New year, new legislation: a breakdown of what you need to know heading into 2020


ALBANY, N.Y. (WIVB) — Several laws are set to take effect statewide in the new year. Many of those starting once the clock strikes midnight on the first.

On Wednesday – New Year’s Day – bail reform will roll out across New York.

This means a judge will no longer place bail for people charged with misdemeanors or nonviolent felonies. Instead, when bail would normally be set, those individuals will be issued an appearance ticket for when they’re due back in court.

Erie County District Attorney John Flynn says on one hand, this takes away the main reason behind bail – ensuring people go to their court appearances and don’t flee the area.

But Flynn also says this now evens the playing field; currently, if two people are arrested for the same crime, one may be able to afford bail and be released while the other may not be able to afford it and stays behind bars.

“I don’t think the world is going to fall apart on Jan. 1,” Flynn said. “I think that there will be some issues. I think we will have to tweak this law when the legislature goes back into Albany next week, but overall I have no problems with the news law.”

Also going into effect on Jan. 1: the Farm Laborers Fair Labor Practices Act. This establishes an eight-hour workday and one mandatory rest day for farmworkers each week, with overtime pay set at time-and-a-half when workers reach 60 hours in a week.

While advocates say this will lead to better lives for farmworkers, some farmers say they’re afraid they won’t be able to cover the costs of these changes.

Another law set to take effect in the New Year: on Jan. 15, New Yorkers who were adopted will have access to their full birth certificate once they turn 18-years-old through the Dept. of Health. Previously, they were only able to get a redacted version.

Some have argued against this legislation for the sake of the biological parents’ privacy; however, when he signed this into law back in November, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called access to birth certificates a basic human right.

Linda McCartan of Child and Family Services in Buffalo says she often works with people who call looking for information that’s on their birth certificate, and right now there’s not much she can give them.

“Now we’re seeing, with the change in law, they’ll be getting a full copy of their birth certificate, which includes parents’ names, identifying information, that they can do something with,” McCartan said. “To be able to go and look and find information, whether you choose to or not, to know you have the option going forward is very powerful.”

Other changes New Yorkers will see in 2020:

  • You have until October to get a REAL ID. They’re necessary to board any flight traveling throughout the U.S. or to enter a Federal Building
  • Starting March 1, the state is also banning single-use plastic bags. Stores around New York will not be allowed to give out these bags.

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