By Jon Campbell
ALBANY -- Medical professionals will be required to notify patients if dense breast tissue is discovered during a mammogram under a new law signed Monday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The bill was one of 114 delivered to the Democratic governor's desk late last week. Cuomo approved a total of four on Monday; he faces an Aug. 1 deadline for the remaining bills.
The new law -- which takes effect in January -- will require anyone performing a mammogram in New York to inform their affected patients of the risk factors associated with dense tissue, including a greater difficulty in spotting abnormalities during an exam and a potentially increased risk of breast cancer.
"Now those with dense breast tissue, which can mask tumors, will be able to get the information needed to determine with their physicians whether further screening is recommended," said Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee, D-Suffern, Rockland County, who sponsored the bill.
The breast tissue bill was the most significant signed by Cuomo on Monday. Others included a technical change to bond notes issued by municipalities, an authorization to lease the use of buildings at a North Country park and a measure providing funding to a specific contractor whose payment was tangled in a legal dispute.
Of the 110 remaining bills sent to Cuomo's desk, one in particular has caught the eye of New York's education establishment.
The bill, passed in June on the last day of the 2012 legislative session, would require school districts to consider the differences between "the school environment" and a student's "home environment and family background" when placing children with special needs.
Critics say the bill would allow more students to be placed in private schools on the public's dime. School districts are required to reimburse parents for certain tuition payments when public schools don't meet their child's special-education needs.
Jay Worona, general counsel for the state School Boards Association, said he believes the language in the bill is too broad and encourages the idea of driving children to "religiously segregated" schools.
"I think that the language that is used here is very amorphous and will encourage parents to unilaterally change their child's placement to a private placement," he said. "It gives them the impression that they will more likely than not qualify for tuition reimbursement, so parents who may not have otherwise sought that remedy will do so."
The bill was supported by the New York State Catholic Conference, which said the changes would create a system in which "the spirit of current law can be better achieved."
"We believe the bill does nothing more than strengthen state and federal law to ensure that school administrators are considering as many factors as possible in the child's life in order to determine the most appropriate setting for that child," said James Cultara, education director for the group.
A spokesman for Cuomo did not tip the governor's hand, but said all decisions on pending bills will be made by the Aug. 1 deadline.
"The bills have been delivered for consideration, and they are undergoing review," said Richard Azzopardi, the spokesman.
Among the other bills delivered to Cuomo's desk include legislation that would require anyone under the age of 18 to have parental consent before receiving a body piercing anywhere other than the ear.
The bill, which was sponsored by Sen. Joseph Robach, R-Greece, Monroe County, would set the first statewide standard for body piercing. While anyone under 18 is prohibited from getting a tattoo in New York, no statewide standard exists for piercings, though many shops and counties have their own policies.
Other bills would require handicapped parking aisles to be at least eight feet wide, create a job bank for veterans and extend a one-time payment of $6,807 to the widow of former Assemblyman Thomas Kirwan, a Newburgh Republican who died in November 2011. The payment represents what the assemblyman would have been paid for the remainder of 2011.
Cuomo has 10 days to approve or veto legislation after it passes the Legislature and is sent to his office, excluding Sundays.
The Senate and Assembly often send bills in batches. Cuomo approved about 150 bills last week before the latest batch was sent Friday.
A total of 189 bills that passed both houses of the Legislature have yet to be sent to his office.