ALBANY, NY (AP) — New York could allow some criminal records to be automatically sealed, make it harder to evict tenants and ban gas and oil hookups in new buildings under bills that housing groups defense want lawmakers to pass this session year.
The Democratic-led Legislature this month passed a $220 billion budget that raised wages for health care and home care workers, slashed the cost of a gallon of gas by 16 cents up to in December and amended a landmark bail law.
But the budget excluded several criminal justice and environmental policy proposals that had received support from Gov. Kathy Hochul and the state Senate. State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said he opposes using the budget to pass new policies.
Lawmakers could also pass a bill that could eliminate former Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin, a Democrat, from the June primary ballot. Benjamin resigned on April 12 following his arrest in connection with a federal corruption investigation.
REMOVAL OF FORMER LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR OF THE RETURN
New York would allow a candidate to decline their place on the ballot in the event of a criminal charge, terminal illness or resignation from the office they are seeking under a bill sponsored by the Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, Democrat of Westchester County.
Paulin’s bill has 16 co-sponsors but is still in committee. Republicans call the bill a liberal ploy to protect Benjamin.
Current state law makes it difficult to remove Benjamin from the ballot.
Hochul said this week that she would not ask her former running mate to leave the state. The state Democratic Party has not announced any plans to allow Benjamin to run for another office.
CLEAN SLATE ACT
The criminal records of some New Yorkers could be automatically sealed under the Democratic proposals.
The legislation — sponsored by Sen. Zellnor Myrie, a Democrat from Brooklyn — would not apply to sex offenses, nor to people currently on parole or probation or facing a pending criminal charge. Courts, or anyone required to perform fingerprint-based criminal background checks, could access records in certain scenarios.
The bill, also known as the Clean Slate Act, failed to pass last summer but advocates say it is needed to help up to 2.23 million people reintegrate into society and to find a job and a home.
Hochul and Senate Democrats included the policy in their budget proposals. But the budget ruled out the law amid disagreements over how quickly the records could be automatically sealed.
The Senate bill would automatically seal criminal records at least three years after release for a misdemeanor or seven years for a felony.
Hochul – who hopes to galvanize support from moderate voters – offered to wait longer. She would start the timer at the end of an individual’s possible total sentence, even if that person were released earlier.
The Senate is also considering Sen. Jamaal Bailey’s bill to launch a state expungement office that would help oversee the sealing and expunging of convictions.
GOOD CAUSE EXPULSION
New York would make it much harder to evict residential tenants or refuse to renew their leases under a bill backed by influential unions and tenant advocacy groups, and lambasted by the powerful real estate lobby.
New York would ban landlords from evicting tenants for non-payment of rent following “unreasonable” rent increases. The bill defines these increases as greater than 3% of the previous rent or 1.5% of the consumer price index, whichever is greater.
Landlords could still evict tenants in certain circumstances, including being a nuisance or violating tenant obligations.
Many New Yorkers are at risk of eviction due to unemployment and lax eviction protections amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the bill sponsored by Sen. Julia Salazar, an upstate Democrat. Brooklyn.
“Tenants can do everything right, live somewhere for a year or twenty years but be evicted at the landlord’s whim – and the only requirement for landlords is that they provide 30 to 90 days notice that the tenancy is not not renewed,” said Ellen Davidson, a lawyer for the Legal Aid Society.
But critics say the bill would introduce statewide rent control and less affordable, quality housing.
“Put simply, there just isn’t enough support in the Legislature for this bill because lawmakers across the state — and on both sides of the aisle — know it won’t. would do nothing but make owning and renting property in New York State a losing proposition,” said Ross Wallenstein, spokesperson for Homeowners for An Affordable New York, which represents real estate, landlords, builders and affordable housing providers.
PROHIBITION OF OIL AND GAS CONNECTIONS
The oil and gas industry and real estate lobby have vigorously opposed legislation prohibiting oil and gas hookups in the construction of new buildings statewide. New York City passed such a ban last year.
Hochul has proposed starting the ban in 2027. The state Senate has launched a 2024 launch for buildings under seven stories.
Supporters said the bill could prevent millions of metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions. New York aims to become zero emissions by 2040.
But critics argued the ban would increase consumer bills.
This spring, the American Petroleum Institute launched a social media campaign against the ban. One of its Facebook ads read, “Don’t let Albany decide what powers your home. Oppose the natural gas ban!
The New York Real Estate Board, however, backed Hochul’s proposal to begin the ban in 2027. The governor said she still hopes to pass the ban this year.