Gov. Kathy Hochul has until Jan. 30 to sign legislation to expand New York state’s wrongful death statute.
The Grieving Families Act would be the first changes to the laws in more than 150 years.
“There’s only a handful of states in the union that follow the rules that we do and they’re really, really regressive and they value someone’s life based on their income,” state Sen. Sean Ryan, D-Buffalo, said.
One of the primary changes the act makes is allowing families to sue for pain and suffering.
On Thursday, three Democratic lawmakers from the governor’s hometown of Buffalo, state Senators Tim Kennedy and Ryan and Assemblymember Jon Rivera, publicly urged her to sign the bill.
“The holdup is the insurance companies in New York state have gotten a great deal for 150 years and they don’t want to be brought into the modern age,” Ryan said. “They want people to keep paying insurance and if a car accident or negligence happens, they don’t want to have to pay out.”
The legislators aren’t the only ones applying pressure. Two major advocacy groups in the state, AARP and New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, asked members to flood the governor’s office with calls Thursday.
New Yorkers Against Gun Violence Executive Director Rebecca Fischer said the elderly victims in the mass shooting in East Buffalo last year are a perfect example why the governor should sign the bill.
“We are surprised that it’s taken so long and we certainly expect that consistent with her record on gun violence prevention and crime victim support that she will sign this by January 30,” she said.
While groups like hospitals, insurance companies and municipalities are opposing the bill for its potential impact on the industries and economy in general, Ryan says similar statutes have been implemented in other states without major problems. He also pointed out the bill had broad bipartisan support in both houses.
“Sooner or later we’re going to change the law in New York state so if the governor vetoes this, we’re going to pass it again,” Ryan said. “The sort of cat is out of the bag on the people’s understanding of the impact of this law on so many aspects of the community, so we’re going to get this change. It’s really going to be a matter of, are we going to get it in January or are we going to have to keep forcing this issue through.”
If the governor doesn’t sign or veto by Jan. 30, something called a pocket veto will still prevent the act from becoming law.