Government Affairs Albany Update - June 13, 2003
- Action Needed on Hazardous Waste Fees
- Tort Reform Legislation Update
- Governor Releases Article X Bill
- Reform Bill Introduced in Both Houses
- Workers' Compensation Assurance Act
- End of Session Energy/Telecom Legislation Summation
- Divisible Load Permit Legislation Moves Closer
As we head into the final week of session, the legislature continues to discuss superfund/brownfield legislation, and continues to look at significant new fees on the state's manufacturing community as part of a superfund financing mechanism.
Specifically, the legislature continues to discuss significant new surcharges on manufacturers that generate more than 15 tons per year of hazardous wastes or wastewaters. These surcharges ranging from $4,000 to $360,000 per year, per facility, and represent about a ten-fold increase in existing hazardous waste program fees. For some generators, it will result in a per ton fee as high as $400. These fees will affect nearly 800 hazardous waste generators in the state -- mostly manufacturers and mostly small businesses.
If these surcharges will affect your business, and you have not yet contacted your legislative representatives to voice your opposition, it is important that you do so ASAP. We urge you to contact both your local representatives as well as the Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means chairmen and staff. A draft letter, and contact information, is linked below, as is a background memo on the fee issue.
As the end of session approaches we are continuing to track a variety of tort bills. The following is a breakdown of some of the bills we are following along with their sponsors and status.
Vicarious Liability Leasing Vehicles
A.1042-A (Canestrari) / S.397-A (Johnson) Relating to establishing the civil liability of the lessor of a motor vehicle for less than 1 year. In Assembly Transportation; Passed Senate.
Vicarious Liability Rental Cars
A.5419 (Canestrari) / S.2477 (Johnson) Establishes the civil liability of the lessor of a motor vehicle for less than 1 year. Assembly Transportation; Senate Third Reading.
Omnibus Tort Package
S.2944 (Volker) / No same as. Enacts the civil justice reform act; repealer. In Senate Codes.
S.2994 (DeFrancisco) / A.6637 (Weinstein) Provides for the types of damages that may be awarded to the persons for whose benefit an action for wrongful death is brought. Senate Third Reading; Assembly Judiciary.
Sunshine in Litigation
S.2995-A (DeFrancisco) / A.7017-A (Weinstein) Enacts the "sunshine in litigation act" to prohibit court ordered nondisclosure of public hazards. Senate Rules; Assembly Third Reading.
S.1710 (Volker) / A.7213 (Morelle) Relates to the applicability of certain provisions with respect to persons injured in the use of scaffolding and other devices for use by employees. Senate Codes; Assembly Labor.
S.1937 (Volker) / A.136 (Morelle) Relating to requiring provision of equipment in construction sites where necessary for reasonable and adequate worker safety; removes limited liability exclusion; repealer. Senate Labor; Assembly Labor.
Recovery Against a Third Party
S.5006 (DeFrancisco) / A.7493 (Weinstein) Permits a plaintiff to recover directly against a third party defendant found to be liable to the defendant. Senate Codes; Assembly Third Reading.
Governor Pataki released his program bill for renewal of the Article X power plant siting law. In it he proposed retaining certain aspects of the expired law while making some key changes. Governor Pataki, the Senate, and the Assembly are each championing different approaches to replacing Article X of the state's Public Service Law, which governed how the state sites proposed new power plants until it expired last December. Because there are significant differences between these approaches, prospects for a resolution this year are uncertain at best. The Senate has supported a simple extension of the expired law (S.1353). The Assembly has proposed a bill (A.6248) with many features advocated by environmentalists, including: a 30-megawatt threshold, much higher requirements for intervener funding, and stringent new emission control technology.
Governor Pataki's bill would:
- Keep at 80 megawatts the threshold at or above which plants would be required to go through the plant-siting process. Environmental groups want to lower this threshold, which would further slow New York's already cumbersome plant-siting process.
- Raise, from $300,000 to approximately $550,000, the maximum costs that companies proposing plants could be forced to funnel to "interveners" -- community groups that want to weigh-in supporting or opposing the proposal.
- Retain the ability to fast-track plant siting in some cases-for example, when the project would have specified environmental benefits.
- Require detailed security plans for proposed new plants.
- Provide a new environmental justice process for reviewing implications for community groups that wish to argue for or against the proposed plant.
The Council supports a new plant-siting law with reforms to accelerate the process of siting and building plants New York needs to meet electricity needs, foster competition to drive prices down, and ensure continued reliability. As a stopgap, The Council issued a memo last fall supporting extending the previous law.
The Business Council strongly supports a workers' compensation bill has been introduced at the Council's request in both houses of the state legislature. Assemblyman Robin Schimminger introduced A.8862 earlier this week as an Assembly companion to S.5320 which Senator Libous introduced on May 29. The proposal has four fundamental reforms which will, if enacted, offset most of the cost of any workers' compensation benefit increase. The bill sets a 500 week durational benefit limit for permanently partially disabled claimants. The bill also includes workers' compensation offsets for employer funded old age social security and pension benefits. The bill limits payment for scheduled injuries of workers who are able to return to work to one-half the maximum benefit rate. The fourth provision requires the Workers' Compensation Board to promulgate and implement objective medical criteria to determine medical impairment.
For your information, the Assembly passed a version of one of their benefit increase bill earlier in the week. A.6255 provides for benefit increases from $475 to $625 over a two year period of time. After December 1, 2005 indexing to the statewide average weekly wage would begin. That bill does not have a companion in the Senate.
We are continuing to monitor a number of workers' compensation related bills during the final days of this legislative session.
S.3905 / A.3175B has passed both houses of the legislature. The bill prohibits employers from evading workers` compensation coverage. The legislation further prohibits waivers of workers' compensation coverage to out of state employer. The bill was sponsored by Senator Robach and Assemblywoman John. The Business Council opposed passaged of this legislation because current workers' compensation law already provides for penalties for employers who are not covered. Additionally, we believe that this legislation may hurt New York businesses who seek waivers when doing work in another state. We will be contacting Governor Pataki's office to express our concerns with the bill and asking for a veto.
Following is a list of bills that we are actively following as the legislative session comes into its last few weeks.
A.8168 (John) / S.3605 Provides that utility companies shall use competent workers and shall pay the prevailing wage on projects where a permit to use or open a street is issued. Assembly Codes; Senate Labor.
S.3752-A (Wright) / A.8122-A (K. Wright) Provides that certain rates for underlying services and facilities shall be priced on the same methodology basis as rates for unbundled network elements. Senate Third Reading; Assembly Corporations.
S.2115 (Morahan) / A.2505 (Kaufman) Enacts the "Personal Privacy Act of 2004" to comprehensively enhance, preserve, and protect the right of personal privacy and enacts a telecommunications privacy act; repealer. Senate Codes; Assembly Government Operations.
S.406 (Velella) / A.7895 (John) "Utility Whislteblower"; Relating to Enacting the "Public Utility Truth in Reporting and Worker Protection Act" providing penalties for false statements or information to PSC and prohibits retaliation. Senate Rules; Assembly Codes.
S.4975 (Marcellino) / A.5930 (Brodsky) Provides for the phase-out over six months of the use of creosote as a wood preservative, prohibits its combustion, and regulates its disposal. Senate Third Reading; Assembly Rules.
A.6950-B (Grannis) / S.3003-B (Marcellino) Enacts the healthy, safe and energy efficient outdoor lighting act to reduce harmful outdoor lighting. Assembly Third Reading; Senate Rules.
A.200-A (Cahill) / S.2692-A (Libous) Relating to enacting the "Electric and Gas Customer Service Improvement Act of 2003" Assembly Ways & Means; Senate Energy.
A.3102 (Gianaris) / S.667 (Padavan) Relating to requiring the director of public security to create and implement security measures for power generating and transmitting facilities. Assembly Rules; Senate Energy.
A.1961 (Levy) / No Senate Companion. Relating to requiring the public service commission to review compensation paid to certain high level policy making employees of gas or electric corporations. Passed Assembly.
A.5933 (Brodsky) / No Senate Companion. Directs the dept. of environmental conservation to implement air pollution standards for power plants re: nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide and mercury. Passed Assembly.
S.3078 (Wright) / A.7201 (Galef) Designates certain security personnel or employees of nuclear powered electric generating facilities. Passed Senate; Assembly Codes.
S.4890 (Wright) / A.8429 (Englebright) "Wind Net Metering"; Provides for electric corporations to interconnect to residential wind electric generating equipment and net energy metering. Senate Third Reading; Assembly Energy.
S.3055 (wright) / A.4245 (Englebright) "Wind Net Metering"; Includes wind and hybrid-wind-solar electric generating equipment within provisions relating to net metering for solar, wind and farm waste generating systems. Senate Energy; Passed Assembly.
S.2301 (DeFranscico) / A.2546 (Tonko) Requires response by gas and electric corporations to customer requests concerning safety within its gas and electric service. Senate Third Reading; Assembly Third Reading.
A.8852 (Tonko) Relating to liquefied natural petroleum; repealer. Assembly Codes.
A.8398 (Tonko) / S.4974 (Nozzolio) "Below Cost Sales"; Enacts the New York motor fuel marketing practices act. Assembly Rules; Senate Consumer Protection.
S.4428-A / A.8589 (Abbate) "Petroleum Retail Divorcement"; Establishes the minimum distance in which a refiner may operate a retail service station. Senate Third Reading; Assembly Rules.
Article X (See Related Article).
On May 14th the Senate passed an industry supported divisible load bill, S.2974-A (Kuhl). The legislation expands the number of divisible load permits from 17,000 to 25,000 over five years, unifies the penalty system and adds additional safety equipment requirements. The issuance of these permits through the Department of Transportation would provide approximately $3.3 million in annual revenue to the state. The legislation is balanced and inclusive of many of the concerns of both the state and localities, as well as the trucking industry. The need for additional permits is of grave concern to the shipping and trucking industries, the industrial and commercial customers they serve, and the private sector transportation system in New York State overall. This legislation effectively provides a long term solution to this shortage of permits by gradually increasing the number available to the trucking industry in this state. It should be noted that this bill does not require additional permits for New York City - which are issued by the New York City Department of Transportation - not the state DOT.
The Senate bill matches A.677-A (Gantt) which is currently in the Assembly Codes committee. The bill was amended on June 10th to match the Senate version. The Business Council supports this bill and will be actively pushing for its enactment during the end of session. Additionally the Senate passed a bill that would exempt municipalities from permit requirements thus freeing up more permits for the private sector. The bill summations are below.
S.5178 (Kuhl) / A.2480 (R. Smith) Relates to special hauling permits and divisible load permits. Passed Senate; Assembly Transportation. This legislation would exempt municipalities and other government agencies from the requirement thus providing more permits for the private sector. Passed Senate; Assembly Transportation.
S.2974-A (Kuhl) / A.677-A (Gantt) Relating to special hauling permits and divisible load permits; repealer. To increase the number of divisible load permits authorized to be issued by the Department of Transportation for use outside the city of New York; to implement changes in the weights and design of the vehicles authorized to receive such permits; to improve enforcement activities related to divisible load permits; to enhance economic activity while safely reducing the number of trips required by commercial trucks to provide essential service. Passed Senate; Assembly Codes.