The Business Council of New York State, the State’s leading business and industry trade association opposes this legislation that would extend Article 15-A of the Executive Law for another four years past its current December 31, 2019 sunset date (based on a one year extension included in the final budget agreement.) This bill makes no substantive amendments to the state’s MWBE program, but rather puts in place a “blue ribbon commission” to study the issue further.
While this bill may be well-intentioned, it is misguided in that it does not address any of the key concerns raised regarding the program, in particular the commissioning of a new disparity study. Under this legislation, a reauthorized Article 15-A would rely on the outdated 2010 study. A new study is needed to assess the current level of disparity thus enabling the State to determine if that disparity results from discrimination. If this proves the case, the State can identify narrowly tailored remedies to address them. This approach is what is necessary for the state to be consistent with the US Supreme Court decision in City of Richmond v. J.A. Croson. A continued dependence on the outdated 2010 study risks challenges due to its staleness thus placing the entire program in jeopardy.
While the legislation seemingly addresses the need for additional information on the state of the MWBE program, neither the construction industry nor other contractor sectors are specifically included within the membership of the suggested Blue Ribbon Commission. While this information-gathering initiative has some merit, it is largely made up of Executive appointees without specific recourse to the industry which is greatly impacted by the study: construction.
The Business Council has been an advocate for capacity building within both the MWBE construction segment as well as the industry overall. That is why The Business Council has advocated for workforce development within the State Budget as a means of insuring a healthy and vibrant workforce. Likewise, we have advocated for targeted programs to help bolster MWBE firms under mentorship programs. Some of our construction industry members have recently unveiled a promising new partnership between the industry and the MWBE community to assist in both areas. This mentor-protégé program links the City of Schenectady and the Schenectady County Community College with the industry to build MWBE capacity. Such innovative programs should be replicated around the state as a means of building MWBE construction capacity. Rather than appropriating $25 million under this bill to Empire State Development, there are better avenues within the construction-industry community ready to assist in workforce development that would help build capacity within the industry, by the industry.
Lastly, the bill creates “union transition training programs” thus automatically assuming every entrant into the market must be a union member. It is not the government’s role to encourage or discourage union membership – it should be neutral in such areas.
The Business Council encourages meaningful reforms that makes the MWBE program more flexible and workable, while supporting the policy objective of supporting minority and women-owned firms. However, we do not support this proposal as it fails to address basic concerns raised by contractors, and ignores some of the basic requirements such as the commissioning of a new State disparity study.