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August 15, 2007

Governor takes action on Council priority legislation

After strong advocacy from The Business Council, Governor Spitzer has taken action on several more bills of importance to the Council and its members, adding to a string of positive legislative outcomes for New York employers in 2007.

IDA financing authority for not-for-profit institutions' projects: On August 6, the Governor signed legislation extending the authority of local Industrial Development Agencies (IDAs) to help finance economic development projects across the state. The Council had supported extending this authority.

“The extension will allow IDAs to continue providing savings for not-for-profit organizations, medical institutions, and homes for the elderly, by offering tax-exempt financing for the construction of facilities,” the Governor's office said in a release.

Improving the allocating of risk for warehouses: On August 1, the Governor signed into law a bill that streamlines the process of allocating risk of unexplained losses in New York warehouses.

"This bill is very important to logistics companies that provide services to large corporate customers either in New York or through contracts where New York law applies," Business Council President Kenneth Adams wrote in a July 16 letter to the Governor urging him to sign the bill. "The bill would allow New York to once again be considered a viable option where warehousing is concerned, and would contribute to New York's economic growth."

These more recent actions are in addition to earlier steps taken by the Governor on legislation important to the Council.

Rejecting a bill to help trial lawyers identify 'deep pockets' defendants: In early August, the Governor vetoed a bill that The Business Council had strongly opposed, arguing that it would have given trial lawyers "a fishing license" to identify "deep pockets" in lawsuits.

The bill would have let plaintiffs in liability lawsuits get a court order to determine before trial the extent of the insurance coverage the defendant is carrying that would cover the claim.

The effect and sole purpose of the bill "will be to assist the plaintiff's bar in the filing of more, and more expensive lawsuits,” Adams told Governor Spitzer in a July letter urging a veto. That, Adams argued, would increase business costs in New York and damage the state's attractiveness as a location for business. For more details, visit www.bcnys.org/whatsnew/2007/0716veto.htm.

Rejecting a bill to divest HealthyNY reinsurance funds to unions: Also in early August, the Governor vetoed a bill which would have made HealthyNY reinsurance funds available to union benefit plans.

“It would direct millions of dollars in HealthyNY reinsurance funds to subsidize health insurance costs for union members,” Adams said in a July 12 letter to the Governor. “It significantly undermine the HealthyNY program which is vital to small business owners across the state.”

The Governor agreed, saying in his veto message that the bill "is inequitable and is inconsistent with the intent of HealthyNY, which is to help small businesses provide health insurance for their employees."

Rejecting a bill that addressed the use of Social Security numbers: After The Business Council raised strong objections to the idea, Governor Spitzer vetoed a bill, S. 4565, that would have prohibited employers from using employee Social Security numbers for identity purposes.

“While we believe that the sponsors' intent was to address a specific privacy concern, this bill imposes broad, unworkable restrictions on the state's business community,” Adams wrote in a June 28 letter to the Governor.

The Governor cited the Council's arguments in vetoing the bill.

“The language of the bill is extraordinarily broad and subject to numerous possible interpretations,” Governor Spitzer wrote in his veto message. “As a result, it could subject businesses and government agencies to extensive liability for appropriate conduct carried out in the ordinary course of business.”

For more details, visit www.bcnys.org/whatsnew/2007/0706ssbillveto.htm.

Power for Jobs renewal: In early July, the Governor signed a renewal of one of the state's successful economic development power programs.

The Council had urged lawmakers to enact renewal legislation for the program, which allows New York businesses to purchase energy at a discount, helping to alleviate the competitive disadvantage of New York's higher-than-average energy rates.

“These programs are essential to many of New York's businesses,” said Ken Pokalsky, director of environmental and economic development programs for the Council. “The next step is also essential: long-term expansion and reform of the program.”

The Governor echoed Pokalsky's words when announcing his approval of the bill. “While I support the extension of these critical programs for another year, I believe we must advance a comprehensive long-term energy agenda to address the state's very real energy challenges,” Governor Spitzer said in a release.

For details, visit www.bcnys.org/whatsnew/2007/0709prfrjbs.htm.

Workers' compensation reform: Earlier this year, The Business Council scored a major triumph when, after historic negotiations among Governor Spitzer, Business Council President Kenneth Adams, the state AFL-CIO, and the state Legislature, an agreement was reached in early March on bill that includes long-sought workers' compensation reforms. The reform package is expected to cut employers' costs by 10 to 15 percent, with more savings to follow, and increase benefits for injured workers. For more, visit www.bcnys.org/whatsnew/2007/030607-wc.htm.

In August, the state's Insurance Department has formally approved revisions to workers' compensation rates that will decrease the average employer's costs by 20.5 percent.

The decision formalizes the savings achieved under the March workers' compensation reforms. Details of the rate revisions are available at www.bcnys.org/whatsnew/2007/0801comreducs2.htm.

Albany this year also made several other decisions that were positive for New York's business community by: rejecting anti-competitive tax increases; rejecting a bill to require employers to pay for paid family leave through the state's disability system; rejecting several different measures that would have increased increased New York's already above-average health-insurance costs; rejecting a bill that would have prohibited drug companies from providing promotional materials to physicians; rejecting a bill that would have imposed significant new obligations on New York State incorporated companies by requiring corporations with more than one hundred shareholders to implement "reasonable measures" to allow remote participation and voting by shareholders; expanding New York's bottle law; rejecting a bill that would have told companies that own fiberoptic cables what they can and can't do in scheduling transmission over those cables; and rejecting a trial lawyer-friendly bill that would mandate pre-judgment interest in personal injury cases.

More on these victories is at www.bcnys.org/whatsnew/2007/062207-endofsession.htm.