ALBANY - Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed bills into law this week renaming Interstate 86 bridges in the town of Ellicott after former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson, and Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.
The legislation was a joint effort by state Assemblyman Andrew Goodell (R-Chautauqua County) and state Sen. Cathy Young (R-Olean) to honor prominent local residents as part of a tourism development mission. The bridge over Strunk Road will be named The Robert H. Jackson Memorial Bridge while the bridge over Route 60 just outside of Jamestown will be named the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz Memorial Bridge.
New York's newest laws also pave the way to require New York City children to start their education at 5 years old and clamp down on tools used in animal fighting.
Although animal fighting most often with dogs or roosters is already illegal in New York, the new law will ban the tools of the grisly trade. The law, sponsored by Assemblyman John McEneny, an Albany Democrat, and Sen. Patricia Ritchie, a Watertown Republican, includes a ban on the manufacturing, sale and possession of items used in the illegal gambling trade.
The items include a rotating cat mill, in which a cat is held just out of reach of a fighting dog during training. Other training devices include a breaking stick, inserted behind a dog's molars to break the dog's grip on another animal.
McEneny said the law is a good tool for law enforcement.
"There was a void there. If you didn't catch them in the act, if no one testified, how do you prosecute?" he said. "It's a very big issue both for dog and cock fighting, and they are both very common."
Illegal animal fighting is also blamed for the thefts of dogs and cats used as victims for training.
In other new laws, New York City could soon require children to start school at 5 years old. Children now aren't required to attend school until they are 6, although most parents enroll their children at 5 to attend kindergarten. City officials have said as many as 3,000 city children enter first grade without attending kindergarten, a concern the new law would address.
"By giving New York City the authority to lower the compulsory age of schooling to age five, we are taking a significant step towards closing the achievement gap," City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a Democrat, said in a joint statement from council leaders. "Experts agree that the most vulnerable New Yorkers will be helped by ensuring that every New York City child starts school at age five."
The law allows the city Department of Education to enact the change.
The administration of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent, worked closely with Quinn on the legislation and thanked the governor for signing it into law, mayoral spokesman Mark Botnick said.