New York Capital Brief:

Democrats Poised to Retain Supermajorities

The Democrats are on the brink of retaining their supermajorities in both the State Assembly and Senate, despite Republicans flipping several seats and coming closer to victory in the gubernatorial race than they have in decades.
Holding onto a supermajority of two-thirds of each chamber enables lawmakers to override gubernatorial veto’s and provides the legislature with greater power and negotiations.

In the Assembly, 100 seats are needed for the two-thirds supermajority and Democrats have held on to this majority with 102 seats. In the State Senate, Democrats are waiting on the result of one last race in SD-50 to determine if they have the 42 seats necessary to maintain their supermajority. It’s looking positive for the Democrats as incumbent Senator Mannion currently has a narrow lead over Republican opponent Rebecca Shiroff in Syracuse’s SD-50.


Governor Hochul’s Post Election Priorities

Crime, inflation, and housing policies are likely to be among the governor’s top priorities as she prepares to work with fellow Democrats in Albany when the 2023 Legislative session begins in January.

Crime became the defining issue of the Gubernatorial race as Republican Candidate Lee Zeldin criticized Democrats’ criminal justice reforms and accused Hochul of not taking New Yorkers’ safety concerns seriously. With respect to bail reform, which critics including Mayor Adams have blamed for upticks in crime, Hochul has repeatedly said she wants to see data prior to readdressing the issue.

In recent interviews Governor Hochul has identified affordable housing as a top priority. She is poised to readdress a controversial tax credit for real estate developers meant to encourage the building of affordable housing that lapsed earlier this year. The Governor proposed an alternative approach in last year’s  executive budget that would have offered a 3½-decade property tax exemption in exchange for developers setting aside a percentage of rental units as affordable.

Hochul is also eyeing innovative ways to help ease the pain of inflation on New Yorkers as heating and electric bills rise, and the cost of essential consumer products from groceries to gas continues to increase. In September, Hochul called on utility and gas companies to refrain from jacking up prices for homeowners and said the State is looking for ways to make sure New Yorkers have access to “assistance and programs that help manage these rising costs while keeping their homes warm during the colder months.”


Selecting a New Chief Judge

When Janet DiFiore, the former chief judge of the Court of Appeals, announced she would resign in July, it opened an opportunity for Governor Kathy Hochul to nominate a new head judge. Hochul has been under pressure from progressives to select a candidate with a broader perspective on the criminal justice system. Advocates and key legislators have encouraged the selection of a candidate with experience as a public defender, noting the current court is composed of former prosecutors.


New York Awards Licenses for Cannabis Dispensaries

On Monday, the New York State Cannabis Control Board awarded the first wave of New York’s retail dispensary licenses. 28 approvals were granted to business owners who either have a prior cannabis-related conviction or a family member with a conviction, and the remaining eight were awarded to non-profit organizations. The licenses were approved at a Monday meeting of the Office of Cannabis Management, and were selected from among over 900 applicants.

“Today is a monumental day for New York’s nascent cannabis industry, said Cannabis Control Board Chair Tremaine Wright. “With the first adult-use retail dispensary licenses in the hands of businesses and eligible nonprofits, we’ve ensured the first sales will be made at dispensaries operated by those impacted by the unjust enforcement of cannabis prohibition.”