Government Affairs Albany Update
June 4, 2010

PfJ Stalemate

The two week PfJ extender expired on June 2, and Governor Paterson has said that he will not approve a new, two week extender that was passed this week by both houses of the state legislature, see S.8008 (Rules)/A.11315 (Cahill), which would extend the programs as is through June 16, 2010. Without gubernatorial approval of this extension, PfJ benefits will not be available until and unless a replacement program is adopted.

The Governor signed the initial extender in anticipation of legislative negotiations progressing over the past two weeks. Instead, the Assembly passed A.11172, which The Business Council opposed, which would create an energy benefit program dependent upon annual approval of funding by NYPA’s board, rather than a redeployment of NYPA hydropower and a power allocation-based program.

The Business Council continues to support the approach taken in the joint Administration/Senate bill (the updated version is S.8065 sponsored by Senators Aubertine and Maziarz). We continue to push for Assembly support for S.8065, and are meeting with individual Assembly members on this issue.

We welcome advocacy support by Council members that are PfJ and/or economic development power program participants, or that are interested in seeing adoption of a broader, permanent economic development power program.

Prevailing Wage Expansion Bill

Legislation that would extend public works prevailing wage requirements to private sector utilities, S.7096-A (Scheiderman)/A. 10257-A (Gianaris), passed the Senate this week on a 33-28 near party-line vote (Senator Padavan voted with the Democratic conference Senator Morahan was excused).

This bill would apply prevailing wage requirements to public utilities on non-public works by redefining utilities as public agencies, and broadly expands the list of occupations that are required to be paid prevailing wage by a public agency. The prevailing wage requirements would apply to individuals not directly employed by the utilities, including contractors and their employees. The estimated impact on just three of the state’s utility companies would exceed $37 million annually, costs that would be passed on to business and utility ratepayers. The sponsor’s memo for the legislation offers no rationale for redefining a private sector company as a public agency for the purpose of wage mandates, but the precedent is one that all private sector employers should be concerned about. The bill is currently referred to the Assembly Labor Committee.

Employer Choice Group and Blanket Disability Insurance

The Business Council is supporting legislation, S.4770 (Breslin)/A.8543 (Morelle), which would provide employers the choice of selecting certain types of group and blanket disability policies. Due to a recent NYS Court of Appeals decision (Benesowitz v. Metropolitan Life) New York is the only state in the nation that mandates coverage for preexisting conditions in group and blanket disability policies. The mandated coverage clearly places New York state businesses at a competitive disadvantage because it makes providing this type of insurance more costly, and in some instances, unaffordable for employers and employees.

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