by Roger Downs and Caitlin Pixley
The 2013 legislative session ended at 5:30 am on Saturday, June 22, after a season mired by political scandal, corruption and gridlock. The Democratic majorities secured in both houses after the 2012 fall elections gave hope that we would finally see the advancement of backlogged priority environmental legislation. But 4 breakaway Democratic senators, in exchange for the trappings of leadership, ceded that power to those that have little concern for NY’s environment. As a result of this new power sharing structure, (the Independent Democratic Conference + Republican Minority) very few bills representing public benefit have been able to advance through the legislature. This legislative session was so anemic across the broad spectrum of needed public policy reforms that there is a good chance the legislature could return in the fall to take up issues from Campaign Finance Reform to the Women’s Equality Agenda. If this happens we will make every attempt to ensure our priority issues are taken up as well.
Summary of 2013 legislative session
The good: (bills that passed and are on the way to the governor’s desk)
Ban on the sale of shark fins in NY, mercury thermostat collection program, a hand full of small net metering fixes (for wind and solar) Eurasian boar ban. 19 million dollar increase in EPF.
The bad: (what could have passed but didn’t). All 5 super bills (click here for an explanation of these bills and why they are important):
- Solar bill; 2 one house bill passed, no resolution.
- Child safe products act: passed assembly. 37 cosponsors in the senate. No floor vote
- Climate protection bill: passed assembly. Stalled early in senate.
- 2 year fracking moratorium. Passed assembly. Died in senate in spite of certainty of passage if it received a floor vote.
- Campaign finance reform: 3 strong proposals from assembly, senate IDC, and governor: no negotiated agreement
Bad bills we killed:
Tesla electric car ban, vested rights, gutting of LNG transport protection laws, natural gas repowering subsidies. And though not strictly a legislative issue we have successfully staved off the advancement of Fracking permits.
The ugly (Bad bills that passed):
- Land swap to advance wollastonite mining (NYCO) on Adirondack forever wild land
- Changes to the Hudson River park act that would allow the building of risky, habitat destroying development in the river while shifting storm damage liability to all NY tax payers.
- LIPA restructuring/ privatization (great uncertainty for LI renewable energy programs and goals)
The rest: there is a long list of dozens of environmental bills, beyond our super bills that passed in the assembly that died in the senate. Among these missed opportunities are closing the haz waste loop hole for drilling waste, reproductive rights for women, establishing citizen enforcement of environmental laws, numerous bills to ban various toxins from products, climate change adaptation, wetlands protection and so on.
There is the possibility that the legislature could return in the fall and take up some of these matters. But unless there is a shake up in leadership it is hard to imagine much will get done.