New York Capital Brief:

Upcoming Changes to Capacity Limits 

  • Effective April 26th, movie theatercapacity will increase to 33%.
  • Effective April 19th, NY’s low-risk, indoor and outdoor arts and entertainment, including museums, aquariums, zoos, and botanical gardens, are permitted to increase to 50% capacity.
  • Effective May 19th, indoor sports arenas, including professional and collegiate sports, can increase to 25% capacity. Social distancing, masks, health screenings, and all other health and safety protocols remain in effect.
  • Expanding capacity for arts and entertainment venues comes after a steady statewide decrease in COVID positivity rates, the lowest since last November. 

AG to Investigate Book Deal

Over the last several weeks, media accounts have alleged that the Governor improperly used government staff and resources to help develop and promote his book, American Crisis: Leadership Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Last week, New York State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli sent a formal letter to Attorney General Letitia James requesting that she launch an investigation into whether any “indictable offense or offenses in violation of the law” were committed during the “drafting, editing, sale and promotion of the governor’s book and any related financial or business transactions.” Should any of these allegations hold true, the Governor would be in violation of the Public Officers Law.


Lawmakers Look to “Lockbox” Settlement Funds

New York State is due to receive $32M in settlement funding as part of a broader settlement agreement for McKinsey & Company’s role in misleading doctors and patients about the safety of opioid use, further exacerbating the opioid crisis.

For months, lawmakers and advocates have been calling for this settlement funding be dedicated solely to treatment, prevention, recovery, and harm reduction. However, the 2021-22 Budget has allocated only $11M to addiction treatment in prisons and $1.25M for syringe exchange programs, leaving over $20M to be swept into the state’s general fund.

Senators Gustavo Rivera and Pete Harckham are currently working on a “lockbox” legislation package that will include specific appropriations language to direct all future opioid settlement funds to treatment, prevention, recovery, and harm reduction. This legislation will need to be signed into law prior to the passage of next year’s budget in order for the funds to be redistributed.


NY Legislature Passes HERO Act 

This week, the Legislature passed a bill that mandates extensive new workplace health and safety protections in response to the COVID crisis.

The New York Health and Essential Rights Act (NY HERO Act), establish business sector specific standards to protect employees from the spread of COVID or other airborne diseases, including protocols for testing, face masks, personal protective equipment, and social distancing. The Department of Labor would be authorized to promulgate regulations and enforce the requirements, including the imposition of penalties.

The legislature has until the end of the year to deliver the bill to the Governor for his signature. At this point, the Governor has not made any public statements on his position of the bill.


NY’s Financial Picture

After a long year of anxious concern and uncertainty surrounding the State’s $15B+ budget gap, State Comptroller DiNapoli commented on the final budget, stating that “the state’s year-end financial position was significantly better than anticipated.”

The Comptroller reported that the State closed the fiscal year in March with $6.8B+ more in revenue than was previously projected in May.

“We face a long road to recovery, and the state’s economy still faces serious challenges, both in the short-term and long-term. Better-than-anticipated tax collections, federal resources and new revenues in the recently adopted budget allow for important investments in critical programs and services, but state policymakers must ensure that spending commitments are in line with recurring revenue sources,” DiNapoli said.

As the result of over $23 billion in federal aid from the American Rescue Plan Act, the Governor signed a budget that included record spending levels, roughly 10% higher than previous years.