State toughens laws for opioids

ALBANY – Boozy Sunday brunches, expanded screening for breast cancer and a plan to confront opioid addiction all came out on top Friday as New York state lawmakers wrapped up the 2016 session.

The Senate and Assembly expected to adjourn late Friday or early this morning after passing scores of bills and coming to a final agreement on a one-year extension of the policy giving Mayor Bill de Blasio control over New York City schools.

But for many New Yorkers, it will be the bills affecting everyday life that are best remembered.

One bill on its way to Gov. Andrew Cuomo will allow bars and restaurants to serve alcohol beginning at 10 a.m. – as opposed to the current noon start time. The change, proposed by Cuomo, is intended to help businesses cater to the brunch crowd and fans of morning sporting events like European soccer. Bars and restaurants outside New York City could apply for special permits to open at 8 a.m. up to a dozen times a year, presumably for televised sporting events.

“Sensibly reforming these laws will support the economic vitality of thousands of small businesses while also responding to the growing demand of New Yorkers who wish to enjoy a simple freedom on Sunday morning,” said Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle, D-Rochester.

Another bill passed Friday would restrict opioid prescriptions to seven days and expand treatment options for addicts as part of a comprehensive plan to combat addiction. That measure would change insurance laws to expand coverage of rehab, and direct state funds to recovery programs intended to help addicts get and stay clean.

Cuomo also pushed through a measure designed to make it easier for women to get screened for breast cancer, a personal topic for the governor following the successful breast cancer treatment of his longtime partner, Food Network star Sandra Lee. The measure would require more than 200 hospitals to extend their mammography hours and also eliminate insurance co-pays and deductibles for the procedure.

Lawmakers were also expected to pass a series of ethics reforms intended to restore public trust in state government following a rash of corruption scandals. One is a proposed constitutional amendment which, if approved by voters, would strip state pensions from lawmakers convicted of corruption.

The ethics measures also includes stronger laws prohibiting campaigns from working with so-called independent political organizations, which can spend limitless amounts of money, as a way to circumvent campaign finance limits.

“This legislation will help bring more transparency, trust, and faith to state government,” Cuomo said.

In another agreement, legislative leaders and Cuomo agreed to a one-year extension of the policy giving the mayor of New York control over his city’s schools. Mayor Bill de Blasio had sought a seven-year extension of the policy, first enacted in 2002. Cuomo and Assembly Democrats supported a three-year renewal but Senate Republicans insisted on one year. The Republicans also successfully added a requirement that city schools publish information on their spending.

The session was scheduled to end Thursday but dragged into Friday when lawmakers and Cuomo struggled to craft a compromise on mayoral control. The fate of several bills remained uncertain late Friday. The Assembly passed legislation to regulate online daily fantasy sports, but the Senate had not yet taken up the measure as of Friday evening. Legislation allowing Uber to expand outside of New York City appeared to be faltering.