Among the flurry of bills passed by the New York State Legislature in during lawmakers’ frantic last weeks in Albany before summer break were several that impact Long Island.
Some major proposals, such as Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 10-point Women’s Equality Act that would have bolstered abortion rights, did not pass. But, big-ticket items for LI that did pass include those overhauling the Long Island Power Authority, allowing local video lottery terminals and new boating rules.
The bills now go to Cuomo, who will either veto or sign them into law in the coming weeks.
By far the biggest bill impacting LI to pass was to rearrange LIPA by turning over most of the electric utility’s responsibilities over to their incoming contractor, New Jersey-based PSEG. Lawmakers had been clamoring for more accountability for the 1.1 million homes and businesses served by LIPA since more than 90 percent of customers were blacked out, some for weeks after Sandy. The proposal passed just days before The Moreland Commision, a panel appointed by Cuomo to investigate LIPA and other utilities Sandy response, referred to federal prosecutors findings of questionable billing practices and possible ethics law violations.
The upstate versus downstate tug-of-war over proposed casinos ended in compromise when state lawmakers negotiated legislation authorizing 1,000 video lottery terminals—a type of slot machine—in Nassau and Suffolk counties. The bill also established a board that will select sites for four full Las Vegas-style casinos upstate, if voters approve a public referendum this November to authorize casino gambling. “By allowing Suffolk and Nassau OTB to each operate a Video Lottery Terminal facility, we will keep tens of millions of dollars on Long Island to provide relief to local taxpayers, school districts and create jobs,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said.
A proposal to require all New York State boaters to take watercraft safety courses failed despite high-profile LI boating fatalities last summer, but lawmakers instead passed a bill requiring anyone born on or after May 1, 1996 to have a boating safety certificate in order to operate a boat unsupervised. “Boats are not toys,” said state Sen. Charles Fuschillo, Jr. (R-Merrick). “They are large, powerful motor vehicles that can cause injury or death if not operated properly. It is commonsense to make sure that individuals learn about basic boating safety, navigation, and the rules of the water before they operate a boat.”
Restoring Funding for People With Disabilities
The Office of People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) are excluded from future state funding cuts after several lawmakers, including Assemb. Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach), who has a developmentally disabled son, harshly rebuked $120 million in proposed cuts. The bill will not only protect service providers from budget, it ensures people with developmental disabilities and their families have confidence in their provider being there for them.
Thomas Prendergast, a former Long Island Rail Road president, was confirmed as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s chairman and CEO. He had been serving as the MTA interim director since Jan. 1 after the last MTA chief quit to run for New York City mayor. Lawmakers also approved the nomination of John Molloy, the retired chief of the engineering and architectural consulting firm H2M, as the Nassau County representative on the MTA board—a seat that has been vacant for more than a year.