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Government Affairs Albany Update

April 18, 2008

Assembly Passes Legislation Establishing E-Waste Collection and Disposal Program

The issue of electronic waste recycling continues to receive attention at the state level in light of recent legislation enacted in New York City.  As part of their “Earth Day” package, this week the Assembly passed A.8444-B (Sweeney) which would:

The Senate bill is S.7563 (Marcellino).

The Business Council opposed this legislation, but supports an approach that would create a partnership between manufacturers, municipalities, and for-profit and not-for-profit organizations to handle collection and transportation of electronic equipment. The burden of e-waste collection should not be placed solely on the manufacturers, nor should manufacturers bear the responsibility for collection and disposal of products under another brand.

Assembly Passes Greenhouse Gas Emission Legislation

Also as part of its “Earth Day” package, the Assembly passed A.10303 (Sweeney), legislation that would authorize the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to promulgate rules and regulations regulating greenhouse gas emissions from a wide range of sources. The rules would require annual greenhouse gas emission reporting from emissions' sources, and mandate that emissions from these sources be capped at 1990 aggregate emission levels by 2014.

The Business Council has opposed this legislation, based on concerns about the practicality of this approach. Based on national data, greenhouse gas emissions in 2006 were nearly 20 percent above 1990 levels. Assuming comparable levels in New York, achieving a 20 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions over the next six years will be impractical, especially given that about one-third of all such emissions are from the transportation sector over which the state has limited regulatory authority.
There is no companion bill in the Senate.

Pay Equity “Lite” legislation moves in the Senate

With “National Pay Equity Day-2008” coming on April 22nd, the Senate took up some old and new pay equity legislation this week.

S.7521, a one house bill sponsored by the new Senate Labor Committee chairman Joe Robach, passed the Senate on a 62-0 vote. This newly introduced bill amends the state's labor law and increases fines for wage discrimination based on sex.  It also requires the commissioner of labor along with other state agencies and private organizations to issue a report before May 1, 2009 on the wage differential between men and women and between minorities and non-minorities in the New York State job market.

Senator Robach was criticized for not taking up the older pay equity legislation, the New York State Fair Pay Act, S.3936, a more comprehensive bill sponsored by Senator Craig Johnson from Long Island and passed by the Assembly each year. Interestingly, Senator Johnson voted yes for Senator Robach's bill.

A notice of motion to petition a vote on S.3936 in the Senate was filed on April 3rd and a vote was attempted on April 15th, the day after Robach's S.7521 passed. The motion to petition lost.

Employee or Independent Contractor?
Don't Wait for An Audit to Find Out!

Officials from the NYS Department of Labor will be the guests at a meeting hosted by The Business Council on Thursday, April 24, 2008 at 1:00 pm at The Business Council's Corporate Woods office, Building 12. Use this opportunity to hear from officials on the work of the interagency Employee Misclassification Task Force, the standards used to identify whether an individual is an independent contractor or employee, how that impacts your business bottom line, and what steps to take to ensure compliance with state labor and workers' compensation laws related to employee classification.

This meeting is open to all Business Council members and is being hosted by The Business Council's Construction Industry Council and Transportation Committee. Recent agency reports and press stories have highlighted increased state agency enforcement efforts to ensure all businesses are operating from a level playing field. Don't miss this chance to hear from agency officials how to avoid becoming the next press headline.  

President's Climate Change Strategy Looks Beyond This Congress

This week, President Bush advanced a global climate change strategy that could steer the debate into the future. The new greenhouse gas emissions initiatives appear less designed to result in major new legislation than to subtly force the debate in a direction the President believes is prudent.

Bush's plan rejects a mandatory cap-and-trade program for carbon emissions such as the bill carried by Senators Lieberman and Warner of the US Senate will consider in early June. Bush has committed the U.S. to participating in a new international process that seeks to establish greenhouse gas reduction goals for the world's "major economies" with a U.S. goal proposed to end emission increases by 2025. The President also indicated that, while he rejects a mandatory overall carbon cap, he does support a variety of mandatory programs that result in lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Shorris Resigns from Port Authority

Anthony Shorris has resigned as the Executive Director of the Port Authority effective April 24, 2008. The resignation signals another change in the administration of Governor Paterson.

Sources say that Christopher Ward of the General Contractors Association of New York is a leading candidate for the Executive Director position at the Port Authority. The General Contractors Association is a long-time member of The Business Council.

Washington Update - US Senate Vote On Pay Measure Sets off Scramble

The US Senate has made a late decision to schedule a vote for next Wednesday on a pay discrimination bill.

The US Senate bill under consideration aims to undo last year's Supreme Court decision that makes it harder for employees to sue for pay discrimination. It is a top priority for women, civil rights and labor groups, but several business groups plan to consider support for the bill a key vote against their interests. The House passed the bill in August. President Bush has threatened to veto it.

The legislation would effectively remove the statute of limitations from Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin. It was crafted in response to the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling in last May that set a 180-day limit on an employee's right to sue for pay discrimination.

Proponents argue that the decision invites companies to discriminate: If they can cover pay disparities for six months, workers will be unable to sue.

Opponents say the bill goes beyond a simple inversion of the decision: It could allow retirees receiving pension payments to bring decades-old lawsuits against a company that might have changed ownership several times.

Wednesday's vote will occur a day after Equal Pay Day, a symbolic date intended to show how far into the year a woman must work, on average, to earn as much as a man earned the previous year.

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