State legislative leaders say they're close to reaching a deal to change state law to seal New Yorkers' criminal records after a certain period of time as the legislative session races toward the finish line.
"We are definitely negotiationg — I think we're pretty close," Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins told reporters in the Capitol on Wednesday.
The current version of the legislation would automatically seal the criminal records of about 2.3 million New Yorkers three years after sentencing for misdemeanors and after seven years for felonies. It does not apply to sex crimes.
Details continue to be negotiated on the amount of time that should pass before records become sealed, when the clock would start after a person finishes their prison sentence and when state agencies will be prepared to begin sealing those records.
"Clean Slate is probably the one," Stewart-Cousins said. "We are still negotiating, but I do believe that we are pretty set on the times now. If you have repaid your debt to society you should not have something hanging over you for a lifetime. I think it's something everybody agrees on."
Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie refused Wednesday to give specific details about the sticking points of the bill, but they continue to mull several changes. But the Senate leader said the Clean Slate proposal is one of the only — if not the sole significant piece of legislation — leaders have a three-way agreement on and should be finalized before session ends June 8.
"I'm very optimistic," Heastie said.
Legislative leaders briefly met with Gov. Kathy Hochul ahead of the end of session to discuss their priorities, including Clean Slate and housing. They were tight-lipped about the details.
"I'm confident we'll be able to reach an agreement," Stewart-Cousins said. "We'd like to see the Legislature's bill, but we're not the only partner in this. You're trying to come up with something that the governor, the Assembly and the Senate could be happy with. Like I said, we're very close."
Early this session, lawmakers amended the bill to allow law enforcement, judges and the state Education Department to have access to a person's sealed criminal records.
The measure cleared the Senate last session, but stalled in the Assembly after concerns about what officials could access those records, especially when hiring people to work in schools or with children.
Republican lawmakers are open to provisions of the bill, but continue to push back against the measure as a whole amid concerns about eroding public safety. Republican leaders say violent or more serious criminal offenses should not be able to be sealed.