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Government Affairs Albany Update

May 21, 1999

Governor Proposes Next Step in Workers' Comp Reform

On Friday, May 14th, the Governor proposed the Employment, Safety and Security Act of 1999. This bill incorporates two longstanding priorities of The Business Council's workers' compensation committee: capping permanent partial disabilities and adopting objective medical guidelines. The Governor believes this proposal will reduce workers' comp costs in New York by 24 percent.

The legislation requires that objective medical guidelines, as determined by the American Medical Association, be adopted and utilized for evaluating the level of impairment for injured workers. The bill also caps maximum wage replacement benefits for permanent partial disabilities at 700 weeks and provides additional supplemental benefits for workers who are more seriously injured (more than 15% impaired).

Click here for the Governor's press release.

Sixth in "Thought You'd Like to Know" Series

The Business Council has issued another health-care briefing paper to public policy leaders and members of the media. The latest paper highlights that New York's Medicaid program spends a third of the nation's Medicaid Graduate Medical Education (GME) dollars. The report comes out of a survey done by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The report states: "Far and away, New York's Medicaid program spent the most of any state on GME in 1998 -- $812 million or about one-third of total Medicaid GME payments". According to the survey, the next highest state reporting total Medicaid GME payments was Michigan, where the amount was $191 million.

Environmental Enforcement Proposals

The Attorney General has introduced a three-bill package that would increase or create new penalties for violations of the Environmental Conservation Law. These include:

The first of these proposals was introduced April 28, the second two were introduced this week. To date, none of these proposals as been introduced in the State Senate.

The Business Council is reviewing these proposals and would welcome your input. Our initial reaction is that the ECL already imposes significant penalties in these areas, and that increased penalties are not necessary to assure an adequate deterrent factor. Contact Ken Pokalsky for more information.

PSC Opens Metering Services to Competition

The Public Service Commission (PSC) issued an order this week that opens electric metering services to competition for approximately 40,000 large industrial electricity consumers in the state. Such services include installation and maintenance of electric meters, meter reading and meter data retrieval and storage - functions now offered only by traditional utilities. Energy service companies (ESCOs) - an alternative to traditional energy utilities - will be permitted to compete for customers. Those industrial consumers with electric loads of 50 kilowatts or more are eligible. Local utilities will be required to continue providing metering services to customers that wish to stick with their current utility. PSC Chair Maureen Helmer said the move is consistent with a long-range vision to open as much of the energy industry as possible to competition. Representatives of residential, commercial and industrial consumers, as well as ESCOs, labor unions, meter manufacturers and utilities participated in discussions leading up to the order.

STB Rules On CP/CSX Competitive Issue Arising from Conrail Merger

The Surface Transportation Board (STB), this week, ruled on terms for competition between Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) and CSX Transportation, Inc. (CSX) on a pivotal rail line between Albany and New York City. CSX will own the line beginning June 1 in a deal struck last year to take over and split Conrail, Inc. with the Norfolk Southern Corporation. In its decision, the STB amended its previous ruling and reduced the trackage rights fee CP will pay CSX for each carload from 71 cents a mile to 52 cents a mile. The per car switching charge in New York City was set at $128 per car, instead of $250 per car set in the earlier STB ruling. While it approved the reduced fees, the STB refused to approve a request by CP to serve intermediate points between Albany and New York City. Still, CP spokesman Terry Liston said "This decision means that we can be competitive. We are pleased and I'm sure New York will be pleased as well."

Real Property Tax Bill Alert

Additional red tape will be required of New Yorkers if S.5536-A (Rath, at the request of the State Board of Real Property Services) becomes law. The bill was reported this Tuesday by the Senate Committee on Local Government to the Committee on Rules - where it is hoped that Committee will decline to place this burden on New Yorkers.

Current law [Real Property Tax Law, Section 1544, Subdivision 2] authorizes the State Board of Real Property Services to require public utilities to submit reports on public utility property. As noted by the bill's title and memo, under the development of a competitive market in the generation of electricity, persons other than public utilities might own or operate electric generating facilities. Yet, rather than simply expanding the current public utility requirement to "other owners or operators of an electric generating facility" as the bill's title implies, S.5536-A would hoist the current burden of production of public utility reports on all New Yorkers with "moderately or highly complex taxable real property".

This invasive expansion of loading up additional red tape requirements on New Yorkers flies in the face of recent efforts to reduce red tape requirements on New Yorkers. Moreover, the bill does not define "moderately or highly complex".

This lack of specificity as to whom carries over to what can be demanded of New Yorkers. This power is totally delegated to the State Board of Real Property Services by requiring that the expansion of the current burden of production of public utility reports "shall be in such form and contain such information and data as the state board may prescribe and deem necessary".