Special Session: Hochul wants action on Open Meetings Law, cannabis program and eviction moratorium

Photo by Darren McGee, Office of the Governor
August 31, 2021- Albany, NY- Governor Kathy Hochul announces an extraordinary session of the Legislature in regards to rent relief and extending the eviction moratorium through mid-January 2022.

On Tuesday, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced an extraordinary session of the New York State Legislature is set to begin Wednesday, September 1, to address New York’s rent and eviction crisis, the Open Meetings Law, and the state’s long-overdue cannabis program. Governor Hochul also announced she is extending New York State’s eviction moratorium to January 15, 2021.

A transcript of Hochul’s announcement:

I am happy to be able to make some announcements which I think will be well received by the people of the State of New York.

I also want to say I have worked tirelessly through the weekend with the leadership of the Assembly, Carl Heastie, his team, as well the Majority Leader of the New York State Senate, Andrea Stewart-Cousins. I thank them and my team for putting in an unlimited number of hours to make sure that we address the crisis that we are facing in the State of New York.

When I was officially sworn in this room one week ago today, I made a commitment to the people of the state that I would fight for them to make sure we get our kids back to school, get people back to work, and get rental relief to the families in need.

The pandemic has created unimaginable stress and anxiety for tenants and landlords who are struggling through no fault of their own. Many of them lost jobs, lost the ability to pay their bills, and now the debt has been mounting – and the fact is that we are not out of the pandemic yet as much as we had hoped months ago when the numbers were trending in a different direction.

We could not have foreseen there would be another variant, a deadly variant known as the Delta variant that would continue to suppress our ability to come back fully. Therefore we still need assistance for our families.

Recently the Supreme Court rendered a heartless decision that blocked the Biden administration’s eviction plan. Under my watch, here in the State of New York we are not going to exacerbate what is already a crisis in terms of the homelessness problem. We are not going to allow people who through no fault of their own lost income, not able to pay, and facing eviction. We are not going to allow that to happen here in the great State of New York. We are not going to abandon our neighbors in need, especially since the State of New York failed in its responsibility to get the money that was allocated by Congress out to the people in need earlier this summer.

Therefore, we want to expand the safety net for people who qualify for rental and landlord assistance, and we can no longer wait nor can they.

I also need to assure people, and I’ve heard from many, many elected officials across the state, that we need to amend the Open Meetings Law to make meetings more accessible, more safe, including for those with disabilities across the state. We need to address a situation and we need to continue what we put in place during the pandemic to allow the meetings continue but not in person.

I also have an agenda item that’s very important to me and that is to jumpstart a long overdue decision pertaining to establishing cannabis in the State of New York. I’ll be appointing my nominations to start process to legally produce and distribute cannabis in the State of New York. There is no reason why simple announcements in terms of who the executive director is and who the chair person is were not done in time, but I’m going to make up for that lost time and I want those decisions made. I’ve made the decision as to who I want but they need confirmation from the Legislature.

It is my goal to extend the eviction moratorium to expand rental assistance programs from today to January 15. We also know that landlords are struggling and we need to make sure that small businesses are protected as well, and that’s why I will be starting today, and I’ll be signing the proclamation momentarily.

Pursuant to the power vested in me by Article 4, Section 3 of the Constitution, I am hereby convening the Senate and the Assembly of the State of New York in an extraordinary session to commence … September 1, at noon.

The focus will be narrow. As I mentioned it will address the rental and eviction crisis. It will address the Open Meetings Law to allow more access to meetings, and it will also deal with the freeing up of the cannabis program which is long overdue.

I know it’s a tall and extraordinary session. It is indeed extraordinary but we’ve gone through extraordinary times and we need to take steps now to protect the people of the State of New York, and I want to let them know that we are going to continue fighting for them in partnership with our legislative leaders, and again, I thank them for their willingness to come back during this time and to be willing to roll up their sleeves and get the job done for the people the State of New York. That is something I promised and it’s a promise I intend to keep.