Assemblywoman Vivian E. Cook
Vivian E. Cook

Winter 2004

Dear Neighbors: Seasons Greetings

As this year draws to an end, I would like to take this opportunity to provide you with my Winter News Report that highlights significant legislation that was signed into New York State Law this year. These important new laws are designed to better protect residents by improving and implementing programs and services that will help to ensure the health and safety of all New Yorkers.

This report also contains information about a very important Federal Law called Check 21. The holiday season is the time of year when consumers do most of their spending, therefore, it is fitting that I provide you with information on Check 21. The Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act, "Check 21", took effect October 28, 2004. Under this new Federal Law banks have a right to change the way they process the checks you write. Check 21 allows banks to process checks electronically and to print special copies or electronic reproductions. This means that when you write a check it may clear immediately. Therefore, it is important not to write a check unless you have the money in the bank to cover it.

In closing, I would like to thank you for taking the time to read this news report. Should you need any additional information or assistance, please feel free to stop by or call my office at (718) 322-3975. Best wishes for a safe and enjoyable holiday season and may you have a healthy and Happy New Year.

Vivian E. Cook


Assemblymember Cook meets with hundreds of constituents and lobbyists throughout the year on legislation or other important issues. In this photo Assemblymember Cook met with members of District Council 37 on their annual lobby day.



Assisted Living Facilities This bill will establish a clear definition of assisted living, and require all assisted living facilities to be licensed by the state, as well as establish important protections to ensure consumers receive the care they need. (Chapter 2)

Elder Law This bill will establish a new chapter of the Consolidated Law entitled Elder Law. The legislation will focus on a specific area of state law on the services and programs affecting the elderly, including tax exemptions, prescription drug coverage and housing. (Chapter 642)

Senior/Child Day Care Program This bill will provide a two year extension to the combined senior citizen service center/residential health care facility/child day care community grants program. Under the bill, the intergenerational day care program is extended to December 31, 2006. (Chapter 308)


Accidental Drowning Prevention This bill will require that the entire grounds of a day care facility or pool or body of water that is adjacent to the property of such a facility have a containing barrier present to prevent an accidental drowning. (Chapter 62)


NYC Veteran Vendors This bill will amend and make permanent Chapter 227 of the Laws of 1998 related to disabled veteran vendors in the City of New York. The legislation will expand the number of New York City specialized veteran vending licenses from 60 to 105 and will allow such vendor license holders to vend the city's Midtown core area. (Chapter 11)

Lower Manhattan Redevelopment This bill will enact provisions to allow the City of New York to expedite the reconstruction/redevelopment of Lower Manhattan. The legislation also will ensure the coordination of construction activity among public and private agencies. In addition, the bill prohibits the use of fuel with a sulfur content greater than 15 parts per million in Lower Manhattan in order to reduce the impact diesel-engine emissions have on air quality and the public's health. The measure also requires the use of retrofit technologies on exhaust systems to reduce e missions. It will apply to all construction vehicles involved in the public rebuilding effort of Lower Manhattan. (Chapter 259/Chapter 231)


Terrorism Prevention, Preparedness and Enforcement Act The bill will enhance the state's ability to prevent acts of terrorism and to prosecute those who commit these crimes. The legislation will toughen penalties for individuals convicted of possessing or using chemical or biological weapons. Under the bill, an individual convicted of a terrorist act could face a prison sentence of life without parole. In addition, the measure eliminates the statute of limitations for crimes that cause death or serious physical injury, allowing the prosecution of terrorists at any time; adds terrorist offenders to the state DNA databank; authorizes certain wiretapping or eavesdropping on terrorism suspects; increases penalties for money laundering; establishes the State Office Of Homeland Security; expands first-responder training; enhances airport security; and creates an advisory council to develop a new statewide wireless network. (Chapter 1)

Security Funding This bill will appropriate $36.633 million of the federal 2003 Urban Area Security Initiative grant for the state homeland security program. (Chapter 1/ Chapter 15)

DNA Databank Expansion This bill will expand the state DNA databank to include a host of felony and misdemeanor crimes. Under the bill, the newly added crimes will include the crime of terrorism; unlawful imprisonment; facilitating a sex offense with a controlled substance; and persistent sexual abuse. The DNA registry is a data base of DNA samples that are taken from individuals convicted of specific crimes, as they are processed through the state's criminal justice system. (Chapter 138)

Missing Child Information This bill will allow for the distribution of information alerting the public to a missing child through the Amber Alert plan to also be disseminated via electronic mail. In addition, the information also could be provided to one or more Internet and commercial mobile service providers serving the community. (Chapter 381)

Joan's Law This bill will impose a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment without parole on individuals 18 years of age and older who are convicted of committing murder during the course of certain sex offenses involving victims less than fourteen years old. (Chapter 459)

Public Lewdness This bill will increase the maximum period of probation for public lewdness from one year to three years. The legislation is a preventative measure aimed at addressing the early stages of inappropriate behavior that studies have shown are exhibited by individuals who have become sex offenders. (Chapter 568)

Stalking Law Toughened This bill will require that witnesses and victims be notified when a court issues a special order of protection and that the order be registered with the local police. The legislation also allows police to remove a defendant when the conditions of the special order of protection are violated. (Chapter 107)

Confidential Personal Information This bill will ensure that individuals involved in a civil court proceeding could request that personal information about themselves be kept confidential. Under the bill, the court is prohibited from releasing personal information if the court determined that disclosure will pose an unreasonable risk to the safety of those involved in a civil lawsuit. (Chapter 111)


Crackdown On "Do Not Call" Violators This bill will increase the fine for individuals who violate the state's "Do Not Call" law. Under the legislation, fines increase from $5,000 to $11,000. (Chapter 417)

Check Cashers This bill will clarify and ensure that Article 9-A of the Banking Law governs the cashing of checks for payees that are not natural citizens and will strengthen and enhance the regulation of check cashers. (Chapter 432)

Gift Card Fee This bill will require that vendors and retailers eliminate any retroactive fees on gift certificates or cards. The measure also bans merchants from charging monthly fees until a gift certificate or card goes unused for 12 months. (Chapter 171)

Gift Card Disclosure This legislation will require vendors to disclose the terms and conditions of gift certificates or gift cards at the time of purchase. It also identifies those fees that are allowable for unexpired certificates. (Chapter 507)

Global Positioning Devices This bill will ban automobile rental companies from equipping rental vehicles with global positioning technology systems to determine or impose costs or fees. (Chapter 476)

Children's Clothing Safety This bill will define "drawstring," "tie," "hood," "neck opening," "toggle" and "aglet." The legislation also prohibits the sale of any clothing from children's size 2T up to children's size 16 that has a drawstring at the bottom opening of an upper garment or a drawstring at the waist longer than three inches. It prohibits the sale of any children's clothing up to and including children's size 12 that has a hood or neck opening drawstring. (Chapter 255)

Clothing Sales Tax Free Week This legislation will exempt from the state's four percent sales tax purchases of clothing costing less than $110.00 from January 31, 2005 to February 6, 2005. (Chapter 60)

Milk Labeling This bill will protect the state's dairy farmers and consumers by prohibiting manufacturers from labeling milk substitutes, which also are known as milk protein concentrates (MPCs), as real milk. Under the bill, food producers will be required to identify whether the product contains milk or MPCs to ensure that consumers are able to make informed decisions. (Chapter 369)


Excelsior Linked-Deposit Program Loan Extension This bill will extend certain loan periods under the Excelsior Linked-Deposits Program. (Chapter 291)

Liquor Store Sales This bill will allow liquor store retail establishments to keep business hours seven days a week. (Chapter 60)


Financial Disclosure of School Board Candidates This bill will require that candidates for membership on school boards disclose aggregate contributions in excess of $500 made to their campaign. (Chapter 466)

Full-Time Day Instruction The bill will authorize school districts to require minors from 16 to 17 years of age to attend full-time day instruction. (Chapter 183)


Low Cost Power for Military Bases This bill will permit the Power Authority to provide low-cost power to military bases in New York State in order to retain the jobs and economic benefits these bases provide to the surrounding communities. (Chapter 386)

Wind Net Metering This bill will create a wind net metering program. The measure aims to encourage the use of renewable wind electrical generating equipment for residential customers and farmers. (Chapter 423)

Mercury Product Labeling and Recycling This bill will help reduce human exposure to mercury by requiring the labeling and recycling of consumer products containing mercury as well as prohibit the sale of mercury-added novelty items, fever thermometers and the use of elemental mercury in schools. (Chapter 145)

Restricting Chemical Flame Retardants This bill will prohibit the manufacture, processing or distribution of products containing more than one-tenth of one percent of polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE), a dangerous chemical flame retardant often added to consumer products. (Chapter 387)

Superfund-Brownfields Technical Amendments This bill will make technical corrections to Chapter 1 of the Laws of 2003, relating to Brownfield Cleanup program and the State Superfund to ensure the successful implementation and administration of the state's environmental remediation programs. (Chapter 577)


Pension Reform This bill will provide local government employers with a $980 million dollar saving in employee pension benefits. (Chapter 260)

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

CSEA Contract This bill will implement collective bargaining agreement between the state and the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) for the period from April 1, 2003 through March 31, 2007. Under the bill, employees represented by CSEA will receive a pay increase of 2.5 percent in 2004; 2.75 percent in 2005, three percent in 2006 and $800 in 2007. (Chapter 103)

PEF Contract This bill will implement collective bargaining agreements between the state and the Public Employees Federation (PEF) for the period from April 1, 2003 through March 31, 2007. Under the bill, employees represented by PEF receive a pay increase of 2.5 percent in 2004; 2.75 percent in 2005, three percent in 2006 and $800 in 2007. (Chapter 419)

UUP Contract This bill will implement the collective bargaining agreements between the state and the United University Professors (UUP) for the period from April 1, 2003 through March 31, 2007. Under the bill, employees represented by UUP receive a pay increase of 2.5 percent in 2004; 2.75 percent in 2005, three percent in 2006 and $800 in 2007. (Chapter 137)

Court Employees Contract This bill will implement collective bargaining agreements between the state and employees of the unified court system for the period from April 1, 2003 through March 31, 2007. Under the bill, court employees receive a pay increase of 2.5 percent in 2004; 2.75 percent in 2005, three percent in 2006 and $800 in 2007. (Chapter 203)

Dogs Used by Disabled This bill will help deter discrimination against people with disabilities who are accompanied by guide, hearing, and service dogs by creating a new penalty for repeated acts of discrimination against a person accompanied by these dogs at a public facility. (Chapter 295)

State Trooper Exams for Military Personnel This bill will reduce employment hardships experienced by members of the military by requiring the State Police to offer the state police trooper qualifying exams at least every six months for two years for those who are on active military service. (Chapter 94)


Health Care Plus This bill will phase in the state payment of local costs of the Family Health Plus program during the next two years. (Chapter 58)

Prostate Cancer This bill will allow taxpayers to make a monetary contribution to prostate cancer research through a checkoff on the state income tax return form. Under the bill, all revenues donated to the fund will be provided to the New York State Coalition to Cure Prostate Cancer, a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to financing prostate cancer research, detection and education. (Chapter 273)

EPIC Restorations This appropriation contained in the state budget will restore $22.6 million to fund the Elderly Pharmaceutical Insurance Coverage (EPIC) program that was cut in the governor's budget. (Chapter 54 / Chapter 58)

Shaking Baby Syndrome Video The bill will require hospitals and birth centers to request that maternity patients and fathers view a video presentation on the dangers of shaking infants and small children (Chapter 219)

Bad Debt Charity This bill will reimburse diagnostic and treatment centers and certified home health agencies for uncompensated care. (Chapter 81)

Hospital Visitation Rights This bill will ensure the hospital visitation rights of domestic partners. (Chapter 471)

Health Insurance Access This bill will establish the New York State Health Insurance Continuation Assistance Demonstration Project to ensure the availability of health insurance for persons in episodic and seasonal employment and their dependents. (Chapter 495)


TAP The enacted budget rejects the $302 million cut to the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) that the governor proposed. It also rejects the governor's plan to defer one-third of all TAP awards until a student's graduation from college. (Chapter 53)

Admission to Professional Practice This bill will provide for the consideration of prior disciplinary history in evaluating an application for admission to a professional practice. (Chapter 239)


Housing Trust Fund This bill will increase the amount per unit the state Housing Trust Fund can award in grants or loans to developers of low-income housing. (Chapter 445)

One Year Loft Law Extension This bill extends the Loft Law for one year to May 31, 2005. (Chapter 60)

NYC Housing Bonds This bill will increase the bonding authority of the New York City Housing Development Corporation by $450 million to ensure the availability of affordable housing. (Chapter 227)

New York Property Insurance Underwriters Association (NYPIUA) This bill will extend for one year the authority of NYPIUA to write homeowner's insurance/catastrophe insurance coverage, thereby ensuring that property owners in locations deemed to be "high risk" areas by insurance companies have continued access to property and casualty insurance. (Chapter 121)


Child Witness This bill will increase the age limit of a child witness who will be allowed to provide live video testimony involving a sex offense. Under the bill, the age of a child witness that could testify on video will be increased by two years to 14 years of age and under. (Chapter 362)

Jury Reform This bill will extend from four to six years the period of time in which jurors who have completed jury service will not be called upon to serve again. (Chapter 240)

Eminent Domain Reform This bill will require written notice to homeowners prior to public hearings in eminent domain proceedings. (Chapter 450)

Article 81 Guardianship This bill will clarify confusion and inconsistent practice across the state and will better safeguard the rights of persons who are determined to be incompetent to handle their own affairs. (Chapter 438)


E-911 Education This bill will require the New York State 911 Board to develop a plan to inform cell-phone users of whether or not the wireless system they have access to can provide rescue personnel with a caller's locations. The measure will require the board to issue four public reports a year that identify, on a county-by-county basis, the state's progress in implementing an E-911 system that is able to identify a caller's phone number and location. (Chapter 292)

Revolving Loan Fund The bill will increase maximum loan amounts under the New York State Emergency Services Revolving Loan Account to help local fire, ambulance and rescue departments finance the purchase of equipment and facilities. (Chapter 370)


Coop/Condo Rebate Bill This bill will continue a tax rebate program that reduces the inequitable treatment of owner-occupied class II properties within New York City compared to class I properties. (Chapter 97)

Assessor Disclosure Bill This bill will require assessors statewide to comply with ethics disclosure requirements applicable to public employee policy makers. (Chapter 85)

Business Loans This bill will establish a micro-business revolving loan assistance grant program within the rural revitalization program of the state Urban Development Corporation. The bill will authorize grants of up to $200,000 per year for establishing a revolving loan program for micro-businesses. The grants will be available to businesses relating to agricultural and forest products, tourism and enterprises that employ five or fewer full-time persons. (Chapter 236)


Medicaid Waivers This bill will extend for two years the authority for the state Department of Health to apply for "Katie Becket" Medicaid waivers. The legislation authorizes the Medicaid reimbursement for community-based services that are not otherwise eligible under the Medicaid program. The measure allows up to 1,200 disabled children to be served who will otherwise be placed in medical facilities. (Chapter 536)

Public Assistance This bill will extend for two years the authorization for public assistance recipients to participate in work study and internship programs and have those hours satisfy public assistance work requirements. (Chapter 83)

Eligibility/Federal SSI This bill will increase the standards of monthly need as well as increase the mandatory minimum state supplementation of federal Supplemental Security Income benefits that are paid to the aged, blind and disabled. (Chapter 310)

Defibrillators in Health Clubs This bill will require that defibrillators be accessible in health clubs with a membership of 2,500 or more people. It also requires the presence of at least one staff person certified to use defibrillators during club operation. (Chapter 186)


Red-Light Camera Extension This bill will extend the authorization for the City of New York's red-light camera law for five years, until December 1, 2009. The legislation will authorize the city to continue using up to 50 traffic intersections that are equipped with signal photo-monitoring devices to identify and fine the owners of vehicles which fail to stop for red lights. (Chapter 667)

Emergency Vehicle Safety This bill will require drivers to exercise caution and appropriately reduce the speed of their car, truck or motorcycle when approaching a stopped emergency vehicle. (Chapter 211)

Child Restraint Safety/Restraint Requirements This bill will prohibit the operation of a motor vehicle unless all children aged four through six riding in it are restrained in a child restraint system appropriate for their size and weight - such as a booster seat. (Chapter 509)

Booster Seats, Children Under Age Four This law will authorize children less than age four to be restrained in booster seats, if their size exceeds child-seat manufacturer recommendations. (Chapter 232)

Malfunctioning Traffic Lights This bill will require motorists to stop at intersections with malfunctioning traffic lights. (Chapter 302)


Veteran's Benefits This bill will ensure that veterans and their spouses receive all the benefits for which they are eligible. Under the bill, nursing homes will be required to forward information about newly admitted residents to the state Veteran's Affairs Office to help determine their benefits. (Chapter 95)

Disabled Veteran Employment This bill will provide that veterans who are certified by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs or a branch of the military be allowed to present such certification as evidence of their disability. Under the bill, Purple Heart recipients will be given a priority for the employment preference established under the state Civil Service Law. (Chapter 65)

State Veterans' Cemetery This bill establishes the New York State veterans' cemetery siting committee to report on the feasibility of establishing veterans' cemeteries throughout the state. (Chapter 458)

Agent Orange This bill will extend the statute of limitation for phenoxy herbicide (Agent Orange) actions for armed forces personnel who served in Indo-China for two additional years, until June 15, 2006. (Chapter 68)


Check 21 is a new federal law that took effect October 28, 2004. This law authorizes - but does not require - banks to create electronic copies of checks, and to send these electronic images rather than the original cancelled checks themselves to other banks. This special copy or electronic reproduction is called an image replacement document (IRD) or a 'substitute check'. The substitute check is considered the legal equivalent of the original check and should contain an image of the front and back of the original check, your account number and bank routing number (also known as MICR) and the statement "This is a legal copy of your check. You can use it the same way you would use the original check". Only a substitute check issued by the bank is legally equivalent to the original check to prove payment; photocopies or other images are not considered valid. The law does not require banks to participate in Check 21 although it is believed that it will become the standard practice. This law was created in part as a response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, which disrupted air travel and thus the physical transportation of checks throughout the country. This law is designed to make check processing faster, more efficient, and less prone to the types of risks associated with physical transportation. The physical transportation may take up to five days to clear a financial institution while Check 21 may clear immediately.

The New York State Banking Department would like you to know:

  • Checks may be processed more quickly. Delays known as "float time" could be reduced, so a check that you write could clear in hours instead of days. You may be more likely to bounce checks and possibly incur significant fees unless you adjust your check writing habits.

  • Due to faster processing , it may be more dificult to stop a check that has been written from being paid.

  • You should be aware that transferring a check back and forth or between paper and electronic formats could create a risk that the amount on the check might be changed, due to human or computer error, when it is processed. Be sure to keep and check your records carefully.

  • You probably will not be able to get your original paper checks back. Your bank is not required to keep your original check for any period of time as long as they are able to provide a substitute copy of the check for seven years.

  • It may be more dificult to prove that a check has been forged or altered without the original check. Keep careful records.

  • For consumers with accounts that require the return of paper checks, the bank is permitted to provide an image of the check in lieu of returning the original.

  • Banks are not obligated to make funds available to your account any sooner than in the past. This means that it may still take 3 to 5 business days, or longer, for a check written to you to clear and the funds that check represents to become available. This is designed to prevent fraud.

  • It also could mean that you may not be able to make withdrawals of that money and that you should not write checks on that money until you are certain that your bank has made the funds available for use.

  • You have the right to get re-credited for incorrect payments if you have a substitute check.

  • You have up to 40 days from when a statement is mailed or given to you or from when you receive a substitute check (whichever is later) to file a claim for the re-credit of a disputed amount. Once an investigation is commenced, the bank has 45 days to investigate.

Tips for you to remember: Do not write a check unless you have enough money in your account to cover it. Arrange for direct deposit of your paycheck, so that money avoids the "hold" and goes directly into your back account. Be meticulous about balancing your checkbook. If you are imprecise about the amount of money in your account, you will be much more likely to bounce checks. For more information or complaints or problems you may call toll-free the New York State Banking Department at 1-877-BANK-NYS or go on line at:

You may also contact Assemblymember Cook for a flier at (718) 322-3975.


I would like to thank you for taking the time to write or call me. Your letters and phone calls are very important to me and I encourage you to continue. If I may be of assistance, contact me at the following location:

Albany Office
LOB - Room 331
Albany, NY 12248
(518) 455-4203
District Office
142-15 Rockaway Blvd.
Jamaica, NY 11436
(718) 322-3975