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Government Affairs Albany Update

June 7, 2002

Assemblyman Gianaris to speak at June 11 GAC Meeting

Assemblyman Michael Gianaris will be the guest speaker at the June 11 meeting of the Government Affairs Council. In his short time in office, the Assemblyman has already become an important player on state energy issues. The Assemblyman will speak to his interests in energy and economic development issues. In addition, Business Council staff will provide the latest developments on a range of end of session issues, including Article X siting, power for jobs, health insurance for sole proprietors, the definition of medical necessity, workers' compensation, minimum wage, accounting and auditing changes, recycling of electronics products, predatory lending and rail tax policy.

The meeting is in The Business Council's headquarters and begins at 10:00 a.m. Assemblyman Gianaris is scheduled to speak at 10:00 a.m. so we would ask that you make every effort to be prompt. No advance registration is required.

Assemblyman Tonko to Address Council's Energy Committee

Assemblyman Paul Tonko (D-Amsterdam), the chairman of the Assembly's Energy Committee, will address The Business Council's Energy Committee on June 11th at 1:30pm. The committee will also meet to discuss a number of issues of importance as the session nears its completion. The committee will discuss; "Power for Jobs", the three Article X proposals currently introduced in the Legislature, and a number of bills that we have been following throughout the session. Also, Mr. Paul DeCotis of NYSERDA will discuss the State Energy Planning Board meeting results at the June 11th Energy Committee meeting of The Business Council.

Business Council Testifies in Favor of Article X Extension

On June 5th The Business Council submitted testimony in favor of extending and improving the Article X siting law. The comments were submitted to an Assembly Energy panel as part of their efforts to gather comments and information on the law and the various proposals to renew it. The Article X siting law expires at the end of 2002. The Business Council's main goals in the re-authorization of Article X include: a multi-year extension, a streamlining of the review process, and the avoidance of new statutory obstacles to the process.

The Business Council, in our comments, strongly advocated for the adoption of S.6230-B (Wright) / A.9826-A (Tonko). This legislation has been endorsed by the New York State AFL-CIO, the state's electricity generating community (the Independent Power Producers) and the investor owned utilities (the Energy Association). The goal of this legislation is to extend the state's electric generating siting law from December 31, 2002 until December 31, 2007. The legislation also seeks to expedite the time frame for the siting of major electric generating facilities while maintaining provisions for public input and insuring proper environmental reviews.

Rather than proposing a wholesale change in the siting law, this bill focuses on improvements to certain areas of the current law and seeks to add provisions that would improve the process. In addressing these areas and adding certain new provisions, such as the inclusion of incentives for the redevelopment of brownfields, the bill strives to create a process conducive to siting much needed electrical generating infrastructure in NYS.

The testimony cited a recent study by The Public Policy Institute, The Council's research affiliate, showing that New York must add at least 9,200 megawatts in the next five years to engender growth, sustain reliability, and foster competition to drive energy prices down. New York's Independent System Operator (ISO), which has also urged renewal of New York's siting laws and accelerating the plant siting process, conducted a similar study which reached a virtually identical conclusion.

In New York State, the need for electricity generation to support economic growth and reliability has never been greater. In order to foster growth and encourage economic well being, New York needs to send the proper signals to the marketplace. A reauthorization of the siting law that insures a clear process and definite time frames, while maintaining public participation and environmental safeguards, is needed in order to encourage development in this crucial area of New York's economy.

On June 4, the Governor proposed a separate bill to extend and refine Article X. Among other things, the Governor's bill would: streamline the review process only for proposals to re-power major existing generating facilities; create a "public advisor" within the state Consumer Protection Board to help parties to the review process; allocate $50,000 of available intervener funding to interested parties during the early phases of the review process; and let 10 percent of available intervener funding be used to defray legal expenses for eligible parties to the review. The Council's Energy Committee will discuss this proposal, as well as the other existing proposals, on June 11th.

The Council's testimony

Minimum Wage Gains Momentum

Late last week, Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan amended her minimum wage bill, A.5132, making it identical with the Spano Senate bill S.4749. Both now raise the state's minimum wage to $6.75/hr. on 1/1/03 and automatically raise it each year thereafter by the annual change in the state's average weekly wage. From 1995 to 2000, the state's average weekly wage increased by over 29%. Earlier this week, a group consisting of The Business Council, NFIB, the Farm Bureau, NYS Association of Convenience Stores, the Retail Council of NYS,the Food Industry Alliance of NYS and the NYS Hospitality & Tourism Association met with Senators and staff to discuss the impact on businesses throughout the state. The Business Council also launched an e-advocacy effort to be used by Business Council members through our web site.

Thursday, Senator Velella, Senate Labor Committee Chair, proposed another bill which would raise the state's minimum wage by $.85 on 1/1/03 and $.75 on 1/1/04 plus charge the Labor Department with studying the adequacy of the minimum wage in supporting a family of three in different regions of the state and reporting the study results every 2 years to the Legislature.

The Business Council continues to urge the Legislature to let the federal government take the lead on minimum wage and not step out ahead as several surrounding states have done.

State Energy Board Considers Final State Energy Plan

The New York State Energy Planning Board will meet on June 11, 2002 at 10am to consider adoption of the final 2002 State Energy Plan (SEP). The board is comprised of the President of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the Chairman of the Public Service Commission (PSC), and the commissioners of Transportation (DOT), Economic Development (ESD), and Environmental Conservation (DEC). NYSERDA's president serves as the chairman of the State Energy Planning Board. The meeting will be held in the NYSERDA board room at 17 Columbia Circle, Albany.

The Board released its draft SEP in December 2001 and subsequently held nine hearings around the state earlier this year. The Business Council submitted formal comments at the beginning of the process in June 2001 and again during the public comment period in early 2002. The adoption of the plan is in conformity with sections 6-104, 106 of the State's Energy Law which mandates the formulation of a state energy plan every four years. Mr. Paul DeCotis of NYSERDA will discuss the State Energy Planning Board meeting results at the June 11th Energy Committee meeting of The Business Council. For more information on NYSERDA and the SEP access: http://www.nyserda.org/