2001-07-04 / Political Page

Onorato Urges Pataki To Sign Clean Energy Bill

By John Toscano

State Senator George Onorato, not content to sit and wait, has written Governor George Pataki urging him to sign legislation that will provide incentives to upgrade old power plants.

Onorato had introduced the bill in the senate but had to settle for being a sponsor. Assemblymember Michael Gianaris was the author of the legislation which passed in the lower house of the state legislature.

The pair, both Astoria Democrats, with other lawmakers and community groups, have been waging a relentless campaign to block utility operators from using aging power plants which give off more dangerous pollution than do newer plants.

Under Gianaris’ bill, companies intending to modernize an old plant can get approval to do so in six months rather than a year if the modernization results in a 75 percent reduction in emission of pollutants that are known causes of asthma and other health-related problems.

Onorato emphasized this in his letter to Pataki.

"Our community has for many years been subjected to this heavy pollution, and we have one of the highest per capita rates of asthma sufferers to prove it. The legislation before you gives our community some relief from the pollution, but also gives utility operators an incentive to modernize their plants and become good neighbors for a change," he wrote.

The fact that both Assembly and Senate passed the bill by nearly unanimous votes improves chances that Pataki will sign it into law.

Onorato had introduced the bill several months ago. After some deliberation over it, Republicans in the Senate decided they would support it. As is the case with an important bill, the majority party had one of its members become the chief sponsor of the bill and Onorato became one of several sponsors.

FORERUNNER OF CELL PHONE BAN: Four years ago, the late state Senator Leonard Stavisky introduced a bill banning the use of hand-held cell phones while driving a car.

Recently, his wife and successor, Senator Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing) voted for a bill providing those restrictions, which Pataki signed into law last Thursday.

New York is now the first of the United States to invoke such a ban.

Stavisky said her late husband introduced the measure based on a report which said research showed that the risk of having an automobile accident increases four-fold when the driver is talking on the telephone. This is the equivalent to driving with a blood alcohol content of .10, or driving while intoxicated.

Stavisky’s position in favoring the ban was: "Hands free is not hazard free and driving while distracted must end."

LOWEY’S EXTRA DUTY: In addition to her regular duties, Congressmember Nita Lowey (D-Queens/Westchester) has the task of guiding the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) effort to win control of Congress in next year’s elections.

Lowey is leaning on current happenings, such as the Democrats’ recent surprise acquisition of control in the Senate, as well as historical patterns to draw encouragement for her task. She noted in a recent interview that the party which does not hold the presidency usually picks up seats in the next election.

Lowey has also added some New York City talent to the committee to help get the job done. New DCCC executive committee members are Congressmembers Joseph Crowley (D-Queens/Bronx) and Charles Rangel (D-Manhattan).

CUOMO LEADS McCALL IN POLL: Another poll reportedly shows Andrew Cuomo leading state Comptroller H. Carl McCall in a citywide survey in preparation for next year’s Democratic governor’s primary by 44.6 percent to 32.2 percent. The poll, taken for the New York Report, a political intelligence newsletter, also showed Cuomo closely trailing McCall, a black, among black Democrats. Here it was McCall 39.2 percent to Cuomo 35.1 percent. The poll results were reported in the New York Post. Last week, a Quinnipiac College poll showed Cuomo ahead of McCall in a statewide tally, 44 to 3 percent.

The article pointed out that Democrats in New York City make up about 53 percent of their party’s statewide strength. A strong showing in the five boroughs is usually all it takes to win a party primary.

HELP FOR DOMESTIC VIOLENCE VICTIMS: A bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Ridgewood) would prohibit employers from discriminating against domestic violence victims who are to be absent from their jobs to make court appearances.

A second Nolan bill would give employers a credit for disability benefits insurance premiums if they set up a domestic violence awareness and assistance program.

Both bills have passed in the Assembly.

RELIEF FOR WATER BILL OVERCHARGES: In 1999, the city Water Board announced that, effective July 1, 2001 (this past Sunday) water customers have only two years to challenge an erroneous water bill, rather than six. The change brought howls of dismay from business and property owners and grassroots activists.

Last week the Assembly passed a bill restoring the six-year complaint filing period over the strong objections of the Giuliani administration. The same bill was sponsored by state Senator Serphin Maltese (R-C, Middle VIllage), so it has a good chance of passing in the Senate, too. Given Maltese’s backing of the bill, there’s a good chance Governor George Pataki will sign it into law.

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