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Government Affairs Albany Update
June 3, 2011

The following provides a list of key legislation still active for the last two weeks (eight session days) remaining on the 2011 legislative session calendar. We urge you to weigh in with your local legislators and with legislative leaders on those end of session issues that directly affect your business.

Please feel free to contact the appropriate Council staff, as indicated in the summaries below, if you would like additional information on these proposals or our end-of-session advocacy efforts.

Property Tax Cap

We are still waiting on final agreement on a real property tax cap bill. An agreement in principle among the Governor, Senate and Assembly was announced last week, with a focus on new legislation, A.7916, introduced by Assembly Speaker Silver and supported by the Council. This bill establishes a 2% cap (or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower) on increased real property tax levies imposed by counties, cities (excluding NYC, towns, villages, fire districts and special districts and school districts, excluding the “big 5” city districts), and provides an exclusion for some pension and other costs. The key unsettled issue is whether the cap legislation would include a sunset date, and whether the sunset would be tied to the extension of rent control legislation.

Martin Act

We continue to oppose extension of the extremely broad securities fraud provisions afforded to the Attorney General to public and private pension funds, and the members of the trial bar that would represent them. This legislation - S.4497-A (Libous)/A.6060-A (Lancman) - is scheduled to be on the Assembly Codes Committee agenda next week. So far, there is no indication that it will move in the Senate. However, because of the significant damage this legislation could cause to publicly traded corporations and the financial services industry, and considering its two house majority sponsorship, it remains on the top of our end of session watch list.

Autism Coverage Mandate

The legislature is again considering legislation that passed in 2010, but was vetoed by then-Governor Paterson, that would add an expensive coverage mandate to group health plans. The Business Council opposes S.4005 (Fuschillo)/A.6305 (Morelle), which would impose an open-ended insurance coverage mandate on health insurance plans for autism spectrum disorder. The bill provides no requirement that treatments be evidence based, peer reviewed and clinically proven; it increases costs on taxpayers who fund the employer share for public employee health benefits; and will increase costs for individuals and employers in NYS.

Workers’ Comp Treatment Guidelines

Two different bills would roll back the applicability of medical treatment guidelines for workers’ compensation claimants, thereby eroding the cost savings elements of the 2007 reform package. S.3741 (Maziarz)/A. 6294 (Wright) would prohibit the guidelines from being applied to injuries that occurred prior to guideline adoptions; an even broader bill, S.5476 (Ritchie)/A.7934 (Tenney), would in effect repeal the guidelines. The Board treatment guidelines present a peer reviewed standard of care whose applicability is not dependent on the date of the injury. We are strongly opposed to any rollback of the state’s medical treatment guidelines.

Pharmaceutical Costs

Two different bills would roll back programs designed to reduce the cost of pharmaceuticals whether in workers’ comp or group health plans. S.3749 (Robach)/A.5183 (Simotas) would allow an injured employee to utilize any pharmacy that matched the state’s “published prices,” regardless of whether such pharmacy was in their employer’s pharma network. Pharmaceutical networks were authorized in the 2007 comp reforms, and were designed to produce costs savings through volume discounts which could be offered to employers and claimants that were part of the network. A second bill, S.3510-B (Maziarz)/A.5502-B (Heastie) would prohibit health insurers from requiring the use of a mail order pharmacy as a condition of their pharmaceutical benefit coverage – again, rolling back approaches designed to reduce program costs. The Council opposes both of these proposals.

Health Insurance Exchanges

To qualify for federal funds available under federal health reform, New York must enact enabling legislation this session to establish the governance framework for a health insurance exchange to serve thesmall group and individual markets. The Business Council has argued that the state should adopt legislation creating the basic structure, but avoid significant policy decisions in advance of further study, on issues such as the merger of the individual and small group markets and the role the exchange will play in selecting products available through the exchange. Governor Cuomo is expected to introduce legislation, but has not yet done so.

Payroll Deductions

Legislation supported by the Council to expand the category of allowable paycheck deductions has already passed the Assembly and is on the Senate calendar. This legislation, S.2837 (Young)/A.5448 (Morelle), would allow paycheck deductions to be made by employers that are for the benefit or convenience of employees, and would include items such as company cafeterias, parking and other benefits and services.

Hydrofracking

A number of bills are advancing in the Assembly that would impose restrictions on, or impose additional regulatory burdens on, development of the Marcellus Shale formation using hydraulic fracturing or “hydrofracking.” These include A.7400 (Sweeney) which would impose a moratorium on any permits until June 1, 2012; and S.893 (Krueger)/A.2108 (Lifton), which would impose a “joint and several” liability standard for any damages resulting from natural gas exploration; and A.2922 (Sweeney)/S.425 (Krueger) which would prohibit the use of hydraulic fluids that contain certain chemicals. While these bills are advancing in the Assembly, to date they do not have majority sponsorship, nor are they likely to move, in the State Senate. The Business Council believes that environmental standards for hydrofracking will be effectively addressed in DEC rulemaking, and should not be superseded by additional legislative restrictions.

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