Gov. Kathy Hochul delivered her first State of the State address to lawmakers and New Yorkers on Wednesday. Here are some of the ways her agenda can most directly impact residents.
Expanded voting laws
Hochul wants to reduce the voter registration deadline from 25 days to 10 days prior to Election Day. It's a move that does not require a change to the state's constitution, though voters rejected a ballot referendum earlier this year to do so, as well as expand absentee voting. She also is calling for expanded access to voting for college students: Legislation she will propose would require college campuses to have polling places.
New York has slowly moved to expand voting access laws in recent years, including the creation of two weeks of early voting, which took effect in 2019.
Make telehealth easier
Communicating with doctors or other health care professionals has increasingly moved to telehealth programs. But insurance coverage and reimbursement for those programs has been uneven in New York even as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the change. And that is especially challenging in rural areas, where travel to a doctor or hospital can be far.
Hochul on Wednesday proposed making telehealth options more accessible with the goal of having private insurers be required to reimburse for telehealth at the same levels of traditional services in New York.
Nursing home improvements
Long-term care facilities and nursing homes in New York have come under scrutiny for their potential to be vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic. Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo's administration is being investigated for its counting of nursing home fatalities as well.
Hochul wants the state to back alternatives for older New Yorkers who may prefer to age in place, but struggle to afford an independent living arrangement. Housing affordability would expanded as part of a broader plan for housing with an infusion of capital aid to create supportive housing units for older people.
Hochul wants to improve quality of care for people with dementia, as well as spend more to aid the development of alternative models to nursing homes in the state.
$1 billion for shifting to electric vehicles
One of the state's biggest long-term challenges will be to shift to cleaner and renewable sources of energy in the coming years as required by law. The move is meant to combat and curtail the effects of climate change, and it will have an impact on the kind of cars New Yorkers use to get to school and work.
Hochul wants $1 billion to be used to expand the infrastructure for electric vehicles and electrify school buses by 2035. New York state's eventual goal would be phase out gas-powered vehicles entirely, and the energy needed to do so will be a major lift to implement.
Criminal record sealing
Criminal justice reform advocates fell short on this measure last year: Sealing the criminal records for some felony and misdemeanor sentences. Known as the Clean Slate Act, Hochul wants to seal some felony records after seven years and misdemeanor records after three years following the completion of a sentence.
Supporters of the bill have contended the measure would help people gain jobs after their debt to society is repaid. But it's not clear if the governor's backing of the measure is enough to overcome hesitation in the Legislature.