Government Affairs Albany Update
May 21, 2010
This past week, the Governor called a leaders meeting which resulted in a contentious discussion regarding the lack of conference committees, which are legally required but have not yet been held since the Governor released the executive budget proposal. Following the meeting, the Senate Democrats announced their assignments for the conference committees, which can be viewed here and the Senate Republicans’ assignments can be viewed here. The Senate has reportedly started scheduling meetings of the conference committees for next week, but the Assembly has not yet publicly indicated whether they will participate or who will be assigned to eachcommittee.
Legislation that would give employees much broader ability to file suit against their employers has recently passed the state Senate and may see action in the Assembly. A5414 (Englebright)/S1823 (Morahan), the abusive work environment bill, was approved by the Senate on a 45 to 16 vote on May 12th. Here is the Business Council’s opposition memo.
If added to our state labor law, this bill could make the employer responsible for the behavior of any employee that another employee considers offensive, hostile, threatening, derogatory or uncivil. It could subject the employer to significant new litigation and exposure to liability for lost wages, medical expenses, emotional distress, punitive damages and attorney’s fees. It invites the courts into New York businesses to examine the “motive” behind every comment, disagreement, perceived slight, performance evaluation, disciplinary action and termination that an employee alleges to have caused physical or psychological harm.
Business Council members should communicate with their Assembly Members that there are already sufficient protections for employees in the workplace on both the federal and state levels, that this legislation will increase the cost of operating a business in New York State and that it will work against businesses creating the hundreds of thousands of real private sector jobs needed to get employment levels back to pre-recession levels.
The NYS legislature is considering an economy-wide GHG limitations bill. S.4315A (Thompson)/A.7572A (Sweeney) has already passed the Assembly (as it has in past sessions). The Senate sponsor, Antoine Thompson, has told us he intends to pass this bill, or a version thereof, through the Senate this year as well, and has asked for amendments that would make the proposal more workable. The Business Council opposes the bill in its current form.
This bill directs the Department of Environmental Conservation to adopt “enforceable limits on the aggregate level of greenhouse gas emissions from all greenhouse gas emissions sources,” with the limits set at 1990 levels by 1/1/2013, 20% below 1990 levels by 1/1/2020, and – ultimately - 80% below 1990 levels by 1/1/2050. NYSERDA data shows 1990 emissions at 277 million tons of CO2 equivalent and projects 2010 emissions at 283 MM tons, and 2020 emissions at 292 MM tons, which would require some reductions within the next three years, but up to 70 million TPY, or 24%, reduction from the projected 2020 levels.)
We need your input on a number of key issues related to this bill. Please review this detailed bill summary and request for input. We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.
This week, the Assembly and Senate Democrats, joined by Senate Energy Chair George Maziarz, reached agreement on a permanent PfJ replacement program. Also, both houses passed a bill extending the current program through June 2nd, which the Administration has said it will sign. On Wednesday, NYPA announced that it was immediately “reactivating” the programs, saying it will assure that program participants receive the full benefits of PfJ and related cost savings programs retroactively to Sunday, May 16.
The joint Adminstration/Senate bill is based on the Administration’s program bill #254, and would:
- Establish a floor of 320MW of power allocations that would go to participants within the three upstate utility service territories now served by “rural and domestic” hydropower (roughly the share of current PfJ recipients in these areas).
- Increase funding for upstate residential rate mitigation to $100 million in year 1, declining to $86, $72, $58, $44 million over the next four years, then remaining fixed at $30 million per year; $5 million set aside for current farm recipients of R&D power.
- Adopt the Senate’s proposed “soft landing” for current PfJ/EDP participants that do not qualify for allocations under the new program, with current benefits phased out over five years for these recipients.
- Existing PfJ/EDP participants would have existing benefits extended (but limited to value over 2009/10 time frame) from 5/15/2010 thru 7/1/2011, as the new program is implemented.
We will circulate bill language once it is available. Based on this outline, The Business Council supports this negotiated bill.
To date, the Assembly majority has yet to stake out a formal position on this issue, or offer any alternative or counterproposal. While Assemblyman Cahill’s bill, A.10053, has passed out of Assembly Energy Committee, it does not yet represent the Dem conference position. Absent any new progress toward a three way agreement with the Assembly, the current plan is to pass this new version in the Senate on Monday.