Government Affairs Albany Update - June 16, 2006

Keep Up the Fight Against Health Mandate Legislation

No action was taken this week on any of the proposed bills to mandate health insurance in New York State. The Assembly discussed amendments to the Gottfried bill to raise the threshold on what size employer the bill would apply to (from 100 employees to some higher number), to reduce the per hour tax (from $3 to something slightly below $2 per hour), and to provide further exemptions beyond manufacturing and agriculture (not-for-profits who receive the majority of their funding from government). By week's end, no amendments had materialized in the Assembly. The Assembly also cancelled a hearing they had planned in Rochester for June 16.

Keep making your voice heard. The faxes, phone calls and personal visits are working. With a week to go, we need to stay vigilant.

New "Workers' Compensation Improvement Act" Introduced

A new bill that combines key elements of the Governor's workers' comp reform bill with labor law 240-241 reform has been introduced in the state senate. Sponsors of the bill (S.8212) are Senators Alesi, Libous, Rath, Seward, Volker, Winner and Wright. The bill will be weighted heavily in The Business Council's 2006 Vote for Jobs Index. Assemblyman Morelle is expected to introduce the bill in the Assembly.

Key elements of the bill include the Governor's proposed schedule for permanent partial disabilities, a committee to update New York's medical guidelines, a pension and social security offset and higher benefits for injured workers. The bill also includes the provisions from S.3823 Volker / A. 2946-a Morelle to reform New York's scaffold law (labor law 240-241).

When fully implemented the Alesi / Morelle bill would provide double-digit comp savings for employers.

We urge you to thank these seven Senators for their sponsorship of this bill. We also urge you to lobby your local Senator to add their name to sponsorship, if they have not already.

Click here for a more detailed summary of the bill, with cost-saving estimates.

Update of the Health Scare Plan of 2006, S.7090/A.10583

Amendments are in the works for A.10583, the Assembly version of this bill. Earlier this week, the bill was listed on the Assembly Health Committee agenda but was held pending changes. Currently, the bill requires employers of 100 or more to pay an "assessment" of $3 per hour for health insurance for all non-exempt employees or pay the difference into a new health care fund. Manufacturing and Agricultural employers are excluded. The senate bill, S.7080, remains in the Senate Health Committee.

Power for Jobs

The Business Council is urging the Governor and Legislature to ensure extension of the Power for Jobs and other economic development power programs before the end of session next week. In letters this week from Dan Walsh to Majority Leader Bruno and Speaker Silver, and through discussions with legislative leaders and staff, the Business Council has recommended repassage of extension language included in the legislative budget, without the provision which referenced future legislative appropriations – the provision that was the focus of the Governor's constitutional objections. As you may know, the legislature's program extension language was vetoed on constitutional grounds, and the Governor contends that the legislature's subsequent override is invalid. Irrespective of the validity of the Governor's position, the result is significant uncertainty regarding the fate of these programs as of December 31, 2006. Our proposed approach will provide increased certainty to employers regarding the continuity of program benefits, and will allow the legislature and next Governor to consider comprehensive program reform and refinancing as part of the FY 2008 budget debate. If your business is a participant in the Power for Jobs or Economic Development Power programs, we urge you to contact your state representatives to urge them to address this issue before end of session.

Disposal of Personal Employee Information

On June 9th, the Governor signed the "Disposal of Personal Records Law", S.5178-A (Fuschillo)/A.8456-B (Pheffer). The law affects how employers dispose of records containing personal employee information, such as social security numbers, driver license numbers or non-driver ID card numbers, financial service or checking or savings account numbers or codes and other personal identification numbers.

The law requires the following actions prior to record disposal if the records contain the above personal identifying information: (i) shredding, (ii) destroying the personal identifying information, (iii) modifying the records so the personal identifying information is unreadable, or (iv) taking other action that will ensure that no unauthorized person gains access to the personal identifying information.

The law takes effect in December 2006.

Sole Proprietor Extender

Legislation by Assemblyman Joe Morelle regarding small business health insurance has moved out of the Assembly Insurance Committee and has been reported to the Rules Committee. The bill (A.9308-A) would extend expired provisions in the insurance law that limit the premium differential for sole proprietors who purchase health insurance through chambers of commerce and other associations not to exceed 115% of the rate established for the same coverage issued to traditional groups.

In 2002, exhaustive efforts were taken by chambers of commerce around the state as wells as CANYS to help the smallest of businesses (sole proprietors) by limiting the premium rate differential health insurers and HMO's could charge them. They were successful in setting the limit at 20% higher than group rates, however this provision sunset on January 1, 2006. The Business Council supports this extension which would set the limit until December 31, 2008.