At each of the City Council's stated meetings, council members introduce bills, most of which will never become laws (for the process by which bills become laws, click here). As a regular feature, Gotham Gazette discusses some of the legislation proposed at each meeting.
At its most recent stated meeting on September 27, the City Council introduced 12 bills, most addressing nightlife safety, property taxes, street vendors, and health.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn introduced four new bills to continue the Council’s campaign on nightlife safety
Intro 440 calls for independent monitoring of clubs with multiple or serious violations of the cabaret licensing law. Violations include hiring unlicensed security guards or allowing underage drinking. Offending club owners would be required to pay for the monitors, which must be approved or selected by the police department. The monitors would also advise club owners and report to city agencies on a regular basis.
Intro 441 would address the problem of underage drinking by requiring identification scanners at club entrances. This idea has raised privacy concerns. In response, the bill calls for scanners that are able to read and display information from licenses, but not retain this information.
Intro 442 would require clubs to install surveillance cameras at club entrances and exits. To ensure privacy, the bill calls for careful regulation of access to the recordings, which would be made available to authorities if an investigation is warranted.
Intro 443 would require increased training for nightclub employees to help them spot underage drinkers, know when to stop serving overly intoxicated patrons, and handle emergency situations. The law would require all new cabaret employees to complete their city-approved training course within 60 days of starting.
Quinn’s nightlife safety package is part of a broader campaign to improve security after several deaths this year near bars and clubs. In August, the Council passed a law that called for tighter enforcement on unlicensed security guards. One day after she introduced the new bills, Quinn led a nightlife summit at which city officials, club owners, and community leaders met to address these issues.
Several measures were proposed to give property tax breaks to various members of the community.
Quinn proposed two bills that would ease the burden on disabled and senior citizen property owners who are on fixed incomes. Currently, the maximum income a disabled homeowner can have to qualify for a 50 percent exemption is $24,000. Intro 444-A would gradually raise this limit to $29,000 by 2009. Intro 445 would do the same for senior citizen homeowners.
Councilmember Diana Reyna proposed Resolution 529, which asks the state to pass legislation that would provide tax credits to those who own and improve city-designated historic landmarks. Resolution 531, by Councilmember David Weprin, asks the state for legislation that would make it easier for not-for-profit organizations to get tax exemptions on newly acquired property.
Councilmember Tony Avella introduced two bills related to food vendors.
A 1995 law sets a limit of one food-vending permit per individual, corporation, business partnership, or other entity. It was originally aimed at stopping the illegal and overpriced leasing of multiple permits. Avella says that this limit hurts small business owners who obtain and distribute these licenses and who manufacture pushcarts.
Intro 446 would restore multiple vending permits to small distributors and manufacturers who were in business prior to Dec. 31, 1995. The law would also regulate against illegal leasing of permits for exorbitant prices.
The second bill addresses a restriction on the number of disabled veterans who wish to operate food carts. Intro 447 would remove the city-mandated limit. Avella points to a state law that allows those harmed while in service to vend in certain areas that are otherwise closed by law or regulation.
Councilmember James Oddo continued his long-running campaign to equip public places with devices that deliver an electric shock to counter irregular heartbeats, or automated external defibrillators. Intro 451 would require the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to make these devices available to primary, intermediate, and high schools that don’t already have them.