I am excited to report that a bill which would create a ‘tax free holiday’ for emergency supplies and “Go-Bags” was introduced in the New York State Assembly by Assemblyman Jonathan L. Bing as Assembly Bill A11206.
Under the legislation, New Yorkers would be able to buy emergency supplies without paying state sales tax between September 1st-11th and purchase pre-made “Go-Bags” tax free throughout the month. The bill would also declare September 2008 Emergency Preparedness Month” in New York.
Earlier this year, I met with Assemblyman Bing’s Chief of Staff, Benjamin Kallos, at Bing’s Manhattan office to discuss emergency preparedness in his district (where I live) and the State as a whole. I suggested that a tax free holiday on emergency supplies was one way other states (ie. Florida, Virginia and Louisiana) have used to increase public interest and action on preparedness. Benjamin researched the issue and then met with local CERT team members, including my ESNA-CERT team chief, Jay Schofield, and deputy chief, Dave Gillespie, for their input.
As Assemblyman Bing has long been involved in the issues of emergency preparedness and response, he thought a tax holiday could have a significant impact on citizen preparedness, and decided to introduce legislation enacting such a program.
An important part of personal preparedness is having requisite supplies as well as a “Go Bag” — a collection of items packed in an easy-to-carry, accessible knapsack – that can be ready in a matter of seconds. Storing supplies are just one step in becoming prepared, but getting people to take that initial step is crucial. In addition, a special tax holiday makes it more likely a) private businesses will add their marketing expertise and capacity to the preparedness effort and b) the media will provide coverage of the issue.
The tax-free period for supplies would run from September 1-September 11 commemorating the time between the anniversaries between Hurricane Katrina and 9/11. “Go-Bags” would be exempt all month but only if they met certain minimum requirements and were sold for $75 or less. Some of the individual emergency items would have similar price restrictions.
“In times of emergency, seconds matter but few people have the requisite emergency supplies to leave in an instant,” Bing said at an event held with the Red Cross to announce the legislation. “‘Go Bags’ can make all the difference during some types of emergencies.” Bing cited both 9/11 as well as the recent Turtle Bay crane accident that killed seven people in his district as reminders of the need for citizen preparedness.
The bill has been introduced in the Assembly with nine co-sponsors and has been referred to committee for consideration. The hope is that it can be enacted before the current session is completed and might be implemented this September. It would need to pass the Assembly and the Senate, and then be signed by the Governor before the session ends in late June.
Those of you in New York State should contact your local legislators to encourage them to support the bill. Those in other states should ask their elected officials to consider the idea.
Assemblyman Bing should be congratulated for his leadership on the important issue of civilian preparedness as well as his willingness and ability to solicit constituent ideas and turn them into substantive legislation.