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This Week in Government Affairs
March 1 , 2013

TOP STORY

With the start of the new fiscal year now four weeks away, the focus on the state budget will intensify. The legislature is set to release their revenue forecasts this week, with one house budget proposes expected by March 8th. The Business Council has testified before the joint Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means budget hearings, expressing our strong support for the overall Executive Budget and its continued fiscal discipline. We are also supporting several major non-fiscal proposals included in the budget, including reforms to the state’s unemployment insurance system and to workers’ compensation assessment and fund structure. However, we are strongly opposed to several budget proposals that will have an adverse impact on businesses and the state’s economic climate, including a five year extension of a $500 million gross receipts assessment on utility energy sales, restrictions on IDA support for development projects, an increase in the state’s minimum wage, and new assessments imposed on the pharmaceutical industry. In addition, we are pushing for additional amendments to the state’s Excelsior Jobs credit program to assure maximum economic benefits to the state. We welcome any additional input from members, as Council staff continues to meet with Administration and Legislative leaders on our budget priorities. Please note that our overall Executive Budget summary is available here.

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

Shareholder Participation. Each session, there are proposals to allow, or mandate, that businesses established under New York law provide shareholders/partners with remote access to shareholder meetings (e.g., through web or conference call or similar means). A provision included in the Executive Budget would provide for limited remote participation (through conference call or similar communication equipment) for corporations, limited liability companies, non-profit corporations and partnerships. This proposal has raised concerns for publicly traded corporations regarding its timing and implementation. We have been reaching out to members that are New York incorporated business, and are seeking additional input from LLCs, partnerships and professional corporations as to your interest in remote shareholder participation authority. Key questions include whether remote participation is useful for LLCs and partnerships; and do businesses want the flexibility to choose between physical meetings, hybrid meetings (combined in-person and remote participation) and/or wholly remote or virtual meetings. Likewise, we are looking for input as to statutes in place in other states that members see as providing workable approaches.

Wage Theft Annual Notice Reform. Legislation strongly supported by The Business Council has been re-introduced in both houses, S.2313 (DeFrancisco)/A.2482 (Gabryszak). This bill will repeal the annual notice and employee signature mandate imposed by the 2010 Wage Theft Prevention Act. Under that provision of the Labor Law, all private employers in New York are required to prepare a detailed individual pay notice for every employee each January, secure a signed acknowledgement from each employee, and retain the notices for six years. This legislative proposal repeals this administrative burden. Similar legislation passed the state Senate in the 2012 session, and had more than sixty co-sponsors in the State Assembly. The Business Council continues to support the bill and work for its passage.

REGULATORY UPDATE

JCOPE “Gift” Regulations. The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) has issued and is seeking comments on informal draft regulations related to the Lobbying Act’s restrictions on “gifts” to public officials by lobbying clients and registered lobbyists. The Business Council’s initial draft comments are provided here. In some instances, we express our support for the draft rule’s straightforward application of statutory language and criteria. However, there are several instances where the draft rule departs from the underlying statute in significant ways, especially in the proposed regulatory definition of “gift,” and the criteria for applying exemptions from restrictions on gifts offered by clients/lobbyists to public officials. Additionally, we are using our draft comments to highlight issues of potential concern to Business Council members, such as the definition of professional and educational programs.

Environmental “Self Audit” Policy. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has released a proposed Environmental Incentive Policy for public review and comment. The policy is intended to encourage compliance with environmental laws, as well as advance the use of environmental management systems and pollution prevention, by reducing or waiving civil penalties for eligible violations discovered by a regulated entity through an environmental audit, compliance assistance or pollution prevention. The Business Council worked closely with the DEC and a broad segment of stakeholders including businesses, environmental organizations, and municipalities in the formulation of this draft olicy. The full text of the proposal is available here. Our thanks to Council members, especially Rich Walka from D&B Engineers and Architects, for their support of this effort to date. The Business Council is seeking additional input from Business Council members, and will be submitting additional comments on the proposed policy.

Workers Compensation.The Workers’ Compensation Board has adopted new Medical Treatment Guidelines for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and guidelines for the neck, back, shoulder and knee, permitting a maximum of 10 chiropractic, physical therapy or occupational therapy visits per year following a determination that the claimant has reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) and has chronic pain. No variance is allowed from the maximum of 10 annual visits. The Business Council commented on the rule, objecting to the addition of the 10 chiropractic visits to the MTG based on a lack of appropriate and compelling evidence of such a treatment’s efficacy. The Board’s response and adoption notice can be found here.

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