Capitol Watch: Airbnb Returns, Climate Change Hearings Loom
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — In New York state government news, lawmakers have set three upcoming hearings on a landmark climate change bill that would require the state's electrical grid to get off fossil fuels.
Meanwhile, supporters of Airbnb are heading back to Albany to push for new regulations on the popular home-sharing platform to replace old rules that penalized many hosts.
Here's a look at what's coming up:
GREEN NEW DEAL: The state Senate has set three upcoming hearings on a landmark climate change bill — the latest sign that lawmakers are serious about getting off fossil fuels and making big investments in clean energy.
The Climate and Community Protection Act would shift the state to 100 percent renewable electrical generation by 2050 and set aside funds to help communities most impacted by climate change and train workers for jobs in the clean energy and energy efficiency sectors.
It's a longtime priority for clean energy advocates and environmental groups, but one that had been blocked by Republicans in the state Senate until Democrats won control of the chamber last fall.
Last week Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, D-Yonkers, announced hearings on Feb. 12 in Albany, Feb. 14 in New York City and Feb. 15 on Long Island. The hearings are expected to feature testimony from energy experts, utilities, residents and renewable energy advocates.
Sen. Todd Kaminsky, the sponsor of the act and the chairman of the Senate's environmental committee, said the events would be a "critical step to determining how New York can lead on the fight against climate change."
The group NY Renews, which represents more than 160 environmental organizations, labor unions and other groups, hailed what they said was progress on the issue.
"After years of a Senate led by climate deniers, it's refreshing to see the new Senate majority so serious about fighting climate change," the group said in a statement.
Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo has set an even more ambitious energy goal of generating 100 percent of the state's energy from renewable sources by 2040. Hitting that new target, which must be approved by state lawmakers, will require the state to increase its use of wind and solar energy as well as existing nuclear and hydroelectric power generation.
Advocates for the environment and renewable energy praised the new goal, but said it will take preparation and determination by the state to hit it.
If approved, New York's new renewable target would surpass those set in other states, including California and Hawaii, which have both pledged to generate 100 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2045.
AIRBNB TO TRY AGAIN: Supporters of Airbnb will be back in Albany on Monday for another attempt to pass statewide regulations for home-sharing platforms.
The San Francisco-based company supports legislation that would impose new rules on the industry to replace a law passed three years ago that made it illegal to rent out an entire apartment in a multi-unit building for less than 30 days. Supporters of the law said it was necessary to prevent residential units from being taken off the market and rented out as de facto hotels.
Airbnb hosts argued that laws were unfair and overly harsh to New Yorkers looking to make side money in an increasingly expensive city.
The legislation would impose new rules on Airbnb hosts, including one that would prohibit anyone from listing more than one property on the website.
Last year, Airbnb brought actor Danny Glover to Albany to lobby for the bill, only to see the 72-year-old actor shouted down by anti-Airbnb hecklers. The protest was organized by the Hotel Trades Council, a powerful labor union that has worked to counter Airbnb in New York.
SIGNING UP: The rapid pace of the Legislature this year means the bills are piling up on Gov. Andrew Cuomo's desk like lake effect snow in Buffalo.
The list includes several high-profile gun control measures passed last week that Cuomo supports, including one prohibiting anyone other than public safety officers from carrying a firearm on school property. A second would authorize police, parents, teachers and school administrators to petition a judge to evaluate a child they believe is a threat to themselves or others. The judge could then order the confiscation of any firearms in the child's home.
Another bill awaiting action by Cuomo is the Dream Act, passed two weeks ago, which would extend state financial aid to students who entered the country illegally as children.
Then there's the Child Victims Act, which would extend the statute of limitations on child molestation to give victims more time to seek criminal charges or file lawsuits against their abusers. The bill would also create a one-year litigation window for lawsuits now barred by the statute of limitations.
Cuomo has 10 days to sign or veto bills once they're passed and delivered to his office. That means at least a few of the bills are likely to be signed into law soon. Cuomo's office hasn't released a timetable.
Monday — Joint legislative budget hearings focusing on housing and workforce development.
Tuesday — Budget hearing on health care and Medicaid.
Wednesday — Budget hearing on public education.
Thursday — Budget hearing on mental health.