A heavy focus on housing costs and public safety is expected when Gov. Kathy Hochul unveils her agenda for the new year in her first State of the State address since being elected to a full term.
The speech, scheduled for 1 p.m. in the state Assembly chamber in Albany, is being delivered amid a fraught time for Hochul and Democrats in the state Legislature.
Hochul's nominee to lead New York's top court, the state Court of Appeals, is in danger of becoming the first candidate for chief judge rejected by the state Senate since a confirmation was put in place about 40 years ago.
And while Democratic lawmakers have acknowledged public safety is a concern for voters, they could very well be at odds with the governor over how to address it.
Here are four things to watch when Hochul delivers her speech.
1. Going big on housing.
State officials have called it a crisis with a statewide reach. Housing costs have skyrocketed in recent years, turbocharged in part by the COVID-19 pandemic and a lack of inventory.
The problem is most acute in New York City, which has also seen a spike in homelessness. But at the same time, cost-of-living problems are stretching communities in the Hudson Valley as well as the rural confines of the North Country.
Hochul's solutions will have to be complex; housing policy is never simple. And it can also be politically tricky.
Last year, Hochul proposed provisions that would make it easier for people to build accessory dwelling units on their homes so that, say, an older relative could move in. The proposal was quickly sunk amid opposition from suburban lawmakers, mainly on Long Island, with opposition also stoked by Hochul's Democratic primary opponent, Tom Suozzi.
Housing is also a problem with long-term solutions. The seeds planted this year may not bloom for years.
2. Crime and public safety.
In recent days, New York City Mayor Eric Adams has spoken about his concerns over recidivism, as well as the need to address the state's evidence discovery laws. It's a subtle shift from his sharp criticism of New York's law that ended cash bail for many criminal charges.
Adams is perhaps the most prominent Democratic critic of the bail law outside of Albany. But Democrats in the state Legislature are once again wary of opening up the bail discussion after making some changes last year at Hochul's behest.
Last week, the governor said she will take a "thoughtful" approach to public safety when she delivers her State of the State address.
"You'll see a very thoughtful approach on bail; we're looking at all aspects of the crime problem," she told reporters, adding "all the facets, all the contributors, to the crime rate" in New York state.
How Democrats in the Legislature digest the proposals will be key to what sort of debate Hochul will have on her hands, which would coincide with the fight over the confirmation of Hector LaSalle as chief judge.
Opposition to LaSalle's confirmation in the state Senate among Hochul's fellow Democrats has put LaSalle's place on the top court in doubt, with progressive advocates pointing to his rulings in labor cases as well as his background as a prosecutor.
Still, Democrats have insisted they are open to addressing crime in New York.
"Data shows us that New York is one of the safest states, but people do not feel safe. We know that people’s perception is their reality, and we must recognize that," Speaker Carl Heastie on Monday said when opening the 2023 legislative session in the Assembly. "If we genuinely care about public safety, and I know we all do, we have to put as much, or more, emphasis on the root causes of crime than how we respond to it."
That includes addressing addiction, housing, mental health care and access to jobs, Heastie said.
Hochul is expected to keep up her push to remove illegal guns from New York streets while data has shown shootings have been on the decline since last year.
3. Population loss.
New York has not grown as fast as the rest of the country, losing people to sun-belt states for a generation. Blame taxes as businesses do, or blame the proliferation of air conditioning as some academics have.
Either way, it's an issue that has increasingly cropped up in Hochul's public comments as New York's outmigration has accelerated in recent years in the wake of the COVID pandemic. Working from home has made it easier for people to work anywhere.
And that could translate into a further loss of political clout for New York in Washington as the state could lose another seat or two in the House of Representatives.
At the same time, a lack of people means fewer riders on mass transit, fewer students in schools and fewer workers available to do needed jobs.
Population loss is not just an upstate problem, either, but one that could have long-lasting effects on New York City's post-pandemic and economic recovery. What policy solutions are available to lawmakers, however, is not fully clear.
4. The overdose crisis.
Overlapping with COVID-19 has been an historic surge in overdose deaths in New York, with seemingly no community spared. Cheap fentanyl has fueled the rise in deaths, leading state health officials to find ways of expanding access to Narcan, which is meant to counteract the effects of an overdose.
The overdose crisis is a national problem, but it's one that affects communities in both small and profound ways. Proposed solutions like supervised injection sites have been controversial, and officials have disagreed over how to spend opioid settlement funding to help ease the problem.
Keep in mind: The State of the State address for any given year is usually high on rhetoric and light on details. The meat on the bones — how much money the governor wants to see put toward their proposals — is not revealed until the state budget is proposed in the coming weeks.