New state laws to take effect in 2020
TRI-COUNTY AREA--The state legislature passed a number of new laws in 2019 that will go into effect in 2020. Many of the key laws are outlined below.
Evidence Discovery Law
Prosecutors across the state will be required to provide all evidence to defendants no later than 15 days after arraignment starting Jan. 1. The new reform also prevents prosecutors from offering plea deals to defendants that are set to expire before all evidence has been turned over to the defense. The law was passed to correct what advocates, including the New York State Bar Association, have called one of the most regressive evidentiary laws in America.
Schuyler County Sheriff Bill Yessman and Yates County Sheriff Ron Spike have both spoken previously about their concerns about the new law, saying that it will increase work loads exponentially and could result in guilty parties being set free on technicalities.
"Discovery reform is the huge impact on police and on the District Attorney with automatic discovery and timelines to meet," Spike said.
Tim O'Hearn, County Administrator for Schuyler County, has previously said that the new evidence discovery law will cause an increase in spending for the District Attorney's office and will make it harder to maintain a balanced budget going forward. Despite calls from police departments across the state, Republicans in the state legislature, county legislatures across the state and District Attorneys from both sides of the aisle to delay or overturn the reforms, they are scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1.
Set to go into effect Jan. 1, cash bail in New York state will be eliminated for all crimes that are not considered violent felonies. This means that for most crimes police officers will only be able to issue a court summons. The law was passed in response to a system that has made it difficult for poor people to post bail and has resulted in individuals being held for years in jail without ever being convicted of a crime.
Despite understanding the need for reform, Schuyler County Sheriff Bill Yessman has spoken out against the bail reform, saying that it goes too far.
"I understand the issue of individuals that are being held in jail, but sometimes the legislation is more extreme than it needs to be. Obviously there needed to be an adjustment... we will see how it pans out and works but there is concern it may lead to more crime and failure to appear and more bench warrants as a result," Yessman previously said.
Yates County Sheriff Ron Spike has also spoken out against the reform, and said that most people in his position across the state believe bail reform will have the opposite intended effect.
"Most people in my business predict crime will increase and that victimization will increase. The amount of bench warrants is going to increase also. I understand the need for this legislation but they might have gone too extreme with it. It needs to be middle ground when it comes to incarceration and victimization," Spike previously said.
The reform will also affect those currently incarcerated awaiting trial, with those being held in local jails pending bail on non-violent felonies set to be released Jan. 1 when the law goes into effect.
Plastic Bag Ban
Starting March 1 plastic bags will be banned across the state by any person or business required by the state to collect sales tax. The law also authorizes counties and cities to adopt a five cent per paper bag rule, meaning a consumer must pay five cents for every paper bag they receive while shopping. The law is designed to promote the use of reusable shopping bags in an attempt to reduce the massive amount of waste created by plastic bags due to their disposable nature, non-biodegradable composition and noted difficulty recycling.
Salary History Ban
Starting Jan. 6 prospective employers will no longer be allowed to ask potential employees about their salary history as a condition of being interviewed for a position. Prospective employers are also barred from seeking that information or attempting to use someone's previous salary history when determining the salary for the position they are trying to fill. Salary history can be voluntarily shared, but employers are banned from retaliating against employees for not sharing this information.
Starting in January, police, peace officers and fire fighters will be allowed to stock and administer epinephrine auto-injectors. Previously they were prohibited from administering epinephrine, which is used on people having life threatening allergic reactions, due to a loop-hole in state law that was closed in December.
Starting Jan. 1, New York will begin the first stages of a five-year plan to ensure that every boat operator in the state has obtained a boating safety certificate by 2025. Currently, only people born after 1996 have to take a safety course and obtain such documentation but starting Jan. 1, operators after 1993 will also need to obtain a certificate. By 2025 all age groups will have to have a certificate to legally operate a boat.
According to Yates County Sheriff Ron Spike, "Operating a motorized watercraft without a boating safety certificate... would be a violation level offense pursuant to Navigation Law... punishable by a fine of $100-250, with escalating penalties for multiple convictions within a certain time period."