All Eyes Are on Gov. Hochul as New York’s Right to Repair Bill Awaits Signature
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All Eyes Are on Gov. Hochul as New York’s Right to Repair Bill Awaits Signature

Week of October 31

Every week there are too many developments in the world of repair for any mere mortal to keep track of; fortunately, Paul Roberts, the author of the Fight to Repair newsletter, is no mere mortal, at least when it comes to recapping the most important repair news. Each week, he highlights the biggest and most important repair story you need to know about.

The Big News

When the New York legislature overwhelmingly passed the Digital Fair Repair Act in June, it was a milestone: the only electronics repair bill to clear a state legislature after years of grassroots lobbying and more than 100 attempts in 40 states. With a Democratic legislature passing an important piece of progressive legislation by veto-proof, bi-partisan majorities and passing it along to a Democratic governor to sign, the expectation was that the Digital Fair Repair Act was on the fast track to passage. Five months later, however, the bill is still awaiting that signature, and supporters are increasingly worried that the unthinkable—a veto—may be possible.

Right to Repair microsoldering YouTuber Louis Rossmann (at mic) and Asm. Patricia Fahy (right) present together at a press conference in support of the New York Digital Fair Repair Act, which passed the legislature in June but still awaits the Governor’s signature. Photo via Asm. Fahy on Twitter.

Like every other piece of legislation that’s ever been passed, the Digital Fair Repair Act isn’t perfect. Last-minute lobbying by powerful groups representing the agriculture industry, home appliance makers, medical device makers, and more drastically trimmed the scope of the legislation, reporting by the Albany Times Union exposed. But it is a vast improvement over the status quo. By signing it, Governor Hochul would, with her signature, create a powerful new consumer right that would empower small repair businesses in economically challenged communities across New York. It would also help owners of laptops, smartphones, and other personal electronics get access to the information, tools, and parts needed to affordably repair their stuff.

What’s going on? The delay could be due to the pending November midterm elections, with Governor Hochul caught in an increasingly tight race for re-election. Not signing the Digital Fair Repair Act may be a kind of “strategic ambiguity” designed to hold off the wrath (and campaign contributions) of powerful interests opposed to a right to repair. Or something else may be going on. We know, for example, that lobbyists have barraged Gov. Hochul’s office urging her to veto the bill. Flawed and baseless industry arguments about threats to “innovation,” overly broad claims of copyright and intellectual property rights and cybersecurity risks failed to impress New York’s senators and assemblymen and women. Governor Hochul should treat them with the same skepticism. It’s not clear that she does.

Don’t be fooled. Right to repair may be “off the radar” of issues moving voters in the midterms, but the stakes in New York are incredibly high. The right to repair movement saw a string of victories last year, including the passage of a wheelchair right to repair law in Colorado, multiple bills making it past committees and to the floor of state legislatures for consideration, and the introduction of comprehensive federal right to repair legislation in both the House and Senate. The right to repair has momentum.

But a veto by a Democratic governor of legislation that passed with broad, bi-partisan support would send a terrible and chilling message to repair and consumer rights advocates, while filling the hearts of special interests and lobbyists with hope. The message to monied interests: it’s never too late to scuttle a piece of pro-competition, pro-environment, pro-consumer legislation. Money, access, and influence—applied with direction and vigor—can turn a governor against her own party and transform a sure bet law into a question mark or a veto.

Win or lose next week, that’s not a legacy Governor Kathy Hochul wants to own. To put it to rest, Governor Hochul should sign the Digital Fair Repair Act into law …today. 

Other News

  • FUTO launches open source fellowship: FUTO, which recently brought on right to repair activist Louis Rossmann, is launching a grant program for open source software to return power to users, Rossmann announced on YouTube.
  • Farmer urges passage of right to repair: writing for local Wyoming news site, Chad Franke, the Vice President of the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, argues that the inability of farmers to get the repair tools and information they need to fix their equipment erects just one more barrier—along with high costs and thin margins—that is pushing family farmers out of business. 
  • EU delays repair legislation: The EU has delayed its right to repair legislation for at least six months.
  • Antitrust win for DOJ: The Department of Justice has blocked the merger of two major book publishers, Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster.
  • Emissions from e-waste are growing: Emissions from electronic devices and e-waste increased by 53% from 2014 and 2020, including 580 metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2020 alone, according to a new study.
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Framework Laptop

Repair and disassembly information for Framework's modular and upgradable laptop, now featuring 12th gen Intel CPUs, a 13.5" display, and swappable ports. Originally released July 2021.

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