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Bills Should Be In Final Form Before Vote Is Taken

Typically, complaints about three-men-in-a-room government in Albany focuses on the state budget.

Last week, the state Assembly provided another example of how three people deciding matters can lead to poorly written laws that state residents — both Democrat and Republican — have to deal with. To much fanfare, the state Legislature passed several pieces of legislation aimed at correcting safety deficiencies in limousines, taxi cabs or other for-hire vehicles brought to light by last year’s crash in Schoharie that killed 20 people.

An agreement couldn’t be reached on the package before the end of the last legislative session in June, so the legislation carried over into the 2020 session. With a blast of trumpets from on high, it was announced that an agreement had been reached by legislative leadership on a limousine reform package. Votes were cast and the bills were passed.

A curious thing happened on two of the limousine safety bills that should rankle anyone who deals with state laws and regulations. Both Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, and four New York City Democrats spoke publicly about the need to make changes to legislation after votes are cast on the proposals but before the legislation is sent to Gov. Andrew Cuomo for approval.

These aren’t minor tweaks, either.

On legislation to test for-hire drivers for drugs and alcohol, Goodell suggested changing the definition of drugs used in the bill so that it includes psychtropic drugs, antidepressant drugs or psychotic drugs that can impair someone’s driving ability. Goodell’s suggestion should absolutely be part of the drug testing program of for-hire drivers — and it’s frankly shocking that it wasn’t part of the public discussion until Goodell brought it up on the legislature floor.

Goodell and four Democrats from the New York City area also said they were in favor of another piece of legislation mandating seat belt use in limousines, taxi cabs or other for-hire vehicles, but urged changes in the legislation that removed personal responsibility from drivers and placed on parents to make sure their children wore seat belts. The point about responsibility is important when discussing legal responsibility and how it affects lawsuits, which could cost a business millions of dollars. The wording of the bill could be the difference in how millions of dollars are awarded in future court cases.

Shouldn’t the changes proposed in both bills be made before the bill is passed? Shouldn’t the legislation be in its final form before a vote is taken?

Apparently Albany is falling into Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s infamous logic that you have to pass legislation to see what’s in it. Is it any wonder people are moving out of New York state — it can’t even get it right when everyone agrees more regulation is needed. How utterly ridiculous is that?

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