2020 New York State Budget Recap

Last week the New York State Executive Budget was finalized under unique and trying circumstances.  The COVID-19 pandemic affected not only the substance of the budget, but the process by which it was approved.  As discussed in our last update, the typical budget negotiation between the Legislature and Governor gave way to an even more opaque process during which greater focus was placed on the State’s growing fiscal concerns in light of the pandemic. Here is a roundup of City Bar comments on proposed budget provisions and where those provisions ended up:

  • The final budget legalized compensated gestational surrogacy and made much needed updates to New York’s donor conception statute in order to better protect and support modern families.  This issue (often referred to as the Child-Parent Security Act or CPSA) was included in the City Bar’s 2020 State Legislative Agenda and has been supported over the years by a number of committees, most predominantly the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Rights Committee and the Matrimonial Law Committee. New York’s inconsistent and outdated laws around surrogacy and donor conception have failed to keep up with developments in reproductive medicine; the CPSA will ensure that the law supports and protects modern families, and provides comprehensive protections for persons acting as surrogates.
  • The Immigration and Nationality Law Committee called for restoring and increasing funding for immigration legal services after funding for the upstate New York Immigrant Family Unity Project (NYIFUP) and all of the deportation defense services funded under the Liberty Defense Project were cut in the initial budget proposal.  The final budget restored this funding, upholding the State’s track record in ensuring that immigrants have access to counsel.
  • The Matrimonial Law Committee and Domestic Violence Committee opposed the inclusion of language that would allow family courts to issue temporary and final orders of protection – including ordering one spouse out of the marital home – without finding that a family offense has been committed. While the Committees’ believe the proposal was well-intentioned, it would have done little to prevent domestic violence or to help its survivors, and would have created serious problems for the state courts and other litigants. This provision was ultimately excluded from the budget.
  • The Non-Profit Organizations Committee opposed requirements that would have caused certain charitable organizations to disclose the names and addresses of their largest donors, and required such donor information to be published by the State. The Committee, along with a wide range of nonprofits, argued that publicly disclosing the identity of donors to charitable organizations would represent a drastic change in current practice, would impinge on well-established First Amendment rights and likely discourage charitable giving. A much narrower version of this proposal was included in the final budget, which excluded the revised donor disclosure and reporting requirements.
  • The Mass Incarceration Task Force, Corrections and Community Reentry Committee, Criminal Justice Operations Committee, and Criminal Courts Committee were active in opposing rollbacks to New York’s bail reform that was adopted last year.  In a letter to elected officials and a published opinion piece, the Committees urged the Governor and Legislators to resist calls to amend the law, which has only been in effect since January, arguing that time and resources needed to be invested in the law in order to successfully implement bail reform.  These calls took on greater importance in light of the COVID-19 outbreak, which poses a significant risk to incarcerated individuals, corrections officers and law enforcement. Despite the calls from our Committees and countless criminal justice reform advocacy groups, the adopted budget did make some changes to the bail law, including expanding the list of crimes that are eligible for bail and permitting bail for some repeated arrest charges. 
  • The Sex Offender Registration Act Working Group, working with the Criminal Justice Operations Committee, opposed proposed amendments that would give the MTA vast discretion to ban from the subway all people registered as Level 3 sex offenders, as well as people accused of violating MTA rules involving either sexual conduct or “assault-related” on the transit system. Their report argued that the proposal violates basic due process principles, would not be effective in reducing the already low number of sexual assaults on public transportation, and would require the creation of a vast, intrusive surveillance system for enforcement. A revised and narrower version of the transit ban was ultimately included in the budget.