This week, we present a new feature - a selection from the many new bills introduced in the New York City Council that have not yet been passed. At the last meeting on March 22, 2006, the City Council introduced more than 50 bills, only a few of which will ever become law.
After being introduced, a new bill (called an "Intro") is sent to one of 27 committees. If the chair of the committee chooses, it can receive a public hearing and be considered. If a bill passes out of committee, it is sent to the full council. If passed by a majority (at least 26 of the 51 council members), the bill is sent to the mayor who has 30 days to sign or veto it. If the mayor vetoes the bill, the City Council can override it with a two-thirds majority. (Click here for a more detailed explanation of how a bill becomes a law).
Many of the bills that never became laws in the last session (only 137 of the 774 bills introduced in 2005 were passed) are now being re-introduced by council members who drafted them.
Speaker Christine Quinn introduced three bills aimed at overhauling lobbying regulations in New York City. These bills are the first steps of an effort announced by Quinn and Mayor Michael Bloomberg earlier this year.
Intro 190 would require that the City Clerk educate lobbyists on existing regulations and undertake random audits to ensure that lobbyists who also raise money for candidates or serve as political consultants are reporting their activities properly.
Intro 191 would outlaw any gifts from lobbyists to elected officials. Currently, officials are allowed to receive gifts valued at up to $50. Violators would be subject to a fine of up to $30,000.
Intro 192 would change the city's campaign finance law so that contributions from lobbyists can no longer be matched with public funds. Currently, contributions are matched $4 to $1.
"We will ensure that the scandals of Washington and Albany do not happen here at City Hall," said Quinn.
The council will holds its first hearing on these bills on April 3.
FOILING TRAFFIC CAMERAS
Many New Yorkers first learn about the city's "red light cameras" after running a streetlight, thinking they got a way with it, and then a few weeks later getting a ticket in the mail. The city has about 150 cameras that take photos of a car's license plate after it goes through a red light.
But some have figure out how to foil the cameras, and the council is looking to stop them.
A bill, Intro 197, introduced by Councilmember Tony Avella, would ban the sale of chemicals that people can put on their license plates to prevent them from being photographed. The chemicals create a clear hi-gloss reflective finish over the license plate, which acts as a mirror to overexpose the photo, rendering it unreadable.
"There are companies that are selling chemicals just for the purpose of making license plates invisible to red light cameras," said Avella.
Under the legislation, businesses that sell the chemicals could be fined $250,000 or more.
Intro 240, introduced by Councilmember Al Vann, would increase fines for stores or companies that sell realistic-looking toy guns.
The council argues that toy guns are used to commit crimes, and that there have been tragic incidents involving young people carrying imitation guns who were wounded or killed by police officers who mistook toy weapons for real ones.
The legislation would raise the fines to between $1,000 and $5,000 for a first offense.
"We think that the sale of all toy guns should be prohibited in the City of New York," said Vann.
Intro 210, introduced by Councilmember Vincent Gentile, would replace the current bullet-proof vests used by police officers. In 2005, Officer Dillon Stewart was killed when a bullet went through a small gap in the left underarm of his protective vest.
"Recently there have been new technologies and new vests that would cover areas on the torso that were previously uncovered," said Gentile.
CITY CONTRACTS FOR THE "DISADVANTAGED"
The City Council is planning a series of hearings on a piece of legislation ( Intro 180-A) known as the "Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Bill," introduced by Councilmember Diana Reyna.
The purpose of the bill is to create more opportunities for specific companies to win government contracts. The legislation would add new categories to the existing Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprise Program.
In order to qualify a business owner must prove that they are either "socially disadvantaged," which the legislation describes as "experiencing social disadvantage in American society" or "economically disadvantaged," a person "whose ability to compete in the free enterprise system has been impaired due to diminished capital and credit opportunities."
Even those who helped draft the bill admit that the bill is still in its beginning stages. But the goal is to create a "race-neutral" category that would help business owners who might not qualify for other programs have a better shot at earning a government contract.
The council has scheduled a hearing on the bill for April 5.