Government Affairs Albany Update - May 16, 2003

Budget Enacted; Revenue Bill Now Law

The Legislature finalized the State's 2003-2004 Budget on Thursday, May 15. The expenditure side of the Budget was completed through a series (119) of overrides of Governor Pataki's line-item vetoes. The revenue side is contained in A.2106B -- passed by both houses on May 2, vetoed by the Governor on May 14, and enacted into law by legislative override on May 15. The override vote in the Senate was unanimous (62 - 0) and in the Assembly was 104 -45.

Major tax changes include:

Update on Chemical Risk Legislation

Senator Balboni has introduced significant amendments to his "chemical security" legislation. Also this week, Balboni reported the bill (S.4156-B) out of his Senate Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security committee, and it is now pending on the Senate Calendar. For those who have been tracking federal initiatives, Balboni's original proposal was based on the Corzine bill (S.157), while the amended version largely tracks the Inhofe approach (S.994). Generally, S.4156-B requires "chemical facilities" (i.e., facilities subject to the federal release prevention planning requirements in Section 112r of the Clean Air Act) to assess their vulnerability to terrorist attacks, and develop and implement site security plans to address any identified threats. The program would be implemented by the state Office of Public Security. Importantly, the bill no longer requires consideration of "inherently safer technology," which is "toxic use reduction" under another name. The Business Council has offered the Senator a number of additional amendments, and Balboni has stated that he intends to pass a version of S.4156 as early as next week.

Assemblyman Mike Gianaris has introduced companion legislation (A-8123-A). While it has been amended to reflect the most significant changes to S.4156, it does not yet include the technical amendments included in the B-print of the Senate version. To date, the Assembly has taken no action on the Gianaris bill, and it is still in the Assembly Government Operations committee.

The Assembly also has a second chemical facility proposal under consideration, A.8124 (Koon), which differs significantly from the current Balboni/Gianaris bill. Under A.8124, the Department of Environmental Conservation would go through a process to prioritize hazardous chemicals and "at risk" chemical facilities, and impose vulnerability assessment and security planning requirements based on that prioritization. Unlike Balboni/Gianaris, which applies to Section 112(r) facilities, A.8124 could apply to any facility that holds a state air, water or RCRA permit, or has a registered chemical or petroleum storage tank on-site. The Koon proposal also requires facilities to consider modifications to their existing production processes, and to use less hazardous materials, if doing so is "economically feasible" and helps reduce the possible threat from a terrorist attack. This legislation is currently pending before the Assembly Environmental Conservation Committee.

These proposals are definitely receiving serious attention in both houses, and the respective sponsors have said their goal is to get a chapter law this session. Please let us know if you would like to become involved in our review and comment on these proposals, or if you would like to review The Business Council's proposed amendments to S.4156.

Indian Point 2 Safety Rating Upgraded by NRC

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced that it is improving its safety rating of Entergy's Indian Point 2 nuclear power plant. In a May 14th letter, the NRC said that it is removing the ''yellow finding'' that was given to Indian Point 2 in the fall of 2001 because Entergy had substantially corrected many training deficiencies. The NRC rates commercial nuclear power plants using a system called the ''Cornerstones of Safety.'' A yellow designation indicates related cornerstone (safety) objectives are being met, ''with a minimal reduction in safety margin." With the May 14th letter the overall safety level rating has been increased.

In response to the failure of an annual test by several operating crews at Indian Point 2, Entergy provided remedial training and testing before returning the crews to the control room. Entergy then conducted a high-intensity operator-training program for all of its operators at Indian Point 2 and Indian Point 3. The NRC noted that the Entergy's training department ''is actively engaged in identifying and resolving operational events and performance issues.'' All cornerstone objectives are being met a the Indian Point 3 plant as well.

Divisible Load Bill Passes the Senate

An industry backed bill that would increase the number of divisible load permits available to the trucking/shipping/construction sectors was passed by the Senate on May 15th. The bill, S.2974 by Senator Kuhl, would increase the number of permits in New York from 17,000 to 25,000 over the course of several years. The Business Council had issued a memo in support of this bill. The language was originally included in the Executive Budget but was eliminated by the Legislature thus necessitating the need for stand alone legislation.

The Business Council has met with Senate and Assembly staff in order to express our strong support for the bill and the importance of these permits the transportation industry. To date, companion legislation to S.2974 has not been introduced in the Assembly. Assemblyman Richard Smith (D - Hamburg) has introduced legislation (A.2480) that would allow the Department of Transportation to exempt municipalities from these permit requirements thus allowing these permits to be utilized by the private sector. While this bill would not increase the overall number of permits in the state, it would make additional permits available to private sector haulers. Currently the state has exhausted the number of permits set by statute (17,000) and is experiencing a back log of requests for the permits when they become available.

In addition to efforts to secure legislation related to increasing in the number divisible load permits, The Business Council will be meeting with the Governor's Office of Regulatory Reform (GORR) to discuss the timely issuance of these permits under the existing statute. We will also be discussing special hauling/ superload permits issues.
Business Council memo in support of S.2974

New A.G. Corporate Accountability Program Bill Introduced

Last week's GAC mailing highlighted Senate introduction of five of the Attorney General's six-bill corporate accountability package. This week, the sixth bill was introduced. S.5015 (Volker) amends the penal law to make it a crime to destroy or conceal physical evidence, particularly computerized information. The bill is referenced to the Senate Codes Committee.