The Nation’s First Right to Repair Law Is Waiting for Kathy Hochul’s Signature

The Digital Fair Repair act would be groundbreaking legislation, provided the governor signs it into law.
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State of Repair is Motherboard's exploration of DIY culture, device repair, ownership, and the forces fighting to lock down access to the things you own.

New York is poised to be the first state in America to adopt right-to-repair legislation, but only if Governor Kathy Hochul signs it into law.

The Digital Fair Repair Act has been working its way through the state senate and assembly for more than a year now. It would force manufacturers to offer documentation, tools, and parts to customers and independent repair stores. The bill passed the New York legislature at the end of June and has been sitting on the Governor’s desk since then. Once it’s signed, it will become law. But the governor hasn’t signed it yet.

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“Governor Hochul is reviewing the legislation,” the Governor’s office told Motherboard today.

The bill is not controversial among people or the legislature. It passed 147 to 2 in the assembly and 59 to 4 in the senate. "Poll after poll shows that Right to Repair is an incredibly popular policy. It's not often that something saves you money, protects the environment and empowers local small businesses— perhaps that's why the Fair Repair Act passed overwhelmingly in the Legislature,” Nathan Proctor, the head of USPIRG's Right to Repair Campaign, told Motherboard. “The only people against it seem to be manufacturers, and unfortunately, they are using their lobbying clout to try to slow down this common-sense reform."

As the bill worked its way through the legislature, lobbyists for Apple, John Deere, and medical devices chipped away at its provisions. Right now the law will still cover electronics like iPhones, but farming equipment and medical devices have been made exempt thanks to successful lobbying efforts.

Hochul has until the end of the year to sign the bill. But she’s facing pressure from lobbying firms and is in a race for reelection. Pro-Trump conservative Lee Zeldin looks like he might just replace Hochul in the governor’s mansion and there’s a tendency for politicians in tight races to not rock the boat in the runup to any election, let alone a close one.

If signed into law, New Yorks’ Digital Fair Repair act would be the first of its kind in the country. The right-to-repair is overwhelmingly popular across the country. People’s electronics break and they find they either have to pay for costly repairs from the manufacturer or buy a new device. President Biden has formally backed the right-to-repair with an executive order and Apple has begun selling manuals and tools that will let people repair their iPhones. 

There’s still a lot of work to do before the right-to-repair is the norm and not the expectation. New York’s Digital Fair Repair Act could be an important step in that process. But first Governor Hochul has to sign it.