NYS Council Priority Legislation Awaits Governor’s Signature

November 13, 2022

As the Newsday article (below) points out, newly elected Governor Hochul has some 400 bills (passed during the legislative session) awaiting final action. The NYS Council has been leading efforts to ensure our two bills are enacted.  More about the bills here:

1) OMIG Reform Bill – A7889A/S4486B 

The NYS Council, along with our colleagues at COMPA, has continued to co-lead a large coalition of associations and coalitions that represent providers across the NYS healthcare system, to demonstrate broad cross sector support for this bill that would strengthen the rights of providers subject to OMIG audits.  The bill passed unanimously in both houses of the NYS Legislature, however the Administration has indicated they still have some concerns with the legislation.  In September, we recruited sign on support from a total of 46 associations, for a letter to the Governor urging enactment of the bill.  In addition, we have had numerous meetings with Chamber representatives to address their concerns including one that brought together association leads from home care, pharmacies, OPWDD providers, addiction providers, mental health providers and the Medical Society of NYS, to speak with one voice and in favor of enactment.  Our next meeting with representatives from the Governor’s Office is later this week. 

2) Model Contract Transparency Bill – A9442 (Gottfried)/A9297 (Rivera)

Earlier this year, the NYS Council successfully advocated with DoH and the Governor’s Office to ensure that prior overpayments of behavioral health funds made to health plans were recouped and returned to the two state agencies.  The state had failed to enforce a requirement in the contracts between MCOs and the state that requires the plans to spend the vast majority of per member per month funds they are paid by the state, on actual care for Medicaid beneficiaries with behavioral health conditions.  Our efforts to prove the state had failed to enforce this contract provision over many years showed that the plans were sitting on overpayments,  the state had failed to enforce the contract provision related to Behavioral Health Expenditure Targets (BHETs), one of many MMC contract requirements included in the state’s Model Contract governing our carve-in.  We filed some 25 FOILs and participated in many difficult meetings with state leaders once we understood what had happened (or not happened) from the beginning of the carve in, and was still happening. Ultimately NYS Council efforts resulted in:

1) the recoupment and return of $222M to OASAS and OMH that permitted both state agencies to further increase rates that were going up thanks to federal COVID funds and some state-only investments. 

2) Enactment of new budget language that requires the state to be transparent in its’ reporting of plan performance related to the BHET (Behavioral Health Expenditure Targets), to list the specific plans that do not meet the Targets, how/when the recoupment of these funds is calculated,  and what was returned to the state.

Also, through the FOIL process, we learned the state had changed the terms of the BH Model Contract – the document that lays out the requirements on plans that participate in our carve in (including having to meet expenditure targets) without stakeholder input or knowledge.  Our Model Contract bill would require the state to inform the public of changes it intends to make to the Model Contract, by posting Notices in the State Register and on the DoH website.

Kathy Hochul won election as NY governor. What happens next?

By Yancey Roy, Newsday
November 12, 2022 5:00 am

ALBANY — Her election victory is just days old, but Gov. Kathy Hochul won’t have much of a lull period.

Over the next two months, she has to sign or veto more than 400 bills, likely make changes to her administration and select a new chief judge of New York.

And that’s all before January, when she when will have to map out a strategy for dealing with a slightly different State Legislature and balance a state budget that won’t have the generous federal pandemic aid of past years.

It also will be a year when the state will award new downstate casinos, figure out congestion pricing and the future of the Long Island Power Authority, and go through another round of redistricting.

  • Kathy Hochul isn’t expected to have much of a lull period after being elected governor. She has to sign or veto more than 400 bills, likely make changes to her administration and select a new chief judge of New York — all before January.
  • Hochul will have to map out a strategy for dealing with a slightly different State Legislature and balance a state budget that won’t have the generous federal pandemic aid of past years.
  • Next year the state will award new downstate casinos, figure out congestion pricing and the future of the Long Island Power Authority, and go through another round of redistricting.

Finally, there’s this: History suggests that if there’s a year to fight with the legislature, it’s the first year a new governor starts a four-year term.

That’s been a constant, whether it was Andrew Cuomo, Eliot Spitzer or George Pataki.

“Typically, in the first year of a new administration, the executive wants to make the tough decisions rather than later in an election year — and particularly this year with the federal pandemic aid going away,” said Blair Horner, executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group.

Hochul technically will be in her second term as New York’s chief executive, having taken over in August 2021 when Cuomo resigned while facing a likely impeachment trial.

But the circumstances — and the pending election campaign — helped create a mostly smooth honeymoon period with lawmakers in the 2022 legislative session. The upcoming year likely will be more like a traditional first year for a governor — freer to set an agenda and battle if necessary.

“Executives are freer in the years following an election,” said Lawrence Levy, dean of the Center for Suburban Studies at Hofstra University. “So she doesn’t have to worry about everything she says and does being amplified in the minds of voters. She is past the election and can try some new directions and even new relationships with legislators.”

On one hand, Hochul’s closer-than-expected victory over Republican Lee Zeldin — 53% to 47% — and her lack of electoral coattails (Democrats lost congressional and legislative seats) “could create the perception that she’s not strong politically,” Levy said, allowing the Senate and Assembly to push back more.

On the other, pending the finalization of two local elections, it appears Senate Democrats will lose their two-thirds “supermajority,” which gives them veto override ability. The likelihood of Democrat legislators overriding a Democrat governor was always small, but losing that tool gives the governor a stronger hand in shaping an agenda.

Sign or veto more than 400 bills

Among her first tasks, even before Jan. 1, is to sign or veto more than 400 bills approved by the Legislature earlier this year. Many of them are routine, but some are controversial.

That includes a proposed moratorium on certain types of cryptomining, new limitations on housing foreclosures by banks, and a ban on selling dogs, cats and rabbits in pet stores. Another would restore the state comptroller’s powers to audit contracts executed by the governor’s office, which was removed during Cuomo’s tenure.

High on the to-do list is appointing a new chief judge to replace Janet DiFiore, a Cuomo pick who steered New York’s top court in a conservative direction, especially on criminal justice issues. DiFiore retired in August.

Hochul already is under pressure from the left to select a more liberal chief judge, perhaps one with experience as a public defender — since several of Cuomo’s picks came from the prosecutorial side.

Per state law, a judicial screening committee is slated to send Hochul a list of up to seven candidates by around Thanksgiving. She then would have up to 30 days to choose one; the state Senate would likely hold a confirmation hearing in early January.

More administration changes?

Some insiders also are expecting the governor to make more changes in the administration. When she took office last year, she replaced some key Cuomo personnel but otherwise made few changes in state agencies.

Two commissions will be dealing with casinos and LIPA, which, though not strictly under the governor’s control, will be viewed as her property, politically speaking.

In early January, a gaming board will be accepting applications for three new downstate casinos.

A commission created by the State Legislature is supposed to deliver a draft plan by the end of the year on how LIPA might be restructured into a public utility. But the commission already is behind on its schedule for meetings and public hearings. It’s an issue sure to roll over into the first year of Hochul’s four-year term.

Plus, she needs to appoint new LIPA trustees, including a new chairman.

Yet another commission will deal with drawing new boundaries for Assembly districts. A lawsuit earlier this year triggered the redrawing of New York’s congressional and State Senate districts. A separate claim dealing with the Assembly was deemed to be filed to close to Election Day but will force the redrawing of its districts in 2023.