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March 31, 2004

Council refocuses, re-launches 'e-advocacy' initiative for workers' comp reform

The Business Council has modified its ongoing electronic advocacy campaign in support of workers' comp reform as a result of Governor George Pataki's new reform proposal.

The Council launched a Web-based "e-advocacy" campaign Feb. 17 to enable visitors to its Web site, www.bcnys.org, to automatically write to their elected officials voicing support for workers' comp reform and opposition to a benefits-increase bill that includes no significant reforms.

After Governor Pataki introduced his reform proposal March 23 at The Council's Small Business Day, The Council modified the initiative so that participants can send new, separate letters to both the Governor, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and their elected officials.

"The program now enables participants to thank the Governor for his leadership on this issue, and to urge lawmakers to recognize growing support for reform," said Skye Heritage, manager of regional affairs for The Council and coordinator of the electronic advocacy initiative.

"Thank you! Your proposed reforms to the workers' compensation system are a great start to get New York's economy back on track," a typical letter to the Governor says. "As you said, the 1996 reforms helped, but it's time for real reform once again. Your proposal could cut my workers' comp costs by 15 percent -- giving my business a new opportunity to grow."

Letters to legislators urge them to address this issue in the current session.

"We need your vote to make these critical reforms a reality," a typical letter to legislators says. "Don't let this be another missed opportunity to bolster New York's economy -- one that eventually drives our business out of the state. We live here. We work here. And we want to stay here."

Strong employer response to the electronic advocacy initiative shows how much New York's business community wants workers' comp reform, Heritage said.

The first campaign generated 6,391 faxed letters to lawmakers from 1,288 participants in the initiative, she said. Since last Thursday, when the program changed direction to reflect the Governor's announcement, another 409 faxed letters have been generated.

Heritage said The Council and participating regional chambers around the state are encouraging anyone who participated in the first phase of the program to revisit the program so they can send new letters.