Plugged In @ Hinman Straub – April 12, 2019

What’s Inside

  • Assembly Speaker Releases Package of Rent Regulation Proposals
  • Legislature Passes Westchester County Sales Tax Increase
  • New York City Bans Pre-Employment Testing for Marijuana
  • Comptroller Releases Report on Oversight of School Safety Planning
  • Nassau County Officially Opts-Out of Recreational Marijuana Sales
  • New York City Orders Yeshivas to Bar Non-Vaccinated Youth
  • Chairman of SUNY Board of Trustees Announces Retirement
  • Updates, Reminders, and Links
  • Coming Up

Assembly Speaker Releases Package of Rent Regulation Proposals

  • Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie released a list of proposals the Assembly intends to review for possible inclusion in a package that aims to increase protections for renters. Current rent regulations are due to expire on June 15th of this year. The Assembly has scheduled public hearings for May 2nd and May 9th to discuss the proposals to determine the best path forward.

    The following are among the announced proposals:

    • Eliminating the major capital improvement (MCI) and individual apartment improvement (IAI) programs – This measure would eliminate programs through which landlords are able to increase rent after improvements are made to either the building or specific apartments.
    • Changing preferential rent laws – Currently landlords are able to offer tenants a preferential rent which is lower than the legal regulated rent. Upon renewal of any lease, a landlord is able to adjust rent up to the legal maximum. This bill would require lease renewals to base rent increases on the preferential rate charged to the tenant instead of the maximum regulated rent.
    • Eliminating vacancy decontrol and bonuses – Vacancy decontrol allows a landlord to remove an apartment from rent stabilization if any apartment becomes vacant and the legal maximum rent is $2,774.76 per month. Vacancy bonus is the currently allowed practice of authorizing a 20% increase in rent for a rent stabilized apartment that becomes vacant. One proposal would end vacancy decontrol and another would require landlords stay within Rent Guidelines Board (RGB) increases upon vacancy, instead of the 20% increase currently allowed.
    • Capping rent control increases – One proposal would cap rent increases at the lesser of 7.5% (currently allowed rate) or an amount equal to the average of the last five RGB increases (typically set at a much lower rate). This proposal would also prevent fuel adjustment or pass-along increases.
    • Changing the statute of limitations on overcharge lookback – Currently, the statute of limitations on the overcharging of rent by a landlord is four years. This proposal would increase the statute of limitations to six years.
    • Several proposals aimed at the preservation of affordable housing – One proposal would require housing units be covered by rent stabilization laws in the event that a limited-profit housing company, buys-out of the Mitchell-Lama moderate income housing program. Another bill would require that apartments leased by not-for-profits that provide housing to vulnerable residents will remain regulated under the not-for-profit lease. Another would extend rent stabilization protection to low-income tenants living in former project-based Section 8 projects, regardless of when the buildings were initially occupied. Currently, housing accommodations in buildings occupied on or after January 1, 1974 are not subject to rent stabilization.
    • Protections for manufactured homeowners – Manufactured homeowners do not own or control the property on which their home sits. One bill in the package would allow municipalities to opt-in and provide recourse for manufactured homeowners faced with large rent increases. Currently, according to the sponsor, no remedy exists for “unjustified” rent increases.
    • Expanding rent protections statewide – A bill would allow other municipalities statewide to opt-in to the rent control system if there exists a housing emergency as defined by a vacancy rate of 5% or less. Currently, rent control only applies to New York City, Westchester, Nassau, and Rockland Counties.
    • Limiting recoverable damages when a tenant breaks a lease – One proposal would limit damages granted to a landlord upon the breaking of a lease by the tenant to only actual damages. Tenants would still be liable for damages if the property cannot be re-rented or at a lower rate due to market considerations.

     Speaker Heastie said:

    “The Assembly Majority has been a long time champion of expanding and strengthening rent protections. In the state budget, we made the property tax cap permanent to provide stability to homeowners. Now we need to provide that same level of stability for tenants by reforming our rent and tenant protection laws. We have seen far too many families forced out of the neighborhoods they shaped because of the cost of rising rents and property speculators chasing profits over people. Displacement from one community means more competition for affordable housing in neighboring communities. For too long, old factions of New York State government ignored this fact and thought that by stifling reform to the New York City rent laws it would not have an impact on them locally down the line.”

    REBNY President John Banks said in a statement:

    “The proposals they’ve put forward so far would not address the affordable housing crisis and in fact would put hundreds of thousands of rent regulated units under severe financial distress within a short period of time.”

Legislature Passes Westchester County Sales Tax Increase

The legislature passed a bill this week that would raise the sales and compensating use tax in Westchester County by an additional 1%. Currently, Westchester County is allowed to collect 3% sales tax on items purchased within the county. This bill will increase that percentage from 3% to 4%. The vote in the Senate was close, receiving only the minimum number needed to pass legislation in the Senate. The passage of this bill will alleviate the need for Westchester County to sell a parcel of parkland in order to balance its budget. The bill has not yet been delivered to the Governor and his position on the legislation is unknown.

New York City Bans Pre-Employment Testing for Marijuana

The New York City Council passed a bill this week to ban pre-employment testing for marijuana usage. The bill specifically prohibits employers from requiring a prospective employee to submit to testing as a condition of employment. The bill does contain exceptions for security-sensitive jobs and those tied to federal or state regulations, contracts, or grants.

Bill sponsor Jumaane Williams said:

“Testing isn’t a deterrent to using marijuana, it’s an impediment to opportunity that dates back to the Reagan era– a war on drugs measure that’s now a war on workers. Prospective employers don’t test for alcohol, so marijuana should be no different. We need to be creating more access points for employment, not less. And as we push for legalization on a state level, it makes absolutely no sense that we’re keeping people from finding jobs or advancing their careers because of marijuana use.”

Comptroller Releases Report on Oversight of School Safety Planning

This week the Comptroller released his findings of an audit conducted by his office aimed at reviewing the State Education Department’s (SED) oversight of school safety planning. The SAVE Act, enacted in 2000, aims to prevent school violence and increase the safety of students and teachers in New York’s public schools. The act requires school districts to establish a code of conduct, mandates training and instruction for preventing and responding to incidents of school violence, and establishes a uniform system for reporting violent incidents.

The SAVE Act also requires schools and districts to be prepared to respond to incidents when they occur. Specifically, it requires public school districts, charter schools and BOCES programs to develop comprehensive district-wide safety plans and building-level emergency response plans. SED regulations were also developed to provide additional guidance and details on school safety planning requirements. The requirements outlined in the law and regulations apply to public schools and districts, but not to private schools.

Key findings of the Comptroller audit include:

  • SED is not sufficiently monitoring School Districts’ compliance with the requirements for school safety planning and does not have assurance that the requirements are being met.
  • SED efforts primarily focused on ensuring that School Districts submitted their Building Plans to the State Police annually and delivered a 99% rate of submission. However, SED did not similarly track submission of Building Plans to local law enforcement and there is no assurance that local law enforcement – likely first responders in an emergency – received the plans as required.
  • Due to SED’s lack of oversight, School Districts did not consistently: annually report their safety plans in accordance with guidelines, hold public hearings on the plans, appoint district-wide safety teams including all required representatives, or train employees on the plans.
  • SED never submitted a report to the Governor and Legislature as required.

Key recommendations include:

  • Develop a program to monitor compliance.
  • Clarify SED expectations for compliance with requirements under the law including, but not limited to, public comments periods, public hearings, plan adoption, and training requirements.
  • Prepare and submit required annual reports to the Governor and Legislature.

The Comptroller said:

“Horrific school shootings across the country show the urgent need for schools to remain vigilant against threats to student and teacher safety. New York schools are required to develop and regularly review safety plans as part of the SAVE Act. The State Education Department needs more staff and resources to help make sure those plans are being developed and sound. I urge the state Legislature to look at this issue. We don’t want to nickel and dime the safety of our children.”

Nassau County Officially Opts-Out of Recreational Marijuana Sales

The Nassau County legislature voted to officially opt-out of recreational marijuana sales in the event the legislature indeed passes a bill that would legalize recreational marijuana. This comes after Nassau County Executive Laura Curran suggested last month that she would prefer if Nassau were to opt-out of any program that would allow for recreational sales within the county. It is unclear if a bill will pass this year, the Governor has suggested it would not be done if not done in the budget. He has since suggested that he and the legislature have an agreement in principal to act this year.

Chairman of SUNY Board of Trustees Announces Retirement

  1. Carl McCall, Chairman of the SUNY Board of Trustees announced this week that he would be retiring from the position in order to pursue other interests. McCall did not elaborate on what other interests he planned to pursue.

McCall said in his announcement:

“After ten years of service, I have decided to retire as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees of The State University of New York. I believe that it is time for me to pursue other interests and allow new vision to take SUNY to even higher heights. I want to thank the Governor, trustees, faculty and New York’s future leaders – our students, for their endless support as I have served in such a consequential office.”

Governor Cuomo said:

“It is bittersweet to announce the retirement in June of SUNY Chairman H. Carl McCall after more than 50 years of public service. Chairman McCall is a friend and a quintessential public servant who dedicated his entire career to improving the lives of others.

“Chairman McCall never turned down an ask to help and demonstrated his unmatched commitment to New York and our nation time and time again, including as State Senator, Comptroller, Commissioner, Ambassador to the United Nations and most recently as Chairman of the SUNY Board of Trustees since 2011. His accomplishments are numerous but he will long be remembered for his deep commitment to equality, diversity and access to education to ensure New York’s students, especially from underserved areas, are provided with a high quality and affordable education.

“He was a trailblazer who paved a path for others to follow, and he never lost sight of the fundamental goal of government: making a positive difference in the lives of the people we serve. SUNY is stronger because of Chairman McCall’s leadership, and his legacy and impact on all New Yorkers will carry on long after he steps down. I join all New Yorkers in celebrating Chairman McCall’s distinguished career and thanking him for his service to our state.”

Updates, Reminders, and Links

City & State NY’s weekly Winners & Losers here.

 Listen to Governor Cuomo’s radio interview with Alan Chartock.

La’Ron Singletary appointed as next Rochester police chief.

IRS planning to change W-4 form.

REBNY Watch: New York’s energy infrastructure threatens long-term growth.

Coming Up

The Public Service Commission will hold its next meeting on April 18th.

The Senate Committees on Agriculture and Labor will hold several public hearings on the Farmworkers Fair Labor Act on April 25th, April 26th, and May 2nd.

JCOPE will hold its next meeting on April 30th.

Senate Finance Committee will hold a public hearing on the issue of divesting the NYS Common Retirement Fund from fossil fuels as outlined in S.2126 / A.1536 at 10:00am on April 30 in Albany (Hearing Room A, LOB).

The Assembly Committee on Housing will hold public hearings on rent regulations on May 2nd and May 9th.