ITHACA, N.Y.—The effort to save Ithaca Carshare has passed its first obstacle, as a bill that would allow the organization (and plenty others) to obtain automotive insurance has been approved in the New York State Senate. It must now pass the New York State Assembly before Thursday’s end of the legislative session, after which it will be sent to Governor Kathy Hochul for her signature.
The bill was led by State Senator Lea Webb, who represents the 52nd District that includes Tompkins County, and its counterpart is being led by Assemblymember Anna Kelles, who also represents Tompkins County. The bill would allow risk retention groups (often used with non-profit organizations) to issue insurance policies in New York State even if they are domiciled outside of the state, an issue that has been hanging over Ithaca Carshare for years but finally came to a head when the carshare’s insurer announced it was pulling out of the market.
Webb’s bill passed by a vote tally of 61-0 in the State Senate, and now eyes turn to the State Assembly to see if Kelles’ bill is able to pass before the deadline later this week.
It’s a welcome lifeline for the carshare, which had to pause operations on May 19 after its insurance plan ended. Since then, Carshare officials have had to wait and watch the movement in Albany with its fate in the balance—and plenty of other nonprofits around New York, the only state that currently doesn’t allow risk retention groups to issue automotive insurance from out-of-state.
“Nonprofit carshares are innovative, community-focused, membership-based operations with missions that align with the state’s Climate Act, as well as with Gov. Kathy Hochul’s priorities to reduce emissions and promote equity in transportation,” said Liz Field, the executive director of the Carshare. “They offer numerous social and environmental benefits, providing independent vehicle access to members for things like medical appointments and grocery trips, and they reduce traffic and lower carbon emissions. I am grateful to Senator Webb for passing this legislation through the Senate and look forward to its expedient passage through the Assembly.”
Webb said she’s heard from constituents about the importance of the bill, largely due to their support for Ithaca Carshare.
“Nonprofits like Ithaca Carshare make transportation accessible and environmentally friendly for folks who either can’t afford a car or choose not to own one for environmental reasons,” Webb said in an announcement of the bill’s Senate passing. “In my district, Ithaca Carshare has served the City of Ithaca and its surrounding communities for over 15 years, providing an equitable and sustainable means of transportation to over 1500 Ithacans who utilize the service. I am proud that we were able to take this first step toward protecting this critical local resource today by passing my bill through the Senate.”