Gotham Gazette

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New York City Council STATED MEETING - February 4, 2004

New York City Council Stated Meeting Report

Every two weeks the New York City Council meets for its Stated Meeting to introduce and pass legislation. As a regular feature, Searchlight covers these meetings and posts a summary of the bills passed.

STATED MEETING - February 4, 2004

Quote of the Day:

"Today, we will end lead poisoning as we know it." - Councilmember Bill Perkins, author of a new lead paint law passed over the veto of Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Meeting Summary:

On February 4, the New York City Council overrode two vetoes by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, enacting a new lead paint law and requiring the city's Department of Health to create electronic death certificates.

The new lead paint law (Intro 101-A) will require landlords to clean up lead dust, not just lead paint. It also requires inspections of all apartments in a building where high lead levels in children have been found. The lead paint legislation has faced much controversy and opposition in the past few years. (Read articles with arguments for and against Intro 101-A.)

The Bloomberg administration opposed the bill arguing that the number of childhood lead poisoning cases have decreased in recent years and that the proposed bill could create a wave of lawsuits against the city. Opponents also raised concerns that the new law may make it more difficult to build and renovate housing in the city.

"This bill has unintended consequences," said Republican James Oddo, who voted against the bill. "We should have acted with the precision of a scalpel, not with a chainsaw."

The Department of Health has indicated that it may not comply with the law, and some expect it will return to the council for futher revisions. Even Councilmember Margarita Lopez, who has been a supporter of the lead paint bill from the beginning, acknowledged that the council may have to amend it to ensure that it does not slow the construction of affordable housing.

The council overrode the mayor's veto by a vote of 44 to 5 (with 1 abstention). Republicans James Oddo, Dennis Gallagher, Andrew Lanza and Democrats Madeline Provenzano and Helen Sears voted "no." Councilmember Peter Vallone, Jr. abstained.

The second veto override (Intro 198-A) requires the Department of Health to create an electronic registry so that funeral directors and families can obtain official death certificates online. Currently people must apply for documents in person, and the process can take up to six months or more. Some 60,000 people die in New York City every year.

The mayor opposes the bill because it would require the city to implement the online registry in a specific timeframe; 60 percent of the system must be in place in two years and 75 percent must be completed in the next four years.

Some council members - who pointed out that IBM gave the city a $5 million grant to create such an online database that was never completed - said the time requirements were necessary to get results.

"I think it is unfortunate that the technology mayor is upset that there are deadlines for implementing [this]," said Councilmember Gail Brewer who authored the bill.

The council was unanimous in its veto override of the electronic death registry bill.

The City Council also joined with over 200 other municipalities in passing a resolution (Res. 60) criticizing the federal USA PATRIOT Act. (Read an article about the PATRIOT Act and opposition to it.) The text of the measure calls for the "repeal of those sections of the [act] and related federal actions that unduly infringe upon fundamental rights and liberties as recognized in the U.S. Constitution and its Amendments."

The resolution has no legal power, but represents the official view of the New York City Council. It passed by a vote of 36 to 13. (Lew Fidler abstained from the vote.)

Some council members said that the council should not spend its time considering such legislation outside of its powers. "My constituents elected me to the City Council, not to Washington," said Councilmember Tony Avella.

The following council members voted "no" to the resolution:
Joseph Addabbo
Tony Avella
Simcha Felder
Dennis Gallagher
Vincent Gentile
James Gennaro
Allan Jennings
Andrew Lanza
Michael Nelson
James Oddo
Dominic Recchia
Helen Sears
Peter Vallone, Jr.

The next stated meeting is scheduled for February 26, 2004

For an archive of past meetings and council votes, visit Gotham Gazette's Searchlight.



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