A flurry of year-end vetoes on legislation that passed by wide margins in the New York state Legislature has both the governor and the Assembly speaker bemoaning the rush to pass bills at the end of the six-month legislative session in June. 

According to a statement on the executive’s website written by Gov. Kathy Hochul's Communications Director Anthony Hogrebe, “This year the State Legislature passed 896 bills, more than 500 of which passed in the final days of the session – most without a single hearing or opportunity for public comment.”

The statement was released last week around the governor’s vetoes of the Grieving Families Act and the Wrongful Convictions Act, among others.

In a conversation Tuesday with Capital Tonight, state Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie agreed with the assertion that there is a problem with the annual crush of bills being debated during the final days of the legislative session, especially for the Assembly, which has 150 members, and a five-hour debate limit, while the Senate has 63 members and a two-hour debate limit. 

But he took issue with the executive’s assertion that most bills didn’t receive hearings or public comment periods. 

“I don’t agree with her assessment, but I also say this: Then I hope that means we won’t see any policy in the budget because the policy she put forth in her budget, there was no hearing…when she proposed it to us,” Heastie stated.

Even though he is disappointed with the governor’s vetoes, Heastie is not ready to discuss veto overrides.

“[Veto overrides] are always…nuclear options and you would hope to never get to that point,” Heastie said. 

He pointed to the Legislature’s historic cooperation with Hochul over the past few years.  

“When we pass bills (if we) weren’t being a cooperative Legislature, we’d just send them down within 10 days of the bills being passed. But we usually work with governors for when they want us to send the bill down,” he said. “I just want the people of the state of New York to be very clear that this isn’t just some process where the Legislature just throws things at the governor.”

But the second veto of the Grieving Families Act, which would have allowed families to recover damages for emotional suffering from the death of a loved one — and is important to the families who lost loved ones in the racially-motivated shooting at Tops in Buffalo in May 2022 — wasn’t easy for Heastie. 

According to her veto message, Hochul vetoed the bill because, she said, it would have increased insurance premiums and negatively affected health care systems.

But Heastie isn’t ready to give up. 

“Collaboration is a two-way street,” he said. “I think there should be some real discussions about how we get this over the finish line.”

If the governor’s comments on Tuesday were any indication, such discussions could be on the horizon.

“I'm reaching my hand out and saying, work with us during this session, and it'll be much more productive. We can get to fewer vetoes, but let's have more common sense involved in the process of developing the legislation and make sure it's practical,” Hochul said. 

On housing, which will likely be a major issue this session, Heastie appeared interested in a so-called “grand bargain,” which could include Good Cause Eviction, or some other tenant protections, in exchange for a housing compact in which municipalities could opt in (rather than one that is mandated), along with a revised version of 421a.

Heastie said he believes a compromise could be reached on 421a if stakeholders are ready to negotiate in good faith.

“I don’t believe it’ll be the original proposal, but if everyone sits at the table with the understanding that you have to give a little to get this huge package passed, then I think we can come up with something that works.” 

Heastie also discussed retail theft; environmental legislation that the Senate passed, but the Assembly has not, and New York’s cannabis rollout.  

Hochul’s State of the State address is scheduled to be delivered on Tuesday, Jan. 9, followed by her budget address on Tuesday, Jan. 16.

The state is facing a $4 billion deficit, but the governor has stated she will not be raising taxes on the wealthy. 

Tacitly acknowledging that 2024 is an election year for the entire legislature, Speaker Heastie responded to a question about the governor’s position on raising taxes by saying the issue isn’t as closed as she may want it to be. 

“I don’t think any legislator is ready to go back home with cuts in education and health care,” he said. “We’ll just have to see.”