New York Capital Brief:

NYS Hospitals to Reopen 850 Psych Beds

NYS-regulated hospitals have just three more weeks to submit their plans for reopening 850 psychiatric beds, following a directive announced by Governor Hochul during her State of the State Address.

According to a memo issued by the NYS Department of Health and the NYS Office of Mental Health, hospitals must submit their plans by Feb. 10 and have them implemented by April 1. After that, the Office of Mental Health will start “immediate enforcement,” according to the memo.

“While COVID-19 and other public health threats remain present across New York, hospitals must continue their efforts to return to their duly licensed operations,” the memo said. “Restoring these beds to active status is a crucial component of the State’s plan to increase the availability of acute inpatient mental health services.”


What’s Next for Hochul’s Chief Judge Nominee

Recap: Last Wednesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee rejected the confirmation of Hochul’s pick for Chief Judge, current Supreme Court Justice Hector LaSalle (10 No – 9 Yes).  The vote followed a grueling 5 hour-long hearing, where LaSalle was questioned about his judicial track record, integrity, and intentions for serving on the highest court.  All 10 Senators who voted against the Judge were Democrats; two Democrats voted in favor of Justice LaSalle, while one Democrat and all six Republicans on the committee voted in favor “without recommendation”, which means they voted to advance the nomination to the full floor of the Senate, without committing to vote in favor on the floor.

What’s next? The Committee’s rejection was the first time that New York lawmakers have voted against a Governor’s choice for Chief Judge. Even with the committee’s rejection of Justice LaSalle, Governor Hochul claims that according to the State Constitution, her nominee must be subject to a full vote on the Senate floor.  The Senate, on the other hand, asserts that the Judiciary Committee had exercised it’s constitutional duty of representing the Senate in this vote.

Hochul has yet to announce whether or not she intends to bring legal action against the Senate in order to advance her nominee to a full floor vote.  However, she told reporters her administration was “certainly weighing all of our options.”


Equal Rights Amendment Passes Legislature

This week, the Senate and Assembly passed the NYS Equal Rights Constitutional Amendment (ERA) for the second time, which now ensures the measure will be put forth to voters on the 2024 general election ballot.

The ERA proposes to codify additional civil rights and reproductive health protections into the NYS Constitution, and would prohibit discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, national origin, disability, and sex, “including pregnancy and pregnancy outcomes, sexual orientation, gender expression.” The amendment’s sponsors say those protections include reproductive rights, which would add New York to the minority of states that include access to abortion in their highest governing documents.