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Zack Hutchins
Director of Communications
518.465.7511

April 30, 1998 

Council's post-budget priorities include UI, energy and tort reform

The Business Council has identified its top priorities for the rest of the legislative session now that the 1998 budget is set.

Unemployment insurance reform: Employers with relatively few layoffs have a higher UI tax burden than they should. UI tax tables should be revised so rates better reflect companies' actual employment histories. The Council is also urging adoption of a wage reporting system to ensure that only eligible workers collect benefits. New York is one of only two states without such a system.

Mutual holding company reorganization: The Council supports a bill to let mutual life insurers reorganize into domestic stock companies. This would enable New York's domestic mutual life insurers to compete for market share at a time when distinctions between types of financial services providers are increasingly blurred - for example, by the planned merger of Citicorp and Travelers.

Energy for creating jobs: The Power for Jobs program, under which the state reserves reduced-rate power for companies that create jobs, has been so successful that all 133 megawatts set aside for Year One were allocated in the first five months. The Council is urging acceleration of Year Two of the program and an additional allocation of megawatts for large and small businesses and not-for-profit corporations.

Tort reform: New Yorkers for Civil Justice Reform, a coalition that includes small and large businesses as well as municipal governments and not-for-profit organizations, is urging lawmakers to enact comprehensive reforms to limit the lawsuit industry.Reforms proposed include: repeal of joint and several liability; creation of a statute of repose; capping all non-economic damage awards at $250,000; creation of a "loser pays" rule for covering costs in tort litigation; repeal of strict liability for employers and property owners at construction work sites.

Rejection of new health mandates: Dozens of proposals to mandate various kinds of health-care coverage would drive up the cost of health care - which uninsured people cite as the main reason they don't have insurance. The Council is opposing these new mandates.

Health plan liability: The Council opposes proposals in both houses to dramatically expand liability for HMOs, insurers and self-insured employers in connection with their decisions on approving, providing, arranging for or paying for health care services. The fear of lawsuits that this so-called "consumer" bill would create would actually increase costs to all businesses and consumers and could even endanger patients' lives by encouraging insurers to authorize any and all treatments, even unnecessary or inappropriate ones.

Charter schools: The Council is strongly supporting legislation to give teachers, parents and community members opportunities to establish public charter schools. Twenty-three other states have them; seven others are starting them. Charter schools offer parents educational choices while holding the schools to higher levels of accountability than regular public schools currently face.

Workers' compensation hearing reform: The Council supports a proposal to create an appeal process for employers who object to a rating classification. Employers now have no recourse for challenging the rating which determines their workers' compensation tax rates.