Updates from the Committee on Health

Organ Donation Bill Unanimously Passes Assembly; Trans-Fat Ban Reported by Assembly Health Committee
April 27, 2010

Enrolling in New York’s organ donor registry would be much easier under a bill that passed the Assembly unanimously on Monday, April 26. The bill would allow potential donors to register online, instead of downloading a form and mailing it in. The bill, A.10664, introduced by Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried and State Senator Thomas K. Duane, now heads to the Senate where it is expected to pass.

The New York State Organ Donor Registry currently does not enable people to register online. To register, a person has to download a form from the Department of Health website, print it, fill it out, and then mail it in.

“Mailing in a form is not that hard, but experience shows we need to make this as easy for people as possible,” said Assembly Member Gottfried. “A lot of people go online to register, print out the form, and never get around to mailing it in. Increasing anatomical gifts is a vital life-saving public health goal for the State of New York.” New York State has one of the worst rates of organ donation in the country: 47th out of 50 states.

Organizations in support of the legislation include The National Kidney Foundation, The New York Center for Liver Transplantation, The Association of Organ Procurement Organizations, Donate Life America, and the New York Alliance for Organ Donation.

Trans Fat Ban

Artificial trans fats would be banned from restaurants under a bill approved by the Assembly Health Committee on April 20. The bill, submitted by Governor Paterson to the Legislature and introduced by Assembly Member Felix Ortiz and State Senator Thomas K. Duane, is currently awaiting a vote in the Assembly Codes Committee.

“Heart disease is the leading cause of death in New York State, and trans fat is a major killer,” said Assembly Member Richard N. Gottfried, Chair of the Assembly Health Committee and a co-sponsor of the bill, A.10665. “A large part of our food is prepared by someone else, in restaurants and stores where we have little or no say in what goes into it.”

Artificial trans fats are commonly used in a wide variety of commercially-prepared foods. They are shown to raise the risk of coronary heart disease and lead to other detrimental health effects. Governor Paterson’s bill, modeled on the highly successful New York City trans fat ban, will require all restaurants and food establishments to substitute healthier alternatives to items containing artificial trans fat.

Under the bill, all restaurants and other retail food service establishments will be prohibited from serving food containing artificial trans fats. The bill would allow a food to have less than half a gram of trans fat per serving, or to contain naturally-occurring trans fat. It would not apply to food served in a manufacturer’s package that has a nutrition label.

“Since taking effect in 2008, New York City’s ban has shown that switching to zero or low trans fat vegetable oils does not impact a restaurant’s business. Eating healthier does not have to mean a loss of quality, flavor, or business.” Gottfried added.

A similar bill passed the Assembly in 2009, but did not pass the State Senate.

Other legislation

For more information on the two additional bills passed by the Assembly Health Committee on April 20, please contact the sponsor listed after the description below.

Creating Autism Assessment Centers – Authorizes providers to establish centers designed to provide intensive assessment of children with autism spectrum disorder, allowing for more direct and effective treatment in children. The centers would be licensed and regulated by the Health Department. (A.8906-D, Gunther)

Portable X-Ray Demonstration Extension – Extends for two more years the law allowing demonstration programs using portable x-ray machines to serve Medicaid patients in residential facilities or receiving home care. (A.10607, Gabryszak)