Westchester, N.Y. - Old Law From The Gas-Short '70s Repealed

Westchester drivers can now fill up their gas guzzlers whenever they want — they won't have to top off on alternating odd or even days.

Say what?

County legislators this week repealed an outdated law addressing the energy crisis — you know, the one from 1979 — that put restrictions on when drivers could "fill 'er up" those muscle cars, land yachts and Coupe DeVilles of the Jimmy Carter era.

"That was the craziest one," Legislator John Nonna, D-Pleasantville, said of the antiquated law that hasn't been enforced or relevant in decades but remained on the county books. "That law was still in effect until the other night. It made no sense."

This week, the Board of Legislators repealed four county laws — ones they say are outdated, irrelevant or pre-empted by state or federal statutes.

More changes are on the way, said Nonna, chairman of the legislation committee, as this type of review will be routine.

Taken off the books:

• A law, enacted in 2000, that set signage requirements for selling herbal cigarettes. The state enacted its own law in 2003 that superseded the county code.

• A law requiring warning signs in multiple languages in stores about the risk of birth defects if a pregnant woman drinks alcohol. Although the state enforces a similar law enacted in 1992, the committee found that local enforcement by the Health Department was difficult and impractical.

• A law enacted in 1974 that set uniform standards for gasoline price signage that was later superseded by a 1986 state law.

• A law restricting the sale of gasoline. The one, enacted in 1979 in response to the energy crisis, was a temporary measure that allowed motorists to fill up on odd- or even-numbered days depending on a person's license plate number.

It is helpful to have uniform rules, especially when local and state laws are similar or different agencies are in charge of enforcement, said John Gaccione, acting commissioner of the county's Consumer Protection Department.

"It works for the consumer, and it works for the retailer," he said. "Really, it was a lot of house cleaning."

In many cases, Westchester passed measures long before the state. When the state follows suit, often that law trumps the county's, so there is no need for redundancy, Gaccione said.

"What we've found over the years is that on a number of different issues, we've been at the forefront," Gaccione said about Westchester.

When Nonna became chairman of the legislation committee earlier this year, members embarked on a mission to rid the county of senseless, outdated, unenforced or redundant laws.

He and committee counsel Betsy DeSoye brought on several Pace University law students — Brendan Bannigan, Bryn Fuller, Kristen Verrino and Kelly Belnick — who worked pro bono and went through the county's thousand pages of codes.

In some cases, they found county law was far stronger than the state statute, as was so with restrictions on tanning salons and toy-guns laws, Nonna said.

It's similar to "weeding out a closet to see if everything still fits," Nonna said, adding that it's one of those tedious and time-consuming jobs that could be easy to put off.

"We legislators are great at adding laws," Nonna said. "But repealing laws is another story."

The Journal News


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