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Government Affairs Albany Update

June 18, 1999

Spending Watch enters 10th week

The Business Council continued its efforts to promote spending restraint in the new state budget with another "Spending Watch" briefing paper, this one addressing state spending on hospitals. The Council has urged the Legislature to limit new spending to protect scheduled tax increases and to make possible further reductions in our state taxes. The hospital funding issue also affects local property taxes because counties and New York City bear part of the cost of the Medicaid program.

Whistleblower Bill Amended

A bill to increase whistleblower protections for employees in the healthcare industry, passed by the Assembly and ordered to a third calendar reading in the Senate in March, was significantly broadened to affect all employers and committed to Senate Rules in June. S. 1453a (Spano) would change the current whistleblower protections in the labor law (a) by expanding protection from employees who report actual employer violations to protecting employees who report what they "reasonably believe" is an employer violation, (b) by allowing employees to refuse to participate in activities, policies and practices that they "reasonably believe" to involve an employer violation, and (c) appears to subject managers and supervisors to individual legal action apart from the employer.

Dr. Antonio Novello Confirmed as Health Commissioner

Former United States Surgeon General Dr. Antonia C. Novello has been confirmed as New York's new Health Commissioner. Dr. Novello has a distinguished career in public service, having served at the National Institutes of Health, UNICEF and as the U.S. Surgeon General. Dr. Novello is a board-carnified pediatrician and a native of Puerto Rico.

Governor's Superfund Bill

Governor Pataki released comprehensive legislation this week that would refinance and reform the state's superfund and oil spill programs and establish a statutory program for the voluntary cleanup and redevelopment of brownfield sites.

Much of the bill is based on the draft report issued by the Governor's Superfund Working Group earlier this month. A summary of that report is available on the Environment Committee page.

The Business Council generally supports the Governor's proposals on cleanup standards and liability reform. We also support the proposed tax credits for "voluntary" brownfield projects that could be applied to cleanup costs, post cleanup site preparation costs (e.g., building demolition) and post cleanup investments in tangible property.

However, the Governor's bill included several significant proposals that either were not addressed, or that were left as unresolved issues, in the Superfund Working Group report, and that are of concern to The Business Council. These include:

We will be providing you with additional details on this proposal once we have had an opportunity to review it in detail. For more information, contact Ken Pokalsky.