By Mary Marvin, Mayor, Village of Bronxville
Jan.15, 2020: In a record-setting year, the New York State legislature passed 935 bills, many of which will have a direct impact on the residents of Bronxville.
The following is a list of the major bills passed and signed by Governor Cuomo into law:
-All farm workers must be paid time and a half if they work more than 60 hours a week, and they must also receive a mandatory weekly rest day.
-Adoptees will now have unrestricted access to their birth certificate upon reaching the age of 18. Prior to this law, an adoptee had to petition the court and receive permission from both biological parents in order to unseal the record.
-Lawmakers voted to end the states’ “religious exemption” for vaccinations that are required to attend school, which allowed parents to avoid vaccinating their children by claiming it violated their religious beliefs.
-The state’s strict statute of limitations on sexual crimes against children was relaxed considerably, and there will soon be a one-year window open to anyone to revive a sexual abuse claim no matter how old.
-A bill will now require employers to pay their workers equally if they perform substantially similar work regardless of their sex or gender, and employers will also be banned from requesting a prospective employee’s salary history when setting pay rates.
-Undocumented immigrants may now apply for driver’s licenses by using valid foreign documents such as passports to prove their identity and age instead of requiring a Social Security number.
-Under a new gun law, police, family members, and some school officials will be able to seek a court order to remove guns deemed a harm to themselves or others. In addition, teachers are now legally prohibited from carrying guns in schools.
-Immigrants brought into this country illegally as children are now eligible for college tuition aid from New York State if they attended high school in the state. This includes tuition assistance programs, including TAP and the Excelsior Scholarship.
-The New York property tax cap, which limits annual increases to the lesser of 2% or the rate of inflation on local tax bills, was made permanent nullifying next year’s expiration date.
-Abortion protections were bolstered by incorporating Roe v Wade rights into state law and removing penalties from the state penal code.
-New York did not fully legalize marijuana, but the legislature further reduced penalties for marijuana possession, limiting them to no more than a violation and a $200 fine for possessing less than two ounces of the drug.
-Teenagers 16 and 17 years old will now be able to pre-register to vote and then be automatically registered when they turn 18 years old.
-Starting this fall, each county will be required to open some polling places nine days before an election making New York the 38th state to offer early voting.
-Lawmakers also unified the state’s primary day in June. In recent years, New York’s federal and state primaries had been on different days.
-New York will install some of the nation’s most ambitious goals to combat climate change into law, requiring the state to cut 85% of its greenhouse gas emission levels of 1990 by 2015.
-The legislature passed GENDA, which adds gender identity and expression to New York’s anti-discrimination laws. Another law on conversion therapy will prohibit mental health professionals from engaging in sexual orientation change efforts.
-A new law mandates expanded coverage by health insurers for mental health and addiction services. The same insurers will also be required to cover in vitro fertilization services.
-As of March 1, plastic carry out bags will no longer be available at any business that is required to pay New York State taxes.
-Minimum wage will increase to $14 per hour in Westchester County.
-The legislature undid any connection between teacher evaluations and student test scores as a new law will no longer require schools to use test scores as part of a teacher’s evaluation, instead making it optional for districts and subject to collective bargaining
-Individuals born after January 1, 1993 now must complete a boater safety course before operating any motorized watercraft.
-I wrote in depth a few weeks ago about the changes to bail, discovery, and speedy trial laws, which will clearly have the most impact on the village both in safety and financial concerns. I will share more information going forward in consultation with the police chief as we see how the changes play out in our village
As a comparison, the following were laws taken up by other states in the same legislative session.
-Our neighbors in Connecticut raised the legal age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21 and banned ghost guns (those assembled from parts purchased separately and thus lacking a serial number) as well as plastic guns.
-Like New York, our other neighbor New Jersey ruled that employers can no longer screen applicants based on their salary history.
-Vermont now prohibits food scraps from going in any of their landfills, so there is mandatory composting with the requirement that all garbage pickup companies provide food scrap collection services.
-In Washington State, businesses will be prohibited from putting expiration dates on gift cards or for levying service charges for inactivity on cards.
-In Illinois, restaurants, stores, and any buildings with public restrooms must have at least one baby diaper changing station.
-Arkansas banned all public funding for human cloning and/or “destructive embryo” research.
I still can’t help to harken back to one of the Country’s most erudite skeptics, Mark Twain, who said, “No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session.
Photo by A. Warner
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