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January 3, 2013

New state laws to aid brewers, solar firms

Cooperstown Crier

---- — One new state law that took effect on New Year’s Day is intended to spur sales of solar energy equipment, while another is aimed at helping craft brewers snip unfavorable contracts with beer wholesalers.

The bill involving solar equipment exempts the sale and installation of commercial solar energy systems equipment from state sales tax and compensating use taxes.

It will be up to county governments to determine whether these sales should also be exempt from the county portion of sales tax, which in most cases amounts to half of the total eight percent tax bite in effect in most counties in New York.

“This is good for the environment, and it’s good energy policy,” said Sen. James Seward, R-Milford.

He said the legislation is also a form of economic development as it extends the tax benefits to commercial enterprises seeking to incorporate solar energy into their operations.

The legislation aimed at helping craft beer brewers of less than 300,000 barrels of beer annually allows them to snip costly contracts with large wholesalers that do not promote their brands.

According to the legislation, the number of craft brewers in New York has jumped from fewer than 20 two decades ago to some 63 today. Meanwhile, the number of New York wholesalers has dropped from 112 in 1996 to fewer than 60 today.

Seward said the bill will help make these brewers more competitive and better able to grow. He noted the region has a growing and vibrant brewing industry, with Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown Brewing Co. and Butternuts Beer & Ale all being based in Otsego County.

Another new law that took effect Tuesday bans the sale of electronic cigarettes to persons less than 18 years old. Advocates for the legislation said the unregulated devices have yet to be proven safe for smokers of any age.

Lawmakers also drew up measures that are intended to offer stronger protections to victims of domestic abuse. One such provision allows victims to change their contact information on medical records to keep their attackers from finding out where they live.

Victims who seek medical or mental health services and use insurance to pay for the care may elect to designate alternate contact information, such as the home of a friend or family member or post office box, as a result of the measure that became law Tuesday.

Sponsors of the legislation said it will provide a stronger shield to domestic violence victims seeking to keep out of the sights of the person who battered them.