And it was the first time since the pandemic that the State of the State was presented in person, this year in the Assembly Chamber, to a room packed full of legislators and local leaders.
The State of the State is typically considered the governor’s wish list. It gives Hochul the opportunity to unveil her agenda without having to attach a price tag.
"The bail reform law as written leaves room for improvement," Hochul said to kick off the controversial topic.
The governor is once again proposing changes to the state’s cashless bail laws, asking the legislature to give judges discretion when it comes to setting bail.
Hochul specifically wants to eliminate the "least restrictive" standard for judges making pre-trial determinations on bail-eligible offenses, while still keeping this standard in place for "less serious" crimes.
The plan still lacks many details, but Hochul says she wants to clear up any confusion judges may have with these new laws. Some have blamed judges for releasing defendants that they could have otherwise held until trial, due to the lack of clarity around the state’s cashless bail laws.
"We have to make sure the law is clear for our judges on what their rights are, what their expectations are," Hochul said.
Giving judges discretion has been a top priority for Mayor Eric Adams, who has been reportedly meeting with the governor on this issue. However, progressive Democrats in the Legislature are likely to push back on this proposal as they have in the past.
"As leaders we cannot ignore that," Hochul says about alleged failures of the state’s cashless bail laws. "When we hear so often from New Yorkers that their top concern is crime."
Hochul also wants to commit more than $36 million to a program called "Aid to Prosecution," which would hire hundreds of prosecutors around the state to reduce case backlogs and develop "crime strategy plans."
This money would also go towards hiring new police officers in jurisdictions most affected by gun violence.
Hochul is proposing a $1 billion investment in mental health services, partly in order to tackle the city’s homelessness crisis.
"New Yorkers are anxious on the subways and in our streets when they see individuals who need help, people unable to take care of themselves properly," Hochul said.
Under this plan, the governor would order state-licensed hospitals to reopen more than 800 inpatient psychiatric beds that were closed during the pandemic, while also adding an additional 150 new psychiatric beds.
This is a promise she made last year, but this time Hochul says the state would fine hospitals who don’t comply $2,000 dollars a day.
"We’re going to insist they come back online," Hochul said to a standing ovation. "This is a moral imperative."
This proposal would also create 3,500 supportive housing units and expand mental health services in schools.
This announcement follows Mayor Eric Adams’ own mental health policy which was rolled out in November that would take those struggling with severe mental illness off the streets and into a hospital for evaluation, by force if necessary.
Hochul also offered a housing vision that would build 800,000 new homes over the next 10 years.
This plan, which Hochul is naming the "New York Housing Compact," would require that New York City and its surrounding suburbs increase their housing stock by 3% over the next three years.
However, this plan is already facing criticism since it allows the state to override local zoning regulations to push through certain housing projects if a town is failing to meet its minimum housing goal.
"When proposed housing projects are languishing for no legitimate reason, the state will implement a fast track approval process," Hochul said.
This new plan would specifically target suburbs where housing production has been slow.
According to the governor, Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester and Putnam counties each granted fewer housing permits per capita than virtually all the suburban counties in Massachusetts, Connecticut and other states between 2010 and 2018.
This plan also hinges on replacing the controversial 421-a tax break that expired last year.
Hochul did not offer an alternative, rather saying she wants to work with the Legislature from the ground up on a new proposal.
Another proposal that is being met with mixed reviews – Hochul wants to adjust the state’s minimum wage so it keeps pace with inflation, which means New York City residents would likely see a raise.
The current minimum wage is $14.20 in counties north of Westchester; $15 in New York City and on Long Island and Westchester.
"By putting more money back in their pockets, it helps our economy overall," Hochul said.
The plan would create an "off-ramp" in the event of certain economic decisions and annual increases would be capped.
Hochul also pledges there will be no new income taxes this year.
In her State of the State Speech, Hochul also proposed requiring that public colleges and universities in the SUNY and CUNY systems either offer medication abortion in their college health centers or "directly refer students to a trusted facility for abortion services."
The governor also wants to create a new bill that would allow pharmacists to prescribe hormonal contraception.
Hochul pitched legislation that would allow New York City to lower city-wide speed limits below 25 miles per hour and the city’s school speed limit below 15 miles per hour.
This is similar to an existing piece of legislation, Sammy’s Law, proposed by Senator Brad Hoylman in 2020, which would give the city more authority to set its own speed limits. The bill is named after Samuel Cohen Eckstein, a 12-year-old who was killed by a driver on Prospect Park West in Brooklyn in 2013.
Hochul also wants to move forward on the Interborough Express project (IBX) which would create a new transit connection between Brooklyn and Queens - renovating an existing, underutilized freight rail right-of-way that runs from Sunset Park to Jackson Heights.