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Budget deal OK’s Uber, tuition aid, Raise the Age


New York State now has a 2017-18 budget, even if it’s a little late.

The far-reaching plan goes beyond basics such as school aid and department funding. The budget includes provisions that:

• Clear the way for ride hailing services such as Uber and Lyft outside of New York City. The transportation network companies, as they’re called in the new law, will have to carry insurance that provides $1.25 million in coverage to drivers carrying passengers. The state will develop standards on background checks and anti-discrimination policies, among other things. A task force will study and make recommendations on “accessibility needs to protect and provide transportation to vulnerable populations.”

• Establish a scholarship program that will make state schools essentially tuition-free. Students will still have to pay for room and board, books, and fees, which can be a substantial cost. Students at private colleges will also receive tuition assistance, as long as their schools agree to match the funds.

• Change the way the state treats nonviolent offenders younger than 18. Previously, the state automatically processed 16- and 17-year-old offenders through adult criminal courts. Under the Raise the Age measure, the state will treat most of those youths as juvenile offenders. They’ll also be held in specialized juvenile facilities rather than in adult jails or prisons. The measure phases in the changes through 2019 and calls for the creation of an implementation task force.

• Provide for a $2.5 billion clean water infrastructure fund.

• Provide funding to help counties improve indigent legal defense services consistent with a settlement between the state and plaintiffs represented by the New York Civil Liberties Union. The measure is not, however, a state takeover of indigent legal services funding.

• Require counties to work with the municipal governments within them to find efficiencies and costs savings. Local government leaders say they already do this regularly, and they’ve viewed the initiative, proposed by Governor Cuomo, as hostile to local governments.