Summary of 2016 Senate Legislative Action

June 21, 2016

2016-2017 NEW YORK STATE BUDGET

            The New York State 2016-17 State Budget reflects the Senate Republican Conference’s commitment to improving the economic opportunities and quality of life for all New Yorkers. The budget plan is the sixth consecutive on-time budget which has stayed within the self-imposed two-percent spending cap. This fiscal discipline has already saved New York taxpayers a cumulative total of approximately $31 billion.

            The budget delivers on priorities outlined by the Senate Republicans, including: increases overall school aid by approximately $1.5 billion and completely eliminates the Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) education funding cuts; provides one of the largest income tax reductions in history for middle class taxpayers; ensures regional balance in infrastructure investments; and builds on the state’s progress in making New York more affordable.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE 2016-2017 BUDGET

MAKING RECORD INVESTMENTS IN SCHOOLS

Providing A Record Level of Education Funding for Schools:

Schools will see a $1.5 billion increase in aid in this year’s budget for a record total education investment of nearly $25 billion. This increase is hundreds of millions of dollars over the original Executive Budget proposal and when combined with the STAR school tax relief program, the state’s total commitment to supporting public education is more than $28 billion this year. The budget highlights include:

  • A $1.06 billion increase in total operating support to include a $626.6 million increase in Foundation Aid over 2015-16 and the elimination of $434 million in GEA cuts;
  • Full funding of $341.4 million in Expense Base Aids;
  • Doubling the grants in aid for Charter schools to $54.8 million; and
  • Restoring $56 million in STAR benefits as a result of rejecting the Executive Budget proposal to cap STAR at 2015-16 levels.

Ending the GEA in 2016:

The Senate succeeded in permanently eliminating the $434 million remaining of GEA cuts for schools this year as part of the final budget. The GEA education budget reductions were first imposed on New Yorkers in 2010 by former Governor David Paterson and the Democrats who controlled the Senate and Assembly. The entire Senate Republican Conference voted against these severe cuts to the bottom lines for public schools and year after year, Senate Republicans have consistently led the effort to phase-out the GEA. 

 

PROVIDING REAL TAX RELIEF

New Middle Class Income Tax Cut:

Millions of middle class New Yorkers will be eligible for a new tax cut that totals $6.6 billion over the first four years and brings middle class income taxes down to the lowest rate since 1948. By 2025 when the tax cut is fully phased in, individuals and tens of thousands of small businesses will see an average savings of $700 per year, for an annual total savings of $4.2 billion.

The budget continues the current middle class tax rate of 6.45 percent from 2016 to 2018. Starting in 2018, additional cuts begin.

Individuals and businesses filing under the personal income tax (PIT) eligible for tax rate reductions of 20 percent (6.85 percent to 5.5 percent) when fully implemented include:

  • Single filers with taxable income between $20,000 and $75,000;
  • Heads of households with taxable income between $30,000 and $100,000; and
  • Married joint filers with taxable income between $40,000 and $150,000.

Individuals and businesses filing under the PIT eligible for tax rate reductions of 12.5 percent (6.85 percent to 6 percent) when fully implemented include:

  • Single filers with taxable income between $75,000 and $200,000;
  • Heads of households with taxable income between $100,000 and $250,000; and
  • Married joint filers with taxable income between $150,000 and $300,000.

Without this tax reduction, taxpayers would have seen their taxes increase on average by $155 a year - for an annual total of $700 million - when the current tax rate expires in 2018.

Property Tax Savings:

This year’s budget continues providing the funds needed to implement $3.3 billion in STAR savings for property taxpayers. This will allow $414 million in property tax rebate and freeze checks that will be issued this year, with the average savings of $350 per eligible household. Basic and Enhanced STAR savings will be $2.7 billion, and New York City PIT-STAR savings will be $618 million.

 

ENSURING FAIRNESS IN TRANSPORTATION FUNDING

Transportation Parity:

The budget included a major Senate priority of ensuring transportation funding that was distributed fairly, and is regionally-balanced. It includes a record $27.1 billion transportation capital plan to achieve true parity in infrastructure funding between upstate and downstate.

Improving the State’s Roads and Bridges:

The state’s Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) will receive $438 million this year to help local governments move forward with important local highway, road, and bridge repair projects. In addition, the Pave NY/Bridge NY program will receive $800 million over the next four years for local roads and bridges. This includes $400 million ($100 million per year) for local projects distributed based on the CHIPS formula and $400 million for local bridge projects that will incorporate local solicitation.

MTA Funding:

The enacted budget provides the Metropolitan Transportation Authority with the operating and capital resources to better meet the growing needs of subway and bus riders as well as Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North commuters. For fiscal year 2017, the budget provides the MTA with nearly $4.5 billion in operating assistance. The budget also includes a state commitment to provide $8.3 billion to the MTA’s $26.6 billion 2015-2019 Capital Program, which was approved by the MTA Capital Program Review Board earlier this year.  

Other Transportation Investments:

This year’s budget includes $1 billion over five years for other transportation modes, including $397 million for upstate and non-MTA downstate transit systems, $352 million for rail freight, and $282 million for aviation.

 

MAKING COLLEGE MORE AFFORDABLE

Supporting Tuition Aid and Public Colleges:

The budget provides more than $1 billion for the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and freezes SUNY and CUNY tuition this year. The new budget also boosts funding for SUNY and CUNY community colleges with an additional $20 million, increasing the full-time equivalent (FTE) funding for the state’s community colleges by $100 and making the base aid $2,697 per FTE for 2016-17.

 

HELPING MEET THE HEALTH NEEDS OF NEW YORK’S FAMILIES

Paid Family Leave:

The budget initiates a new Paid Family Leave program to allow working New Yorkers to spend time with a sick family member or bond with a new child. The program will be phased-in over the next four years, and will include employees who have been in their current job for at least six months to provide protections and necessary financial resources so that family support can be available.

Funding for Health Care Capital:

Community-based health care providers, hospitals, nursing homes, home care, and other facilities statewide will be eligible to receive $200 million in new funds from this budget to support critical capital and infrastructure improvements, as well as to integrate and further develop health systems.  

Heroin Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery:

The final budget includes $189 million in funding to help address the challenging public health crisis caused by heroin and opioid abuse in communities throughout the state. An increase of $25 million above the Executive Budget proposal was strongly supported by the members of the Senate’s Joint Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction to help strengthen abuse prevention, treatment, recovery, and education services.

Fighting Lyme Disease:

The Senate’s Task Force on Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases, established to help combat these growing health concerns, worked to approve $600,000 in this year’s budget for research, education, and prevention efforts.

Family Health Initiatives:

The final budget restores millions of dollars in funding cut in the Executive Budget proposal for women’s and family health initiatives, among other programs. It includes $25.3 million for Cancer Services Programs; $26.3 million for Nutritional Information for Women, Infants, and Children; $9.7 million for chronic disease prevention (including diabetes, asthma, and hypertension); $5.5 million for Rape Crisis Centers; $2.3 million for the Prenatal Care Program; $9.65 million – a $1 million increase – for the Doctors Across New York Program and restores $25 million in Excess Medical Malpractice Coverage to recruit and attract physicians to underserved communities; and $1 million to support organ donation, among other programs.

Support for Seniors:

The budget will fully fund the state’s Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC) program at $131.5 million to help seniors with their prescription drug costs. The budget also includes $700,000 to support elder abuse prevention initiatives. Other highlights include $28.9 million for Community Services for the Elderly Program; $26.6 million for Alzheimer’s programs; $172,000 for the New York Foundation for Seniors Home Sharing and Respite; and $63,000 for the Senior Action Council Hotline.

             

PROTECTING THE ENVIRONMENT

Record Level of Funding for the EPF:

The budget includes record funding of $300 million for the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) to protect natural resources and ensure clean water and clean air. This is a 70 percent increase of $123 million over 2015-16 funding.

Additional Water Quality Infrastructure Improvements:

The Senate successfully advocated for more funding to support critical water and environmental infrastructure improvements in the final budget. It provides an additional $200 million over the next two years to build upon the investments included in last year’s Water Quality Improvement Act. Municipalities will now be eligible to receive a total of $350 million in grants in 2016-17 and 2017-18 to repair and replace existing wastewater and drinking water infrastructure.

 

GROWING NEW YORK’S FARMS

Restoring Funding Cuts:

The Senate succeeded in restoring more than $9 million for 30 important agriculture programs that were cut in the Executive Budget proposal. These measures are necessary to support the growth of New York’s agriculture industry and helping family farms succeed.

Veteran-Owned Farm Program:

The budget includes $115,000 in new funding for an innovative proposal by Cornell’s Small Farms Program to help establish up to five veteran-owned small farms through a first-in-the-nation pilot program. Returning veterans and those seeking a career change could be encouraged to try agriculture, utilizing benefits they’ve earned under the GI Bill to gain training and expertise to begin their own successful small business. In turn, these sites would be available to train additional veteran-farmers in future years.

 

SUPPORTING OUR VETERANS

The budget continues the Senate’s support for the heroic service men and women who have sacrificed for our nation by including funding for: $2.8 million for the Joseph P. Dwyer Veteran Peer-to-Peer Program; $500,000 for the NYS Defenders Association Veteran’s Defense Program; $500,000 for the Veterans Outreach Center in Monroe County; $450,000 for the Veteran’s Mental Health Training Initiative; $200,000 for Legal Services of the Hudson Valley Veterans and Military Families Advocacy Project; and $200,000 for Warrior Salute, among other initiatives.

In addition to the new Veteran-Owned Farm Initiative (above) to create jobs, the budget also extended the Hire-A-Vet tax credit for two years, through 2018. The credit is provided to any business that hires a veteran returning home from military service on a full-time basis for at least one year. The credit is equal to 10 percent of wages paid, with a maximum of $5,000 per veteran - increasing to 15 percent of wages if the veteran is also disabled, with a maximum of $15,000 per disabled veteran.

 

TAX AND MANDATE RELIEF

 

2016-17 State Budget Tax and Mandate Relief Highlights:

 

New Middle Class Income Tax Cut:

Millions of middle class New Yorkers will be eligible for a new tax cut that totals $6.6 billion over the first four years and brings middle class income taxes down to the lowest rate since 1948. By 2025 when the tax cut is fully phased in, individuals and tens of thousands of small businesses will see an average savings of $700 per year, for an annual total savings of $4.2 billion.

 

Without this tax reduction, taxpayers would have seen their taxes increase on average by $155 a year - for an annual total of $700 million - when the current tax rate expires in 2018.

 

Tax and mandate relief legislation includes:

 

TAX RELIEF

 

New York State’s Property Tax Cap

The property tax cap was enacted in 2011 due to Senate Republican efforts to reduce New Yorkers’ tax burden. The cap limits the annual growth of property taxes levied by local governments and school districts to two percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less.

Since 2012, the vast majority of all school districts and municipalities have kept tax levy  increases at or below the cap, leading to significant property tax savings for residents and businesses. Taxpayers have saved $15.3 billion - $12.3 billion in school tax savings and more than $3 billion in local government tax savings.

Last year, the Senate successfully sought and the Legislature enacted an extension to the tax cap for another five years. The Senate’s 2016-17 budget resolution and a bill passed this year took it one step further by proposing to make it permanent to bring further certainty to taxpayers and businesses. S5597, Senator John Flanagan

 

Taxpayers throughout New York have been able to see the benefits of the property tax cap – except in New York City where a cap is not in place.

 

Property Tax Cap for New York City

The Senate passed a measure to give needed tax relief to residents and businesses in New York City by capping the growth of property taxes at two percent or the Consumer Price Index (CPI), whichever is less. This is consistent with the property tax cap in all other regions of the state, that was enacted in 2011 due to Senate Republican efforts to reduce New Yorkers’ tax burden.

 

A cap would limit future tax increases to provide real savings to taxpayers that would create jobs by lowering the cost of doing business, encourage affordable and supportive housing construction, and give more financial security to small businesses and residents on fixed incomes.

 

Without a cap, by 2019 New York City’s residential taxpayers face a total of $1 billion more in taxes than what they currently pay – which equates to an average property tax increase of $1,000 per year – and businesses are facing a total of $3.5 billion more. S3709B, sponsored by Senator Andrew Lanza

 

Property Tax Relief for Seniors

The Senate passed legislation to increase the maximum income eligibility levels for real property tax exemptions to allow more senior citizens to receive increased relief from their local real property taxes. Under current law, local governments have the option to provide a partial real property tax exemption to senior citizens who are at least 65 years of age, based upon their income.

 

This measure would give local governments the option to gradually increase the income requirements for the senior citizens receiving the tax exemption. This partial exemption can range from five percent of the property’s assessed value to 45 percent of the property’s assessed value and uses a sliding scale based on the property owner’s income to determine the exemption amount. S1074A, sponsored by Senator Martin J. Golden

           

Tax Relief Measures for Farmers

The Senate passed two bills that would cut taxes for farmers – bringing them millions of dollars in tax relief. The bills would continue to help preserve the future of family farming in New York and boost the agriculture economy.  

 

  • Estate Tax Reform – Speeds up the full phase-in of the estate tax reform enacted in 2014 as part of the Senate’s Young Farmers initiative to allow farmers to claim the federal exclusion amount. This bill accelerates and increases the savings to farmers, making it easier to keep farms in the family and transition farm businesses to the next generation. S6706, sponsored by Senator Patty Ritchie; and  
  • Farmer Personal Income Tax (PIT) Exemption – Reduces taxes on family farmers with incomes up to $350,000 a year by raising the PIT exemption for small and mid-sized family farms. The exemption would increase from the current 5 percent to 20 percent, and be expanded to increase the income eligibility threshold from $250,000 to $350,000,  making even more farmers eligible. S6707, sponsored by Senator Patty Ritchie

 

Tax Relief for Small Businesses and Farmers

The Senate passed a measure to reduce the tax burden facing small businesses and farmers so that they can have more resources to invest, grow, and create jobs. The bill significantly expands income tax exemptions to reduce small business costs by expanding upon the current Personal Income Tax (PIT) exemptions from 5 percent to 15 percent for small businesses, and from 5 percent to 20 percent for farm income beginning on or after January 1, 2017.

 

To currently qualify for the PIT exemptions, the business must be a sole proprietor or farm (regardless of how the business is structured, sole proprietor, LLC, etc.) and have less than $250,000 in net business income and employ at least one employee. The current exemption is equal to 5 percent of net income in 2016 and beyond.

 

The legislation also eliminates the employee qualification; raises the income eligibility threshold from $250,000 to $500,000; and expands small business eligibility to include any business that files under PIT (regardless of how the business is structured, sole proprietor, LLC, etc.)

 

The bill also reduces the Corporate Franchise Tax business income rate for small businesses from 6.5 percent to 2.5 percent. It would increase the threshold for corporations to be considered small businesses from $290,000 to $400,000, and allows businesses with incomes between $400,000 and $500,000 to have a blended rate between 6.5 percent and 2.5 percent. S7235, sponsored by Senator Tom O’Mara

 

Increasing the Farm Workforce Retention Credit

The Senate passed legislation that allows eligible farm employers to claim a refundable tax credit for each farm employee that is employed for 500 or more hours each year.

  • S7236, sponsored by Senator Patricia Ritchie, would double the credit included in the 2016-17 state budget for farms statewide. The increase would be phased in to include: $500 per eligible farm employee in 2017; $600 in 2018; $800 in 2019; $1,000 in 2020; and $1,200 in 2021; and
  • S7158A, sponsored by Senator Kenneth LaValle, would significantly increase the credit for farms located within Nassau and Suffolk counties. This increase would be phased in to include: $600 per eligible farm employee in 2017; $900 in 2018; $1,200 in 2019; $1,500 in 2020; and $1,500 in 2021. 

               

Repealing MTA Taxes for Hospitals, Colleges, and Local Governments

When Democrats were in control of the Senate in 2009, they created a new payroll tax for residents and businesses – including hospitals – in the MTA region which includes Bronx, New York, Kings, Queens, Richmond, Rockland, Nassau, Suffolk, Orange, Putnam, Dutchess, and Westchester counties.

 

After Republicans regained control of the Senate in 2011, they eliminated the MTA payroll tax for 80 percent of businesses (290,000 employers with payrolls of less than $1.25 million and 415,000 self-employed taxpayers) and for all public and non-public schools and libraries.

 

This session the Senate passed three measures to eliminate the MTA payroll tax for hospitals, colleges, and local governments:

  • S3316A, sponsored by Senator Andrew Lanza, would eliminate the MTA payroll tax for hospitals so they can invest that significant savings in improving health care in the greater New York City metropolitan area. The bill would save hospitals approximately $60 million and would help generate savings which could then be put back into the region’s health care system;
  • S4617A, sponsored by Senator Andrew Lanza, would exempt institutions of higher education from MTA payroll tax; and 
  • S213A, sponsored by Senator Jack Martins, would exempt local governments outside of New York City located within the MTA district from paying the MTA payroll tax.

 

Increase Tax Savings for Retirees

The Senate passed a bill to double the exempt amount of private pensions and retirement income, increasing it for the first time since 1981 and saving approximately $275 million annually. For 35 years, seniors have been able to claim the first $20,000 of pension or retirement income as exempt income. This bill increases that exempt amount to $25,000 for the 2017 taxable year, to $30,000 for the 2018 taxable year, to $35,000 for the 2019 taxable year, and to $40,000 in the 2020 and subsequent taxable years. This would provide tax relief to more than 377,000 seniors,  would save taxpayers hundreds of dollars, and encourages retirees to remain in New York State during their retirement years. S2903C, sponsored by Senator Hugh T. Farley

 

Promoting Private Stewardship Efforts

The Senate passed legislation that would establish a forestry stewardship and habitat conservation credit for personal income and business franchise taxes. This bill diminishes the growing property tax burdens and shifting of the assessment burden onto private forest to help forest landowners contribute to the public interest through positive stewardship of their lands. S602, sponsored by Senator Betty Little

 

Extending the Enhanced STAR Exemption

The Senate passed legislation to allow for the continuation of the STAR exemption for individuals upon the loss of a spouse who previously qualified for the program provided that the surviving spouse is at least sixty-two years of age or is physically disabled.  Surviving spouses who meet the specifications outlined above will be entitled to receive the benefits of the STAR exemption, as their financial burdens will remain after the loss of their significant other. S1913, sponsored by Senator Betty Little

 

MANDATE RELIEF

 

Equal Treatment for All Counties in Indigent Legal Defense Funding

The Senate passed a measure to make sure all counties have the resources they need to fulfill their constitutional obligation to provide  legal representation to those persons accused of crimes and who do not have the ability to pay for a lawyer. The bill helps significantly reduce local government costs by establishing a direct state funding stream to counties – which are responsible for providing indigent defense services so that they will have the resources to ensure manageable caseloads, oversee the quality of legal representation, and ensure there are an appropriate number public defenders. S8114, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator John DeFrancisco

 

Lessening County Burdens Relating to District Attorney Salaries

The Senate passed a bill that mandates the state to pay 100 percent of the increase in the costs of local county district attorneys’ salaries. Local district attorneys’ full-time salaries were recently increased by the New York State Commission on Legislative, Judicial, and Executive Compensation’s recent actions on judicial pay. As a result of not providing for additional aid in the Executive Budget proposal, or the final budget, counties must cover this additional cost for full-time district attorneys, which is an approximate 15 percent increase, or about $30,000 per county. S7408, sponsored by Senator Catharine Young

Controlling Unfunded State Mandates on Schools and Local Governments

The Senate passed two measures to prevent costly unfunded mandates from burdening municipal and school budgets and their taxpayers. The bills help curtail potential property tax increases or cuts to existing services by lessening the affect of state actions on local governments’ bottom lines.

 

One bill prevents future unfunded mandates from driving up property taxes by requiring the state to assume the costs of new mandates while the other bill prevents any unfunded mandate from being enacted. This would make it easier for local governments to stay within the property tax cap and provide further relief to local taxpayers. S3144A, sponsored by Senator Rich Funke; S2295 Senator Joseph Griffo

 

 

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AND JOB CREATION

2016-17 State Budget Economic Development and Job Creation Highlights:

 

New Middle Class Income Tax Cut:

Millions of middle class New Yorkers will be eligible for a new tax cut that totals $6.6 billion over the first four years and brings middle class income taxes down to the lowest rate since 1948. By 2025 when the tax cut is fully phased in, individuals and tens of thousands of small businesses will see an average savings of $700 per year, for an annual total savings of $4.2 billion.

 

Without this tax reduction, taxpayers would have seen their taxes increase on average by $155 a year - for an annual total of $700 million - when the current tax rate expires in 2018.

 

Job Training and Workforce Development:

The Senate Republican Conference wants to ensure all New Yorkers have the opportunity to pursue a good job and a rewarding career. This year’s state budget included several smart investments in job training and workforce development initiatives that will help New Yorkers enhance their job skills, including:

  • $5 million for the Next Generation Job Linkage Program, which works with employers to help identify potential jobs, define the skills necessary for those jobs, and provide the appropriate training to employees;
  • $5 million for the SUNY/CUNY Apprentice Initiative, which provides targeted training to help employers refine the skills of their new hires, and enables more experienced employees to upgrade their skills;
  • $7.9 million for the Workforce Development Institute (WDI), a highly successful not-for-profit that works with businesses and the AFL-CIO to provide focused training for workers and workforce transition support to help prevent jobs from being outsourced to other states; and
  • $20 million in Additional Funding for Community Colleges, which play a key role in helping young people gain the skills and education that will increase their employment opportunities.

 

Economic development and job creation initiatives and legislation include:

 

SENATE WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT TASK FORCE

The Senate Task Force on Workforce Development was established in March 2015 and was charged with reviewing the state’s existing programs designed to train both job seekers and existing employees for current and prospective employment opportunities. Five forums – in New York City, Albany, Rochester, Newburgh, and Long Island – were held to receive input from leaders in business, labor, public education, higher education, local governments, and workforce training and development.

 

The Task Force released a report summarizing the findings and recommendations based on forums held across the state to improve the connections between job seekers and employers looking to hire new workers. Task Force Co-Chairs Senator Jack Martins and Senator George Amedore included a series of legislative, budgetary, and policy recommendations that open the door to new job opportunities, financial security, and career success for more New Yorkers.

 

The Task Force members include: Senator Phil Boyle, Senator Rich Funke, Senator Joseph Griffo, Senator William Larkin, Senator Kenneth LaValle, Senator Carl Marcellino, Senator Kathleen Marchione, Senator Tom O’Mara, Senator Patricia Ritchie, Senator Susan Serino, Senator James L. Seward, Senator Michael Venditto, and Senator Catharine Young.

 

The Task Force identified ways to help improve employee readiness; better meet the workforce needs of private sector employers; connect job seekers with potential employers; retrain those who have lost jobs; and help make New York State’s overall economy more robust, dynamic, and resilient.

 

WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT LEGISLATIVE PACKAGE:

The Senate passed numerous pieces of legislation that will strengthen the state’s economy by training job seekers and existing employees for the employment opportunities that are in demand, and includes:

 

  • S7967, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Jack Martins, expands the type of data collected by the Department of Labor to include forward-facing job statistics that can be used by employers and educators to accurately predict future needs and properly prepare the workforce for career opportunities. Often, the best way to fill jobs requires raising awareness about opportunities at the high school and community college levels, allowing students the chance to identify and qualify for such job opportunities. This bill aims to put the requisite information and data in the hands of students and administrators so that students can be best informed about the skills and experiences necessary to obtain employment as they consider their future educational and/or career path beyond high school and community college.
  • S7921, sponsored by Senator Carl L. Marcellino, would invest $35 million to expand New York State’s Pathways in Technology Schools (P-TECHs) and Early College High Schools to meet student demand and enhance educational performance. These unique programs prepare students for college-level coursework that promotes future academic performance and enables students to get their high school diplomas while also earning free associate degrees for high-skilled jobs or taking other college-credit bearing courses. Currently, P-TECHs and Early College High Schools are not codified in state law, but this bill would make them permanent and provide a reliable funding stream that eliminates uncertainty and gives reliability to participating students.
  • S7920, sponsored by Senator Patty Ritchie, helps increase access to career and tech programs at BOCES. The bill would require the state Department of Education to work with districts to remove some of the stigma associated with taking classes through BOCES; have districts encourage students to take advantage of the Career and Technical Education (CTE) services that BOCES offers; and increase the current salary cap for BOCES instructors from $30,000 to $50,000 to attract and retain qualified and skilled teachers.
  • S7915, sponsored by Senator Jack Martins, improves participation in apprenticeships by promoting coordination between high school guidance counselors and local building trades councils. The bill requires the state Education Department, in consultation with the Department of Labor, to develop guidelines for guidance counselors to help make students aware of the full complement of options available to them after high school, including apprenticeship programs that allow students to earn a paycheck while undergoing classroom learning under the supervision of a professional tradesman.
  • S7646, sponsored by Senator Kenneth LaValle, creates the Help Individuals Reach Employment (HIRE) program to help students who have graduated from a SUNY or CUNY institution but cannot find full-time employment. To enhance their employment marketability, a qualified applicant who graduates, but then cannot find full-time employment, could apply for a certificate program tailored to job market needs, free of charge, either on campus or online.
  • S7968A, sponsored by Senator Jack Martins, enhances degree or certificate programs at community colleges in order to increase successful job placements for students. Regional Community College Councils would consult with and make recommendations to community college boards of trustees on ways to create new degree or certificate programs, or restructure current programs to improve the connections between the skills being taught and the needs of industry.

 

Increase Access to Continuing Adult Education Programs at BOCES

The Workforce Development Task Force included a budgetary recommendation in their report that includes increasing access to continuing adult education programs at BOCES. Training students through career and technical education is an important step towards ensuring New York has the infrastructure in place to have a workforce that can meet the growing demands of the State’s economy and fill empty jobs in new, specialized fields. The Task Force recommends increasing funding for continuing adult education at BOCES to expand current programming and access.  

 

Other important economic development and job creation legislation:

 

Improving the Usefulness of Employment Data

The Senate approved a measure that would expand the type of data collected by the Department of Labor to include forward-facing job statistics that can be used by employers and educators to accurately predict future needs and properly prepare the workforce for career opportunities. Often, the best way to fill jobs requires raising awareness about opportunities at the high school and community college levels, allowing students the chance to identify and qualify for such job opportunities. This bill aims to put the requisite information and data in the hands of students and administrators so that students can be best informed about the skills and experiences necessary to obtain employment as they consider their future educational and/or career path beyond high school and community college. S7967, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Jack Martins

Recruiting Women for Civil Service Positions

The Senate passed a bill to recruit more women to civil service positions and help women obtain higher paying jobs and careers. The bill requires the state to provide information to both men and women regarding high-paying civil service jobs and careers, including jobs traditionally dominated by men. The Department of Labor would be required to report to the legislature on the success of this and other initiatives aimed at assisting women job seekers. S7291, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Joseph Robach

 

Preventing “Zombie” Homes

Abandoned and foreclosed properties are creating numerous issues for municipalities throughout the state. These “zombie homes” often become community eyesores, decrease values of surrounding properties, and turn into attractive nuisances. The Senate passed legislation that was part of an agreement with the Governor and Assembly to fight the impact of vacant and abandoned properties, and helps prevent people from losing their homes to foreclosure in the first place.

The measure will help rehabilitate, repair and improve these properties by: imposing a pre-foreclosure duty on banks and servicers to maintain vacant and abandoned properties; improving the efficiency and integrity of the mandatory settlement conferences to better protect homeowners facing foreclosure; creating a toll-free hotline for people to report potentially vacant and abandoned properties; establishing an electronic database of vacant and abandoned properties to be maintained by the State Department of Financial Services; creating an expedited foreclosure process for vacant and abandoned properties; and establishing a Consumer Bill of Rights informing property owners of their rights in foreclosure proceedings to prevent people from losing their homes. S8159, Passed Both Houses, Senator John Flanagan

 

Legalizing Mixed Martial Arts

The Senate passed a measure incorporating mixed martial arts (MMA) as an authorized combative sport. The enactment of this legislation into law removes a statewide ban on MMA that has been in place since 1997. The law specifically provides the New York State Athletic Commission with the authority to oversee and regulate MMA competitions in New York State and further requires health and safety protections for MMA participants. S5949A, Chapter 32, sponsored by Senator Joseph Griffo  

 

Reforming Outdated Alcoholic Beverage Control Laws

The Senate passed legislation that will reduce red tape, help meet consumer demand, and eliminate regulations for restaurants, bars, and other small businesses in New York’s service and beverage industries. The bill comprises an agreement with the Governor and the Assembly to modernize the state’s alcoholic beverage control laws to allow alcohol to be sold earlier on Sundays and reduce the regulatory burden for the state’s wineries, breweries, distilleries, and cideries to support their success.

 

New York’s outdated “blue laws” - which regulate the alcoholic beverage industry - will be modernized to help small businesses through the following provisions:

 

Allows Restaurants and Bars to Serve Alcohol Earlier on Sunday: Licensed restaurants and bars statewide will be allowed to serve alcohol starting at 10 a.m. on Sundays (current law is noon). In addition, restaurants and bars outside of New York City can obtain a special one-day permit from the State Liquor Authority (SLA) to serve alcohol from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., limited to 12 special temporary permits per year;

 

Reforms Process for Filling the Vacancy of SLA Chair: In the case of a vacancy of the Chair of the SLA, the Governor will be authorized to appoint one of the two remaining commissioners as Acting Chair. The Acting Chair can serve for a period of six months and an additional 90 days if the Governor nominates a replacement. Without an Acting Chair, several aspects of the SLA Board duties are unable to be conducted and that could result in delayed licensing or other impacts to businesses;

 

Reduces Burdens on Craft Manufacturers: Craft manufacturers are authorized to obtain multiple craft licenses on one application;

 

Cuts Fees for Importers Licenses: Importers who sell exclusively to wholesalers are authorized to receive a license at a reduced fee of $125;

 

Allows Wine to be Sold in Growlers: Wineries and farm wineries are authorized to sell or deliver wine to a consumer in a temporarily sealed container, such as a growler. The containers can be no more than four liters and they must be temporarily sealed for purposes of transporting the wine from the winery or farm winery. Customers that do not finish a bottle of wine at a winery or farm winery will be permitted to take the bottle home, similar to what is currently permitted for restaurants and bars;

 

Allows Sales of Gift Bags: Package stores will be allowed to sell gift bags and wrapping paper. This provision has a sunset of three years;

 

Removes Certain Restrictions on Transporting Alcoholic Products: Alcohol for on-premises consumption will be allowed to be transported across areas authorized only for off-premises sales for the sole purpose of restocking the “on-premises” area (e.g. a supermarket that is attached to and in between a wine bar and a stockroom); and

 

Reduces Burdens on Solicitors: Solicitors are salespeople required to purchase an individual permit and to obtain a surety bond. This bill eliminates the surety bond for all solicitors and eliminates the permit fee for small craft beverage manufacturers. S8140, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Andrew Lanza

 

Improving Affordable Home Options

The Senate approved a measure that would establish a mobile and manufactured home replacement program.  The objective is to improve affordable home options by funding the replacement of older, dilapidated mobile and manufactured homes sited on land owned by the homeowner with new affordable and energy efficient manufactured, modular or site built homes. S6954A, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Betty Little

 

Small Business Savings Account

To help businesses create or retain jobs during times of hardship, the Senate passed legislation that would allow small businesses with up to 50 employees to create a tax deferred savings account. Small businesses would be able to deposit funds into the account tax free, which could only be withdrawn specifically for the purpose of creating or retaining full-time jobs during an economic downturn or to recover from a natural disaster, such as a hurricane. S4376A, sponsored by Senator Jack Martins

Establishing a New York Main Street Development Center

The Senate passed a measure to create a state-sponsored Main Street Development Center within the Division of Housing and Community Renewal that would be well-positioned to provide resources and technical assistance to local government entities and investors to coordinate development efforts to revitalize local main streets and downtown areas. S2279, sponsored by Senator Catharine Young

 

Encouraging Savings for First-Time Home Ownership

The Senate approved “NY First Home,” a program designed to assist New Yorkers become first-time homeowners.  It would create a new tax-free savings account to help cover costs associated with the purchase of a first home.  Modeled after New York’s 529 College Savings Program, individual New Yorkers utilizing a NY First Home account would be able to deposit up to $5,000 ($10,000 for couples) of after-tax dollars annually, receive a deduction on their state income taxes for the principal saved and apply the savings and any interest earned towards the purchase or construction of a first home. S7903, sponsored by Senator Betty Little

 

Promoting Innovative and Effective State Technology

The Senate approved legislation that would authorize a new “iCenter” within the state Office of Information Technology Services to pilot and test new and emerging technology products that would potentially benefit state operations and reduce government costs. The approved legislation would save the state money by allowing government agencies to analyze and assess new technologies, resulting in better-informed decisions about how to invest their technology dollars. S3095, Senator Rich Funke

 

 

AGING

 

2016-17 State Budget Aging Highlights:

 

The budget fully funds the state’s Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC) program at $131.5 million to help seniors with their prescription drug costs.

 

The budget also increases support for a wide array of programs and initiatives that serve seniors, including funding for the following:

  • $30.4 million for Community Services for the Elderly Program;
  • $26.6 million for Alzheimer’s programs;
  • $172,000 for the New York Foundation for Senior Homes Sharing and Respite; and
  • $63,000 for the Senior Action Council Hotline.

 

The budget builds upon New York’s longstanding commitment to protecting vulnerable senior citizens by providing $700,000 to support elder abuse prevention initiatives.

 

Aging legislation includes:

 

Property Tax Relief for Seniors

The Senate passed legislation to increase the maximum income eligibility levels for real property tax exemptions to allow more senior citizens to receive increased relief from their local real property taxes. Under current law, local governments have the option to provide a partial real property tax exemption to senior citizens who are at least 65 years of age, based upon their income.

 

This measure would give local governments the option to gradually increase the income requirements for the senior citizens receiving the tax exemption. This partial exemption can range from five percent of the property's assessed value to 45 percent of the property's assessed value and uses a sliding scale based on the property owner's income to determine the exemption amount. S1074A, sponsored by Senator Martin J. Golden

 

Preventing Seniors from Physical Abuse and Financial Exploitation

The Senate passed legislation to build upon the state’s efforts to prevent elder abuse and maltreatment. The bill would expand a successful pilot program statewide to enable multidisciplinary teams to investigate reports of suspected elder abuse and maltreatment. The program would allow Social Services districts to develop multidisciplinary investigative teams, which would include representatives from Adult Protective Services; law enforcement; the District Attorney’s office; banks and financial institutions; as well as forensic accountants; physicians or other medical providers; mental health professionals; and victim advocacy personnel to investigate reports of suspected elder abuse or maltreatment. S6922, sponsored by Senator Susan Serino

 

Creating a Comprehensive System to Report Elder Abuse

Elder abuse and maltreatment have become a pervasive and devastating reality for many of our state’s senior citizens. The Senate passed a measure to create a state-wide central registry, within the Office of Children and Family Services, for the reporting of elder abuse and maltreatment. The bill would also establish an Elder Justice Coordinating Council to conduct community forums to gather information to identify, investigate, and intervene in cases of elder abuse and maltreatment. S8033, sponsored by Senator Susan Serino

 

Home Repair Help for Seniors

The Senate approved a measure to create the Residential Emergency Services to Offer Home Repairs to the Elderly Program (RESTORE), which provides financial resources to assist income qualified senior homeowners (age 60 and over) with the cost of emergency home repairs.  Eligible senior homeowners could apply through local RESTORE programs for emergency home repair services of up to $10,000. S7828A, sponsored by Senator Betty Little

 

Increase Tax Savings for Retirees

The Senate passed a bill to double the exempt amount of private pensions and retirement income, increasing it for the first time since 1981 and saving approximately $275 million annually. For 35 years, seniors have been able to claim the first $20,000 of pension or retirement income as exempt income. This bill increases that exempt amount to $25,000 for the 2017 taxable year, to $30,000 for the 2018 taxable year, to $35,000 for the 2019 taxable year, and to $40,000 in the 2020 and subsequent taxable years. This would provide tax relief to more than 377,000 seniors,  would save taxpayers hundreds of dollars, and encourages retirees to remain in New York State during their retirement years. S2903C, sponsored by Senator Hugh T. Farley

 

 

AGRICULTURE

 

2016-17 State Budget Agriculture Highlights:

 

The Senate succeeded in restoring more than $9 million for 30 important agriculture programs that were cut in the Executive Budget proposal. These measures are necessary to support the growth of New York’s agriculture industry and helping family farms succeed.

 

Veteran-Owned Farm Program:

The budget includes $115,000 in new funding for an innovative proposal by Cornell’s Small Farms Program to help establish up to five veteran-owned small farms through a first-in-the-nation pilot program. Returning veterans and those seeking a career change could be encouraged to try agriculture, utilizing benefits they’ve earned under the GI Bill to gain training and expertise to begin their own successful small business. In turn, these sites would be available to train additional veteran-farmers in future years.

 

Agriculture legislation includes:

 

Planting Seeds Initiative

The Senate Republicans created a new Planting Seeds legislative plan that continues to support New York’s family farmers and boost the state’s agriculture economy. Planting Seeds recognizes the economic impact of the 100,000 people who currently make up New York’s agricultural workforce and includes proposals to help ensure that the state’s leading industry continues to grow.

 

Planting Seeds builds upon key elements of the Senate Republicans’ successful “Young Farmers” and “Grown in New York” programs that have been enacted over the last five years. In addition to reductions in broad based tax rates and a statewide property tax cap that is reining in school and municipal taxes, a Senate Republican initiative to limit increases in agricultural land assessments has already saved farmers more than $11 million in its very first year. Other measures have reduced the estate tax to help preserve the tradition of family farming, connected young farmers with grants to help them start new businesses, and reduced educational costs for those interested in beginning a farming career.

 

The Planting Seeds initiative would: provide research, education, and marketing assistance; create new tax and regulatory relief; advance initiatives to expand markets, promote quality, and increase food safety; and create job opportunities for veterans and others interested in farming. The full Planting Seeds plan can be found here.

 

Connecting Farmers with Economic Resources

The Senate passed a measure to help provide additional economic development resources so that even more of New York’s farmers can succeed and create jobs. The bill allows Industrial Development Agencies (IDAs) to expand their support of New York’s agricultural economy by making technical and financial assistance available to farmers. Under current law, IDAs can issue loans and provide technical support to manufacturers, processors, and warehousers of agricultural products but not to those businesses that directly grow, harvest, or collect agricultural products. Expanding the authorization of already existing IDAs - many of which are located in rural areas - will help promote job growth in industries such as fruit cultivation, raising of beef and other animals, and additional agricultural pursuits. S2250, sponsored by Senator William Larkin

 

Helping Small Farms Develop

The Senate passed legislation that will foster the development of smaller farms by allowing food hubs – collaborating family farm operations – to sell to local school districts by making the process clearer and more efficient. School districts would be allowed to purchase from associations of 10 or fewer producers/growers or to make purchases of less than $25,000 without applying for permission from the Commissioner of Education. S6731, Chapter 62, sponsored by Senator Ranzenhofer

 

Assisting New Farmers Beginning Their Careers

The Senate approved a measure that would help make it easier to become a farmer for people new to the profession. The bill makes more potential farmland available to new farmers by creating an inventory of state-owned property that could be available for agricultural development, making it easier for those new to the industry to access land that’s ready to be farmed. In addition, the state is directed to provide advice regarding taxes, financial assistance, and other policies and programs that could address the needs of beginning farmers and issues related to the transfer of ownership of farms. S7011A, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Patty Ritchie

 

Buy From the Backyard Act

The Senate passed a bill to create the Buy From the Backyard Act to encourage the purchasing of “Grown in New York” products. It requires state agencies to purchase at least 20 percent of their food and food products from within New York State. The measure would get more products grown, harvested, or produced in the state into our state’s hospitals, colleges, offices, prisons, and other places, as well as to help further boost the agricultural industry. S6648, sponsored by Senator Patty Ritchie

 

Establishing a Tax Credit for Farmers Who Donate Food to a Food Bank or Emergency Food Program

The Senate passed a measure to help connect fresh local farm products with those who are in need by creating a tax credit for farmers who donate to a food bank or other emergency food program. Farmers who live in New York State would receive a credit of up to 25 percent of the wholesale cost of a qualified food donation, up to $5,000 dollars per year. A tax credit would help farmers recoup expenses such as transportation and labor involved with bringing unharvested or unmarketed food to a food bank, while encouraging more donations of healthy, wholesome, locally grown food. S7833, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Rich Funke

 

 

CHILDREN AND FAMILIES

 

2016-17 State Budget Children and Families Highlights:

 

Paid Family Leave:

The budget initiates a new Paid Family Leave program to allow working New Yorkers to spend time with a sick family member or bond with a new child. That program will be phased-in over the next four years, and will include employees who have been in their current job for at least six months to provide protections and necessary financial resources so that family support can be available.

 

Restoration of Cuts for Women’s Program:

The final budget restores millions of dollars in funding cut in the Executive Budget proposal for women’s and family health initiatives, among other programs. It includes $25.3 million for Cancer Services Programs; $26.3 million for Nutritional Information for Women, Infants, and Children; $9.7 million for chronic disease prevention (including diabetes, asthma, and hypertension); $5.5 million for Rape Crisis Centers; $2.3 million for the Prenatal Care Program; $9.65 million – a $1 million increase – for the Doctors Across New York Program and restores $25 million in Excess Medical Malpractice Coverage to recruit and attract physicians to underserved communities; and $1 million to support organ donation, among other programs.

 

Children and families legislation includes:

 

Preventing Drug Dealers from Preying on Children

The Senate passed two bills to help keep illegal drugs out of the hands of children and teens. There has been a recent increase in drug use – especially opiate-based substances – by young adults and teenagers, and with it, an increase in overdoses. Many of these youngsters start experimenting in their teenage years with addicting prescription drugs provided by drug dealers who prey upon young people.

 

  • S208, sponsored by Senator Jack M. Martins, creates the crime of criminal sale of a controlled substance to a child in the first degree, making the sale of a controlled substance by an adult to a minor under the age of 14 a Class A-II felony; and
  • S994, sponsored by Senator Martin J. Golden, increases the penalties for the sale of controlled substances if it occurs on park grounds or playgrounds. Current laws penalize persons who sell controlled substances on the grounds of day care centers and educational facilities, but not park grounds or playgrounds.

 

The Senate also passed a comprehensive package of legislation to help communities throughout the state combat heroin and opioid use  – go to page 48 for information.

 

Increasing Community Awareness of Sex Offender Placements

The Senate passed legislation requiring the state to notify government officials and school leaders when sex offenders are transferred from a state facility to a community program or residence in their municipality. Notification must take place no later than 10 calendar days prior to the transfer. S396, sponsored by Senator Patrick Gallivan

 

Increasing Public Awareness of Sex Offenders’ Workplaces

The Senate passed a bill to provide the public with the ability to easily get important information about sex offenders in their communities. The bill would allow the state’s Sex Offender Registry information to be searchable by the zip code of a registrant’s employment. In New York, there is currently no way for parents, guardians, and those who care for children to find out if a convicted registered sex offender may be working in their neighborhood. S3811, sponsored by Senator Andrew Lanza

 

Protecting Children and Communities from Sexual Predators

The Senate passed additional legislation to protect children and communities from sex offenders.

  • S6679, sponsored by Senator Michael Nozzolio, Chair of the Codes Committee, would increase the penalty for sexual abuse in the second degree, from a class A misdemeanor to a class E felony. Under current law, a felony charge is only applicable if there is force, if the victim is incapable of giving consent, or if the victim is less than 11-years-old. Perpetrators who fondle or come into sexual contact with victims between the ages of 11 and 13 are only eligible for up to one year in prison.
  • S6680, sponsored by Senator Michael Nozzolio, would increase criminal penalties for sexual contact between a minor and a “person in a position of trust” – a person who is responsible for the health, education, welfare, or supervision of a child. The bill would increase these crimes to violent felony offenses.
  • S5153, sponsored by Senator James L. Seward, would require disclosure and notification to a municipality when a proposed group home or community residence has been selected as housing for a sex offender, and to disclose the number of residents who are sex offenders.
  •  S1472A, sponsored by Senator Martin J. Golden, would ensure that young children are not being cared for by felons with a history of serious crimes including sexual abuse of children. This legislation requires the Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS) to deny the license or employment application if a background check reveals any felony convictions in New York State or any other jurisdiction for a sex offense, a crime against a child, a crime involving violence, or if a conviction for a felony drug-related offense occurred within the past five years.

 

Protecting School Students from Sexual Abuse

The Senate passed legislation providing that an elementary or secondary student shall not have the capacity to consent to sexual conduct with a school employee. The bill defines a school employee and states that they will be charged if sexual conduct occurs with a student at the same school. S819A, sponsored by Senator Betty Little

 

Preventing Child Abuse

The Senate passed a crucial measure to help protect the most vulnerable children from abuse and exploitation by internet users. As child predators are using modern technology to promote their sexual crimes against children, this legislation aims to remove the cloak of security and anonymity pedophiles have found within the Internet. The bill creates the new crimes of promoting a sex offense against a child – a Class B violent felony – and possessing a sex offense against a child – a Class C violent felony. These new crimes directly address the solicitation and/or participation in such heinous acts by other Internet users through tools like instant messaging, e-mails, blogs, etc. S3212A, sponsored by Senator Catharine Young

 

Protecting Victims of Domestic Violence

The Senate passed a measure to further protect victims of domestic violence. The bill would provide stronger protections for vulnerable domestic violence victims by allowing them to testify via closed-circuit television in criminal proceedings. Current law only allows children who are considered vulnerable by a judge to testify via closed-circuit television. This legislation would also give domestic violence victims the option of testifying outside of the physical presence of their abusers to help facilitate cooperation with prosecutions. S3087, sponsored by Senator Catharine Young

 

Brittany’s Law

The Senate approved the Domestic Violence Protection Act, also known as Brittany’s Law, a measure that would increase the safety and awareness of communities by increasing access to information about convicted violent felons. The bill would create a publicly accessible registry of all individuals convicted of a violent felony and allow local law enforcement to keep track of their location. Brittany’s Law is named for 12-year-old Brittany Passalacqua, who was brutally murdered along with her mother, Helen Buchel, at their home in Geneva, Ontario County, in 2009. The killer, John Edward Brown, was on parole at the time of the murder. He was released early from prison after serving only 2 ½ years for assaulting his infant daughter in 2003. S6658S6660, sponsored by Senator Michael Nozzolio

 

Protecting Children From Being Left in Cars Unattended

The Senate passed legislation to prohibit children under the age of eight from being left in cars without supervision. The bill would help keep young children safe from life-threatening conditions that can occur in cars during warmer and cooler weather conditions. Between 1991 and 2014, over 700 children have died of heat stroke from being left in cars. S241, sponsored by Senator Jack Martins

 

Protecting School Communities From Violent Threats      

The Senate passed a measure to prevent threats of school violence that not only disrupt schools, but can also cause significant distress among the entire community. The bill expands the existing laws in place to prevent school bomb threats so that other types of threats can be prosecuted as well. Under current law, an individual who threatens a fire, explosion, or release of a hazardous substance on school grounds is guilty of a class D felony of falsely reporting an incident in the first degree. This measure would also make it a felony for someone to issue a threat of intentional acts or a continued course of action of serious physical harm to 10 or more people on school grounds. S430A, sponsored by Senator Patrick Gallivan

 

Preventing Nicotine Addiction in Children

The Senate passed a bill to prohibit the free distribution of electronic cigarettes to minors. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control Prevention, the use of e-cigarettes has nearly tripled in just one year’s time. While electronic cigarettes do not contain tobacco, they contain nicotine which has been proven to be addictive, have negative effects on working memory, causing attention issues, and creating cognitive and behavioral impairments on youth. The bill requires that the distribution or sale of electronic cigarettes must be made only to an individual who can demonstrate, through a driver’s license or other form of a government or educational institution issued photo identification, that they are at least 18 years old. S6978, sponsored by Senator Fred Akshar

 

Increasing Crib Safety Awareness

The Senate passed legislation to require the state Department of Health to distribute crib safety information to maternity patients detailing safe sleeping procedures for babies; crib product recalls; and disclosure of the federal standards on the manufacture and sale of cribs. More information can be found hereS6730, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Martin Golden

 

Medical Assistance Coverage for Donor Breast Milk

The Senate passed a measure to help prevent the death of high-risk babies that are born prematurely by requiring medical assistance coverage for the cost of donor breast milk in certain circumstances. Currently, donated breast milk is not covered by insurance companies or Medicaid and is expensive - costing approximately five dollars per ounce. Allowing insurance coverage would help make breast milk more readily available to families and promote healthier growth for premature infants. S6583B, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Kemp Hannon

 

Investigating Illegally Operating Child Day Care Services

The Senate passed a measure that will help reduce the number of illegal or non-compliant child care operators. The bill requires the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS) to periodically review – at least once a month – child care services that are advertised on the Internet. Currently, there is no affirmative duty for OCFS to investigate without a registered complaint, and this bill will help to identify the number of noncompliant or illegal child care programs operating. S1706A, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Martin Golden

 

Regulating Workload Standards for Child Protective Service Employees

The Senate approved legislation that will help protect the state’s most vulnerable children by establishing workload standards for child protective services (CPS) workers. Full-time CPS workers would have no more than 15 active cases to help further ensure effective investigations of child abuse and maltreatment. S2691, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Martin Golden

 

Making it Easier for Estates and Other Guardians to Access Online Account Information

The Senate approved legislation that makes it easier for the family of someone who dies to get access to important online accounts. The bill removes barriers faced by estates and other legal guardians so that they can gain access and manage digital assets when authorized by the account owners. To protect the privacy of the owner’s digital assets, a procedure would be put in place for the owner to direct both the disclosure or non-disclosure of account information to executors or administrators of a decedent’s estate, guardians of a ward or protected person, agents acting with power of attorney, or trustee estates. S7604A, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator John Bonacic

 

 

Adding Representatives to Managed Care Plans

The Senate also passed a bill to add representatives of managed care plans or managed care plan trade associations who work in the early intervention field as members of the early intervention coordinating council. The Council makes recommendations to the state Department of Health (DOH) regarding appropriate services for infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families, and adding these members would help open a public dialogue between managed care plans, early intervention providers, and the DOH. S7689, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Susan Serino

 

 

CONSUMER PROTECTION

 

Consumer protection legislation includes:

 

Stopping “Bots” From Ruining Consumers’ Chances of Buying Entertainment Tickets

The Senate passed several pieces of legislation, sponsored by Senator Andrew Lanza, that strengthen existing laws to prevent ticket purchasing software – also known as “bots” – from using unfair technological advantages that keep retail-priced tickets out of the hands of fans so that higher ticket prices can be charged on the resale market:

 

  • S8123, Passed Both Houses, strengthens existing civil penalties and creates a new criminal penalty for the use of ticket purchasing software. The bill better defines bots in the law to clarify what constitutes unlawful use, prevents ticket resellers from reselling tickets that they know were obtained using ticket purchasing software; increases civil penalties for knowingly utilizing software and intentionally maintaining any interest or control of this software; create a new civil penalty for the selling and reselling of tickets obtained using bots, in addition to existing civil penalties; and creates a class A misdemeanor criminal penalty for persons who use bots to buy and resell tickets.
  • S6931C ensures a more equitable ticket buying process by creating criminal penalties that include imprisonment or fines for the sale or use of bots.
  • S7181, Chapter 34, extends until June 30, 2017, the current law relating to entertainment tickets, resale of tickets, and the licensing of ticket resellers help regulate the ticket reselling industry.

 

Prohibiting Plastic Bag Taxes

The Senate approved a measure to prohibit cities from imposing taxes, fees, or local charges on carry-out merchandise bags to prevent a costly burden to shoppers, as well as address potential public health risks and other issues that arise when using reusable bags. The legislation was the focus of a hearing held in May, by Senator Felder and the Senate Cities Committee, to examine New York City’s bag tax which included the sponsor of the New York City Council’s bag tax bill, environmental and community advocates, affected businesses, and other stakeholders. S7336, sponsored by Senator Simcha Felder

 

Guidance to Remove Disruptive Campers

The Senate approved legislation that would provide legal guidance for the removal of disruptive guests from campgrounds.  Hotels and motels have an eviction process, but campgrounds do not.  The measure would add a new section to the Real Property Law to define campgrounds and campground owner and provide for the removal of persons from a campground who, among other things, creates a disturbance or violates a law.  The proposed law also would provide for the return of pre-paid fees and the disposal of property belonging of persons who are removed from a campground or abandon property on a campground. S1342, sponsored by Senator Betty Little

 

Improving Auto Recall Notification to Protect Consumers

The Senate passed legislation to improve transportation safety by requiring motor vehicle owners be notified of any safety recalls that have been issued for their vehicle at their yearly inspection and increase public awareness of auto recall information. S4296B, sponsored by Senator Betty Little

 

Protecting Consumers from Unauthorized Sale of Children’s Items

The Senate approved a measure that would establish a new law to prevent itinerant vendors from selling baby food and other items, including nonprescription drugs, cosmetics, and batteries. When these items are sold for resale at flea markets and other unauthorized vendors, they risk becoming compromised by sunlight and heat, and put the health and safety of children at risk. S3840, Senator Michael Venditto

 

Allowing Town Boards to Establish Maximum Speed Limits

The Senate passed legislation that would allow town boards to establish maximum speed limits on certain town highways. The law currently only allows towns with 50,000 in population (approximately 24 towns), suburban class towns (approximately 56 towns), and all cities and villages (without regard to population) to set speed limits within their jurisdiction. S1216, sponsored by Senator Betty Little

 

Food Service in Funeral Establishments

The Senate passed a measure to give funeral homes the option of offering a small degree of hospitality that will help make a difficult time a little easier for grieving families. The bill eliminates an outdated regulation and would allow funeral homes the option of providing incidental food, such as baked goods and sandwiches, and non-alcoholic beverages. S817A, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Betty Little

 

Promoting Winter Sports Safety

The Senate passed a bill to help protect children from potential head injuries incurred while participating in winter sports. The legislation requires skiers and snowboarders under 14 years of age to wear a protective helmet when skiing at New York ski areas. While statistics support the fact that skiing is a relatively safe activity, with 2.6 injuries per 1,000 skier visits, head injuries do occur with some frequency and make up approximately 14 percent of all injuries suffered. S1851, sponsored by Senator Betty Little

 

Authorizes Waterskiing Without an Observer in Certain Circumstances

The Senate passed legislation which authorizes towing a person who is waterskiing with a vessel without an observer under certain circumstances.  This bill will enable professional water-skiers  to compete on certified course in New York State without an observer. S6083, sponsored by Senator Betty Little  

 

 

CRIME AND PUBLIC SAFETY

 

2016-17 State Budget Crime and Corrections Highlights:

 

The Senate was able to secure $250,000 as part of the enacted 2016-17 State Budget to support the recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters. This funding will help increase the number of volunteer firefighters through promotional materials, public service announcements, and other tools that highlight the importance of promoting public safety and protecting local communities.

 

Crime and corrections legislation includes:

 

Protecting New Yorkers From Terrorist Activity

The Senate passed four bills to protect New Yorkers from several types of terrorist and criminal activities. The legislation strengthens the state’s existing laws dealing with cyberterrorism, terrorist recruitment, financial support for terrorist activities, and threats rooted in terrorism that are made against police officers. Legislation includes:

  • S3404, sponsored by Senator Thomas Croci, would create a new crime for when a person intends to cause widespread financial harm or commits a larceny offense against more than 10 people using a computer or related technology. It also prohibits the use of cyberterrorism to cause mass injury or damage, or to intimidate, coerce, or influence a civilian population or government;
  • S2942, sponsored by Senator Croci, would increase criminal penalties for soliciting or providing support for an act of terrorism. One of the biggest sources of funding for terrorist organizations is through money laundering and credit card fraud and this measure would help deter and penalize those who financially support terrorism;
  •  S455, sponsored by Senator Carl L. Marcellino, would help prevent and punish those who engage in recruitment activity to get new members that will carry out terrorist acts. The measure creates the crime of terrorism recruitment when a person recruits, solicits, requests, commands, importunes, or otherwise attempts to cause another person to engage in terrorist activities; and
  • S5349, sponsored by Senator Patrick Gallivan, would strengthen existing penalties by creating a new crime when a terrorist threat is made against a police officer.

 

New York State Terrorist Registry Act

The Senate also approved a measure that would establish a state wide terrorist registry requiring terrorists convicted of a state or federal crime of terrorism, or who have committed a “Verifiable Act of Terrorism,” to register with the Division of Criminal Justice Services and have their non-confidential information made publicly available. This measure would provide state and federal authorities with a powerful new tool to prevent future terrorist attacks, as well as provide terrorists with a serious disincentive to commit another act of terrorism within New York State. For those who fail to register or verify with the state’s terrorist registry, it would be a Class A-I felony. S3464C, sponsored by Senator Thomas Croci

 

Defunding Student Groups Who Engage in Hate Speech

The Senate passed legislation that would ban student groups at SUNY, CUNY, or community college campuses from receiving state funding if they engage in hate speech, including advocating boycotts of Israel or other American allies. The bill comes in response to repeated incidents of anti-Semitism on CUNY campuses reportedly perpetrated by the student organization Students for Justice in Palestine. S8017, sponsored by Senator Jack Martins

 

Reinforcing New York’s Iran Divestment Act

The Senate passed legislation to guarantee that New York’s Iran Divestment Act of 2012 remains in place regardless of the recent presidential agreement with Iran that could jeopardize the effectiveness of the state’s law. The 2012 Act takes a stand against a country that is a known sponsor of terrorism, threatens American citizens, and jeopardizes the safety and security of Israel - one of our nation’s closest allies – by imposing limitations on vendors that do business with the Iranian energy and financial sectors and seek contracts with New York State agencies, SUNY, CUNY, public authorities and local governments. This bill ensures that the Act’s important provisions will remain in effect in New York to prevent the financial support of Iran’s tyrannical government unless the United States Senate approves a treaty to the contrary. S6048, sponsored by Senator Thomas Croci

 

Giving Firefighters Access to Critical Health Benefits

The Senate passed a bill to amend the Volunteer Firefighters’ Benefit Law to provide heightened levels of protections for firefighters that contract certain cancer-related diseases while serving as volunteers. This bill would provide presumptive cancer coverage to the more than 100,000 volunteer firefighters in New York as there’s an increased number of firefighters are being diagnosed with cancer and recent medical studies have concluded that they are at a significantly higher risk for many types of cancer than the general population. S3891, sponsored by Senator Michael Nozzolio

 

Criminalizing the Act of Inciting Violence Against Police Officers

The Senate passed a measure that would create the new crime of inciting violence against a police officer, a new class D felony. In recent years, there has been an increase in violent crimes committed against police officers and this measure would help prevent individuals from deliberately inciting violence targeting law enforcement. S5598, sponsored by Senator Michael Nozzolio

 

Protecting Military and Law Enforcement

The Senate passed two other measures to further protect the men and women who protect our communities from violent criminals. The bills strengthen penalties to help prevent members of the military and law enforcement from being targeted and assaulted while performing their important work.

  • S4379A, sponsored by Senator Thomas Croci, would create a new crime for those who assault members of the military or reserves. Similar to the protections afforded to police officers, firefighters, peace officers and emergency medical technicians, the bill would make it Class C felony for those found guilty of targeting and assaulting members of the military and reserves to prevent them from working to protect the public; and
  •  S1457, sponsored by Senator Martin Golden, would increase the penalties for certain violent offenses involving police or peace officers. The measure addresses the risks consistently violent felons pose to the public by authorizing a sentence of life without parole when a criminal commits an aggravated assault on a police or peace officer and has previously been convicted of two violent felonies that are classified as Class B or greater.

 

Strengthening Cyber Security Defense in New York       

The Senate passed legislation to strengthen New York’s cyber security measures to combat cyber terrorism. The bills, sponsored by Senator Thomas Croci, would help advance protocols to protect state assets, facilitate the sharing of information about threats, and secure the state’s cyber systems.

  • S3407A, would establish the New York State Cyber Security Initiative to ensure that the state has a proper cyber security defense system in place. It includes:

The New York State Cyber Security Sharing and Threat Prevention Program to    increase the quality and readiness of cyber threat information that will be shared by the             state with the public and private sectors;

A New York State Cyber Security Partnership Program to improve, develop, and    implement risk-based standards for government, private sector businesses, and individual citizens; and

The New York State Cyber Security Advisory Board, to assist the state in making     recommendations and finding ways to protect its critical infrastructure and information          systems.

  • S3405A, would require the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services to work with the Superintendent of State Police, the Chief Information Officer, and the President of the Center for Internet Security to complete a comprehensive review of New York’s cyber security measures every five years, and create a report to summarize its findings. The report would identify the state’s security needs and detail how those needs are being met to ensure that the best security practices are in place to protect New Yorkers from cyber terrorism.
  • S3406, would create a new crime if someone uses a computer or device to carry out a cyber attack that causes financial harm in excess of $100,000 to another person, partnership, or corporation. It also strengthens penalties for the crime of criminal possession of computer related material.
  •  S3404, would create new penalties for a variety of cyber crimes. Under the measure, it would be a Class A felony for any person found guilty of intimidating, coercing, or affecting the public or a government entity by causing mass injury, damage, or debilitation of people or their property, including computers and related programs, data network, or material. A new Class C felony would include anyone who uses a computer to cause serious financial harm affecting more than 10 people.

 

Protecting Communities From Violent Felons

The Senate passed a bill to authorize the state Board of Parole to require a violent felony offender to serve his or her maximum term if they pose an imminent threat to society and also authorizes the withholding of good behavior allowances. Under current law, the Board of Parole does not have authorization to grant or deny a conditional release, and this becomes problematic when evidence exists that an inmate poses a danger to the community. S2720, sponsored by Senator Joseph Griffo

 

Increasing Penalties for Aiming Laser Pointers at Aircrafts

The Senate passed a measure to further prevent the extremely dangerous activity of directing laser pointers at aircraft. The bill provides state and local law enforcement with greater authority to prevent and punish individuals who use laser pointers that can distract pilots and endanger airline safety. S6815, sponsored by Senator Joseph Griffo

 

Strengthen Penalties for Helping Prisoners Escape or Commit Other Crimes

The Senate passed legislation to significantly increase penalties for those who conspire with  prisoners to commit a felony and/or later hinder the prosecution as occurred at Clinton Correctional Facility one year ago. This bill would strengthen the penalties for anyone who commits conspiracy with a prisoner to escape or commit other felonies, as well as for hindering prosecution when/if an escape or other felony does take place. S5947, sponsored by Senator Kathy Marchione

 

Increasing Penalties for High-Speed Car Racing

The Senate approved Michelle and Jordan’s Law, a measure that would increase penalties for unlawful high-speed car racing which stems from tragic crashes involving suspected drag racing at excessive speeds which killed a 17-year-old Staten Island girl and a 5-year-old Queens boy.  The bill would help reduce speed-related fatalities by increasing the penalties for unlawful speed contests and races. S3732, sponsored by Senator Andrew Lanza

 

Stronger Penalties For Unlicensed Drivers

The Senate approved legislation to create felony charges for individuals who kill or injure someone while driving with a suspended or revoked license. These drivers would face up to four years in prison if they cause serious injury to another person and up to seven years in prison if they take someone’s life. Under current law, people driving with suspended or revoked licenses who kill or injure someone face only misdemeanor charges carrying a maximum sentence of six months in jail. S4649A, sponsored by Senator Jack Martins

 

Requiring Testing for Alcohol if a Motor Vehicle Collision Results in Death or Injury

The Senate passed legislation to further hold drivers accountable for causing an accident while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The bill would require a Blood-Alcohol Concentration (BAC) test to be administered if it’s reasonably believed that the driver was under the influence of alcohol when involved in a collision that results in death or serious injury. Current law gives people the option to refuse BAC testing, allowing intoxicated drivers who are involved in motor vehicle crashes to escape prosecution. S6745, sponsored by Senator Michael Venditto

 

Preventing Human Trafficking and Protecting Trafficked Victims

The Senate passed a measure to require hospitals, public health centers, diagnostic centers,
treatment centers, and outpatient departments to establish and implement written policies and procedures for the identification, assessments, and treatment or referral of people suspected to be human trafficking victims – and if a person is under 18 years old, the facility is required to report it to Social Services. The bill also would require specified personnel to complete training regarding these policies and procedures. S6835B, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Andrew Lanza

 

Closing Dangerous Loopholes in Sex Offender Laws

The Senate passed legislation to authorize the civil commitment of detained persons convicted of a misdemeanor sex offense or with a prior conviction in another state of an offense that would be  designated a felony in New York. A gap exists in current law related to the civil confinement of dangerous sex offenders who previously committed criminal sex offenses out of the state and this bill will close that gap. S5270, sponsored by Senator Betty Little

 

The Senate also passed legislation S3925, sponsored by Senator Michael Venditto, to address the Court of Appeals ruling by enabling municipalities to respond to the needs of their community and create local laws relating to sex offenders. Communities would be able to put additional restrictions in place so long as they are not less restrictive than state laws.

 

Strengthening Prosecution of Sex Trafficking Involving Children

The Senate passed legislation to strengthen existing law by allowing prosecutions for sex trafficking of a child under 18 years old without also needing proof that the child victim was forced, defrauded, or coerced, as is currently required. This bill creates a presumption that a minor charged with prostitution is a sex trafficking victim and eliminates the need to prove force, fraud or coercion when a child under 18 years old engages in commercial sex. Eliminating proof of these elements in child prostitution cases will enable the state to further hold traffickers accountable and prevent returning young girls and boys to lives of abuse and exploitation at the hands of predatory traffickers. S6894, sponsored by Senator Lanza

 

Protecting School Students from Sexual Abuse

The Senate passed legislation providing that an elementary or secondary student shall not have the capacity to consent to sexual conduct with a school employee. The bill defines a school employee and states that they will be charged if sexual conduct occurs with a student at the same school. S819A, sponsored by Senator Betty Little

 

Deterring Prescription Form Theft  

The Senate passed legislation that would create new penalties for the theft and unauthorized possession of blank New York State prescription forms. This bill creates a criminal penalty for three specific situations: grand larceny – a Class E felony – for stealing a blank prescription form; criminal possession of stolen property – a Class E felony – for possessing a blank prescription form, knowing it is stolen and intending to benefit from it; criminal possession of a prescription form – a Class A misdemeanor – for knowingly and unlawfully possessing a blank official New York State prescription form. S3402, sponsored by Senator Kemp Hannon

 

Incentivizing the Investigation and Prosecution of Medicaid Fraud

The Senate passed a bill that would provide financial incentives to counties and the City of New York to identify and prosecute Medicaid fraud, which would help eliminate waste and abuse. For any successful Medicaid fraud prosecution or settlement, the local government would be able to keep 100 percent of the local share, or 10 percent of the total recovery – whichever is greater.

Current law limits the amounts that local governments may receive from successful Medicaid fraud prosecutions. S3019, sponsored by Senator Catharine Young

 

Authenticating Art Work

The Senate approved a bill that would provide better legal protection for art authenticators.  Frivolous and costly lawsuits have discouraged art authenticators from appraising artwork, negatively impacting the industry.  The legislation would create the legal definition of an art authenticator as “a person or entity recognized in the visual arts community as having expertise regarding the artist, work of fine art, or visual art multiple, or a person or entity recognized in the visual arts or scientific community as having expertise in uncovering facts that serve as a direct basis, in whole or in part, for an opinion as to the authenticity, attribution or authorship of a work of fine art or visual art multiple.”  S1229A, sponsored by Senator Betty Little

 

Curtailing Costly Retail Theft

The Senate passed legislation to crack down on criminals who try to avoid harsher penalties by committing retail thefts in multiple counties. The enactment of this measure into law will allow any county in the state to prosecute someone who participates in a pattern of organized retail theft when at least one of the offenses occurs in a neighboring county. S3822, Chapter 63, Senator Michael Venditto

 

 

EDUCATION

 

2016-17 State Budget Education Highlights:

 

Schools will see a $1.5 billion increase in aid in this year’s budget for a record total education investment of nearly $25 billion. This increase is hundreds of millions of dollars over the original Executive Budget proposal and when combined with the STAR school tax relief program, the state’s total commitment to supporting public education is more than $28 billion this year. The budget highlights include:

  • A $1.06 billion increase in total operating support to include a $626.6 million increase in Foundation Aid over 2015-16 and the elimination of $434 million in Gap Elimination Adjustment (GEA) cuts;
  • Full funding of $341.4 million in Expense Base Aids;
  • Doubling the grants to aid charter schools to $54.8 million; and
  • Restoring $56 million in STAR benefits as a result of rejecting the Executive Budget proposal to cap STAR at 2015-16 levels.

 

Senate Republicans succeeded in permanently eliminating the $434 million remaining of GEA cuts for schools this year as part of the final budget. The GEA education budget reduction was first imposed on New Yorkers in 2010 by former Governor David Paterson and the Democrats who controlled the Senate and Assembly. The entire Senate Republican Conference voted against these severe cuts to the bottom lines for public schools and year after year, Senate Republicans have consistently led the effort to phase-out the GEA. 

 

In addition, the Senate continued its commitment to helping local libraries provide lifelong learning opportunities for persons of all ages. The Senate secured a $4 million increase in state funding in this year’s enacted state budget for libraries and library systems. Many libraries are dealing with aging infrastructure and facing significant capital needs -- the Senate secured a $5 million increase in library construction aid as well.

 

Education legislation includes:

 

Education Investment Tax Credit

The Senate passed a bill that creates new tax incentives designed to encourage charitable giving to private and public schools and improve the quality of education for all students. The Education Investment Tax Credit provides tax incentives for qualified donations to public schools, organizations that support scholarships for eligible students to use at nonpublic schools, and local education funds. The credit would provide a maximum tax credit of 90 percent of individuals and corporate franchise taxpayers’ qualified contributions, capped at $1 million. The credit is capped at $150 million for 2017, $225 million for 2018, and $300 million for 2019, and thereafter. Taxpayers would not be allowed to use a qualified contribution as both a charitable itemized deduction and a credit against their New York State income tax. The bill would also provide a refundable personal income tax credit for the purchase of instructional materials and supplies by teachers at public, charter, or non-public schools and by individuals who provide home-based instruction. The credit would be the lesser of $200 or 100 percent of the amount used to purchase the materials. S1976A, sponsored by Senators Martin Golden and Simcha Felder

 

Ensuring School Water is Tested for Lead

The Senate passed a measure to protect children from potentially being exposed to dangerous lead levels in school drinking water. The bill  ensures that periodic tap water testing for lead is conducted by schools to obtain important information about the quality of students’ drinking water.

 

According to the state Department of Health (DOH), lead can harm a young child's growth, behavior, and ability to learn. While some schools in New York conduct testing for lead, not all do, and this bill would create a standard testing protocol to ensure students are protected. School districts and BOCES would undergo periodic tap testing at a frequency to be set by DOH. Buildings deemed “lead-free,” in accordance with federal law, will be exempt, schools testing negative would be given waivers, and schools with water containing unacceptable amounts of lead would be eligible for additional financial assistance for the costs of testing and remediation. S8158, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Tom O’Mara

 

New York City Mayoral Control

The Senate passed legislation extending mayoral control of the New York City school system for one year. The agreement with the Governor and Assembly also includes new transparency requirements to provide a better, more public accounting for how city schools are funded. The City is required to publish a listing of the total funding allocated to each community school district twice a year: with budgeted data after release of the Mayor's Executive Budget and with actual data for the most recent completed school year prior to release of the next Executive Budget. S8159, Passed Both Houses, Senator John Flanagan.

 

Board of Regents Selection Reform and Transparency of Education Policy Actions

The Senate passed legislation that reforms the selection process for the Board of Regents and increases transparency to help parents and educators have more access to proceedings that help set state education policy.

  • S6854, sponsored by Senator Kenneth LaValle, establishes a more equitable and balanced appointment process for the selection of Regents that would require input from both houses of the Legislature. It would require a concurrent resolution from both houses of the Legislature to select the Regents, ensuring the Senate and the Assembly have an equal say in electing members to the board.
  • S224, sponsored by Senator Kenneth LaValle, requires more information about any Board of Regents resolutions that alter or amend the rules or regulations. Details would need to be provided about: those entities that are expected to be affected by increase in costs proposed; source of income to pay for increases, whether it be from the general fund or other funds; type of tax increase necessary to fund proposal; if a tax increase is to come from local property taxes, list expected increase by school district; and if a combination of funds are to be used, information regarding costs shall be provided by the Regents.
  • S1796B, sponsored by Senator Patty Ritchie, requires that each meeting of the Board of Regents be streamed live and made available to the public. Currently, the Board only webcasts a small portion of its monthly meetings. This bill would give parents and educators the ability to stay informed of the Board's decisions.
  • S6503, sponsored by Senator Carl L. Marcellino, Passed Both Houses, requires the Board of Regents to give notice of their agenda several days before a scheduled meeting to allow the stakeholders on several educational issues the appropriate time to respond and discuss the issues. This would encourage more involvement from the public and would foster an improved dialogue between both the Board of Regents and other stakeholders in education.
  • S216A, sponsored by Senator Kenneth LaValle, would change the timetable for the election of members to the Board of Regents. The bill calls for the election to take place on the third Tuesday in May, rather than the first Tuesday in March, enabling the Legislature to consider the selection of members without time pressures that might conflict with other deadlines, such as consideration of the new state budget.

 

Filling BOCES Vacancies More Efficiently

The Senate passed legislation to streamline an inefficient and cumbersome process for filling Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) vacancies. Enactment of this bill into law provides that if there is a BOCES vacancy, the board may appoint someone to fill the vacancy, who will then hold office until the next annual BOCES election. S3014A, Chapter 61, sponsored by Senator Catharine Young

 

Supporting Local Libraries

The Senate passed two bills to make it easier for libraries to obtain low-cost financing through the Dormitory Authority of New York (DASNY) for needed capital renovations and improvements.

  •  S6651, sponsored by Senator Hugh Farley, would allow the New York Library Association to bundle together small bonding projects of less than $5 million per library and to submit them jointly to DASNY for financing. DASNY would be able to pool the individual loans together to achieve a sufficient size to make low cost tax-exempt bond financing available to these libraries. These projects could also benefit from the construction expertise available through the Dormitory Authority’s construction service; and
  •  S7358, sponsored by Senator Farley, would extend DASNY's financing and construction authorization to all libraries chartered by the Board of Regents or incorporated under the Not-for-Profit Corporation Law, as opposed to only those libraries which obtain special legislation.

 

Expanding Access to Education for Adult Learners

The Senate passed legislation that would enable public libraries to obtain Employment Preparation Education (EPE) funding. This would help libraries provide high school equivalency programs and employment training services that help adults get jobs. By allowing public libraries to apply for and obtain EPE funds, this bill would make these programs more widely available and help adults advance their education and attain critical skills. S2895, Senator Hugh Farley

 

 

 

HIGHER EDUCATION

 

2016-17 State Budget Higher Education Highlights:

 

The budget provides more than $1 billion for the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and freezes SUNY and CUNY tuition this year. The new budget also boosts funding for SUNY and CUNY community colleges with an additional $20 million, increasing the full-time equivalent (FTE) funding for the state’s community colleges by $100 and making the base aid $2,697 per FTE for 2016-17.

 

The final budget rejected an Executive Budget proposal that would have cost state taxpayers $27 million and reward people who are here illegally by giving them free college tuition. The measure would have extended all other criteria, exemptions, or opportunities found within the education law - including all scholarship and tuition assistance programs funded with state tax dollars - to illegal immigrants while hardworking middle-class families are already being forced to take out massive college loans to pay for higher education.

 

Higher education legislation includes:

 

MAKING COLLEGE MORE AFFORDABLE

The Senate passed a package of legislation to help make it more affordable for families sending children to college.

 

Making It Easier to Save For CollegeS6942, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Thomas Croci, would allow an individual to elect to contribute all or a portion of a personal income tax refund to a 529 college savings account. Under existing law, individuals wishing to invest funds into a New York State 529 College Savings Program can deposit funds via electronic bank transfer, check, payroll deduction if available, or by a rollover from another college savings account. Allowing taxpayers to directly deposit a minimum of $25 from their income tax refunds into such accounts will increase opportunities for taxpayers to invest in existing savings plans and help defray the ever increasing costs associated with higher education.

 

- Increasing The Income Eligibility for the State’s Tuition Assistance Program (TAP): S7573, sponsored by Senator Kenneth LaValle, increases income eligibility and TAP awards so that more middle class families can receive help with higher education expenses. When fully implemented, the Senate proposal will provide $87 million in additional TAP awards, with a guarantee of $1,000 to any student from a family with a net taxable income of less than $100,000 - up from $80,000.

 

- Facilitating College Loan Refinancing: S522A, sponsored by Senator LaValle, would help alleviate the burden of student loan debt. The measure creates the New York Student Affordable Refinancing for Tomorrow (New START) program to allow eligible students to refinance their private student loans through the state at a lower interest rate. Students who attended a SUNY or CUNY institution and had private loans would be able to pay back the state based on annual salary and ability to pay.

 

- Raising the Amount of Tuition Expenses Eligible for Tax Credits: S23A, sponsored by Senator LaValle, gradually raises the amount of tuition expenses allowed for current state income tax credits from $10,000 to $20,000 over the next five years. The maximum tax credit that a taxpayer may claim would gradually be increased from $400 to $800.

 

Banning Electronic Sale of Dissertations, Theses, and Term Papers

The Senate passed legislation that would prevent academic fraud by banning the sale of electronic theses, term papers, and dissertations. The measure would expand current law, which considers the sale or purchase of academically related papers a violation punishable by a fine of up to $1,000, to include sales or purchases via electronic media such as the Internet. S2810, sponsored by Senator LaValle

 

 

ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONSERVATION

2016-17 State Budget Energy and Environmental Conservation Highlights:

 

The budget includes record funding of $300 million for the Environmental Protection Fund (EPF) to protect natural resources and ensure clean water and clean air. This is a 70 percent increase of $123 million over 2015-16 funding.

 

The Senate successfully advocated for more funding to support critical water and environmental infrastructure improvements in the final budget. It provides an additional $200 million over the next two years to build upon the investments included in last year’s Water Quality Improvement Act. Municipalities will now be eligible to receive a total of $350 million in grants in 2016-17 and 2017-18 to repair and replace existing wastewater and drinking water infrastructure.

 

Energy and environmental conservation legislation includes:

 

Ensuring School Water is Tested for Lead

The Senate passed a measure to protect children from potentially being exposed to dangerous lead levels in school drinking water. The bill  ensures that periodic tap water testing for lead is conducted by schools to obtain important information about the quality of students’ drinking water.

 

According to the state Department of Health (DOH), lead can harm a young child's growth, behavior, and ability to learn. While some schools in New York conduct testing for lead, not all do, and this bill would create a standard testing protocol to ensure students are protected. School districts and BOCES would undergo periodic tap testing at a frequency to be set by DOH. Buildings deemed “lead-free,” in accordance with federal law, will be exempt, schools testing negative would be given waivers, and schools with water containing unacceptable amounts of lead would be eligible for additional financial assistance for the costs of testing and remediation. S8158, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Tom O’Mara

 

Promoting Energy-Efficient Upgrades for Homeowners and Small Businesses

The Senate passed legislation to make energy-efficient upgrades more affordable for homeowners and businesses. The bill would extend the On-Bill Recovery Financing Program through the Green Jobs -  Green New York program which allows homeowners and businesses to finance energy improvements through a charge on their utility bill – saving them money and creating green jobs. The loans would be paid back as monthly charges on their utility bills. The advantage of this method is that the money saved from installing energy-related improvements reduces overall energy use and makes the loan repayment almost unnoticeable on the utility bill. S6914, sponsored by Senator Rich Funke

 

Encouraging Geothermal Energy

The Senate approved a bill that would create a tax credit for the purchase and installation of geothermal energy systems – a natural and renewable form of energy. The systems do not require the burning of fossil fuels and emit almost no carbon gases, and will create more green jobs and reduce the amount of carbon used to heat buildings. S6249, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Robert Ortt

 

Preventing Environmental Crimes
The Senate approved legislation to deter criminal activity and prevent environmental crimes. This bill would make crimes that result in large-scale environmental damage, either intentionally or recklessly while committing another crime, a class C felony. There are currently no criminal mischief statutes that properly address this type of environmental devastation. S834, sponsored by Senator Joseph Robach

 

Ensuring the Proper Disposal of Potentially Radioactive Materials

The Senate passed legislation that would mitigates the potential threats posed to the public under the current system of high volume fracturing waste transport and disposal in New York. The bill requires the incorporation of radioactive screening and rejection criteria in solid waste facility permits for any solid waste facility that accepts waste from oil and gas drilling activities to ensure that oil and waste products do not pose an environmental danger when they come to New York. S3060, sponsored by Senator Catharine Young

 

Creating a Paint Stewardship Program

The Senate passed a measure that would help local governments in their efforts to continue reducing the amount of household hazardous waste in communities. The bill would establish an industry-sponsored Paint Stewardship Program to reduce the costly burden faced by local governments when collecting and disposing of post-consumer paint. Saving local governments approximately $25 million annually, this legislation directs the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to create a plan for paint manufacturers and sellers to cover the costs of a statewide, not-for-profit Paint Stewardship Program that establishes agreements to collect, transport, reuse, recycle, and/or burn post-consumer paint at appropriately licensed collection sites and facilities using environmentally sound management practices. S4926C, sponsored by Senator Tom O’Mara

 

Defining Integrated Pest Management

The Senate passed a measure to define Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in order to help encourage a reduction in the amount of pesticides used. IPM is a systematic approach to managing pests that utilizes a diversity of management options to minimize health, environmental, and economic risks and impacts. S3064, sponsored by Senator Catharine Young

 

Authorizing Forest Rangers to Establish a Training Program

The Senate passed legislation to authorize the DEC forest rangers to establish, direct and maintain a program for the purposes of training and credentialing volunteer, wild land search and rescue personnel.  This proposal would provide training and credentials for volunteer search and rescue groups so that these groups are encouraged to organize and participate in search and rescue operations. S4563, sponsored by Senator Betty Little  

 

New York State Ocean Acidification Task Force

The Senate approved a measure that would protect the long-term health and water quality of New York’s ocean resources. As increased carbon dioxide levels, stormwater runoff, and other factors contribute to making the Atlantic more acidic, there is the potential to harm the ecosystem, as well as the state's commercial and recreational economies that depend on it. This bill creates a New York State Ocean Acidification Task Force to help New York prepare and prevent negative impacts through research, public education, and information-sharing about ocean acidification. S7908, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Kenneth LaValle

 

Helping Forest Preserve Communities While Protecting the Environment

The Senate approved a proposed New York State Constitutional amendment and corresponding enabling legislation to create a 750-acre land bank for the Adirondack and Catskill Parks.  The land bank could be utilized to approve important local projects, such as municipal water supply, highway and bridge improvements, public utilities, environmental infrastructure and bicycle pathways on state Forest Preserve lands, without a need to amend the New York State Constitution in each instance.  Of critical importance, the amendment and enacting legislation include numerous safeguards protective of article 14 of the State Constitution.  S8027 and S8028, sponsored by Senator Betty Little

 

Promoting Private Stewardship Efforts

The Senate passed legislation that would establish a forestry stewardship and habitat conservation credit for personal income and business franchise taxes. This bill diminishes the growing property tax burdens and shifting of the assessment burden onto private forest to help forest landowners contribute to the public interest through positive stewardship of their lands. S602, sponsored by Senator Betty Little

 

 

ETHICS AND GOVERNMENT REFORM

 

Since Republicans regained the majority of the State Senate, lawmakers and the Governor have produced six low- or no-growth on-time budgets that spend only what taxpayers can afford, while investing in education, road and bridge repair, and other initiatives that create new jobs.

 

Ethics and government reform legislation includes:

 

ETHICS REFORM

 

Pension Forfeiture

Under an agreement with the Governor and Assembly, the Senate passed a joint resolution to strip pensions from corrupt government officials - a Senate priority since the Senate Republican Conference passed pension forfeiture last year. Following a vote by the public on a constitutional amendment, elected officials and policymakers who commit a felony would no longer be eligible for pensions earned during public service. S8163, Passed Both Houses, Senator Thomas Croci

 

Increasing Government Transparency

The Senate passed a bill to clarify the laws which could potentially shield so-called “agents of the City” so that individuals or businesses are subjected to the same code of ethics and disclosure laws as the government officials they work for.

 

This measure prohibits businesses that have existing contracts with the state, New York City, or other municipal agencies from also representing private clients (i.e. lobbying) in front of those same government agencies. The bill also gives the public greater access to government communications by preventing efforts to block their disclosure solely on the basis that the materials were exchanged with an “advisor” or “agent”. The bill clarifies inter/intra agency exceptions to the state’s Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) to allow the disclosure of materials and communications made between government officials and advisors or agents who may not have formal government contracts. S8014, sponsored by Senator Terrence Murphy

 

Recalling of Elected Officials

The Senate approved a measure giving New York voters the ability to recall elected officials, including the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Comptroller, Attorney General, state legislators, and any state or local officer. The bill will enable voters to remove any state or local officials from office in a timely and efficient manner if they violate the trust of their constituents and abuse their public office. For a recall to take place, the bill provides that a petition must clearly and factually state the  reason for the recall based on conduct during the officer’s term of office, such as being indicted for a felony related to public office or convicted of a misdemeanor related to public office, and meet signature requirements based on the position being recalled. S8069, sponsored by Senator Sue Serino

 

Term Limits for State Legislative Leadership

The Senate passed legislation creating eight-year term limits for the Temporary President of the Senate, Speaker of the Assembly, and minority leaders of both houses. The measure also limits the number of years a legislator can serve as a committee chair. The Senate first voluntarily implemented leadership term limits in 2009 as part of the rules governing the Senate and this bill would codify these rules into law for both the Senate and Assembly. S2722B, sponsored by Senator Joseph Griffo

 

GOVERNMENT REFORM

 

State Spending Cap

The Senate passed a bill that would permanently cap state spending, codifying the self-imposed spending restraint demonstrated with the past six state budgets enacted by the Legislature and Governor. The measure would take effect in the 2017 Fiscal Year and result in an expected savings of $14.1 billion for the state’s spending plans in Fiscal Years 2017 through 2020. The self-imposed state spending cap saved taxpayers nearly $31 billion on a cumulative basis since the 2010-2011 budget. This savings includes the elimination of a $10 billion deficit inherited from the previous all-Democrat, all-New York City-led government. S5507, sponsored by Senator Joseph Robach

 

Reforming the Regulatory Process and

Easing the Regulatory Burden on New York Businesses

The Senate passed numerous pieces of legislation to make it less expensive and more efficient to do business in New York. The legislation includes:

  • S401A, sponsored by Senator Patrick Gallivan, would establish a Task Force for the Review of the State Administrative Procedure Act (SAPA) to help reduce the state’s regulatory burden on businesses. The Task Force would conduct a comprehensive review of SAPA by examining, evaluating, and making recommendations to improve the efficiency of the rulemaking process, as well as ensure the establishment of consistent, uniform rules.
  •  S406A, sponsored by Senator Gallivan, would help regulated businesses by reducing duplicative rules and keeps them up-to-date. It would broaden considerations required during the state’s review of existing administrative rules and during the creation of new rules. This measure would also amend SAPA to require a five-year review of all existing agency rules – not just the rules promulgated since 1997, as in currently required.
  • S4033, sponsored by Senator Terrence Murphy, would provide a way for outside parties like businesses to seek a delay in the effective date of proposed agency rules if a flaw is discovered that could negatively impact them. As long as two-thirds of the Administrative Regulations Review Commission approves, a delay of 90 days would give parties a chance to discuss alternatives and correct matters.
  • S4328A, sponsored by Senator Murphy, would establish the Small Business Negotiated Rule Making Act of 2016 to create negotiated rulemaking in order to provide additional opportunities for small businesses and the public to directly participate in the development of proposed agency regulations.
  • S6729, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Terrence Murphy, amends the State Administrative Procedure Act (SAPA) to increase the amount of notice from 30 to 45 days on environmental issues pertaining to: labeling ingredients of detergents and other household cleansing products; storage and release to the environment of substances hazardous or acutely hazardous to public health, safety, or the environment; air pollution control; and solid waste management and resource recovery facilities. This legislation provides the public with more time to review and prepare comments on such issues.
  • S6027, sponsored by Senator John DeFrancisco, would allow businesses to resubmit forms if they accidentally submit an outdated version. This bill would ensure that businesses, especially those with limited resources, would be able to correct the inadvertent submission of outdated state forms within a reasonable period of time without penalty.

 

Making the Regulatory Process More Transparent and Accessible

The bills, sponsored by Senator Terrence Murphy, include:

  •  S5418A, extends the public comment period in the State Register from 45 days to 60 days to allow interested parties time to submit detailed responses to proposed rules and regulations. By extending the deadline, the community affected by the regulations will have a greater opportunity to address concerns with a proposal, allowing state agencies to craft the most responsible and comprehensive rules and regulations. 
  • S7096, Passed Both Houses, creates minimum standards for posting of information on a state website that is summarized or referenced in the State Register. The state would have to post the full text of a proposed rule no later than the date of publication of the notice and provide detailed information about where the public can access the information. These requirements would prevent the untimely posting of proposed rules and make it easier for the public to find specifics.
  • S7097, Passed Both Houses, requires a proposed or revised rule or another regulatory document’s full text to be posted on the applicable state agency’s website. No web posting is currently required for a revised rule – even if the text has been extensively revised – or for regulatory impact statements, job impact statements, or flexibility analyses for small businesses, local governments, or rural areas. Since the State Register is already available online, requiring relevant documents that are only summarized in that publication to also be posted online will make the regulatory process in New York more transparent.
  • S7098, Passed Both Houses, requires the full text of every emergency rule to be readily available to the public, either through publication in the State Register or posting on the applicable state agency’s website. It is particularly important for regulated parties and the public to obtain timely access to rules that required immediate adoption through an emergency rulemaking process.

 

Requiring The State to Promptly Pay Businesses

The Senate passed legislation to require state agencies to pay small businesses within 15 days of receipt of an invoice and would allow state agencies one year to implement these changes to their prompt payment system. S6387B, Chapter 36, sponsored by Senator Jack Martins

 

Supporting Israel and Other U.S. Allies Targeted by Boycotts

The Senate approved a measure that expands existing state law and prevents New York from inadvertently using state funds to support boycotts and discriminatory economic agendas aimed at Israel or other American allies. The bill would prohibit New York from providing state monies to businesses or individuals that participate in boycotts like the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement aimed at economically harming Israel and the Israeli people. S6378A, sponsored by Senator Jack Martins and Senator Simcha Felder

 

 

HEALTH AND MENTAL HYGIENE

 

2016-17 State Budget Health and Mental Hygiene Highlights:

 

The final budget includes $189 million in funding to help address the challenging public health crisis caused by heroin and opioid abuse in communities throughout the state. An increase of $25 million above the Executive Budget proposal was strongly supported by the members of the Senate’s Joint Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction including Task Force Co-Chairs Senator Terrence Murphy, Senator George Amedore, and Senator Robert Ortt to help strengthen abuse prevention, treatment, recovery, and education services.

 

The budget initiates a new Paid Family Leave program to allow working New Yorkers to spend time with a sick family member or bond with a new child. That program will be phased-in over the next four years, and will include employees who have been in their current job for at least six months to provide protections and necessary financial resources so that family support can be available.

 

The budget provides community-based health care providers, hospitals, nursing homes, home care, and other facilities statewide will be eligible to receive $200 million in new funds from this budget to support critical capital and infrastructure improvements, as well as to integrate and further develop health systems.         

 

The Senate’s Task Force on Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases, chaired by Senator Sue Serino, was established to help combat growing health concerns, worked to approve $600,000 in this year’s budget for research, education, and prevention efforts to Lyme and other related diseases.

 

The final budget also restores millions of dollars in funding cut in the Executive Budget proposal for women’s and family health initiatives, among other programs. It includes $25.3 million for Cancer Services Programs; $26.3 million for Nutritional Information for Women, Infants, and Children; $9.7 million for chronic disease prevention (including diabetes, asthma, and hypertension); $5.5 million for Rape Crisis Centers; $2.3 million for the Prenatal Care Program; $9.65 million – a $1 million increase – for the Doctors Across New York Program and restores $25 million in Excess Medical Malpractice Coverage to recruit and attract physicians to underserved communities; and $1 million to support organ donation, among other programs.

 

Health and mental hygiene legislation includes:

 

COMBATING HEROIN AND OPIOID ABUSE

 

The Senate’s Joint Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction:

 

The Senate is at the forefront of New York’s efforts to prevent future tragedies and help countless lives rid themselves from the throes of heroin and opioid addiction. Since 2011, laws have been adopted to establish Good Samaritan protections, further expand access to naloxone, create I-STOP, and enhance insurance coverage among others.

 

In March 2014, the bipartisan New York State Senate Joint Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction was created to examine the alarming rise in use of heroin and opioids that has claimed lives and hurt families across New York State.  Following forums held throughout New York State, Task Force members, led by Chair Senator Phil Boyle and Co-Chairs Senator Mike Nozzolio and Senator David Carlucci, secured the enactment of 11 bills signed into law and $2.25 million in substance abuse funding.

 

Building on this success, Senators Terrence Murphy, Robert Ortt, and George Amedore were named as the Task Force Co-Chairs early last year and joined with Task Force members to hold forums in Westchester, Monroe, Niagara, Albany, Otsego, Yates, Kings, Suffolk, and Broome counties. They brought together medical experts, treatment providers, law enforcement, and affected New Yorkers who provided invaluable insights and anecdotal evidence, affording the members the opportunity to understand how legislation could better address this public health crisis.

 

Members of the bipartisan task force include Senators Fred Akshar, John Bonacic, Phil Boyle, David Carlucci, Thomas Croci, Hugh Farley, John Flanagan, Rich Funke, Pat Gallivan, Martin J. Golden, Joseph A. Griffo, Kemp Hannon, Andrew Lanza, William Larkin, Kenneth LaValle, Carl L. Marcellino, Kathleen A. Marchione, Jack Martins, Michael Nozzolio, Tom O’Mara, Michael Ranzenhofer, Patty Ritchie, Joseph Robach, Diane Savino, Susan Serino, James L. Seward, David J. Valesky, Michael Venditto, and Catharine Young.

 

Enacting New Laws to Combat Heroin and Opioid Abuse

 

The Senate built upon its record of tackling the heroin and opioid epidemic head-on by passing a package of legislation as part of an agreement with the Governor and the Assembly that addresses many of the issues raised by the Senate’s Task Force. The measures focus on addiction prevention, access to treatment, and support for New Yorkers in recovery - adding critical new tools to the state’s arsenal to fight the heroin and opioid abuse crisis.

 

The package includes three bills which have passed both houses -- S8137 sponsored by Senator Rob Ortt, S8138 sponsored by Senator George Amedore, and S8139 sponsored by Senator Terrence Murphy. Together, they enact a thoughtful, proactive approach to the state’s rapidly evolving heroin and opioid crisis by: expanding insurance coverage for addiction treatment; enhancing treatment options; empowering professionals to administer emergency assistance to individuals; enhancing data collection and reporting on heroin and opioid overdoses; requiring hospitals to educate individuals about available treatment services; requiring prescriber education; and providing insurance coverage for necessary inpatient services for the diagnosis and treatment of substance use disorder. Highlights of the bills include:

 

 Prevention:

 

Continuing Education on Addiction and Pain Management for All Prescribers: Requires training in pain management, palliative care, and addiction for licensed prescribers. On or before July 1, 2017 and once every 3-year period thereafter, prescribers would need to complete three hours of coursework to be developed by the state to increase awareness of the risks presented by prescription opioids.

 

Educating Consumers About Prescription Abuse and Preventing Blood Borne Diseases: Requires the state Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), in consultation with the state Department of Health (DOH), to create educational materials for pharmacies to distribute to consumers about the dangers of misuse and the potential for addiction to prescription drugs; available treatment resources; and proper disposal. Pharmacists participating in the Expanded Syringe Access Program (ESAP) would also be authorized to counsel customers who are purchasing syringes about preventing injection drug abuse; drug treatment; preventing drug overdose; preventing and treating hepatitis C; testing for HIV; and providing pre-exposure and non-occupational post-exposure prophylaxis.

 

Limiting Initial Opioid Prescriptions to Seven Days: Addresses the issue of overprescribing medications for acute pain by requiring an authorized practitioner to limit the initial prescription of certain opioids to seven days instead of the current 30 days. A practitioner may then prescribe any appropriate renewal, refill, or new opioid or other prescription after the initial seven-day supply.

 

Expanding the Reporting of Opioid Overdose Data: Directs DOH to expand its reporting of opioid overdose data by tracking the number of opioid overdoses in addition to the number of opioid overdose deaths. DOH is also required to examine which areas of the state are experiencing high rates of opioid overdoses and if any areas of the state have reduced overdose rates after receiving state resources or services. These vital statistics must be sent to counties each quarter and will provide a greater understanding of the communities struggling most with this crisis to help better allocate funding for prevention, treatment, and recovery services.

 

Treatment:

 

Ending Prior Insurance Authorization for Immediate Access to Inpatient Treatment Services: Requires up to a minimum of 14 days of coverage for necessary inpatient treatment of substance use disorder (SUD) without prior approval or concurrent utilization review (UR) during those 14 days for in-network providers.

 

Lengthening the Amount of Time Families Can Seek Emergency Drug Treatment: Extends the amount of time a person can be held to receive emergency services related to substance use from 48 hours to 72 hours. This bill also ensures the provision of adequate discharge planning from treatment facilities, provides individuals with the opportunity to seek further substance use treatment, and requires the dissemination of information on the dangers of long-term substance use and treatment resources.

 

Allowing More Licensed Professionals to Administer Overdose Reversal Medicine: Provides a limited exemption from professional misconduct to administer an opioid antagonist in an emergency situation by licensed professionals who would otherwise be prohibited from administering drugs.

 

Expanding Wraparound Services: Requires OASAS to enact the Wraparound Services Demonstration Program created in 2014 to prevent relapses after drug treatments. The program continues to provide services to adolescents and adults for up to nine months after the successful completion of a treatment program. These services would be in the form of case management services that address education, legal, financial, social, childcare, and other supports. 

 

Including Follow-up Treatment Services in Discharge Planning: Requires hospitals to provide referrals for substance use disorder patients and to coordinate with SUD services programs and ensure patients are made aware of the availability of treatment program that upon treatment, admission, or discharge. Hospitals will  develop and distribute written policies and procedures and train personnel who are in direct clinical contact with SUD patients to identify, assess, and refer such individuals. The bill also requires OASAS, in consultation with DOH, to develop new or utilize existing educational materials for hospitals to distribute to patients who are confirmed to be suffering from SUD or appear to be suffering from SUD.

 

Expanding Insurance Coverage for Addiction Treatment:

 

Using Consistent Criteria To Determine the Medical Necessity of Treatments: Allows providers to determine the most appropriate level of care for a client with a substance abuse disorder, regardless of what diagnostic tool is used to determine treatment service levels. Providers could use either OASAS’s Level of Care for Alcohol and Drug Treatment Referral (LOCADTR) or any other diagnostic tool approved by OASAS – increasing the ability of providers to make sure that patients are able to receive the treatment they need.

 

Authorizing Emergency Substance Use Disorder Medication Coverage: Requires insurance coverage, without prior authorization, for an emergency five-day supply of medications for treating a substance use disorder when emergency conditions exist. Any copayments or coinsurance collected for the emergency supply must not exceed the copayment or coinsurance otherwise applicable to a 30-day supply of such medication.

 

Expanding Access to Naloxone/Opioid Reversal Medication Coverage: Requires insurance coverage for Naloxone or other overdose reversal medication, whether it is prescribed to a person who is addicted to opioids or their family member covered under the same insurance plan.

 

Removing Prior Authorization Requirements for Buprenorphine and Vivitrol: Eliminates requirements for prior Medicaid authorization for Buprenorphine and Vivitrol prescriptions – drugs that are used in medication-assisted treatment for opioid addiction.

 

Funding to Combat Heroin and Opioid Abuse:

 

This year’s budget included $189 million in funding to help address the challenging public health crisis caused by heroin and opioid abuse in communities throughout the state. This includes an increase of $25 million above the Executive Budget proposal that was strongly supported by the members of the Senate’s Joint Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction to help strengthen abuse prevention, treatment, recovery, and education services. An agreement entered into by the Senate, Assembly, and Governor specifies many of the initiatives that will be supported by the additional $25 million, including:

 

  • $1.2 million for 20 new Support Navigator programs statewide, assisting individuals and their families with navigating insurance and OASAS treatment systems. In 2018, funding increases to $2 million;
  • $1.7 million for 20 new On-Call Peer programs, assisting individuals with substance use disorders in emergency rooms in connecting to treatment. In 2018, funding increases to $3 million;
  • $1.9 million for 11 new Adolescent Clubhousesproviding safe and welcoming spaces for teens and young adults who are at risk and assisting in prevention and recovery efforts. In 2018, funding increases to $2.6 million;
  • $3.2 million for 16 new Recovery Community and Outreach Centers, providing supports in a comfortable environment including education and information on how to access treatment services and wellness activities. In 2018, funding increases to $5.6 million;
  • $1.3 million for 270 new treatment beds, providing a much needed expansion to treatment opportunities. In 2018, funding increases to $11.2 million;
  • $1.3 million for 2,335 new Opioid Treatment Program slots, providing additional medication assisted treatment opportunities. In 2018, funding increases to $3.1 million;
  • $3.1 million for 170 new housing units. In 2018, funding increases to $4.3 million;
  • $1 million in continued funding to supply the public with overdose prevention kits;
  • $3.2 million to continue and consolidate the “Combat Heroin” and “Talk 2 Prevent” campaigns to target specific populations that are at risk for substance use; and
  • $10 million for capital spending to support the creation of new treatment beds and the expansion of Opioid Treatment Program Slots.

 

2016 Task Force Findings and Recommendations

 

In May, the Task Force released a comprehensive report with more than 30 recommendations that would help improve prevention efforts, increase access to treatment, expand recovery options and, provide greater resources to law enforcement to aid in combating this crisis.

 

In its report, the Task Force identified a four-pronged approach that would stem the growth of the heroin and opioid crisis - prying loose the stranglehold it has on New York’s communities - and supports those battling their addiction on the journey to recovery:

 

Prevention: increasing awareness to better educate the public of the inherent risks involved in using heroin and prescription opioids, and taking advantage of technological advances available to deter the abuse of prescription drugs and prevent addiction;

 

Treatment: recognizing the critical need for expanded and improved insurance coverage, and enhancing access to all forms of effective treatment - including inpatient, outpatient, and Medication Assisted Treatment - in order to help individuals return to stable and productive lives;

 

Recovery: providing the proper supports, such as safe environments, stable employment, and opportunities to participate in diversion programs that avoid incarceration in order to facilitate successful recoveries from addiction; and

 

Enforcement: implementing criminal justice reforms that give law enforcement the necessary tools to disrupt the supply of heroin and stop the diversion of opiate prescription medications within the state.

The Task Force incorporated the four essential prongs and collaborated with stakeholders in communities across the state as part of its strategy to develop the report’s legislative and budgetary recommendations. These recommendations create an effective, multi-faceted, and comprehensive approach to addressing many of the issues raised by the state’s opioid crisis:

 

Prevention:

  • Limiting initial prescriptions of controlled substances (S6091B, Hannon)
  • Creating a Prescription Pain Medication Awareness Program (S4348A, Hannon)
  • Enhancing patient access to abuse-deterrent technology for opioids (S6962A Passed Both Houses, Hannon)
  • Ensuring proper opioid education to prescribed patients (S7315, Murphy, Amedore, Ortt);
  • Establishing a Narcan kit registry (S6516A, Passed Both Houses, Amedore);
  • Providing instruction of mental health, alcohol, drug and tobacco use in junior and senior high schools (S5546A, Funke);
  • Requiring patient counseling prior to issuing a prescription for a schedule II opioid (S7365, Akshar);
  • Increasing availability of naloxone (S6346A, Passed Both Houses, Carlucci); and
  • Requiring the state Department of Health (DOH) and the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) to examine and report on the underreported and at-risk populations, including but not limited to Native American Tribes and the effect the heroin and opioid crisis is having on those populations.

 

Treatment:

  • Continuing education for credentialed alcoholism and substance abuse counselors (S7301, Passed Both Houses, Amedore, Murphy, Ortt);
  • Removing barriers to Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) (S7317A, Murphy, Amedore, Ortt);
  • Examining insurance coverage for medications approved by the FDA for use in MAT of opioid addiction and examine the accessibility across the state to new treatment modalities;
  • Enhancing emergency intervention procedures (S6248B, Ortt);
  • Establishing assisted outpatient treatment for substance use disorders (S631, Carlucci);
  • Requiring the DOH and OASAS to examine and report on the most effective treatment modalities, including ideal settings, treatment length, and best practices for heroin and opioid addiction;
  • Creating and appointing an Ombudsman to assist individuals and families in obtaining appropriate insurance coverage for treatment services;
  • Requiring all OASAS-certified treatment providers to inform individuals receiving treatment and their families of their right to file an external appeal with the Department of Financial Services (DFS) and provide them with the means necessary to access such appeal; and
  • Requiring DOH and DFS to rigorously scrutinize the implementation of any conditions placed on accessing treatment.

 

Recovery:

  • Including for-profit providers in the Request for Proposals Process for substance use disorder and gambling programs (S7446, Amedore);
  • Creating a Sober Living Task Force (S3989A, Croci);
  • Expanding treatment options for judicial diversion participants (S6874, Passed Both Houses, Murphy); 
  • Expanding access to judicial diversion programs (S6322A, Passed Both Houses, Ranzenhofer);
  • Encouraging employment of recovering users (S2346, Seward);
  • Enacting the Wraparound Services Demonstration Program (S7748A, Carlucci); and
  • Requiring DOH and OASAS to examine and report on vital statistics related to heroin and opioid addiction, including relapse rate, length of treatment, and what, if any, follow up care supports are in place upon discharge.

 

Enforcement:

  • Enhancing penalties for the sale of controlled substances on park grounds and playgrounds (S994, Golden) - this bill passed the Senate on March 1, 2016;
  • Facilitating the conviction of drug dealers (S100, Boyle);
  • Expanding the crime of operating as a major trafficker (S4177, Murphy);  
  • Creating Drug-Free Zones around drug or alcohol treatment centers and methadone clinics (S7200, Akshar);
  • Establishing appropriate penalties as it relates to heroin sales (S7012, Ortt);
  • Enhancing judicial access to juvenile records for determining judicial diversion program eligibility (S6317, DeFrancisco);
  • Adding fentanyl to the controlled substance schedule (S6632A, Croci);
  • Establishing Xylazine as a controlled substance (S7397, Murphy);
  • Creating the crime of homicide by sale of an opioid controlled substance (S4163, Amedore); and
  • Developing a formula to dispense funds acquired from the seizure of assets used in the commission of drug crimes.

 

Other Legislation Passed to Reduce Drug Use and Abuse:

 

Storing Narcan in Libraries

The Senate passed legislation that would allow public libraries to maintain and administer opioid antagonists, such as narcan, for the treatment of overdoses. The Senate and Assembly previously passed legislation to expand access to opioid antagonists and to provide schools and certain educational institutions the authority to maintain and administer opioid antagonists in the event of an emergency. This bill amends Chapter 57 of the laws of 2015 to also authorize public libraries to do so. S7860, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator George Amedore

 

Authorizes Public Venues to Stock and Administer Epinephrine Auto-Injectors

The Senate passed legislation to authorize, but does not mandate, public venues such as restaurants, youth organizations, sports leagues, theme parks, sport arenas, daycare, and educational facilities to stock and administer epinephrine auto-injectors in an emergency to individuals who appear to experience anaphylactic symptoms. S6800, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Kemp Hannon

 

Preventing Addiction

The Senate passed a bill addressing the increasing risk of children becoming addicted to opioids and heroin after being prescribed painkillers for medical procedures or illegally sharing extra prescriptions. The bill requires a health practitioner to receive written consent from a minor’s parent or legal guardian in order to prescribe a medical treatment containing opioids, as well as to discuss the risks of addiction and dangers of overdose associated with the medication. The measure also limits the prescription for a controlled substance containing an opioid to a seven-day duration unless there is a medical emergency that puts the child’s health or safety at risk. S7337, sponsored by Senator Fred Akshar

 

Strengthening Parents’ Ability to Get Their Children Substance Abuse Treatment

The Senate approved legislation that would allow parents to petition Family Court to require their child to be placed into a substance abuse treatment services program for up to 60 days. This request would be filed similar to those for a Person In Need of Supervision (PINS) petition. Under current law, parents do not have this ability and children can check themselves out of a rehab program unless they have been ordered to complete the program by the courts. As a result, parents often must resort to having their child arrested to get them into rehab and prevent them from checking out. The court could require the child to stay in treatment for up to an additional 90 days if recommended by the treatment provider. S3237, sponsored by Senator Jack Martins

 

Combat Synthetic Drug Abuse

The Senate passed a package of bills to prevent the abuse of deadly synthetic drugs. Synthetic drugs have increased in popularity because their effects are similar to known hallucinogens or narcotics but their chemical structures are slightly altered so restrictions against illegal substances can be evaded.

  • S2836C, sponsored by Senator John Flanagan, adds the current list of known synthetic cannabinoids to the Schedule I list and creates criminal penalties for possession and sale;
  • S4743, sponsored by Senator Rich Funke, adds Alpha-PVP, known as “flakka” or “gravel,” to the public health law Schedule I of controlled substances;
  • S1640A, sponsored by Senator Jeff Klein, amends the Controlled Substances Act to add to the Schedule any analogous drugs;
  • S6040A, sponsored by Senator Jeff Klein, imposes civil penalties on businesses that sell synthetic cannabinoids. On the third violation, a business would lose its state licenses to sell lottery tickets, alcohol, cigarettes and tobacco products for five years; and
  • S6496, sponsored by Senator David Valesky, requires the Department of Health to maintain an electronic database of known synthetic cannabinoids, listing their compounds, a description of products, and their street names.

 

Strengthening Penalties for Possession and Sale of Methamphetamine

The Senate passed a measure to give law enforcement more tools to help stop the spread of methamphetamine use. The legislation would amend the penal law to create criminal charges if an individual possesses one or more preparations, compounds, mixtures, or substances containing methamphetamine, its salts, isomers, or salts of isomers. This measure would also amend the penal law to make it a Class B felony if there is an intent to sell one or more preparations, compounds, mixtures, or substances containing methamphetamine, its salts, isomers, or salts of isomers. The actual sale of methamphetamine would be considered a Class B felony if the sale has a total weight of one-eighth ounce or more, and a Class A-1 felony if the sale has a total weight of two ounces or more. S1150, sponsored by Senator Tom O'Mara

ORGAN DONATION

 

Encouraging New Yorkers to Become Organ Donors

The Senate passed legislation to encourage more New Yorkers to become organ and tissue donors. The bills focus on enhancing public awareness and increasing the number of New Yorkers who sign up to help save lives through organ, tissue, bone marrow, and blood donation.

 

Only 25 percent of potential New Yorkers are enrolled in the New York State Donate Life Registry – the second lowest rate in the nation. The Senate has been advocating for additional resources and raising public awareness of the importance of organ and tissue donation through legislation and funding. The enacted state budget included $1 million to support the New York Alliance for Donation – an increase of $750,000 over last year – as part of the Senate’s ongoing commitment to help New Yorkers in dire need of transplants.

  • S7003, sponsored by Senator John Flanagan, would help educate high school students about organ, tissue, bone marrow, and blood donation. In New York, the current age of consent to register as a bone marrow and organ and tissue donor is 18. The age of consent to donate blood is 17 (or 16 with parental consent). This measure would help high school students make informed decisions when they reach the age of consent by requiring state Education officials to develop recommendations for instruction in blood, bone marrow, organ, and tissue donations and the life saving benefits each provide. The State Education agreed to implement this measure.
  • S5313A, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Kemp Hannon, would help increase the number of organ and tissue donors by lowering the age of consent for New Yorkers who choose to become donors. New York is one of only four states in the nation that requires an individual be 18 or older to enroll in an organ and tissue donor registry. This leaves young people without a mechanism to document their consent to donate and puts parents in the difficult situation of having to assume what their teenage child would have wanted should a tragedy occur. This legislation will give New Yorkers aged 16 or older who wish to consent to donation the ability to enroll in the state’s Donate Life Registry. However, in the event that the young person may be considered for organ, eye, or tissue donation, the parents of that individual will be notified and given the final authorization for donation to take place;
  • S6952A, Chapter 40, sponsored by Senator Hannon, will provide an additional opportunity for New Yorkers to document their decision to enroll as an organ and tissue donor. All applicants for health insurance offered through the state health benefit exchange would be provided space during the application process to register for the Donate Life Registry for organ, eye, and tissue donations;
  • S6228, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator David Carlucci, would make Lauren’s Law permanent in New York. Lauren’s Law is named after 12-year-old heart transplant survivor Lauren Shields of Stony Point, New York, and makes it easier to choose to be a donor when enrolling for a driver’s license. The law prohibits a driver's license application from being processed unless the organ donation section is filled out. Applicants have to check a box stating “yes” or “skip this question.” Prior to the law’s enactment, filling out the organ donation section on the application was optional. The law is currently set to expire in October;
  • S7013A, sponsored by Senator Susan Serino, would help medical transport teams operate within their necessary and sensitive time frames. The bill would add human organ delivery vehicles to the list of authorized emergency vehicles in the state.

 

COMBATING LYME AND TICK-BORNE DISEASES

 

Increasing Public Awareness

The Senate recognized May as Lyme Disease Awareness Month and passed legislation to combat Lyme and tick-borne diseases in the state. The bill would require the Department of Health to design a Lyme and tick-borne disease prevention program to promote awareness of the disease and inform communities. The program would include: prevention methods – including the safe use of recommended insect repellents; best practices for tick removal; recommendations for the reduction of exposure to ticks; and the appropriate course of action once a tick is removed. S5803A, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Sue Serino

               

Educating Students about Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases         

The Senate passed legislation that would help educate and increase awareness among school-aged children to protect them from Lyme disease and tick-borne infections. The bill requires the state to create age-appropriate educational materials that would be readily available to schools so students can learn how to identify ticks, the procedures for safe removal, and the best practices for protection from ticks. S5804A, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Susan Serino

 

Long-Term Health Insurance Coverage for Lyme and Other Tick-Borne Related Diseases

The Senate passed legislation to require the New York State Health Care Quality and Cost Containment Commission to meet each year and submit a report to the Governor and Legislature on the impacts of providing insurance coverage for Lyme and other tick-borne related diseases. Currently, health insurance companies are not required to cover long term treatment for those suffering from chronic Lyme or other related diseases. This bill is a the first major step in establishing a conversation on what can be done to address this issue in New York. S7777, sponsored by Senator Sue Serino

 

Other Important Health-Related Legislation:

 

Electronic Prescribing Law

The Senate passed measures that are related to the State’s implementation of the mandatory electronic prescribing law which took effect March 27, 2016. These measures together are common sense approaches to ensure the electronic prescribing requirement is workable and achieves its intended goal of prohibiting doctor shopping and  prescription drug abuse.  

  • S6779B, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Kemp Hannon, would exempt health care practitioners who order only a few prescriptions a year from mandatory electronic prescribing. E-prescribing requires the investment in electronic health systems that could be cost prohibitive for prescribers issuing only a few prescriptions a year. Under this bill prescribers can certify to the Department of Health to be exempt if they issue less than 25 prescriptions annually; and
  • S6778, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Hannon, would provide an exemption to the e-prescribing requirement for oral prescriptions already authorized by the Education Law. This exemption would  accommodate nursing homes who need to obtain prescriptions for their residents at all hours of the day, including times when a physician may not be present to issue one. Under this practice, nursing homes can obtain the prescription orally and have the physician reconcile the prescription later.     

 

Preventing Nicotine Addiction in Children

The Senate passed legislation to prohibit the free distribution of electronic cigarettes to minors. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control Prevention, the use of e-cigarettes has nearly tripled in just one year’s time. While electronic cigarettes do not contain tobacco, they contain nicotine which has been proven to be addictive, have negative effects on working memory, cause attention issues, and create cognitive and behavioral impairments on youth. The bill requires that the distribution or sale of electronic cigarettes must be made only to an individual who can demonstrate, through a driver’s license or other form of a government or educational institution issued photo identification, that they are at least 18 years old. S6978, sponsored by Senator Fred Akshar

 

The Senate also passed a bill that would require any person who is not registered with the Department of Taxation and Finance to sell tobacco products and is selling electronic cigarettes to register with the state Department of Health. This would close a loophole that allows some retailers of electronic cigarettes who do not also sell tobacco cigarettes to avoid compliance checks that would ensure adherence to current laws. S6003, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Hannon

 

Increasing Crib Safety Awareness

The Senate approved a measure to require the state Department of Health to distribute crib safety information to maternity patients detailing safe sleeping procedures for babies; crib product recalls; and disclosure of the federal standards on the manufacture and sale of cribs. More information can be found hereS6730, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Martin Golden

 

Promoting Heart Health with New Statewide System of Stroke Care

The Senate passed legislation to support the rapid identification, diagnosis, and treatment of strokes to help save more lives. The bill authorizes the designation of comprehensive stroke centers, primary stroke centers, and acute stroke-ready hospitals that will complement and enhance the state’s existing system of stroke care to provide better treatment for stroke patients statewide. S5771A, sponsored by Senator Terrence Murphy

 

Adding Representatives to Managed Care Plans

The Senate also passed legislation to add representatives of managed care plans or managed care plan trade associations who work in the early intervention field as members of the early intervention coordinating council. The Council makes recommendations to the state Department of Health (DOH) regarding appropriate services for infants and toddlers with disabilities and their families, and adding these members would help open a public dialogue between managed care plans, early intervention providers, and DOH. S7689, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Susan Serino

 

Reducing Health Care Expenses

The Senate passed legislation to help businesses facing significantly higher health care costs as a result of state regulations that took effect earlier this year by redefining what constitutes a “small group employer.” S7104 sponsored by Senator James L. Seward

 

Educating Hospital Patients about Important Rights

The Senate passed a measure to require each hospital’s Patient Bill of Rights and Responsibilities to include a statement with information including a list of standard charges, participating health plans, the right to be held harmless from surprise bills and emergency services bills, the independent dispute process, and to designate a caregiver upon being discharged. S6347B, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Kemp Hannon

 

Protecting the Well-Being of Children and Adults Served by Out-of-State Mental Health Facilities

The Senate passed a bill to protect New York’s most vulnerable children and adults by giving necessary authority to the state’s Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs to visit, inspect, and appraise the management of out-of-state schools or facilities that serve New Yorkers. S7584, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Robert Ortt

 

The Senate also passed legislation to remove costs charged for access to clinical mental health records to an agency providing protection and advocacy services to disabled New Yorkers. S6622, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Robert Ortt

 

Making Kendra’s Law Permanent

The Senate passed a measure to improves care for people with serious mental illness and protects the safety of patients and the public by streamlining and improving New York's Assisted Outpatient Treatment (AOT) program, also known as Kendra's Law, along with making it permanent. The experience of thousands of patients, treatment providers, and families who have utilized Kendra's Law since 1999 point to several areas where the law could be improved to achieve costs savings, promote smoother functioning of the AOT program, and provide easier access to those who stand to benefit from it. S4722, sponsored by Senator Catharine Young

 

Expanding ‘Doctors Across New York’

The Senate passes a bill to expand the Doctors Across New York program to include dentists. Access to dental care in underserved areas of the state is a serious public health problem and incorporating dentists into this program will increase access to potentially life-saving dental care for traditionally underserved populations. S3020B, sponsored by Senator Catharine Young

 

Redispensing Unused Prescriptions

The Senate passed a bill that would allow health care facilities authorized by the state Department of Health to donate unused prescription medications, in tamper-evident packaging, for redispensing by a pharmacist or prescriber to uninsured and underinsured New Yorkers. The currently required destruction of prescription medications not only affects those in need of these very drugs but traditional methods of disposing of unwanted prescription medications also can be harmful to the environment and public health. S5903A, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Kemp Hannon

Establishing a Task Force to Conduct a Telehealth Study

The Senate passed legislation to establish a Task Force to study the ability to utilize telehealth within the workers’ compensation system. Telehealth has long been proven effective and since its introduction in New York State has encouraged patients to avail themselves of all treatments and resources possible. Conducting a study on the ability to utilize telehealth within the workers' compensation system will ensure that that injured workers are provided with quality medical care in an efficient and expeditious manner. S8109, sponsored by Senator Catharine Young

Eliminating “Fail-First” Requirements for Medications

The Senate approved a measure to ensure that patients are able to access the treatment prescribed to them by their health care professionals in a timely fashion. The insurance industry policy known as step therapy helps control costs, but can come with serious consequences for patients waiting to be approved for their prescribed medication. The bill provides for an expedited appeals process, allowing patients and their health care professionals to override fail-first protocols. S3419C, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Catharine Young

 

Creation of an Autism Spectrum Disorders Advisory Board

The Senate passed legislation that would help improve current Autism Spectrum Disorder supports, services, and interagency coordination with the creation of an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) board. The board would consist of autism experts, advocates, and representatives from the state education, health, mental health, and child welfare agencies. They would be charged with examining the effectiveness of current ASD supports and services, as well as any legislative or regulatory action or interagency coordination that may improve the delivery of such services. S8036A, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Michael Nozzolio

 

Reimbursement for Surgical First Assistant Services

The Senate passed legislation which clarifies reimbursement for non-physician first assistant services provided by a Registered Nurses who are certified in operating room nursing; the services are within the scope of practice for non-physician first assistants; and the terms and conditions of the policy are otherwise provide coverage for the services. S6392A, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Betty Little

 

Ending the AIDS Epidemic

The Senate passed legislation to support New York’s efforts to end the AIDS epidemic by decreasing the spread of HIV. The bill takes steps to remove any barriers to individuals being able to voluntarily accept HIV testing by reducing administrative hurdles, and by educating individuals about their HIV status and options for accessing treatment. Measures include: streamlined/routine testing of HIV/AIDS; requiring HIV tests to be offered to all adults, regardless of age; enabling pharmacists to dispense a seven-day starter kit of HIV infection prevention medication; allowing registered nurses to screen persons at increased risk for STDs – increasing the number of people being diagnosed and treated for HIV and other diseases. S8129, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Kemp Hannon

 

Increasing Patients’ Access to Quality Health Care in Community Settings by Certifying Advanced Home Health Aides

The Senate passed a measure to increase patients’ access to quality care and helps reduce disparities for Medicaid consumers of home and community based services. With certain exemptions, current law generally limits the provision of nursing care to licensed nurses. This bill creates a certification for advanced home care aides who could carry out an expanded range of tasks, such as assisting with the administration of routine, pre-poured medications. Individuals employed as advanced home care aids would enable more people to live in home- and community-based settings while also receiving necessary assistance to complete minor medical tasks. S8110, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Kenneth LaValle

 

 

TRANSPORTATION

 

2016-17 State Budget Transportation Highlights:

 

The budget included a major Senate priority of ensuring transportation funding that was distributed fairly, and is regionally-balanced. It includes a record $27.1 billion transportation capital plan to achieve true parity in infrastructure funding between upstate and downstate.

 

The state’s Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Program (CHIPS) will receive $438 million this year to help local governments move forward with important local highway, road, and bridge repair projects. In addition, the Pave NY/Bridge NY program will receive $800 million over the next four years for local roads and bridges. This includes $400 million ($100 million per year) for local projects distributed based on the CHIPS formula and $400 million for local bridge projects that will incorporate local solicitation.

 

The enacted budget provides the Metropolitan Transportation Authority with the operating and capital resources to better meet the growing needs of subway and bus riders as well as Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North commuters.  For fiscal year 2017, the budget provides the MTA with nearly $4.5 billion in operating assistance.  The budget also includes a state commitment to provide $8.3 billion to the MTA's $26.6 billion 2015-2019 Capital Program, which was approved by the MTA Capital Program Review Board earlier this year.  

 

This year’s budget includes $1 billion over five years for other transportation modes, including $397 million for upstate and non-MTA downstate transit systems, $352 million for rail freight, and $282 million for aviation.

 

Transportation legislation includes:

             

RAILROAD CROSSING SAFETY

 

Rail Safety Act of 2016

The Senate approved the Rail Safety Act of 2016, a measure that will enhance railroad safety measures throughout New York State. The bill is part of an agreement with the Governor and the Assembly to require joint inspection of traffic signals; increase penalties for failing to comply with regulations; align railroad bridge inspection requirements with federal regulations; and increase penalties for failing to obey certain signals and stops.

 

Although the numbers of fatalities and accidents at highway-railroad grade crossings have fallen steadily on a national level, they have increased in New York. Existing provisions of New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Law require motorists to observe safe driving behaviors at grade crossings, but many motorists fail to follow these critical safety requirements, risking their own safety as well as others’.

 

To improve the safety of trains and the communities they travel through, this bill will: 

 

Require Joint Inspections by State and Local Officials: Every railroad corporation and every municipality or state agency which has jurisdiction of a highway with at-grade crossings must conduct, at a minimum, biennial inspections of traffic warning systems. The state Department of Transportation (DOT) will facilitate and oversee these inspections;

 

Increase Penalties for Repeat Offenders of Railroad Safety Violations: The bill strengthens penalties for repeat offenders who fail to obey signals indicating the approach of a train, including not stopping within 15 feet of the crossing. Violators face up to $500 and/or 45 days of imprisonment for the second offense that occurs within 18 months of the first, and up to $750 and/or 90 days of imprisonment for a third or subsequent offense which occur within 18 months. Penalties for repeatedly driving through, around, or under any gate or barrier at railroad crossings will be up to $750 and/or 90 days of imprisonment for the second offense, and up to $1,000 and/or 180 days of imprisonment for a third or subsequent offense. The look-back for repeat offenses will be increased from 18 months to 30 months.

 

Align State Inspections of Railroad Crossings with Federal Reporting Requirements: Requirements for railroad bridge inspections conducted by railroad companies will be made concurrent with existing federal requirements under the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). A single set of laws will allow for improved communication between the railroad companies and federal and state government. By increasing the penalties for failure to comply with regulations, this bill establishes a strong incentive for railroad companies to ensure that incidents are reported within the time limits required by regulation.

 

Increase Penalties for the Failure to Comply with Regulations: Penalties will be increased for buses, vehicles carrying hazardous materials, and vehicles with a gross vehicle rating of more than 10,000 pounds that repeatedly fail to stop at all railroad grade crossings. Violators face up to $500 and/or 45 days of imprisonment for their second offense that occurs within 30 months of the first, and up to $750 and/or 90 days of imprisonment for the third or subsequent offenses which occur within 30 months. (S8119), Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Joseph Robach

 

Additional Railroad Crossing Safety Bills

The Senate also passed two bills to decrease dangerous vehicular accidents at railroad grade crossings. The legislation includes:

  • S5238A, sponsored by Senator Terrence Murphy, would allow any municipality to install and operate railroad grade crossing photo violation monitoring devices at any railroad sign or signal. Utilizing the same technology as red light cameras, drivers who fail to adhere to safety signals indicating an approaching train would be fined. This measure would further incentivize drivers to pay particular attention to signs indicating appropriate stopping distances from railroad crossings and thereby prevent serious and deadly accidents.
  •  S3458B, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator David Carlucci, would direct the Department of Transportation and partnering agencies to conduct a statewide study of highway-railroad grade crossings to determine if adequate safety measures exist to prevent collisions between trains and motor vehicles. The study would look at the design and safety of highway-railroad grade crossings and the feasibility of implementing design changes to increase safety and reduce the likelihood of obstruction at such grade crossings; adequacy of traffic and pedestrian warning signals; the availability of federal funding for highway-railroad grade crossing improvement projects; and the feasibility of equipping passenger and commuter trains with technology to increase safety.

 

Allowing Ride-Sharing to be Available State Wide

The Senate passed a measure that would give consumers new transportation options by allowing ridesharing in areas of the state outside New York City. Transportation Network Companies (TNCs), such as Uber and Lyft, provide a digital platform that matches consumers with a community of vetted local drivers offering rides using their personal vehicles. This bill would establish clear guidelines to ensure TNCs are properly insured, local control and regulation is preserved, and the public is protected, while balancing the need to encourage growth and innovation to improve existing transportation choices. S4108D, sponsored by Senator James L. Seward

 

 

MEASURES TO SHOW APPRECIATION FOR AND HELP VETERANS

 

2016-17 State Budget Veterans Highlights:

 

The budget continues the Senate’s support for the heroic service men and women who have sacrificed so much to serve our nation by including funding for programs including: $2.8 million for the Joseph P. Dwyer Veteran Peer-to-Peer Program; $500,000 for the NYS Defenders Association Veteran’s Defense Program; $500,000 for the Veterans Outreach Center in Monroe County; $450,000 for the Veteran’s Mental Health Training Initiative; $200,000 for Legal Services of the Hudson Valley Veterans and Military Families Advocacy Project; and $200,000 for Warrior Salute, among other initiatives.

 

The budget also extended the Hire-A-Vet tax credit for two years, through 2018. The credit is provided to any business that hires a veteran returning home from military service on a full-time basis for at least one year. The credit is equal to 10 percent of wages paid, with a maximum of $5,000 per veteran - increasing to 15 percent of wages if the veteran is also disabled, with a maximum of $15,000 per disabled veteran.

 

To further create jobs, the budget includes $115,000 in new funding for an innovative proposal by Cornell’s Small Farms Program to help establish up to five veteran-owned small farms through a first-in-the-nation pilot program. Returning veterans and those seeking a career change could be encouraged to try agriculture, utilizing benefits they’ve earned under the GI Bill to gain training and expertise to begin their own successful small business. In turn, these sites would be available to train additional veteran-farmers in future years.

 

Veterans legislation includes:

 

Veterans Buyback

The Senate passed legislation that will allow all honorably discharged veterans who are members of a state retirement system to purchase service credit for up to three years of military service performed. Previously, only veterans who served during certain specified periods of war were eligible for this benefit. This unfairly excluded a substantial number of veterans, such as those who have recently served in Afghanistan. The bill has passed the Senate several times and is a fulfillment of the state’s commitment to veterans. S7160, Chapter 41, sponsored by Senator William Larkin

 

Cold War Veterans’ Real Property Tax Exemption

The Senate passed a bill to authorize the governing body of a school district to grant eligible Cold War veterans an exemption from school taxes. S2210B, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator William Larkin

 

Honoring Veterans Service and Making New York More Affordable

The Senate passed numerous pieces of legislation, including one that was signed into law by the Governor, to improve the lives of veterans and honor them for their service. Legislation includes:  

  • S2947, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Patricia Ritchie, makes it easier for military spouses to find reemployment upon moving to New York. Many occupations require a state license with state-specific conditions and processes, which can cause lengthy reemployment delays for military spouses moving between states. This legislation would allow these individuals to obtain a professional license from New York if they can provide a valid license from their home state and if they already meet New York’s training requirements.
  • S2209, sponsored by Senator William Larkin, allows qualified veterans to add veterans’ credits to civil service competitive examination scores at any point prior to the expiration of the eligible list, including those examinations for appointments and promotions to the state police.
  • S1214A, sponsored by Senator Kathleen Marchione, creates a new Korean War Service Medal for military service abroad in the Korean War from June 25, 1950, through July 27, 1953.
  • S1382, sponsored by Senator Kathleen Marchione, creates the Vietnam War Service Medal for military service abroad in the Vietnam War from November 1, 1955, through April 30, 1975.
  • S3134B, sponsored by Senator Thomas Croci, allows municipalities to offer the alternative veterans’ property tax exemption to members of the military who are currently serving on active duty. Currently, individuals who are in active military service need to wait until their service in uniform has been completed in order to receive the tax benefits extended by participating municipalities.
  • S4986, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Jack Martins, exempts Veterans’ memorial poppy flowers from the collection of New York State sales tax. The poppy flower has long been a symbol used for honoring American soldiers who died bravely fighting for their country. In 1922, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) conducted its first poppy distribution for Veteran’s Day and other recognition events and later had them assembled by disabled and needy veterans who would be paid for their work to provide them with financial assistance.
  • S2208, sponsored by Senator William Larkin, prohibits cemeteries from the unauthorized sale of veteran commemorative cemetery markers, flag holders, monuments, statues, or other physical memorabilia that are over 75 years old if the property is currently placed or located within a cemetery. This bill is particularly pertinent to Civil War-era cemetery markers, statues, and monuments because of their age and the ornate style in which they were designed and constructed, which makes them valuable and leads to potential sale by cemetery operators.
  • S1628B, sponsored by Senator Phil Boyle, makes veterans organizations such as the American Legion or VFW posts eligible for funding under the state and municipal facilities program. This would help the state provide much needed capital funding to the posts and support the valuable services they provide to veterans and their families.
  • S6705, sponsored by Senator Susan Serino, authorizes the issuance of distinctive “Iraq War Veteran” or “War in Afghanistan Veteran” license plates as a recognition of their service and sacrifices.

 

Helping Veterans Navigate the Health Care System

The Senate passed legislation to help veterans navigate the health care system and better reach the various state and federal agencies available to help them. Enacting this bill into law will require the State Division of Veteran Affairs to maintain a fact sheet on their website containing contact information for all Veterans Integrated Service Networks in New York and for the U.S. Veterans Health Administration to help veterans better navigate the health care system. This up-to-date and coordinated information would also be made available to veterans by hospitals. S3137C, Chapter 64, sponsored by Senator Tom Croci

 

Creating a Mobile Phone App to Assist Veterans

The Senate approved legislation that would make it easier for veterans and their family members to access information about vital programs and services available from the state and federal governments. The bill would require the New York State Division of Veterans’ Affairs to develop, operate, and maintain a mobile application to provide information about services provided by the Division, other state agencies, the federal government, and other organizations.  Services to be listed on the mobile application include educational and job benefits, tuition assistance programs, survivor benefits, information about real property tax exemptions, as well as health and mental health referrals. S7894, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator George Amedore

 

Cutting MTA Fares for Veterans

The Senate passed a measure to recognize the contributions of veterans by making them eligible for an existing reduced fare program through the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). The bill would extend MTA’s half-fare benefit to veterans and help make it more affordable to live in the greater metropolitan area. S5545A, sponsored by Senator Susan Serino

 

Cutting Taxes for Veterans with Disabilities

The Senate approved a bill that helps veterans with disabilities afford their homes. The measure allows municipalities to offer a full property tax exemption for a veteran classified as 100 percent disabled or their unmarried surviving spouse when the veteran’s injuries were sustained as a result of military service. Veterans would be eligible for the exemption by having served in a combat theater or combat zone of operations documented with a United States campaign ribbon or service medal, armed forces expeditionary medal, navy expeditionary medal, marine corps expeditionary medal, or global war on terrorism expeditionary medal. S4627B, sponsored by Senator Andrew Lanza

 

Developing Services for Aging Veterans

The Senate passed a measure to create a Veterans Gerontological Advisory Committee to help formulate effective policies and programs that address aging veterans’ issues. The committee will advise the Director of the state Office of the Aging on policies, programs, services, and trends affecting New York’s aging veteran population. Members would include experts on aging, senior and veteran issues, including medical researchers, practitioners, academia, and veterans organizations. S877, sponsored by Senator Mike Ranzenhofer

 

Improving The Lives of Veterans

The Senate passed six bills dedicated to improving the lives of veterans in honor of their service to the state and country. Legislation passed that would benefit veterans includes:

  • S6577A, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Terrence Murphy, allows New York State income tax filers to contribute to the Veterans’ Home Assistance Fund;
  • S2245C, sponsored by Senator David Carlucci, gives school districts the option to offer real property tax exemptions to eligible veterans;
  • S1200A, sponsored by Senator Kathleen Marchione, provides an increase in the rates of annuities payable to blind veterans and surviving spouses of blind veterans from $1,000 to $1,500;
  • S3408, sponsored by Senator Robert Ortt, allows any veteran who has served this nation to be awarded a high school degree based on their knowledge and experience gained while in service;
  • S2263, sponsored by Senator Joseph Griffo, allows those with military service and honorable discharge to attend classes at the State University of New York (SUNY) and the City University of New York (CUNY) on a tuition-free audit basis; and
  • S870, sponsored by Senator Michael Ranzenhofer, permits each county, city, town, or village to adopt a local law to authorize veterans who have not been discharged or released from a current, subsequent military service to receive an additional veteran real property owner tax exemption.

 

 

MEASURES TO PROTECT AND SUPPORT WOMEN IN NEW YORK

 

2016-17 State Budget Women’s Issues Highlights:

 

The budget initiates a new Paid Family Leave program to allow working New Yorkers to spend time with a sick family member or bond with a new child. That program will be phased-in over the next four years, and will include employees who have been in their current job for at least six months to provide protections and necessary financial resources so that family support can be available.

 

The final budget also restores millions of dollars in funding cut in the Executive Budget proposal for women’s and family health initiatives, among other programs. It includes $25.3 million for Cancer Services Programs; $26.3 million for Nutritional Information for Women, Infants, and Children; $9.7 million for chronic disease prevention (including diabetes, asthma, and hypertension); $5.5 million for Rape Crisis Centers; $2.3 million for the Prenatal Care Program; $9.65 million – a $1 million increase – for the Doctors Across New York Program and restores $25 million in Excess Medical Malpractice Coverage to recruit and attract physicians to underserved communities; and $1 million to support organ donation, among other programs.

 

Legislation Focusing on New York’s Women:

 

Improving Access to Breast Cancer Screening

The Senate passed vital legisaltion that will improve access to and coverage for breast cancer screening for women throughout the state. The bill is part of an agreement with the Governor and the Assembly to facilitate breast cancer detection. The measure:

  • Expands Breast Cancer Screening by Eliminating Insurance Cost Requirements: This measure removes the cost-sharing (e.g. annual deductibles or coinsurance)  requirements for screening and diagnostic imaging for the detection of breast cancer. Eliminating these insurance barriers will prevent women from paying out-of-pocket for breast cancer screening, including imaging for the detection of breast cancer, diagnostic mammograms, breast ultrasounds, or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI);
  • Extends Hours for Mammography Services: To help individuals whose schedules may prevent them from finding available appointments to schedule mammograms, this bill requires hospitals and their extension clinics that provide mammography services throughout the state to provide extended hours in the early morning, evening, or on the weekend, in two-hour increments on at least two days, for a total of at least four hours each week. Facilities can choose between the following time slots to fulfill the requirements: 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday; and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday or Sunday; and
  • Expands Access to Work-Leave Hours for Breast Cancer Screening: To further encourage and ensure access to regular screening and early detection, this measure allows New York City public employees to take up to four hours of excused leave per year for breast cancer screening. This will give them the same opportunity to get screened as public employees in the rest of the state. S8093, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator John J. Flanagan

 

Ensuring That Information Regarding Screening, Assessment, and Diagnosis of Dense Breast Tissue is Available

The Senate passed a measure that would build upon critical legislation passed this year to promote early detection and treatment of breast cancer. Unfortunately there have been cases where women with dense breast tissue have not been referred for further screening when it would have been appropriate given their risk factors and dense breast classification. This bill requires more information about screening, assessment, and diagnosis of dense breasts be made available to help both a patient and referring physician make the correct decision regarding supplemental screening. S7369A, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Kemp Hannon

 

Exempting Feminine Hygiene Products from Sales and Other Taxes 

The Senate passed legislation that would exempt many basic and necessary women’s items from being unfairly taxed. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate and would exempt feminine hygiene products such as sanitary napkins, tampons, and panty liners from the New York’s sales and compensating use tax. S7838, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Susan Serino

 

Expanding Birth-Delivery Options

The Senate passed a bill that would facilitate the expansion of birth choices for women by removing current barriers to the establishment of midwifery birth centers. The measure expands the definition of “hospital” to include a new category of health care facility – a midwifery birth center – under the supervision of a physician or a midwife. S4325, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Kemp Hannon

 

Medical Assistance Coverage for Donor Breast Milk

The Senate passed a measure to help prevent the death of high-risk babies that are born prematurely by requiring medical assistance coverage for the cost of donor breast milk in certain circumstances. Currently, donated breast milk is not covered by insurance companies or Medicaid and is expensive - costing approximately five dollars per ounce. Allowing insurance coverage would help make breast milk more readily available to families and promote healthier growth for premature infants. S6583B, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Kemp Hannon

 

Brittany’s Law

The Senate approved the Domestic Violence Protection Act, also known as Brittany’s Law, a measure that would increase the safety and awareness of communities by increasing access to information about convicted violent felons. The bill would create a publicly accessible registry of all individuals convicted of a violent felony and allow local law enforcement to keep track of their location. Brittany’s Law is named for 12-year-old Brittany Passalacqua, who was brutally murdered along with her mother, Helen Buchel, at their home in Geneva, Ontario County, in 2009. The killer, John Edward Brown, was on parole at the time of the murder. He was released early from prison after serving only 2 ½ years for assaulting his infant daughter in 2003. S6658S6660, sponsored by Senator Michael Nozzolio

 

Preventing Human Trafficking and Protecting Trafficked Victims

The Senate passed legislation to require hospitals, public health centers, diagnostic centers,
treatment centers, and outpatient departments to establish and implement written policies and procedures for the identification, assessments, and treatment or referral of people suspected to be human trafficking victims – and if a person is under 18 years old, the facility is required to report it to Social Services. The bill also would require specified personnel to complete training regarding these policies and procedures. S6835B, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Andrew Lanza

 

Strengthening Prosecution of Sex Trafficking Involving Children

The Senate passed a measure to strengthen existing law by allowing prosecutions for sex trafficking of a child under 18 years old without also needing proof that the child victim was forced, defrauded, or coerced, as is currently required. This bill creates a presumption that a minor charged with prostitution is a sex trafficking victim and eliminates the need to prove force, fraud or coercion when a child under 18 years old engages in commercial sex. Eliminating proof of these elements in child prostitution cases will enable the state to further hold traffickers accountable and prevent returning young girls and boys to lives of abuse and exploitation at the hands of predatory traffickers. S6894, sponsored by Senator Lanza

 

 

MISCELLANEOUS

 

INCREASING PENALTIES FOR ANIMAL ABUSE AND HELPING PET OWNERS

 

The Senate passed legislation to further protect animals and people from harm and abuse. The bills include:

  • S98A, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Phil Boyle, would require certain university research facilities who use dogs and cats for research purposes to offer them for adoption through private placement or a non-profit animal rescue and shelter organizations.
  • S7394A, sponsored by Senator Sue Serino, would extend protections to the pets of victims of domestic abuse by giving the court discretion to forbid contact between the abuser and any pet that is cared for by the victim.  
  • S1795, sponsored by Senator Patricia Ritchie, would make it a misdemeanor if anyone allows a minor under the age of 16 years old to witness or attend an animal fighting event. This crime would be punishable by imprisonment of up to one year, a fine of up to $1,000, or both.
  • S3451, sponsored by Senator Terrence Murphy, would prevent animal abuse by raising the penalty for subsequent acts of cruelty (i.e torturing, killing, or failing to provide sustenance to an animal) which occur within five years of a prior class E felony conviction.
  • S4877, sponsored by Senator Joseph Robach, would require municipalities to try and notify owners of a deceased animal if the death occurred on a highway. Under the provisions of this bill, if the animal has a tag with the family’s contact information, a license number, or has a identification chip to scan, the state should make a reasonable attempt to notify the family using the contact information/chip registration as well as the issuer of the license.
  • S2102, sponsored by Senator Kenneth LaValle, would increase the penalties for keeping a companion animal in a vehicle during times of extreme hot or cold temperatures without proper ventilation or other protection. Extreme temperatures can put animals in imminent danger of death or serious physical injury. This measure would be punishable by an increased fine of $250-$500 for the first offense (raised from $50-$100), and $500-$1,000 for a second and subsequent violations (raised from $100-$250).
  • S79, sponsored by Senator Patrick Gallivan, would prohibit people who are convicted of animal cruelty from working in positions that place them in direct control of animal care, such as animal shelters.
  • S6264, sponsored by Senator Rich Funke, would exempt dog license fees for deployed active military members’ dogs.
  • S3321, sponsored by Senator Andrew Lanza, would allow domestic companion animals to board any commuter transportation operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in the event of a state of emergency and evacuation.
  • S410, sponsored by Senator Carl L. Marcellino, would protect animals and prevent their abandonment. This measure would increase the punishment for abandonment of animals to a maximum sentence of one year in jail or $2,000 or both – up from a sentence of one year or $1,000 fine or both.

 

Allowing Veterinarians to Provide Free Spaying and Neutering Services For Continuing Education Requirements 

The Senate approved a measure to allow veterinarians to satisfy a portion of their continued education requirement by performing free spay and neuter services in conjunction with a municipality, SPCA, humane society, or animal protection association. This service would reduce the animal shelter overcrowding that leads to euthanasia as well as the economic burden for municipalities experiencing growing budget shortfalls. S4449, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Phil Boyle

 

Designating Working Dogs as the Official Dog of New York State.

The Senate passed legislation to recognize the important contributions of dogs in serving and assisting in New York’s communities. Enactment of this legislation into law expands a previous passed law to include guide dogs; therapy dogs; police and military dogs; and dogs trained to herd animals, protect livestock, or control wildlife, among other helpful services trained dogs provide, as working dogs to be recognized as the official dog of New York State. S6382A, Chapter 2, sponsored by Senator Kathleen Marchione

 

ELECTIONS

 

Setting an August Date for State and Congressional Primaries

The Senate passed a bill that creates one August primary date for state and Congressional races, saving taxpayers at least $25 million and bringing the state into compliance with federal election requirements for overseas balloting. This measure would designate the third Tuesday in August as the date to merge the current federal non-presidential primary held in June and the state primary held in September. Fourteen other states hold state and/or Congressional primaries in August. An August primary election date would also ensure that military personnel and New Yorkers living abroad have an opportunity to vote and have their votes counted. S6604, sponsored by Senator Fred Akshar

 

Making the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact Permanent

The Senate passed a bill that would bolster efforts to make the candidate who wins the majority of the nationwide popular vote President – ensuring that every state and every vote is important. Under the Electoral College system, presidential candidates do not invest time, money, or attention in states that have voted historically and consistently for the candidate of one party over the other. The Electoral College’s winner take all system has proven to be inadequate, and has concentrated the voice of millions of Americans into the outcome of one state’s election. S5478, Passed Both Houses, sponsored by Senator Joseph Griffo