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New City Council Bills

by Shoshana Schwartz, May 31, 2006
 

At its most recent meeting on May 24, 2006, the New York City Council passed several bills that made taxis more accessible to the disabled and more environmentally friendly.

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Members of the council also introduced more taxi-related bills, as well as bills on smoking, cell phones, and POW/MIA flags.

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TAXIS

According to the Council, many people in the taxi industry lack sufficient knowledge of the benefits of clean air vehicles. Several council members sponsored a bill (Intro 352) that would require that the Taxi and Limousine Commission to conduct an education campaign explaining the virtues of hybrid vehicles to taxicab owners. The bill also would require the commission to approve at least one more hybrid-electric car model that could be used as a taxi.

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The Council introduced a related bill (Intro 353) to require clear identification marking clear air taxis, as well as increased public information concerning the vehicles.

Finally, a bill was introducing calling for the creation of a Central Accessibility Dispatch System (Intro 356), which would to allow the public to find taxis with access for disabled passengers by calling 311.

TOBACCO

Tobacco use costs the City almost $300 million per year in direct costs, in addition to the foregone income of workers who miss work due to smoking-related illnesses, according to a study by the Columbia University Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. According to New York City’s Bureau of Tobacco Control, 25 New Yorkers per day (over 9,000 per year) die of smoking-related diseases.

Ninety percent of these smokers began the habit before twenty-one years of age, according to the American Lung Association. Now Councilmember Joel Rivera wants (Intro 360) to raise the legal age of buying tobacco in New York City to twenty-one. According to Rivera, this bill would “help prevent the initiation of smoking by teenagers and improve the general health of all New Yorkers.”

The legal age for purchasing tobacco in New York is set at both the city and state level. The state sets a minimum age at which tobacco can be purchased. All cities must enforce this standard, but they are permitted to set their own, more stringent laws as well.

CELL PHONES

Most electronic devices – including cell phones – have been banned in city schools since 1988. But these laws were rarely enforced until this spring, when Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Joel Klein announced that mobile metal detectors would be randomly set up in schools. This move angered many students and parents, who said that, for many students, carrying a cell phone is a safety issue.

Councilmember Lewis Fidler and the City Council recently entered the fray, introducing a bill (Intro 351) to allow schoolchildren to carry cell phones to and from school.

[See “Hanging Up on Parents?” and “Cell Phone Ban Angers Students” for more on the cell phone controversy.]

POW/MIA FLAG

In an attempt to make sure that children respect the sacrifice of combat soldiers, Councilmembers James Oddo and Dennis Gallagher have proposed a bill (Intro 358) requiring the display of the Missing In Action/Prisoner Of War flag on all Department of Education properties where the American flag is flown.

“You learn the main subjects [in school], but you also learn main values, and one of those values is that we honor our soldiers past and present, and honor their sacrifices,” said Christopher Decicco, a spokesperson for Councilmember Oddo.

The Department of Education would be required to pay the costs of the flags, whose exact price is uncertain. In 2003 the Council passed a similar bill requiring that the Parks Department display the POW/MIA flag in about 800 public locations. Spokesperson Decicco feels that the new bill is similarly uncontroversial.

 


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