N.Y. State Bans Driving Under the Influence of Technology

While caution is still strongly suggested for all campus pedestrians, those traversing through the streets of Cornell’s campus can soon walk with less anxiety about oncoming traffic. Starting Nov. 1, texting while driving in the state of New York will be penalized with a maximum fine of $150.
With numerous recent studies showing the dire effects of texting behind the wheel, state legislators moved to ban this practice. Gov. David Paterson (D) signed the bill last Thursday.
Nathan Shinagawa ’05, an elected legislator representing the 4th District of Tompkins County, advocated for such legislation to be passed on the local level.
“Although I think it is a difficult law to enforce, it sends a cultural message,” Shinagawa said.

N.Y. to Vote on Gun Control Bill Today

The Binghamton shooting tragedy on April 3 — in which Vietnamese immigrant Jiverly Wong left 13 dead, four injured and eventually took his own life with a handgun — forced lawmakers to rethink the current handgun license laws.
Two New York state lawmakers, Sen. Eric Schneiderman (D-N.Y.) and Assemblywoman Amy Paulin (D-N.Y.), have pushed to reform the state’s current handgun license system, which Paulin described as a “dangerous lifetime permit system,” according to The Journal News.
Under the current law, every county north of Westchester gives lifetime permit licenses to any handgun owner. The bill, which is expected to be passed by the state assembly in Albany today, will provide for a five-year statewide renewal system.

Univ. Reconsiders Smoking

Cornell’s smoking policy has coincided with recent New York state legislation restricting the venues where smoking is acceptable. In 2003, New York State passed the Clean Indoor Air Act, prohibiting smoking in all indoor work environments. Last year, Gov. David Paterson signed legislation to ban smoking in all dorms in both public and private colleges in the state. Cornell’s current smoking policy reflects these pieces of legislation by prohibiting smoking in undergraduate residence halls, indoor facilities, enclosed bus stops and University-owned or controlled vehicles as well as within 25 feet of the entrance to any building.

State Cuts Force Colleges to Adapt

New York governor David Paterson (D-N.Y.) has imposed a mid-year budget cut that decreased the state funding to Cornell’s four statutory colleges (Human Ecology, Veterinary Medicine, Agriculture and Life Sciences and the Industrial and Labor Relations) from over $159 to $153 million, according to Ron Seeber, vice provost for land grant affairs. This decrease represents a loss of between 6 and 7 percent of their previous state funding for each of the four colleges.
While the $6 million worth of cuts have already been enacted, a further $2.5 million cut is currently being debated for the 09-10 year, and it will not be voted on by the legislature until the budget is approved at the end of March or early April.

N.Y. Gov. David Paterson Speaks Frankly About The State’s Dire Economic Situation

On Jan. 7, Governor David Paterson (D-N.Y.) delivered the State of the State address. In his speech, Paterson’s first since assuming office last March, he focused on the numerous problems that the state is facing. He began the speech with a harsh assessment of New York’s current situation. 
“My fellow New Yorkers: Let me come straight to the point,” he said. “The state of our state is perilous.”
In his speech, Paterson touched on health, education, energy, environmental and economical issues that the state was grappling with, noting the adverse impact of the recession.
“New York faces an historic economic challenge, the gravest in nearly a century,” he said.

Democrats Take State Seats

Democrats were victorious in both houses of Congress last night, securing seats that would back president-elect Barack Obama upon his inauguration. Marking a major shift in power in New York, the Democratic Party will hold 26 of the 29 seats in the House of Representatives, in addition to at least 32 of 62 seats in the State Senate.
Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-N.Y.) was elected to serve his ninth term in the 22nd district, which includes Southern Tier and Finger Lakes regions. He defeated Republican George Phillips, a history teacher in Binghamton. In an informal lunch meeting at Cornell last month, Hinchey — one of 288 to reject the $700 billion bailout bill in September — addressed the current financial crisis.

NYS Rejects Funds for Abstinence-Only Sex Ed

The New York State Department of Health announced that in accordance with Gov. Elliot Spitzer’s (D) health care plan, New York will be refusing Title V federal funding for abstinence-only sexual education. The statement, released on Sept. 20, explained that the Department of Health would instead be directing their funding and teaching efforts toward comprehensive sexual education.
Joanne Smith, president and CEO of Family Planning Advocates of New York State, applauded Spitzer’s decision.
“[Spitzer and Dr. Richard F. Daines, commissioner of the Department of Health] told me that this was not a hard decision,” Smith said. “The medical facts showed this was necessary.”