Syracuse (WSYR-TV) -- From energy to taxes, and even beer, there are some new rules now in effect in New York State.
As the ball dropped in Times Square, small beer makers were toasting one of the state's newest rules, which offers more flexibility for independent brewers that want to end contracts with distributors.
Small beer wholesalers sought protection with the Beer Franchise Law in 1996, to prevent large breweries from terminating agreements without sufficient cause. At the time there were 112 wholesalers in operation, according to the New York State Senate website. Today, they report fewer than 60 beer wholesalers in the state.
Senator Joseph A. Griffo sponsored the legislation for 2013, which allows small independent brewers to avoid lengthy legal battles when they want to end contracts with large wholesalers that fail to promote their brands. Breweries that produce less than 300,000 barrels each year are covered by the legislation, when their sales represent three percent or less of a wholesaler's yearly business.
There are also some new domestic violence protections in place as of January 1, 2013.
“Abusers who target the victims who we work with will use any means to try to find out where they are and what is happening in their lives. They’ll try to use medical or mental health information against them in a custody proceeding,” said Vera House Executive Director Randi Bregman.
Now, domestic violence victims can use alternative contact information for correspondence with health insurance providers. Designating a safe address for mail helps ensure that a victim's personal information will not be sent to the same address as the suspected abuser. The address of a friend, shelter or post office box are possible alternatives.
New York's colleges can now provide self-insured student healthcare.
In a news release, Senator James Seward, who chairs the Senate Insurance Committee, claimed the bill will help colleges keep expenses down and compete with universities outside of New York.
Companies working to save energy will get a break in 2013. The sale and installation of commercial solar energy systems equipment will be exempt from state sales tax and compensating use taxes.
By 2015, the state aims to achieve 45 percent of New York's electricity needs through clean renewable or improved energy efficiency. Supporters of the legislation are also touting job creation since exemptions are limited to retailers who hire New York State residents to complete the work. Energy experts believe the new tax break could spur a new round of growth in the solar energy industry.
"It is becoming more competitive and as more people adopt the systems, the businesses that install it, learn how to do it faster and cheaper,” explained SUNY ESF’s Director of Energy and Sustainability Michael Kelleher.
Municipalities have the option of offering an exemption on local sales and use taxes.
A ban on electronic cigarettes for minors under the age of 18 is also new this year.
Eighteen year old Patrick Moynihan says the devices have become a problem at his high school.
"Something as addictive as nicotine is definitely inappropriate for anyone under 18. Like 13 or 14 year olds having that, I think is terrible and they could become dependent on that at a young age,” Moynihan said.
The senate bill describes electronic cigarettes as "battery-operated devices that vaporize cartridges filled with nicotine, flavor and other chemicals that the user inhales."
Sponsors of the bill expressed concern with widespread use of the product, despite limited information about potential health risks.
According to the bill: "Recent testing by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found that electronic cigarettes can be dangerous because users inhale carcinogens and toxic chemicals, such as diethylene glycol, an ingredient found in antifreeze."
The ban on sales of electronic cigarettes to minors also took effect January 1, 2013.