January 26, 2007 - Government Affairs Council Update
The Senate Finance Committee reported S.1456 to the Senate Floor where it will be eligible for passage as soon as Tuesday of next week (January 30).
S.1456 is strongly supported by The Business Council: it would eliminate income taxation for manufacturers in New York as well as eliminate and reduce various taxes for non-manufacturing small businesses and farmers. Moreover, S.1456 would reduce the Corporation Franchise Tax (Article 9-A) rate for ALL Article 9-A taxpayers from 7.5% to 6.85%. Fully implemented, the bill would reduce state business taxes by $1.3 billion per year.
The Senate Majority announced the tax relief package at a Senate Majority press conference on Tuesday, January 9 at which Business Council President Kenneth Adams spoke following Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno's and Committee on Commerce, Economic Development , and Small Businesses Chairman James Alesi's remarks. Kenneth hailed the Senate proposal stating: "Business owners consistently rank taxes among the major competitive problems facing New York. Senator Bruno and the Senate Majority are right: We must cut business taxes this year to strengthen our economy and create a climate for new jobs. We look forward to working with the Senate, Governor Spitzer, and the Assembly to accomplish these essential goals."
Governor Spitzer has submitted his program bill implementing reforms of the the state's ethics and lobbying laws announced earlier this week by the Governor and legislative leaders. The bill could be could be introduced as early as today in the State Legislature.
Key features include the following:
- transforms the State Ethics Commission into the Commission on Public Intergrtiy, and extends its authority to include enforcement of the Lobbying Act; and repeals the Temporary State Commission on Lobbying. It also expands the membership of the legislative Ethics Commission to include five public members.
- increases maximum civil penalties to $40,000 for certain violations of the Public Officers Law and Lobbying Act. Redirects penalty income from support of commission enforcement activities to the General Fund.
- allows the Commission to bring enforcement actions against a lobbyist or client that "ceases to act as such," provided that they are notified of an alleged violation within one year of their last required filing. This is an extension of recently adopted provisions regarding former public officials.
- Lobbyists and clients are prohibited from offering or giving a gift to a public official of more than a nominal value. The proposal would maintain, with some amendments, existing exemptions for charitable and political events; widely attended events where attendance is related to the official's responsibilities; awards and ceremonial items; promotional items; and several other categories. An exemption for travel reimbursement is limited to government entities and accredited public and private universities. The existing Public Officers Law gift limit is also reduced from $75 to not "more than a nominal value."
- extends the definition of lobbying to include determinations by state and local legislatures and agencies regarding grants, loans or agreements involving the distribution of public funds, and creates new reporting requirements related to grants-related advocacy.
- Includes within the Public Officers Law a prohibition against elected officials or candidates for federal, state or local office from knowingly appearing in any advertising supported with public funds. It also includes a prohibition on statewide elected officials, agency head, or legislator or legislative staff from receiving any honorarium while in office, with limited exceptions.
- It generally prohibits statewide elected officials, state officers or employees, legislators or legislative employes from participating in any hiring or contracting decisions related to a relative.
The Business Council is preparing a more detailed review of this proposal, to be distributed to GAC members next week.
Assemblyman Pete Grannis, chair of the Assembly Insurance Committee and long-time member of the Assembly EnCon committee, has been nominated by Governor Spitzer as Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation. His appointment must be confirmed by the Senate. There is no word yet on the schedule for confirmation hearings. He has said that his top interests would include: increasing Department staff; enhancing the DEC's enforcement activities; improving the brownfield program; reducing air pollution; and expanding the state "bottle bill' -- issues that have also been highlighted by Governor Spitzer. In the legislature, Grannis was the prime sponsor of the anti-smoking legislation, and strong supporter of the original SEQRA law, bottle bill and other environmental initiatives. Also, Judith Enck, environmental policy advisory to then-Attorney General Spitzer, was appointed as Governor Spitzer's deputy secretary for environment.