RHA, CCCA, Boss Bill, DREAM Act passed + State Budget Process Overview

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Local News:

  • Cuomo signed the Reproductive Health Act, which updates New York State’s abortion laws to protect and expand women’s reproductive rights. Additionally, the State legislature passed two other bills aimed at protecting those rights: the Comprehensive Contraception Coverage Act (State Senator Julia Salazar’s first bill), to protect access to contraception, and the Boss Bill, to prevent hiring discrimination based on reproductive health decisions.

  • The legislature also passed the NY DREAM Act this week, which offers undocumented students access to state financial aid and scholarships for higher education.

  • In anticipation of potential changes to New York’s housing laws, landlords are rushing to get MCI rent raises approved for their tenants.

  • Suburban municipalities, including Long Island, are considering whether they can opt out of any potential State legislation that legalizes marijuana.

  • State Senator Neil Breslin (District 44, Albany) and Assembly Member Kevin Cahill (District 103, Ulster County) confirmed that they will be introducing legislation to enable the expansion of rent stabilization across New York State, by allowing any municipality to opt into the Emergency Tenant Protection Act (ETPA).

  • An internal memo from the MTA’s operations planning department, stating that the new L-train construction plan will result in “record on-board crowding,” was leaked to Gothamist.

  • More than 10,000 NYCHA residents were without heat and hot water over MLK weekend, when temperatures were in the teens.

  • Poly Prep, an elite private school in Dyker Heights, is under fire for a blackface incident that students of color say reflects a larger problem.


  • Public Advocate candidate and former Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito has lied on the campaign trail, falsely claiming that she has not accepted money from real estate developers.

  • Tiffany Cabán, a public defender and activist for criminal justice reform, has announced her candidacy for Queens District Attorney. The Democratic primary will be held in June.

  • Due to an error in her filing, Ify Ike will not be on the ballot in next month’s special election for Public Advocate.

In-Depth: The NY State Budget Process

In New York State, January marks the beginning of the State budget process. The budget is not merely a technical document authorizing spending—it is the primary work of the State government. It technically includes ten different pieces of legislation: five appropriations bills, and five “Article VII” bills, which are necessary to implement the budget. As such, the budget is often a vehicle for major policy changes. Additionally, many City services and agencies get a large portion of their funding from the State government, so decisions made during the process affect many aspects of life in New York.


The budget process usually begins with the Governor’s State of the State speech, in early January. In this speech, the Governor outlines his goals and spending priorities for the year. His Executive Budget has to be released by the second Tuesday following the beginning of the Legislative session (or February 1st in a year following a gubernatorial election), so the speech and the budget are generally released around the same time every year.

Earlier this month, Governor Cuomo garnered major headlines with the bold policies included in his budget. It’s worth remembering, though, that not all of these will be included in the final budget In fact, many of the policies Cuomo promised last week were things he’d included in previous budgets, only to drop them in later rounds of negotiations. Nevertheless, Gov. Cuomo has made a habit of announcing major policies, like the Excelsior Scholarship or the Women’s Equality Act, as part of his budget rollout, even if the final version of what’s passed looks much different.


Between mid-January and March, the State Senate and the Assembly typically pass “one house” bills (so named because they each pass one house of the Legislature). The “one house” bills are NOT completely independent proposals; they are responses to the Executive Budget, and are limited by constitutional rules on how much they can modify the Governor’s proposal. So while they often differ in substantial ways from the Executive Budget, the Governor still sets the terms of debate.

In theory, this time is also a period when the public has an opportunity to react to the budget through the Legislative hearings before it is voted on by both chambers. In practice, though, these hearings are brief and tightly controlled.


Historically, the key decisions have been made during last minute negotiations among the “Three Men in a Room”: the Assembly Speaker, the Senate Majority Leader, and the Governor. Since the creation of the Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) in 2011, a fourth man, Jeff Klein, was added to the room to represent the faction of Democrats who caucused with Republicans. With the IDC technically dissolving last April, and 6 of its 8 members then going on to lose their primaries, there’s reason to think this “fourth man” will no longer be present—although with Governor Cuomo and the New York State Democratic Party, who knows.

The final budget is typically released shortly before the April 1 start of the new fiscal year—or, often, a few days late (although on-time budgets have been a point of pride for Governor Cuomo). Once that budget is released, all ten bills are passed in a marathon session by both houses of the State Legislature. Often, key proposals touted in the early phases are significantly changed or removed completely, with little input from rank-and-file legislators.

Overall, the tight time frame (most states do not begin their fiscal year until July 1st, as does New York City) and rules that give the Governor tight control of the process make for a very opaque process. However, there is one significant difference in 2019: For the first time since at least 1965, the Democrats have a solid majority in the State Senate, giving them control of all three institutions involved in the budget process. While Governor Cuomo has traditionally pitted the Assembly’s progressive proposals against the Senate’s refusal to raise taxes, a unified legislature could exert more power in the process. Early statements from new Senate Majority Leader, Andrea Stewart-Cousins, are, well, not promising…

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