There Oughta Be a Law

A sampling of bills introduced in Albany

By Chip Rowe

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed 360 bills into law so far in the 2019-20 legislative session, from among the thousands introduced by members of the state Assembly and Senate.

Here is a list of select bills introduced by Sandy Galef, a Democrat whose district in the Assembly includes Philipstown; Jonathan Jacobson, a Democrat whose district includes Beacon; and Sue Serino, a Republican whose Senate district includes the Highlands. (For a list we compiled in March, click here.) In many cases, the bills remain stuck in a committee and must be re-introduced in the next session.

Sandy Galef

Sandy Galef

Galef is the prime sponsor on 82 bills, including those that would:

  • Require every assessor in the state, beginning in 2023, to reassess properties at least every four years. At least 31 states require regular reappraisals, in a range of one to five years (A2790).
  • Allow motorists to plead guilty and pay traffic fines online (A4276).
  • Ban the sale of tobacco and e-cigarettes flavored with strawberry, grape, orange, clove, cinnamon, pineapple, vanilla, coconut, licorice, cocoa, chocolate, cherry or coffee (A4787).
  • Prohibit election commissioners from chairing political parties (A04815).
  • Allow former mayors to perform weddings (A7712), along with anyone who applies to become a “one-day marriage officiant” (A4895), while banning internet-ordained ministers from officiating (A8494).
  • Require adults employed or affiliated with organizations that provide
    services or programming to children to report sexual abuse (A4994). The bill was introduced in response to a case in which a troop leader in Dutchess County was convicted of abusing two Boy Scouts. The boys reported the abuse but their parents and the police were not informed. The law already requires that police officers, medical professionals, therapists, clergy, school officials, coaches, camp directors and others report signs of abuse.
  • Restrict contributions by candidates’ political committees to committees of other candidates to $1,000 annually (A4995). Galef said the practice otherwise sows distrust among supporters who give to one candidate only to have the money go to another. It also allows veteran politicians who build war chests “to wield enormous influence over fiscally reliant junior members,” she wrote.
  • Permit judges to sentence defendants who were on parole or probation when they killed more than one person at the same time to receive consecutive sentences (A5908). Serino sponsored a version of this bill in the Senate. The bill came out of a 2012 case in which a man on parole hit a car and killed two children. He pleaded guilty to two counts of manslaughter and was sentenced to 6.5 to 13 years in prison for each death. However, under state law, the judge could only make the sentences concurrent, or served at the same time.
  • Prohibit an apology by a health care provider from being used as an admission of guilt in a malpractice suit (A5909). At least 36 states have enacted laws that allow doctors to express regret without it being held against them in court, which some research suggests allows lawsuits to be settled faster and for less money.
  • Terminate the parental rights of a person convicted of rape that results in the birth of a child (A7028). Under current law, a rapist in New York who impregnates his victim has the same rights as any parent.
  • Allow police to impound vehicles used in drag races (A7161).
  • Decrease the paid time off that employers must give employees to vote from three hours to two. The time was increased to three hours in the 2019-20 budget, but Galef noted the state also this year enacted early voting and made it easier to use absentee ballots (A7505).

Jonathan Jacobson

Jonathan Jacobson

Jacobson is the prime sponsor of 24 bills, including those that would:

  • Allow high school students to take public transportation at no charge to and from school (A7101).
  • Prohibit retailers from forcing an employee to act as a “human billboard” during extreme heat (A7621).
  • Allow the Town of Newburgh to impose a 5 percent hotel tax (A7705). In June, the measure passed the Senate 45-17 (Serino voted no) and the Assembly 105-43 (Galef and Jacobson voted yes) but has not yet been sent to the governor.
  • Double the minimum required auto insurance coverage to $50,000 for bodily injury and $100,000 for death; to $100,000 for bodily injury and $200,000 for death of more than one person; and from $10,000 to $25,000 for third-party property damage (A7979).
  • Ban anyone but law enforcement officers or licensed security and armored car guards from possessing a bulletproof vest (A8538), and anyone from wearing a bulletproof vest during any crime (A8539). Under current law, it is only a crime to wear a bulletproof vest during the commission of violent felonies while possessing a firearm. “Bullet-proof vests are necessary to protect those whose professions put them at risk of injury,” Jacobson said. “Otherwise, bullet-proof vests are used by those hoping to protect themselves while committing crimes.”
  • Establish “fertility fraud” as a form of sexual abuse (A8562). Jacobson cited the case of an Indiana fertility doctor who used his own sperm to inseminate dozens of his patients, resulting in the births of at least 50 children.
  • Require high school seniors to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form or sign a waiver before they can graduate (A8566). Jacobson cited a report that found that low-income students who completed the FAFSA were more likely to attend college, and noted that Louisiana, which has a similar law, leads the nation with 79 percent of its seniors completing the form.

Sue Serino

Sue Serino

Serino is the prime sponsor of 77 bills, including those that would:

  • Allow the Office of Victim Services to rule that the suicide of a victim within two years after a crime was a direct result of the crime, making his or her family eligible for monetary awards (S5878).
  • Require that voters approve any raises recommended by the state’s Compensation Committee for members of the Legislature and some state officials (S5894). The bill was introduced in response to increases that went into effect automatically that raised legislators’ pay for the first time in a decade from $79,500 to $110,000 annually in 2019, $120,000 in 2020 and $130,000 in 2021. At the same time, it eliminated stipends for leadership positions and will limit outside income beginning in 2020 to 15 percent of the salary.

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