The State legislative session came to a close in Albany last week. While there were a few bright spots, there were also many disappointments for low-income New Yorkers struggling to combat discrimination, pursue legal status, remain in their homes and navigate our civil court system. Several bills critically important to NYLAG’s clients did pass, but unfortunately a number of equally important pieces of legislation were either defeated or did not make it to a vote this year. Here’s a quick rundown:
Extended Foreclosure Protections for Homeowners: The State’s foreclosure settlement conference process will continue to be available for the next five years for individuals in pre-foreclosure. An expiration of this vital protection would have put tens of thousands of New York homeowners in serious danger of losing their homes.
More Judges in Family Court: With broad communal support, the legislature passed a Judiciary budget that includes funding for 20 more Family Court judges. This measure will alleviate an overburdened system and make civil justice more attainable for people seeking help in Family Court to resolve their most basic and critical problems.
Housing Relief for People with Disabilities: Fair-minded legislation will enable more lower-income tenants with disabilities to live affordably and independently by giving them the same partial rent increase exemption benefit that was granted to lower-income seniors earlier this year.
Steps to Curb Immigration Fraud: Albany took a step in the right direction by creating new penalties for fraudulent legal practitioners who prey on immigrant communities, but we still need to fight for more protections and better relief for victims of immigration fraud.
No Relief from Unfair Work Policies: A bill to reform unfair work sanction policies governing disabled, ill, and vulnerable recipients of public benefits died in the Assembly. Legislators had already weakened it by restricting the reforms to New York City. When we take this up again next year, it must be on behalf of all New Yorkers.
Economic Insecurity Continues for DV Victims: Pushback from the New York State Bar and others stalled the passage of bills that would have given low-income spouses, including many domestic violence victims, a measure of financial stability by establishing standards for final alimony awards that are predictable, accessible and equitable.
Transgender Individuals Denied Basic Rights: A bill was defeated that would have outlawed discrimination against transgender people who are still being denied jobs, housing, credit and access to public services because of their gender identity. Sixteen states have enacted such laws. Why not New York?
No Financial Aid for Deserving Immigrant Students: Despite broad-based support, we came up one vote short of passing a bill that would have given undocumented immigrant students access to public financial aid, a natural next step for a state that has led the nation in progressive immigration policies.
Blog Post by Yisroel Schulman
President & Attorney-in-Charge