The NYS Legislature recently wrapped up our legislative session for 2017. I wanted to take the opportunity to provide you with ten highlights of the work we accomplished this year after the budget was passed; some are bills that I specifically sponsored. Please feel to contact my office if you have any questions about these or any other measures before the Legislature.
Donna A. Lupardo
1. Elder Abuse Prevention
In my first year as Chair of the Assembly Committee on Aging, elder abuse was one of the most important topics before the committee. The Assembly passed a package of bills I worked on in my role as Chair, which will act as a foundation for our ongoing efforts to address this issue. The package included bills that would create a 24-hour hotline to report elder abuse, create guidelines to identify elder abuse in healthcare settings, and report suspected financial exploitation of seniors.
2. Support for the Craft Beverage Industry
The craft beverage industry has continued to see great growth in NYS and breweries have helped aid in the revitalization of our urban areas, including here in our community. I sponsored a bill that would bring tax parity to our
breweries, distilleries and cideries by exempting tastings from sales tax (currently only tastings at wineries have this exemption). This legislation will not only help our small businesses reinvest that money into their businesses, but also provide them a bit of tax relief. I also cosponsored legislation passed by my colleague Pat Fahy to allow farm distilleries to serve other NYS craft beverages by the glass. This will provide customers with more options and again, bringing parity to our distillers.
3. Senior Tourism Program
In addition to becoming Chair of the Committee on Aging this year, I was also appointed to the Assembly Committee on Tourism. I authored and passed a bill merging these two policy areas to create a Senior Tourism Program. Modeled after a successful European program, this will identify senior-friendly tourism opportunities around the state and promote them. Tourism in the state has grown to record numbers recently; this program will help seniors in the state and around the country come take advantage of all the state has to offer as older New Yorkers want to “age in style.”
4. Support for STOP-DWI
During this year’s budget negotiations, I successfully advocated for an additional $1.6 million for county STOP-DWI programs. These programs, like many county programs, have faced great fiscal pressure in recent years.
This is partly due to state surcharges placed on DWI tickets that have limited the fines paid to these programs. To address this, I also passed legislation that would require fines to be paid prior to state surcharges. This will ensure that those convicted of DWI’s are paying their mandated fines, which support STOP DWI programs, instead of the surcharges that are used to bolster the state budget.
5. Industrial Hemp continues to grow
The state continued its efforts to promote industrial hemp by passing new legislation I sponsored once again with Senator Tom O’Mara. This new bill creates a seed certification program to assist New York farmers with creating specialized New York hemp seeds, creates an industrial hemp workgroup to advise on the growing industry, and also creates a one-stop industrial hemp information center. The legislation also recognizes industrial hemp and its seed as an agricultural commodity, a first for the state, which could have a big influence on the ongoing legalization debate at the federal level.
6. The Buy American Act
I co-sponsored the Buy American Act which successfully passed after originally being proposed in this year’s state budget. The act, designed to bolster American manufacturing, requires that certain state agencies use American made steel and iron on publicly funded projects.
7. Cancer Coverage for Volunteer Firefighters
This bill requires that all volunteer firefighters be eligible for cancer coverage in their insurance plan and have access to greater disability benefits if they are unable to work as a result of illness. Currently, volunteer firefighters do not have access to these benefits, except for a small sum of disability benefits. I have cosponsored this bill for many years.
8. Child Marriage Ban
Shortly after passing both houses, Governor Cuomo signed the state’s child marriage ban into law. NYS now bans all marriages before the age of 17, and requires the approval of a judge at 17. This new law comes as part of an effort to raise the age of consent for marriage nationwide; prior to this, children as young as 14 could marry with judicial approval.
9. Changes to NY’s Medical Marijuana Program
The Legislature passed two bills in an effort to expand access to the state’s medical marijuana program. The first bill adds Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to the list of conditions certified doctors can prescribe medical marijuana for. The second bill requires that all practitioners who prescribed medical marijuana be publicly listed, unless they specifically ask to keep their information private. We tried to have these issues resolved when the law was first passed, but finally got them through this year.
10. Closing the Loophole for Ride-sharing Drivers
We passed a law blocking low-level sex offenders from driving for companies like Uber and Lyft, closing a loophole in the regulation of ride-hailing services. The state’s ride-hailing law blocks Level 2 and 3 sex offenders from driving for the companies, which allow users to summon a driver from their smartphone. The law was expanded to also block Level 1 offenders — the lowest level — for as long as they are listed on the state’s registry.