Skoufis-Larkin bill aims to expand ranks of organ donors (updated)

New Yorkers could opt to become organ, tissue and eye donors by checking a box when they apply for sporting licenses or renew them under a bill that Assemblyman James Skoufis and state Sen. Bill Larkin are sponsoring.

Skoufis, a Woodbury Democrat, introduced legislation on Oct. 20 that would add a question to applications for hunting, fishing and trapping licenses and license renewal forms that ask applicants if they want to place their names on New York’s Donate Life Registry. Larkin, a Cornwall-on-Hudson Republican, filed the same bill in the Senate on Friday in cooperation with Kemp Hannon, a Long Island Republican and chairman of the Senate Health Committee.

(Update: In a press release about the legislation after this blog post, Skoufis said: “Tens of thousands of New Yorkers are in need of life-saving transplants and we can all do our part to help give the gift of life by becoming organ donors. That’s why I’m working to ensure New Yorkers have even greater opportunities to become organ donors so we can save many lives as possible.”)

According to a memo that accompanied Skoufis’ bill, about 22 percent of New Yorkers 18 years and older have registered to become donors, making New York second to last in the U.S. for its percentage of enrollees (nationally, the state average is 47 percent). At the same time, 10,000 New Yorkers are waiting for life-saving organ transplants.

“This legislation will simply increase the opportunities for New Yorkers to enroll in this lifesaving cause,” Larkin said on Friday in a press release announcing the legislation.

It turns out, though, that the state Department of Environmental Conservation might simply add the organ-donor question to its license applications without lawmakers having to pass a bill and wait for it to be signed next year. Skoufis, in addition to drafting the legislation, asked the DEC to make that change on its own. DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos responded on Nov. 16 with a letter saying he had asked his staff to look into doing so and to consult with Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources on a similar program in that state.

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    Chris McKenna

    Chris McKenna covers Orange County government and politics for the Times Herald-Record. He has been a reporter at the newspaper since 1999. Read Full
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