Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics

City Council Stated Meeting - October 11, 2005

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

"When New Yorkers return to their cars on Sunday and don't find a parking ticket, they can thank God... but they shouldn’t thank Mike Bloomberg." - City Council Speaker Gifford Miller on a bill to eliminate parking meter regulations on Sundays.

In August, the City Council passed a bill that requires employers in the grocery and food industry to provide their workers with health care insurance.

The legislation (Intro 468-A) mandates that stores with more than 35 employees contribute $2.50 for each hour an employee works, or $5,000 a year for a full-time employee toward the worker's health costs.

Between 6,000 and 12,000 store grocery employees will be covered by the legislation.

The council argues that the bill is needed to help protect businesses, like Fairway, Gristedes, D'Agostinos, Key Food, and Pathmark, that already offer benefits to their employees. It would also block large chain stores like Wal-Mart - that sell food and do not offer benefits - from coming to New York.

Supporters also say it will also reduce dependence on government health care programs.

"These businesses puff up their profits by not offering benefits," said Councilmember Christine Quinn, who drafted the bill. "And at lunch, they give their workers an extra half hour to register on a public health insurance program."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg vetoed the bill, arguing that it violates federal law, which limits state and local government involvement in employee benefits.

The City Council overrode the mayor by a vote of 39 to 2 with two abstentions, more than the 34 votes needed. Council members Andrew Lanza and Simcha Felder voted "no"; Charles Barron and Peter Vallone, Jr. abstained.

Barring litigation by the Bloomberg administration, the law will go into effect in 90 days.

Supporters see the initiative as a pilot program and would like to extend similar regulations to other industries as well.

However, the bill will soon be revised.

Councilmember Christine Quinn has promised to draft an amendment that would exempt certain small businesses and "green grocers," companies that specialize in selling fresh fruits and vegetables, from the regulations.

For much of the summer, the mayor and the City Council have debated Sunday parking meter regulations, which some politicians have dubbed a battle over "pay to pray."

Mayor Bloomberg argues that Sunday meters, which were instituted three years ago, prevent people from parking their cars on Saturday night and not moving them until Monday morning, which means fewer available spaces in front of shops and businesses. The mayor also argues that city needs the $12 million in revenue, and he vetoed council legislation (Intro 669) to eliminate parking meters requirements on Sundays.

The City Council, backed by a coalition of religious leaders, argues that worshipers are forced to feed the meters while they are in church. Council leaders say its is the time to give New Yorkers a "day of rest" from parking meters and tickets.

"When New Yorkers return to their cars on Sunday and don't find a parking ticket, they can thank God... but they shouldn't thank Mike Bloomberg," said City Council Speaker Gifford Miller.

The council voted 41 to 2 to override the mayor's veto. Council members Tony Avella and Helen Sears voted with the mayor.

Republican Councilmember James Oddo that the bill should have been tailored to apply only to areas in front of churches, but the Department of Transportation refused to negotiate.

"There was a better bill out there, but we can't negotiate against ourselves," said Oddo.

Mayor Bloomberg has accused council members of using the issue to pander to voters in an election year.

"It is not pandering to do something that people want," said Miller. "This is a responsible step to give a little relief to New Yorkers, and that is known as good government."

Council members Tracy Boyland, Miguel Martinez, Phil Reed, Diana Reyna, James Sanders, Larry Seabrook, and Joel Rivera were absent.

The next Stated Meeting is scheduled for October 27.


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