September/October 2019 Issue
August 25, 2019

All summer long, union-backed bills become laws

Author: Ned Hoskin
Source: NYSUT United
deb paulin
Caption: Deb Paulin, a school bus driver and the president of the Alden Central School Employees Association, spoke passionately about school bus safety earlier this year as part of the union’s Support School Staff campaign. “As a mother and grandmother — and one who loves the kids under my care — it makes me sick when drivers illegally pass school buses,” she said. Photo by Becky Miller.

With more than 900 bills passed by both houses of the state Legislature in the 2019 session, it’s no surprise that it takes a while for them all to get to the governor’s desk. But they have to pass that last step for a signature in order to be enacted.

Of the dozens of NYSUT-backed bills that passed, several were enacted this summer, and more are sure to follow.

Notably, one of the union’s victories came in mid August when the governor signed legislation to allow school districts to install stop-arm cameras on school buses.

“This law marks a significant step forward for student safety,” said NYSUT President Andy Pallotta. “With an estimated 50,000 motor vehicles illegally passing school buses every day across New York, bus drivers are constantly on the lookout for these reckless motorists while also keeping an eye on the children in their care.

“It is our sincere hope that school districts will work quickly to begin installing stop-arm cameras so we can better hold accountable those who show blatant disregard for our kids. We thank the governor and Legislature for putting our children first,” Pallotta said.

The school bus camera legislation was signed into law thanks in large part to the efforts of NYSUT’s “Support School Staff” campaign and the hard work and activism of our dedicated School-Related Professional members.

“It’s a long process to get a bill passed and ultimately enacted,” Pallotta said, “but as in the case of the bus cameras, it’s worth the effort.

Good laws help to protect us all.”

Another bill enacted into law prevents school districts from arming teachers. It prevents educational institutions from arming any faculty or staffer who is not primarily employed as a school resource officer, law enforcement officer or security guard.

In other business, laws have been enacted to:

  • Allow BOCES to enter into contracts to provide services with agencies from outside the state, and to extend the expiration dates for BOCES to enter into long-term leases.
  • Extend injunctive relief provisions under the Taylor Law until June 30, 2021. Injunctive relief was enacted in 1994 to provide an expedited method to resolve improper practice cases in the public sector where there was deemed to be immediate and irreparable harm.
  • Create the climate leadership and community protection act, which sets goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the state by 100 percent over 1990 levels by 2050.
  • Provide relief from losses incurred due to mistakes on final cost reports for Newburgh City School District and Chester Union Free School District.
  • We also are waiting for enactment on FCR relief passed in the Legislature for 12 other districts.

Also still pending enactment are bills passed by the Legislature that would:

  • Include school districts as employers required to implement workplace violence prevention steps.
  • Establish seniority rights for SRPs.
  • Enroll New York City paraprofessionals automatically into the city Teachers’ Retirement System.
  • Make it easier for community colleges to hire retired law enforcement professionals as faculty for criminal justice programs.