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This Week in Government Affairs
January 13, 2012

TOP STORY

The Business Council continues its advocacy efforts to promote development of the Marcellus Shale formation. On Tuesday, we participated in a press conference with Clean Growth Now, a coalition of labor, business, landowners, and agriculture, that urged timely finalization of the Department of Environmental Conservation’s proposed regulatory program.

Business Council of New York State President Heather Briccetti said, “capitalizing on the tremendous opportunity offered by Marcellus shale development will help reduce our dependence on foreign oil, produce private-sector jobs, and attract investment. We’re confident development can be done safely and must be done in a timely manner.”

On Wednesday, The Council called for amendments that create a more workable and more certain approval process in detailed technical comments submitted in response to the DEC draft revised generic environmental impact state, proposed regulation, and proposed general permit for wastewater discharges. The industry is seeking final approval, and commencement of permitting in 2012. The Business Council and others have projected significant investments and jobs resulting from new, environmentally protective natural gas exploration.

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

Key Legislation

The Business Council is working on the following bills, which are set to move on a legislative committee agenda or Senate or Assembly floor calendar next week. We urge members to weigh in with their Senate and Assembly representatives if these bills affect your business:

Minimum Wage

In his state of the city speech this week, Mayor Michael Bloomberg supported Assembly Speaker Silver’s call for an increase in the state minimum wage, which according to state Labor Law is the higher of the federal wage or $7.15/hour. Eighteen states now have minimum wages higher than the federal standard. Neither Silver nor Bloomberg have made a specific proposal yet; in 2008, the Assembly passed legislation increasing the state minimum wage to $8.25/hour in three steps. This Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics site has detailed data on minimum wage earners at the national and state levels.

REGULATORY UPDATE

Siting Law Rules

The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is proposing new regulations adopting carbon dioxide emission standards and environmental justice review criteria for new and modified power plants, as required by last year’s siting law. The new Part 251 will set CO2 emission standards for new major electric generating facilities (generating capacity of at least 25 MW), and for increases in capacity of at least 25 MW at existing electric generating facilities. The proposed Part 487 will establish the regulatory framework for undertaking an analysis of environmental justice issues associated with the siting of a major electric generating facility, including the evaluation of significant and adverse disproportionate environmental impacts, if any, which may result from the facility’s construction or operation. The Business Council will be reviewing and commenting on both proposals, and we welcome your input; the comment deadline is Thursday, March 15, 2012. Additional information is available here.

FEDERAL ISSUES

"500 Shareholder Bill"

Legislation is moving in Congress to amend to the so-called “500 Shareholder Rule.” Section 12(g)(1) of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Act”) forces a private company to become a public reporting company once the company exceeds 499 shareholders of record and has more than $10 million in assets at the end of any fiscal year.  To remedy this outdated and economically-limiting threshold, bipartisan legislation has been introduced in the House and Senate. Representatives Schweikert and Himes introduced H.R. 2167 and Senators Carper and Toomey introduced S.1824, both titled, “The Private Company Flexibility and Growth Act.” These bills would raise the existing SEC threshold, currently 499, to 1000 (H.R. 2167) or 2000 (S.1824), when private companies would be required to file SEC reports. Companies which could benefit from updating this rule include those that were recently not much more than an entrepreneur with an innovative idea to others that have been proven job creators for years. The House has passed H.R. 2167 out of committee and the Senate Banking Committee has held two hearings in December, which included testimony regarding S.1824. Both bills would also exempt certain employee shares from these increased thresholds.

Affordable Care Act

While states await final rulemaking on health exchanges and essential health benefits, briefs are being filed by interested parties at a record pace with the US Supreme Court, which will hear arguments in March on the Affordable Care Act. Three large patient advocacy groups filed an amicus brief in support of the individual mandate; 480 state legislators representing every state in the country also filed in support of the individual mandate; and the American Hospital Association in support of the individual mandate and not supporting either side on the issue of severability. In a brief filed on behalf of twenty-six states in opposition to the Affordable Care Act, states argued that the Medicaid expansion was so coercive to the states that it exceeds Congressional power to spend.

BRIEFLY NOTED

We thought you would find the following to be of interest.