New York State Construction Industry Council (NYSCIC) - April 14, 2004 Meeting Minutes



Albert Annunziata, Builders Institute of Westchester Co. & Mid-Hudson Valley
Frank DeSantis, Sweet Constructors
J. R. Drexelius, Senator Volker's Office
Jeff Elmer, General Contractors Association of New York
Liz Elvin, Associated General Contractors of New York State
Jack Endryck, Building Industry Employers of New York State, Inc.
Johnny Evers, The Business Council of New York State, Inc.
Earl Hall, Syracuse Builders Exchange, BIE-NYC
Belinda Heckler, The Vandervort Group
Aaron Hilger, Builders Exchange of Rochester
Kerry Kirwan, The Business Council of New York State
Bob LaBombard, Lovell Safety Management Company
Christopher Lindsay, Eastern Contractors Association
Brendan Manning, General Building Contractors of New York State
Victor Marci, Jr., Sweet Constructors/VMJR Companies
Melissa McGrath, Farm Family Casualty Insurance Company
Mike Misenhimer, Empire State Subcontractors Association of New York State
Denise Murphy, Rochester Business Alliance/Builder Partners
John Nerney, Associated Builders & Contractors, Inc.
Matthew Pepe, CIC Westchester & Hudson Valley
Glenn Riddel, Coppola, Ryan, McHugh, Riddel
Barbara Rodriguez, AIA New York State, Inc.
Jeff Zogg, General Building Contractors of New York State

Meeting Minutes

  1. Welcome and Introductions, Jack Endryck, Chairman, NYSCIC

  2. Guest Speaker, Mr. J.R. Drexelius, Counsel to Sen. Dale Volker.

    Mr. Drexelius discussed the 240/241 issue and Sen. Volker's bill (S.1710) to allow for a negligence standard in regards to the Labor Law 240/241.

    In the past many thought we needed more info on the effects of the law. Now we see more info coming in. The info points to a real problem - higher rates, less coverage available. It was also viewed as an upstate issue in the past whereas now it appears to be a downstate issue as well.

    The trial bar sees this as a key issue as well. This session, workers comp, vicarious liability and 240/241 are in play. As the session progresses they could all be discussed and viewed as issues to be traded off against on another. Those favoring 240/241 should continue to be vigilant.

    In the Assembly, there are strong supporters, such as Assemblyman Morelle. In the Senate, continued pressure is needed on favorable Senators.

    The committee thanked Mr. Drexelius and asked that he relay our thanks to Sen. Volker and express NYSCIC's support for his bill.

  3. Kerry Kirwan of The Business Council discussed Workers Comp.

    The Business Council has a bill S. 5320 (Libous) / A. 8862 (Schimminger) it is supporting. Additionally, there is a bill that has been introduced that has the backing of the labor unions, A. 9736 (John) / S. 6135 (Velella). There is also a Governor's program bill, S.6841 (Rules) / A. 10975 (Rules at the request of John).
    a detailed comparison of each bill

  4. 240/241 Lobby Day Recap

    The committee discussed the 240/241 lobby day and its impact on the Legislature. Overall, 450 people participated, including many from NYSCIC. The meetings were well received by Legislators and many follow-up and grass root events in home districts were planned.
    The committee asked that a memo be sent to The Business Council's Workers Comp committee and the leadership of The Business Council expressing NYSCIC's desire to have the 240/241 issue discussed as a part of any workers comp reform package or tort reform efforts.
    The committee drafted the following note:

    To The Workers' Comp Committee:
    I'm writing to you as Chair of the New York State Construction Industry Council (NYSCIC), a standing committee of The Business Council.
    At our meeting of April 14, 2004, it was agreed unanimously by all NYSCIC members present to urge The Business Council to support, in any and all Workers Compensation reform discussion and/or negotiations, the inclusion of Labor Law 240/241 reform in these discussions and /or negotiations.
    NYSCIC deems this inclusion imperative and feels that such inclusion will not harm Workers Compensation reform negotiations but will, in fact, strengthen the business communities for reform in both areas.
    We look forward to your response and stand ready to meet with you to discuss this issue further.
    Signed: Jack Endryck, NYSCIC Chairman
    The note was also delivered to the leadership of The Business Council.
    The committee also decided to send a copy of Chairman Endryck's testimony on 240/241 to the entire Legislature stating NYSCIC's support for the Volker/Morelle bill and the need for reform of 240/241.

    The memo is as follows:
    May 13, 2004
    Dear Legislator:

    The New York State Construction Industry Council (NYSCIC), an affiliate of The Business Council of New York State, Inc., representing the construction and construction-related industries, recently met to discuss the issue of 240/241 of the Labor Law. At our April meeting, NYSCIC expressed its strong support for A.7213 by Morelle and S.1710 by Volker. This bill, designed to allow the introduction of a negligence standard, would greatly alleviate the unfairness and harshness of a law crippling New York's construction community.
    Attached is testimony submitted by NYSCIC's chairman in December 2003 outlining NYSCIC's position on the need for reform of 240/241.
    We hope that the information is useful and explains the reasons why New York's construction industry needs to reform the so-called "scaffolding law".

    /s/ Jack Endryck
    NYSCIC Chairman

    Testimony can be found here

    It should be noted that the issue was discussed at The Business Council's board of director's meeting on May 10th and a resolution pertaining to workers comp and 240/241 was adopted.

  5. Steel Issue
    The committee addressed the issue of steel prices and escalator clauses in steel contracts. Information was requested by the committee and it was suggested that a letter from NYSCIC to state agencies be drafted. Info should be forwarded to The Business Council staff.

Since the last meeting of NYSCIC there has been some movement of the 240/241 issue. The Assembly sponsor, Assemblyman Joseph Morelle, has requested a "99" on his bill (A. 7213) in order to have it taken up in the Assembly Labor committee.

Click here for the Wire story on the issue and look below for and a NY Sun Story on the motion.

Assembly Members Must Choose Sides on Tort Reform
Public Showdown Looms for Democrats on Labor Committee

By WILLIAM F. HAMMOND JR. Staff Reporter of the Sun
Publication:The New York Sun; Date:May 12, 2004; Section:New York; Page:2

ALBANY -- The Assembly sponsor of a proposal to restrict lawsuits at construction sites is insisting on a vote by the Labor Committee, obliging his fellow Democrats to choose sides in a fight over tort reform.

The sponsor, Rochester-area Assemblyman Joseph Morelle, has invoked an Assembly rule that compels the committee to consider his bill before the end of the legislative session.

Mr. Morelle said the committee chairwoman, Susan John of Rochester, recently asked him to withdraw his request, and he turned her down.

His move sets up an unusual public showdown on an issue that divides the Assembly's Democratic majority -- whether building contractors should be automatically responsible for the injuries of workers who fall from ladders and scaffolding.

Builders argue that New York's standard of "strict liability," which is unique among the 50 states, exposes them to so many lawsuits that their insurance costs have increased by as much as 10-fold in the past five years.

The New York State Builders Association estimates that the so-called "Scaffolding Law" adds between $6,000 and $10,000 to the price of a new home.

Trade unions and trial lawyers insist the law is crucial for promoting safety in the workplace. They say premiums are rising all over the country, primarily because insurance companies lost money in the stock market, and argue that builders could control their insurance costs through better risk-management and other strategies.

The issue is particularly urgent upstate, where many smaller contractors report that they cannot find insurance companies willing to cover them at all. The Builders Association recently announced it is setting up a self-insurance plan for its members as a temporary solution.

Mr. Morelle's bill, sponsored in the Senate by Buffalo-area Republican Dale Volker, would allow juries in some cases to consider whether an injury was caused by the workers' own neglect.

This "comparative negligence" standard would apply, for example, if an injured worker was committing a crime, was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or had ignored an employer's safety instructions.

The bill faces an uphill fight in the Assembly because the Democratic majority generally opposes legislation to limit lawsuits.

In an interview yesterday, Mr. Morelle said he was forcing a vote by his colleagues "because that's what you get elected to do."

"If it's something you feel passionate about, you want to make sure there's an opportunity for people who agree with you to be heard," he said. "I think it's important enough. .. In the Rochester area in particular, literally hundreds of jobs are at risk."

Ms. John, who opposes Mr. Morelle's bill, has not decided when to schedule a vote, according to spokesman Allan Richards. "She thinks you need to look at a way to keep the premiums in line through an insurance adjustment,"" Mr. Richards said.

The situation is unusual because legislative leaders - who have enormous clout in Albany- usually engineer things so that bills they oppose, or bills that divide their party membership, never come to a vote. The pending vote in the Labor Committee has triggered intense lobbying of its 27 members, who include seven Republicans and four Democrats who are cosponsors of Mr. Morelle's bill.

Even assuming the Labor Committee approves the bill, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a part-time trial lawyer, will have an opportunity to bottle it up in the Rules Committee, which he heads.