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A Festival of Speeches and Selfies—Oh, and a Lot of Legislation

Thursday, December 19, 2013

There were 26 bills—a record, according to Council Speaker Christine Quinn–but most were foregone conclusions.

By a margin of 43 to 8, the Council added e-cigarettes to the 2002 Smoke-Free Air Act, the law that outlaws smoking in bars, restaurants and a wide swath of outdoor public spaces, too. The Council unanimously passed a bill that will eventually ban styrofoam, unless manufacturers come up with a practical recycling alternative in the next year.

The actual legislative session came after a festival of speeches and selfies, as Quinn and others prepared to bid farewell to many veteran lawmakers. Following a 15-minute group photo session, she praised her outgoing colleagues one by one.

Among the loudest applause came when Quinn toasted controversial Councilman Charles Barron, whom she noted frequently voted alone. Quinn joked about Barron's oft-expressed disdain for American political icons.

"I don't care how much you beg, you cannot take Thomas Jefferson's statue home," she said to a laughing crowd.

Staten Island Councilman James Oddo, one of the only Republicans, said after two decades as a staffer and then representative, Quinn and others had become like family.

"I come from a place where everyone looks like me, and I'm leaving here with friends who aren't white, aren't Catholic and aren't straight," Oddo said.

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