NY Dems barring toxic toys as they pass sweeping set of bills meant to protect the environment and public health

Denis Slattery for NY Daily News

April 30, 2019

Originally published in New York Daily News on April 30, 2019.

Toxic toys will soon be barred from store shelves in the Empire State.

Democrats in the state capital approved legislation Tuesday – part of a broad package of environmentally-friendly bills – banning the sale of toys containing hazardous chemicals and forcing companies to be transparent about potentially dangerous materials.

The law prohibits toys, clothing, and furniture made for kids from containing chemicals such as toxic flame retardants and requires the state Department of Environmental Conservation to list banned and dangerous chemicals on their website.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Nassau) and Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D-Suffolk), would weed out chemicals deemed “dangerous."

“The fact that you could buy products with arsenic in it today, with lead, with cadmium, with mercury, shows that we have leaps and bounds to go in our state and we are taking effective action today with the toxic toy bill that for so long has been floundering in Albany,” Kaminsky said.

Similar bills have stalled in past years, thanks in part to resistance from toy makers and a Republican majority in the Senate that opposed the measure.

Dems in the Senate and Assembly showed their unity Tuesday as both chambers celebrated “Legislative Earth Day” by passing the toxic toy ban as well as a host of other bills related to environmental health.

One piece of legislation calls for an amendment to the New York State Constitution which would ensure clean water and air are treated as fundamental rights for New Yorkers, another would establish a council to promote the use of bird-friendly building materials and design features in buildings.

Other bills, if signed by Gov. Cuomo, would increase the tax credit provided for solar energy system equipment, notify parents and consumers about jewelry that may contain lead and create a framework for the commissioner of environmental conservation to consider when preparing a list of high local environmental impact zones. Another bill allows the state to protect species, such as giraffes, that are not currently protected at the state or federal level, but are at risk of extinction due to trade and other factors.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) said the protections are needed to combat regulatory rollbacks undertaken by the Trump administration.

“The legislation we pass today is a critical step in safeguarding our environment, economy and the health of all New Yorkers,” Heastie said. “While Washington continues to roll back protections for the environment and public health, the Assembly Majority will continue fighting to preserve our environment for generations of New Yorkers to come.”

Environmental groups applauded the Dems’ efforts, noting that the passing of such a sweeping set of green bills was nothing more than a pipe dream when Republicans held the majority in the state Senate.

“For far too long, common sense environmental measures that would protect our air, water, and our health, had little chance of becoming law in New York," said Peter Iwanowicz, the executive director of Environmental Advocates of New York. “Now, in just one afternoon, the Legislature is making up for lost time by passing a suite of bills that will protect New Yorkers health and the precious natural resources we all love and enjoy.”

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) reveled in the environmental victory, but cautioned that she has received no assurances from the governor that he will sign off on the set of bills.

“We believe that these are important bills and I think the governor obviously understands how important it is as well," she said. “I think we’re good. We’ll find out.”

A Cuomo representative noted that the governor has supported a host of green initiatives in the past, and said the new measures will be considered.

“Governor Cuomo has advanced the most aggressive environmental agenda in the nation, from banning plastic bags and offshore drilling to putting New York on a path to economy-wide carbon neutrality," spokesman Jason Conwall said. "As for these bills, we will review them.”