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Government Affairs Albany Update
March 20, 2009

State Senate Labor Committee to Hear from AFL-CIO President; Review UI Benefit Increase Legislation

The Senate Labor Committee meets on Monday, March 23rd and has as its guest speaker, Denis Hughes, President of the NYS AFL-CIO. Additionally the committee agenda includes legislation which will increase unemployment insurance benefits and the taxable wage base UI taxes are assessed against. The Business Council has issued a memo in opposition to Senate Bill 2245.

The Fight Against Health Insurance Taxes Continues

With no budget conference committee meetings scheduled and no budget legislation in print as of today, The Business Council continues to push state lawmakers to reject the $481 million in proposed tax increases on health insurers proposed in the Executive Budget through e-advocacy and targeted legislative outreach and in the media. These proposed taxes come on top of $348 million in new health insurance taxes already passed in this year's Deficit Reduction Plan. These taxes will drive up the cost of health coverage for employers and workers. You may view the latest statement on this issue here, and his op/ed appears in the latest issue of The Business Review here (subscription only.)

EPA Issues Proposed Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule

In response to the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2008 (H.R. 2764; Public Law 110-161), EPA has proposed a rule that requires mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from large sources in the United States. The agency states "The proposed rule would collect accurate and comprehensive emissions data to inform future policy decisions. In general, EPA proposes that suppliers of fossil fuels or industrial greenhouse gases, manufacturers of vehicles and engines, and facilities that emit 25,000 metric tons or more per year of GHG emissions submit annual reports to EPA. For more information, visit the EPA web site.  

DEC Issues Draft Guide on Assessing Greenhouse Gas Emissions; Public Comments Accepted Through April 11, 2009

DEC issued on March 11, a draft Guide for Assessing Energy Use and Greenhouse Gas Emissions in an Environmental Impact Statement, which provides instructions to DEC staff for reviewing an environmental impact statement (EIS) that includes a discussion of energy use or greenhouse gas(GHG) emissions. DEC anticipates that this guide could be applicable to large scale projects, including major stationary sources of air pollutants requiring a DEC permit, such as electric generating facilities and solid waste facilities. The guide may also be applicable to other large proposed facilities or projects that generate thousands of vehicle trips or use significant amounts of electricity, such as very large-scale resort, residential, industrial, or commercial development projects. Public comments will be taken through April 11, 2009. Submit to:  Mike Sheehan, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12223.

NYS WARN Regulations

The NYS Department of Labor issued “emergency” regulations for the state's new plant closing and mass layoff law, the Workforce Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, or “WARN,” effective January 30, 2009. The emergency adoption and proposal for permanent adoption were published in the February 18, 2009 State Register. Here are the rule summary and the text of the emergency rule for your review.

The Business Council will be finalizing comments to be formally submitted to the NYS Department of Labor next week.

U.S. Department of Labor issues new “model” COBRA notice

The U.S. Department of Labor has issued an updated COBRA notice in connection with the extended insurance election periods called for in the federal stimulus package. USDOL advises that use of their model notifications puts employers in substantial compliance with COBRA notification requires.

Employers should use this notice to notify individuals, who involuntarily left employment between September 1, 2008 and December 31, 2009, about the 65% COBRA premium subsidy contained within the federal stimulus and the process individuals need to follow if they wish to elect coverage within the terms of the subsidy. More details on the COBRA subsidy can be found here.