One of the quirks of law making in New York State is that most bills are passed by the legislature within a short window near the end of the session. Laws passed in the frantic last week fall are greeted with a muted shout of joy by supporters as they know it could take months for the bill to be signed into law. According to the How A Bill Becomes Law page on the NY Senate website, “If a bill is sent to the Governor when the Legislature is out of session, the rules are a bit different. At such times, the Governor has 30 days in which to make a decision, and failure to act (“pocket veto”) has the same effect as a veto.” In reality, the governor’s office requests the bills on her schedule, so it is possible that the bill may not be signed or vetoed until after the November election.
That is why Assemblymember Monica Wallace held a press conference on Friday to ask Governor Hochul to sign the Digital Fair Repair Act (A7006B/S4104A). We have all faced the dilemma of what to do with an electronic device that works intermittently, had a non-functioning key on the keyboard or had a working but cracked display screen. In this day of planned obsolescence, some consumers don’t give it a second thought – you just replace the item with the next best thing. But for those who would rather keep and repair their well-loved electronic devices, the repair (if you can find an exclusive authorized repair center) is currently often more costly than buying new, forcing the consumer to buy a replacement. The Digital Fair Repair Act would give third party repairers access to the diagnostic and repair information for these devices. The competition would drive down the cost of repair and even allow home tool wizards the chance to fix the item themselves.
It is estimated that Americans throw out 416,000 cell phones every day.
Despite laws that prohibit the disposal or incineration of electronic waste in New York, cell phones and other electronic waste end up in our landfills at an alarming rate. Electronic waste accounts for 70% of the toxic components in our garbage, such as heavy metals and plastics. And it is estimated that Americans throw out 416,000 cell phones every day. In addition to plastic, one cell phone contains valuable commodities like gold, lithium, aluminum, cobalt, copper, lead, nickel, silver, and zinc. Cutting down on the hundreds of thousands of new replacement cell phones every day eliminates greenhouse gas emissions in the mining and processing of the raw materials, as well as during the production processes.
With the increasing scarcity of many metals found in electronics, any measure that keeps usable items in service (and out of the trash) is a benefit to the economy and the environment. The Digital Fair Repair Act was passed nearly unanimously in both chambers. As Assemblymember Wallace said in her closing remarks, “this is the rare bill that benefits the consumer, small businesses, and the environment.” With the strong bi-partisan support for this legislation, Governor Hochul should ask for the bill and sign it into law.