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Government Affairs Albany Update

January 17, 2003

Construction Council and 240/241

The New York State Construction Industry Council (NYSCIC) met on January 14th in Albany to discuss construction issues for the coming year. Key in the discussion was the issue of tort reform and 240/241 of the Labor Law. The council was addressed by Mr. Peter Molinaro, Senior Deputy Superintendent, New York State Insurance Department. Mr. Molinaro discussed the issue of general liability insurance, surveys on insurance conducted by the Commissioner in accordance of Section 308 of the State Insurance Law, workers compensation issues and captive insurance. The committee was also briefed by Kerry Kirwan of The Business Council who reviewed The Council's work to date on workers' comp legislation. NYSCIC also discussed strategies for lobbying the Legislature on the issue of 240/241 of the Labor Law and liability insurance. Last year NYSCIC supported A.571 (Robach) / S.203 (Volker) that would have reformed 240/241 of the Labor Law. This year the same bill has been introduced as A.136 by Assemblyman Joseph Morelle (D - Rochester). The committee expressed its support for this legislation and plans to lobby the Legislature on February 11th in Albany. A "compromise bill", A.8733 (Robach) / S.4955 (Volker), was also introduced in 2002 that would require certain contractors, owners and agents to provide devices/equipment where necessary to give reasonable and adequate protection/safety in order to alter 240/241 of the Labor Law. That bill has likewise been reintroduced in the Assembly as A.135 (Morelle). Assemblyman Morelle is being invited to speak on these bills at the next NYSCIC meeting on March 11, 2003. Visits to key legislators and staff are being arranged.

New Human Rights Commissioner Named

On January 2nd, Governor Pataki announced a number of new third-term appointees including Michelle Donaldson as the new Commissioner of the New York State Human Rights Division. Prior to the appointment, she served as Director of Operations for the state Health Department.

Unemployment Compensation Tax Rates Rise 0.4% By Formula

The schedule of Unemployment Compensation Tax rates that will be in effect for 2003 will be four-tenths of a percentage point higher than the schedule in effect for 2002.

The schedule of UC tax rates in effect for any particular year is determined by the amount of money in New York's Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund on December 31 of the proceeding year. As the UC Trust Fund balance declines, the schedule of rates for the upcoming year rises automatically by formula; conversely, when the fund balance grows, the schedule of rates declines automatically by formula. As a result of the sluggish economy, the UC Trust Fund declined to a level this past December 31st that triggered an increase of 0.4 of one percent in 2003's set of rates over 2002's set of rates. [Individual employers' rates may also rise or fall within the set of rates based upon a firm's own employment experience over the calendar year.] The 0.4% increase equates to an employer tax increase of $34 for each employee earning $8,500 or more during 2003

Governor Announces New Heads of Consumer Protection Board and Office of Regulatory Reform

Governor Pataki has announced new third-term appointees, for the State Consumer Protection Board and a new director for the Governor's Office of Regulatory Reform.

The Governor nominated Teresa Santiago, who currently serves as Chair of the Board for the Institute for the Puerto Rican and Hispanic Elderly, as the new Chair and Executive Director of the New York State Consumer Protection Board. Upon Senate confirmation, Ms. Santiago would replace May M. Chao, who is expected to remain with the administration in a new role.

Santiago resides in Hartsdale, New York and has extensive background in business and communications. She attended Fordham University where she received a B.A. in communications. Santiago recently served as Director of the highly successful voter outreach effort, "Amigos de Pataki." Ms. Santiago previously served as Director of Marketing and Public Relations for Kleener King Industries and Deputy Director for Community and Legislative Affairs for the Governor's Office for Hispanic Affairs.

The Governor has also appointed Daniel D. Hogan to head the Governor's Office of Regulatory Reform, replacing David Poleto who has left the administration to pursue opportunities in the private sector.

Hogan resides in Slingerlands, New York and currently serves as the Governor's Director of Special Projects. He has extensive experience in state and local government, formerly serving as Senior Policy Advisor for the Lieutenant Governor, Executive Deputy Commissioner at the NYS Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, Director of Public Information at the NYS Department of Social Services, Deputy County Executive of Albany County, and as a staff member in the NYS Senate. Mr. Hogan received his B.A. in Political Science from the State University College at Buffalo.