Category Archives: Advocacy

Business Council president and CEO sets legislative agenda

In a wide-ranging interview with reporter David Robinson of the Albany Business Review last week, Heather C. Briccetti, Esq., president and CEO of The Business Council of New York State, discussed her priorities for the 2015 Legislative Session that began last week in Albany.

High on the list are, exercising continued restraint to keep overall state spending growth under 2 percent, retiring the 18-A energy assessment and applying the majority of the state’s estimated $5 billion surplus to infrastructure improvements such as roads, bridges and other public construction.

You can read the entire interview here.

Don’t be “foolish” with state surplus

In an editorial, the Staten Island Advance adds its voice to The Business Council’s call for state leaders to use the state’s estimated $5 billion in surplus money for infrastructure improvements.

“The surplus money would bring a one-shot infusion of revenue, not a permanent increase in the revenue stream. So calls to use it to increase funding for education or health care, for example, are foolish.

“What happens after the $5 billion is exhausted? The people of the state would be left with recurring annual bills permanently ratcheted up based upon the one-time infusion.

“Better to spend the money on a one-time fix of the state’s roads and bridges that will hold for a while.”

Read the complete editorial here.

Business Council CEO: NY should repeal the Scaffold Law to maximize infrastructure investment

In an op-ed published in the Syracuse Post-Standard, Heather C. Briccetti, Esq., president and CEO of the Business Council, says “New York has a unique opportunity to jump-start its  infrastructure program, by using $5 billion in one-time state revenues for repair and replacement, and a chance to maximize the return on its investments by extending design-build contracting and repealing the Scaffold Law.

“It is encouraging to see consensus building around using a large portion of the state’s $5 billion, one-time settlement income for rebuilding public infrastructure, including roads, bridges, water, sewer and others. It makes sense to use one-shot revenues for capital projects rather than recurring expenses.

“It would make even more sense for the state to adopt key reforms to ensure taxpayers get the biggest bang for their infrastructure buck. They include repealing the antiquated and excessively expensive Scaffold Law and extending and expanding “design-build” project authority without costly add-ons.”

You can read the entire op-ed on the Syracuse.com Website.

In an editorial published Sunday, the Syracuse Post Standard has come out in support of The Business Council’s position that $5 billion in one-time revenue the state has received from settlements should be used for rebuilding crumbling infrastructure.should be used for rebuilding crumbling infrastructure.

Quoting from the editorial:

“Momentum is building in Albany to spend the state’s anticipated $5 billion windfall from bank settlements on infrastructure, as we and many others have been suggesting for months.

“Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver last week said he’d like the Legislature to deal with the surplus in a special session, so that it doesn’t become part of negotiations over the 2014-15 state budget that begin in January. That sounds like a wise move, considering the number of special interests already lobbying for a share of the money.

“As we said in July, the one-shot revenues should not be spent on things that have to be paid for year after year, no matter how worthy they are.

“Lawmakers and Gov. Andrew Cuomo are getting a lot of advice about just what to do with it: retire debt, take a few billion off the top of the Tappan Zee Bridge construction bill, use it for economic development Upstate.

“Our two cents: Spend the money on the desperately unsexy — but desperately necessary — repairs to water lines, sewer systems and the state’s crumbling roads and bridges.”

The Terrorism Risk Insurance Act set to expire

The Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA), passed in 2002, fourteen months after September 11, 2001, is a federal public-private partnership, designed as a financial backstop in the case of a major terrorist attack, that places the responsibility for financial recovery on the private sector in all but the most catastrophic of events. The current bill, extended in 2005 and 2007, is set to expire on December 31.

Lenders require terrorism insurance in order to approve or enter into financing arrangements with many New York businesses. TRIA has created the needed predictability and stability in these markets to ensure that such insurance is available without significantly burdening the taxpayer. Economic losses would have to exceed roughly $30 billion before the government’s reinsurance would even be triggered. Further, TRIA requires the government to recoup any taxpayer money it spends on the first $27.5 billion of terrorism losses and allows the government to recoup losses up to the program’s $100 billion cap.

TRIA is especially important to the viability of the workers’ compensation market and any expiration would prove extremely problematic. Unlike other insurances, workers’ compensation statutes narrowly define the terms of coverage and offer insurers little flexibility in controlling terrorism exposure through modifications in coverage. Without TRIA, insurance carriers’ only option for limiting their terrorism risk exposure would be declining coverage to employers facing high terrorism risk. Employers in higher-risk areas, like New York City, would be forced to obtain coverage in markets of last resort.

The Senate passed its version of a reauthorization in July. The House TRIA bill, H.R. 4871, has never been taken up for a vote by the full House. Congress is expected to be out of session until after the mid-term elections, leaving little time, in a lame-duck session, to take action on reauthorization. TRIA is an imperative for employers in New York and the economy of the nation as a whole. The business community must demand that Congress act to continue this essential program.

Commentary: Campaigns Confuse Equal Pay and Comparative Worth

Pokalsky
Ken Pokalsky is vice president of government affairs for The Business Council of New York state, Inc.

The issue of “equal pay” keeps coming up in congressional and state legislative races. Recently “Vote Cope,” the political arm of New York State United Teachers, began running ads saying George Amedore voted against “equal pay” during his two Assembly terms. But “equal pay” has been a matter of federal and New York State law for fifty years.

So what gives? What some candidates and advocates are really talking about is “comparative worth,” not pay equity. There is a big difference. This is not equal pay for the same job, but equal pay for jobs determined to be of comparable skill or value. Determined by who? Not the employer, or labor markets.

Under legislation currently before the New York State legislature (S.1491/A.5958), wages would be set based on criteria and methodologies adopted and imposed by the state Department of Labor.

Here’s an example. Based on state labor data, an experienced truck driver (an occupation that is more than 90 percent male) is paid on average $2,500 per year more than an experienced licensed practical nurses (an occupation that is more than 90 percent female.) But both jobs are classified as requiring the same level of training (i.e., a “post-secondary, non-degree award.”)

Comparable worth” legislation would demand these jobs to receive the same pay, regardless of real world factors such as labor markets and the availability and demand for specific skills. According to national surveys, truck driver jobs are consistently one of the hardest five jobs to fill in the U.S. But under “comparable worth” legislation, labor market factors wouldn’t matter. Moreover, under this bill, pay levels can only be increased to address any calculated “inequities.” Under a “comparative worth” standard, employers would be subject to constant litigation, challenging whether they applied the correct “worth” calculation to disparate positions.

Importantly, even though comparative worth bills have been around for decades, no state in the U.S. has yet adopted a comparable worth standard for the private sector workforce. In New York, the Assembly passed at least one version of comparative worth legislation each year from 2007 through 2013 (but not in 2014), but it has never come up for a floor vote in the Senate – not even in 2009 and 2010 with a democrat Senate majority.

The Business Council has strongly opposed these bills as unnecessary and unworkable, and we agree with legislators who have voted no.

State high court upholds zoning bans on gas drilling

In a 5-2 decision, the state’s highest court, The Court of Appeals, has ruled that the current state law regulating oil and gas drilling operations does not supersede local zoning laws.  In effect, the decision upholds lower court rulings that held communities can use local zoning laws to effectively ban natural gas development.

Writing for the majority, Judge Victoria Graffeo wrote that state law allows local governments to control their zoning codes to allow or disallow activities within their boundaries. The case involved bans in two upstate towns, Middlefield in Otsego County and Dryden in Tompkins County.

Industry supporters said the bans were a “huge obstacle” to the additional investment in the New York Marcellus Shale formation. The bans had been challenged by an organic dairy farmer near Cooperstown that held a natural gas lease on its farm, and the bankrupt Norse Energy Corp., which held gas leases in Dryden.

Brad Gill, executive director of the Independent Oil & Gas Association of New York, told the Albany Times Union that should the state decide to allow fracking, it would force companies to “navigate a patchwork of red lights and green lights.”

That would be enough to discourage some companies from coming to the state, he said. “Some companies have been waiting on the sidelines, watching for this decision,” he said. “Some people will not come to New York and spend money, or they will leave.”

The Business Council of New York State had joined with the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York, Inc., the National Association of Royalty Owners, NARO-NY, the Upstate New York Towns Association, Inc., and Southern Tier Residents for Economic Independence to file an amicus brief urging the court to overturn the lower court rulings in the case.

That brief argued the state has an overriding interest in the development and promotion of its oil and gas reserves, and that there is a need for uniformity across the state with a comprehensive state law that supersedes restrictive and inconsistent local laws and ordinances.

Industry supporters could seek state legislation pre-empting the local zoning decisions, but the prospects for enactment of such a law is highly unlikely to occur.

Chief Judge Lippman and Judges Read, Rivera and Abdus-Salaam concurred with Judge Graffeo’s decision. Judges Pigott and Smith dissented.

Business Council interview on The Capitol Pressroom

KenandSusan

The Business Council’s Vice President of Government Affairs recapped the end of the legislative session in Albany earlier this week on WCNY’s Capitol Pressroom with Susan Arbetter.

Among the many topics covered were how business fared this session, brownfield redevelopment, tax cuts, jobs, and the economy.

Listen to the interview on WCNY’s website (interview starts at the 37:44 mark).

Business Council HR expert legislative briefing on Long Island

Minnick

The Business Council will host an HR Legislative Briefing at member company Jackson Lewis LLP on Long Island on Tuesday, July 1 from 8:30 — 10:45 a.m.

Now that the 2014 legislative session in Albany has ended, The Business Council’s Director of Government Affairs Tom Minnick will recap the pressing HR-related legislative issues this session and cover areas moving forward.

Topics include repealing the annual employee notice requirement of the Wage Theft Prevention Act, the “bullying” bill, mandated time off proposals, proposed limits on background checks, pay equity, paid family leave, and more.

This briefing is approved for 2 Strategic Business credits from the HR Certification Institute. There is no charge for Business Council members attending this briefing.  Jackson Lewis will provide a complimentary light breakfast.

For more information or to register visit The Business Council website.

Behan Communications wins PR industry’s highest honor

BehanBusiness Council member Behan Communications, Inc., has won the Public Relations Society of America’s prestigious Silver Anvil Award for their “Vote Yes for the Adirondacks” campaign. John Brodt, vice president and partner in the firm, accepted the award, which is the highest honor in the public relations industry in the United States.

“Vote Yes for the Adirondacks,” was the successful 2013 statewide ballot campaign Brodt directed to persuade New York voters to approve Proposition 5, a swap of 1,500 acres of private land for 200 acres of Forest Preserve land in the Adirondack Park. The land exchange protected 100 rural jobs at Behan client NYCO Minerals Inc., an Adirondack mining company, and expanded the Adirondack Forest Preserve with lands rich in fishing and hiking opportunities.

The Behan firm organized a statewide, bipartisan coalition of business, labor, environmental and local government groups; mounted a television, radio and online advertising campaign in the New York metropolitan area; and secured 16 newspaper editorial endorsements. On Election Day, Proposition 5 won in 53 New York counties and by a margin of more than 130,000 votes.

Behan Communications is the largest public relations firm in New York’s Capital Region. The firm specializes in public affairs, strategic and crisis communications, and serves clients across New York and the Northeast. The firm has major practices in the environmental, energy, manufacturing, financial services, innovation, health care and non-profit sectors.

Brodt joined Behan Communications in 1990 after working as a newspaper journalist. He handles media, community, employee and government relations for corporate clients, including health care providers, manufacturers and financial institutions. He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Utica College of Syracuse University and an associate’s degree in liberal arts from SUNY Adirondack.

He is a member of the boards of directors of Amanda’s House, Inc., and the Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce.