With the State Legislature in Albany in the last three weeks of...

With the State Legislature in Albany in the last three weeks of its session, lawmakers are wrestling with measures that involve cheese packaging, prosecuting sex crimes and betting revenue, among other issues. Credit: AP/Hans Pennink

Often the closing weeks and days of a legislative session in Albany get hung up by controversy over attention-getting proposals that generate buzz. This year’s biggest hoopla may be about cheese — not its production on upstate farms but the over-packaging of it.

Prodding a sharp reduction in throwaway packaging is but one of the goals written into significant bills that state lawmakers are considering in these last three weeks of the session.

Others, with widely varying chances of success, would make it easier to successfully prosecute sex crimes and push betting revenues toward local property tax relief. Still other bills are aimed at protecting youth from the addictive powers of social media and its psychological damage.


Critics of the proposed Packaging Reduction and Recycling Infrastructure Act are fretting about the not-all-that-scary possibility that items such as, most famously, Kraft American Singles would no longer be individually wrapped in transparent plastic.

Lobbyists reliably whip up public-relations frenzies against bills they dislike. The format goes something like: “Now THEY want to take away YOUR wood-fired pizza,” and “Now THEY want to take away YOUR light bulbs.” Same goes for low-flow showers and toilets.

This packaging measure would require companies with net incomes over $1 million to reduce packaging and help improve recycling for certain products. The idea fits with the popular desire to address the negative environmental impact of plastic pollution on wildlife and groundwater.

The main criticism is the costs it would bring for businesses, which would presumably be passed on to consumers.

Judith Enck, a former EPA regional administrator for New York, and now president of Beyond Plastics, notes that many sliced cheese packagers already solve that narrow problem by placing strips of wax paper between slices. “Let’s have the cheese debate,” Enck says. “I’m happy to have it.”

The broader aim of the bill is to reduce plastic packaging by 50% over 12 years. And the broader point of the business lobbyists’ objection is that the bill would shift the cost burden of dealing with plastic waste from local governments to companies that sell the packaged products. They’d have to pay into a fund for the amount of packaging they produce.

This new law would reduce trash and encourage the use of more environmentally friendly materials. Lawmakers ought to approve it before they adjourn June 6.


Also percolating is a related waste-stream push — to update the state’s 40-year-old bottle deposit law. Proponents are urging lawmakers to increase the deposit from 5 cents to 10 cents. The bill would cover a wider range of beverage containers — sports drinks and iced teas, for example. Liquor and wine containers would be added in 2029 if the bill becomes law.

Retailers and redemption centers would receive a higher “handling fee” from distributors for containers returned from 3.5 cents per item to 5 cents right away and 6.5 cents by 2031.

Overwrought claims of “job-killing regulations” on one side and “corporate-driven earth doom” on the other need not adorn every debate. It’s time for lawmakers to approve both of these recycling proposals. However, lawmakers who increase budget spending every year by millions seem reluctant to raise the deposit by a nickel in an election year. If that almost-comic mindset prevails, lawmakers should at least pass the plastics reduction bill.


Sometimes, the need arises to fill in the gap on an issue ideally addressed by the federal government. One is the growth of “viral challenges” that can affect the mental health of children and adolescents — and lead to anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and self-harm.

One bill would bar social media and online platforms from using potentially addictive “algorithm-based feeds” on those under 18 without parental consent. Fighting the effort is a lobbying group, Tech:NYC, which represents large tech companies. Perhaps passage could help trigger Congress to take more comprehensive action, since this is a nationwide problem.

New York has its own locally-produced pockmarks in the law, or at least in how it’s been interpreted. Recently, the state Court of Appeals issued a jarring decision voiding the sex-crimes conviction of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. The court said testimony on “prior bad acts” should not have been allowed. To correct this problem, Assemb. Amy Paulin and State Sen. Michael Gianaris are pushing legislation that would allow relevant testimony about a person’s past actions in such cases.

The Weinstein ruling indeed exposes a judicial and legislative problem that needs correcting.


Bills with a minuscule chance of enactment can be of interest to constituents. Suffolk Assemb. Michael J. Fitzpatrick is sponsoring legislation directing that regional off-track betting corporation revenues for counties “shall be used exclusively for property tax relief.”

Since the original promise made in the campaign to legalize gaming and lotteries was that the revenues would support education, this proposal deserves a long look.

The fact that this is an election year for legislators — let alone the president and Congress — should not be an excuse for members putting key matters off and heading home to their districts. There is work to be done and bills that must be passed.

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.


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