O’Mara and Young Bills, Pass In State Senate

June 19, 2018

ALBANY, NY – The New York State Senate has unanimously approved legislation co-sponsored by Senator Tom O’Mara (R, Big Flats) to help local police and district attorneys track and prosecute violations of restrictions on over-the-counter sales of cold medications. The targeted medications are key ingredients used to manufacture methamphetamine. “We continue to see alarming increases across the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions in the production, sale and use of meth, as well as other illegal drugs,” said O’Mara, a member of the Senate Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction. “Law enforcement officers and prosecutors throughout our communities continue to do outstanding work on public awareness, education, enforcement and protection. We can help law enforcement by enacting laws like this one to help them prosecute meth crimes.”

While “smurfing” (buying a lot of cold medicine at different stores, so that a person can make meth out of the cold medicines) is already illegal, the legislation (S.1236) O’Mara co-sponsors would, within state law, limit the sale of cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine to behind the counter, limit the amount of pseudoephedrine that an individual can purchase each month, and require that an individual present photo identification to purchase products containing pseudoephedrine.

O’Mara noted that a federal law enacted over a decade ago, the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005 (CMEA), already regulates retail over-the-counter sales of these products because of their use in manufacturing meth. However, while the CMEA has been helpful to law enforcement when investigating persons suspected of making meth, since no similar provisions exist directly in state law local police and district attorneys are limited in their ability to fully pursue violations of purchase limits.

Also passed on Tuesday by the state senate in Albany, Senator Catharine Young’s School Bus Camera Safety Act. The bill, S.518B, authorizes the use of automated cameras on school buses to record and ticket motorists who illegally pass stopped school buses. “With upwards of 50,000 illegal bus passes every day, it is crucial that we make this technology available to school districts to help curb this problem and safeguard our children. Implementing stop-arm cameras on buses would have a major impact in reversing this trend. Statistics show declines in violations of between 30 and 50 percent in states that have adopted the cameras,” said Senator Young. “With the passage of this legislation, we are on our way to realizing this goal.”

“I am grateful to my Senate colleagues for their support, to my co-sponsor Assemblyman Magnarelli for his partnership in this fight, and to the New York Association for Pupil Transportation (NYAPT) and its Executive Director Peter Mannella for working with all the stakeholders on this issue to help build consensus,” said Senator Young. “With the clock running out on the session, I urge the Assembly to join us in passing this critical measure before we adjourn. At its core, this bill is about saving young lives, which is a goal that I know everyone supports.”

Under current law, drivers who pass stopped school buses can only be issued a ticket if a police officer witnesses the violation. Because it is impossible for law enforcement to patrol every bus stop daily, very few violators face any consequences. Sen. Young says that her bill addresses this problem, by allowing school districts and school bus companies to install automated cameras to detect and capture images of vehicles that fail to stop when the stop arm of the bus is extended to pick up or discharge students. It allows the evidence taken from the cameras to be used by police agencies in prosecuting violators and issuing fines. The bill would retain the current financial penalties for stop-arm violations with fines of $250. Unlike situations with police officers involved, the bill would not impose points or imprisonment for convictions.

Both O’Mara and Young’s bills now go to the Assembly.