Turn back the clocks to mid-November 2018. A progressive wave meant that the New York State legislature was under one party control, with the Senate, Assembly, and Governor’s Mansion all in Democratic hands. As such, many were curious about what the new agenda would look like and what it would mean for the business climate in the state. To be sure, there were some surprises. The regressive debt scheme known as congestion pricing passed but Marijuana legalization did not. In the last two weeks before session ended, lawmakers considered a whopping 1,825 bills in a grueling slog to the finish line. In total, both houses jointly passed 935 bills. This is a significant jump over last year, which saw 641 bills jointly pass both houses. Here are a few of the bills that small business owners and those in the trucking industry need to be aware of:
Climate Leadership & Protection Act:
- New York will have to cut its total greenhouse-gas emissions (from 1990 levels) by 85% by 2050.
- The remaining 15% will have to be offset by reforestation, restoring wetlands, carbon capturing or other green projects.
- 70% of the state’s electricity will have to be produced by renewable sources like wind or hydro by 2030.
- Requiring 35% of certain clean-energy funding to go toward low-income communities disproportionately affected by pollution.
- There are also measures meant to spur worker training in the clean-energy industry.
Much of how the state decides to implement any mandates or regulations to hit its goals will be guided by a new, 22-member state panel (it really is ridiculous how frequently lawmakers abdicate their responsibilities to these panels): The New York State Climate Action Council. The council, which includes a number of state agency commissioners and others who will be appointed by Cuomo and legislative leaders, will be given three years to come up with a “scoping plan” that will recommend a wide variety of climate-focused changes the state can make to hit its goal. The industries which will be discussed are transportation, energy-intensive industries, land use and local governments, housing and energy efficiency, power generation, farming and forestry. Hopefully representatives from these industries will be represented on the panel and will have an opportunity to have their voices heard. For what it’s worth, electricity generators are already warning it could lead to higher rates for businesses, homeowners and tenants.
E Bike and Scooter Legalization:
This legislation formally legalizes electric bikes and electric scooters, with some narrow restrictions, and gives municipalities the right to regulate and approve sharing services. It also sets new safety rules for riders, manufacturers and transit-sharing apps. Among other requirements, it:
- Bans electric scooter and electric bike riders under 16.
- Bars electric scooters and electric bikes from sidewalks, directing them to bike lanes or the right-most lane of the regular street.
- Sets maximum speeds of 20 miles per hour for both electric bikes and electric scooters (except in New York City, where electric bikes can hit 25 miles per hour).
- Requires manufacturers to prominently label maximum wattage and speed on all vehicles.
- Outlaws certain risky electric scooter behaviors, such as riding hands-free or with extra passengers.
The law does not require that scooter riders wear helmets, but it grants municipalities wide authority to set additional, superseding speed and safety regulations. Contrary to what legislators have said, the pilot programs haven’t always gone to plan in cities that approved them. Clutter is one major concern: Because most systems are dockless, riders can abandon electric scooters anywhere, potentially blocking sidewalks or handicap ramps and generally inconveniencing other residents. Safety has also proven sticky. Several companies have suffered highly public problems with their batteries and braking systems. An estimated 1,500 people have also been injured in scooter-related crashes since 2017, according to a recent tally by Consumer Reports. Drinking before the accident is a common feature of serious electric scooter crashes, so municipalities will have to conduct serious education and awareness campaigns before they hit the streets.
This bill, like many others written during the 24/7 fortnight cram session, was not well written and needs some tweaking. There was supposed to be a carve out for Manhattan. The bill was supposed to bar electric scooters in any county in the state with a 2010 U.S. Census population of between 1.586 million and 1.587 million people. Manhattan’s population was 1,585,873 in 2010 (as reported by The Wall Street Journal).
Toll Payer Protection Act:
Some good news here for New York motorists as the revamped Toll Payer Protection Act sailed through both houses and awaits Governor Cuomo’s signature .
Bus Lane Camera Enforcement:
- 24/7 Enforcement on all bus lanes
- $50 fine for the first offense.
- $100 fine for the second offense. They
- Fines continue to increase by $50 per offense, up to $250.
- Revenue from that enforcement will go toward the New York City Transportation Assistance Fund.
Leasing and rental companies need to monitor this closely as they are usually responsible for tickets that they are unaware of.
With year one of the two-year legislative cycle in the books New Yorkers now have a better sense of his legislature operates, what their priorities are, and how best to present your views in front of them.