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Legislative Memo

BILL:

S.6501 (Velella) / A.9808 (Nolan)

Support

SUBJECT:

Exposure to Anthrax

 

DATE:

May 9, 2002

 

The Business Council of New York State, Inc., a broad-based, statewide membership organization of over 4,000 companies, chambers of commerce and trade associations has reviewed the aforementioned legislation and opposes its enactment.

As stated in the title of the bill, the intent of this legislation is to protect the workers who are exposed to anthrax in the course of employment. Yet, this particular legislation broadens the parameters of coverage. The bill states, " . . . where an employee is exposed to a substance which the employer, the state or local police, paramedics or any other official health or safety agency determines may be anthrax, such employee shall be immediately entitled to all treatment and care as is ordinarily provided for accidents and injuries which occur in the course of their employment . . . ". This language is technically flawed because it fails to specify that the exposure occur during the course of employment. Under current law, if it is determined that an employee has been exposed to anthrax in the workplace that employee is already covered under workers' compensation law.

Furthermore, in order to determine whether or not exposure to anthrax has occurred, the employees would first need to be tested. According to the New York State Department of Health's fact sheet, anthrax is diagnosed when the Bacillus anthracis bacterium is found in the blood, skin lesions, or respiratory secretions by a laboratory culture. It can also be diagnosed by measuring specific antibodies in the blood of infected persons and by other tests at specialized laboratories. The key is that only through testing can a determination be made as to whether or not someone has been exposed to anthrax. This legislation fails to require that a determination be made to confirm exposure to anthrax. A determination and therefore a confirmation is only realized after testing. This legislation circumvents the need to test as proof of exposure and replaces testing with a mere suspicion of exposure to the disease.

The technical flaw must be corrected to include the phrase "while in the course of employment," following the word "employee" on line three of the legislation.

The Business Council cannot support this legislation as it is currently drafted. We strongly urge that this bill be held until the technical flaws are corrected.