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Hochul to deliver State of the State address on Tuesday

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Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul
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Gov. Kathy Hochul.

In her first State of the State speech as New York’s elected governor on Tuesday, Kathy Hochul is expected to focus on affordable housing, public safety and the state’s outmigration problem.

Hochul, who took over from former Gov. Andrew Cuomo when he resigned in disgrace in August 2021, was elected in November by the narrowest margin in a generation.

In her inaugural address on New Year’s Day, Hochul vowed to create a sweeping program to resolve the state’s affordable housing crisis and provide relief to renters as well as prospective home buyers.

“There’s some fights we just have to take on,” Hochul said. “It’s making life just too damn hard for New Yorkers.”

Hochul also addressed some of the issues that dogged her campaign, including claims by Republicans that the state’s crime rate is out of control.

“We must, and will, make our state safer,” Hochul pledged.

Hochul said she also wants to reverse New York’s highest-in-the-nation outmigration rate, with residents moving to other states like Florida and Texas.

Assembly Republican Minority Will Barclay said he’s happy with the governor’s goals.

“Those are our priorities,” said Barclay, who added Democrats too often have “their heads in the sand” and avoid dealing with those issues. He said that has led to people “leaving the state in droves.”

“I was pleased that she actually mentioned it,” Barclay said.

Barclay and other Republican lawmakers want to repeal the state’s 2019 bail reform laws, which ended many forms of cash bail.

Democrats who lead the Legislature, after twice making tweaks to the law, are unlikely to reverse bail reform.

Senate Leader Andrea-Stewart-Cousins, speaking on the Senate floor on the first official day of session on Jan. 4, said fighting crime is more complicated than just changing one statute.

“Crime will not be solved with a single solution,” Stewart-Cousins said. “Public safety and justice can go hand in hand.”

Hochul may get more pushback from members of her own party than from Republicans.

She’s facing opposition from Democrats in the state Senate over her choice for the next chief judge. Progressive-leaning senators say Hector LaSalle has expressed conservative views in a small number of his opinions while he served on a mid-level appeals court. Fourteen Democratic senators now say they won’t back LaSalle.

On Wednesday, Senate Democrats expanded the number of members on the judiciary committee, adding three more Democrats and one more Republican. That led to accusations from the GOP that they are packing the committee with LaSalle opponents.

Sen. Anthony Palumbo, a Republican from Eastern Long Island, spoke on the Senate floor.

“With what’s going on regarding a current judicial nominee, unfortunately I find it quite curious,” Palumbo said about the committee’s expansion.

Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris, who has vowed to vote against LaSalle, answered that the decision to add members to the judiciary committee is nothing out of the ordinary.

“This is something that is typical when we adopt the rules, based on member interest,” Gianaris said. “The raw numbers on the committees do change routinely.”

The members of the judiciary committee have not yet been named. And no date has yet been set for the confirmation hearing.

Among LaSalle’s supporters include former Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman and former Gov. David Paterson. If LaSalle were confirmed, he would be the first Latino chief judge in New York. Several key current and past Hispanic leaders in New York also back LaSalle.

The confirmation process promises to be Hochul’s first test as an elected governor.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.