Albany Update: Back in Session
As state lawmakers convened in Albany for the last few week, advocates were out in full force to push for their issues to make it on the agenda by the end of session. There remains 18 days left of Session, with 9 scheduled session days in May, and 9 in June, the remaining weeks will be a busy time in Albany.
NYSAC continues to advocate for counties to ensure new programs place no additional financial burdens on county property taxpayers.
During these 18 remaining Legislative days NYSAC's key priorities include:
NYSAC's complete legislative platform for 2016, indicating session priorities by issue area, can be found at www.nysac.org/legislativeplatform.
- Chapter Amendment for District Attorney Salaries
- Increase funding for 9-1-1 Emergency Communications
- Increase Indigent Defense Funding
NYSAC Testifies to the Assembly Local Government Committee
NYSAC Executive Director Stephen J. Acquario thanked the members of the Assembly Local Government Committee for their efforts to increase funding for local infrastructure in the form of road and bridge dollars and the expanded availability of state money for drinking water projects.
Acquario also asked the committee to support legislation that will provide state reimbursement to counties for the increased DA salaries, adopt a bill that would enable a phased in state takeover of indigent legal defense service costs, and pass a bill that will realign the 9-1-1 surcharge that funds improvements to the emergency communication programs in counties across the state.
NYSAC Advocacy with DAs
NYSAC along with the District Attorneys Association asked the State Legislature to reimburse the counties for increases associated with the recent state judicial salary increase. "While it is unfortunate that the projected $1.6 million cost for DA salary increases was not included in the State's over $150 billion budget, it is not too late to correct the oversite. While the $1.6 million may seem minuscule in the face of a $150 billion spending plan, it amounts to a significant portions of the county's allowable tax growth under the state-imposed property tax cap," said NYSAC President William E. Cherry.
In addition, NYSAC and the District Attorneys Association worked together to advocate the need to additional measures in order to curb the growth of the heroin epidemic throughout the state. Bridget Brennan, Special Narcotics Prosecutor for New York City testified before the Assembly Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Committee on Strategies to Curb an Epidemic.
5¢ Fee on Plastic Bags Is Approved by NYC Council
The New York City Council voted 28 to 20 on Thursday, May 5, 2016 to require certain retailers to collect a fee on each carryout bag, paper or plastic, with some exceptions. The Council settled on a 5-cent minimum fee after an earlier version of the bill called for 10 cents; stores, which will collect and keep the fees, can charge more if they choose.
Under the legislation, restaurants, including those that deliver and serve takeout, and street vendors of prepared food will not have to charge for the plastic bags they give to customers. Among the other exemptions: plastic bags used for produce, small paper medicine bags at pharmacies, bags used at state-regulated liquor stores and bags used by soup kitchens. Those buying groceries with food stamps are also exempt from paying the fee.
Paper bags were also included in the bill, sponsors said, because they have an environmental impact; if paper bags were not included, shoppers would simply switch from plastic to paper, resulting in no change in overall waste. The legislation, modeled on similar laws in California and Washington, D.C., encountered an unusual amount of resistance and resulted in what council members said was one of the closest votes in years.
In New York City, the Sanitation Department has said it collects roughly 10 billion single-use plastic bags a year.
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