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Fallout from Hochul's vetoes in 2023 linger into the new year

Gov. Kathy Hochul makes a public appearance on Jan. 3, 2024.
Darren McGee
Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul
Gov. Kathy Hochul makes a public appearance on Jan. 3, 2024.

The new year is underway, but Gov. Kathy Hochul and state lawmakers may still be dealing with some issues from last year. 

The governor vetoed a number of bills in the waning days of 2023, and that has led to some lingering disappointment.

Among the vetoes were several measures that leading state lawmakers championed, including a ban on non-compete agreements. Companies use those to prevent employees who leave a job from working for a competitor for a set amount of time.

The governor tried unsuccessfully to modify the measure so that the ban would apply only to lower-level jobs and still be preserved for top executives in large corporations or top Wall Street brokers.

She also vetoed a bill known as the Grieving Families Act, which aimed to make it easier for families to seek damages for grief and anguish if their loved one died because of a health care facility’s negligence.

And, perhaps more importantly for lawmakers up for re-election in 2024, Hochul vetoed a measure that would have changed public campaign finance laws to expand matching funds for large-scale donations.

When advocates and some lawmakers complained, the governor’s director of communications called some of the bills “extreme” proposals. Anthony Hogrebe said the measures “would have put public safety or the state's economic recovery at risk.”

Hochul said, in her defense, the Legislature passed over 900 bills in 2023 — and 500 of them were during the final week of session.

“And then at that point, there's no opportunity for negotiation or conversation or understanding the impact that it might have on an agency that now has to staff up 50 more people to accomplish this,” Hochul said. “And you didn't budget any money. That's usually what happens.”

And she pointed out that she did end up signing some of the more controversial bills, including the Birds and the Bees Act. That law now bans an agricultural pesticide known as neonicotinoids linked to honeybee die-off.

Hochul said it’s up to her and her staff to decide whether a measure lives up to its catchy name.

“That's just one example of where we have to look at bills that sound good on the face. And they always have a great title,” she said. “But that does not mean that in its implementation, that it is right for New York.”

Hochul said in this case, she had to weigh whether it would harm the farming industry. While farmers may have thought it was extreme, she said they found a “middle path.”

Democrats hold a supermajority in both houses of the Legislature, so they have the power to pass the bills again and then override any potential vetoes, enabling the measures to become law.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, speaking on Spectrum News’ “Capital Tonight” show, said lawmakers are not yet ready to go that route. 

“The Legislature should take that same type of care in doing overrides,” Heastie said. “Those are always like nuclear options, and you would hope never to have to get to that point.”

The governor said she hopes this year to begin collaborating earlier with senators and Assemblymembers on controversial issues to avoid vetoes.

“Let's start the bills or talk to us during the session,” Hochul said. “And then we can have bills that we worked on together by the end of June, and then we can start signing them right away.” 

Heastie pushed back on that during his “Capital Tonight” appearance.

“Collaboration is a two-way street,” he said.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for the New York Public News Network, composed of a dozen newsrooms across the state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.