Government Affairs Albany UpdateJune 28, 2002
- Prompt Payment on Private Construction
- Rail Road Tax Package Passes
- No Action in Assembly on Divisible Load "R" Permits
- Energy Bills Acted Upon At End of Session
- Power for Jobs
- State Funds to Promote Union Organizing
Last year The Business Council fought similar legislation due to its impact on the right to contract for construction by private companies. Last year's bill was vetoed by the Governor (Veto message # 56 of 2001). This year similar legislation was introduced - S.7724-A (Velella) / A.11526-B (P Rivera) - that would again impact Business Council members who are engaged in the construction of private projects over the threshold of $250,000. The legislation will greatly alter the way privately contracted construction is performed by mandating time periods for review and payment of contracts, remedy provisions, and adding general impediments to the right to privately contract. The legislation passed the Senate on June 20 and the Assembly on June 25. The Business Council had issued a memo in opposition and will be prompting a gubernatorial veto.
"The New York State Rail Infrastructure Investment Act of 2002" - the railroad tax/investment legislation that was left out of the 2002-2003 New York State budget - was passed in both houses of the Legislature during the last week of session. The package was a top priority of The Business Council and is a major victory for New York's railroad and manufacturing/ industrial sectors that depend on rail for service and transportation. The package was sponsored by Assembly Majority Leader Paul Tokasz (A.11680) and Senate Finance Chair Ronald Stafford (S.7602). It was passed in the Senate on June 20 and the Assembly on June 25. The Business Council, who has supported the legislation for the past three sessions, had issued a memo in support and lobbied for its enactment.
Reducing property taxes on railroads has been a top Council priority for three years. A February 2002 research report by The Council's research affiliate, The Public Policy Institute, outlined a strong case for reforming these taxes. The report, On The Wrong Track, showed that heavy property taxes on railroads in New York, with costs up to 26 times those in neighboring states, have helped drain high-paying railroad jobs from New York and impose higher transportation costs on manufacturers and other shippers. This new measure will encourage the expansion of new rail lines across New York, eliminate the need for costly federal litigation by the State's railroad industry, and reduce the tax burden on rail.
In particular, the legislation will:
- Simplify and modernize the method of assessing rail properties for local taxation and exempt all newly constructed and renovated properties from property taxation for ten years from the date of completion;
- phase in a tax reduction of approximately 45 percent over seven years for transportation properties currently owned by railroad companies;
- ensure that the rail companies commit additional resources to make substantial enhancements in freight and passenger services, including greater safety, expanded access, and higher speed, and
- establish a transition aid program, which will provide a total of $70 million over 10 years to local governments to offset their revenue loss, beginning with $4.7 million in 2003-04.
The Governor has proposed railroad property tax reform in each of the last two years. In budget negotiations in 2001 and 2002, agreement on the measure seemed near, especially after initial opposition by municipalities fearing the loss of revenues were addressed by provisions for increases state aid to offset any revenue shortfalls. The Governor has indicated his enthusiasm for signing the legislation once it is sent to him.
There are two sets of "same as" bills dealing with increasing the number of "R" permits in both houses of the legislature. Both bills would increase the number of permits and could very well compliment each other. The Business Council supports the additional permit provisions in these bills. The Senate has passed both bills. Both are in committee in the Assembly.
S.7640 (Stafford) / A.11713-A (Gantt) would increase the number of permits by 1,500 this year for use outside the City of New York. It passed the Senate on June 19; in the Assembly Ways and Means Committee.
S.7755 (Trunzo) / A.11809 (Smith) would exempt government entities from the overall count of those issued which could add about 650 "new" permits. This provision would authorize a new 117,000 pound truck which has an extremely infrastructure friendly axle and wheel configuration. Also provides a mechanism for a hearing for those who have had their permits confiscated. Passed the Senate on June 20; in the Assembly Transportation Committee.
The following is a list of bills that pertain to energy issues that had some action during the last few weeks of the legislative session. Of note is that there are several bills relating to the re-authorization of the Article X siting law for electricity generation. None of them have been agreed to by both houses of the Legislature.
- A.11755 (Tonko) is the Assembly's version; no Senate companion. It would lower the threshold to 30 MWs, add more intervener funding and create a number of additional studies to the process. Passed the Assembly on June 25.
- S. 7597 (Wright). Senate Article X extender; no Assembly companion. A clear extender of Article X for 5 years. Extends from January 1, 2003 until July 1, 2011, the expiration of article 6 of the energy law providing for State energy planning; extends from January 1, 2003 until July 1, 2007, the expiration of article 10 of the Public Service Law providing for the siting of major electric generating facilities and related provisions of law. Senate Third Reading Cal. 1608; recommitted to Rules on June 20.
- S.7296 (Duane) / A.10363 (Tonko). A proposal which lowers the threshold to 15 MWs, expands the siting board, and increases intervener funds; sponsored by NYPIRG. In Senate and Assembly Energy Committees.
- S.6230-B (Wright) / A.9826-A (Tonko). Sponsored by IPPNY and supported by The Business Council, AFL-CIO, The Energy Association. Streamlines the siting process. Third Reading Cal. 752, Recommitted to Rules on June 20 in the Senate; Assembly Energy Committee.
- S.7596 (Wright). Governor's Article X bill, program bill #120. No Assembly companion. Creates a State advocate, allocate some intervener funding for legal fees, has repowering fast tracking. Senate Rules.
Hours of Service for Utility Drivers
S.6182-E (Morahan) / A.9747-E (Gromack). Creates exemption for utility truck drivers under emergency conditions. Passed the Senate on June 18 and the Assembly on June 19. The Business Council had issued a memo in support.
The Governor's nuclear whistler blower bill - Governor's Program bill #132R. S.7815 (Velella) similar to but not "same as" A.11839 (Nolan) . The Senate does not have the floor of $1 million to the State Disaster Preparedness Commission in its version. It would greatly impact nuclear facilities by adding additional conditions regarding whistleblower protections. The legislation provides for increasing the time period under which a claim for relief can to be made for retaliatory personal action from 1 to 2 years; increases damages awarded; civil penalties increased to $100,000; and State Disaster Preparedness Commission fee paid by each company is increased from a floor of $550,000 to $1,000,000 annually, half of which is allocated to localities. Introduced and referred to Senate Rules on June 24; Introduced and referred to Assembly Labor on June 21.
Below Cost Sales
S.4522-B (Nozzolio) / A.1626-C (Tonko). "Motor Fuel Marketing Practices Act" also know as below cost sales. Establishes a retail sales system under which the sale of petroleum fuels are regulated along with a correlating penalty system. Three-year sunset. Passed Senate on June 20; passed Assembly on June 25.
S.5618-A (LaValle) / A.6942-D. Places geographic limitations on the operation of franchised retail service stations of certain refiners or producers without prior consent of such franchised dealers. Also known as retail divorcement. Three-year sunset. Passed the Senate on June 20, amended on third reading to concur with Senate amendments and re-passed Assembly on June 25. The Business Council had issued a memo in opposition.
Power for Jobs
Governor's Program Bill #106. S.6425-A (Wright) / A.11806 (Tonko). Extends all year 2 and year 3 power allocations for three years, or until December 31, 2005, whichever comes first. The Business Council supports this legislation and issued a memo in support. Passed Senate on June 20; Passed Assembly on June 26.
S.6931 (Padavan) / A.9549-A (Gianaris). Relating to requiring the office of public security to create and implement security measures for power generating and transmitting facilities. Passed the Assembly on June 17; in Senate Energy.
S.579-A (DeFrancisco) / A.1270-B (Tonko). Provides that gas and electric corporations must respond to customer requests concerning safety and reliability as part of its gas and electric service also referred to as the "pilot light bill". Passed the Assembly on May 20; in Senate Rules. The Business Council issued a memo in opposition.
A.9757-B (Grannis). No Senate companion. Enacts the healthy and safe outdoor lighting act in order to regulate "light pollution" and establish amendments to the Environmental Conservation law to regulate dark spaces. Third reading Assembly Cal. 848. The Business Council issued a memo against this bill.
In 2001, S.3396-B / A.5352-B was 12/31/01 delivered to governor on 12/31/01 and on 02/08/02 was pocket vetoed - veto message #69. In response a bill was introduced, S.6262 (Balboni) which made technical corrections to a chapter of the laws of 2001. It had its enacting clause stricken at the request of its sponsor prior to action on 2-5-2.
S.6077 (Wright) / A.9841 (Tonko). Exempts certain agency information relating to electric, natural gas, steam or telecommunications systems or infrastructure from public access. Passed the Senate on June 17; in Assembly Government Operations Committee. The Business Council issued a memo in support.
Net Metering - Farm Waste
Governor Program Bill #110. S.6592-C (Wright) / A.10740-A (Tonko). Relates to farm waste electric generating systems; amends certain definitions to include customers of an electric corporation who own or operate farm waste electric generating equipment and defines such term; makes related provisions. Passed Senate on June 20; passed Assembly on June 26.
Net Metering - Wind
S.6825-B (Wright) / A.11280-A (Englebright). Provides for inclusion of wind and hybrid-wind-solar electric generating equipment within provisions relating to net metering for solar or wind generating systems. Senate Rules Committee; Passed Assembly on June 26.
Energy consumer protection act of 2002
S.6778-B (Wright) / A.8978-B (Tonko). Amends the Public Service Law by enacting the "energy consumer protection act of 2002" to extend the provisions of the home energy fair practices act; establishes certain references to gas corporations, electric corporations, steam corporations, utility companies, or utility corporations shall include any entity that sells or resells gas, electricity or steam to residential customers. Passed Senate on June 18; Passed Assembly on June 20.
The Governor and Senate tentatively agreed to agreed to legislation (S.7798) last week, it did not pass the Senate. That bill includes $20 million in new hazardous waste and petroleum fees, and extends the superfund to hazardous substance sites. While it drops many of the most objectionable provisions of the Budget bill (e.g, "treble damages," natural resource damage claims); it contains a number of provisions of concern to The Business Council, including a "residential cleanup presumption" and restrictions on the use of site specific cleanups in the superfund program. On the positive side, the bill creates a statutory voluntary cleanup program with use-based standards and financial incentives; and adopts federal liability reforms. The Assembly continues to look for more superfund dollars, and opposes the cleanup process included in S.7798. Negotiations broke down again this week, after the Assembly reportedly took financial incentives off the table. Odds are increasing that the session will end with no agreement on additional superfund dollars, superfund reforms or a statutory brownfield program.
Both houses have now passed the Governor's modified power for jobs extender bill (S.6425-A / Wright and A.11806 / Tonko). The bill provides 183 MW of power to extend all year 2 and year 3 power allocations for three years, or until December 31, 2005, whichever comes first. Of that amount, NYPA has projected that at least 7 MW will be available for new program participants. The Business Council supports this legislation.
Lawmakers this week moved closer to agreement on a bill to use the power of state contracting to make it easier for unions to organize. The Council is forcefully opposing the proposal.
The Assembly passed the bill, A.11784-A, late Wednesday, June 26th, after the Governor signaled his support by sending the Assembly a formal "message of necessity" authorizing an immediate vote. The Senate may return to Albany next week to consider the measure.
The bill is being pushed by hospital union leader Dennis Rivera. Proponents describe it as a "neutrality" bill designed to keep taxpayer funds from being used to counter union organizing efforts. But it arms unions with a set of powerful tools to discourage employers from making any effort to counter union organizing activities.
The Business Council has outlined a range of specific objections to the bill:
- It would impose a quagmire of new record-keeping requirements on any business or not-for-profit entity that does any business with the state. That includes both health-care providers and other not-for-profit entities that receive state grants, and any for-profit enterprise that sells any goods or services to the state.
- The bill would create a new authority for state government to demand access to those records - and, in the process, create a powerful tool for unions to harass employers targeted in their organizing efforts.
- Businesses and not-for-profits that receive any state funds would be subjected to a new, unfair burden of affirmatively proving that no state funds were spent to communicate in any way about unions or the merits of organizing efforts.
- The bill effectively limits employers' rights to free speech under the First Amendment.
- The bill undermines the National Labor Relations Act and much of the nation's well-established labor law, which has been crafted over decades by courts, regulators, and legislators at many levels with the overriding goal of ensuring balance between workers' right to organize and employers' right to offer their opinions on the merits of unions.
The bill was described by some as a "compromise" bill after a similar proposal was floated earlier this week. That bill, dubbed the "Organized Labor Intimidation Act" by The Council, was denounced by The Council, hospitals, and other health-care provider at a Capitol press conference on Tuesday, June 25th. It included provisions that would have required vendors and grantees to effectively renounce their rights to say anything about unions and organizing, and to accept a majority of workers' signatures on authorizing cards as approval of the unions, replacing the well-established principle of secret-ballot voting. Those provisions have since been dropped.