ALBANY (AP) — Farmworkers can unionize and the number of people held in jail awaiting trial is set to decrease under a host of new laws taking effect in 2020 in New York.
The newly Democratic-controlled Legislature passed over 900 bills in 2019 — a marked increase from typical years. Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo had approved nearly 750 bills and vetoed 168 as of Monday.
The pile of new laws marks a victory for Democrats who had long lacked control of the Senate. Some bills taking effect in January include:
New York's bail law eliminates pretrial detention and money bail for the vast majority of misdemeanor and nonviolent felony cases. The law also requires release for other felonies — second-degree burglary and second-degree robbery.
The law would still require cash bail for major drug trafficking offenses, sex offenses, criminal contempt in a domestic violence case, witness tampering or intimidation and certain offenses against children.
Cuomo estimates the new law will keep about 90% of defendants out of jail at least until their case gets resolved.
Adoptees can soon obtain a certified birth certificate under a new law effective Jan. 15.
Under the current law, adoptees must go before a judge to request access to their birth certificate. Advocates who have fought for 20 years for New York's law say that access isn't always guaranteed.
New York's new law allows adult adoptees, their descendants or legal representative to obtain a certified copy of their original birth certificate.
The National Conference of State Legislatures says about half of states still require a court order. Some critics worry about privacy rights of birth parents.
TEENS PREREGISTERING TO VOTE
It's about to become easier for teens to get ready to vote once they're of age.
Starting Jan. 1, New York is allowing individuals 16 years or older to preregister to vote.
Once those individuals turn 18, the Board of Elections will automatically register them to vote.
PUBLIC CAMPAIGN FINANCE
Lawmakers missed a December deadline to block a politically appointed commission's plan to use public money to fund campaigns in New York.
The plan has drawn scrutiny from Republicans and Democrats alike who are expected to fine-tune the plan's details in 2020. And lawmakers will have time to make changes. Commissioners delayed the program four years for state legislative races and six years for statewide races.
New Yorkers who give $250 or less would see their donations matched with public funds 6 to 1 for statewide office candidates such as governor. So a $100 donation would be worth $700 to a candidate.
Donations to local candidates would also be matched: 12 to 1 for the first $50, 9 to 1 for the next $100 and 8 to 1 for the final $100.
Candidates will face limits of $5,000 per donor for Assembly races and $10,000 for Senate races, down from roughly $9,000 and $19,000. New York's campaign finance limits are the highest in the country, and federal presidential candidates can raise $5,600 from a single donor.
Voting rights groups have called New York's plan a big step forward but said lawmakers should lower limits political contributions and ensure independent oversight of the system.
New York will soon criminalize weapons that are undetectable by an X-ray machine or metal detector.
The law taking effect Jan. 27 prohibits the manufacture, sale, transport and possession of undetectable firearms, rifles and shotguns as well as their major components.
Another new law will set statewide standards for gun buyback programs across New York.
Many municipalities and groups already host programs aimed at allowing people to get rid of unwanted or illegal guns. But supporters of the new law say the programs do not occur everywhere and lack consistent standards.
NEW TAX CREDITS
Effective Jan. 1, businesses can receive a tax credit for providing child care facilities to employees.
Another new law allows tax credits for employees that hire certain people who are in recovery from substance use disorders.
And New York television studios who hire women and minority television writers can also receive a tax credit in 2020.