Government Affairs Albany Update
April 16, 2010

Corporate Campaign Restrictions Proposed

The Senate Committee on Elections is holding public hearings on April 20 in Albany and April 23 in New York City seeking comment on proposals that, among other things, would significantly limit campaign expenditures by corporations. Other proposals would adopt public campaign financing, expand disclosure requirements for all campaign contributions, and limit public official’s ability to use campaign funds for non-campaign expenses.

Of particular concern to The Business Council is S.7083 which would require majority shareholder approval of any corporate contributions to a political candidate or party committee or in support or opposition to a candidate or ballot referendum. A second bill, S.7478, would prohibit political contributions by any businesses that have been awarded state contracts. Ostensibly, these proposals are in response to the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision in Citizen's United v. Federal Election Commission, which effectively eliminate restrictions on corporations' ability to expend corporate resources in support or opposition to political candidates, political parties and ballot referendums.

The Business Council is reviewing the full list of bills being reviewed at these hearings and requests that concerned members contact Heather Briccetti at 518.465.7511 x203 to discuss the business community's response.

State Supreme Court Sides With Group Self-Insured Trusts

In a decision released this Wednesday, Decision and Order in the Held v. WCB declaratory judgment action, State Supreme Court Justice Kimberly O’Connor rejected the Workers’ Compensation Board’s ability to impose assessments on self-insured trusts in order to pay workers’ comp indemnity and medical claims incurred by members of other defaulted self-insured trusts. The decision found that, notwithstanding the authority granted to the WCB under the Workers’ Compensation Law, assessing healthy trusts for the obligations of defaulted trusts represents an unconstitutional taking of private property from the plaintiffs.

The decision further notes that assessing healthy trusts for the obligations of unrelated defaulted trusts raises "substantial questions of fairness," in that the WCB had never exercised its authority prior to 2007, and that this aspect of liability was not addressed in the WCB's 2001 rules package. The suit was brought on behalf of thirteen self-insured trusts managed by First Cardinal.

The state is appealing this decision. However, it leaves open the issue of how the liabilities of defaulted groups will be financed. If this ruling is sustained, the state will likel propose legislation creating an alternative funding source. The Board recently issued its first quarter 2010 assessments to self-insured employers and trusts based on $60 million in anticipated expenses related to defaulted groups during the current calendar year. The Board has determined that the fifteen self-insured trusts that have defaulted to date have an aggregate unfunded liability of more than $450 million. Please visit our website for more workers compensation news.

HR Advocacy Efforts

This week, The Business Council and Human Resource Professionals from member businesses met with the State Senate members and staff on a range of human resource and labor issues, including paid family leave, pay equity, unemployment benefit increases and electronic employee monitoring. The Business Council’s opposition to these proposals was discussed in separate meetings with Senator Diane Savino, sponsor of the paid family leave legislation; Senator Craig Johnson, sponsor of pay equity; Shelley Mayer, Chief Counsel to the Senate Majority and Peter Kosinski, counsel to the Senate Minority.

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