Government Affairs Albany UpdateJune 18, 1999
- Spending Watch enters 10th week
- Whistleblower Bill Amended
- Dr. Antonio Novello Confirmed as Health Commissioner
- Governor's Superfund Bill
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.
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.
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 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:
- Significant increases in hazardous waste generator fees, including a ten-fold increase in fees on generators of 1,000 tons per year of hazardous wastes per year. Under the Governor's bill, the state's 52 largest generators would see their annual program fee increase from $40,000 to $400,000. Additional fees would also be applied to all generators of between 15 and 1,000 tons per year.
- A statutory cause of action allowing the state to sue "responsible parties" in the state courts to recover state expenditures at superfund sites, and damages for impacts on natural resources.
- As part of a use-based approach to cleanups, the Governor is proposing a "presumption" that superfund sites adjacent to residential property be cleaned up to residential standards if they are not being used for commercial or industrial purposes.
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.