Government Affairs Albany Update
October 21, 2011

Regulatory Reform

The Cuomo Administration has asked for recommendations for regulatory reforms that would improve the state’s economic competitiveness and eliminate barriers to new investments and new jobs in New York State. Based on previous input and recent conversations with Business Council members, we have compiled an initial list of recommendations.

We urge GAC members to discuss this request with your company’s regulatory staff, and provide us with additional regulatory reform priorities at your earliest convenience.

Please feel free to contact Ken Pokalsky or other members of our Government Affairs team to provide recommendations or to discuss further.

Corporate Disclosure

In the 2010 session, The Business Council successfully pushed back on legislative responses to the “Citizen’s United” decision. These included bills that would have required shareholder approval of contributions and corporate disclosure of contributions for independent expenditures related to candidates or ballot initiatives that were not otherwise subject to federal or state disclosure requirements.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has announced his office “obtained commitments for disclosure of political spending” from three Fortune 500 corporations: Marriott International, Yum Brands and Limited Brands clothing. These agreements were pushed by the Council of Institutional Investors, a national organization comprised mostly of public pension funds. An example of these agreements is available here.

According to the Comptroller’s press release, these businesses will report direct and indirect financial and other contributions to political campaigns and advocacy groups in addition to “clarifying their approval process for political contributions.” These agreements were justified in part to assure “that these companies aren't endangering our investments by taking positions that may not be in the best interests of shareholders.” The CRF’s holdings in these three companies ranged from $27 to $86 million. According to the Comptroller’s office, they are also working with the Center for Political Accountability and the national Coalition for Accountability in Political Spending (CAPS) to ensure that corporations are held accountable for their political spending. As a founding member of the non-partisan CAPS, DiNapoli has called for full disclosure of corporate involvement in elections in the aftermath of the "Citizens United" decision.

We welcome any member interest in or feedback on the Comptroller’s disclosure initiative. Staff contact: ken.pokalsky@bcnys.org

Proposed Guidelines for Independent Exenditures in NYC

The New York City Charter Revision Commission has proposed new rules on the disclosure and reporting requirements after voters approved a 2010 ballot proposal authorizing the Commission to make new rules and guidelines that would require more transparency of Independent Expenditures, including who is contributing to them and clearly identifying who is responsible for advertising materials. Under existing law, NYC Campaign Finance Board (CFB) has no power to require disclosure related to independent expenditures. The proposed new rules would:

The full guide to the proposed rules changes can be found here.

The New York City Campaign Finance Board is holding a public hearing on proposed new rules for the disclosure of independent expenditures based on testimony given in March 2011, the hearing is scheduled for October 27 at 11:00 AM at 40 Rector Street, 6th Floor, Hearing Room E; written comments can be made to the Executive Director of the Campaign Finance Board, 40 Rector Street, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10006. Comments must be received by October 27, 2011.

If this is something that concerns your organization, please contact Ken Pokalsky.

Municipal Mandates

There is little doubt that there is a direct connection between historic mandates upon municipalities and the local property tax levy. If municipalities are to live below the newly enacted property tax cap they are going to need statutory relief from some of the historic municipal mandates.

The Business Council of the State of New York is working with a coalition of associations, regional interests, and municipal associations to identify a list of mandates that together we will advocate for statutory relief. In th coming month an official announcement will be made. The coalition has identified a number of statutory changes, including amendments to the State’s construction and civil service laws. There once was a time in New York’s not so distant past that mandates and cost shift were the norm, it is time that as a cohesive voice we oppose additional mandates while we look to redress the current costly directives.

Additionally, on other fronts the TBC is working diligently to address the identified mandates upon business of the State.

Governor Signs Legislation Easing Penalties on Small Businesses

Last month Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law Chapter 524 of the Laws of 2011 requiring state agencies, when adopting rules that involve the assessment of penalties on small businesses or local governments, to include a “cure period” that will allow time for correction or amelioration of violations before the penalties are imposed.

This measure will help small businesses save time and money while promoting strong business practices and good relations with government agencies. This is particularly helpful to those businesses that have committed small or low risk violations that do not pose a serious threat to public health or safety.

This law became effective October 1, 2011.

Items of Interest

The Federalist Society is hosting a public debate on Tuesday, November 8 at Albany Law School entitled, “Is ‘Obamacare’ Constitutional?”  Speakers include Robert Alt, Senior Legal Fellow at The Heritage Foundation and Scott Lemieux, Assistant Professor of Political Science at The College of St. Rose.