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Government Affairs Albany Update

March 10, 2006

Government Affairs Council to Meet on March 20th

The next meeting of the full Government Affairs Council will be on Monday March 20th starting at 10:00 a.m. Guest speaker will be State Comptroller Alan Hevesi.

Staff will provide updates on the budget, workers' comp, health-care, energy and other topics.

Senate to Hold Workers' Comp Roundtable on March 13th

Senator Maziarz, Chairman of the Senate Labor Committee has organized a roundtable meeting for March 13th to discuss New York's workers' compensation system. Participants will include The Business Council, the AFL-CIO, state Workers' Comp Board, state Insurance Fund, Workers' Comp Rating Board and state Insurance Department. The meeting is open to the public, and will take place in Hearing Room B of the Legislative Office Building in Albany starting at 11:00 a.m.

OSC VendRep
Staff Contact: Ken Pokalsky

This week, State Comptroller Alan Hevesi announced new reforms aimed at evaluating the "responsibilty" of vendors bidding on state contracts. Specifically, he announced the planned deployment this fall of the OSC's "VendRep" program, a new centralized database that will make vendor information available to all state agencies. Under this program, vendors will be able to go online and fill out a single questionnaire regarding their past contract performance, financial condition, compliance status and other background information.

Historically, agencies have used different methods to assess vendor responsibility, and used various survey instruments to collect this background information. In November 2004, the OSC directed all contracting agencies to include a formal determination of vendor responsibility as part of all procurement actions subject to OSC review. By law, most State agency contracts valued at more than $15,000 cannot become effective until they have been approved by the Office of the State Comptroller. Their effort at developing a centralized database is another step in OSC's effort to standardize the responsibility determination process.

The actual questionaire to be used in the VendRep system is still under development. OSC intendes to have final draft questionairs posted on their website by April, 2006 for a final round of public comments. OSC expects to have the system up and running by the third quarter of 2006.

The Business Council continues to discuss the VendRep program, and the draft vendor questionaire, with OSC staff. While the OSC has made some improvements, many of our most significant concerns regarding the draft questionaire have yet to be addressed. These include the excessively broad scope of inquiry (i.e., it covers business affiliates with no relationship to the pending contract, and requires disclosures of violations of multiple sections of law, no matter how minor), and the request for information based on vague language (i.e., requires disclosure of governmental "investigations" regarding the business.) We also continue to discuss the frequency of required updates or recertification.

Business Council members have stressed that an excessively burdonsome data collection requirement will impair, rather than improve, the state's bidding process. In response to these concerns, we are in the process of developing final written recommendations on the current draft questionaire. Any additional input from Business Council members is most welcome.

Pandemic Flu Planning
Staff Contact: Ken Pokalsky

As part of comprehensive Pandemic Influenza Plan, the New York State Department of Health has a checklist for use by business in preparing a response plan for an influenza pandemic. This business guide was developed as part of the state's overall pandemic influenza plan, announced in late February. The Business Counicl is supporting the Department of Health's efforts to distribute this material to businesses statewide. The checklist will provide businesses with a blueprint for dealing with both business continuation issues and dealing with issues involving employees and customers.