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March 18, 2004

Council criss-crosses the state to rally support for comp reform
Business leaders deluge Albany with letters urging comp reform

Business Council staff members and more than a dozen chambers of commerce and other business associations around the state have been briefing business leaders on the need for workers' compensation reform to reduce comp costs-and the importance of taking the case directly to state lawmakers.

The briefings-at chamber events, Business Council committee meetings, meetings of other business associations, and even meetings within specific companies-are part of The Council's ongoing efforts to promote workers' comp reform, said Kerry Kirwan, The Council's chief lobbyist on workers' comp issues. Kirwan has been conducting these regional meetings along with Skye Heritage, The Council's liaison with chambers and other business groups.

“These meetings are designed to give business leaders the frightening facts about costs in New York that are far above average by every measure we have seen,” Kirwan said. “We want business leaders to know that our case is compelling, but we need them to help make this case with lawmakers.”

Since late February, The Council has conducted or scheduled meetings in conjunction with the chambers of Orange, Livingston, Chautauqua, Otsego, Jefferson, Chemung, Cortland, and Tompkins counties, as well as the Rochester Business Alliance, the Southern Saratoga Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce, the Western New York Chamber Alliance, the Mohawk Valley Chamber of Commerce, and the Rome Area Chamber of Commerce.

Workers' comp reform has also been the focus of meetings of The Council's own committees devoted to workers' comp, labor and human resources, and occupational safety and health.

Complementing this grass-roots effort to generate support for comp reform is an ongoing “electronic advocacy” campaign. This initiative lets visitors to The Council's Web site, www.bcnys.org, automatically generate letters urging state lawmakers to enact cost-cutting workers' comp reforms.

By midday today, 1,205 participants in this campaign have generated more than 6,000 letters to elected officials voicing these concerns.

Launched in late February, the campaign allows visitors to the Web site to send letters to elected officials voicing concerns about high workers' compensation costs in New York State and asking them to support reform legislation that would rein in those costs.

These letters urge lawmakers to reject a costly union-backed bill that would significantly increase benefits without enacting any meaningful cost-cutting reforms. The Council has projected that this proposed increase-which would ultimately index benefits to the statewide average wage-would increase employers' workers' comp costs by at least 25 percent.

The letters also urge lawmakers to support cost-cutting workers' compensation reforms. The Council supports a bill (S.5320-Libous, A.8862-Schimminger) that would enact critical cost-cutting reforms. Information on that bill and the union-backed bill is at www.bcnys.org/whatsnew/2004/0213workerscomp.htm.

There is still time to participate in the e-advocacy campaign. To participate, go to www.bcnys.org and click on the "Reform Workers' Comp Now!" button.

The Business Council also plans to make the case for workers' comp reform at testimony before a Senate hearing Wednesday, March 24. And The Council expects to release results from its survey of employers on the effect of workers' comp costs on their ability to do business.