Each year during the state legislative session, which runs from January through June, there are two periods of marathon meetings and frenzied activity. One takes place in March, as the lawmakers work to adopt a budget before the April 1 constitutional deadline. The second occurs in mid to late June, when the two chambers of the legislature typically approve hundreds of bills.
The last few days of this year’s session ran 18 to 22 hours long, with weary lawmakers casting votes long after midnight. The final day of session in the Assembly started at 9 on Thursday and lasted until 7:30 Friday morning.
Some measures approved by lawmakers represent sweeping changes to existing law or new major policy initiatives. Others were bills of purely local interest and impact.
Here are some of the highlights of the last days of the 2019 session:
The New York State Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (A08429/S06599) adopts measures to put the state on a path to reduce statewide greenhouse gas emissions by 85 percent by 2050 and net zero emissions in all sectors of the economy. The bill requires the Public Service Commission to establish a renewable energy program designed to achieve a minimum of 70 percent of statewide electric generation be secured by renewable energy systems by 2030 and zero emissions from the statewide electrical demand system in 2040.
Farm Laborers Fair Practices Act (A08419/S06578) grants collective bargaining rights to farm laborers, provides for an eight-hour work day, requires overtime pay after 60 hours in a work week, makes farm workers eligible for unemployment and workers compensation benefits, and requires employers to allow farm laborers at least 24 consecutive hours of rest each week. Bill signed by governor. See separate story.
Driver’s License Access and Privacy Act, also known as Green Light New York (A03675B/S01747-B) provides for the licensure of drivers regardless of immigration status or legal residency in the U.S. Bill signed by governor. See separate story.
Marijuana decriminalization (A08420A/S06579-A): Provide for the decriminalization of certain marijuana offenses and for the expungement and vacatur of the records of such convictions. Possession of up to two ounces of marijuana would be a violation instead of a misdemeanor or felony.
Ban of products containing 1,4-dioxane (A06295A/S04389-B):
Prohibits the sale of household cleansing products, cosmetics and personal care products that contain 1,4-dioxane, a substance identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as “a likely carcinogen to humans.” Use of products containing 1,4-dioxane has resulted in the contaminant being found local water systems.
Elevated levels of 1,4-dioxane have been found in municipalities across the state, with EPA data showing that Long Island has the highest levels detected in the entire country. On Long Island, 33 of 36 public water systems reported 1,4-dioxane contamination.
Peconic Bay Region Community Housing Act (A04941B/S04040)
Authorizes towns in the Peconic Bay region to establish community housing funds to be funded by a supplemental real estate transfer tax. It authorizes the five East End towns to adopt a local law imposing a supplemental real estate transfer tax of one-half of 1 percent for the sole purpose of funding an established community housing fund.
It allows the town to provide financial assistance, in the form of a grant or a loan, of up to 50 percent of the purchase price to a first-time homebuyer who is a resident of the town or who is employed in the town. Maximum income limits apply. A resident of the town is a person who is currently resident within the past five years.
It also allows the town to provide financial assistance for community housing in conjunction with a public/private partnership for employer assisted housing.
It also requires every town that has established a fund to appoint an advisory board to review and make recommendations regarding the town’s community housing plan.
Confinement of companion animals (A07053/S05054)An act to amend the Agriculture and Markets Law, in relation to the confinement of companion animals in unattended motor vehicles under conditions that endanger the health or well-being of an animal. The bill adds emergency medical services personnel and paid and volunteer firefighters to the list of those authorized to release a companion animal confined in a motor vehicle in extreme conditions provided the volunteer firefighter is on duty and responding to a call for assistance for. Current law allows a police officer, peace officer or peace officer acting as an agent of a duly incorporated humane society to release a confined companion animal where the operator of such vehicle cannot be promptly located. These officers are not held criminally or civilly liable for actions taken reasonably and in good faith in carrying out this law.
Repeal of all nonmedical exemptions from vaccinations (A02371A/S02994-A): Relates to exemptions from vaccinations due to religious beliefs; and repeals certain provisions relating to exemption from vaccination due to religious beliefs. Bill signed by governor
Firefighting foam and PFAS chemicals (A00445A/S00439-A)
Bill bans the entire class of of PFAS chemicals from class B firefighting foam used and manufactured in New York.
PFAS chemicals in class B firefighting foam can seep into groundwater and contaminate drinking water sources. Further, PFAS chemicals have been identified in many types of outdoor clothing. It also requires written notification of any PFAS chemicals found in personal protective firefighting equipment (such as jackets, pants, and helmets) at the time of sale.
Insurance coverage for treatment of Lyme disease (A06146/S04571): Bill directs the department of financial services, in consultation with the commissioner of the department of health, to study and report upon the adequacy of insurance coverage for the treatment of Lyme disease and other tick-borne related diseases.
Information for small scale farmers (A06489/S04653):
This bill instructs the Commissioner of the state Department of Agriculture and Markets to provide information regarding federal, state, and private grants and educational opportunities to small scale farmers to enable them to more effectively access markets through out New York.
Standards for therapy dogs (A06601/S04802):
An act to amend the agriculture and markets law, in relation to requiring the commissioner of agriculture and markets to identify and develop standards for therapy dogs
This bill would lead to state guidance on best practices for therapy dogs, for handlers of the dogs, the institutions where the dogs are brought, and the public.
Feasibility study on lowering age for compulsory attendance (A07559A/S05863-A) Directs a study on the feasibility of adjusting the compulsory attendance age of minors (to age 5) attending full time instruction.
Assistance for new farmers (A08007/S05716):
Legislation changes the eligibility requirements for the for the Beginning Farmer’s NY fund, to enable more farmers to participate. Lowers threshold for inclusion of farms with annual income of less than $10,000. Adds a requirement that leased land be considered for grants. This legislation also requires that tiers be established for grants less than $15,000.
Industrial hemp growers (A07680A/S06184-A): Amends the industrial hemp growers permitting process and to regulate hemp extract and product marketing in New York State.
Correction: The amount of the supplemental real estate transfer tax authorized by the Peconic Bay Region Community Housing Act was reported incorrectly in the original story. It is .5 percent, not .25 percent.
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