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Environmental bills dominate end of session priorities for two CNY state lawmakers

An expanded bottle bill could include these bottles.
Provided Photo
An expanded bottle bill could include these bottles. OCRRA tested a pilot program a couple years ago where consumers could bring these types of bottles to redemption centers for recycling.

The state legislative session is winding down, and Syracuse-area state lawmakers are working to make legislation important to Central New York a priority as bills advance. For example, Senator Rachel May is optimistic both chambers might finally move to expand the Bottle Bill. She says increasing the deposit on single-use beverage bottles from five to ten cents will draw higher redemption rates. That, in turn, she says will help struggling redemption centers.

“The three and a half cents that they get right now per container just isn't enough for them to stay in business, so we're trying to rescue the system and improve it and take a whole lot more containers out of the waste stream," May said.

The legislation could also add deposits to liquor, wine, and fruit juice containers.

Senator May says she’s also working on a package of bills that promote more responsible landscaping.

“We're trying to plant more native plants all around the state for resiliency of our ecosystems, but you have to start by having the seed propagation, which takes a lot of time," May said. "And so there's a whole effort here and in New York City to propagate seeds for native plantings.”

Meanwhile, in the other chamber, Assemblymember Magnarelli says lawmakers are also discussing the Packaging Reduction and Recycling Infrastructure Act, written to reduce New York’s plastic packaging waste stream.

“Basically all kinds of packaging, and would place fees on the manufacturers of the products that are being packaged so that the public isn't left holding the bill for getting rid of all of this packaging which we just can't do anymore. The landfills are filling up.”

New York State generates nearly seven million tons of plastic waste each year. But critics say the bill is an unfair mandate on smaller businesses.

Beyond environmental bills, Magnarelli is also working on a measure re-defining what constitutes “impaired driving.”

He's championing legislation redefining the list of substances that can impair mental or physical ability. Magnarelli says the the law hasn't kept up.
“Our laws right now do not allow for the arrest and conviction of people who are on drugs that may not be on the list," Magnarelli said. "There's synthetic drugs that are changing on a daily basis. They're not on the list. There’s no way to convict somebody.”

That means some impaired drivers are able to evade prosecution.

The legislative session is scheduled to end June 6.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at