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Government Affairs Albany Update

May 26, 2006

Senate to Hold Hearing on Expanding Health Insurance Coverage

The Senate Standing Committees on Health and Insurance are holding a hearing on Tuesday, June 6 in Albany to consider options for expanding health insurance coverage in New York. The purpose of the public hearing is to "explore ways in which New York can expand health insurance coverage for uninsured and underinsured New Yorkers by examining proposals that other states have implemented as well as seeking out new strategies to make health insurance more affordable and accessible".

Paid Family Medical Leave Update

At the May 22nd Senate Labor Committee meeting, the amended Paid Family Medical Leave bill, S.1501-A (Morahan), was "temporarily removed from the committee agenda." The sponsor's office commented that other amendments were being considered.

Disability Benefit Increase Bill Reported

At the May 22nd Senate Labor Committee meeting, S.3798 (Leibell), was reported and is now on Senate cal. #1314. This bill would increase the maximum disability benefit to $340 per week by July 2007. The current disability benefit maximum is $170 per week. Assemblywoman Nolan carries the "same as" bill, A.1305, in the Assembly. It is currently in the Assembly Labor Committee.

Great Lakes Annex Legislation

The Governor has proposed legislation to implement a new, region-wide program that will regulate large water withdrawals within the Great Lakes basin. This legislation could be acted upon during the 2006 session.

Commonly known as the “Great Lakes Annex 2001,” the agreement was finalized by the Governors last December. Key provisions:

  • while existing withdrawals are generally “grandfathered,” state-level registration is required of all direct water withdrawals within the Great Lakes region of more than 100,000 gallons per day (this is comparable to existing requirements in New York.)

  • the Annex requires states to issue permits for significant new or increased withdrawals, with the applicability threshold to be set by the states. These permits would be subject to uniform, region-wide criteria. The regional criteria includes: return of water to the source water shed; avoidance of significant individual or cumulative impacts; application of environmentally sound, economically feasible water conservation measures (to be determined by the states); and a balance among economic development, social development and environmental protection factors.

  • withdrawals involving “consumptive use” of water of more than 5 million gpd over a 90-day period will be subject to review and comment by all eight states.

  • diversions of water out of the basis are generally prohibited.

  • intra-basin transfers restricted.

Annex 2001 requires legislative adoption by all eight states, as well as Congressional approval of the final compact. While states may enact additional, more stringent requirements, none are included in the Governor's draft legislation.

While the final agreement represents a significant improvement over the original program design, The Council of Great Lakes Industries, which has been leading the business sector response to the Annex, has raised some concerns about the final agreement, including the process by which the Annex could be modified (i.e., whether the states could modify the program without legislative approval), and the breadth of environmental impact assessments required for new withdrawals.

You can access the Annex documents from the Council of Great Lakes Governors site at:

RGGI Model Rule

The Business Council submitted comments this week on the draft model rule to implement the “Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative,” or RGGI. RGGI is a seven-state agreement to impose regional and state-specific caps on CO2 emissions from power plants, to be implemented and enforced through a “cap and trade” program.

Our comments focused on concerns that RGGI design and implementation has the potential for adverse impacts on the cost and availability of electric power in New York, and therefore on the state's economy.

We reiterated concerns that the RGGI rule will contribute to higher electric power prices in New York – both directly through the cost of emission allowances (whether distributed, sold or auctioned, CO2 allowances will have a market value, and that market value will be reflected in energy prices) and indirectly by making New York State and the region even more dependent on natural gas as the fuel source for power generation. We also argued that the carbon cap imposed by RGGI, combined with limited opportunity to generate and use allowance offsets and a pending “anti-leakage” addendum to the model rule, may also adversely affect power supply and system reliability.

Our comments pointed out average industrial power rates in New York are already nearly 40 percent above national averages, and that recent state initiatives – acid rain rules, system benefits charge, renewable portfolio standard – have already added nearly ten percent to energy prices in New York.

The Business Council urged the RGGI states to assure that, if implemented, the RGGI program effectively addresses these cost and reliability concerns. Specific recommendations included:

  • Less stringent limits on the creation and use of emission offsets for cap compliance purposes.

  • Inclusion of an exemption for industrial units that sell small amounts of power to the grid.

  • The need for a more effective “safety value” that would allow alternative compliance mechanisms in the event of excessively high CO2 emission allowance prices.

All public comments submitted in response to the RGGI rule are available online at

Discriminatory Real Property Certiorari Bills Harmful to NY's Economy Reported to Assembly Floor

Two Assembly bills that would discriminate against business property owners in Westchester and Suffolk counties were reported to the Assembly Floor on Tuesday by the Ways & Means Committee.

The Business Council opposes A.5793-A, Bradley, et al. (S.3368-A, Spano) which would (1) require the Office of Real Property Services (ORPS) to calculate a special assessment ratio for certain property owners (designated as "Major Type B") in any "non-reassessment municipality" in any county with a 2000 Federal decennial census population of more than 923,000 and fewer than 924,000 [read: Westchester] and (2) allow such special assessment ratio to be entered into evidence in an Article 7 certiorari case brought by these certain property owners.

The Business Council opposes A.3114-A, Sweeney, et al. which would (1) require the Office of Real Property Services (ORPS) to calculate a special assessment ratio for certain property owners (designated as "Major Type B") in any "non-reassessment municipality" in any county with a 2000 Federal decennial census population of more than 1,400,000 and not wholly contained in a city [read: Suffolk] and (2) allow such special assessment ratio to be entered into evidence in an Article 7 certiorari case brought by these certain property owners.

All real property in each assessing unit throughout New York B including the counties of Westchester and Suffolk B "shall be assessed at a uniform percentage of value" Real Property Tax Law Section 305.

"Evidence on the issue of whether an assessment is unequal shall be limited to the following as hereinafter provided:

(1) By the selected parcels method as determined by stratified random sample....
(2) By actual sales of real property within the assessing units that occurred during the year in which the assessment under review was made.
(3) By other methods.

The parties shall be limited in their proof on the trial of such issue to such parcels and witnesses, except that in any event, whether or not parcels are selected as hereinabove provided, evidence may be given by either party as to the following:

(a) in all assessing units...the state equalization rate established for the roll containing the assessment under review;...or
(d) in all assessing units, the uniform percentage of value stated on the tax bill for the roll containing the assessment under review."

A.5793-A and A.3114-A would add to the evidence that may be given by either party:

(e) ...upon the review of an assessment of major type B property as defined in section twelve hundred fifteen of this chapter, the commercial assessment ratio established for the roll containing the assessment under review.

The law requires that all real property be assessed at a uniform percentage of value. It is disingenuous to present evidence that an assessing unit has discriminated against a select subgroup of property (which includes the parcel under review) as a defense against the assertion that the single parcel under review has been treated unequally vis-a-vis the entire assessment roll.

The inequality of the treatment of the subject parcel under certiorari review with the assessment roll as a whole is the issue before the trier of fact. The proffer of A.5793-A's or A.3114-A's commercial assessment ratio is neither demonstrative nor determinative of the issue at hand. Moreover, any scintilla of value that a trier of fact might glean from a commercial assessment ratio established by ORPS would be overwhelmed by the evidential value of the equalization rate as established by the very same body (ORPS) in the very same process (the commercial assessment ratio's data is a component of, and used in, the equalization rate) B an equalization rate that is dispositive of the issue under certiorari review.