the Legislature to pass the amendment in both 2022 and 2023, and then require voters to vote on the proposal in the 2023 General Election. 

Today, the Governor also outlined a proposal to replace the Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) with a new ethics watchdog. This new body would consist of a rotating board of five members, who are made up of the 15 state-accredited law school deans or their designees.

As we noted, many of these proposals will be outlined in the Governor’s proposed 2022 - 2023 budget, which is slated for January 18. If you have additional questions about this LEGALcurrents, please reach out to a member of our Government Affairs practice group for assistance:

Amy J. Kellogg
John M. Jennings
Caitlin A. Anderson

 


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