The New York State Senate passed ten nursing home reform bills on Monday, but that is as far as some of these bills might go.

Speaker Carl Heastie said that the Assembly is likely to pass their own set of reform bills, which means both houses will need to come to an agreement before any bill can be signed into law.

However, the focus over recent days has shifted further away from reform and more on limiting the governor’s emergency powers after his top aide, Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa, admitted the state intentionally withheld the number of COVID-related nursing home deaths.

Senate Minority Leader Rob Ortt held a press conference before session on Monday, calling on his Democratic colleagues to pass their own bill, introduced by Senator Alessandra Biaggi, to repeal Governor Andrew Cuomo’s emergency powers.

"They sent a letter," Senator Ortt said about the 14 Democratic senators who wrote a letter asking that the governor’s emergency powers be repealed once news originally broke that the state purposefully withheld this nursing home data over fears it would be politicized by former President Donald Trump. "And today, we are going to find out just how serious they were because I’m going to be introducing Senator Biaggi’s bill as a hostile amendment on the floor today for a straight up vote. If they are serious, we can do it today."

Senate Republicans have introduced an amendment to revoke the governor’s emergency powers 14 times and each time it has been voted down.

And on Monday, Senate Democrats voted it down again.

The ten nursing home reform bills they did pass, however, will work to require COVID-19 nursing home resident deaths to be counted no matter where they happen and allow for compassionate care visits in nursing homes. 

Senator Rachel May said many of these reforms were introduced even before the pandemic struck New York. 

"This has been a crisis for a long time, but I think people recognize it now," Senator May explained. "And I think this is the moment people are paying attention when I think we can finally move the needle on some of these issues that have been with us for a long time."

Yet nursing home reform is not the only thing the two houses are split on.

Last week, Senate Democrats discussed a bill that would establish a ten-person commission made up of mostly Democrats that would have control over the governor’s executive orders as a way to limit his emergency powers.

However, Assembly Democrats are torn on the idea and while many are in favor of holding the governor accountable in some way, they are not all fully on board with the Senate’s draft.

In recent days, there has also been a bipartisan push to impeach the governor with many lawmakers saying repealing his emergency powers does not go far enough.

Democratic Assemblywoman Pat Fahy said she is in favor of working to limit these powers, but does not support impeachment.

"Was information withheld? Absolutely," Assemblywoman Fahy said. "Should there be consequences? Sure. But I’m not impeaching him. I’m not going to support that. We’ve got a budget to pass."

The governor’s emergency powers naturally expire on April 30.

List of 10 nursing home reform bills passed by the NYS Senate below:

  • Patient Care Ratio Reporting: This bill, S.4336A sponsored by Senator Gusatvo Rivera, directs the Commissioner of Health to establish a "Direct Patient Care Ratio" that would require all nursing homes to spend at least 70% of a facility's revenue on direct patient care.
  • Publication of Nursing Home Ratings: This bill, S.553 sponsored by Senator James Sanders Jr., requires that the most recent Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) rating of every nursing home be prominently displayed on the home page of the Department of Health's website and at each nursing home facility's website and displayed at the facility for view by the general public.
  • Reimagining Long-Term Care Task Force: This bill, S.598B sponsored by Senator Rachel May, enacts the “Reimagining Long-Term Care Task Force” to create a task force studying the state of both home-based and facility-based long-term care services in the state, and to make recommendations on potential models of improvement to long-term care services for older New Yorkers. 
  • Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program Reform Act: This bill, S.612A sponsored by Senator Rachel May, creates "The Long-term Care Ombudsman Program Reform Act" by expanding the current program to be more accessible and available to seniors and their families, while promoting the volunteer advocate program, and improve interactions between DOH and the Ombudsman program regarding complaints. 
  • Allowing Compassionate Care-Giving Visitors: This bill, S.614B sponsored by Senator Rachel May, creates a standardized program to allow personal care and compassionate care visitors at nursing homes. 
  • Infection Inspection Audit: This bill, S.1783 sponsored by Senator James Skoufis, directs the Department of Health to establish and implement an infection control inspection audit and checklist for residential care facilities. 
  • Quality Assurance Committees: This bill, S.1784A sponsored by Senator James Skoufis, requires adult care facilities to include "quality assurance committees" in their quality assurance plans
  • Requirements for Transfer, Discharge and Voluntary Discharge: This bill, S.3058 sponsored by Senator Gustavo Rivera, creates requirements for the transfer, discharge and voluntary discharge of residents from residential healthcare facilities
  • Standards for Ownership of Nursing Homes: This bill, S.4893 sponsored by Senator Gustavo Rivera, requires more review of ownership of nursing homes through the certificate of need process - including consideration of past violations at other facilities by owners - and requires more notice to the public during the CON process.
  • Department of Health Death Records: This bill, S.3061A sponsored by Senator Gustavo Rivera, requires the Department of Health to record COVID-19 deaths of nursing home residents that died in hospitals to be recorded as a "nursing home" death and require the Department of Health to update and share data it receives with hospitals and nursing homes on communicable diseases.
  • Transparency of Violations: This bill, S.3185 sponsored by Senator James Skoufis, requires residential health care facilities to disclose in writing to potential residents and their family members the website where a list of violations and other actions taken against the facility can be found.