Legislative Session Recap
The New York State legislature had an active session. Nearly 15,000 bills were introduced between both the Assembly and the Senate. To put this in perspective, the US Congress has only introduced approximately 5,400 bills since this Congress began. Around 1,400 bills in the New York State legislature passed one house while over 930 bills passed both houses and will be reviewed by Governor Cuomo. Many proposals passed will have a major impact on the business community while other harmful bills that would have been devastating to the business community were left in Albany to be debated and decided at a later date.
The two biggest wins for the business community during this legislative session was the permanence of the 2% property tax cap and the business regulatory cures bill; two pro-business measures with bipartisan support. The property tax cap has saved taxpayers approximately 25 billion in taxes since it was first enacted, and the Small Business Regulatory Cures Bill provides small businesses with forgiveness for first time regulatory violations. While these two bills will not solve the problem of New York’s burdensome regulations and high taxes, these are both tangible ways to begin to address New York’s business climate.
Unfortunately, several bills that passed both houses of the legislature will make doing business in New York even more difficult. Three of our highest concerns are as follows:
The first among the bills is the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. This legislation requires New York to cut greenhouse gas emissions to 85% below 1990 levels. 70% of statewide electricity must be sourced from renewables by 2030 and be carbon-free by 2040. This bill will likely have strong negative consequences for ratepayers, especially for energy intensive industries like manufacturing and agriculture.
Second, Rent Regulation or “tenant rights” legislation passed and became effective immediately. While this bill creates numerous problems for landlords, the provision that The Chamber of Commerce has been sounding the alarm on is the Upstate Rent Control portion of the bill. This legislation allows for Upstate communities to “opt in” to New York City style rent stabilization. These proposals have the potential to significantly reduce investment in our existing housing stock. The Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce will continue to be vocal in opposition to this.
Third, the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act will likely be devasting to the agriculture community across Upstate New York. Sponsored by Queens Legislators Senator Ramos and Assemblywoman Nolan, only three legislative hearings were held on this issue, none west of Syracuse. The key provisions of the bill are that it sets a 60-hour overtime threshold for all farmworkers except immediate family and it requires a mandatory 24-hour rest period for employees. However, there is an overtime rate provision should employees choose to work during the day of rest.
There were also several bills that the Chamber of Commerce and other business coalitional allies opposed that we were able to stop from passing this session. One of the bills the Chamber opposed that did not pass was Single Payer Healthcare. This bill would eliminate private health insurance and replace it with a government run system. While the Chamber supports efforts to move toward universal coverage, eliminating the current healthcare system could have disastrous effects on quality and cost of healthcare. This issue will likely be addressed again in the 2020 legislative session.
Another bill that the Chamber advocated against was the expansion of prevailing wage to include private projects granted incentives. Estimates indicate that this would increase the cost of development in our area by approximately 30%. This would mean many projects would be killed before they get started. This bill appeared to have momentum going into the final days of the legislative session, but thanks to a New York City carve-out, many legislatures pulled their support and the bill was not brought to a vote. This was a big win for the business community, which was largely due to our collective efforts, including the Don’t Block NY Building Coalition.
The New York State Legislature is operating at a rapid pace. There are many other bills passed that will affect the business community in New York State ranging from unemployment benefits for striking workers to the creation of the Office of Utility Consumer Advocate. Feel free to reach out to Kyle Davis at the Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce if you have any questions about the recent legislative session. The Chamber will continue to be engaged in these issues and fight for a better business climate in New York State.