It’s counterintuitive but even on as local an issue as speed limits on a street, state government matters.

State Senator Simcha Felder (Brooklyn) introduced a bill to raise speed limits on Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn, one of the main street in his district. Felder, a registered Democrat who joined the Republican Party in the Senate, got the bill included in the Senate’s budget proposal so there’s a decent chance it’ll pass.

What’s going on?

The state legislature must approve the budget by tomorrow and legislators are all trying to get their pet issues included. Republicans control the State Senate thanks to Simcha Felder and the Independent Democratic Conference, a group of eight Democrats who support Republican control of the Senate. That means Simcha Felder has some significant leverage. However, Governor Andrew Cuomo and the Democratic-controlled State Assembly will need to agree.

Wait, state government controls speed limits?

While speed limits seem like an obviously local issue, cities, counties, and other local governments only have the power to do what their state government allows. If the state legislature passes a bill about speed limits, that overrides any city rules.

So what’s going to happen?

A week ago, City Councilman Brad Lander, who represents the neighborhood, posted on Facebook about the bill. Streetsblog, a transportation advocacy site, raised the alarm, headlining their article:

Simcha Felder Wants More People to Die on Ocean Parkway

Gothamist also wrote about the bill. It’s unclear if the outcry will kill the bill or if it will be enacted. If the state legislature does raise speed limits on Ocean Parkway, safe streets activists fear that it will lead to more common tinkering with speed limits and road regulations. That would create a patchwork of confusing street rules from one street to another.

So even if it’s just how fast you can drive on your way home, state government really does matter.

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Michael Spitzer-Rubenstein

Posted by Michael Spitzer-Rubenstein

Michael Spitzer-Rubenstein is the founder of ShakingNews.

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