21st Century Antitrust Act Expected To Die In Assembly?

On Wednesday, New York senators passed Deputy Senate Majority Leader Mike Gianaris’ 21st Century Antitrust Act in a split 36-25 vote.

The proposed antitrust law would criminalize business practices that establish a monopoly within any New York labor market, and would make it illegal for business owners to abuse market dominance.

The measure also tasks the state attorney general’s office to establish an “abuse of dominance” standard for legal enforcement, and authorizes class-action lawsuits for the state to take action against large commercial businesses working to dominate an industry and undercut competition.

Some critics and commentators have remarked that the measure lacks sufficient support in the State Assembly to make it to the governor’s desk. “On the Assembly side, there needs to be more work to get it done this year,” said Assembly member Harvey Epstein, a Manhattan Democrat who co-sponsors the measure in the lower house. “It’s unfortunate. It’s an important piece of legislation. From what I’ve heard, it doesn’t have the support it needs to get over the finish line this session.”

Assembly sponsor Jeffrey Dinowitz, a Democrat from the Bronx, could not be reached for comment Wednesday after multiple attempts.

The attorney general will issue guidance and regulations about how to interpret the specifics of the state marketplace, and specify conditions that indicate an industrial abuse of dominance. The Legislature will oversee the regulations.

Epstein said his colleagues in the majority have demonstrated “real support” to reform the state’s antitrust laws, but remain skeptical of potential consequences. Lawmakers argued for the bill after pointing out corporate consolidation as a “key driver” of inflation, and noting that corporate “profits are at their highest level in 70 years despite supply chain disruptions and the pandemic.”

“There are general concerns around the bill and potential federal issues,” Epstein said. “[They] just need to understand the bill and get comfortable with it.”

Gianaris defended his antitrust overhaul to Sen. George Borrello, a Republican from Sunset Bay, on the floor Wednesday.

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