Government Affairs Albany Update - June 6, 2003

Key Issues Update

Mental Health Parity
A.8301 (Tonko) passed in the Assembly yesterday, 131-11. Senate bill S.5329 (Libous) has 32 Republican sponsors. Senator Bruno is not a sponsor and has expressed serious concerns about the cost. A letter to Senator Bruno, or a call to his Counsel Ken Riddett (455-2675) or their health staff person Caron Crummey (455-2597) would be helpful.

Attorney General Corporate Accountability Bills
Two bills amended in the Senate this week -- S.4834-A (LaValle) provides greater oversight over accountants and
S.5015-A (Volker) on destruction of computer evidence. These amendments reflect changes the A.G. has made to his program bills. Three bills introduced in the Assembly -- A.8733 (Lentol) regarding commercial bribery; A.8763 (Lentol) on destruction of computer evidence and A.8794 (John) whistleblower. No committee movement on any bills this week. A.8794 (John) is on the Assembly Labor agenda for Monday, 6/9/03. The companion bill in the Senate is S.4813-A (Velella).

Numerous spam bills introduced. Speaker Silver issued a press release on Wednesday saying: "Although the Assembly passed legislation last year to address the growing problem of SPAM, the technology is changing, and there is currently no consensus among consumers or industry officials as to how to achieve comprehensive and effective legislation. Therefore, I have asked Assemblywoman Pheffer to bring all parties to the table...commencing in the fall."

The Assembly did pass a six bill package of other privacy bills this week. A.5153; A.532; A.2266; A.5150-A; A.2837; A.5148.

Sunshine in litigation
There is a bill that saw committee action in both houses this week. S.2995-A (Defrancisco) / A.7017 (Weinstein), which prohibits a court from entering an order or rendering a judgement which seals information from the public. The Business Council is opposed. Both bills are in Rules in their house.

A bill was introduced in the Assembly this week -- A.8760
(P. Rivera) to establish a pharmacy and therapeutics committee within the Department of Health to review the establishment of preferred drug lists.

Senators Bruno and Patterson this week announced the creation of a bipartisan task force to look at the future of the state's Medicaid program. Senator Bruno stated: "We need to look at some real systemic change to assure that Medicaid is serving the right people, at the correct level of care, in the most cost-effective manner, while maintaining a high level of quality of care". The Task Force will focus on long term care, acute care and pharmaceuticals. The news release can be found on the Senate's web site.

Workers' Comp
The Business Council's major reform bill has been introduced in the Senate -- S.5320 (Libous, Seward, Volker, Meier, Marchi, Rath and Wright)

A.7507 (DiNapoli), the Assembly's version of a brownfield cleanup and redevelopment program, passed the Assembly. It also includes significant hazardous waste program fees that would be used to support a new bonding program for the refinancing of state superfund. This bill differs sharply from the Senate-approved brownfield bill, S.2935 (Marcellino), in several significant ways, including establishment of cleanup requirements. There were some three-way discussions on superfund/brownfield issues this week.

Chemical Facility Security
The Assembly has amended its version of this legislation --
A.8124-A (Koon) -- and seems poised to move it next week. While it continues to differ significantly from legislation which has already passed the Senate -- S.4156-B (Balboni) -- the sponsors continue to discuss possible compromise legislation.
There was no action this week on amendments to the Smoking Law, vicarious liability, safe-place-to-work or Article X siting (still waiting on a Governor's Program Bill).

Additional Workplace Smoking Provisions Proposed

In response to growing resistance to the new and harsher workplace smoking restrictions passed by both houses and signed by the Governor on March 26, 2003 and scheduled for implementation on July 24, 2003, two bills have been proposed which would ease, in limited circumstances, those restrictions.

A.8601 (Abbate) and S.5191 (Golden) would permit the use of "Separate smoking rooms." These are rooms which are equipped with separate ventilation systems or systems with built-in scrubbers to contain any second-hand smoke. In addition, these rooms could only be used for smoking; no business transactions of any kind could occur. S.5191 also contains provisions for tax credits for restaurants that build such rooms. The Business Council supports this legislation.