A sales tax exemption designed to encourage solar energy use and a law to provide new protections for domestic violence victims are among the new state laws that took effect on Jan. 1, 2013. Other measures that became law on New Year's Day include legislation that help craft brewers distribute their products, prohibit the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, and new ways for colleges to provide health insurance for students.
SOLAR ENERGY SALES TAX EXEMPTION
This law exempts the sale and installation of commercial solar energy systems equipment from state sales tax and compensating use taxes. Under the new law, municipalities will also have the authority to provide this exemption from local sales and use taxes.
“Solar energy system installation can already be extremely costly for businesses, but the additional state sales tax and compensating use tax on top of that make local businesses hesitant to use this energy source,” said Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Telecommunications.
“If we are to achieve the goal of 45 percent of New York State's electricity needs through clean renewable energy and improved energy efficiency by 2015, then we must provide incentives to encourage businesses to install solar energy systems just as we have done with homeowners," Maziarz said. "Eliminating all state sales taxes and providing local municipalities an option to eliminate their portion as well will encourage more commercial solar installations and will hopefully create more jobs for New Yorkers to help with the installation process.”
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PROTECTIONS
Part of the new domestic violence reform law, designed to protect victims’ health care and insurance information, took effect on Jan. 1, 2013. The landmark law, sponsored by Sen. Steve Saland, R-Poughkeepsie, the chairman of the Senate Codes Committee, includes several important provisions to protect victims of domestic violence and establish stronger criminal penalties to punish individuals who commit acts of domestic violence.
As of the first of the year, victims of domestic violence who seek medical and/or mental health services and use their health insurance to pay for that care, can designate alternative contact information so they may receive health insurance correspondence in a safe location of their own choosing, such as the home of a friend or family member, a post office box, or a shelter.
“Current law already bars disclosure of an address and phone number when an order of protection is in place,” Saland said. “This law greatly expands the information to be protected by ensuring that a victims’ health insurance information is not sent to the same address as the alleged abuser, thus affording more protection domestic violence victims.”
BAN ELECTRONIC CIGARETTES FOR MINORS
A new law will prohibit the sale of electronic cigarettes to people under the age of 18 years of age.
“This law is needed to protect children and young adults from the dangers of smoking electronic cigarettes, particularly given that they are unregulated and have not been proven to be safe for use at any age,” said Sen. Owen Johnson, R-Babylon.
DISTRIBUTION OF BEER PRODUCED BY SMALL, INDEPENDENT BREWERS
This new law will give New York’s craft breweries the means to end unfavorable, exclusive contracts with beer wholesalers.
In 1996, the Beer Franchise Law strengthened distributing contracts to protect small, family-owned wholesalers from arbitrary termination by large multinational breweries. Since then, the number of wholesalers has dropped in New York State from 112 in 1996 to fewer than 60 today.
This measure will help the growth of the state’s small independent breweries by allowing them to end costly exclusive contracts with large wholesalers that do not market or promote their brands without having to undertake lengthy legal procedures that may not provide relief.
“I sponsored this legislation on behalf of the craft brewers in the Central New York region, all of whom are important parts of our regional economy,” said Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome. “During difficult economic times, the State needs to stand by our small businesses in order to grow our economy especially in the upstate region. The growth of small brewers has been an exciting chapter in the 21st Century economy, and this new law is important to help it grow and add jobs."
The law defines small brewers as those who produce less than 300,000 barrels of beer annually, and whose sales to a wholesaler are three percent or less of a multi-brand beer wholesaler’s annual business.
ALLOWING COLLEGES TO SELF-INSURE FOR STUDENT HEALTH CARE –
This law will allow eligible private and public colleges and universities in New York State to self-insure for their students’ health insurance needs. An advantage to becoming self-insured is that the plan can be designed to meet the needs of the students and can reduce administrative costs, compared to basic, more expensive commercial insurance plans. Most states in the country already allow private colleges and universities to self-insure for their students' health insurance.
Sen. James L. Seward, R-Oneonta, the chairman of the Senate Insurance Committee, said, “As higher education costs rise, colleges and universities are always looking for an edge to keep expenses down and compete with out-of-state schools. Clearing the way for a self-insurance plan will allow participating New York schools that take part to tailor their own health insurance plans to meet the specific needs of their student populations, while reducing administrative costs.”
The above information was listed on the New York State Senate website.