Gov. Kathy Hochul signed roughly 900 bills in 2023. Those laws — many of which are scheduled to take effect in the new year — touch nearly every aspect of New Yorkers’ lives. There are measures recognizing additional school holidays (the Lunar New Year and Diwali), and others that establish broader protections for freelance workers and create new requirements for licensed cosmetologists.
What else will change in 2024? Here’s a look at some of the most consequential laws taking effect this year.
The minimum wage will increase
New York’s minimum wage will rise to $16 per hour in New York City, Long Island and Westchester County and to $15 an hour everywhere else in the state. Both rates will increase by an additional 50 cents in 2025 and 2026, with future increases statewide pegged to inflation.
The decision to add $2 to the city’s $15 minimum wage by 2026 — a plan included in last year’s state budget agreement — was not universally supported. Some Republican lawmakers warned the move could lead to job losses, while progressive Democrats pushed for a rate of over $21.
The state’s wage will remain more than twice that of the increasingly meaningless federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
Medicaid will cover doula services
A new law taking effect this summer will require Medicaid to cover doula services for New Yorkers. It also mandates that the state’s Department of Health create and maintain a directory of doulas.
The legislation was introduced in response to the country’s rapidly rising infant and maternal mortality rates, especially in low-income and minority communities. Black and Native American mothers are roughly three times as likely to die during and after pregnancy compared with white and Hispanic mothers, and their infants face up to double the risk of dying, according to a report released in 2023.
Though doulas are not certified as medical professionals, many pregnant women rely on them for emotional, physical and educational support before, during and after giving birth.
Discrimination against L.G.B.T.Q. residents at nursing homes will be prohibited
Later this year, nursing homes and other long-term care facilities will be explicitly prohibited from discriminating against residents based on their actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or H.I.V. status.
The new law establishes a “bill of rights” for residents who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or H.I.V. positive and lists examples of actions that might infringe on their rights: denying a person admission to a facility, evicting a resident, denying a request by a resident to share a room and intentionally failing to use a resident’s preferred name or pronouns.
Lawmakers cited a report showing that 78 percent of older L.G.B.T.Q. adults felt they could not be open with employees at long-term care facilities about their sexual orientation or gender identity. A majority of respondents in the study also predicted that they would be discriminated against by other residents and abused or neglected by staff members if they were open about their identities.
Discrimination against same-sex couples is not uncommon in nursing homes in the United States, and research has shown that L.G.B.T.Q. couples also face hurdles when applying to live in such facilities. Even in liberal cities like New York, older L.G.B.T.Q. adults have reported experiencing discrimination.
Private schools will provide free menstrual products
All private middle and high schools will be required to provide free menstrual hygiene products in student bathrooms. Public schools serving the sixth through 12th grades have been required to provide these products statewide since 2018.
In a statement provided by Governor Hochul’s office, State Senator Iwen Chu said that 25 percent of girls and women who are menstruating don’t have access to the products they need and that the new law was a response to the thousands of students in New York who are affected by “a stigma around menstruation and menstrual inequalities.”
“Without these products, students are likely to miss classes and school days,” Senator Chu said, adding: “Menstruation is not a choice, but removing the barrier to product access is.”
Schools have to make voter registration forms available
As part of a law intended to teach young people “that their voice matters in the political process,” most schools in New York will be required to provide eligible students with voter registration and preregistration forms during the school year. Preregistration allows 16- and 17-year-olds to ensure they can vote once they turn 18.
The legislation, which lawmakers hope will promote long-term civic engagement after years of abysmal voter turnout among young people, also requires schools to help students fill out the registration forms.
Inmates must be told of their voting rights before release
Those who have been previously convicted of a felony must be notified — both verbally and in writing — before they are released from a state correctional facility that their voting rights will be restored once they get out.
The facility’s chief administrative officer must also provide those who are leaving with a voter registration application and offer assistance in filling it out, should they choose to do so.