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Government Affairs Albany Update

April 30, 2004

Bonacic/Parment Introduce Real Property Tax Certiorari Venue Bill

Legislation to transfer the jurisdictional venue of real property tax certiorari trial proceedings for non-residential parcels valued over one million dollars from state supreme court to the division of tax appeals has been introduced by Senator John Bonacic and Assembly Member William Parment. S.7179/A.11000 -- a 2004 Priority Issue of The Business Council -- is designed to build upon the expertise and track record established by the division of tax appeals since its inception in 1986. The division has proven to provide a consistent, expeditious, non-discriminatory, and equitable forum for the resolution of (non-reality) tax disputes.
Empowering the division's tax tribunal and administrative law judges to ascertain the value of non-residential real property, rather than relying upon the current article 7 certiorari proceeding, will alleviate uncertainties on behalf of local governments and taxpayers, reduce and shorten judicial challenges and appeals -- which, at present, reach final determination as to value thereof years later, well after the initial year of imposition -- reduce the burden on the supreme court judiciary, and develop expertise and consistency in real property tax assessment reviews.

Permanent Replacement Bill

As they did last year, the state Senate again passed Senator Marcellino's S.772, which prohibits employers from granting permanent status to replacement workers hired during a lawful strike or lockout. The same as bill, A.8231 (John) remains in the Assembly Labor Committee.

The Business Council argued that this bill would interfere with the collective bargaining balance between management and labor and would encourage surface bargaining by unions.

It should be noted that even if this bill became law, it would not trump the federal National Labor Relations Act; thus, most businesses in New York State would not be subject to it.

"Breach of Security" Bills Pending Before Legislature

There are three bills currently before the Legislature dealing with breaching the security of a computerized information system or database.

The first bill, S.6517 (Fuschillo)/A.9184-A (Klein), amends the state technology and general business laws, to require that notification be made to all persons when "personal information" contained in a business' database is acquired by an unauthorized person. The bill requires that notification shall be made in the most expedient time possible and without unreasonable delay. The bill provides a number of options for methods of notification. Additionally, the bill allows for a class action lawsuit for violations of the article. If the plaintiff receives a favorable decision, then the defendant is liable to the entire class for not less than $500 per person, (plus costs, disbursements and reasonable attorney fees) regardless of the amount of actual damages.

The second bill, S.6739 (Rath)/A.11012 (Rules/Stringer), basically provides for notification to all persons whose personal information may be compromised by a security breach, but does not include the class action lawsuit provision.

The final bill, A.10295 (Nolan)/S.7121 (Farley) is very similar to the Rath/Stringer bill, but applies only to "banking institution[s]".

Empire Zone Testimonials

The Assembly Ways & Means, Economic Development and Labor Committees held a joint hearing this week on the Empire Zone program. The hearing focused primarily on issues of program costs, administration, and focus.

Commissioner Gargano Testimony: Commissioner Gargano provided written testimony, and issued a summary report on the Empire Zone program. The summary report takes a long time to open.

Key issues addressed by Gargano included:

Tax and Finance Commissioner Andrew Eristoff Testimony: Commissioner Eristoff's brief testimony focused on T&F's role in administering zone benefits. Key comments included:

Legislative Questioning - Gargano and Eristoff testified together at the beginning of the hearing. Their formal presentations, and legislative questioning, lasted about 2 ½ hours. Highlights of the Q&A session include the following:

Comptroller Hevesi's Testimony: The Comptroller's testimony, and a new report on Empire Zone program effectiveness and reform proposals, are available on line at: www.osc.state.ny.us/press/releases/apr04/042604.htm

Key comments include:

The Comptroller also supported the Governor's proposal to limit QEZE benefits to ten years.