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E2 New York's Albany Advocacy Trip

From left to right: Heather Henriksen, Wendy Neu, Laurie Rothenberg, Fa Liddell, Theo Spencer (NRDC), Lisa Wood Richardson, Greg Hale, and Kate Sinding (NRDC). Not pictured: John Cusack.

On June 5, seven E2 New York members traveled to Albany for our second annual advocacy trip. Our two teams, led by NRDC legislative director Rich Schrader, senior attorney Kate Sinding, Climate Center project manager Theo Spencer, and senior development associate Ying Li, met with 12 state legislators and their staff, as well as representatives from the Assembly Ways & Means Committee and Governor Eliot Spitzer’s Office of the Environment. This year’s trip focused on three important bills aimed at increasing vehicle efficiency and providing incentives for the purchase of hybrids or high-efficiency vehicles.

Hybrid and High-Efficiency Vehicle Sales Tax Exemption Bill (S3947-A and A7626-A) - This bill will reinstate a hybrid tax credit similar to one that expired in 2005. It would encourage the purchase of cleaner cars by waiving the state sales tax on hybrid and high-efficiency vehicles - defined as those vehicles that have a highway fuel economy estimate of 35 mpg or better. It would also permit counties and cities to exempt such vehicles from local sales taxes. S3947-A passed the Senate the day after our trip, and is now being reconciled in the Assembly Ways and Means Committee.

Clean Vehicles Incentive Program (A9003) - This bill was introduced in the Assembly the week of our trip and was referred to the Environmental Conservation Committee. The bill, modeled after a similar bill pending in California (AB 493) would provide a one-time rebate for the purchase of lower-polluting vehicles and create a one-time surcharge for the purchase of higher-polluting vehicles. Because it is self-financing and structured to preserve consumer choice while also applying to the entire range of vehicles across the fleet, this program represents the next logical step towards increasing the efficiency of the state’s automobile fleet after the reinstatement of the sales tax exemption measure mentioned above. It would also help reduce global warming and air pollution impacts from vehicle emissions.

Tire Efficiency Bill (S5982-A and A8718) - This bill establishes fuel-efficiency ratings and standards for replacement tires. It would allow consumers to purchase replacement tires as efficient as the original tires that come on new cars - achieving near-term oil savings. As of June 21, the bill passed the full Senate, but ran in to roadblocks in the Assembly and will not move forward this session. It’s very unusual for a bill to pass in one session in Albany. But because the bill did pass the Senate on its first attempt, it gives us good momentum for next year. In the future we will continue to work with Assembly members and their staff to address some of their concerns about the bill in preparation for the next session.

We met with the following offices:

Assemblymember Marc S. Alessi (1st District)
Assemblymember Steve Engelbright (4th District)
Assemblymember Andrew Hevesi (28th District)
Assemblymember Sam Hoyt (144th District)
Assemblymember Susan John (131st District)
Assemblymember Linda Rosenthal (67th District)
Assemblymember Paul Tonko (105th District)
Senator Diane Savino (23rd District)
Senator Dean Skelos (9th District)
Senator Jame Wright (48th District)
Paul Beyer, Special Assistant for the Environment, Office of Governor Spitzer
Scott Palladino, Deputy Director for Fiscal Studies, Assembly Ways and Means Committee

All in all, we accomplished what we set out to do on the Albany visit. We successfully made the business case for our three bills, educated legislators and their staff on our issues and introduced E2 as a resource for future collaboration. In the months ahead, we will continue to work with the offices with which we met and reach out to others to make progress on policies that are good for the environment and the economy


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