That’s A Wrap: 2016 Legislative Session Roundup

You may have missed the end of session because it concluded just before 5:00 a.m. this past Saturday morning. There was a flurry of activity that happened overnight in the final hours. So that nothing gets lost in the shuffle, we wanted to provide a recap of the good, the bad, and the ugly.

The prevailing wisdom for the 2016 State Legislative Session was that any and all environmental progress would need to get done in the budget. With that in mind, we fought and won significant funding to fight climate change, conserve natural resources, and protect public health.

If you’re reading this, you know for a fact that we haven’t been resting on our laurels since the budget passed. Even though we knew we faced a steep uphill battle to get anything done, we identified four priorities and put a great deal of time and energy into advancing them. We built coalitions, mobilized our members, and spent a lot of time meeting with legislators in the Capitol.

As the dust finally begins to settle, we’re pleased to report our efforts resulted in victories on three of our top issues:

Reducing Single-Use Bags – We successfully defended the right of New York City (and every other city in the state for that matter) to reduce the number of bags it sends to landfills by enacting a fee on carryout bags. We still have work to protect the NYC bill and educate state legislators on why this issue is such an important part of our fight against climate change. Even so, we’re pleased Assembly Speaker Heastie and Council Speaker Mark-Viverito came together on a deal to postpone the enacting date of the NYC fee from October to February in exchange for the Assembly repealer being tabled for this session.

Protecting Wilderness in the Adirondacks – The Boreas Ponds Tract is the final major addition to complete Adirondack Park. We are advocating to make sure it gets a “forever wild” designation meaning that it can never be logged, developed, or otherwise exploited. But we also need to make sure the park’s towns and villages are economically vibrant. Senator Little, Assemblymember Englebright, and Governor Cuomo came together on a compromise that will create a land bank in the Adirondack and Catskill Parks that will allow for modernization of the region’s infrastructure without threatening the park.

Getting Lead Out of School Water – The Senate and Assembly unanimously passed the nation’s first statewide legislation to require schools to test for lead in their water. The final bill also makes sure parents and teachers are notified quickly, that schools are reimbursed for both testing and remediation, and it establishes a new statewide database of test results. We thank Senator O’Mara and Assemblymember Lupardo for working with Governor Cuomo to create a program bill that protects our children from the hazards of lead.

We were also excited to see two other significant bills that we supported move through both houses:

Farm to Food Bank Bill – This bill will give farmers the opportunity to donate their produce to local food banks by creating a tax incentive to help offset the costs of doing so. Not only will this help reduce the 100 million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables left to waste, but it will also support our local farmers and give low-income New Yorkers greater access to fresh fruits and vegetables each year.

Superfund Date of Discovery – With the recent discovery of contaminated drinking water in Hoosick Falls, residents learned that they might have been exposed to harmful chemicals in the water they drink and bathe in. Unfortunately, current law leaves them without any legal recourse action against the polluter if they become ill. A bill from Senator Marchione and Assemblymember McDonald gives those affected up to three years after the date a site has been declared a Superfund site to seek redress.

Of course there are also bills that did not get done. Though each of these three bills made significant progress, they did not make it to the finish line:

Triclosan Awareness Act – Our fourth and final priority sought to ban this chemical pesticide from the hundreds of consumer products it is used in such as soap, shampoo, and deodorant. Every day, millions of gallons of these products are washed down the drain and end up in our waterways, killing microorganisms, preventing algae from reproducing, and throwing fragile ecosystems off balance. Senator Martins’ bill passed the Senate unanimously, but Colgate Palmolive successfully blocked the it in the Assembly despite a strong effort by Assemblymember Schimel. Although we are disappointed, we will continue to vigorously fight to ensure our waterways are protected from chemicals and other environmental hazards.

Climate and Community Protection Act – The New York State Climate and Community Protection Act establishes aggressive mandates for ramping up the use of clean, renewable energy, and reducing climate pollution that harms our public health, environment, and economy. The bill not only codifies New York’s strong climate and clean energy goals – it also sets clear and accountable mandates for doing so. The bill easily passed through the Assembly but stalled in the Senate despite bipartisan support from a majority of members. We will continue to push to make sure New York sets the benchmarks and interim goals necessary to reach our ambitious long-term climate goals so that New York remains a national leader on climate issues.

Move NY – A robust transit system with high ridership is necessary to keep the New York Metropolitan area’s carbon footprint low. The Move NY plan promises to provide a fairer tolling system that would reduce congestion and also the funding to accommodate additional people on our already crowded transit system. The bill gained a significant number of additional cosponsors in the Assembly, where it is carried by Assemblymember Rodriguez, and it was picked up in the Senate by Senator Lanza just last week. Given the MTA’s vast capital needs, we will help ensure that this initiative continues to make progress next year.

Even though not everything we hoped for got done, it was refreshing to see a number of compromises resulting in timely bills that are now expected to become law. Yet we recognize we still have a great deal to do toward our three goals of fighting climate change, conserving natural resources, and protecting public health.

With your help, we look forward to building on the good work done this legislative season and the momentum that we’ve built into election season this fall. We must remember the bold and tireless efforts of our allies, but also those who stood in the way of doing right for our environment. Stay tuned as we begin our endorsement process in the coming weeks.

As always, thank you again for your thousands of emails to legislators, participating in the conversation on social media, and also your generous financial support. We simply could not do what we do without you.

06.20.16 // AUTHOR: admin //