Updated: Jul 10
After a tumultuous few months, the New York State legislative session finally ended in late June. While there were several key victories, overall this session was marked by disagreements between the Governor’s office and the legislature, most notably over potential solutions to New York’s ongoing housing crisis, and a delayed budget that resulted in rollbacks to New York’s bail laws. Read on for an update on where our legislative priorities ended up this session, and what’s up next for the Labor-Religion Coalition of New York State!
End Medical Debt
In late June, the Fair Medical Debt Reporting Act (A.6275A) passed the Assembly! The bill passed through the Senate in May, and it is now up to the Governor to sign this critical piece of legislation into law. Once signed into law, medical debt will no longer be reported to credit reporting agencies or show up on any New Yorker’s consumer credit report.
Since 2020, the #EndMedicalDebt campaign has been working to alleviate the problem of medical debt in New York State. Medical debt is a serious problem, affecting nearly 100 million Americans across the country. In the last five years, hospitals in New York State have sued more than 52,000 patients; of those 52,000 patients, 4,800 had liens placed on their homes, and thousands more have had their wages garnished in order to pay outstanding medical bills. There are also racial disparities associated with who is burdened by medical debt, with a higher percentage of Black and Hispanic/Latinx Americans carrying medical debt when compared to their white counterparts.
The passage of the Fair Medical Debt Reporting Act marks a huge victory for the #EndMedicalDebt campaign, and we will continue to advocate for the bill until Governor Hochul signs it into law. This follows on last year’s major success in getting New York State to ban the use of home liens and wage garnishment to collect medical debt.
Unfortunately, the Ounce of Prevention Act—another legislative priority for the #EndMedicalDebt campaign—did not make it to a floor vote in either the Senate or Assembly this session. The bill would help prevent medical debt by making hospital financial assistance more accessible to patients. Though the state budget did include one of our demands, to create a standard application for financial assistance to be used at all New York hospitals, we will continue to fight for this bill during the next legislative session.
Unfortunately, lawmakers in Albany were able to pass an eleventh-hour bill, S7564/A7760, that drastically changed the Public Campaign Finance Program. After two decades of fighting for a statewide system of public financing—resulting in the most robust small donor public financing program in the country—this bill undermines the program’s core purpose: to empower the voices of everyday New Yorkers, who for too long have been drowned out by the big money checks of the wealthy and well-connected. Gov. Hochul has the opportunity to protect the Public Campaign Finance Program by vetoing the bill.
Despite this setback, the Public Campaign Finance Program remains a crucial tool in making democracy more equitable and accessible in New York State, even if the legislature’s harmful changes stand. As such, we will continue to advocate that the Public Campaign Finance Program remains in effect for the 2024 elections and that candidates and voters make use of it, even as we continue the fight to restore the program to its original intention, which is to amplify the voices of New York’s small-dollar donors.
Housing Justice for All
Despite housing affordability consistently polling as a top issue of concern for New Yorkers, elected officials in Albany failed to reach a deal on a housing package during this legislative session. This means, effectively, that once again the real estate lobby was able to kill the Good Cause Eviction and Housing Voucher Access Program bills, in spite of the fact that every tenant in New York State deserves basic protections from rent-gouging, harassment, and no-fault evictions, and the fact that every New Yorker experiencing housing instability deserve an immediate pathway to stable housing.
Though this loss is disappointing—and telling of legislators' unwillingness to truly challenge a united front from Governor Hochul and the real estate lobby, regardless of the support from across the state—the fact that the two bills were leading priorities for Albany during this year’s budget negotiations is proof of how far the tenant movement has come. We will continue to fight for these two bills during the next legislation, and other bills that prioritize housing justice over the profit of the real estate lobby.
Fair Pay for Home Care
Despite a pledge from Governor Hochul last year—that she would increase the minimum wage for home care workers by $3—this year’s legislative session ended without a substantive solution to New York’s ongoing home care crisis. There continues to be an extreme shortage of home care workers, or those willing to do home care work, in our state; as a result, tens of thousands of New Yorkers who need home care services are not getting the care they need, or are forced to receive care in more expensive settings.
Governor Hochul not only walked back her pledge to address the homecare crisis by increasing homecare wages above minimum wage, but she also cut $1.55 in wages and benefits from 300,000 homecare workers, nearly all the workers in New York State.
During the next legislative sessions, we will hold Governor Hochul accountable for walking back her commitments and will continue to fight for a living wage for home care workers, who are essential but undervalued and underpaid.
Though #Coverage4All passed through the Senate during this legislative session, it was never brought to a floor vote in the New York State Assembly. The bill, which would have sought federal funding to expand the Essential Plan to ALL income-eligible New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status, was opposed by the Governor and conservative lawmakers who believed the federal government would not pay to cover undocumented immigrants.
As members of the #Coverage4All coalition, we know this is untrue—in 2022, the federal government provided 1332 Waivers to both Colorado and Washington states, allowing them to set up the same kind of coverage programs we are looking to establish in New York. In fact, in a letter to New York State legislators earlier this year, the federal government affirmed that “there was no prohibition on using a waiver for state subsidies to provide coverage for [undocumented] individuals.” As such, we will continue the fight to provide insurance coverage to all New Yorkers, regardless of immigration status, in the upcoming legislative session.
Progressive Revenue Raising
Despite the organized effort to raise income taxes on New York State’s highest earners, the final version of the 2023-2024 New York State budget did not include an increase in personal income tax rates. This once again reflects the Governor’s desire to appease her base—wealthy New Yorkers and the corporate elite—and her resistance to making the changes necessary to provide essential services to everyday New Yorkers. By raising taxes on the wealthiest residents of our state, the budget could have generated billions of dollars in much-needed public funds. Those dollars would help fund critical investments in communities across the state, a move that would be wildly popular with New Yorkers, regardless of political affiliation.
The Labor-Religion Coalition of New York State is extremely disappointed—though not surprised—with the results of this past legislative session—and the 2023 state budget, as well. Even with a Democratic Governor and Supermajority, the power of Wall Street and the wealthy elite is clearly entrenched in both parties and remains a significant roadblock to passing legislation that would alleviate the many issues our communities face.
It is also clear, though, that the path forward requires us to continue working to build a fusion movement, joining together the fights for economic, racial, and social justice. The Labor-Religion Coalition remains committed to building a grassroots movement to push through the changes our communities desperately need.