When he’s not litigating the life of the city’s imperiled deer or trolling Mayor de Blasio from his motorcycle, Governor Cuomo signs truckloads of legislation. Many of them pertain to renaming overpasses and bridges upstate, but lots of them have meaningful impact for New Yorkers. As we await the deafening blast of trash-barge foghorns announcing President-elect Trump’s legislative agenda, we can at least get ready for changes we know are coming.
Here are some of the more pertinent new pieces of legislation recently signed into law.
S992 — Parole Board Changes
This bill will ensure due process for inmates whose first language is not English by providing a certified translator at parole board interviews. It will also ensure deaf language interpreters for inmates in need of that service. Signed November 28, effective March 8
S5903A — Recycling Unused Medicine
Department of Health–authorized healthcare facilities will be allowed to donate unused prescription medications, in tamper-evident packaging, for redispensing by a pharmacist or prescriber to uninsured and underinsured New Yorkers. When even high-cholesterol medications routine cost several thousands of dollars a year, this law could prevents drug manufacturers from scraping even more from the hides of sick people (looking at you, Martin Shkreli). Signed November 28, effective immediately
S6630 — Salvation for Mute Swans
The new law brings down new restrictions on the eradication of the mute swan population.
In 2013, the Department of Environmental Conservation announced that it planned to eliminate all mute swans — an invasive species imported from Europe to New York in the late 19th century, when they were popular as decorations for the country estates of the rich — around the state by 2025, which naturally drew sharp criticism from a variety of individuals and organizations.
As State Senator Tony Avella (D–Queens) told the New York Times in 2015: “There’s something else going on here, in my opinion.” He added, “This has nothing to do with the mute swans. Somebody who has real political influence doesn’t like them, in my opinion, because there’s no real evidence here that they’re an invasive species or why they have to come up and kill them all. Someone, some political entity that has political connections, is exerting some huge influence to get the agency to kill them.”
The outcry prompted the DEC to revise its plan, though it’s still failed to hold an opportunity for public comment. This law will require DEC to hold at least two public hearings to address community concerns, as well as propose a “management plan that ‘prioritizes non-lethal management techniques.'” It will also have to provide evidence of the swans’ damage to the environment. Signed on November 28, effective immediately
S7291 — Women in Civil Service Jobs
An act amending the labor law in relation to workforce guidance and information for women, and to amend the civil service law in relation to the recruitment of women to state civil service initiative.
The purpose of this law is to improve services and training for women in order for them to qualify for higher paying jobs and careers. The Commissioner of Labor and the president of the Civil Service Commission must prepare reports on how many women were referred to counseling or skills development and training for jobs and careers that offer higher earning potential, including jobs traditionally dominated by men.
Women in New York earn 86 percent of what their male counterparts traditionally make, in addition to the fact that jobs held by women are often paid less. The goal of this bill is to get women into higher-paying careers and jobs by making them more aware of their options. Signed on November 28, effective immediately
S7908 — Ocean Acidification
Establishes the New York state ocean acidification task force, whose purpose will be to identify the causes and factors contributing to ocean acidification and to evaluate ways of addressing the problem by applying the best available science.
Like atmospheric temperature changes, ocean acidifcation is the result of carbon-based exhaust entering water systems, where it changes the delicate chemistry of aquatic ecologies. If left unaddressed, marine food chains will begin to collapse, potentially cascading into a global-scale die-off. Signed November 28, effective immediately, and shall be deemed repealed January 1, 2019
S7537A — Digitizing Prescriptions
An act to amend the public health law and the education law, in relation to allowing pharmacies to electronically transfer prescriptions to other pharmacies.
Most prescriptions are required to be done electronically, though in some cases, the receiving pharmacy can’t fill them right away. This means patients have to return to their doctors before the prescription can be sent elsewhere. This law will save everyone a lot of time and trouble by allowing pharmacies to make those transfers. Signed November 28, effective February 26, 2017
S8117 — Rape Kit Testing
Unlike other states, New York does not have a deadline for processing evidence collected from rape victims, nor does it have a process to track rape kit evidence. This legislation will ensure that rape kits are processed and tracked.
In 2003, New York City received $2.5 million to test a backlog of 17,000 rape kits, which yielded a high number of arrests. It’s unclear how many untested rape kits remain in the state as a whole, and this measure will help establish that.
Signed on November 28, effective February 26, 2017
S5542B — Keeping Sex Offenders Off Ambulances
Prospective emergency medical technicians must be screened for sex offense convictions if the individual chooses to proceed with his or her application.
In the course of their jobs, EMTs are often in situations with vulnerable children and families. Ambulance companies are also commonplace at community and school events where children are present. This bill will help keep convicted sex offenders away from kids. Signed November 14, effective March 14, 2017
S6835B — Human Trafficking Victim Care
Every general hospital, public health center, diagnostic center, treatment center, and outpatient department will have to provide identification, assessment, and appropriate treatment or referral of anyone suspected as a victime of human trafficking; requires notification to social services where person is under the age of eighteen. Signed November 4, effective immediately
S8096 — Transparency in Public Housing
The New York City Housing Authority to provide a written statement articulating the reasons for denial of any request when the denial precedes a tenant’s right to institute a grievance procedure.
NYCHA residents can contest denials of requests for things like repairs, adding a leaseholder, and accommodations for the disabled. However, if a request is denied, residents often only find out via informal conversation, and are generally not given a reason why. This strips residents of the ability to move forward with a more formalized grievance procedure. This law will require NYCHA to provide tenants with a written notice specifically articulating its reasons for denying the tenant’s request. Signed September 29, effective December 28
S3342A — Rights of Older NYCHA Residents
NYCHA must provide notice of opportunity to discuss possible termination of tenancy when an occupant is 62 or older.
Older NYCHA residents have in the past faced sudden eviction without sufficient warning, preventing them from responding to termination proceedings. Many such residents suffer from disabilities or illnesses that require help from a family member or legal representative, and hastily executed lease terminations can place undo hardship on them. This law will require NYCHA to serve the notice personally, and mail a notice via certified and first-class mail. Signed September 29, effective December 28