2020 will likely go down as one of the most tumultuous years in American history. From February to December, the COVID-19 pandemic claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, upended our economy and forced us to adapt to a new normal.
But in spite of that, 2020 was a rather productive year for New York’s lawmakers. Though they could no longer hold in-person meetings, they continued to draft, introduce and pass legislation while working remotely. Many of the new laws, as one would expect, focused on the task of keeping New Yorkers healthy and financially secure during the pandemic. Our lawmakers also gave significant attention to police disciplinary reform, in response to widespread protests against police brutality.
Here’s a rundown of some of the most noteworthy bills they managed to pass this year.
New York State Legislature
New York Call Center Jobs Act (S1826-C/A567-C)
- Prime Sponsors: State Senator Timothy Kennedy (D-Erie County), Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal (D-Upper West Side, Hell’s Kitchen)
- Signed: Jan. 2
- Summary: Requires the Department of Labor to publicly track all call centers that outsource New York jobs to other countries. The Department must also impose severe penalties on call centers who fail to report such information.
Absentee Ballot Extension (S8130-D/A10516-A)
- Prime Sponsors: State Senator Zellnor Myrie (D-Brooklyn), Assemblymember Aravella Simotas (D-Queens)
- Signed: June 7
- Summary: Allows voters to apply for absentee ballots electronically, and also removes the requirement that the applications must be signed by the applicant. The purpose of the bill was to provide voters with a means of voting safely during the pandemic.
Police Reform Law/50-A Repeal (S8496/A10611)
- Prime Sponsors: State Senator Jamaal Bailey (D-Bronx), Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell (D-Manhattan Valley, Morningside Heights)
- Signed: June 12
- Summary: Instates multiple amendments to civil rights law and public officers law. Its most notable provision is a repeal of New York Civil Rights Law Section 50-A, which severely restricted the public release of police officers’ personnel records.
Police Statistics and Transparency (STAT) Act (S1830-C/A10609)
- Prime Sponsors: State Senator Brad Hoylman (D-Chelsea, Midtown), Assemblymember Joe Lentol (D-Brooklyn)
- Signed: June 15
- Summary: Requires the State to record the sex, race and ethnicity of anyone charge with a crime or misdemeanor, and that of anyone who dies in police custody. The purpose of the bill is to identify and root out systemic racism in policing.
Tenant Safe Harbor Act (S8192B/A10290)
- Prime Sponsors: State Senator Brad Hoylman (D-Chelsea, Midtown), Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx)
- Signed: June 30
- Summary: Prevents courts from evicting any tenant who has experienced economic hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, tenants must be able to provide proof of loss before qualifying for exemption.
Facial Recognition Tech Prohibition (S5140-B/A6787-D)
- Prime Sponsor: State Senator Brian Kavanagh (D-Lower East Side), Assemblymember Monica Wallace (D-Lancaster)
- Signed: Dec. 22
- Summary: Instates a two-year moratorium on the usage of facial recognition technology in schools. During this time, the New York State Education Department Commissioner must study the issue and decide whether this technology is acceptable for school use.
Workplace Fatality Registry (S8828/A5965-A)
- Prime Sponsors: State Senator Jessica Ramos (D-Queens), Assemblymember Carmen De La Rosa (D-Upper Manhattan)
- Signed: December 23
- Summary: Establishes a workplace fatality registry to record and document instances of employees suffering fatal injuries on the job. The bill also requires the Department of Labor to publish this data on its official website.
Contact Tracing Confidentiality (A10500-A)
- Prime Sponsors: Assemblymember Richard Gottfried (D-Chelsea, Midtown), State Senator Gustavo Rivera (D-Bronx)
- Signed: Dec. 23
- Summary: Restricts the public, law enforcement and immigration enforcement from accessing or using information acquired in the process of COVID-19 contact tracing.
Gender Neutral Bathroom Law (S06479/A05240-A)
- Prime Sponsors: State Senator Julia Salazar (D-Brooklyn), Assemblymember Daniel O’Donnell (D-Manhattan Valley, Morningside Heights)
- Signed: Dec. 23
- Summary: Requires all public institutions to designate their single-occupancy bathrooms as gender neutral. The purpose of the law is to allow trans and nonbinary people to use the facilities without restrictions or fear of harassment.
Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act of 2020 (S9114/A11181)
- Prime Sponsors: State Senator Brian Kavanagh (D-Lower East Side), Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx)
- Signed: Dec. 28
- Summary: Instates a moratorium on residential evictions and foreclosures until May 1, 2021, for tenants and mortgagers who have suffered financial hardship as a result of COVID-19. The bill expands the protections of the existing Tenant Safe Harbor Act to include those whose eviction proceedings began before the pandemic.
New York City Council
SNAP Senior Enrollment Plan (Int. 1659)
- Prime Sponsor: Councilmember Margaret Chin (D-Battery Park City, Chinatown)
- Enacted: March 13
- Summary: Requires the Department of Social Services (DSS) to collaborate with the Department for the Aging on a strategy to identify and enroll eligible seniors in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAPs).
Individualized Responses to Hate Crimes (Intro)
- Prime Sponsor: Councilmember Mark Treyger (D-Brooklyn)
- Enacted: March 29
- Summary: Requires the Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes (OPHC) to respond to alleged hate crimes on an individual basis. It also requires the OPHC to inform the community within 24 hours of each allegation.
Personal Liability Suspension (Int. 1932)
- Prime Sponsor: Councilmember Carlina Rivera (D-East Village, Gramercy Park)
- Enacted: May 26
- Summary: Suspends personal liability provisions in commercial leases, and prevents landlords from seizing commercial tenants’ personal assets as punishment for defaulting on their leases. The bill applied specifically to tenants impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Harassment of Commercial Tenants Impacted by COVID-19 (Int. 1914)
- Prime Sponsor: Councilmember Adrienne Adams (D-Queens)
- Enacted: May 26
- Summary: Makes it a form of civil harassment to threaten a commercial tenant based on their status as a COVID-affected business, and imposes a penalty of $10,000 to $50,000 on offenders.
Local Conditional Release Commission (Int. 1956)
- Prime Sponsor: Councilmember Keith Powers (D-Upper East Side, Carnegie Hill)
- Enacted: June 29
- Summary: Provides for the creation of a Mayor-appointed, five-person local conditional release commission. The commission has the authority to review and recommend releases for certain New Yorkers incarcerated on City sentences.
Public Recording on Contact Tracing (Int. 1961)
- Prime Sponsor: Ritchie J. Torres (D-Bronx)
- Enacted: June 29
- Summary: Requires the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) to regularly report the details on the City’s COVID-19 contact tracing program. The reports must include the number of contact tracing employees, the number of COVID-19 patients identified by the program, and whether said patients were referred to wraparound services, among other data.
Right to Record (Int. 0721)
- Prime Sponsor: Public Advocate Jumaane Williams (D)
- Enacted: July 15
- Summary: Codifies and secures the right of the public to record City police officers acting in official capacity. The bill also allows New Yorkers to sue the City if they are deprived of this right.
NYPD Disciplinary Matrix (Int. 1309)
- Prime Sponsor: Queens Borough President Donovan Richards (D)
- Enacted: July 15
- Summary: Requires the NYPD to adopt and publish a “disciplinary matrix”, or a process to ensure officers are penalized for misconduct in a timely fashion. The NYPD must also report on the number of times the Commissioner fails to comply with the matrix.
Reopening Task Force (Int. 1950)
- Prime Sponsor: Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo (D-Brooklyn)
- Enacted: July 26
- Summary: Mandates the creation of a task force to recommend policies and protocols to ensure that City agencies can safely reopen in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Use of Credit Information in Renting or Leasing Affordable Units (Int. 1603)
- Prime Sponsor: Counclimember Mark Levine (D-Manhattan Valley, Manhattanville)
- Enacted: Oct. 17
- Summary: Disallows developers from rejecting prospective tenants on the grounds of their credit score. The law also prevents developers from taking debt into account, if the prospective tenant’s debt is less than $12,000.
Outdoor Dining Extension (Int. 2127)
- Prime Sponsor: Councilmember Antonio Reynoso (D-Brooklyn, Queens))
- Enacted: Nov. 15
- Summary: Extends the City’s outdoor dining program until Sep. 30, 2021. The bill also allows for the usage of propane and electric heaters in outdoor dining areas.