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ALBANY — County residents will have the opportunity to weigh in on two proposed laws and one resolution that are expected to go before the county Legislature as early as next month. A public hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday, May 29, at 7:15 p.m. at the Albany County Courthouse on Eagle Street in Albany to allow community members to share their thoughts on: county-wide mandated sick leave; a law that would require new residences to be equipped with fire sprinkler systems; and proposed modifications to local agricultural districts.
According to legislators who introduced the law, 40 percent of workers in Albany County do not have access to paid sick leave at their jobs. Per the legislation, which was introduced at the legislative meeting on Monday, March 12, by Chairman Andrew Joyce and other Democratic members, paid sick leave can “diminish public and private health care costs and promote preventative health services in Albany County by enabling workers to seek early and routine medical care for themselves and their family members.”
Under the law, all employees in Albany County would accrue one hour of sick time for every 30 hours worked. There are variations for annual limits based on the size of the business and any unused sick time would roll over to the following year, unless the employer opts to pay the employee for that unused time.
Employees would be entitled to use their time to care for themselves or their family (including “any individual related by blood or affinity whose close association with the employee is the equivalent of a family relationship”) through sickness, injury, diagnosis, a health “condition” or while receiving preventative care. They could also use accrued sick leave when they or their family member’s place of employment closes due to a public health emergency or when either has been the victim of domestic or sexual abuse or human trafficking, including time to meet with attorneys, relocate or file legal reports. Sick time can be used in the “smallest time increments that the employer’s payroll system uses to account for absences or other time,”
Documentation may be required after three consecutive days of absence. Some employers may require advance notice while others may require confirmation that the employee used the time for their stated purposes.
Citing things such as job security, domestic violence, and public contagion, Local Law “C” for 2018 says passage of the law “is necessary to ensure that all workers in Albany County can address their own health and safety needs and the health and safety needs of their families by requiring employers to provide a minimum level of earned paid sick time, including time to care for their family members.”
If passed on Monday, June 11, the law would take effect 180 days later.
Fire Sprinkler Law
Advocates of Local Law “I” for 2018 require fire sprinklers in new residential construction in Albany County have pointed to newer, lighter and more flammable construction materials as well as open floor plan designs as the reason for implementing the new standard, stating that studies have shown that new homes burn eight times faster than legacy homes built from different materials.
In 2012, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) reported that sprinklers not only reduce civilian deaths by 83 percent and reduce property damage by 69 percent, but they also reduce the amount of water necessary to extinguish the fire by as much as 90 percent.
“Experience from the State of Maryland,” reads the bill, “which mandates home fire sprinklers, shows that there has not been a fatality from a home fire in a sprinklered home since they mandated their use.”
Under the law, the county would enact the requirements of the International Building Code, which was adopted by the state after removing the sprinkler requirement. Any new construction of one- or two-family homes and town homes would be required to have a sprinkler system that conforms to NFPA standards after January 1, 2019.
If passed, county municipalities would have 60 days to amend their local building codes or the county will assume enforcement and deduct the costs from sales tax receipts due to that municipality.
According to The New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets, the purpose of agricultural districting is “to encourage and promote the continued use of farmland for agricultural production. The program is based on a combination of landowner incentives and protections, all of which are designed to forestall the conversion of farmland to non-agricultural uses. Benefits that properties in State-certified Agricultural Districts receive are partial real property tax relief (agricultural assessment and special benefit assessments), and protections against overly restrictive local laws, government funded acquisition or construction projects, and private nuisance suits involving agricultural practices.”
Each year, the county holds a 30-day review period, during which landowners can request to be included in an agricultural district. Seven parcels, a total of 264.5 acres, were submitted for consideration in February, six of which were recommended for inclusion by the Albany County Agricultural and Farmland Protection Board. Of the recommended parcels, six acres are in Knox, 120 acres are in Berne, 41.5 acres are in Rensselaerville and 97 acres are in Coeymans.