Government Affairs Albany Update
June 5, 2009
- Power for Jobs
- Paid Family Leave, 2009 Version
- Big Ideas in Search of Legislative Sponsors
- Business Council to Testify on Health Insurance Premium Rate Setting Legislation
- Workers' Comp Medical Director
- Asset Maximization Commission Completes its Work
Despite last week's announcement of an “agreement” to extend Power for Jobs for eleven months, the Administration and Legislature are still working off three separate proposals. Three-way discussions continue on this bill, and a final agreement could be reached at any point. Thus far:
- The Administration has put in a fairly straightforward one-year extension, with a provision that allows them to redistribute any relinquished PFJ allocations based on current statutory criteria. It has yet to be introduced.
- The Senate has told us they are putting in an 18 month extender bill, through the end of 2010; and at this point in time, are not planning on proposing a longer term replacement program bill. Bill language is not yet available.
- The Assembly has circulated a draft bill that extends the programs through May 15, 2010, and imposes a new energy audit/energy conservation mandate on most NYPA business customers, including Power for Jobs, Economic Development Power, as well as expansion, replacement and preservation power customers. These audit/conservation programs apply to electric and non-electric energy consumption. This draft presents very ambiguous language as to what participants are obligated to commit to in their efficiency programs. We have expressed our concerns to the Assembly.
A new paid family leave bill has been introduced by Senator Savino and Speaker Silver. S.5791/A.8742 provides 12 weeks of family leave and 26 weeks of personal disability leave, including pregnancy. These two types of leave are separate and one does not count towards the other, leading to a possible total of 38 weeks of paid disability.
Additionally, the bill requires employers with more than 25 employees to return the employee on leave to the job held at the beginning of the leave – or a comparable position with comparable pay and benefits. The maximum weekly disability benefit, now at $170 per week, would step up over several years to 50% of the state's average weekly wage. The first step increase would be to about $400 per week.
The Business Council continues its opposition to any paid family leave bill and is poised to activate the electronic opposition campaign next week.
Governor Paterson has been releasing a series of significant policy initiatives in the form of Governor's Program Bills, many in search of legislative sponsors. Policy initiatives as diverse as carbon capture and sequestration, creation of a Tier V in the state pension system, a property tax cap, and mandate relief all can be found on the Governor's web site.
On Monday, June 8, Kenneth Adams will testify at an Assembly Insurance Committee public hearing on the regulatory approval process for health insurance premium rates. The hearing will gather testimony on legislation recently proposed by Governor Paterson, A.8280 Morelle / S.5470 Breslin, which would reinstate the prior-approval process for individual and small group premium increases and would also grant the Superintendent of Insurance broad authority to increase the minimum loss ratio of affected carriers. The Business Council opposes the Governor's bill, and believes that a prior approval system could politicize and artificially suppress heath insurance premium rates. Details on the hearing can be found here.
The Workers' Compensation Board has named Stephen M. Levin MD, a “nationally recognized expert in occupational medicine,” to serve as its interim medical director. This position has been vacant for a number of years. As interim director, Dr. Levin will help design and create the Board's Office of the Medical Director, provide guidance, advice and assistance with respect to medical treatment and medical impairment guidelines, and meet with interested parties to discuss medical issues relating to workers' compensation. Dr. Levin is the medical co-director of the Mount Sinai–I.J. Selikoff Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center, and will continue in those roles as well. The Business Council has worked extensively with Dr. Levin on the Board's Medical Advisory Committee, which has drafted treatment guidance for workers' comp claimants and providers, and is currently developing medical impairment guidelines. The Board's press release is available here.
The New York State Commission on Asset Maximization issued a final report examining potential projects for public-private partnerships. Some of the key recommendations include: school construction and renovation in Syracuse and Yonkers; 300 bridge renovations in all corners of the State; wind power on the Great Lakes; and high speed rail. In addition to outlining specific project ideas that could be effective long-term projects, the report also recommends the creation of a State Asset Maximization Board to screen, oversee and implement PPPs. The State Asset Maximization Board will serve as an entry point for new ideas, provide continuous oversight and transparency, and enable New York State to tap into New York's best and brightest minds – across the public and private sectors. The Board would be unsalaried. The Business Council commends the work of the Commission members and Executive Director Samara Barend.