Through inaction and partisanship and giving in to industry lobbying and general incompetence, our state representatives in Albany failed.
They failed the 20 victims of the October 2018 limousine crash in Schoharie.
They failed the four victims of the July 2015 limousine crash on Long Island.
They failed potential victims of future crashes, by doing almost nothing this year to regulate the limousine industry when they had the chance.
For all the praise lawmakers got in passing progressive legislation this year, they should be ashamed of themselves for not being able to agree on necessary and substantial legislation to address the problems associated with these large vehicles, which are responsible for so many deaths and injuries and which have largely flown under the radar of state government oversight.
Lawmakers had almost nine months after the October crash to do something.
But all they managed to accomplish — even with Democratic majorities in both houses — were some new criminal and civil penalties for traffic violations and a requirement for a higher amount of liability insurance limos must carry.
Those bills are a promising start. But they did nothing to deter limousine crashes before they happen or to protect passengers in the event of an accident.
The state Senate actually unanimously passed a collection of nine bills before lawmakers went home in June.
Among them were bills to increase penalties for illegal U-turns and other traffic violations, mandatory drug and alcohol testing for drivers. authorizing the state to impound limos that failed inspections, establishment of an online system for the public to report safety concerns, and creation of a passenger safety task force.
None of these reforms should have been controversial. None of them were unreasonable or unconstitutional.
And all would have afforded passengers and the general driving public new protections against irresponsible limousine operators without overburdening companies that operate safely and legally.
The Senate reforms were passed June 6, two weeks before the scheduled end of the session, and the package had the support of survivors of victims.
But the state Assembly failed to join the Senate in support of these measures, and both houses somehow failed to work together to iron out any differences they might have had. Now they’ll have to wait until next year to pass them.
Why couldn’t they, with all that time, come up with legislation to protect limousine passengers from harm?
That’s a question state lawmakers should be asking themselves.
And it’s a question the citizens should be demanding they answer.