Government Affairs Albany Update
June 12, 2009

Senate Leadership Still In Dispute

There was no legislative activity in the State Senate this week after Republicans with the help of two Democratic Senators, Pedro Espada and Hiram Monserrate appeared to take control of the body on Monday. Democrats maintained the vote to make Espada the President Pro Tempore and Republican Dean Skelos, Majority Leader was “illegal”.

The Senate did not convene again until Thursday morning, when only the Republicans and the two Democrats came to the chamber. They were unable to conduct legislative business because they did not have the key to the drawer with the bill jackets. So the session was quickly adjourned after speeches by Senators Monserrate, Espada and Skelos.

As the week ended Democrats were trying to bring Monserrate back into their conference.

State Supreme Court Justice Thomas McNamara has scheduled a hearing of both sides' legal arguments for 9:30 am Monday, June 15. The Senate is scheduled to return to session at 3:00 pm Monday.

The judge urged leaders of both parties to resolve the dispute before Monday. But he added, "I will have a decision well before 3 o'clock on Monday...And an order for whoever is appropriate to conduct the business of the Senate by 3 o'clock."

Wilmers to Step Down

Robert Wilmers, Chairman of M&T Bank and member of The Business Council's Board of Directors, is stepping down as chair of Empire State Development Corporation. Dennis Mullen, President and CEO of ESDC, was nominated by Governor Paterson to replace Wilmers as Chair; the nomination requires Senate Approval. The Administration's announcement is available here.

NYC Business Tax Conformance Bill

The Assembly has introduced legislation supported by New York City, A.8867 (Silver), that would bring the City's business taxes into conformance with recent changes to the state's Corporate Franchise and Bank taxes. Among its provisions, A.8867 would:

This proposal includes provisions that were supported by The Business Council (e.g., single sales factor apportionment), and provisions that were opposed by the Council (e.g., credit card nexus provisions), when comparable proposals were considered by the State Legislature. As this proposal would generate revenues needed to balance the City's new budget, some version of it is likely to be acted on before adjournment of the 2009 state legislative session. We are seeking additional input on this proposal, and urge members to review and provide us with comments at your earliest convenience.

Staff contact: ken.pokalsky@bcnys.org

Empire Zone “Technical Amendments”

Assemblyman Robin Schimminger this week introduced companion legislation to S.5598, which would amend several Empire Zone provisions adopted with the FY2010 state budget. This bill, A.8803, would eliminate retroactive de-certifications going back to the 2008 tax year, and assure that businesses that underwent reorganizations, but also had significant job growth or investments, would not be decertified under the so-called “shirt-changer” criteria. The bill also clarifies the definition of “change of ownership” for purposes of decertifying Empire Zone companies. The Senate bill has moved to Senate Finance; the Assembly bill is in the Economic Development Committee. The Business Council strongly supports this legislation. This bill is on the Assembly Economic Development Committee agenda for next Tuesday, June 16th.

Staff contact: ken.pokalsky@bcnys.org

Council Testifies on “Prior Approval”

Health insurance premium rate regulation was the focus of a June 8th Assembly Insurance Committee hearing convened by Committee Chair Joseph Morelle. Business Council President Kenneth Adams testified, saying that the Council opposes the Governor's Program Bill (S.5470 Breslin/A.8280 Morelle) that would restore the rate regulation process known as “prior approval” and make it the exclusive mechanism for adjusting health insurance premium rates in the small group and individual insurance markets. The bill would give the Superintendent of Insurance complete discretion and expanded authority over rate changes. With some modifications, The Business Council supports maintaining the rate setting process known as “file and use” currently in place in New York. You may view Kenneth Adams' written testimony here, and our legislative memo here.

Workforce Training Opportunities

Two new workforce training RFPs have been issued by the State Department of Labor. Both are supported in part by federal stimulus money, and have aggressive timetables for response. Both also offer opportunities for businesses to leverage federal funding to upgrade the skills of their incumbent workforce. The Building Skills in NYS grant will award up to $50,000 per company for a six month contract to upgrade the skills of incumbent workers. There is a $3,000 cap per training for each proposal and the training must take place on company time with trainees compensated at no less than their normal rate of pay while participating in training. Applications are due by July 20, 2009. A second solicitation, the Emerging and Transitional Worker Training Program, sets aside up to $10 million to support contract awards ranging from $50,000 to $500,000 for projects targeted at training emerging and transitional workers. Priority will be given to those applications which seek to include training for those in green jobs or jobs related to renewable energy, energy efficiency and alternative fuels; and for partnering with a community college or other institution of higher education to facilitate the training being offered to trainees. Applications for this solicitation are due July 8, 2009.

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