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New State Law Requires Special Elections For State Offices

Gov. Andrew Cuomo will now be required by state law to set a special election for vacant legislative seat.

Late last week, Cuomo signed into law legislation that will require the governor to issue a proclamation for a special election within 10 days of the office becoming vacant, though the law does not apply to seats in the U.S. Congress. Additionally, the special election would have to be held within 40 to 50 days after the proclamation is issued. The bill also sets a date of March 31 for the vacancy to have occurred to qualify for a special election. The legislation (A.80028/S.7227) was sponsored by Sen. Latrice Walker, D-Brooklyn, and Sen. Zellnor Myrie, D-Brooklyn.

While the legislation was sponsored by Democrats from New York City, the issue of special elections simmered locally two years ago in the 57th state Senate District in 2019 when former state Sen. Catharine Young, R-Olean, resigned her seat on March 11, 2019, to take a position as director of the New York State Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture at Cornell AgriTech in Geneva. At the time, Young was chairwoman of the Senate Finance Committee, led the Senate Republican Campaign Committee and held leadership positions in the Republican conference. Area officials called on Cuomo to hold a special election as soon as possible so that Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Allegany counties and part of Livingston County were represented in the Senate, but the governor refused to do so. A special election was later held in November 2019.

The governor also signed S.7153/A.7942, which makes it easier for families to locate and collect unclaimed child support payments. The new law establishes a process for unclaimed funds to be turned to the state Comptroller’s Office, where families then can more efficiently locate the payments they are entitled to receive.

The new law eliminates the requirement for LDSS to apply to Family Court, and requires two years of diligent efforts by LDSS to locate the family entitled to the funds. After two years, the funds are seamlessly transferred to the State Comptroller’s Office of Unclaimed Funds, so families can locate and claim this money as expeditiously as possible.

The legislation was sponsored by Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein and Sen. Liz Krueger. Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, voted in favor of the bill.

“Many parents who struggle economically rely on child support payments for basic household needs. Unfortunately, the bureaucratic process to claim these payments has made it impossible for some to access these funds,” Cuomo said. “With this new law, we are simplifying what has always been an unnecessarily difficult administrative process and making it more efficient for families to receive the funds they are owed.”

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