Assemblyman Kevin Byrne (R,C,Ref-Mahopac) participated in an extraordinary legislative session on Monday, December 28 to vote on the “COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act” (A11181). The Assembly Republican Conference offered up a series of amendments to provide greater balance and accountability in the legislation, as well as to curtail the governor’s expanded emergency powers. Democrats in the Assembly rejected each proposal.
“This legislation, left as it is, bars small landlords from evicting tenants and essentially forces property owners to provide a zero interest loan to renters, which many may never be able to fully pay back,” Byrne said. “Unlike the bipartisan federal COVID-19 relief legislation passed by Congress, the state legislation provides little to no oversight to limit abuse from those who still have the means to pay their rent, and by extension their local property taxes. While the state legislation did offer some small protection to property owners by shielding some from foreclosures, it ignored the fact that small landlords will still not collect any rent owed, forcing them to unfairly shoulder the financial burden, which in turn will prevent additional investment from going back into the tenant’s building. The ‘foreclosure prevention’ also passes the buck back on to local municipalities that will most assuredly lose needed revenue from this new law. No financial assistance was provided by the state, and small businesses were completely ignored in the package.”
“I voted no on this bill because it unfairly punishes property owners, contains zero oversight to prevent abuse and it simply kicks the can down the road, setting up both tenants and property owners for more pain and hurt in the months to come,” Byrne said. “A bipartisan compromise was proposed on the floor which included several simple amendments. This compromise was soundly rejected by the Democrat Majority that apparently only pays lip service, but fails to deliver when opportunities for true bipartisanship arise.”
In addition to proposing amendments to protect the integrity of a rent relief package for tenants and property owners, the Assembly Republican Conference took the opportunity to offer an additional amendment that questioned the governor’s continued excessive use of his emergency disaster
Earlier this month, Assembly Republicans wrote to Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and other conference leaders to urge lawmakers to rein in Gov. Cuomo’s emergency powers and restore checks and balances in state government. The Assembly Republican Conference proposed legislation on the floor reining in these powers, but Assembly Democrats declined to take action.
“It is long past the time to return New York state to representative democracy and re-establish the Legislature as a co-equal branch of government. Apparently those goals don’t appeal to Assembly Democrats,” Minority Leader Will Barclay (R,C,I-Pulaski) said. “Majority conferences have gotten too comfortable operating under the thumb of the executive. Today they squandered yet another opportunity to get state government running the way it was intended.”
Assembly Republicans also offered amendments that would add protections for small businesses and landlords who are suffering financial losses as a result of the economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The “COVID-19 Emergency Eviction and Foreclosure Prevention Act” created a hardship declaration that ends residential eviction, regardless of one’s ability to pay, and foreclosure proceedings until May 1, 2021.
The three amendments proposed by the Assembly Republican Conference would have:
• Required hardship declarations include a statement, under penalty of perjury, that tenants have used their best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing, and to make timely partial payments that are as close to full payments as their circumstances permit.
• Provided the same protections extended to residential tenants in A.11181 to small businesses also facing mortgage and tax foreclosures. Also extend foreclosure protections to small landlords who are not covered by the bill in chief.
• Restore legislative checks and balances for emergency declarations exceeding 45 days and ensure judicial due process rights for any actions that affect fundamental constitutional rights (A.10546, Goodell).