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This Week in Government Affairs
October 18, 2013

Business Council Events

Help us prepare for 2014 – The Business Council invites you to participate in our 2014 advocacy planning session, which will be held Tuesday, November 19, at the Hilton Garden Inn in Troy, NY. The session will run from 1 to 4 p.m., and there is no charge for Business Council members to attend. The focus will be reviewing key legislative and regulatory issues for the upcoming year, which will include but not be limited to: business tax reductions, mandate relief including scaffold law reform, labor law reform and others. Members are asked to register on line here. Additional agenda information will be provided shortly. Please contact us with any questions or comments, or recommended issue topics.

Staff contact: Ken Pokalsky

Regulatory Update

Wage Deduction Rules

Final rules governing wage deductions have been issued by the state Department of Labor and were effective October 9, 2013. While the 2012 statutory changes were largely self-implementing, these rules were necessary to allow for recovery of wage overpayment and wage advances. The rules set forth standards and procedures for those types of transactions. In addition, while not required by statute, the final rule also addresses issues concerning the “authorization of deductions” by the employee, what “for the benefit of the employee” means and provides a sample list of deductions specifically prohibited. More details on the final rule are available on our website here

Last week’s final rule may be viewed here while The Business Council’s July comments to the original rule proposed in May can be viewed here.    The Business Council is working on a template for use by members that includes the required notice information as well as the steps for the employee dispute procedure.

Staff contact: Frank Kerbein

Environmental Audit Incentive Policy

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC) has finalized a commissioner policy that incentivizes environmental audits. This policy, which was developed in close collaboration with Business  Council Environment Committee members,  encourages regulated entities to audit their operations and adopt effective approaches to prevent violations, including environmental management systems and pollution prevention, thereby improving compliance with environmental laws statewide and protecting public health and the environment. To support these actions, this Policy reduces or waives penalties for violations that are discovered and disclosed voluntarily, or discovered during pollution prevention or compliance assistance and encourages regulated entities to engage, during the ordinary course of business, in an environmental audit program. This commissioner policy also identifies incentives for regulated entities to go "beyond compliance" by agreeing to evaluate and incorporate environmental management and pollution prevention into their systems. The commissioner's policy is available on NYS DEC's website.

Staff contact: Darren Suarez

Moreland Commission Update

The Moreland Commission held two public hearings in September, the first in New York City and the other in Albany. Speakers included US Attorney Preet Bhahara, who,  at the New York City hearing, stated that New York’s laws governing corruptions were old and need to be updated and specifically denounced a convicted corrupt politician’s ability to still draw from the pension. At the Albany hearing, Dick Dadey of Citizens Union urged the Commission to look into prior member item grants that still have budget allocations and other “loosely allocated money” the legislature controls; others called on an independent enforcement unit and a taxpayer financed campaign system.

According to several news sources, the Commission had plans to subpoena various committee accounts, including the Committee to Save New York, Real Estate Board of New York and the State Democratic Party. While subpoenas were sent for the records of the housekeeping accounts of the Senate Democrats and Republicans, others were squashed.

Attorneys for both the Senate and Assembly refused to provide the Commission with additional information about legislators’ outside income saying the Commission had no power to compel them. According to a statement released this week, the commission members voted to “aggressively move forward in compelling production of information into specific matters that the commission is investigating”. The Commission members have all been deputized under the Attorney General’s office and both Governor Cuomo and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman believe the Commission has the power to compel the information being sought from the legislature.

It was reported last week that the Governor’s aides and commissioners are mulling the idea of recommending a constitutional amendment to create a public matching fund system; Jimmy Vielkind of Capital New York points out that no one at any of the public hearings has so far advocated for a constitutional amendment. If a constitutional amendment were recommended by the commission as a curative fix for public corruption, which is their mission, it would still have to be passed by two consecutively elected legislatures, where it would surely face strong opposition from Republicans, before being put in the hands of voters. Successful passage by the legislature and voters would take five years at the least before it would be implemented.

The Commission is finalizing plans to contract with a data analytics company, K2 Intelligence, to comb through various databases like the Board of Elections and the lobby data on JCOPE’s website. The Commission sought, and was granted an exemption by the State Comptroller’s website from certain procurement laws for the $175,000 contract that will run through the end of December. K2 would be reviewing information to find possible corruption or conflicts of interest.

The Commission will issue a preliminary report on its findings and recommendations by December 1, 2013.

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