Albany Pols Pass Bevy of Last Minute Bills

Sunday, Jul 4, 2010  |  Updated 12:45 PM EDT
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Albany Pols Pass Bevy of Last Minute Bills

AP

Gov. David Paterson, left, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, center, and Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, R-Geneva.

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New York lawmakers passed bills to protect seagrass and revise building codes to make it easier to install solar and wind generators before they adjourned last week.

Other measures approved at the last minute would authorize hunting with crossbows, allow ticket scalping to continue, prohibit unauthorized commerce in human tissue, continue health insurance coverage and revise workplace terms for midwives and utility maintenance workers.

Gov. David Paterson signed the bill permitting a continued open market in entertainment and sports ticket resales for another year, spokesman Morgan Hook said. He will review the others when they reach his desk.

Meanwhile, Paterson on Friday finished personally signing vetoes of 6,709 line items from the budget bills passed by the Legislature last Monday. Those veto statements and budget bills were to be reviewed over the weekend and sent to the Legislature this week, Hook said.

The seagrass bill authorizes the Department of Environmental Conservation to regulate coastal and marine activity that threatens the plants, considered a critical habitat and nursery for many fish and shellfish. New York coasts had an estimated 200,000 acres of seagrass in 1930, and sponsors say there are only about 21,000 acres now.

The DEC would have authority to restrict mechanically powered fishing gear in those shallows, identify harmful chemicals and pesticides and recommend restrictions, and prohibit coastal residents from applying fertilizer with phosphorous between Nov. 1 and April 1. The bill would take effect 150 days after signing.

The Legislature voted to have the state fire prevention and building code council report on standardizing state and local building codes to help increase installations of solar and wind energy generating systems. The council would be authorized to hold hearings and then make recommendations to the governor and lawmakers.

For hunting, the legislation would authorize the DEC to establish standards for using crossbows, which would fire at least 14-inch bolts and have a safety device on the triggers and a maximum peak draw weight of 200 pounds. They could be used during rifle and muzzleloader seasons, but not during the bow hunting season except by the disabled.

The ticket scalping measure extends for another year resales without price restrictions. It requires a transferability option for even paperless tickets. It outlaws using automated ticket purchasing software to move ahead of others waiting to get tickets.

The body parts bill would add the words "tissue" and "organ" to the current statute against unlawfully dissecting, stealing or receiving a dead human body in New York. Sponsors said that's the direct result of a 2005 investigation that started in Brooklyn and found bones, tissue and organs were illegally taken and sold to processing companies for transplants. The company involved was shut down by federal officials, with its principals and several employees of funeral homes charged.

For insurance law, the amendment would prohibit insurers from discontinuing an entire class of policies as a pretext for dropping the policy of one high-cost individual. Sponsors say the law already bars companies from dropping consumers due to their claims experience or health status but left that loophole, which this closes.

For licensed midwives, the legislation would allow them to practice independently, without a written practice agreement with an obstetrician or hospital providing obstetric services. Sponsors said the state's 1,300 midwives perform about 15 percent of the non-caesarean deliveries in New York and routinely refer patients to a physician when there are complications or higher risks. They say obtaining written practice agreements especially in rural areas is an obstacle.

Lawmakers voted to amend the labor law requiring payment of prevailing wages for service workers for the benefit of public agencies. It expands the definition to include public utilities and expands the term building service employee to include those who do maintenance and patrolling of grounds, parking lots and outdoor work sites.

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