Government Affairs Council Update - May 2, 2003

Legislature Passes Major Tax Bill

Contact: Ken Pokalsky

The state Assembly passed, by a 103-45 vote, a massive 634 page bill (S.1406-B / A.2106-B) to implement major parts of the 2003-04 budget. The state Senate was poised to pass the bill later today. Government Affairs staff has developed a list of the most significant provisions of this bill, including a personal income tax surcharge, an increase in the state sales tax and decoupling of federal accelerated depreciation.

The Division of the Budget has produced a report which looks at the implications of the legislature's action.

Tort Reform Lobby Day and Survey Results

Staff Contact: Ken Pokalsky

The New Yorkers for Civil Justice Reform, a broad-based coalition of over 1,200 members dedicated to tort reform in New York State, made over 50 visits to Legislators and the Legislative leadership on April 29th. The Business Council, a long standing member of the coalition, participated in the all-day event. The visits were an effort to educate legislators on tort reform and the need Legislative reform of New York's outdated and unfair tort laws. The participants highlighted the need to reform a number of tort related laws dealing with vicarious liability; 240/241 of the Labor Law (the so-called "scaffolding law"); medical malpractice; general liability; and product liability, among others. Members of New Yorkers for Civil Justice Reform also outlined a comprehensive, new statewide survey that documented the current views and opinions of registered New York State voters on the highly contentious issue of tort reform. The poll results were released on April 28th.

The survey highlights include:

The Business Council statement in support of tort reform and the poll results

Growing momentum for tort reform in Albany appeared to accelerate further this week as the Buffalo News began a series of comprehensive editorials supporting sweeping civil justice reform.

In a May 1 editorial, the newspaper recommends sweeping reforms, including: caps on noneconomic; repeal of the law preventing contractors from introducing evidence of worker negligence in workplace injuries; limitation or abolition of joint and several liability, vicarious liability, and other theories based on "deep pockets;" movement toward no-fault medical malpractice; movement of suits against municipalities to the Court of Claims; and consideration of restrictions on contingency fees.

The series began April 27 with an editorial entitled "A System Out of Control." The editorial argued that trial lawyers are the reason civil litigation is out of control.