BRONXVILLE, N.Y. -- Bronxville Mayor Mary Marvin writes a weekly column. It is being reprinted by The Daily Voice.
In last week’s column, I spoke exclusively of our village’s legislation, accomplishments and outstanding issues as of year’s end.
The subject prompted me to look more globally as to what was accomplished on the federal level, nationwide at the state level and in our state government.
On the federal level, “only” 65 laws were passed by a very divided Congress, despite 6,726 bills introduced in this congressional term. Rest assured, the bill to repeal the legislators, cabinet secretaries, etc. ability to charge taxpayers up to $50,000 to commission a portrait of themselves did not make it out of committee.
However, under the aegis of administrative power, 4,659 rules and regulations were promulgated by the federal agencies to implement the 65 new laws. The trend is continuing as 141 regulations were posted in the first four working days of 2014 by our federal agencies.
On the state level, of the 40,000 laws passed nationwide, there were clearly some common threads on issues du jour. Uppermost among them was a focus on gun regulation.
In 2013, 41 new laws were enacted in 21 states and the District of Columbia that make it more difficult to own guns, the strictest of which were enacted in Connecticut, Colorado, Maryland and New York.
Twenty states also now have “Stand Your Ground” laws following pioneer Florida. They vary greatly in the sphere in which one can defend oneself from just one’s home, to one’s car or to the street corner.
Laws to increase minimum wage received mixed reviews nationwide but were debated in many state houses. Connecticut, $8.70/hour, New Jersey, $8.25/hour, Rhode Island and New York, $8/hour, enacted increases only surpassed by California’s minimum wage of $9 per hour due to a built-in escalation clause.
Colorado received major press with legislation allowing residents 21 and older to buy up to one ounce of marijuana at state licensed stores. Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia now also have variations on the books relating to medicinal marijuana use.
The New York City Council enacted a law raising the age to purchase conventional cigarettes from 18 to 21, making it the strictest law of its kind in the nation. Even if not a minor, it is now illegal in Oregon to smoke a cigarette in a car if a child is a passenger.
Paid sick leave was heavily debated on many legislative floors in 2013. The trend is to allow paid days for not only personal illness but family sickness. New York City led the way by guaranteeing five paid sick days yearly as of 2014.
The issue of high school athletes and concussion syndrome has now been addressed by every state save Mississippi. The requirements run the gamut from required education of coaches to detect the possible signs of a concussion to stringent medical clearance guidelines in order to resume play.
Some states enacted laws in response to what they considered poor practices in other states. Texas has now legally limited the number of state standardized tests to five and naming it the “Anti-Bloomberg” law, Mississippi has legally restricted municipalities from regulating nutritional labeling.
Several states were in the forefront of legislation that is now being considered in many states in their 2014 legislative sessions.
As example, Rhode Island enacted a “Ban the Box” law that prohibits prospective employers from inquiring into an applicant’s criminal history on a job application.
All California students must be allowed to play sports and use school bathrooms consistent with their gender identity, regardless of their birth identity.
The village’s hope is that our New York Legislature will focus on the major issues facing all local governments, namely unfunded mandates and the soaring pension costs, and not be side tracked by special interest requests.