Saturday, December 31, 2011

Laws set to take effect New Year's Day

Courtesy of Star Gazette

The New Year will bring a number of new laws to New York, with a series of measures set to take effect as soon as the ball drops on 2012.
The new laws include big-ticket items passed during the regular 2011 legislative session, such as a 2 percent property-tax cap on local governments and school districts, a measure that was a centerpiece of Gov. Andrew Cuomo's campaign and first year in office.
Also included are many of the provisions in a December deal between the Legislature and Cuomo that overhauled the state's income-tax brackets and partially repealed the Metropolitan Transportation Authority payroll tax.
"These new laws that take effect January ... came about because we ended gridlock and partisanship, and worked with the governor to make Albany function again," Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, R-Nassau County, said in a statement.

Other laws didn't receive the same attention. As of Jan. 1, minors will no longer be able to purchase hookahs or water pipes, and all drivers will be required to change lanes if they're approaching a hazard vehicle on the side of the road.
The state's existing "move over" law only applies to emergency vehicles. The newest incarnation includes vehicles with amber-colored flashing lights, such as tow trucks and maintenance vans.
Drivers who fail to slow down or change lanes will be issued a moving violation that carries a 3-point driver license penalty and a $150 fine. The legislation was sponsored by Assemblyman Bill Reilich, R-Greece, Monroe County.
"Unfortunately people sometimes become almost mesmerized with the lighting and tend to look more at the lights and the incident more than at the fact that the person at the side of the road's safety could be compromised," said Dan Sisto, legislative director for the state Troopers Police Benevolent Association.
Dentists will also see some legally required changes in 2012.
Among the new laws is one requiring all dentists' offices to have a defibrillator on hand in case of emergency.
"The dental association decided they wanted to take the lead and make sure the dentist's office was protecting the health of the patient all around," said Joshua Poupore, spokesperson for the New York State Dental Association.
For cancer patients, a separate law is aimed at improving insurance coverage for treatment. As of Jan. 1, health-insurance companies will be required to cover orally administered chemotherapy treatment, a move advocates said will reduce the number of hospital trips for cancer patients by allowing them to opt for a pill over an injection.
The law requires health insurers to cover the oral medications at a cost equal to that of intravenous chemotherapy treatments.
Other laws taking effect include ones that bolster the state Department of Environmental Conservation's ability to ban mercury products, reduce the number of commercial fishing licenses issued each year, ban household dishwasher soaps containing phosphorus, and prohibit the possession or sale of bear gall bladder and bile.
While the state's property-tax cap doesn't officially go into law until Jan. 1, municipalities and taxing districts have already been dealing with its impact. Since the fiscal year of most cities, towns and counties matches the calendar year, the vast majority of municipalities have already had to put their 2012 budget in place.
As of Dec. 19, 62 percent of taxing entities in New York had reported their plans to the state Comptroller's Office, including nearly all counties, cities and towns.
Of those, more than 80 percent were under the 2 percent cap. The rest had filed an intention to override the cap, which under the new law requires approval from 60 percent of the members of a governing board.
In the case of school districts - which put their budgets out for a public vote in May - 60 percent of voters would have to approve.

Here's a list of some of the new laws taking effect Jan. 1:
- The state's new tax code, which includes a modest tax decrease for middle-income earners and a higher rate for families making more than $2 million.
- A cap on property taxes, limiting the annual levy increase to the lower of 2 percent or the rate of inflation.
- A requirement that health insurers cover orally administered chemotherapy, at a cost similar to injections.
- An expansion of the state's "move over" law to include tow trucks and maintenance vehicles
- Added ability for the DEC to ban products that contain mercury
- A reduction in the number of commercial fishing licenses issued by the state
- A requirement that dentists' offices have a defibrillator on hand
- A ban on the sale of hookahs and water pipes to minors
- A ban on the sale or possession of bear gallbladder and bile
- A law authorizing the removal of fire commissioners for unexcused absences from required meetings
- A ban on household dish detergents that contain phosphorus

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