The below letter to the editor was submitted to the Albany Times Union last week.
New York’s so-called “scaffold law” may be the most misunderstood, or at least most mischaracterized, section of New York State statute. And based on your September 24 editorial, “An attack on worker safety,” the Times Union editorial board has never read New York State Labor Law Section 240 or Congressman Faso’s proposed legislation. We have attached copies of both for your review. Upon review, the board will see the Faso legislation does not change a word in existing NYS labor safety standards. Furthermore, in no way does the Faso bill, or similar state-level proposals, “erod[e] worker protections.” Likewise, your editorial is simply wrong in asserting that contractors and property owners are only liable under court interpretations of Section 240 “if property safety measures weren’t in place.” Courts developed the strict liability standard for property owners and contractors for such injuries, even if workers ignore safety standards or safety equipment.
The reforms proposed at both the state and federal level simply apply the exact same liability standard – contributory negligence – to Section 240 claims that apply to all other types of tort claims under long-standing New York State law. In doing so, New York also matches the approach of every other state. There is no doubt the current tilted 240 liability standard adds significantly to the direct cost of public and private construction in New York State, and impacts the state’s economic competitiveness with other states.
The Business Council of New York State
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.
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.”
Business Council member The American Institute of Architects New York State (AIANYS) will honor the winners of a new competition celebrating design and professional excellence in publicly funded buildings in New York State on Monday, April 28.
The Excelsior Awards provide a model for future state-funded building design and professional practice and advocacy. Winning projects stimulate their surrounding neighborhoods and promote public safety and security, while the professional awards recognize leaders who fight for sustainable, high performing new buildings and for the preservation and appropriate reuse of buildings that contribute to the common good.
The American Institute of Architects New York State (AIANYS) speaks for the interests of all registered architects throughout New York. The organization’s goals are to elevate the professional standing of the architecture community, mobilize both AIANYS members and policymakers as advocates in support of the architectural profession, and educate the public at large about architecture’s power to transform and improve lives.
Founded in 1931, AIANYS has 7,100 members in 13 chapters statewide who are practicing architects, allied professionals, students, and public members interested in architecture and design. Its parent organization, the American Institute of Architects (AIA), is a nationwide, membership-based organization.
For more information, visit The American Institute of Architects New York State.
The Business Council advocated for New York’s small businesses last week at Small Business Day in Albany. Approximately 100 participants representing small businesses, trade associations and chambers of commerce attended the event organized by Business Council member the National Federation of Independent Business. The agenda included a ten-point agenda including repealing the wage notification portion of the Wage Theft Prevention Act, mandate relief, reforming New York’s Scaffold Law, out-of-network coverage, the 18-a energy tax, the manufacturers’ credit and paid sick leave.
“Small business day focuses on how small employers are challenged by New York’s tax and regulatory climate,” said Heather C. Briccetti, Esq., president and CEO of The Business Council of New York State. “Eighty percent of our 2,400 members have fewer than 100 employees, so we welcome this opportunity to share their concerns and help push for measures that make New York’s small business climate more conducive to growth.”
“Small Business Day not only recognizes the importance of main street businesses, but also serves as a critical reminder to lawmakers of the complex issues they face. From tax relief to sensible regulatory reform measures, our agenda is essential to the sustainability of New York’s small business owners. This collective effort should serve as a reminder to lawmakers that small business is the backbone of New York’s economic present and future,” said Mike Durant, state director, NFIB/NY.
Other Business Council members also spoke out on the importance of Small Business Day, including the Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce, Associated General Contractors (AGC), the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, the Chamber of Schenectady County, Lawsuit Reform Alliance of New York, Manufacturers Association of Central New York, New York Farm Bureau, New York State Hospitality and Tourism Association, North Country Chamber of Commerce, and the Rochester Business Alliance.
Visit NFIB’s website for more on Small Business Day.
Today’s Press & Sun Bulletin features an op-ed on why The Scaffold Law needs to be repealed. Tom Meade, the executive director of the Professional Abatement Contractors of New York, notes that, as the New York Court of Appeals stated, the Scaffold Law “imposes liability even on contractors and owners who had nothing to do with the plaintiff’s accident.” He also notes that changing the law to a comparative negligence standard, from the current absolute liability standard, would ensure that “parties are held responsible for their share of the liability,” which is the “standard in every other state and … the standard in most every other aspect of our civil justice system.”
Last week, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced that up to $20 million in funding would be available over a two year period to rebuild and restore neighborhoods. The funds will be drawn from last year’s $25 billion settlement with large banks. There will be eight land banks in different areas of the state focused on rehabilitating vacant and abandoned properties. Funding from the Attorney General’s office will be awarded in two rounds, which gives the office an opportunity to support land banks next year that may not be eligible this year.
Erie County Community College will be expanding with a new academic building set to open in January of 2017. The county will be hiring an architect, project manager, and a consultant to conduct an environmental review of the $30 million project. Building design is expected to be completed by July 2015.
The Journal News is calling for a task force to be put together to discuss the impact of a possible toll increase associated with the new Tappan Zee Bridge. Although there has been no official announcement of a toll increase, it is rumored that a toll on the new bridge could top out at as much as $14. Governor Cuomo recently sent a letter to the New York State Thruway Authority saying that a $14 toll would be too high. Read the full editorial online at The Journal News.