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Medical Price-Gouging Prevention Bill Proceeds

Legislation prohibiting price-gouging for medical supplies and services co-sponsored by Assemblyman Joe Giglio, R-Gowanda, has passed two committees en route to the state Assembly and Senate floor for a vote.

A.10270/S.8189 is part of a slate of bills being discussed now that the state Legislature has resumed its session, albeit remotely. The price gouging bill was approved 15-0 by the Consumer Affairs and Protection Committee and 21-0 by the Codes Committee, of which Giglio is a member. Giglio is also listed as a co-sponsor of the bill. The bill passed the Assembly and Senate on Wednesday.

The bill amends the state’s General Business Law to broaden the application of existing price gouging laws, applying them to goods and services to include medical supplies and services. The law also adds language allowing a defendant to rebut a case with evidence that the increase in the amount charged preserves the margin of profit received before the free market was disrupted.

Those found in violation of the price gouging statute could face a civil penalty of up to $25,000 for each violation or three times the gross receipts for the items in dispute. The state Attorney General’s Office would create further rules and regulations.

“During the COVED-19 pandemic, we have seen countless instances of egregious price gouging, particularly of medical supplies such as hand sanitizer, face masks, bandages, medical-grade apparel, and other crucial medical supplies that are desperately needed by our hospitals and other health care facilities,” Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, D-Queens, wrote in her legislative memo for the bill.

“These examples have illustrated ways to strengthen our existing price gouging statute, namely by broadening its application to, any goods and services vital for the health, safety, and welfare of the general public, specifically applying it to medical supplies and services used to treat, cure, or prevent disease or illness, and authorizing the Attorney General to pursue increased penalties against those trying to profit off of others’ misfortune.”

Other legislation discussed by Codes Committee members includes:

¯ A.9036/S.7082, legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, D-New York City, to extend by one year the period of time the Child Victims Act gives to bring otherwise time-barred cases in state Supreme Court. It passed the committee unanimously, including an aye vote by Giglio.

¯ A.10290B/S.8192B, sponsored by Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, D-Bronx, prohibiting courts from issuing warrants of eviction or judgements of possession against residential tenants who demonstrate hardship for non-payment of rent during the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation passed the Judiciary Committee, which Dinowitz chairs, by a 14-7 vote with Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, voting against. It also passed the Codes Committee 15-6, with Giglio voting against. The legislation requires the court to consider a tenant’s income prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, income during the pandemic, a tenant’s liquid assets and eligibility for assistance programs.

¯ A.10326A/S.8397A which prohibits health care employers from penalizing employees because of complaints of employer violations of workplace safety rules. Assemblywoman Karines Reyes, D-Bronx, sponsored the legislation to expand state whisleblower protections to include health care workers she says have worked without personal protection equipment and challenging their employers’ public statements that hospitals have enough equipment to care for COVID-19 patients. The legislation passed the Labor Committee, 21-6, and the Codes Committee, 15-6, with Giglio voting against it in the Codes Committee.

¯ A.10394A/S.80289B, which requires residential health care facilities to submit an annual pandemic emergency plan to the state health commissioner, requires the plan to include a communication plan with families, plans to protect staff, residents and families against infection and plans to preserve a resident’s place at the facility if he or she is hospitalized. It unanimously passed the Health Committee and the Codes Committee, including an affirmative vote from Giglio.

¯ A.10446A/S.8415 to repeal prohibitions on wearing a mask or possessing gambling paraphernalia in public. It passed the Codes Committee unanimously, with Giglio joining his colleagues. Assemblyman Dan Quart, D-New York City, sponsored the legislation and said in his legislative justification that repealing the loitering laws is necessary to avoid conflict with recommendations from health officials and Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The legislation passed the Assembly and Senate on Wednesday.

“Historically, loitering laws have been used for no legitimate public safety purpose. New York state’s statute dates back to the 1845 rent riots. Since then, the law has been used to criminalize protest, as well as to arrest New Yorkers “masquerading” as a different gender,” Quart wrote.

¯ A.10493/S.8414, which provides for audio-visual appearances for appearances on felony criminal complaints during the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation unanimously passed the Codes Committee.

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