Winding Down, New York Legislature Passes Spate of Bills

ALBANY (AP/Hamodia) -

New York’s legislature is preparing to adjourn for the year, passing a spate of bills Tuesday but nothing on corruption, which polls consistently say tops voters’ priorities.

The session ends Thursday, when lawmakers head home to campaign ahead of this year’s primary and general election. The term can be extended by order from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

  • The legislature on Tuesday approved an amendment to the recently enacted law that requires doctors to submit virtually all medication prescriptions electronically to a pharmacy. If signed by Cuomo, physicians, dentists or other prescribers would be allowed to electronically send it to a secure site from which it can be downloaded by the pharmacy of the patient’s choice.
  • Lawmakers voted to require that decisions on parole appeals be published on a publicly accessible and searchable website within 60 days. The index would be printed and distributed to all prison libraries.
  • Lawmakers passed a bill to require hospitals to post statements explaining recent new rules, one protecting patients from surprise medical bills and another allowing patients to designate a caregiver to receive instructions about post-discharge care.
  • Lawmakers voted to continue for four more years the prohibition against state licensing of slaughterhouses within 1,500 feet of a residence. The restrictions were first imposed in 2008, prompted by regular complaints about odors. Sponsors say smells became “virtually intolerable” in hot summers, while improperly disposed-of animal entrails caused health hazards. They say floating feathers fouled streets and clogged sewer drains and air conditioning ducts.
  • Brunch-goers may soon be allowed to buy alcoholic drinks at restaurants and bars beginning at 10 a.m. on Sundays under a compromise worked out by Cuomo and top lawmakers. The Brunch Bill would allow a limited number of establishments outside New York City to begin serving alcohol at 8 a.m. Current regulations prohibit sales before noon. Additionally, the state would eliminate some regulations and fees for alcohol manufacturers under a broader effort to reform antiquated liquor laws.
  • Another deal combats addiction by limiting many opioid prescriptions to a seven-day supply. Insurance companies would also be required to cover more of the cost for rehab and prescribers must complete addiction training. The state would increase funding to help recovering addicts get housing, education and jobs.
  • Negotiations over other top priorities continue. Still unresolved is a plan to permit Uber and Lyft to expand their ride-hailing car services upstate and Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposal to extend mayoral control of schools.
  • Government watchdogs are disappointed lawmakers are leaving town without addressing the wave of corruption that has made Albany one of the nation’s most crooked state capitals. “All Albany apparently is willing to do is write a parking ticket to the Watergate burglars because they were double-parked,” said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group.

A proposal to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot to allow judges to strip the pensions of corrupt lawmakers hasn’t passed, despite support in both chambers. Cuomo has proposed tighter campaign finance rules and limits on lawmakers’ outside income, but they have little serious support in the Legislature.

Even Cuomo appears resigned. “I’ve threatened them, cajoled them, tried to charm them, told them jokes,” he said. “They do not want to pass ethics reform.”

Senate Leader John Flanagan insists there are still talks about corruption. But asked how likely it was that lawmakers would stay late to pass it, Flanagan was succinct.

“Zero,” he said.