Legislative Wrap Up February 22, 2010: Senate Passes Environmental Protection Package, Support For Wine & Grape Industry

February 22, 2010

The New York State Senate passed more than a dozen pieces of legislation today, including an environmental protection package, a bill to support the state’s wine and grape industry, and legislation which protects homeowners by guaranteeing a record of receipt for applicants of the STAR exemption.

The environmental protection and “green” industry development bills provide equal protection for minority and disadvantaged communities in the development and enforcement of environmental policy; advance the practice of “net-metering”; and prohibit the charging of additional fees for the installation of energy efficiency improvements.

Environmental Protection and “Green” Industry Development

S4407/Schneiderman: Mandates a policy of equal treatment for people of all races, cultures, religions, incomes, education levels and sexual preference in the creation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies. It also ensures that the State of New York will provide environmental justice for all of its citizens regardless of their political or economic strength.

Low-income and communities of color are victimized by disproportionate exposure to pollution. “A Climate of Change, ”a 2008 report by the Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative found that 71 percent of African Americans live in counties in violation of federal air pollution standards compared to 58 percent of white; and 78 percent of African Americans live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant, as compared to 56 percent of whites.

Minority community populations are burdened with a disproportionate number of incinerators, dumps, factories and other sources of pollution – a practice known as “environmental racism.” New York City is currently searching for new locations for solid waste transfer operations and this legislation will provide environmental justice to minority and disadvantaged communities by supporting their legal right to a healthy and clean environment.

S3712/Parker: Prohibits gas corporations from charging an additional fee or charge for the installation of capital improvements and fixtures to promote energy efficiency upon the request and consent of the customer.

The purpose of this bill is to encourage energy conservation and demand reduction through "on-bill financing" - the installation of energy efficiency improvements financed by the gas utility company and paid for by the customer over time through a charge on the customer's gas utility bill.

S6700/Maziarz: Eliminates the peak load limitation on the size of non-residential solar and wind electric generating equipment eligible for net metering.

Currently, the intended expansion of net metering to non-residential customers has been hindered by the limit on peak load. This bill would encourage greater deployment of renewable energy generation systems that advance the State's clean energy goals. In addition to helping to achieve renewable energy goals, on-site solar and wind generation will also allow the customer to save on energy costs.

Supporting New York’s Wine and Grape Producers

S5440B/Valesky: Amends the alcoholic beverage control law in order to promote New York State wines by allowing wineries and farm wineries to sell wine for consumption at food festivals, significantly increasing the market for in-state producers.

Additional Senate Action

S3087/Valesky: Provides for the issuance by an assessor of a receipt for the submission of an application for the STAR exemption, upon request of the applicant; requires the applicant to provide a self-addressed, postpaid envelope when the request is made other than in person.

S4921/Thompson: Authorizes the commissioner of general services to release a right of reverter in letters patent conveying certain land located in the city of Buffalo.

S5981/Klein: Grants small city school districts the authority to provide cafeteria or restaurant services to students should such district be subject to a contingency budget.

Many students rely on school lunches to meet a substantial portion of their daily nutritional needs and this legislation will help provide students in small city school districts with proper meals. Without this bill, small city school districts will be prohibited from supporting lunch programs if voters place the district on a contingency budget.

S3292/LaValle: Seeks to improve health care quality and patient safety by permitting pharmacists that practice in certain settings (hospitals, nursing homes and clinics) to engage in a collaborative management of drug therapy pursuant to voluntary agreements with physicians and nurse practitioners.

Every year millions of medication errors occur in American hospitals, affecting thousands of patients and causing unnecessary expenditures of $1.7 billion per year. This legislation will help lower both of these numbers by allowing pharmacists in these settings to work together with nurses and physicians in the process of determining proper medication.

S4893/Nozzolio: Prevents any negative impact on a crime victim’s credit rating – from a lien created under current law – in order to prevent creditors from discriminating against applicants based on this lien.

Under current law, when a crime victim receives an award from the Crime Victim’s Board (CVB) a lien is created and filed in county clerk’s offices statewide. The purpose of this lien is to ensure that any award a victim collects from their attacker goes toward repaying the CVB so that the victim does not collect twice for the same incident. However, only a small number of crime victims are able to bring a successful lawsuit against their attackers and the liens fail to be relinquished. This causes issues when these victims seek loans or try to sell property and banks misidentify the lien. This bill will clearly identify the CVB lien in order to alleviate this unnecessary process.

S4998A/Duane: Clarifies the scope of practice of physician assistants to authorize such physician assistants, while under the supervision of a physician, to perform the medical services that the physician could perform if such physician assistant has the proper training.

The language of current law regarding what a physician assistant may and may not do is not clear as it begins with a broad “notwithstanding” clause, leaving their duties up to different regulatory and judicial interpretations. This bill will clarify that a physician assistant may perform any functions relating to any medical service that is authorized under the physician assistant’s scope of practice.

S1172/Farley: Permits the City of Schenectady to accept a late application for certain real property tax exemptions for the 2008 assessment roll, and, if found eligible, to grant the exemption and refund any excess property taxes paid by the tax-exempt organization.

S5906/Morahan: Authorizes the town of Ramapo to file an application for exemption from real property taxes for a certain parcel of land located in the town of Ramapo on Route 17.

S1447A/LaValle: Authorizes the dispensing of a supply of more than 72 hours of therapeutic contact lenses, and also clarify the authority of eye care professionals to dispense these therapeutic contact lenses.

Due to advances in eye care there are now contact lenses coated by certain pharmaceutical agents that will improve eye care and convenience for those people that wear contact lenses. This legislation will clarify the ability of eye care professionals to offer these products when they become available to the public.

S2420/Young: Ensures that certain information, specifically that which pertains to registration and identification of premises and animals, that is procured by the Department of Agriculture and Markets is to remain confidential.

Currently, this information collected by the Department of Agriculture, which includes the locations of animal production premises and individual animal identification, is publicly available following a FOIL request. The availability of this information could potentially cause biosecurity difficulties on farms, which is why this legislation will change current law to provide confidentiality.