A Laundry List of New Laws for the New Year
Good morning. It’s Tuesday, the first workday of the new year. We’ll look at a few things that changed over the weekend — besides the calendar.
Credit…Desiree Rios/The New York Times
This morning or maybe tomorrow, George Kaloudis will punch four digits into a keypad at his gas station office.
The big green numeral on the sign out front will change to 3.199, from 3.059, making the new price of a gallon of regular one-tenth of a cent less than $3.20. And the so-called gas tax holiday will be over at his service station in the Long Island hamlet of Albertson, N.Y.
Officially, the gasoline tax holiday was swept out with the old at the end of 2022 amid warnings from service station owners like Kaloudis that prices at the pump would edge up again.
As for what came in with the new year — because that “out with the old” line in the last paragraph demands an “in with the new” line here, doesn’t it? — Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office sent a list of legislative provisions that took effect on Jan. 1. The list was 12 pages long.
The new year also brought higher tolls on the New Jersey Turnpike and the Garden State Parkway. They increased 3 percent, bringing the price of a ride from one end of the turnpike to the other — from the George Washington Bridge in North Jersey to the Delaware Memorial Bridge in South Jersey — to $20.01 at peak times or on weekends.
And then there’s next week, when tolls will go up at the four bridges and two tunnels run by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
But back to what’s new now. The minimum wage in New York State went up on Jan. 1 to $14.20 an hour across the state, from $13.20, but not in New York City, where it has been $15 an hour for four years. New Jersey also has a new minimum wage of $14.13, up from $13.
New York voters can now cast ballots in person at a polling place other than the one they are assigned to, but only if the polling place they go to is in the right county and the right assembly district. The idea was to accommodate registered voters who went to the wrong polling place and, instead of being sent to the right one, were handed a provisional ballot to fill out. Jarret Berg, a co-founder and the voting rights counsel of Vote Early New York, said that until now, those ballots would have been invalidated.
State Senator Zellnor Myrie, a Democrat from Brooklyn who was a sponsor of the bill that made wrong-place ballots acceptable, said the change would mean “more reasons to count valid votes and fewer reasons to disqualify them.”
Another change for 2023 in New York has a back-to-the-future quality. If you want an absentee ballot, it’s going to seem like 2019 again. Or maybe earlier.
When the pandemic upended the rituals of life in 2020, Andrew Cuomo, the governor at the time, issued an executive order adding Covid-19 to the list of temporary illnesses that made a voter eligible for an absentee ballot. For the 2020 and 2022 elections, “it didn’t matter if you were sick — if you were worried about getting sick from Covid, you could get a ballot easily,” said Blair Horner, the executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group.
That provision ended on Dec. 31, and New York reverted to rules that applied in 2019, even though Horner said voters “have gotten used to it, they like it and should continue to have it.”
“It’s not like the pandemic has gone away,” he said. “It’s safer for voters and safer for polling workers if people aren’t trooping to the polls.”
Berg, of Vote Early New York, said he hoped the legislature would reinstate Covid-19 as a reason to issue absentee ballots. “It’s better forward-looking policy,” he said.
The gas tax holiday was billed as giving drivers a break of 16.75 cents a gallon when fuel prices were soaring past $5 a gallon. AAA said the average price was $3.395 for a gallon of regular in New York State on Monday, 17.9 cents a gallon above the national average. In Nassau County, where Kaloudis’s station is, the average price per gallon was $3.182 a gallon, 43.7 cents less than six months ago.
“This tax holiday was a waste of time,” declared Wayne Bombardiere of Gasoline and Automotive Service Dealers Association, which represents independent service stations and automobile repair shops in the New York area. “It created more accounting procedures for more people around different parts of the state, depending on where your station was located and what had to be collected. And oil companies raised their prices in the first week” after the tax was dropped, he said.
Kaloudis, on Long Island, said he had decided not to change the price as soon as the tax suspension officially ended because the holiday weekend was a relatively slow time. He said he could absorb the difference and wanted to give customers a break for a day or two.
Looking back, he said, lawmakers approved the so-called tax holiday “to appease people.”
“People were happy in the beginning,” he said, “but prices continued going up.” And not just for gasoline: “I can’t believe what we’re paying for food,” he said.
Several other laws that Hochul signed last month will take effect later in the year. Beginning in March, telemarketers will have to ask a question like this immediately after identifying themselves: “Do you want to be on our do-not-call list?” Until then, the question can be asked at any time during a telemarketing call. Hochul said the change would help “protect New Yorkers from receiving frustrating, unwanted calls.”
Also in March, New Yorkers can apply to officiate at one marriage on a specified day. Hochul, when she signed the bill last month, said it eliminated “barriers” preventing a friend or relative from performing the ceremony. Only ordained members of the clergy and certain government officials had been permitted to do so. One-day officiants do not have to be New York State residents but must be at least 18 years old and must apply to the State Secretary of State’s office in advance.
And in June, a law will take effect requiring every employer in the state to provide a convenient, private space for mothers to breastfeed at work. The law requires the space to have access to running water and electricity. The goal is to extend the basic accommodations that public employees already have.
Expect rain, fog and wind gusts, with temperatures near the high 50s. Rain and wind gusts will persist into the evening, with temps steady around the mid-50s.
In effect until Friday (Three Kings’ Day).
The latest New York news
Times Square attack: The man charged with attacking three police officers with a machete near Times Square on New Year’s Eve had traveled to New York from his home in Maine to injure the police in an act of Islamic extremism, officials say.
Art gallerist dies: Ronald Feldman, who for nearly 50 years oversaw one of New York’s most consistently political, forward-looking art galleries, died at the age of 84.
Young musicians’ Grammy-nominated album: The debut album of the New York Youth Symphony, featuring some players who were in middle school, is up against recordings by some of the world’s top orchestras.
I was on my way home on a downtown M15 at around 9 p.m. on a Tuesday when the bus stopped abruptly near the entrance to the Midtown Tunnel. Road work.
They didn’t tell me about this, the driver said. Oh, lord.
I don’t know how you do this, I said.
She explained while we waited that she couldn’t let me off because we had just pulled away from a stop and it would be too dangerous.
Suddenly, it appeared as though the bus was going to be able to move again.
Hallelujah! the driver said.
Harry Louis, I said.
What did you say, she asked?
I repeated myself.
You can’t come to my church on Sunday and say that, she said.
I would love to go to your church, I said. And when you’re in church on Sunday, I added, you’re going to remember the girl who said “Harry Louis” instead of “Hallelujah” and smile and maybe even say “Harry Louis” yourself.
After I got off at my stop, she drove past me and beeped the horn, and we waved at each other.
It felt good to make her laugh.
— Nancy Kahn-Rosenthal
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.
Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.
Melissa Guerrero, Ed Shanahan and Tracey Tully contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].