New year starts with new laws

Increasing safety on New York’s highways, assisting volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers in obtaining health insurance, expanding net metering allowances for wind/solar generated power and detecting autism in children at an early age – these are just some of the goals of new laws scheduled to take effect in January 2009.

We are also facing difficult fiscal times, and many people are struggling to make ends meet.  That’s why I am continuing to support property tax cuts that will assist families and businesses.  I will also be working hard to promote a new job creation plan approved by the senate.  This measure would provide tax credits tied to the creation of new jobs; would reduce unnecessary, costly and burdensome government regulations, provide tax credits and interest-free loans to students who stay in New York State, reform the Empire Zone program to make it more effective and accountable and encourage new investments in community revitalization.    

One new law I was proud to author will make our rural highways safer.  The Roadway Safety / Farm Equipment law directs the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee, with the cooperation of the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Agriculture and Markets, and the Division of State Police, to develop and implement a public outreach campaign regarding roadway safety pertaining to farm tractors and farm equipment; establishes lighting requirements for such slow-moving vehicles that will apply from 1/2-hour before sunset to 1/2-hour after sunrise and during periods of low visibility. 

The law also requires all farm machinery, whether self-propelled or towed implements, to display the slow-moving vehicle emblem (reflective orange triangle) to improve visibility when operating on public highways. Until now, the slow-moving vehicle emblem was required to be displayed on either the machine or the towed implement of husbandry, not both.

This new law is especially meaningful because it comes in response to a tragic and fatal accident in my district involving a passenger vehicle and a tractor towing a manure spreader. Because the manure spreader was not required to display any lights or the slow-moving vehicle emblem, the driver was unable to see the machine in front of him until it was too late. Schuyler Lake resident Manfred Weidemann perished in the accident, which occurred on Route 28 south of Milford.  Weidemann’s daughter Carina Franck and their family worked with me to develop this new life saving law.

In speaking with residents of the 51st district, it is no surprise that many are concerned about obtaining and keeping health insurance coverage.  Several new laws approved during the 2008 legislative session are geared toward easing that burden.  One of them allows volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers to participate in certain public employee health insurance plans.  This provides these valuable volunteers with a low-cost option for coverage, and does not place any additional burden on the municipality.

The new “net metering” law will allow an expanded number of customers to take part in net metering for renewable electric generating systems.  Net metering allows a utility customer with an on-site electric generating system to send excess power that he generates back to the utility grid, receiving a credit on future electric bills.  If after one year there is a positive balance, the corporation will pay residential and agricultural customer-generators the balance.

This is an opportunity to promote renewable technologies that are going to help us diversify our energy portfolio and move us away from dependence on fossil fuels.  It is good news for the environment as well as those individuals, farms, and businesses looking for an alternative approach to lowering their energy bills.  In some cases, people may even make a few dollars.

Finally, the autism spectrum disorders screening law directs the Commissioner of Health to establish best practice protocols for the early screening of children for autism spectrum disorders.  This will ensure that children are diagnosed at an early age, and receive the best treatment possible.


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