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Government Affairs Albany Update
March 25, 2011

ADMINISTRATION/TRANSITION

Confirmation Hearings. The State Senate should take final action on Kenneth Adams’ appointment as Commissioner of the Department of Economic Development and President and CEO of Empire State Development Corporation next week. This week’s confirmation hearings were postponed.

BUSINESS COUNCIL POLITICAL ACTION COMMITTEE

Hannon Fundraiser. The Council’s Political Action Committee is hosting a fundraiser in support of Senate Health Committee Chairman Kemp Hannon on Wednesday, March 30, from 8:15 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. at the Fort Orange Club, 110 Washington Avenue, Albany. A formal invitation is available here. This is part of our ongoing efforts to support legislators and candidates that support private sector business, jobs and investments. I look forward to seeing you on March 30.

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

Recharge NY. The Business Council, along with a coalition of twenty five other business organizations from across New York, continue to push for final Assembly approval of “Recharge NY” – S.3164 (Maziarz)/A.5021 (Cahill) – that would create a permanent replacement for Power for Jobs and related energy cost savings programs. This legislation has already passed the Senate 62 – 0. We are now urging Assembly members to show their support by formally co-sponsoring the Assembly version. The Council continues to discuss this proposal with the Speaker’s staff and Assembly Energy Chair Kevin Cahill. The Assembly seems supportive of the new economic development energy program it creates, but is still considering the need for additional energy efficiency funds to be part of the package. We are urging its passage as soon as work is completed on the new budget. Staff contact: ken.pokalsky@bcnys.org.

Tax Hike Defeated. A bill introduced by Senator Diaz (S.262/A.1111) to impose a fifty percent franchise tax on corporate owned life insurance (COLI) was defeated in the Senate Investigations and Government Operations Committee. The Business Council aggressively lobbied against this bill because it is a tax hike that would threaten the long-term financial security of small and large companies. This bill would have likely rendered New York’s market for COLI policies virtually non-existent, contributing to job-losses on Wall Street and in back office operations in upstate New York.

A second bill (S.347/A.156) requiring issuers of debit and credit cards to pay sales and use taxes directly to the state tax commission was defeated in the Senate Investigations and Government Operations Committee. The Council lobbied against this bill because it would have created an unnecessary and cumbersome burden on credit card transactions.

REGULATORY UPDATE

“Gift Ban.”   The Commission on Public Integrity has approved revisions to its proposed rule on the Lobbying Act's "give ban,"applicable to registered lobbyists and their clients. It will be re-published in the State Register as a revised rulemaking, subject to a final 30 day public comment period. A copy of the proposed Par 934 rule is available here. The Business Council submitted extensive comments on this proposal when it was proposed last August. Most of our comments were not adopted, leaving – in our view – a proposal that is inconsistent with underlying statutory language, and that presents the advocacy community with compliance standards that are ambiguous at best. Of particularly concern is the rule’s criteria for “widely attended, officially related” events to which complementary invitations for public officials are allows. We believe the revised language is contrary to statute, and fails to provide clear compliance criteria. The Business Council will be submitting comments on the revised rulemaking, and would appreciate your comments. Our initial set of comments is available here and our overview of these proposed amendments is available here.

New Source Review. The Department of Environmental Conservation has proposed amendments to its “new source review” rule that would for the first time subject green house gas emissions to NSR’s pre-construction evaluation and permitting requirements for major stationary sources. The proposal also updates the state’s NSR rule with regard to fine particulate precursors. The DEC describes this proposal as necessary to conform the state’s federally-delegated NSR program to the federal GHG “tailoring rule” and to the EPA’s NSR final rule for PM2.5. Public hearings will be held beginning June 1, 2011, and public comments will be received until June 10, 2011. The Business Council will be submitting comments, and welcomes input from members. The draft rule is available here; the State Register notice is available here.

OTHER ISSUES

Mandate Relief Team. Governor Cuomo’s Mandate Relief Team (MRT) met on March 21st to review 60 different recommendations advanced primarily by state agencies, with some measures advanced by different members of the MRT. A number of proposals related to providing local governments relief from publishing requirements and providing expanded authority to use electronic tools for publication and dissemination. Other proposals seek to permit greater use of the federal GSA schedules and piggybacking on federal contracts. One recommendation of long-standing interest to the Business Council was a proposal to amend the Scaffold Law to permit evidence in work-site liability cases regarding fault.  

Most proposals have the strong conceptual support of the Business Council; some recommendations advanced by the Board of Regents are in areas where the Business Council has not typically taken policy positions. As only concepts were provided without detailed proposed language, MRT members were asked to review the list of items and provide direct feedback on which items were of primary importance.

Senior Advisor to the Governor Larry Schwartz advised that the MRT will continue to meet over the next several months to review the more than 2,000 proposals submitted. Recommendations will be organized by theme for ease of review. It is unclear once MRT members prioritize recommendations in each of the categories, how a final set of recommendations will be advanced to the Executive and Legislature. Staff Contact:  Lev Ginsburg

Tax Committee Update. On Monday, March 21, the Business Council’s Tax Committee met with new Tax Commissioner Thomas Mattox. Key discussion topics included: possible updating of the state’s corporate franchise, bank and sales tax laws; additional improvements in DT&F processes, including continued movement to electronic document transfers and continued improvement in their audit process and policies; updating the Departments criteria and methodology for developing advisory opinions; continuation of the function of the Office of Taxpayer Advocacy; and revisions to the Department process for vacating judgments, use of tax warrants, and addressing tax liability of partnerships and LLCs. In closing, it was agreed that Tax Committee members would do additional work on main issues, in particular the advisory opinion/guidance process issue, and audit/process issues, for further, more specific discussion at the upcoming Commissioner’s Taxpayer Advisory Committee meeting (scheduled for May 3, 2011). Please contact ken.pokalsky@bcnys.org for additional updates and/or if you would like to participate in our Tax Committee efforts.

State Energy Plan. The Energy Coordinating Working Group (ECWG), the staff arm of the New York State Energy Planning Board, is conducting a series of outreach meetings with various key constituency organizations, as it develops the Scope for the 2013 State Energy Plan (“Plan”). The Business Council will be participating in the ECWG’s event this Monday, March 28. The state energy plan addresses a wide range of energy related issues including future energy needs, reliability, cost, environmental and public health impacts, and economic growth. The ECWG’s draft scoping document is available on line here.  Comments may address any aspect of the Scope including how the Board should conduct the technical and policy analyses described, as well as any additional issues that should be addressed.

We welcome any input from Council members on the next round of state energy planning. In addition, interested parties are able to submit comments directly to ECWG through the Energy Plan web site. Staff contact: ken.pokalsky@bcnys.org

Executive Orders Repealed.  Governor Cuomo recently issued Executive Order No. 12, published in the March 23, 2011 State Register, which revoked and repealed a number of prior Executive Orders. Among those revoked were:

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