2011 New York State Legislative Session is History

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American Cancer Society says unfinished business includes Health Insurance Exchange, Indoor Tanning

Albany, NY (June 29, 2011) – For the American Cancer Society (ACS), the 2011 New York State Legislative Session was a mixed bag.  While several important measures were addressed, several more remain unfinished. 

“The end of this session is bittersweet because while lawmakers did enact some key laws that will make a difference in the war against cancer, two other cancer- fighting bills languished in the Senate,” said Blair Horner, Vice President for Advocacy, American Cancer Society of NY & NJ.  “If and when the Senate returns to Albany, a health insurance exchange and indoor tan ban must top their agenda.”  

American Cancer Society 2011 Legislative Priorities and their status:

Health Insurance Exchange – Status: Progress.
For the American Cancer Society, the biggest piece of unfinished business is enactment of legislation establishing the health benefits exchange that is the key to implementing the Patient Protections and Affordable Care Act (health care reform law) in New York.  Legislative leaders and the Governor reached agreement on a bill lacking many important elements ACS wanted, but containing no poison pills.  The Assembly passed the bill, but conservative Senate Republicans balked and it never came up for a vote in that house.  Assuring passage of this legislation is our highest priority for the balance of the year.  We will work to assure the Senate acts on this measure when it returns during the summer.  And then we must gear up for a major battle in the 2012 session when the legislature will make many critical policy decisions that determine the direction and success of the exchange.

Oral Chemotherapy Parity – Status: Victory!
Both houses of the legislature unanimously passed the oral chemotherapy parity bill (S.3988/A.6233), improving cancer patients’ access to appropriate therapeutic treatment by reducing out of pocket costs for oral chemotherapy. Special thanks to our lead sponsors, Senator Andrew Lanza and Assembly Member Vito Lopez.

Complete Streets – Status: Victory!
The legislature has enacted “Complete Streets” (S.5411a/A8366) legislation.  This law will utilize transportation infrastructure to ensure that individuals and families can more safely use streets for walking, running and biking. This is in line with the ACS goal of encouraging Americans to engage in exercise and physical fitness activities to help prevent cancer. Thanks to sponsors Senator Charles Fuschillo and Assembly Member David Gantt.

Indoor Tanning – Status: Progress.
This legislation (S.2917/A1074) would prohibit minors (under 18) from using indoor tanning facilities in New York. Strongly supported by the science linking indoor tanning with increased melanoma rates, this bill, if enacted, would the first of its kind in the nation.  The sponsors are Senator Charles Fuschillo and Assemblymember Harvey Weisenberg.

We made important progress this year.  The bill passed the Assembly for the first time, but never came to a vote in the Senate because of the resistance of a few Senators in Western NY.  We will continue the grassroots pressure on these lawmakers over the summer so that next session they will drop their opposition.  Our plan is to have the Assembly pass the bill early in the 2012 session and position indoor tanning as an election year issue in the Senate.

Ban on Smoking on MTA Platforms – Status: Victory!
A bill (S.3461c/A.5516c) to ban smoking on all Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro North and Long Island Railroad) platforms passed both the Senate and Assembly. Thanks to our sponsors, Senator Fuschillo and Assembly Member Ellen Jaffee. 

Ban on Sale of Shisha, Hookahs and Water Pipes to Minors – Status: Victory!
Both houses passed a bill (A6037a/S.4269a) that adds shisha, hookahs and water pipes to the list of tobacco products that cannot be sold to minors.  Shisha is a smoking product of Middle Eastern origin in which tobacco is mixed with herbs or sweet flavorings such as honey, licorice or fruit flavorings and smoked in a hookah or water pipe.  Sponsors were Assembly Member Alec Brook-Krasny and Senator Marty Golden.

Blocking Cigar Tax Rollback and Clean Indoor Air Exemption – Victories!
We succeeded in blocking a rollback of the cigar tax (S.3410/A1093a), and a bill to undermine the Clean Indoor Air law by allowing the Nat Sherman tobacco store to construct a bar where smoking is permitted (S.4859/A7305).

Restricting Sale of Flavored Tobacco Products – Status: Progress.
Legislation to restrict the sale of flavored tobacco products (A.288a/S5008) passed the Assembly unanimously on the last day of session.  The bill is sponsored by Assemblymember Amy Paulin.  The bill gained a strong Senate sponsor, Senator Charles Fuschillo, though it did not move out of the health committee.  We plan ask the Assembly to pass this bill again early in the 2012 session and then advocate for action in the Senate.

2011-2012 New York State Budget

NYS Tobacco Control Program – Status: Setback.
The NYS Tobacco Control Program (TCP) again took a major budget cut, the third year that has happened.  Funding is back to where it was when the program was first established in 2000 at $41,415,000, a decrease of $17 million (30%) from the last fiscal year.  This will lead to serious diminishment of program activities, although all the major elements of the program (community coalitions, youth groups, quitline, cessation counseling training and media campaign) are continuing at reduced levels.  ACS led the fight to create the TCP and ACS will be at the forefront of efforts to restore its effectiveness.

NYS Cancer Services Program – Status: Victory! 
In a budget year when many programs saw significant cuts, funding for the NYS Cancer Services Program was maintained at $26,773,750.  This program provides no-cost breast, cervical and colon cancer screening to the uninsured and underinsured throughout New York State.

Medicaid Coverage of Smoking Cessation Counseling – Status: Victory! 
The legislature approved legislation making smoking cessation counseling available to all Medicaid beneficiaries. Previously it had been available only to perinatal women and children. ACS took the lead in a coalition that urged the Governor's Medicaid Redesign Team to adopt this recommendation.

For more information about any of the issues above or to learn how you can get involved with ACS advocacy efforts, please call 1-800-227-2345 or log onto acscan.org/ny. 

Additional Resources:
ACS to NY: Don't Re-debate Federal Law
Support Tanning Reforms
Ban Flavored Tobacco Products
Save Tobacco Prevention Funding - New York


About the American Cancer Society
The American Cancer Society combines an unyielding passion with nearly a century of experience to save lives and end suffering from cancer. As a global grassroots force of more than three million volunteers, we fight for every birthday threatened by every cancer in every community. We save lives by helping people stay well by preventing cancer or detecting it early; helping people get well by being there for them during and after a cancer diagnosis; by finding cures through investment in groundbreaking discovery; and by fighting back by rallying lawmakers to pass laws to defeat cancer and by rallying communities worldwide to join the fight. As the nation’s largest non-governmental investor in cancer research, contributing more than $3.4 billion, we turn what we know about cancer into what we do. As a result, more than 11 million people in America who have had cancer and countless more who have avoided it will be celebrating birthdays this year. To learn more about us or to get help, call us any time, day or night, at 1-800-227-2345 or visit cancer.org.