Governor Hochul Acts on Outstanding 2021 Bills Commented on by City Bar Committees

In the last two weeks of 2021, Governor Hochul took action on a number of bills commented on by the City Bar’s committees, wrapping up a successful year of policy and advocacy work.  Driven and guided by the work of our committees, a total of 20 bills (not including budget related items) supported by the City Bar were signed into law and two bills opposed by our committees were vetoed. Below are summaries of the bills acted on before the end of the year.  A full listing of the bills chaptered or vetoed by the Governor can be found here.

We greatly appreciate all of the work our committees have done on these issues and applaud all members involved. We are looking forward to another productive and impactful year in 2022!

Signed by the Governor

  • Permitting Jury Trials for ‘B’ Misdemeanors. This new law will eliminate the prohibition of a right to a jury trial for B misdemeanors in New York City Criminal Courts, promoting fairness and transparency for non-citizen New Yorkers in our criminal courts. Supported by the Immigration & Nationality Law Committee, Criminal Justice Operations Committee and Criminal Advocacy Committee, this law will go into effect July 1, 2022.
  • Changes to Admissibility of an Opposing Party Statement. A new section has been added to the Civil Practice Law and Rules to relax the New York common law exclusion of hearsay statements of a party’s agent or employee that, if made by the party, would be admissible as admissions. Currently, under New York law, a hearsay statement of an agent or employee is not admissible unless the agent/employee had actual authority to speak on behalf of the principal or employer regarding the event or issue in question. As a result, courts often exclude contemporaneous statements of agents/employees with first-hand knowledge of the events or issues in question, simply because those individuals did not have actual authority to speak on those particular subjects. Supported by the State Courts of Superior Jurisdiction Committee and Tort Litigation Committee, the new law implements the same approach as that of the Federal Rule of Evidence 801(d)(2)(D) and every other state. This law went into effect immediately and applies to all actions pending on or after its effective date 
  • Providing for Electronic Notarization. This law will authorize qualified New York commissioned notaries to perform notarizations for remotely located persons using electronic signatures under regulations to be promulgated by the Secretary of State. The Commercial and Uniform State Laws Committee, Litigation Committee and Real Property Law Committee provided a series of recommendations should the bill be enacted, including urging the Governor to ensure that the Secretary of State issues proper regulations to protect the remote electronic notarizations authorized by the bill from forgery and fraud. The bill was signed into law, however Governor Hochul indicated in an approval memo that the Legislature had agreed to push back the law’s effective date until  January  31, 2023 to allow the Department of State to create the necessary registration system. Additionally, the Legislature agreed to put a “Remote Ink Notary (RIN)” system  in  place  during  the pendency  of the registration system to allow notaries to undertake the same remote procedures that they took during the pandemic pursuant to Executive Order.

Vetoed by the Governor

  • Automatic Consent to Jurisdiction by Foreign Businesses Registering to Do Business in New York. The bill would have provided that a non-New York business entity’s application for authority to do business in New York constitutes that entity’s consent to jurisdiction in New York courts for any claims arising anywhere in the world, even if those claims and the entity’s conduct in question have nothing to do with New York. The City Bar, led by the work of the Council on Judicial Administration, State Courts of Superior Jurisdiction Committee, and Litigation Committee has opposed this bill since 2015, arguing it is out of step with current U.S. Supreme Court jurisprudence and raises significant Constitutional concerns.
  • Expanding the False Claims Act Into Matters of Tax Administration. The State and Local Taxation Committee opposed a bill vetoed by the Governor that would have further expanded the False Claims Act (FCA), found at Finance Law §§ 187 to 194, into matters of tax administration which the Committee argued are more properly vested by the Department of Taxation and Finance under its existing authority. In addition to divesting the Department of matters within its ambit, the Committee raised concerns regarding the overbreadth of the bill.
  • Preserving Family Bonds Act. The Act would have established procedures regarding orders of post-termination visitation and/or contact between a child and such child’s parent and for modification of such orders. This bill was supported by the Children & the Law Committee, Council on Children, and Family Court & Family Law Committee.  In her veto message, Governor Hochul stated that the bill as written did not provide adoptive parents with parens patriae authority to decide what is in the best interests of their child. The veto message stated that the bill would “allow the court to substitute its judgment for that of the adoptive parents on the issue of visitation and contact with the birth parents. This could make the process for adoption of children from foster care even more difficult.”