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State ready to proscribe teen use of tanning beds; Assembly, Senate near deal on ban for youths

In a move to reduce the rising number of melanoma cases in New York, state lawmakers have agreed to crack down on the use of indoor tanning beds by teenagers.

The Assembly and Senate have agreed, sources said Tuesday, to ban teens ages 16 and younger from patronizing tanning salons.

Current law prohibits those 14 and younger from getting the indoor tans.

A coalition of health groups, led by the American Cancer Society, had pressed for an outright ban on anyone 18 and younger using the tanning facilities -- which critics say are partly to blame for a 70 percent hike in melanoma cases in New York over the past decade.

"We considered this to be a reasonable compromise," a legislative official told The Buffalo News of the negotiated deal.

The Long Island sponsors of the tanning restrictions have amended their legislation to reflect a new, two-house agreement to reduce teenage use of tanning salons.

The indoor tanning industry launched a lobbying blitz in recent weeks against the 18-and-younger prohibition. The legislative deal banning indoor tanning for those 16 and younger -- considered tentative only because the two houses have yet to give final passage -- also will require those 17 and 18 years old to obtain parental permission to use a private tanning facility. The proposal has been kicking around Albany for three years.

These looming tanning restrictions come just weeks after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said exposure to UV radiation, either from sunlight or indoor tanning devices, "is the most important, avoidable known risk factor for skin cancer."

The indoor tanning agreement was in the mix of bills lawmakers are trying to resolve before the 2012 session ends next week. Most of the major issues have been resolved, leaving what Albany insiders are calling mostly "singles and doubles" to be negotiated over the next week.

Among the statewide issues is a push to resolve whether upcoming public school evaluations of teachers will be made public or be given just to parents to examine. One piece of legislation would require parents to use the state's Freedom of Information law to look at a teacher's evaluation, a measure Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said is not going to happen.

Instead, negotiators are trying to craft a bill to give parents access to information about their child's teacher without violating certain on-the-job privacy issues for teachers. The New York State United Teachers union is battling attempts to make the evaluation reports available in some wider public arena.

The New York State School Boards Association also has reservations about making available information that could be misinterpreted -- based on the kind of student population or classes a teacher instructs -- by the public.

"We don't think the information is ready for prime time," said Timothy Kremer, executive director of the school boards group. "We do believe there has to be a level of accuracy and integrity in the numbers and data, and the testing that it is based on needs some work, in that the information needs to be more reliable. And we don't believe that there should be public reporting on the ratings until we have some confidence in the system."

In other matters, Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, insists that his push to raise the state's minimum wage to $8.50 per hour is not dead, despite such proclamations by Senate Republicans.

"As senators face re-election, they will find it is something that will come back to haunt them," Silver said of the prospect lawmakers will leave town next week without a minimum wage increase.

Talks are getting close, lawmakers say, on new efforts to crack down on cyber-bullying and on the creation of a state agency to monitor care for developmentally disabled people. Other issues still in the mix stretch from efforts to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana and a new solar energy promotion program to requiring schools to teach CPR to students.