Quick Guide: Attorneys General As Policymakers: The New York Model

State AGs can be powerful players when it comes to state policymaking and are increasingly weighing in on proposed federal policy and rulemakings. In New York, AG James has been deferential to state and local policymakers while often collaborating with other state AGs on issues NY state voters and legislators care about. In Episode 4 of Season 2 of our podcast series, State AG Pulse, hosted by Jerry Kilgore and Meghan Stoppel, we compare and contrast the New York model with the ways AGs engage in policymaking in other states.

(2:34) Katie Schwab, Managing Director in Cozen Public Strategies’ New York Office, introduces herself and talks about various political players in the legislative process.

(4:02) Meghan explains how, as consumer protection and privacy adviser in the Kansas and Nebraska AG offices, she watched  legislation be shepherded through in both states, and asks Katie about the prospects for privacy legislation in New York. Katie responds that AG James has not identified privacy as a high priority, despite the introduction of privacy-related legislation in the Assembly.

(7:32) Jerry asks Katie for a run-down on what AG James’ priorities are. Katie explains the power of the Martin Act, which gives the NY AG wide powers to investigate securities fraud, and outlines AG James’ leadership in the reproductive health arena and the AG’s “brand” as a staunch defender of women’s rights.

(10:13) Meghan questions Katie about the New York AG’s relationship with the large and active NY legislature. Katie expresses her opinion that, whilst AG James is an active enforcer once laws have been passed, she’s less inclined to weigh in at the legislative level than some other AGs.

(13:47) This is in contrast to Meghan’s experience in smaller AG offices, where the AG tends to be called upon to provide counsel on legalities, on constitutionality of legislation, and even provide course correction as part of the lawmaking process.

(15:39): Katie explains that some of New York’s largest issues are related to the state’s very aggressive climate change goals: meeting greenhouse gas emission reductions and clean energy standards. Other really important policy decisions for the Spring 2023 session include data privacy, housing and financial services regulation.

(17:36): Jerry asks about the red state, blue state divide on ESG and climate change issues. Meghan offers her perspective, as a former consumer protection staffer and consumer chief, that the liberal interpretation and aggressive application of state consumer protection statutes by some AGs, on the Republican side at least, has created a lot of uncertainty for businesses.

(20:36): In Katie’s view, AG James hasn’t really  weighed in a lot on ESG but she concurs with Meghan that it’s an issue that’s especially challenging for businesses that do business across the country, due to the fact that what’s acceptable ESG in one jurisdiction may be completely unacceptable in another.

(22:30): Meghan refers to the recently elected Kansas AG Kobach, who spoke publicly about states prioritizing ESG-related legislation, even before he had taken office.

(24:15) The speakers all note the increasing partisanship of AGs, and the extent to which they now push legislation designed to increase their authority and their ability to prosecute.

(25:39) Meghan points to another trend exemplified by the ESG issue: the consolidation of AGs’ authority and their desire to use their voice to try and impact what’s happening at the federal level. As AGs are currently doing with the SEC on the ESG issue, AGs are now getting together more and more frequently to either sue the federal government, submit comments to federal agencies or challenge rulemaking.

(27:30): Katie agrees that what is happening in New York is in line with that trend, with AG James lending her voice on the issues of gun control, reproductive rights and other big, constitutional issues.

To listen to the full podcast, click here. To listen to a particular section, open the recording and use the time stamps provided above to navigate to the desired part.