Here's what the Legislature has in store for business interests this session

Originally published in The Times Union

ALBANY – Manhattan Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, the longtime chair of the Assembly's Health Committee, is retiring at the end of 2022. Before then, Gottfried is hopeful to pass landmark legislation he sponsors to create a single-payer health care system in New York.

“I think we are within striking distance this year,” Gottfried said. “We have a majority of both houses as co-sponsors, a new governor. We are actively talking with people in the labor movement, public sector unions, that have had concerns – and that I’m optimistic we’ll be able to resolve.”

The New York Health Act would be a seismic shift for businesses in New York – and isn’t the only sweeping idea set to be pursued in the upcoming session by Democrats holding large majorities in both the Assembly and state Senate. Here’s some top agenda items on legislative committees important to businesses.


Public sector unions have expressed concern that if adopted, Gottfried’s single-payer bill might be less generous than members’ current plans. Gottfried has worked to add language to his bill explicitly allaying those concerns, which he hopes will lead public sector unions not just to withdraw opposition, but to support the New York Health Act.

Queens state Sen. Jessica Ramos, chair of the Senate Labor Committee, is pursuing several sweeping ideas that would significantly impact business.

​​​The Assembly and Senate leadership “at this point seems to be concerned about the position of the public sector unions, and that certainly is understandable,” Gottfried said. “As for the new governor, I don’t know whether she has begun to think about this issue.”

The sweeping government program would be funded by a progressive, graduated tax on income – and Hochul recently said she’s opposed to new tax hikes on the wealthy. 

The liberal Working Families Party, which is influential in Democratic primaries, is pushing candidates seeking endorsements in 2022 to support Gottfried’s bill, which could help push the bill forward.

Gottfried’s other priorities include boosting pay for home health care workers to address significant shortages; allow people to qualify for health insurance under New York’s Essential Health program regardless of immigration status and if they meet income thresholds; and lifting the Medicaid cap imposed a decade ago by former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

The chair of the Senate Health Committee, Bronx Democratic state Sen. Gustavo Rivera, likewise identified the single-payer bill as top priority, though perhaps a longer-term goal.

For the session that begins next month, Rivera's priorities include the Essential Plan bill for undocumented immigrants, a package to protect patients from medical debt, and establishing Overdose Prevention Centers to help fight the opioid crisis.


Queens state Sen. Jessica Ramos, chair of the Senate Labor Committee, is pursuing several sweeping ideas that would significantly impact business.

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Ramos was interested in the concept of pegging the minimum wage to inflation. With inflation on the rise over the past year, Ramos says struggling families need paychecks that are adequate to meet rising food, housing and other costs.

“We need to index the minimum wage more than ever, in order for wages to be able to be kept up with the cost of living in New York,” Ramos said.

Under the bill, which is backed by the AFL-CIO, the minimum wage could be adjusted annually on the basis of increases in the consumer price index for all urban consumers on a national and seasonally adjusted basis.

Ramos is pursuing another bill that would compel businesses in New York to disclose the compensation or range of compensation to applicants and employees upon issuing an employment opportunity.

“Secrecy is the biggest enemy of equal pay in any workplace and people should know that they’re getting paid equally for comparable work,” Ramos said.

The Assembly's labor chair, Latoya Joyner, is carrying both those bills in that chamber. A third bill on Ramos' priority list, which passed the Legislature previously but was vetoed by Cuomo, would crack down on wage theft by allowing workers to take their employers to court and place an "employee's lien" on their assets. Ramos said it’s not yet clear where Hochul stands on the idea.

Consumer Protection

Long Island state Sen. Kevin Thomas, chairman of the Committee on Consumer Protection, is making a data privacy bill, the New York Privacy Act, a top priority.

“Our data is now worth more than a barrel of oil or gold,” Thomas said. “The federal government can’t even agree if the sun is rising tomorrow, so I have no confidence they’ll do anything about this. When the federal government is not acting, we have to step up.”

California has a similar law, though Thomas said there are flaws that he plans to correct in New York, which would have the strictest regulations in the country. He has been engaging major tech companies, but some have been resistant. According to Thomas, Facebook said it would have to shut down operations in New York if the bill passed.

Thomas countered that Facebook is complying with tough privacy laws in other countries already, as well as other states.

“They’re complying around the world, they can comply in New York as well,” Thomas said.

Other priorities for Thomas this session include a bill to prohibit universities from withholding student transcripts if they haven’t paid their full tuition, and protecting the legal rights of cosigners of student loans.

Economic Development 

Long Island state Sen. Anna Kaplan, chair of the Commerce, Economic Development, and Small Business committee, is prioritizing a bill creating small business tax-deferred savings accounts. The bill would allow small businesses to save up to $5,000 annually and draw on funds tax free if they’re used for future capital investments or expenditures resulting in the creation or retention of full-time jobs.

She also wants to establish a “small business regulatory nexus” within each state agency regulating them, which would function as a one-stop shop for regulatory information, feedback, and assistance on the websites of state agencies; it would allow small businesses “to get help, and play an active role in the regulatory process.”

An impending bill supported by Hochul, and set to be carried by Kaplan, would expand eligibility for the COVID-19 Pandemic Small Business Recovery Grant Program to businesses started just prior to or during the pandemic.

Assemblyman Harry Bronson, chair of the Assembly's Economic Development, Job Creation, Commerce and Industry committee, is focused on ensuring an equitable and inclusive economic recovery, including how the state spends funds to stimulate job creation.

Bronson, who represents a Rochester district, said economic development programs passed by the Legislature need more focus on creating opportunities for “true career development and up-skilling those that are unemployed and underemployed.” He supports additional funding for apprenticeships and skills training, and making “wrap-around” support programs and services such as childcare and transportation a budget priority.