New York State Assembly Task Force on People with Disabilities

Chair Amy Paulin Urges and Thanks Governor for His Support/

Assemblymember Amy Paulin, Chair of the New York State Assembly Task Force on People with Disabilities, is thanking Governor Pataki for signing into law two pieces of legislation that will enhance the lives of New Yorkers with disabilities and is urging him for the same action on three more.

“For the first time in the recent history of the Task Force on People with Disabilities, five of the bills that we have included as priorities within our yearly legislative agenda have passed both the Assembly and the Senate,” Assemblymember Paulin said. “It is my great hope that the Governor will do his part to ensure that each of these measures become law. I am thrilled that he has signed two of the bills that were already sent to him. The additional bills being sent to Governor Pataki in a few days present him with an excellent opportunity to do a great deal of good for New York’s disability community before he leaves office.”

Assemblymember Paulin said that this year’s biggest victory for the Task Force is the passage of a bill that clarifies the scope of protections against discrimination on the basis of disability under the New York State Human Rights Law in the area of public accommodations to be consistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and current policies and practices of the Division of Human Rights (A.7294-Paulin/S.5074-Spano). Because the federal government has not devoted many resources toward ADA enforcement, providing state enforcement mechanisms through the Human Rights Law is essential to ensure that public accommodations become and remain accessible and available to people with disabilities in New York State.

“For at least nine years, New York’s disabilities advocates have been working closely with the Assembly Task Force on People with Disabilities to ensure protections originally secured under the ADA are enforceable on the state level as well as under federal laws and rules,” Paulin said. “Some recent legal attacks may have weakened the ADA, yet protections against disability discrimination need to be increased, not decreased. While states have no jurisdiction over federal acts, it has become our mission to require that the rights and responsibilities enunciated in the ADA become enforceable state protections and obligations as well.”

The disability community is also eagerly anticipating the signage of a bill that will provide a tax credit for taxi and livery companies which modify their vehicles to provide accessible transportation for people with physical disabilities (A.11560-Paulin/S.7782-Flanagan). The tax credit will be equal to the incremental cost associated with upgrading a vehicle so that it is accessible to people with mobility impairments, but cannot exceed $10,000 per vehicle.

“I firmly believe that it is critical to provide incentives to any company that willingly incurs the additional cost of modifying its vehicles (this typically costs $14,000-$16,000 per vehicle) so that they are accessible to persons with physical disabilities,” Paulin said. “The disability community has struggled for years to improve transportation systems for people with disabilities. This bill is a step in the right direction toward our ultimate goal of ensuring that people with disabilities of all ages are fully integrated, active and productive members of our local communities.”

Assemblywoman Paulin is also urging the Governor to sign a bill (A.9234-Morelle/S.1899-Robach) that will create a New York State interagency council for services to persons who are deaf, deaf-blind or hard of hearing to promote a comprehensive service system to address the needs of this specific community.

The two bills championed by the Task Force on People with Disabilities which have already been signed by the Governor include:

* A.8697 (Paulin)/S.5734 (Morahan) – Increases income eligibility for real property tax exemption on property owned by one or more persons with disabilities over the next four years.

* A.10005 (Paulin)/S.7210 (Balboni) – Extends the motorized wheelchair warranty requirement to all wheelchairs to enact consumer protections for persons who purchase wheelchairs. Protections include warranties, replacement of defective equipment and quality standards.

“I am thrilled at how well the Senate and Assembly worked together to address the needs of people with disabilities during the 2006 Legislative Session,” Paulin concluded. “While we did a tremendous amount of good work and tackled a few of the disability community’s top priorities, there is still much more that needs to be done to provide full integration and inclusion for all New Yorkers. I am extremely hopeful that we can continue to work with bipartisan cooperation as we prepare for and head into next year’s Session.”