Legislative Update on Major Issues
June 24, 2005
Following is a update on major issues The Council has worked on during the 2005 session. For questions or further details, contact the appropriate staff person at (518)465-7511.
- Health Insurance
- Privacy Issues
- Workers' Compensation
- Article X
- Vicarious Liability
- Procurement Reform/Procurement Lobbying
- Economic Development Power Programs
Mental health parity - A. 2912 (Tonko) Requires all health insurance policies to provide full coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders. Business Council opposes. Passed Assembly, delivered and referred to Senate Rules.
S.1672 (Libous) - Provides for expanded mental health coverage with exemptions for small businesses. Business Council supports. Senate Insurance.
Freedom Health Plans - S.1405 (Seward) / A.2688 (Morelle) - Relates to establishment of Freedom Health Insurance Plans and provides a small business tax credit for the purchase of health insurance. Passed Senate. In Assembly Insurance Committee. Business Council supports.
Mandate Cost/Benefit Commission - S.1372 (Seward) / A.6193 (Crouch) - Creates a health benefit and cost commission to conduct a comprehensive review of all current mandated benefits and an accurate cost analysis of proposed benefits. Bill passed in Senate. In Assembly Insurance Committee. Business Council supports.
Hospital Infection Rates - S.5086-A (Hannon) / A. 8698-A (Rules at the request of Gottfried) Establishes a system requiring the tracking and reporting of hospital infection rates in New York State. S.5855 - Chapter Amendment to make changes to certain provisions relating to hospital acquired infection reporting. Passed both houses.
Business Council supports.
Mail order pharmacy - S.5456-A (Spano) / A.8420-A (Nolan) - Would deny employers a cost-effective option for offering coverage of prescription drugs by preventing them from charging an added co-payment if employees chose the costlier option of getting drugs. Senate Labor. Assembly Rules. Business Council opposes.
Breach of security - S.3492 (Fuschillo) / A.4254-A (Brennan) - Establishes a process for when a company needs to notify a consumer about the unauthorized acquisition of personal information; sets penalties for non-compliance. A.8937 / S.5827 – Chapter Amendment making changes to certain provisions of the information security breach and notification act. Passed both houses.
Spyware - S.186-B (Balboni) / A.549 (Towns) - Aims to protect the privacy of computer users by banning the dissemination of computer spyware without the authorization of the owner of a computer. Passed Senate. Assembly Codes.
Sale of e-mail addresses - S.2901-A (Rath) / A.227 (Pheffer) Provides that it shall be unlawful to sell or lease any consumer's electronic mail address if the consumer opts out of participation. Senate Rules. Assembly Calendar. Business Council opposes.
Assessments - S.3531 (Winner) / A.6703 (Weprin) Reduces the assessments for the second injury fund from 150% to 110% of previous year's disbursements. Bills in Senate Labor and Assembly Labor. Business Council supports.
S.5612 (Winner) / A.8713 (Farrell) - Changes the methodology, but not total payments, for assessments collected from self-insured trusts. Senate Floor Calendar. Passed Assembly. Business Council supports.
Reforms - S.5064 (Meier) - 500 week schedule for permanent partial disability, objective medical guidelines, integration of social security and pension benefits. Bill in Senate Labor. Business Council supports.
Benefits - A.8764 (John) - Increases benefits in $75 increments to $625; then ties it to the average weekly wage, allows a union to negotiate a different comp carrier, attorney fees for controverted cases, drug/durable medical equipment fee schedule, etc. Bill in Assembly Labor. Business Council opposes.
S.4961 (Wright), S.5717 (Wright - Governor's Program Bill #66), A.1908 (Nesbitt) - enacts a power plant siting law that provides for a streamlined, one-stop shopping program for the building of power plants. On Senate Calendar (#908), In Senate Rules Committee, In Assembly Energy Committee. Business Council supports.
A.5865 (Tonko) - provides for a power plant siting process that imposes costly regulatory and procedural burdens. Business Council opposes. On Assembly Calendar (#642).
S.1410 (Johnson) / A.2620 (Canestrari) - Provides that the lessee of a motor vehicle for a term of more than one year shall be deemed to be the owner of such vehicle for the purpose of determining civil liability for the damage caused by use of such motor vehicle. The bill was originally on the June 7th Transportation Committee Agenda in the Assembly, but was pulled off by Assemblyman David Gantt moments before the meeting began. On Senate Calendar (#177) / in Assembly Transportation Committee. Business Council supports.
Procurement Reform/Procurement Lobbying (Ken Pokalsky)
The legislature adopted new requirements and restrictions on “procurement lobbying.” Key features of S.5873 (Winner)/A.8964 (Silver) include the following:
- extends lobbying act to lobbying related to state and local procurement efforts (including the unified court system), adoption of state Executive Orders, state-tribal compacts, and local regulations.
- regulated procurement activities include all contracts with an annual expenditure in excess of $15,000 involving commodities, services, technology, public works, construction, “revenue contracts” (meaning concessions and franchises), and the purchase, sale or lease of real estate.
- pre-existing exemptions are carried forward. New exemptions are provided for: the submission of bids, certain activities by persons who are tentatively awarded a contract, persons protesting a contract award, specific contacts between a bidder and agency concerning technical issues pertaining to their bid, and specific contacts after the award of a bid; and for applications for permits, licenses and certificates. In addition, activities related to government procurement by persons who are commissioned sales persons are broadly exempted from the Lobbying Act.
- expands the definition of “municipality” to include IDAs in jurisdictions with populations of 50,000 or greater (with respect to regulation of municipal lobbying under the Lobbying Act.)
- increases the applicability threshold for Lobbyists and clients from $2000/year to $5000/year in actual or anticipated lobbying expenses or compensation, effective for calendar year 2006. This threshold shall apply cumulatively to all categories of regulated lobbying activities.
- existing prohibitions on contingency retainers are extended to apply to the lobbying of Executive Orders, state/tribal compacts, municipal laws and regulations, and procurement activities.
- generally prohibits “lobbying” of state agency officials regarding specific procurement efforts during the period from when an RFP or invitation for bids is first published until the contract is approved. During this period, contacts between bidders and the agency can only be made with the agency's designated contact person. Interestingly, the legislation contains a provision allowing for contacts between bidders and state legislators regarding such contracts during the same period (except for procurement efforts by the legislature itself.) Knowing or willful violations are subject to civil fines up to $50,000.
- amends the State Finance Law to require governmental entities engaged in procurement efforts to: designate a contact person for each procurement effort, assure that all contracts are let consistent with applicable requirements of the Procurement Stewardship Act and free from influence from prohibited lobbying, include summaries of such prohibitions in all bid solicitations, and require written affirmations from bidders as to compliance with these restrictions.
- requires bidders to disclose any findings of non-responsibility made within the previous four years based on non-compliance with lobbying restrictions; failure to disclose such information will bar the bidder from receiving the award of that contract.
- it establishes an eleven person advisory council on procurement lobbying, charged with establishing guidelines for implementation of new procurement lobbying provisions and restrictions.
- most provisions expanding applicability of the Lobbying Act are effective as of January 1, 2006. Note that all provisions of the Lobbying Act, including the amendments discussed above, expire on December 31, 2007, pursuant to the sunset provisions of the original 1999 chapter. Amendments to the State Finance Law discussed above expire on the same date.
The Business Council did not oppose the regulation of "procurement lobbying," but we did oppose the agency contact restrictions included in this legislation. We also supported higher applicability thresholds than the $15,000 included in this bill. Several provisions we opposed, such as the extension of the Lobbying Act to activities related to the "implementation of regulations", were excluded from the final bill.
Economic Development Power Programs (Ken Pokalsky)
The legislature approved a comprehensive bill that extends and modifies several New York Power Authority (NYPA) programs that provide reduced-rate power to eligible employers across the state. This bill (S.5866/Wright-A.8960/Tonko), supported by The Business Council, included the following provisions:
- permanently extend the state's "replacement power" program. This program allocates 445 MW of Niagara hydropower to industrial customers within 30 miles of NYPA's Niagara plant.
- permits the extension of price and allocation contracts that expire before the end of 2006. This would affect energy contracts under the state's economic- development power program, "high-load factor" contracts, and municipal development agency contracts. The bill creates a new "energy cost savings benefit" program, which would use some unallocated industrial hydropower and other NYPA resources to permit the contract extensions for businesses that had power contracts based on the Fitzpatrick nuclear plant that formerly was owned by NYPA.
- restores flexibility to the Power for Jobs program by allowing NYPA to consider not only job-retention statistics but also other "reasonable factors" when considering extension or reinstatement of PfJ allocations.
- adopts a new "Preservation Power" program, encompassing 490 megawatts of power from the NYPA St. Lawrence hydro plant that is sold to business customers. Under the new program, any of this power that is relinquished by current customers would be made available for economic-development purposes in St. Lawrence, Jefferson and Franklin counties.
- broadens the criteria on which extension of replacement power contracts can be based to include investments by the business, and extends broad "expansion power" program criteria - which includes capital investments and the effect a power allocation will have on a business' productivity - to new allocations of replacement and preservation power.
Outsourcing (Ken Pokalsky)
It seems unlikely that a significant "outsourcing" bill will pass both houses. S.5427 (Maziarz) - prohibiting "outsourcing" of labor and services under state contracts, will likely stay on the Senate calendar; The Assembly version, A.8669 (John) is on the Assembly Calendar. Assemblyman Brodsky’s bill (A.1213, which would prohibit certain development incentives to businesses that move jobs out of NYS) is in the Assembly Economic Development Committee, and the Senate version is not moving. Business Council opposes these measures.