In the City of Rochester, two proposed bills have been introduced in the Common Council to amend the City Charter to promote a reduction of lead based paint hazards in city dwellings. The bills must be studied for economic impact before any action on them can occur. The Mayor of Rochester, William Johnson, introduced one of the measures, but its provisions have been criticized for lacking specific standards for lead hazard inspections and safe work practices; for lacking in tenant protections; and for not directing focus on city neighborhoods where lead poisoning cases are concentrated.

The critique of the Mayor’s bill comes from an active citizen-based group called The Coalition to Prevent Lead Poisoning that has worked on charter revisions promoted by one of the council members that would, in the coalition’s view, better implement a systemic, proactive and primary prevention strategy to eradicate lead on a city-wide basis, with first focus on concentrated high risk inner-city neighborhoods. The proposed charter amendments, backed by the Mayor, would require owners of pre-1978 “target” housing to obtain and file a “Certificate of Lead Poisoning Prevention Code Compliance” prepared by an EPA-certified lead paint inspector or risk assessor within 120 days of being notified that such filing on the property is necessary, upon actual citation for peeling or deteriorated paint, or upon expiration of a current Certificate of Occupancy which is required for all city rental dwellings.

The Coalition-supported charter proposals would extend to tenants a private right of action to force compliance with the code requirements to eliminate lead hazards, while the Mayor’s bill would only prohibit landlords from taking retaliatory action to evict tenants who reports a suspected lead paint hazard to the landlord or to the City. If you are interested in the Rochester Coalition to Prevent Lead Poisoning can check out its website: www.leadsafeby2010.org or call 585-256-2260.

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Proposed Legislation Directed to Lead Paint Issues State-Wide

The year 2005 brings a new bill cycle to Albany so all old legislation, if re-introduced, is assigned a new bill number. As of this writing, the following bills pertaining to lead paint issues have again been introduced and referred to committees, and any action in this session of the Legislature remains doubtful.

Bill No. Pending (former A11750)– This is a wide-ranging bill, that is sponsored by Assembly Member David F. Gantt (D, Monroe Co.), and will likely have a State Senate co-sponsor and be introduced in both houses this session. The bill is aimed at achieving goals of reducing overall lead paint hazards in upstate rental housing stock by inducing property owners to remediate their properties. This legislation would afford landlords some liability protection as an inducement to make their rental properties lead-free, with creation of a tax credit, establishment of a revolving loan account, and formation of a lead-safe housing registry. Other provisions in this proposed legislation would increase housing inspections for lead paint hazards. The new version of the bill is likely to exempt New York City from its application. An earlier version of the Gantt bill also barred property insurers from excluding coverage for lead poisoning injuries, but that provision was dropped from A11750 in 2004, and the Rochester Coalition to Prevent Lead Poisoning has asked for reinstatement of the provision requiring insurers to provide property owners with coverage for lead injuries. The Coalition is also on record stating that the provision for landlord liability protection in this legislation is NOT sufficiently protective of children. This bill is being closely watched, and substantial revisions are likely.

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A01897– This bill would amend the public health law to increase the civil fines from $2500 to $5000 assessed against a property owner who fails to remediate a paint condition that poses a risk for lead poisoning.

S00225– This bill would exempt local governments from liability for negligence for their roles in conducting housing inspections as part of the state’s lead poisoning prevention efforts. In 2004, New York’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, issued a decision that, in any event, all but exempts local governments from liability for lead poisoning injuries to children.

S00820– This bill would amend the public health law to require the Commissioner of Health to make a report to the State Attorney General if he discovers that manufacturers, suppliers or retailers are engaging in any improper measures that could have the effect of increasing lead poisoning risks to children.

A01261– This bill would amend the Public Health Law to establish training and certification programs for lead abatement contractors and would make New York State eligible for special federal funding through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to help abate lead hazards in low and moderate income housing.

With regard to Assembly Bill A01261 above, the longstanding failure of New York State to adopt a formal certification program for lead abatement in this state has caused New York to consistently lose opportunities for enhanced federal funding to help rid the housing stock of lead paint hazards. Rochester-area Assemblyperson Susan V. John is this bill’s sponsor, and her Albany staff believes that consistent promotion of this bill has, at least, raised the awareness of state lawmakers who may someday act on some version of this bill.

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Readers of this newsletter who wish to keep track or learn more about pending state legislation in Albany can go to the State Assembly’s website: www.assembly.state.ny.us or contact the Albany offices of the sponsoring Assemblypersons directly. The phone number for the Albany office of Assemblyperson David Gantt is (518) 455-5606; and the phone number for the Albany office of Assemblyperson Susan V. John is (518) 455-4527.