March 2017 power outage prompts Senate to pass bill

On March 8, 2017, a windstorm hit the Rochester region. Winds of up to 80 mph damaged property, broke utility poles and transmission lines and left more than 100,000 customers without power — many for nearly a week in frigid weather.

This emergency prompted a bill that this week passed the state Senate, according to sponsor Rich Funke, R-Perinton.

“Utility crews from around New York and across the northeastern United States and Canada arrived to assist with the restoration and recovery efforts,” stated Funke in a release. Despite the around-the-clock efforts of workers, customers being left without power for nearly a week in the cold weather posed public health and safety hazards, added the senator, whose district includes parts of Monroe and Ontario counties.

Bill (S5242A) is meant to speed up and sweeten the pot for in-state and out-of-state utility companies and crews for disaster response.

The bill has a long name — The Facilitating Business Rapid Response to State Declared Disasters Act of 2017. It “would waive or delay certain licenses, registrations, taxes, and fees for utility companies and crews, while exempting state income tax on overtime hours accrued by in-state workers,” according to Funke.

Funke added that the proposal — which would still need to pass the Assembly and be signed by the governor — would “codify in part a policy used by the Department of Taxation & Finance in response to Hurricane Sandy.”

“When it comes to disaster response, every second counts and every helper counts. Never is that truer than with the restoration of utilities, which can make a life or death difference for impacted families,” stated Funke. “Our Act is a common sense solution to deploy as much assistance as possible when and where it matters most, while providing an additional reward for in-state workers who step up to help their fellow New Yorkers. I thank the Senate for its unanimous support and I hope the Assembly now considers this proposal with the urgency it deserves.”

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