Gov. Kathy Hochul laid out more than 220 proposals and initiatives in her first State of the State address Wednesday, embracing a wide-ranging plan intended to mark a new era of state government.

Almost as notable was what she didn’t mention in her 33-minute speech.

Hochul’s agenda-setting address touched on topics ranging from climate change to bolstering public colleges to retaining and recruiting health care workers. She also outlined more specific proposals such as building a new rail line from Brooklyn to Queens.

But she avoided hitting on some of the more difficult issues facing state policymakers in 2022, including the fate of the state’s bail reform measures and a soon-to-expire moratorium on evictions.

What Hochul did – and didn’t – mention has already become fodder for her political opponents, who will closely scrutinize her every word and proposal to look for an opportunity to use it against her on the campaign trail as she remains among the top gubernatorial candidates this year.

That includes U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi, a Long Island Democrat challenging Hochul in the June primary.

“The governor today said she wanted a ‘new era’ for New York, yet she ducked fixing the bail crisis that is helping fuel crime, failed to fix the chaos due to her lack of a COVID plan and won’t stop the pay to play mess that corrupts Albany,” Suozzi said in a statement following Hochul’s speech.

Her office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Along with avoiding mention of the state’s bail laws and eviction moratorium, Hochul also declined to address the issue of good-cause eviction, a measure pending in Albany that would guarantee tenants a right to a lease extension in many cases and limit how much landlords can increase the rent.

Hochul, a Buffalo native, also didn’t raise a topic near to her heart: Ongoing negotiations to build a new stadium for the Buffalo Bills, which could cost state taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars or more.

Bail Reform

For those who support New York’s repeal of cash bail for most crimes, no news is good news.

And that’s what they got on Wednesday, when Hochul declined to embrace any effort to repeal the bail reforms or mention the issue at all.

Under New York’s 2020 reforms, judges were prohibited from requiring cash bail as a condition of release for those accused of most crimes in New York. The majority of violent felonies and some other serious crimes, including certain burglary charges and any case that results in death, were still eligible for bail.

But Republicans and some center-leaning Democrats have called for changes to the system, citing fear over crime rates across the state and a desire for judges to have more discretion.

“There’s no doubt this has created more victims,” said Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt, a western New York Republican whose conference wants to overhaul the reforms. “The goal of every legislator, every elected official should never be to create more victims. Is that, like, a price that we’re paying to be more socially just or more woke?”

State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said Senate Democrats have “no desire” to change the bail reforms at this time.

“We can’t make changes based on innuendo or hysteria or because it’s a great political talking point,” she said. “We made the change because the way it was, with penalizing and incarcerating people pretty much because of poverty, that’s not what we call justice.”

While she didn’t mention bail, Hochul did embrace another proposal supported by criminal justice reform advocates: A bill known as the Clean Slate Act.

If passed and signed into law, the Clean Slate Act would automatically seal many felony convictions seven years after a sentence is served. For most misdemeanors, it would be after three years.

The measure wouldn’t apply to those convicted of sex crimes.

Hochul didn’t mention the bill in her speech itself, but did include her support for it in her 237-page written message to the legislature.

“For the 2.3 million New Yorkers with a conviction, the stigma of a criminal record stifles access to opportunities such as employment and housing,” the message reads.

Eviction Moratorium

New York first enacted a moratorium on evictions in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. As the pandemic lingered, then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers extended it twice as it was about to expire.

Now it’s set to expire again on January 15th. And though Hochul hasn’t said so publicly, tenant advocates are bracing for her to allow it to sunset.

Hochul laid out the broad strokes of what she’s calling a five-year, $25 billion housing plan to create or preserve 100,000 affordable rental or co-op units across the state, including New York City. But she made no mention, explicit or otherwise, of the pending expiration of the moratorium.

Stewart-Cousins, a Yonkers Democrat, said her legislative conference will soon meet to discuss what, if anything, they will do with the moratorium.

“I really don’t have an answer for you but it is something we are going to look at,” Stewart-Cousins said Wednesday when asked if her conference would back extending the moratorium a third time. “It’s just important that we make sure that we are sensitive in every way to the impacts of the pandemic as well as getting people to stay in their homes while trying to reopen New York.”

Good Cause Eviction

Some of the more progressive-minded Democrats in the state Legislature are exploring a plan to enact what’s known as good cause eviction in New York.

The proposal would give most tenants a right to an extension on their housing rental lease unless a landlord has good cause to reject them.

It would also limit how much landlords could raise the monthly rent, preventing them from exceeding the rate of inflation.

(this story/news/article has not been edited by PostX News staff and is published from a syndicated feed)

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