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Government Affairs Albany Update

January 18, 2008

Upstate State of the State

Governor Spitzer delivered the first ever “State of Upstate” address this week. (The press release and speech text are both available here.)

In it, the Governor highlighted several issues of priority interest to Business Council members.

In addition to several items discussed in the State of the State message, such as no new taxes, and a commission on real property tax caps, the highlights of the Governor's upstate address includes:

A $1 billion Upstate Revitalization Fund that would include:

Additional initiatives included:

AFL-CIO President Presents to State Senate Labor Committee

Denis Hughes, NYS AFL-CIO President, headlined this week's State Senate Labor Committee agenda outlining his members' top priorities for the legislative session, stressing that economic security was key. The 2008 legislative AFL-CIO agenda includes an increase and indexing of unemployment insurance benefits; paid family leave; IDA reform which includes wage and benefit thresholds for IDA investments; and health insurance reforms.

“Great Lakes Compact” Legislation

The Senate Environmental Conservation Committee and the Assembly Codes Committee are expected to move proposed ”Great Lakes Compact” legislation next week (S.4324-B/A.7266-B). This landmark legislation would create consistent, region wide criteria for the review of significant new or increased water withdrawals within the Great Lakes Basin. This compact was initially negotiated by the Great Lakes Governors in 2001. To be implemented, the Compact must be approved by the legislatures in all eight Great Lakes States (NY, PA, OH, IN, MI, MN, WI, and IL) and then by Congress. New York would be only the third state to adopt the Compact; to date; it has been ratified by Illinois and Minnesota. While The Business Council has not opposed this legislation, we have urged the legislature to adopt companion legislation that would clarify several provisions of the Compact, and finalize several discretionary provisions of the Compact (i.e., defining baseline withdrawals for existing facilities.) It is expected that additional, but not all, Great Lake states will finalize Compact legislation in 2008.

Senate Proposes Changes to New UI Striker Replacement Law

In August, the Governor approved legislation (S.627/A.5317, Chapter 512) suspending the seven week unemployment insurance waiting period for strikers when any replacement workers are hired. In approving this legislation, the Governor expressed concern about confusing bill language and the possibility that all employees could receive unemployment benefits even though all were not actually replaced.

An agreed to chapter amendment has been introduced as S.6489-A (Marcellino). It was reported out of the Senate Labor Committee on January 14th and passed the Senate on January 15th. There is no Assembly version, as yet.

In it, the wording covering temporary replacement is deleted but is replaced with a requirement that employers certify in writing that employees will be able to return to their prior position at the conclusion of the strike. If the employer does not make the written certification, the replacement is considered permanent and the striker is eligible for unemployment insurance benefits free of the seven week suspension. In addition, if the employer makes the certification and then does not return the striker to the job at the conclusion of the strike, the employee may recover the suspended benefits with interest and the employer may be fined up to $750 per employee per week of lost benefits.

The Business Council opposed last year's striker's benefit legislation, and has opposed S.6489 in that it imposes additional administrative burden and potential penalties on employers.

Minimum Wage Bill on Assembly Labor Committee Agenda

A.9168-A (Silver), which would raise the state's minimum wage to $7.75 on 1/1/08, $8.00 on 1/1/09, $8.25 on 1/1/10 and automatically indexed on 1/1/11, is on the January 23rd Assembly Labor Committee agenda. There is no Senate version. New York's minimum wage is currently $7.15 per hour while the federal minimum wage is $5.85 and scheduled to increase to $6.55 on July 24, 2008.

The Business Council has yet to take a position on this bill.

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