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New City Council Bills -- Commuting, Smoking, and Drinking

by Josh Burd, Sep 20, 2006
  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.

17 bills were introduced by the City Council at its most recent stated meeting on September 13, many of which addressed issues related to commuting, tobacco or alcohol abuse.

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TRANSPORTATION

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Council Member John Liu introduced two transportation bills.

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The first, Intro 429 would give city employees the opportunity to use pre-tax earnings to pay for transportation. The law would also apply to employers with 50 or more employees in the city. Federal law currently requires that these employees are offered the benefit on parking. The new city law would expand the benefits to include costs such as unlimited ride Metrocards.

Liu is also concerned about illegal commuter vans, which were likely responsible for several hit-and-runs in Brooklyn and Queens last year. Intro 430 calls for the city-run commuter vans to be painted orange so that they are identifiable to both commuters and authorities as legitimate city vehicles.

DRINKING AND SMOKING

Studies have shown that smokers who have their first cigarette before the age of 18 have a one in three chance of becoming regular smokers, and young smokers also have a more difficult time when trying to quit, according to the office of Joel Rivera, head of the council's health committee.

Continuing the city’s efforts in recent years to cut down on smoking, Rivera proposed Intro 433, which would outlaw the sale of flavored tobacco products. Activists called for a ban on candy-flavored cigarettes this summer, as part of a campaign to curb teen smoking.

The bill would levy fines up to $2,000 on vendors who made such sales and suspend their cigarette licenses. Rivera previously introduced legislation to raise the age to purchase cigarettes to 21. Both bills will be discussed at a health committee meeting in the first week of October.

At the September 13 meeting, the council also proposed resolutions aimed at increasing control over alcohol consumption.

Councilmember Melinda Katz proposed Resolution 500, which calls upon the State Legislature to create an alcoholic beverage control board run by the city. City communities have argued in a memo to the legislature that the State Liquor Authority “has too few inspectors to properly provide enforcement,” and “issues liquor licenses without community input.” Katz's resolution calls on the state to create a City Liquor Authority with the authority to license and regulate alcoholic beverage businesses and provide “local solutions to problems that most frequently arise in [the city].”

Katz also introduced Resolution 501, which urges the state to ban nightclubs from offering “bottle service”, which requires customers to buy expensive bottles of hard liquor in order to gain access to the club or to exclusive areas. The resolution argues that bottle service adds excessive drinking.

The resolution also called upon the state to tighten laws regarding alcohol consumption in general, but especially by minors.


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