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In the past week, New York’s legislative actions focused on enhancing voter participation, improving healthcare outcomes, and addressing judicial system backlogs:

Enhancing Voter Participation

Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation designed to increase voter turnout by aligning more local elections with statewide races. The new law aims to improve voter participation by moving county and town elections from odd-numbered years to even-numbered years, coinciding with statewide and legislative races. This measure is seen as a first step towards expanding access to the ballot box and is expected to increase voter turnout, which has historically been higher in even-numbered years. However, it does not affect elections outside the state legislature’s oversight, such as judicial races and New York City office elections. The decision has drawn criticism from Republicans and concerns from local election officials.

Improving Healthcare Outcomes

Governor Hochul also signed Senate Bill 1196a/Assembly Bill 1673a, requiring all state-regulated health plans, including Medicaid, to cover comprehensive biomarker testing. This legislation is aimed at improving access to precision medicine treatments for cancer and other serious illnesses, potentially leading to fewer side effects and improved survival rates. The bill reflects New York’s commitment to health equity and medical innovation, ensuring that more residents can access the latest treatments and technologies. The law, supported by a wide range of advocacy groups and individuals, is set to go into effect on January 1, 2025.

Reducing Court Backlog

To address the backlog in the state’s criminal justice system exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Governor Hochul signed legislation S.7534/A.7669, increasing the number of judges serving on certain courts. This move aims to alleviate the backlog of nearly 120,000 pending cases, ensuring a fairer and more efficient court system. The legislation adds judges to Family Court, the Supreme Court, and the New York City Civil Court, aiming to improve the quality of justice and provide timely resolutions for defendants and litigants.

These legislative actions collectively aim to enhance democratic participation, ensure better healthcare outcomes, and improve the efficiency of the criminal justice system in New York.

bills Introduced

several significant bills were referred to committees. These bills address various aspects of public welfare and governance:

Senate Bill S7823

  • Introduction: This bill mandates the implementation of an electronic benefit transfer system using commercial electronic funds transfer technology.
  • Action: On December 20, 2023, it was referred to the Senate Rules Committee.
  • Purpose: The bill aims to combat SNAP skimming, where individuals attach devices to point-of-sale machines to steal card information. This issue has led to substantial losses for New Yorkers, with over 2,208 individuals losing more than $700,000 in SNAP funds in August 2022 alone. By implementing EMV computer chip cards, the bill intends to protect public assistance funds from theft and alleviate the devastating impact on families facing food insecurity.

Assembly Bill A8392

  • Introduction: This bill authorizes the board of elections, or the attorney general in cases of deadlock, to remove an insurrectionist from the presidential ballot.
  • Action: On December 13, 2023, it was referred to the Assembly Election Law Committee.
  • Purpose: The bill seeks to maintain the integrity of electoral processes by ensuring that individuals who have engaged in insurrectionist activities are disqualified from presidential candidacy.

Senate Bill S7824

  • Introduction: This bill requires public hearings on increases in utility charges.
  • Action: On December 20, 2023, it was referred to the Senate Rules Committee.
  • Purpose: It aims to enhance transparency and public participation in the decision-making process for utility rate increases. The bill mandates that the public service commission hold hearings on any proposed hikes in utility rates, fees, rentals, or charges, allowing public comments and inquiries. This move is in response to concerns over the rapid increase in utility prices and the lack of public involvement in rate-setting negotiations.