Plastics and social media: New York lawmakers’ end-of-session goals

In New York, the state legislative session lasts about 60 days, spanning from January to early June, but most law passing occurs over two periods. The first is when the state adopts its budget, a document so full of unrelated bills that it’s nicknamed by the state Capitol as the “big ugly one.”

Lawmakers now enter the second period, as they and Gov. Kathy Hochul is rushing to insert legislative priorities they couldn’t fit into the budget.

Most years, the Legislature passes about 1,000 bills that the governor must sign or veto. So far, just over 300 bills have passed both chambers this year, marking the start of what could be a very busy final week of the session, if history is to be believed.

Some proposals, such as a measure that would block social media companies from using algorithms on minors, are known to have the support of Ms. Hochul, a centrist Democrat from Buffalo. Others — like a tropical state’s bill restricting business with companies that contribute to deforestation — appear to face a tougher path before passage.

Here’s what to look for:

At the heart of one of Albany’s fiercest debates this session is an uncomfortable truth: Many plastics the state attempts to recycle end up in landfills and incinerators.

The Packaging Reduction and Recycling Infrastructure Act aims to reduce the use of plastic packaging in New York by 50% over 12 years and ensure that the plastic produced can be recycled.

The bill would require businesses that use single-use plastic packaging to find sustainable alternatives or pay a to-be-determined fee, which would be used to cover municipalities’ recycling and waste disposal costs. New York City, which supports the legislation, could raise up to $150 million to cover its costs, officials said.

Although widely supported in the Assembly and Senate, the measure faced strong opposition from chemical industry lobbyists, including former state senator and chairman of the Water Conservation Committee environment, Todd Kaminsky, and a wide range of more than 50 business entities, including the New York chapter of the AFL-CIO, New Era Cap Co., Coca-Cola and Heineken. They say the bill’s restrictions could discourage new recycling technologies and also increase the price of packaged products.

In recent days, a counterproposal emerged in the Senate that would create broad exemptions and lower the reduction target from 50 percent to 30 percent over 12 years. Judith Enck, a former regional administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and one of the main lobbyists for the bill, called the proposed changes “poison pills.”

It’s unclear where Ms. Hochul remains on the proposal; Last year, she included a more limited version of this legislation, known as extended producer responsibility, in her executive budget. It has not yet weighed in on the current iteration.

MS. Hochul considers the Safe for Kids Act, which would prevent social media companies from using algorithms to curate content aimed at minors, as his top priority for the end of the session.

The bill has the support of state Attorney General Letitia James, as well as doctors, teachers and parent groups. And in recent weeks, several groups that were wary of the bill, including some LGBTQ organizations, have rallied behind the plan.

Talks continue to progress between the governor; Carl E. Heastie, Assembly Speaker; and Andrea Stewart-Cousins, the Senate Majority Leader. But a powerful lobbying campaign by some of the biggest names in tech could stand in the way.

Opponents, including Google and Meta, have called the measure unworkable, highlighting, among other things, the challenge of verifying age online without entering sensitive personal data.

Last week, Ms. Hochul acknowledged that the final measure would require “more than just date of birth” to verify minors online, but did not specify what methods were being considered.

New York is slowly beginning to adopt a proposal that would allow terminally ill New Yorkers to voluntarily end their lives with the help of doctors. The proposal would be limited to people with less than six months to live and who are physically capable of ingesting life-ending drugs of their own accord.

The proposal has drawn fierce opposition from the Roman Catholic Church as well as the Center for Disability Rights, who say New York’s narrow proposal will open the door to much broader applications.

Ten states and Washington, D.C., already have some version of medical aid in dying, and polls show the measure has broad support across the political spectrum.

Despite this, it has yet to be debated, leading supporters of the bill to protest almost daily as the session draws to a close.

After Harvey Weinstein’s sex crimes conviction was thrown out in April by New York state’s highest court, Albany residents quickly passed legislation intended to prevent a similar outcome in the future.

The proposal would allow prosecutors to include evidence of prior “bad acts” in sex crime trials to show a defendant’s “propensity to commit that act.”

The measure passed the Senate but faced opposition in the Assembly, where others felt it was rushed and raised concerns about possible unintended consequences. Mr. Heastie said Thursday that lawyers at the conference questioned whether the bill was constitutionally sound.

Those concerns, along with a lack of time to quickly review a bill that could significantly change the state’s legal landscape, seemed to indicate that the bill was unlikely to advance this year.

Even as the governor has traveled the world to brag about New York state’s environmental goals, climate activists in Albany are increasingly concerned that the state isn’t doing enough to reach them.

Earlier in the session, the Legislature passed a bill banning the state from entering into contracts with companies responsible for tropical deforestation. Ms. Hochul vetoed an earlier iteration of the measure last year; She has not yet said whether she will sign or veto the bill this year.

Two other major environmental topics have yet to be addressed: The first, called the Climate Superfund Act, would require polluters to pay into a fund covering climate resilience projects and other major expenses. Vermont has just adopted a similar measure, which is expected to bring billions of dollars to the state coffers. New York’s version passed the state Senate earlier this year but is stalled in the Assembly.

The second would curb the expansion of New York State’s gas infrastructure to help the state meet its climate goals. Known as NY HEAT, the legislation would cap customers’ heating bills and eliminate the so-called 100-foot rule that requires gas companies to provide free hookups to new customers within 100 feet of an existing system . The energy industry opposes the change, which supporters say would save customers $200 million, saying it would lead to job losses in the gas industry and could increase the price Energy.

The Senate passed the bill twice, but it failed to advance in the Assembly each time. On Thursday, Mr. Heastie appeared to signal movement, identifying the measure as one of his conference’s top priorities.

“We want to do some environmental things,” he told reporters.

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