YOU ASKED FOR IT! The Albany Report Card for a Failing Legislative Session
Albany gets an F.
Legislators fled the state capital on June 10 having failed to pass a host of measures seen as essential by street safety and transportation advocates — most notably a package of eight bills known as the Crash Victims Rights and Safety Act pushed by Transportation Alternatives with the backing of Mayor de Blasio.
“New Yorkers will die because the [legislature] failed to act,” Transportation Alternatives said in a statement after none of the bills passed both houses.
Only one key transportation bill is on its way to the governor’s desk for a signature: Sen. Alessandra Biaggi and Assembly Member Jessica González-Rojas’s bill S4943/A6235B to give cyclists a voice on an MTA bridge panel.
“The legislature left far too much important unfinished business behind in Albany,” said Eric McClure, the executive director of StreetsPAC, the city’s only political action committee focusing on livable streets issues. “The Crash Victims Rights and Safety Act remain in limbo.”
McClure was most focused on three bills that failed to pass: the so-called Sammy’s Law, which would have allowed New York City to set its own speed limits without needing Albany approval; a bill that would have allowed New York City to operate its life-saving speed cameras all day and night instead of just during limited hours; and the so-called “Idaho Stop” bill, which would allow cyclists to slowly roll through stop signs and go through red lights after a quick full stop.
“The Senate and Assembly need to get back in session ASAP to pass necessary legislation,” McClure said.
Activists blame Assembly leader Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) for failing to move crucial bills to the floor after they failed to be taken up by their respective transportation committees. Neither Heastie nor Stewart-Cousins returned repeated requests for comment from Streetsblog.
Here are key bills that failed to advance because neither house, or only one, acted by the end of session:
- Sen. Jessica Ramos’s bill (S2757B) to allow for wider cargo bikes only passed the Senate. The bill is seen as critical for companies such as Amazon, UPS and DHL that hope to start a cargo bike delivery revolution, but cannot do so with the current limitation. The bill stalled in the Assembly.
- The Idaho Stop bill (S920A/A3104) was not voted on in either house. Allowing the so-called “Idaho Stop” is seen as a key safety measure because it would allow cyclists to stay in front of turning cars at intersections. Syracuse Sen. Rachel May drafted the bill citing its success in other states, including Idaho, Washington, Arkansas, Delaware and Oregon. “We are going to bring more attention and effort to it,” vowed Bike NY spokesman Jon Orcutt.
- Sammy’s Law (S524/A4655) passed the Senate, but did not make it to the Assembly floor. The bill is named after 12-year-old Sammy Cohen Eckstein, who was killed by a reckless driver in Brooklyn in 2013. This bill was just one of eight in the Crash Victims Rights and Safety Act that failed to pass both houses. The package also featured legislation to require motorists to give cyclists room when they pass, create a new way of rating car safety, make it easier to prosecute reckless drivers, lower the acceptable blood-alcohol level, and improve driver education, plus the 24-7-365 speed camera authorization. “Speaker Heastie and Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins need to bring lawmakers back to Albany soon to pass the entire package of bills,” said McClure.
- Senator Andrew Gounardes and Assembly Member Bobby Carroll’s bill (S00767/A00512) would have redefined the term “sidewalk” to include unmarked portions of roadways between opposite sides of the street or highway where no crosswalks are present. Neither version of the bill got out of its respective transportation committee.
- Manhattan Senator Brad Hoylman’s bill (S00077/A00579 would have allowed the city to use its monitoring systems to patrol areas where illegal street racing take place. So far in 2021, there have been 1,247 reported 311 complaints, more than eight per day, on illegal drag racing. All of last year, there were 2,007 instances reported to 311, about five per day.
- A bill by upstate Sen. Patrick Gallivan (S02259/A01088) would have prohibited school bus drivers from using hands-free mobile phones.
- Gallivan has another key bill (S02264/A06812) stall. This one would have increased the penalty on drivers for leaving a scene of a crash, raising it from a class “B” misdemeanor to class “A” and doubling the fine to $1,000.
- Brooklyn Assembly Member Michael Tannousis’s bill (A6921) to permanently revoke a driver’s license for failure to take a field sobriety test also failed to get out of committee. Currently, refusal to take a breath test results only in a one-year license revocation and $500 fine.