How They Voted

Governor signs another round of bills passed by state legislators

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed 893 bills passed during the 2019-20 session of the state Assembly and Senate. Another 35 await his signature — including one involving the hiring and salaries of displaced workers at the Indian Point nuclear power plant. He has vetoed 170.

Below are summaries of select laws enacted since May 29 and the votes cast by Republican Sue Serino (whose Senate district includes the Highlands), Democrat Sandy Galef (whose Assembly district includes Philipstown) and Democrat Jonathan Jacobson (whose Assembly district includes Beacon).

Serino, Jacobson and Galef

Serino, Jacobson and Galef

Mandatory belts

On Aug. 11, Cuomo enacted a law requiring that, effective Nov. 1, all passengers in motor vehicles who are at least 16 years old must wear seat belts, even in the back seat. Under the previous law dating to 1984, passengers only had to wear belts in the front. In 1984, about 16 percent of residents wore belts; today the figure is nearly 90 percent. The state estimates that 30 percent of highway deaths in New York involve occupants who were unbelted. 

Passed Senate 54-8 (Serino voted yes)
Passed Assembly 105-39 (Galef voted yes;  Jacobson voted yes)

Service animals

On Aug. 11, the governor signed legislation that prohibits landlords from discriminating against a person who relies on a service animal that “alleviates the effects of a disability,” even if there is a “no-pets” policy. The bill’s sponsors cited a 2009 case in which a state court overturned a ruling by the commissioner of human rights that a co-op had discriminated against two longtime shareholders with disabilities because they had a service dog.

Passed Senate 51-9 (Serino voted yes)
Passed Assembly 95-42 (Galef voted yes; Jacobson voted yes)

COVID-19 death benefit

This law, signed by Cuomo on May 30, established an accidental-death benefit for local and state public employees, including teachers, police officers and firefighters, who were directed to report to work outside their homes after March 1, contracted COVID-19 within 45 days and died of COVID-related causes in 2020.

Passed Senate 61-0 (Serino voted yes)
Passed Assembly 142-1 (Galef voted yes; Jacobson voted yes)

Illegal masks

This law, enacted by Cuomo on June 13, repealed a section of the criminal code that banned wearing masks in public. 

The excised statute singled out anyone who was “masked or in any manner disguised by unusual or unnatural attire or facial alteration; loiters, remains or congregates in a public place with other persons so masked or disguised; or knowingly permits or aids persons so masked or disguised to congregate in a public place; except that such conduct is not unlawful when it occurs in connection with a masquerade party or like entertainment if, when such entertainment is held in a city which has promulgated regulations in connection with such affairs, permission is first obtained from the police or other appropriate authorities.”

The bill’s sponsors said the law needed to be removed to “avoid confusion” following Cuomo’s mandate that masks be worn to prevent the spread of COVID-19. They also noted the law had been used to harass people who police accused of “masquerading” as a different gender. 

Passed Senate 35-27 (Serino voted no)
Passed Assembly 109-35 (Galef voted yes; Jacobson voted yes)

Opioid antidote

Cuomo on Aug. 24 signed legislation to expand a Good Samaritan law to provide legal protection to restaurants, bars, barber shops, beauty parlors, shopping malls, theaters, hotels, sporting and event centers, hotels, inns, motels and retail stores that keep on hand and administer opioid antidotes such as Narcan if someone overdoses. The law already included schools and public libraries.

Passed Senate 60-0 (Serino voted yes)
Passed Assembly 138-0 (Galef voted yes; Jacobson voted yes)

Hard ice cream

On Aug. 3, Cuomo signed legislation allowing the manufacture and sale of ice cream and frozen desserts made with liquor. The measure limits the percentage of alcohol to 5 percent by volume and requires the same labels and warnings that appear on wine, beer and cider. Ice cream infused with beer, wine and cider has been legal since 2018. 

Passed Senate 61-0 (Serino voted yes)
Passed Assembly 129-9 (Galef voted yes; Jacobson voted yes)

Price gouging

Enacted by the governor on June 6, this law expands state law to make it illegal to charge “unconscionably excessive prices” (as determined by a court) during “periods of abnormal disruptions of the market caused by strikes, power failures, severe shortages or other extraordinary adverse circumstances.” The existing law banned price gouging on consumer goods and services; this revision adds “essential medical supplies and services” and “any other essential goods and services used to promote the health and welfare of the public.” 

The bill’s sponsors said they introduced it after reports that some vendors charged hospitals exorbitant prices during the early days of the COVID-19 shutdown for hand sanitizer, face masks, bandages and medical-grade apparel.

Passed Senate 61-1 (Serino voted yes)
Passed Assembly 141-3 (Galef voted yes; Jacobson voted yes)

Emergency rent relief

On June 17, Cuomo signed a bill to create a program to help some tenants who lost income during the COVID-19 shutdown pay their rent, at a cost to the state of as much as $100 million between April 1 and July 31. 

The law provides rental assistance vouchers to landlords for low-income tenants who are paying more than 30 percent of their household income toward rent and lost income during the four-month period.

Passed Senate 61-0 (Serino voted yes)
Passed Assembly 133-10 (Galef voted yes; Jacobson voted yes)

Essential service

On June 17, Cuomo signed a bill that adds the commissioner of addiction services to a preparedness panel at the Office of Emergency Management “to ensure substance use disorder providers are part of any disaster management planning.”

The bill’s sponsors noted that some addiction and mental-health providers reported having trouble getting personal protection equipment during the early days of the pandemic because they weren’t considered to be essential health care workers.

Passed Senate 62-0 (Serino voted yes)
Passed Assembly 143-0 (Galef voted yes; Jacobson voted yes)

Virtual meetings

On June 17, the governor enacted a law that allows the boards of corporations, nonprofits and religious organizations to hold virtual meetings. The existing law didn’t say whether remote meetings were allowed, so the bill’s sponsors said the statute should be clarified.

Passed Senate 62-0 (Serino voted yes)
Passed Assembly 143-0 (Galef voted yes; Jacobson voted yes)

Child victims

On Aug. 3, Cuomo signed a law extending the “look-back” period for victims of child sex abuse to file claims under the Child Victims Act. The Child Victims Act, which went into effect last year, allows people to file even if the statute of limitations had expired. During the early days of the pandemic, Cuomo issued an order extending the deadline from Aug. 14 to Jan. 14; this law extends the window again, to Aug. 14 of next year. More than 3,000 people have filed claims.

Passed Senate 60-2 (Serino voted yes)
Passed Assembly 134-10 (Galef voted yes; Jacobson voted yes)

Home ‘steering’

On Aug. 3, Cuomo enacted a law allowing New York to revoke or suspend the licenses of real-estate agents who violate the anti-discrimination clause of the state Human Rights Law. The bill’s sponsors cited an investigation in 2019 by Newsday that found that 40 percent of the agents on Long Island the newspaper targeted in an undercover investigation steered minority clients toward minority neighborhoods or required additional proof of income or financing before they would show them homes in areas with mostly white homeowners.

The Human Rights Law prohibits housing discrimination on the basis of “race, creed, national origin, sex, age, disability, marital status, military status, family status, sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Passed Senate 59-1 (Serino voted yes)
Passed Assembly 141-0 (Galef voted yes; Jacobson voted yes)


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