These Four Bills Do Deserve a Vote in the Assembly

Time to vote for street safety, Assembly members. Photo: Matt Wade/Flickr
Photo: Matt Wade/Flickr

The TWU’s attempt to weaken traffic safety laws cleared the State Senate but seems to be encountering more resistance in the Assembly. (You can contact your Assembly rep here to urge a “No” vote.) Meanwhile, there are there are several good bills that the Senate passed which have yet to come up for a vote in the Assembly.

Here are four to keep your eye on:

Eliminating the legal gray area for e-bikes. In 2002, the federal government reclassified low-power electric bikes, distinguishing them from mopeds and motorcycles. Albany, however, never adjusted state law, leaving New York’s e-bikes in limbo. Although it’s legal to buy and sell e-bikes, it’s illegal to operate them on New York’s public roads.

For years, the Assembly passed bills to eliminate the legal gray area and get state law in sync with the feds, while the issue stalled in the Senate. This year, roles have reversed: The Senate passed the legislation, 59-3, while the Assembly still hasn’t voted on its bill. The legislation has the support of Transportation Alternatives [PDF] and the New York Bicycling Coalition [PDF]. The groups are asking supporters to contact Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle and Assembly Member David Gantt, the bill’s sponsor, to urge a vote.

Tougher penalties for unlicensed drivers who injure or kill: After the drivers who killed Noshat Nahian and Angela Hurtado were charged only with low-level misdemeanors for unlicensed operation, State Senator Michael Gianaris and Assembly Member Marge Markey reintroduced legislation to toughen penalties for unlicensed drivers who injure and kill.

Their bills would affect drivers who are unlicensed or who have had a license suspended for driving infractions. These unlicensed drivers who seriously injure or kill while behind the wheel would face charges for vehicular assault, a class E felony, or  vehicular homicide, a class D felony.

The bill cleared the Senate, 61-1, but has not yet received a vote in the Assembly. (A second bill from Gianaris and Markey, which would require drivers with suspended or revoked licenses to surrender their vehicle registrations and license plates, has stalled in both chambers.)

Tougher penalties for hit-and-run drivers. The Senate has overwhelmingly passed at least two bills this year to increase penalties for drivers who leave the scene of a crash. Two of these bills (S1108 and S2136) would upgrade charges for hit-and-runs that result in serious injury from a class E felony to class D. Hit-and-runs that cause death would be upgraded from class D to class C. The change would increase fines and jail time for motorists who are convicted.

Only one of the bills, S1108 from Senator Marty Golden, would eliminate the loophole that enables drunk drivers to face less severe consequences if they flee the scene instead of sticking around for DUI charges. It would upgrade the lowest level of hit-and-run from a class A misdemeanor, carrying up to one year in prison, to a class E felony with up to four years of jail time. Bills to increase hit-and-run penalties have passed the Senate for years, but have stalled in the Assembly — a pattern that seems likely to continue this year.

Adding a cyclist and pedestrian component to driver’s ed. This piece of legislation, also sponsored by Golden, would add material to the DMV’s licensing exam about how to safely interact with cyclists and pedestrians. As in previous years, the bill easily cleared the Senate but remains stuck in committee at the Assembly, where it is sponsored by Walter T. Mosley and nine other lawmakers.

Lawmakers are working past the scheduled end of the legislative session and are expected to wrap up this week.