The New York State Senate today announced that final passage was given this week to several important bills which will be sent to the Governor for review. If signed, the bills would prohibit child marriage, protect animals, increase health care access for children, aid new farmers, and improve and strengthen the FOIL process, among other measures.
Bills given final passage:
Prohibiting child marriage in New York: Bill S4407B, sponsored by Senator Andrew Lanza (R-C-I, Staten Island), would prohibit the marriage of minors under 17 years of age and requires 17-year-olds to get court approval for marriage. From 2000-2010, nearly 4,000 children were married in the state, undermining their health, education, and economic opportunities, and increasing the likelihood of experiencing violence.
Expanding tools available to stop animal fighting: Bill S611, Senator Phil Boyle (R-C-I, Bay Shore), places animal fighting on a list of crimes eligible to seek a warrant to conduct electronic eavesdropping or video surveillance.
Requiring the court to issue reasonable attorneys' fees for prevailing in FOIL proceedings: Bill S2392, sponsored by Senator Patrick M. Gallivan (R-C-I, Elma), establishes that in a FOIL proceeding, the court shall assess against an agency reasonable attorney fees and other litigation costs incurred when a person substantially prevails, unless the court finds otherwise.
Increasing new farmers’ access to land: S4900, sponsored by Senator Patty Ritchie (R-C, Heuvelton), directs the state Department of Agriculture and Markets to enhance access to viable agricultural land for new and beginning farmers. The agency would develop an inventory of state-owned real property that may be viable for farming. This would help younger farmers overcome frequent barriers that prevent them from gaining access to land and contribute to the aging of the farming population, such as the complex process of transferring ownership of farms and prohibitive capital costs.
Expanding telehealth to reach schools and child care providers: Bill S3293, sponsored by Senator Kemp Hannon (R-C-I, Nassau), would allow primary care providers to use telehealth to connect with and provide care to young children while they are in school or at child care providers. Telehealth brings patients and medical services together through online video sessions. Offering this benefit where children spend most of their time would help provide quicker diagnosis and treatment of health and mental health issues for the child, and increase access to medical care in both rural and urban areas.
Increasing access to lifesaving Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs): Bill S5718, sponsored by Senator Hannon, allows entities that want to have an AED available, but are required to have a collaborative agreement with a doctor, the ability to now enter into a collaborative agreement with other health care professionals such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners, while maintaining the existing high standards for safety and use. This would allow more access to life saving AEDs at gyms and other public venues that currently have difficulty finding a doctor to enter into such an agreement.
Raising awareness of Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome, known as PANS: Bill S5750, sponsored by Senator Betty Little (R-C-I, Queensbury), directs the New York State Department of Health to include PANS in its Health Care and Wellness Education and Outreach Program. An advisory council comprising representatives of people with PANS, including family members, and health care providers who specialize in treating the syndrome, would focus on increasing awareness and early detection of the illness through education.
Making information about state work programs more accessible: Bill S3789, sponsored by Senator Elaine Phillips (R-C, Manhasset), would require the New York State Department of Labor (DOL) to publish an annual catalog listing multiple state and federal funding programs and tax credits for workforce development and preparation, adult education, and skills training. New York spends billions of dollars each year on workforce preparation and adult education, but information on the programs is scarce and difficult to read. This bill would require DOL to put the many different programs in one readily available spot.
Creating safer workplaces: Bill S4574, sponsored by Senator Kathy Marchione (R-C-I-Ref, Halfmoon), seeks to help address incidents in state Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) facilities when residents attack staff. The bill creates a new annual report regarding staffing and issues with residents for OCFS facilities to give the Legislature valuable insight into the critical staffing levels of OCFS and would also provide useful data about incidents involving resident misconduct.
Removing application requirements for schools to provide preschool evaluation Services: S1694A, sponsored by Senator Carl L. Marcellino (R, Syosset) , allows school districts to provide preschool evaluation services without wasting staff time in applying for a waiver. School districts regularly provide evaluation of school-age special education students. Similar to any other public or private agency with appropriately licensed or certified professionals, a school district may apply to the Commissioner of Education to be an approved evaluator of preschool special education students. The extra application requirement to the Commissioner is burdensome and unnecessary because school districts currently provide these evaluations for school-age students.
Reducing costs for local law enforcement agencies: Bill S5430, sponsored by Senator Gallivan, allows public safety officials to transfer custody of an inmate to an Office of Mental Health secure facility while such inmate receives mental health treatment. Transferring custody allows public safety officials to use its resources more efficiently.
Extending the ability of municipalities to use grid notes in Environmental Facility Corp’s (EFC) Short-Term Financing Program: Bill S5384, sponsored by Senator Marchione, would continue to save municipalities money on installment loans from the EFC’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund and Clean Water State Revolving Fund. The measure extends to September 30, 2020, from 2017 provisions relating to bonds or notes bonds issued to the EFC in order to obtaining financing from the two funds.
Enacting the Elephant Protection Act: Bill S2098B, sponsored by Senator Terrence Murphy (R-C-I, Yorktown), prohibits the use of elephants in entertainment acts. The measure is meant to safeguard all elephants from the physical and psychological harm potentially inflicted upon them by living conditions, treatment, and cruel methods that are necessary to train elephants to perform.
Recently signed by the Governor:
Accelerating availability of emergency infrastructure funding for recent flood damage: Chapter 30 (S5902), sponsored by Senator Pam Helming (R-C-I, Canandaigua), moved quickly through the Legislature to help provide resources to fix infrastructure damaged by flooding and high water levels in communities along Lake Ontario, the St. Lawrence River, Lake Champlain, and tributaries. The 2017-18 State Budget created the Clean Water Infrastructure Act of 2017 and a new financial assistance program to address water infrastructure emergencies that are imminent hazards to public health, public welfare, the environment. However, the emergency infrastructure funding would not have been available until August 18, 2017 - 120 days after the budget’s passage. This new law addresses the urgent need by removing the 120-day waiting period to provide an option for municipalities to seek immediate financial relief from the state.