Vivian E. Cook

Fall 2003

Dear Neighbors:

It is my pleasure to provide you with my Fall News Report, which contains highlights of new laws of the 2003 Legislative Session. This year there were thousands of bills introduced in the New York State Legislature, of which the Governor has signed over 500 into law.

I would encourage you to read this report so that you are aware of the new laws that may affect you or someone you know. Some of the new laws enacted deal with issues such as SCRIE increase for seniors; Sex Offender Notification; Video Voyeurism, Pre-need Funeral Issues; Regulations of Private School Bus Drivers; New York City School Governance; Higher Education; Housing; Captive Insurance Company for NYC; Enhanced 911 Wireless Emergency Network; and Food Assistance Program.

In closing, I would like to thank you for taking the time to read this news report. The articles contained within will provide you with invaluable information on the 2003 New York State Laws. As always, if you are in need of assistance, please feel free to stop by my office located at 142-15 Rockaway Blvd. in Jamaica or contact me at (718) 322-3975. I look forward to hearing from you.

Vivian E. Cook

Assemblymember Cook is joined by Assemblymember Carmen Arroyo to meet with members of the NYS Board of Regents on their legislative day in Albany. In photo from left to right Assemblymember Arroyo, Regent Lorraine A. Cortes-Vazquez; Twelfth Judicial District Bronx, Assemblymember Cook, and Regent Geraldine Chapey, Eleventh Judicial District, Queens.

LAWS OF 2003

SCRIE- This measure will increase the income eligibility for the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) program to $24,000 from $20,000. The SCRIE program exempts rent-controlled/stabilized and Mitchell-Lama tenants who are over 62 and are spending at least one-third of their net monthly income on rent from increases resulting from lease renewal, higher fuel costs, landlord hardship, major capital improvements and calculation of their Maximum Base Rent. The measure raises the income eligibility exemption to ensure that low-income seniors who benefit from moderate cost-of-living increases in pensions or Social Security will not be forced out of their apartments. (Chapter 382)

Green Thumb Program Eligibility- This measure will increase the annual income limits for seniors to be deemed eligible for employment through the Green Thumb Environmental Beautification Program and automatically increase these income eligibility limits every year thereafter to reflect the annual Social Security cost of living percentage increase. (Chapter 216)

Senior Property Tax Exemption- This measure will grant local governments the option to raise the maximum income eligibility limit for a 50 percent senior citizen real property tax exemption from $21,500 to $24,000. (Chapter 512)


Sexual Assault- This measure will strengthen provisions of the Sexual Assault Reform Act of 2000 (SARA) by closing gaps in the law with more effective safeguards and tougher penalties. Its provisions include stronger protections for individuals who are sexually assaulted by their spouses, the creation of sexual assault forensic payment program and the setting of effective penalties for forcible touching and persistent sexual abuse. (Chapter 264)

Sex Offender Notification- This measure requires that under SORA, when a released sex offender resides in the community, a photograph of the offender be included in any notification made to community organizations. (Chapter 316)

Stalking Bill- This measure will allow stalking and other crime victims to seek a special order of conditions against a defendant who has been found not guilty of the crime due to mental disease or defect. Currently, the law invalidates orders of protection if their target is found not guilty by reason of insanity or accepts a plea of not guilty by reason of mental disease. (Chapter 525)

Video Voyeurism- This measure will make it a class E felony to photograph or video tape individuals secretly in most private circumstances without their consent. It also will make it a felony for a photographer or an accomplice to distribute these photographs or videotapes, and bans anyone from knowingly disseminating such unlawful images. The measure also will require criminals who repeatedly commit video voyeurism crimes be charged with a class D felony and face up to seven years in prison. (Chapter 69)

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School Aid- This measure will restore more than $1 billion of the $1.4 billion the governor proposed to cut in aid for public schools for the 2003-04 school year. Specifically, the measure will ensure full funding for LADDER programs, such as universal pre-kindergarten, class size reduction and extended day programs. In addition, the measure will provide a $56 million increase for building aid over the governor’s proposal and restore funding for teacher support aid, teacher centers, libraries and public broadcasting. (Veto Override, Chapter 62)

New York City School Governance- This measure will create a Community District Education Council in each community district, comprised of 11 voting members and one non-voting member. To increase parent participation, nine of the voting council members will be parents, selected by representatives from parent and parent-teacher associations. Two of the voting members will be appointed by the borough president and the non-voting member will be a high school senior appointed by the school district superintendent. The New York City school chancellor is directed to develop an election process for the parent and parent-teacher associations. Under the law, the community councils will continue to possess the current powers of community school boards and increase their role in community involvement. The duties of school-based leadership teams, including the development of comprehensive educational plans, are also specified in the legislation. The measure also creates a citywide council on special education that will consist of 11 voting members and one non-voting member. Nine of the voting members will be parents of special education students. Two voting members will be appointed by the New York City Public Advocate. The one non-voting member would be a special education high school student. (Chapter 123)

Regulation of Private School Bus Drivers- This measure will apply the safety regulations of the state commissioner of education that presently apply to public school district school bus drivers to private school bus drivers. (Chapter 270)

Pupil Transportation in Child Safety Zones- This measure extends child safety zones for pupil transportation until June 30, 2005. Child safety zone designations allow school boards to provide transportation services to students who live too close to a school to qualify for taking the bus, but, if the children were to walk, will encounter hazardous traffic situations. The zones are used by boards to make exceptions to transportation policies, without having to transport all students at a significant financial burden to the school district. (Chapter 97)


Temporary Salary Employee Agency Shop Fees- This measure will extend the right of public employee organizations to deduct agency shop fees from salaried employees for two more years. Under the law, agency shop fees will be made payable by all public employees until 2004. (Chapter 342)


Crime Victim Counseling- This measure authorizes the use of crime victim assistance funds for financial counseling for elderly and disabled victims of fraud or economic crimes. The measure will help New Yorkers who are victims of crimes related to telemarketing fraud or identity theft. (Chapter 391)

Fire Prevention and Control- This measure prohibits the use of a person to portray a victim in firefighter training when it is done under live fire conditions. (Chapter 125)

Community Services Block Grant- This measure extends provisions providing for the distribution of federal community services block grant program funds by the Department of State for another year. Community Services Block Grants provide services to the poor in New York State. (Chapter 196)

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Smoking Ban- This measure prohibits smoking in all indoor workplaces, including restaurants and bars. The measure will dramatically reduce the serious health risks of secondhand smoke to which many employees are exposed. The smoking ban became effective on July 24. (Chapter 13)

Hospice Availability- This measure extends the authority to discharge hospital patients to hospice and, on a demonstration basis, to residential health care facilities (RHCFs) under the Medical Assistance (Medicaid) Presumptive Eligibility program. The measure extends this discharge operation to July 31, 2006. (Chapter 113)

Hospice Assistance Program- This measure extends the Supplemental Assistance Program to permit hospice to care for persons with special needs. (Chapter 112)

Childhood Immunization- This measure extends for two years a demonstration program under which the commissioner of the Department of Health is authorized to test the feasibility of establishing a statewide immunization registry for tracking and monitoring the immunization of children. (Chapter 78)

School-Based Health Centers- This measure extends for two years projects that provide improved and expanded school health services for preschool and school-aged children through local school districts and Boards of Cooperative Educational Services. (Chapter 67)


SUNY/CUNY Tuition- This measure restores nearly $400 million of the governor’s $703 million cut to higher education, thereby reducing the need for tuition increases. The measure will restore nearly $80 million in support for SUNY, CUNY and community colleges and provides new capital appropriations for improvements to SUNY and CUNY facilities. (Veto Override, Chapter 53)

TAP – Tuition Assistance Program- This measure restores $262 million the governor proposed to cut from TAP for the 2003-04 academic year. The measure rejects the governor’s plan to defer one-third of all TAP awards and maintains the maximum student award at $5000, or 100-percent of tuition. (Veto Override, Chapter 53)

Bias-Related Crime Prevention Measures- This measure provides that colleges shall inform incoming students about bias-related crime prevention measures that are available through various programs. (Chapter 590)


Eight-Year Rent Control Extender- This measure will continue to provide rent regulations until June 15, 2011, for rent-controlled apartments. The measure also allows housing units to be deregulated upon vacancy if the legal regulated rent exceeds $2,000, even if the actual rent paid is less than $200. The measure also would allow an owner who charges a rent that is less than the legal rent to increase the rent to the legal rent when the lease is renewed. (Chapter 82)

SONYMA- Authorization Extender/Bond Cap Increase- The measure extends from July 16, 2003 to July 16, 2004; SONYMA’s authority to issue new tax-exempt bonds and increases SONYMA’s tax-exempt bonding authority by $50 million to a maximum amount of $6.945 billion. (Chapter 141)

SONYMA Mortgage Insurance Fund Authorization Extender- This measure will authorize the extension of the existing powers of the Mortgage Insurance Fund until July 16, 2005. (Chapter 145)

HFA Authorization Extender/Bond Cap Increase- This measure will increase the bonding authority of the New York State Housing Finance Agency (HFA) from $6.48 billion to $8.08 billion. The measure also extends from June 30, 2003, to June 30, 2005 the HFA’s and New York City’s Housing Development Authority authorization to finance housing developments. (Chapter 99)

HPD Extender- This measure will extend until June 30, 2006, Historic Preservation Development’s (HPD) authority to make loans for neighborhood projects, including commercial and community facilities, which would have to be designated by the City of New York prior to June 30, 2004. (Chapter 96)

HDC Bonding Increase- This measure will allow the New York City Housing Development Corporation (HDC) to increase the maximum amount of its outstanding notes and bonds from $3.8 to $4.4 billion. (Chapter 398)

Affordable Housing Development Loans- This measure will permit the City of New York to continue to finance up to 100 percent the total development cost of affordable housing projects until July 1, 2008. (Chapter 118)

Participation Loan Program- This measure will allow the New York City Housing and Preservation Developments (HPD) authority to expand the scope of its Participation Loan Program to allow for loans to be used for new construction in addition to rehabilitation. (Chapter 456)


NY Property Insurance Underwriting Assoc. (NYPIUA) And Reinstatement Of Auto Provisions- The measure will extend until April 30, 2004 the New York Property Insurance Underwriting Association (NYPIUA), an insurance program to provide insurance "of last resort" to property owners throughout the state, particularly in Long Island coastal areas and in some urban areas of the state. Under the measure, insurance coverage would be continued for basic fire and extended coverage insurance for residential and commercial properties. The measure also reinstates provisions relating to auto insurance rates and consumer protections. In addition, it would reinstate provisions allowing auto insurers to cancel two percent of their policy holders to keep auto insurance rates competitive and to stabilize the insurance industry. (Chapter 85)

Medical Malpractice Program Extended- This measure will extend authorization to the commissioner of the Department of Health and the Superintendent of Insurance to purchase excess medical and dental malpractice insurance coverage. The legislation will ensure that New York State residents continue to have access to high-risk specialty care by providing secondary medical malpractice insurance coverage to physicians and dentists with hospital affiliations. (Chapter 119)

Captive Insurance Company for NYC- This measure will authorize the City of New York to establish a captive insurance company to address the liability claims connected to the cleanup of the World Trade Center site following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. (Chapter 188)

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18-B Attorney Fees- This measure will increase fees for attorneys appointed by a court to represent individuals who are unable to afford their own legal representation. The measure will replace the $40 per hour for in court legal work and $25 per hour for out of court work rates with a $60 per hour for misdemeanors and a $75 per hour for felonies, and a cap of $2,400 and $4,400 respectively. (Veto Override, Chapter 62)

9/11 Victims Lawsuit Extension- This measure will extend the time period of filing of wrongful death lawsuits on behalf of victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. This measue will effectively postpone the deadline for lawsuits by an additional six months, until March 11, 2004. (Chapter 114)


Enhanced 911 Wireless Emergency Network- This measure creates the Wireless 911 Expedited Deployment Funding program to establish an emergency response system capable of pinpointing the location of emergency cell phone callers across the state. The measure provides immediate grants to local wireless emergency dispatch centers, known as public safety answering points (PSAPs) for the development of enhanced wireless 911 systems. The measure will provide $100 million through bonds financed by the state Dormitory Authority. The bonds will be repaid using a portion of the existing wireless 911 surcharge monies. (Veto Override, Chapter 62)

Snow Removal Costs- The measure allows local governments to finance this year’s extraordinary snow and ice removal costs over a five-year period in order to help municipalities avoid the need to increase property taxes. (Chapter 42)

Volunteer Firefighters’ Benefit Law- This measure extends disability provisions relating to heart disease in volunteer firefighters until 2005. (Chapter 89)

Period of Probable Usefulness for Certain Judgments- This measure extends the authorization for municipalities to finance costs related to tax certiorari and other tax-related judgments until 2008. (Chapter 83)

Sewage Facilities- To address the sewage facility financing needs of local governments, the Assembly approved legislation that will authorize municipalities to exclude sewer-related debt from constitutional debt limits. (Chapter 550)

Course Credit for Volunteer Firefighters- This measure increases the amount of service award credit available to volunteer firefighters taking EMT courses. (Chapter 514)

Death Benefits- This measure increases special accidental death benefits for surviving spouses and children of police and fire personnel. (Chapter 139)


Community Reinvestment- This measure allows funds realized from the downsizing of state-operated inpatient, adult and children psychiatric facilities to be used to fund workforce recruitment, retention and training, as well as community-based programs. (Override, Chapter 62)


Real Property Tax Exemption for New Multiple Dwellings- This measure will add the definition "New Multiple Dwelling" to the real property tax law in order to provide tax exemption benefits to multiple-housing projects involving new construction or the rehabilitation of existing dwellings. (Chapter 447)

J-51 Housing Program- This measure provides tax exemption benefits under the J-51 Housing Program of the Real Property Tax Law to property owners who have expanded a dwelling’s living space and maintained 50 percent of its original floor area. (Chapter 450)

Abatement Limitation for Multiple Dwellings- The measure will eliminate the zoning resolution for determining the number of rooms eligible for tax abatement under the law and replaces it with a methodology to calculate the value of the abatement. (Chapter 490)

Industrial and Commercial Incentive Program (ICIP)- This measure authorizes the City of New York to extend the Existing Industrial and Commercial Incentive Program (ICIP) to June 30, 2007. The ICIP provides developers critical real property tax exemption benefits to encourage commercial and industrial development in New York City. (Chapter 103)

Commercial Expansion Program- This measure authorizes the City of New York to extend for four years, the existing tax abatement for industrial commercial property used by industrial, manufacturing and commercial tenants. (Chapter 440)

Statement of Financial Disclosure- This measure requires assessors licensed in New York State to file an annual statement of financial disclosure. (Chapter 548)


Child Support Collections- This measure prohibits local social services districts from asserting any claim to recover public-assistance payments if such payments were reimbursed by child support collected by the district on behalf of the public assistance household. (Chapter 340)

Nonrecurring Lump Sum- This measure allows public assistance recipients who receive a nonrecurring lump sum to use the income toward resources, such as buying an automobile or saving for post-secondary education tuition. The measure aims to help public assistance recipients to invest in ways that will enhance their ability to secure employment. (Chapter 373)

Food Assistance Program- This measure extends the State Food Assistance Program (FAP) September 30, 2003 to September 30, 2005. New York State created FAP as part of the Welfare Reform Act of 1997 in order to give districts the option of providing food assistance to individuals who were made ineligible for federal Food Stamps as a result of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996. (Chapter 360)

Foster Family Demo- This measure extends the Foster Family Care Demonstration Program from December 30, 2003 to December 31, 2005. Foster family care providers serve one or two individuals who are medically eligible for residential health care or personal care services and who lack a home or the resources or family support to live in the community. Caregivers provide room and board, supervision and assistance with personal care in their home. A sponsoring agency supervises the care and is also responsible for recruitment and training. Foster family care is financed from a combination of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Medicaid or private pay. (Chapter 227)

Child Assistance Program Extension- This measure extends the enforcement of child support and combined child and spousal support orders by the Department of Taxation and Finance from June 30, 2003 to June 30, 2005. (Chapter 88)

Child Support Enforcement- This measure extends the penalty of suspending driving privileges to parents who fail to make child support payments from June 30, 2003 to June 30, 2005. (Chapter 87)


DWI .08- This measure seeks a crackdown on drunk driving in New York State by reducing the BAC (blood alcohol concentration) level at which persons are deemed to be driving while intoxicated from .10 percent to .08 percent. The measure went into effect on July 1, 2003. (Chapter 62)

Boating While Intoxicated .08- This measure lowers the threshold for operating a vessel while intoxicated from .10 to .08 percent. (Chapter 458)

65-MPH Speed Limits- This measure authorizes the Department of Transportation and the state Thruway Authority, on highways under their respective jurisdictions, to set 65-mph speed limits where it is deemed appropriate. It also will make this authorization permanent. (Chapter 464)

New York City Truck Routes- This measure increases the fines for operating a truck on a street that is not part of a designated truck route. Under the law, violators will face fines of up to $2,000. (Chapter 203)


Clothing/Foot Wear Tax- This measure will reinstate the state and local sales tax on clothing and footwear items that cost under $110 during the period of June 1, 2003 to May 31, 2004. The measure also authorizes a sales tax exemption on clothing and footwear under $110 during two seven-day periods: Tuesday, August 26 to Monday, September 1, 2003 and Monday, January 26 to Sunday, February 1, 2004. (Veto Override, Chapter 62)

State Sales Tax Increase- This measure increases the state sales tax by .25 percent to 4.25 percent, from June 1, 2003 to May 31, 2005. (Veto Override, Chapter 62)

Temporary Personal Income Tax Increase- This measure will set a new personal income tax rate of 7.5 percent in Tax Year 2003 for income of $100,000 or more for single taxpayers, $125,000 for head-of-household taxpayers and $150,000 for married filing jointly taxpayers. The new rate imposed drops to 7.375 percent in 2004 and to 7.25 percent in 2005. It also would impose a new rate of 7.7 percent on all income of taxpayers with an earned income of $500,000 or more for 2003, 2004 and 2005. The new rates are completely phased out in 2006. (Veto Override, Chapter 62)

NYC Sales Tax Increase- This measure will allow the City of New York to increase its sales tax by one-eighth percent from June 1, 2003 to May 31, 2005. (Veto Override; Chapter 63)

NYC Personal Income Tax Increase- The measure will allow the City of New York to set a new income tax rate of 4.25 percent for Tax Year 2003 on income of $100,000 or more for single taxpayers, $125,000 for head of household taxpayers, and $150,000 for married filing joint taxpayers. The rate drops to 4.175 percent in 2004 and to 4.05 percent in 2005. (Veto Override; Chapter 63)

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